A risky business – Polygala paucifolia

I think some are imagining that trying to open a business of selling wild collected seeds is a breeze – happily wandering in fields and mountains and grabbing here and there whatever comes under your eyes. Well, very far away from the truth. For example, who would think about stumbling into a massasauga rattlesnake (the only venomous snake in Ontario), while collecting Polygala paucifolia seeds!

Massasauga snake

Massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)

The timing to collect Polygala is almost impossible; the fruiting/seed setting is usually low and then the seeds are equipped with elaiosomes that ants will carry away very fast. So, there is no wonder that seeds are almost never offered and, although desirable, neither are the plants! Looking at the flowers, you understand why all this is worthwhile!

Polygala paucifolia

Polygala paucifolia

My germination trials with Polygala seeds showed that dry stored seeds in the fridge, sown in the spring germinate very well, and also the seedlings are developing very well. Seeds stored moist-cold, germinate later and in a lower percentage.

Polygala seedlings

Polygala paucifolia seedlings – germination 95%; they may look small size but remember that this is a little plant

PS. Keep your eyes wide open when hiking in the rattlesnake habitat! When moving, it makes a low rattle noise to make you aware, but when standing still it is very well camouflaged and it doesn’t rattle. They give birth to live baby-snakes, finger-size but already venomous! It is designated a species at risk in Ontario – more about it on Reptiles and Amphibians of Ontario website.

New territory – Incarvillea delavayi

Little plants series IV

Maybe not a really little plant but it deserves a mention because I highly underestimated it (and it also sits in a container with little plants). From the little tuber I showed in the spring as Incarvillea ‘Snowtop’ (true that it was on top of snow), it came in flower as the pink Incarvillea delavayi. It has flowered for weeks, pink trumpet after pink trumpet, and more than that, one morning I got to watch a cool spider establishing a new territory between its flowers.

How to expect so much from such a tiny tuber?!

Incarvillea delavayi1


Summer shimmer – Hypericum olympicum f. uniflorum

Little plants series II

A post from the Little plants series while I’ll be out and about for a couple of weeks. This dwarf St. John’s wort, Hypericum olympicum f. uniflorum embodies perfectly the heat and blazing sunrays of the summer. Although not employed medicinally like its cousin Hypericum perforatum, it delivers some equally important therapy for the soul & eyes.

Great at the edge of full sun borders, container garden, front of the rockery or even a big trough. Super hardy and easy from seed (very fine seedlings that need just a bit of extra care).

Hypericum olympicum f. uniflorum


Today, in what I call a skilfully avoidance of other pressing things to do, I will contribute a bit towards the Chapter about fruits-seeds-germination of the Epimedium. It is still about seeds, isn’t it?

The fact that Epimediums are self-incompatible is widely known by now, which means that – if one is lucky to see developing fruits, these will be of hybrid origin (from whatever parent species happen to be around :). They may be true to species only if you own a few plants of the same species from different sources (but even then you cannot be too sure). Further than this, things become a little fuzzy, with contradictory informations, although quite a few new hybrids are showing up year after year.

So, this is what I have to share for now:


A picture with fatty fruits I have just found ready to open on Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ (from Lost Horizons)

Epimedium 'Amber Queen' fruits

Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ fruits


Another picture with fruits of Epimedium davidii ‘Wolong Dwarfs’

Epimedium davidii 'Wolong Dwarfs' fruits

Epimedium davidii ‘Wolong Dwarfs’ fruits


A picture with Epimedium seeds showing something like elaiosomes (very much like Corydalis, Sanguinaria, Asarum, and so on)

Epimedium 'Amber Queen' seeds

Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ seeds


A great website that I have recently discovered; lots of Epimedium images and also some info on their germination – The Magnolias Garden Website (despite the name, they are the holders of Epimedium National Collection in England)


A piece of information from Tony Avent – PDN (sharing from Darell Probst) that Epimedium seed require 60 days below 40˚F to germinate.


Another piece of information from a scientific study on seeds & germination of Epimedium wushanense claiming that “germination rate and germination potential after stratification under 5˚C (for 90 days) were significantly higher…”


And the fact that, I will handle the seeds like I did with all the other species ‘elaiosomes bearing’ which is, store them in moist vermiculite/outdoors temperature. I’ll also keep a few seeds dry-stored as a variant until late fall, when I’ll proceed with a cold stratification.

If anyone else cares to share…


Rapunzel’s flower – Phyteuma

People in Europe call this member of the bellflower family (Campanulaceae) after many names: devil’s claws (Germany), Oxford Rampion (England), Raponzolo (Italy), and so on. We could definitely give it many other common names; I like to think of it as Rapunzel’s flower.

Phyteuma is strictly a European genus with quite a few species, not very often seen in the gardens. Phyteuma scheuchzeri, flowering now in one of my rock-containers is the most common in cultivation (I was aiming for P. sieberi, maybe next time…).

Phyteuma scheuchzeri

Phyteuma scheuchzeri

It doesn’t look like a bellflower, that’s for sure – it looks much cooler! In most species the flowers are grouped in spiked, ball-like inflorescences (aka. floral sea creatures) which at full bloom ‘explode’ becoming fluffy. They can be found growing in a variety of habitats, with P. sieberi being the most alpine.

Phyteuma scheuchzeri

Phyteuma scheuchzeri

Another mountain growing Rapunzel’s flower is Phyteuma orbiculare, photographed here in a rich sub-alpine meadow in the Carpathian Mountains:

Phyteuma orbiculare

Phyteuma orbiculare

 Propagation: easy enough from seed (very small, fine seeds just like Campanula).

And just because I like word rhymes: Did you know that Phyteuma has a sister named Asyneuma? Another great but very little cultivated member of the bellflower family.


In praise of little plants I

Plants that did make sense to have in my small garden

A dwarf, big flowered blue columbine: Aquilegia discolor, most probably a cross (from Seedex as A. saximontana)

Aquilegia discolor (cross)

 Aquilegia discolor cross

True that if we would grow only ‘reasonable’ plants, our gardens would lack all spontaneity and wonder. But because I can now easily enjoy them in containers, and not worry about their relocation, I think a bit of praise is warranted.

On the other side of the container, a tiny hardy ginger: Roscoea tibetica (from Lost Horizons) – very precious, after the bad winter we had, who knows if I will get to see the other Roscoeas from the garden.

Roscoea tibetica

Roscoea tibetica

From another container, the most fragrant, fringed Dianthus I know: Dianthus petraeus (from wild collected seeds in the Carpathian Mts.) Too bad I cannot insert a ‘scratch patch’ with its perfume.

Dianthus petraeus

Dianthus petraeus

A rock jasmine: Androsace sarmentosa – a small piece I saved from an old plant, I hope it will thrive again (or set seeds, or better both).

Androsace sarmentosa

Androsace sarmentosa

and more are on their way to flower…

A Primula-rina

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this Primula that was showing promise to be a great Primula-rina!
Primula frondosa foliage

The Ballerina – Primula frondosa (a bit elongated in a container in early spring)

Last time when I had visions of dancing plants it was two years ago because of a twirling Arisaema – it is not that often to discover a first class ballerina!.

Primula frondosa is a dwarf, farinose primula endemic from Bulgaria where it grows on cliffs at 900-2000 m altitude, in partly shaded, moist crevices. It is very hardy and will show up from under the snow, with a tight silvery rosette (you may wish that it remains like that), but then the leaves expand and remain powdery only beneath (but the flowering stem and flower pedicels still covered in silvery hairs). A very floriferous primula: umbels with up to 30 pink, delicate flowers with a yellow eye in early spring.

Primula frondosa flowering

Primula frondosa in full bloom right now ( 2-3 seedlings were planted together in the fall)

Sometimes mistaken for P. farinosa (and vice-versa, but P. farinosa has white-farina on both side of the leaves, and it flowers much later). Both are commonly called Bird’s eye Primulas.

Propagation: very easy to grow from seeds (like other Primula spp.), and it will start flowering in the second year – soooo gratifying!



from the Germinatrix

I certainly try to grow too many plant species – maybe because I can’t decide what’s more exhilarating: seeing a freshly germinated pot of seedlings or seeing the plants in their wild habitat?

I hope to clarify my feelings but until then this is a busy time to organize the Germinatrix. A few seedlings become too big to stay inside while the small ones still need the warm light. They’ll reunite later under the summer sun (if have one this year). It is time to leave the Germinatrix for a few Aquilegia spp., Thalictrums, Delphinium, Draba spp., Dierama and so on…

Together in the Germinatrix

Together in the Germinatrix

It is time to stay for the baby gingers and all other species that got a natural chill-out time under the snow and were brought inside only in early April, including the newly germinated Gentiana.

I am trying a few annual Gentians this year: G. nivalis (from wild collected seeds) and G. vernayi (a small alpine gentian from Bhutan, Nepal). It would be exciting to have Gentiana flowers to quench my thirst and not worry about what’s happening afterwards.

Gentiana nivalis – alpine or snow gentian, is a dwarf annual gentian from alpine regions of Europe (also isolated in N. America), growing in open grassland, screes and rocky meadows on limestone soils – with ultramarine blue flowers in July-August (ID after the characteristic calyx with a narrow, angled tube).

Gentiana nivalis

Gentiana nivalis in an alpine meadow (Carpathian Mountains)

Ambivalence has its sweet side after all :)

 Note: featured image – Carlina acaulis, alpine thistle.







So, you are thinking about moving out…

What about us? –  (coming from) little voices, twirling and circling around the thyme carpets in the stoned patio.

That’s what I hear every day now, stepping out in our small patio garden. Recent events pushed us to think seriously about moving out. Small garden you say? – no problem. But (call me crazy) in the past 5 years I have been removing stones from our patio (think about the foundation too) to make space for plantings.

Pocket gardening makes sense for some. For others it surely doesn’t, as well as the piles of stones with small or ‘unfashionable’ plants peeking out between them. So, call me crazy again, but now I am working to put the patio stones back in. Don’t worry plants – most of you (or at least a piece of you) will make the move with us:

From the sunny side – Hymenoxys lapidicola (Stone rubberweed). A narrow endemic from the Blue Mountains, Utah at cca. 2500 m, with congested linear leaves topped with sessile, yellow flowers in the summer. For full sun, in dry, gravelly sites: crevices, trough gardens (from Wrightman Alpines).

From the shady side – Haberlea rhodopensis (Resurrection plant). A subalpine evergreen gesneriad, growing on eastern and northern rock walls in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria; if happy, it will produce in abundance light violet flowers during late spring. Very hardy and resilient – mind you, at some point it was sitting under 70 cm of packed snow (from Lost Horizons).

 I do expect to see very good behaviour from everyone involved: container culture, temporary homes and gifts, donations for spring-fall sales – we’ll all have to compromise a bit to make this work.

 What goes aroundpart of my donation, divisions and the extra seedlings for the ORGS Spring Sale

Plant donation for spring sale

Plant donation for spring sale

 I hope they’ll find good homes and come around back to me one day!

Note: Until now plants are at their best behaviour, but be prepared to hear more whining from me as I slowly demolish the ‘rock-pile garden’.

In the featured image: a baby rock gem – Edraianthus pumilio



Taking advantage of the good weather I have been working hard to ‘dismember’ one part of the rock garden (I’ll talk about it later). Bought some big containers to do some sort of a crevice planting – in went the already existing plants, and why not stuff in a few of the last year’s seedlings I thought?

Crevice container

Overstuffed ‘crevice container’

Funny what comes out of pots sometimes – these are one year seedlings of Incarvillea delavayi ‘Alba’ and of another seed accession called ‘Snowtop” (probably the same thing). Little snowmen just about to start walking on the snow…(which slowly recedes revealing the thyme carpet underneath).

Incarvillea delavayi 'Snowtop'

Incarvillea delavayi ‘Snowtop’ – seedlings  with carrot-like roots

Incarvilleaa genus with about 20 species in Central Asia and the Himalaya. Common names: hardy gloxinia and Chinese trumpet flowers (fam. Bignoniaceae).  Incarvillea delavayi one of the most familiar in culture has very handsome, big trumpet shaped flowers, usually pink with yellow throats. The two cultivars mentioned above – one year seedlings, have white flowers. For a full sun or part-shade location in good drainage soil – in the wild they grow in rocky, stony habitats, rocky mountain slopes.

This Incarvillea compacta from Wrightman Alpines would have been more appropriate for my rockery – there is always next year…

Incarvillea compacta