Lovely Lavender: Feature Plant for February

I have always loved lavender and given its future potential use in our garden, I thought it would be useful to research this lovely plant for my feature plant post for February. Every Winter, the steep agapanthus bank between our top terrace and the main part of the garden gets badly frost-damaged, to the extent that photography of the Spring garden with the house in the background is severely compromised due to the dead brown patches, prompting thoughts about other suitable plants, which could withstand the frost and better utilise the terraced beds. In the photo below, the frost-prone area is on the bank, directly in front of the verandah with smaller recovering bulbs, couch grass and weeds.BlogLavender2517-12-09 08.59.04 A friend suggested lavenders as they have mild frost-tolerance, a long flowering period (mid-Spring through to Autumn), a beautiful scent and multiple uses, as well as their colour being very complementary to the soft mauve exterior colour of our house.BlogLavender2016-10-11 12.40.06History and General Notes

Lavenders belong to the Lamiaceae (Labiatae) family, which also includes mints (Mentha) and sages (Salvia), as seen in the photo of the bouquet below. The genus Lavandula has 28 species and many subspecies, hybrids and cultivars, divided into five main groups: Stoechas; Spica; Pterostoechas; Chaetostoechas; and Subnuda. For the purposes of this post, I will be concentrating on the lavenders belonging to the first three groups, as they represent the majority of plants in cultivation and the home garden.BlogLavender2517-12-09 17.52.17Lavenders have a widespread distribution from the Mediterranean region (France, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal) to the Middle East; Western Asia; India; tropical Northern Africa and the Madeira, Canary and Cape Verde Islands.BlogLavender50%jens visit jan 2010 174They also have a long history of use since Ancient Greek and Roman times, when it was used for its cleansing and medicinal properties. In fact, the name Lavender is derived from the Latin word ‘lavare’, which means ‘to wash’.  The Ancient Romans perfumed their baths with the oil of Lavandula spica (photo above), while the Ancient Greeks used lavender more for its medicinal qualities. Ancient Greek physician, Dioscorides described Lavandula stoechas (photo below) as a laxative and stimulant in his Materia Medica 60 AD, stating that it grew near Gaul on the islands of Stoechas, now known as Îles de Hyères.2017-10-25 06.44.06The expectorant and antispasmodic properties of the flowers were also used in the 6th century Byzantine Empire, as well as by later Arabs, who also used them in a skin toner, a cheek rouge and a perfumed hair powder. It was introduced into France by Charlemagne in 800 AD and was grown extensively in medieval monastery gardens for its medicinal properties, scent and use in the kitchen. Sticadore (Lavandula stoechas) was one of the ingredients, along with rosemary, wormwood, rue, sage and mint, in the Four Thieves Vinegar, used to combat the plague. BlogLavender2517-11-13 07.07.13Lavendar was also very popular in Tudor and Elizabethan times from 1485 to 1603. English Knot Gardens were defined by lavender hedges and Elizabeth I is said to have always had a bowl of lavender conserve on the table. During the 18th Century, Oil of Spic (or Aspic, made from Lavandula latifolia, a member of the Spica group) was used in quick drying varnishes and to dilute paint colours used in porcelain painting. The oil was distilled in Southern France, especially Provence, and Spain. See: http://www.sca3p.com/en/cooperative-essential-oils-provence/production-history-perfume-plants. Lavender sellers were a common sight in the streets of 18th Century London.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was imported into Australia during the 19th Century. In Britain, its cultivation was markedly increased, along with other herbs, during the First World War for its medicinal properties. Today, it is still widely grown for its oil, its scent and its use as a valuable hedging and border plant in the garden.BlogLavender20%IMG_1863General Description

Lavender is an aromatic shrubby perennial with erect or spreading branches and variable size,  leaves and flowering spikes, according to the particular type, as well as its location, soil type, weather conditions and climate.BlogLavender3016-06-24 12.23.18 Generally, the width of the plant is 1 to 1.5 times the height of the plant. For ease of description, it is worth consulting the photo below from page 17 of The Essential Lavender: Growing Lavender in Australia by Virginia McNaughton 1996.BlogLavender4017-12-08 13.34.32Leaves: Have revolute (curled back) margins and are arranged in opposite pairs along the branches. They vary in shape from linear-oblong or spatulate to oblong lanceolate and their margins are simple and entire or dentate, pinnate or bipinnate. The leaves below have dentate, revolute margins.BlogLavender2517-12-09 16.02.41Inflorescences: Flower spikes are terminal, at the end of short or long peduncles (flowering stems) and are composed of individual flowers, arranged in a whorled fashion along the stem. The terminal flowers open last.  They have bracts (modified leaf at the base of the flowers) and/ or bracteoles (small bract borne above the bract and below the calyx (outer petals), according to the type. The scent also varies from the sweet true lavender fragrance of Lavandula angustifolia to the more camphoraceous scent of the Stoechas group (especially L. viridis) and Lavandula latifolia.

Types of Lavenders

Rather than get bogged down in all the botanical anatomical differences, I will be giving a very basic account of the obvious visual differences, used in identification. It is also well worth consulting: http://www.lyndochlavenderfarm.com.au/plants.html or www.bendigobotanicgardens.com.au/files/…/Lavender_species_descriptions.pdf.

Stoechas Group (Rabbit’s Ears)

Large petal-like sterile bracts (see photo below) on the top of the spike (rabbit’s ears); no bracteoles; and fertle bracts on the rest of the spike. They flower most of the year with short intermittent breaks (eg Christmas) and prefer warmer areas. They are more frost-tender than the Spica group (though can still survive mild frosts), but more tolerant of humidity, though no lavender grows well in areas of high humidity or heavy rain. They are also very tolerant of soil type and have actually been declared a noxious weed in Tasmania and rural Victoria.BlogLavender20%IMG_1912Species: L. stoechas (Italian and Spanish); L. dentata (French); and L. viridis (Green).

Lavandula stoechas

Has a number of subspecies:

Lavandula stoechas ssp stoechas: Italian; Mediterranean and North Africa; Dark violet, though there is a white form. 70cm bush to 1m tall in flower. Short peduncles (1-3 cm) and grey green leaves. Hardy and withstands mild frosts.

Lavandula stoechas ssp pedunculata: Spanish/ Butterfly; Portugal and Spain, North Africa, South Balkans and Asia Minor; Longer greener leaves, sterile bracts and peduncles (10-20 cm); 60 cm sprawling bush to 90 cm in flower; Rounder reddish-violet spikes; Less hardy and needs frost protection.

Other less common subspecies include: L. stoechas ssp cariensis; L. stoechas ssp sampaiana; and L. stoechas ssp luisieri.BlogLavender20%IMG_0425There are also a large number of Stoechas cultivars, resulting from crosses between the subspecies, especially L. stoechas ssp pedunculata (Sugarberry Ruffles; Princess and Sensation). I am only describing the varieties in my garden, with a nod to future desires or more famous varieties.

They include, in order of height:

Sugarberry Ruffles 50-70 cm; Soft pink sterile bracts.BlogLavender20%IMG_0055Princess: 70 cm; Pink sterile bracts; Flowers late Winter to early Summer.BlogLavender2517-12-13 08.40.07 BlogLavender2517-12-07 16.28.49Avonview: 80 cm tall and long peduncles with large purple sterile bracts; Floral arrangements. BlogLavender20%IMG_0438Sensation (Senblu): 1 m; Blue sterile bracts;BlogLavender2517-12-10 10.11.22Other cultivars that I would love to get in the future include: Pastel Dreams (60-80 cm; Lilac pink); Helmsdale (80 cm; Burgundy purple); Marshwood (80cm-1m; Reddish-violet); and Pippa (1m; Electric dark blue).

Lavandula dentata (French Lavender)

Also known as Toothed Lavender, due to the dentate margins of the grey-green leaves. This large shrub, 1 to 1.5 metres tall, hails from France, Spain, Italy and Greece; the Madeira, Canary and Cape Verde Islands; Arabia, Algeria and Abyssinia.

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It has long peduncles and 2.5 to 5 cm lavender-purple flowering spikes for most of the year. L. dentata ssp candicans has greyer soft hairy leaves and darker flower spikes. Cultivars include: Ploughman Blue; Allwood; and Monet.

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It prefers warmer climates and is not frost hardy, requiring protection in cooler areas. The plant makes a good hedge or topiary specimen and the flowers are used in floral arrangements (tussie-mussies), wreaths and pot pourri.

Lavandula viridis (Green Lavender)

Hailing from South-West Spain, Southern Portugal and Madeira, this 1 metre tall bush has green sticky foliage and stems, covered in dense short green hairs; greenish-cream sterile bracts and has the strongest camphoraceous fragrance of the Stoechas group. While it survives mild frosts, I probably won’t be racing out to buy this one!!!BlogLavender20%IMG_0215 (2)Spica Group  (English Lavenders and Lavandins)

Have no sterile bracts at the top of the flowering spike, entire hairy grey lanceolate/ oblong or linear leaves and a sweet lavender fragrance. They prefer limestone areas; light well-drained soil and warm rocky slopes and dislike areas of high humidity, so are difficult to grow in Queensland. However, they grow well here! See the photo above!

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Species: L. angustifolia; L. latifolia; and L. lanata

Lavandula angustifolia ( syn. L. vera; L. spica and L. officinalis) True Lavender

Subspecies:

Lavandula angustifolia ssp angustifolia: Western Mediterranean; 60 cm to 80cm in flower; fragrant flower spikes 3 to 7 cm long; One of earliest lavenders to flower (late November in Australia); Makes a small to medium hedge. Good for lavender bags; toiletries; pot pourri; culinary recipes and floral decorations; and lavender oil, though the lavandins yield more flowers.

Lavandula angustifolia ssp pyrenaica: Pyrenees and Northern Spain; Rare in Australia; Bracts very wide and as long as calyces (outer petals): 6-7 mm long; and hair confined to veins.

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Cultivars :

Have small to medium single unbranched peduncles and flowering spikes from lavender and violet to pink and white simultaneously or 2 to 3 weeks later than L. angustifolia. They include:

Lavender/ Violet: Munstead (45-60 cm dwarf, so good for knot gardens); Twickel Purple (60-90 cm);

Dark Violet: Hidcote (70 cm); Nana Atropurpurea (40-60 cm); Blue Mountain (60 cm, greyer foliage);

Pink: Rosea (40 -60 cm; very green foliage; early flowering; mauve pink);

White: Alba (40-60 cm; grey green linear leaves; sweet scent.

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Lavandula latifolia (L. spica) Spike Lavender

Western Mediterranean and Portugal; Rare in nurseries; 50 cm high bush, whose broad oblong to lanceolate leaves are a more greyish-green and have a denser coverage of hairs than L. angustifolia. Flower spikes have long slender peduncles, up to 45 cm long or more, which frequently branch into three and have a camphoraceous smell . It was used to produce Oil of Aspic. They flower up to 3 months later than L. angustifolia (February in Australia) and can be difficult to grow and have a shorter lifespan here, so it is wise to keep some young stock in reserve. They are not frost hardy and hate cold poorly-drained soil.  They can get woody at the base and along the stems.BlogLavender20%IMG_0104Lavandula x intermedia cultivars (Lavandins)

A cross between L. angustifolia and L. latifolia, these 1 metre tall shrubs flower 3 to 4 weeks later than L. angustifolia and have broader leaves and  large flower spikes with a paler colour and a more camphoraceous smell. They are sterile, so must be propagated from cuttings and are used for cut flowers and the commercial production of lavender oil. They include:

Lavender/ Violet/ Purple:

Grosso (Masses of violet blooms late December to Autumn; Leading world producer of Lavender oil);

Seal (80 cm-1m ; Over 1000 spikes in one season and retain scent well when dried; Lavender bags);

Super (Over 1m and similar to Seal, but different shape and size; One of first lavandins to flower, continuously blooming over long period and one of the sweetest scents of all lavandins)

White:

Alba (60-70 cm tall with 30 cm long peduncles; white corollas with grey-green calyces; sweet scent. This is the white lavender most commonly sold in nurseries.)

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Grey-Leaved:

Grey Hedge (1m silver hedge);

Old English (over 1m and similar spikes to Seal)BlogLavender2017-04-03 13.49.46Intersectional Crosses:

Lavandula x allardii Mitcham Lavender : A cross between L. dentata and L. latifolia, this hybrid is over 1 metre tall and wide, has grey semi-toothed leaves and long flower spikes like Spica lavenders on long peduncles with a scent, the blend of lavender and camphoraceous.

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The flowers stems can be dried for floral arrangements, but tend to droop. I suspect the lavender in the two photos above and the three photos below, grown from a cutting, could be Mitcham Lavender as it has leaves with dentate margins like L. dentata, but a flower spike on a very long branched peduncle like L. latifolia. The plant is also similar to the latter with its tendency to woody stems as the plants age.

Lavandula x heterophylla: Another cross between L. latifolia and L. dentata, this plant is similar to Spica group lavenders, being up to 1 metre tall with branched stems. It also has a sweet camphoraceous scent .BlogLavender2517-12-09 15.58.36BlogLavender2517-12-12 08.57.53BlogLavender2517-12-09 16.02.41Lavandula lanata Woolly Lavender

Native to the mountains of Southern Spain, this shrub, 1 metre high and wide, has 1.2 cm wide and 3-5 cm long, grey tomentose (woolly hairs) leaves with a soft flannel feel and 10 cm long narrow flowering spikes on long peduncles in late December. The individual flowers open gradually, providing a splash of purple along the spike and have a slight camphoraceous scent. These lavenders like dry chalky soils and sheltered positions and have a deep root system, so hate being moved. They are frost-tolerant as might be expected!

Pterostoechas Group

This group hails from North Africa and Mediterranean regions and has the largest number of species, three of which are available in Australia. Slightly woody at the base, they have multi-branched stems and fine feathery pinnate or bipinnate leaves and wing-like (ptero-) corollas when viewed from the side. All the bracts are fertile and there are no sterile bracts at the top of the spike. There are also no bracteoles and the flowers do not have the classic lavender fragrance. They are not very hardy and best grown against the house or a warm brick wall, protected from frost, as in our old garden in Geelong (photo below), where they thrived with the French Lavender.

Species available in Australia include: L. multifida; L. canariensis; and L. pinnata.BlogLavender50%IMG_9463Cultivation and Harvesting

So easy to grow, lavender really only has two requirements:

: Well-drained Soil

While they prefer lighter soils and thrive in a loamy gritty mix, they can grow in most soil types. English lavenders like alkaline soil with a pH of 6-8, while Stoechas lavenders are very tolerant and can even grow in slightly acidic soil. Lavenders hate poorly-drained heavy clay soils, so add compost or humus to the soil; dig in underwater drainage pipes or grow in rock gardens or on hillsides, where the water can run off. So, the steep bank should be perfect for them! They do not need fertilising, though a foliar spray of nitrogen in the Spring will increase the growth, the number of flowers and the stem length. Well-rotted compost will enrich the soil and act as a mulch to suppress weeds.BlogLavender20%IMG_0204: Full Sun for three quarters of the day at least. Stoechas and Pterostoechas lavenders prefer warmer climates and shelter from frosts, though the former can survive mild frosts and the occasional severe one. English lavenders like cool winters and warm sunny Summers. They are reasonably hardy and can withstand frost, though a late frost can damage the flower buds.BlogLavender20%IMG_0093Lavenders don’t like : Severe frosts; over-watering; drought; wind or humidity, which can cause root rot. There are few pests, except for spittle bug (hose, spray or pick off) and the odd assault by caterpillars or rabbits. Diseases include the Alfalfa Mosaic Virus (AMV), spread by aphids and causing yellowing of the leaves and twisting of young Spring growth; Lavender Leafspot; Bacterial Blast; and Shab, an overseas fungal disease, fortunately not found in Australia. Here is our garden in the depths of Winter (photo 1) Unfortunately, the frost killed off our French Lavenders (photo 2)!BlogLavender2017-07-07 09.25.18BlogLavender2017-08-06 14.44.33Spacing: Lavandins should be planted 1 metre apart (unless used for a hedge, in which case plants can be 50-70 cm apart), while L. angustifolia cultivars can be planted 30-70 cm apart. Make sure that enough room is available for the mature plant. While these lavenders marked the vertical axis of the Soho Bed, they really were much too large and I think the Soho Bed looks better in the second photo without these lavender plants.BlogLavender2016-11-01 09.43.04OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPruning:  Depends on the type of lavender and should be done to remove dead wood and encourage young growth from the base. These plants were very undisciplined (photo 1) and the Soho Bed looked so much better after a haircut (photo 2)!BlogLavender2017-04-10 12.50.31BlogLavender20%IMG_0105 English lavenders should be trimmed hard after flowering and well before Winter to allow the new growth to harden. Once the stems become too woody and bare, the plant should be replaced. Unfortunately, none of the Mitcham Lavenders below survived the Winter. Normally, Mitcham lavender can be pruned to 15 cm from the ground, so I don’t think I pruned them too hard. Maybe, their new growth did not have time to harden before the cool weather set in or the plants had just become too old and woody! Fortunately, I had taken cuttings on pruning and was able to replace the dead plants, but I will keep them well-trimmed this time to a more appropriate size!BlogLavender2017-08-06 14.12.20 Stoechas lavenders, which produce flowers more frequently, can be pruned during the Summer as well and can be pruned quite hard, due to their fast growth in Summer. I definitely have to deadhead this Lavender bush!BlogLavender2517-12-07 16.32.33Propagation: Usually done from cuttings to produce a plant, which is true to type, except for Pterostoechas, which is difficult to propagate from cuttings and is true from seed; and L. latifolia and L. lanata, which also reproduce true from seed, so long as the plants are kept separate from other lavenders. Below is a photo of one of my Mitcham lavender cuttings, which has developed into a new plant.BlogLavender2517-12-09 15.57.13

Cuttings, 5 to 10 cm long, can be made in Spring (tip cuttings) and Autumn (tip cuttings or heel cuttings of semi-hardwood growth), dipped in hormone rooting powder or honey, and inserted into a pot with a mixture of soil and sand; soil and perlite; pure perlite; or coarse river sand; and kept damp, but not wet, until established. They can be kept in cold frames or with bottom heat and misting, then transplanted into a larger pot or the garden, once the roots have reached the bottom of the pot.

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Harvesting and Drying:

Harvest mid-morning on a dry sunny day after the dew has evaporated and watch out for bees!

Cut the heads when only the first two flowers on the spike have opened and strip off the leaves.

Hang flower spikes upside-down in bunches or dry on muslin trays in a dark room with good air circulation. They are dry when the stem breaks cleanly. A dehydrator/ microwave can be used too.BlogLavender50%jens visit jan 2010 153Store in opaque containers in cupboards in a dry environment and avoid light or moisture. Use within the year before the colour fades and scent goes.

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English Lavenders and French Lavender (L. dentata and subspecies) dry well, but the other Stoechas lavenders are more difficult to dry, because of the rabbit’s ears, though they do press well.

Uses of Lavender:

Garden Plant : Hedging, Knot Gardens and Topiary

: Paths, enclosures, knot gardens, outlining ornaments; statues; sundials and birdbaths.BlogLavender50%jens visit jan 2010 172: Space plants half the width of the mature plant apart and keep regularly pruned, so the new growth is produced from the base. Trim at least twice a year and well before the Winter cold sets in. Both photos above and below were taken at Lavandula, Hepburn Springs, in Victoria.BlogLavender50%jens visit jan 2010 173: French lavender makes a good topiary specimen, while good varieties for hedging include:

Lavandula angustifolia: Munstead or Blue Mountain (small to medium hedge or knot gardens); Twickel Purple (medium to large hedge); or a combination of Nana Atropurpurea; Rosea; and/or Alba;

Lavandins: Impress Purple or Grosso for a medium hedge; Grey Hedge for a hedge higher than 1 m.

Stoechas group: Italian lavender (low hedge); French Lavender (1.5 m hedge warm areas); and  L. viridis.BlogLavender2517-12-09 16.01.28

Medicinal Properties of Lavender Essential Oil

Useful for the treatment of a wide range of conditions:

Skin conditions: Burns, bruises, wounds and leg ulcers; eczema, dermatitis and nappy rash; boils and herpes; stretchmarks; bee and wasp stings; fungal infections; acne; dry skin;  and sunburn. It can be used as an insect repellent (a few drops added to olive or safflower oil) and a skin toner.

Muscle, joint and back pain : 1 part lavender oil to 6 parts massage oil for a relaxation massage.

Migraines and Headaches.

Hair: When added to shampoo, it can reduce dandruff, and in the past has been used to eliminate head lice. It has also been used to treat ear ache.

Sore throats, stubborn coughs and mouth infections: Gargle with lavender oil /honey in boiled water.BlogLavender2517-12-09 17.21.01

Lavender Oil is produced by steam distillation (photo below was taken at Balingup Lavender Farm, Western Australia).

BlogLavender25%IMG_3698Cleansing

Lavender Water: 4 tbsp lavender oil to 2 litres warm water: Good antiseptic cleanser;

Lavender can also be used in furniture oil and polish; in lavender bags (photo below) to protect clothes and linen from insects and moths; and can be burnt or simmered in water to induce relaxation.BlogLavender2517-12-09 16.24.48Culinary

Lavender vinegar can be used in salad dressings, for cleaning, to reduce bruising and as a hair rinse.

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Lavender sugar can be used to flavour desserts, biscuits and cake icing;

Lavender tisane (L. angustifolia ssp angustifolia) to relieve extreme fatigue and physical exhaustion. It obviously had an uplifting effect on my husband at the Bella Lavender Estate, South Australia.BlogLavender2014-10-26 12.14.53Fragrance: Lavender bags, fans and bottles; scented writing paper and ink; pressed flowers; pot-pourri mixes; sleep pillows; soap and toiletries; incense and candles; tussie-mussies, wreaths and floral arrangements.BlogLavender20%IMG_0133Lavender has also been used in healing and purifying rituals; deterring evil spirits (Tuscany); in love potions and spells. Lavender is a symbol of love, affection and acknowledgement; cleanliness, purity and chastity; longevity and perseverance; protection; and peace. My mum embroidered this beautiful bag below for a birthday gift.

BlogLavender2517-12-09 16.24.55Lavender Places to visit in Australia:

Bridestowe, Tasmania: https://bridestowelavender.com.au ;

Lavandula, Hepburn Springs, Vic: https://www.lavandula.com.au/  (three photos below);

Yuulong Lavender Estate, Vic: http://www.yuulonglavender.com.au/ . Currently closed, but reopening soon in a new location;

Warratina Lavender Farm, Vic: http://warratinalavender.com.au/ ;BlogLavender25%grampians 1 095BlogLavender25%grampians 1 116BlogLavender50%jens visit jan 2010 162Lyndoch Lavender, Barossa Valley, South Australia: http://www.lyndochlavenderfarm.com.au/ ;

Bella Lavender Estate, Glossop, SA: https://bellalavender.com.au/ . Photo below;BlogLavender2014-10-26 12.07.11Merribee, Numbaa, NSW: http://www.merribee.com.au/;

Lavender Farm, ‘Pottique’, Kingaroy, Qld: https://lavenderfarm.net.au/;

Nannup Lavender Farm, WA: https://nannuplavenderfarm.com/;

Lavender Valley Farm, Yetna, WA: http://lavendervalleyfarm.com.au,

and in the three photos below: Balingup Lavender Farm, WA: http://www.lavenderbalingup.com.au/;

BlogLavender25%IMG_3700BlogLavender25%IMG_3705BlogLavender25%IMG_3697And obviously, our garden here in Candelo, once I have decided on which varieties to grow and we have established our new plantings on the bank!BlogLavender2517-12-09 08.59.12 There are three terraces, so I will probably grow Bearded Iris at the top and bottom, with  taller lavenders in the middle terrace; shorter pinks, whites and purple lavenders on the top terrace; and medium lavenders in the bottom terrace. Ross has started to clear two paths between the terraces.BlogLavender2517-12-10 10.22.59 Placement is dictated by the frosty areas on the right looking up at the house from the garden, so English lavenders and Lavandins will be in these areas, while the Stoechas group will be further to the left, where there is more shelter and protection from the frost. Here is a view from the top lawn, showing the area damaged by frost.BlogLavender2517-12-10 10.23.17 I will finish with a sea of lavender from our visit to Lavandula, Hepburn Springs.BlogLavender50%jens visit jan 2010 151Next week, I will be introducing you to Bithry Inlet, one of our favourite spots to visit in Summer!

 

Bountiful Beautiful Butterfly Bushes: Buddleias: January’s Feature Plant

My first monthly feature plant for the year are the beautiful, bountiful buddleias, which are in full bloom this month. Also spelt Buddlejas and known as Butterfly Bush, due to its popularity with butterflies; Summer Lilac and Bombsite Plant (see later), they were named by Linnaeus after Reverend Adam Buddle (1660-1715), an English botanist and taxonomist, who produced 36 volumes dedicated to British native flora (volumes 14 to 36 about mosses alone)!BlogBugsBBB20%Reszd2015-12-11 09.56.33They belong to the Foxglove family Scrophulariaceae (Buddlejaceae), with the genus containing at least 100 species (some sources number 140) and numerous decorative cultivars. They hail from four continents: Asia; North and South America: 60 species from Southern USA to Chile; and Africa, with no buddleias native to Europe or Australasia.BlogBugsBBB20%Reszd2015-12-10 19.02.53Please note that because I inherited my buddleias, which were already well-established in our garden, when we arrived, I do not know their names, though I assume they are all forms of B. davidii, hence my photographs will be identified solely by their colour!

While I will try to be consistent with my spelling, generally restricting myself to using ‘buddleia’, the odd ‘buddleja’ might still slip in, especially when the latter spelling is used in the names of plants or plant collections!

Description

Large, sprawling, deciduous (temperate climes) or evergreen shrubs (tropical areas) shrubs, usually less than 5 metres tall, though they can reach 9 metres tall.BlogButterflyHeaven 20%Reszd2015-12-03 10.24.44Long, narrow, lanceolate leaves, arranged in opposite pairs, except for B. alternifolia, in which the leaves are arranged alternately. Leaf size varies from 1 to 30 cm long. The leaves are often crepe-textured with pale, sometimes downy, undersides. Some species are silvery grey, while others are a dull matte green.BlogButterflyHeaven 20%Reszd2015-12-01 15.24.57Buddleias are grown for their flowers. Many have long, nectar-rich flower spikes, but some occur in spherical heads or loose clusters. The Asiatic species have terminal panicles, 10 to 50 cm long, and tend to be pastel pink or mauve, while the American species have cymes, forming small globose heads, which are often red, orange or yellow. Many cultivars have deeper colours, including a rich reddish-purple.BlogSummers here 20%Reszd2015-11-24 17.47.45 Each individual flower is tubular and divided into four spreading lobes (petals), 3 to 4 mm across. The corolla length again varies according to the species. Asiatic species have a 10 mm long corolla, while American species vary from 3 to 30 mm, the latter having long red flowers, pollinated exclusively by hummingbirds. Some species are fragrant and strongly honey-scented, attracting not only butterflies, but also moths and bees.BlogBugsBBB20%Reszd2015-12-07 09.40.29Flowering times vary according to the species, but generally they flower from Spring to Autumn. We had our first bloom in mid-November last year.BlogButterflyHeaven 20%Reszd2015-12-05 17.17.59The fruit is a small capsule, 1 cm long and 1 to 2 mm diameter with numerous small seeds.

Use and Care

Buddleias are usually grown for their flowers, as a feature plant and as a butterfly food plant, though B. davidii yields dyes (black and green from mixed flowers, leaves and stems, while the flowers alone produce an orange-gold to brown colour); and B. officinalis and B. asiaticum are used in traditional Chinese and Korean medicine and. See: http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/butterfly-bush/.

They are extremely hardy and tough, the deciduous species being hardier than the evergreens, though none will tolerate prolonged severe Winters. They are incredibly easy to grow and undemanding, tolerating salty air, drought, shade, urban pollution and most soil types, though they have a preference for chalky and limey soils.

Best in full sun on a moist, fertile well-drained soil, they grow incredibly quickly and some species can become invasive (more later).

They spread easily by seed and can be propagated easily by half-hardened soft wood cuttings taken in late Spring and early Summer. Cut a 15 cm new shoot, just as it is beginning to harden up, trim below the leaf node and nip out the top, then remove any large leaves. Dip the cut end into hormone rooting powder or honey (though it really doesn’t need it!) and plant in a 50/50 mixture of horticultural sand and compost.

They should be deadheaded constantly throughout the flowering season to encourage more flowers and prevent self-seeding and then pruned back to within 3 to 6 inches of the old wood in very early Spring, around crocus time, removing all dead wood. I am referring to the most common Butterfly Bush, B. davidii, here.

Pests include capsid bugs, caterpillars, nematodes (when grown in sandy soils) and red spider mite (especially during droughts). Neem Oil is a good organic treatment for all infestations. Buddleias can also experience root rot, if growing in swampy ground, and downy mildew, if grown in a cool climate with extended periods of rain.BlogBugsBBB20%Reszd2015-12-07 09.16.16Species and Cultivars

B. globosa : Orange Ball Tree

See: https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/2453/Buddleja-globosa/Details

Buddleias are mostly 20th century plants, except for Buddleja globosa, which was introduced to Britain from Chile in 1774. It is semi-evergreen, 5m tall and wide, and produces highly fragrant, honey-scented, orange globular inflorescences on branches from the previous season’s growth.

B. colvilei : Himalayan Butterfly Bush/ Tree Buddleia See: https://lambley.com.au/plant/buddleja-colvilei and http://www.louistheplantgeek.com/a-gardening-journal/802-buddleja-colvilei.

2 to 6 metres tall deciduous shrub or small tree with dark pink flowers in Summer.

B. paniculata   See: http://www.buddlejacollection.com/plants/paniculata/

Deciduous 6 metre tall shrub from East Asia and Northern India.

B. alternifolia:    Weeping Butterfly Bush/ Alternate-Leaved Butterfly Bush or Fountain Butterfly Bush

A weeping, semi-deciduous, 5 metre tall shrub, native to North-West China (Kansu), which also produces flowers on older wood, and whose leaves are arranged alternately along the stems. For an image, see: https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/2441/Buddleja-alternifolia/Details and https://lambley.com.au/plant/buddleja-alternifolia-argentea.

B. asiatica:      Bai Bei Feng     or Dog Tail/ Asian Butterfly Bush.

See: https://wildlifeofhawaii.com/flowers/904/buddleja-asiatica-dogtail/

A 3 metre tall and wide evergreen shrub, whose dried and powdered root is used to make a fermented liquor, used as an abortifacient and to treat skin problems in traditional Chinese medicine.

B. officinalis:  Mi Meng Hua

See: https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/85046/Buddleja-officinalis/Details

A 2.5 to 4 metre tall, early Spring-flowering, semi-evergreen shrub, native to East Asia and Western China, whose flowers (dried or fresh) are used to make a tea used in the treatment of ophthalmic conditions eg Corneal Opacity; Glaucoma and Nebula. The leaves, flowers and roots contain a large variety of flavonoid, triterpenoid and iridoid glycosides, which have been shown to repair damaged cell membrane of lens, prevent protein denaturation in the lens, reduce lens opacity and restore vision.

In traditional Korean medicine, the flowers and flower buds are also used to treat eye problems, as well as cramps and spasms caused by problems with the intestine, bladder or stomach eg Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The leaves are used to treat gonorrhoea, hepatitis and hernias.

The flowers of B.officinalis are also used to dye rice yellow in sticky rice dish, Hao Leng, and Five Coloured Rice, Wu Se Fan.BlogEndofSpring20%Reszd2015-11-19 17.17.04B. davidii (B. variabilis)

The most popular cultivated Buddleia species and a semi-evergreen, open arching shrub, 1.2 to 4.6 metres tall and wide. It is native to Central China (Sichuan and Hubei provinces) and Japan.

It was introduced to Kew in 1896 (180 years after Buddle’s death) and was named after another clergyman, a French missionary called Père Armand David (1826-1900), who travelled over 7000 miles by foot in Asia and was the first European to see it flowering on stony rocky slopes in China. David collected 1500 plants in his travels, including 250 new species and 11 new genera, including the Handkerchief Tree, Davidia involucrata.BlogBugsBBB20%Reszd2015-12-07 09.44.01B. davidii is highly invasive and colonises dry open ground very quickly, including railway track sidings (see http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28196221); derelict factories and urban bombsites, hence its name, the Bombsite Plant.

Both the species and its cultivars have been banned in many states in the United States of America (eg Oregon and Washington), and it certainly has naturalised very successfully in Northern Australia.

There are interspecific hybrids like Buddleja ‘Lochinch’, a cross between B. davidii and B. fallowiana; and B. x weyeriana, a cross between B. davidii and B. globosa; and at least 180 B. davidii cultivars.BlogButterflyHeaven 20%Reszd2015-12-02 19.04.05Some of the most popular garden cultivars are Royal Red (rich magenta), Black Knight (dark purple) and Empire Blue (small blue spikes), all three being taller older varieties, as well as Sungold (golden yellow) and Pink Delight, the latter bred in Holland in 1990, a compact shrub with silvery foliage and fragrant long, pure pink flower spikes. Dartmouth is another tall hybrid, 5 metres tall, with magenta-purple hand-shaped blooms, whose spikes radiate from one ‘palm’.

There are compact varieties, suitable for smaller gardens, like the pink Peacock ; Purple Emperor; Adonis Blue; Marbled White; and Camberwell Beauty (like a dwarf Dartmoor), the last four named after British butterflies. Nanho Blue (blue) and Nanho Purple (purple) are both dainty hybrids, only 1.5 metres tall, with delicate long slender flower spikes.

Other hybrids include: African Queen (dark purple); Blue Horizon (clear blue); Petite Indigo (lavender- blue); Darent Valley, Nanho White, White Profusion and White Bouquet– all white; and Opera (pink). See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Buddleja_hybrids_and_cultivars; and https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/butterfly-bush-buddleia-davidii-plant-buddleja for more species and hybrids.BlogButterflyHeaven 20%Reszd2015-12-01 15.32.16In the United Kingdom, there are 4 NCCPG national collections, including:

Peter Moore (http://bredbypetermoore.co.uk/) of Longstock Park Nursery (https://leckfordestate.co.uk/nursery) has been breeding more compact (1 to 2 meters tall), sterile buddleias for over 20 years, which flower for a longer period without self-seeding. He produces 50 Buddleia crosses each year, trialling the most promising hybrids in the garden, and spends 10 hours every week, deadheading all the Buddleias in the collection. Longstock Park Nursery has two Plant Heritage Collections, one of Clematis viticella, the other of Buddleias, as well as holding the Gilchrist Collection of Penstemons.BlogButterflyHeaven 20%Reszd2015-12-01 15.28.19The Buddleja Collection started as a deer- and rabbit-proof screening hedge along the old tennis court and now contains 160 species and cultivars, some of them tender. The aim is to conserve, grow, document and celebrate buddlejas growing in the United Kingdom. See :https://leckfordestate.co.uk/nursery-plants/buddleja-stock-list for the stock list of Buddlejas held.BlogBugsBBB20%Reszd2015-12-07 09.39.19The collection includes:

Sugar Plum: a compact form of B. davidii, with the reddest flowers of all buddleias;

Pink Pagoda: a pale pink form of B. x weyeriana;

Blue Chip: 0.6 to 0.9 metre high compact shrub with lavender-blue flowers with sterile seed; and

Silver Anniversary: A cross between B. loricata from South Africa and the lilac-pink B. crispa from Northern India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China, with the best silver foliage of any hardy buddleja. See: http://www.buddlejacollection.com/collections/  for the whole collection. BlogButterflyHeaven 20%Reszd2015-12-01 15.30.47Here is another useful link for further reading on Buddlejas: http://www.buddlejagarden.co.uk/linx.html.

Next week, we are visiting the beautiful Murrah Lagoon!

 

Sunflowers: December Feature Plant

What better way to celebrate the start of Summer than with a feature post on the wonderful exuberant Sunflower, Helianthus annuus!BlogSummerDays20%ReszdIMG_3870 Sunflowers belong to the daisy family, Asteraceae, and the genus Helianthus has over 70 species, most of them native to North America, except for three species from South America. Most are ornamental, frost-hardy herbaceous perennials, like the Jerusalem Artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus, but the Common Sunflower, familiar to most people, is an annual, as indicated by its species name: ‘annuus’. The genus name Helianthus is derived from two Greek words: ‘helios’ meaning ‘sun’ and ‘anthos’ meaning ‘flower’.BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2015-12-31 15.26.43Mythology

In Greece, the sunflower is a symbol of the water nymph Clytie, who was turned into a sunflower after she lost her love Apollo, and constantly faces the sun, awaiting the return of his chariot. The visual similarity of the flower to the sun makes it a symbol of worship and faithfulness in many religions. In fact, the Incas used South American sunflowers to worship the sun in their temples, where priestesses wore necklaces of sunflowers, cast in gold, as well as sunflower crowns. The Hopi Indians of North America also used sunflowers in their tribal rituals, as well as for food and a purple dye. In China, the sunflower is an auspicious symbol, denoting long life and good luck, its bright yellow colour symbolising vitality, intelligence and happiness. Vincent Van Gogh is famous for his series of paintings, depicting sunflowers in vases, one of which sold for $39 Million in 1987. Here is my daughter’s sunflower painting- just as special and always makes me feel happy.BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5641Habitat and Distribution

Native to North America, the sunflower was first domesticated in South-Western USA over 5000 years ago and soon became widespread throughout the Americas. Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizzaro, saw large crops in 16th century Peru and the sunflower was carried back to Spain, where it was cultivated and hybridized. By the 19th century, it was being cultivated on a wide scale in Russia, the Ukraine and the Caucasus regions for the manufacture of vegetable oil. The sunflower  is the State flower of Kansas and the National flower of Russia. Mostly grown in temperate areas, it is now also grown as a commercial crop in the United States, Argentina, India, China, Turkey, the European Union (mainly France and Spain) and South Africa. In Queensland, it is widely grown in the Central Highlands and on the Darling Downs, as seen in the photo below.blogsunflowers50reszdimage-158Description

Helianthus annuus is an annual forb, which grows up to 5 metres tall, with a well-developed tap root, which extends up to 3 metres into the soil. There are now a number of cultivars, varying in colour (yellow, orange, rust red) and height, from dwarf varieties less than 1 metre tall to taller cultivars over 3.5 metres tall.blogsunflowers50reszdimage-159 The tallest sunflower ever recorded was 7.76 metres tall, though there is a German record of 8.23 metres tall! There is also a discrepancy in growth rates: one source states 30 centimetres in one day, while another estimate is 2 metres in 6 months- that’s 182 days. For mathematicians, that’s 2000 centimetres in 182 days or 11 centimetres a day! Suffice to say that they are one of the fastest growing plants in the world! Our Burgundy Spray sunflower reached 2 metres last year and was harvested and ploughed in at 20 weeks- that’s 5 months- but we did use plenty of manure!BlogButterflyHeaven 20%Reszd2015-12-01 17.20.36 BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.02.02The erect stem is rough and hairy and is branched in many wild varieties, but unbranched in cultivated varieties.BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-03 10.11.21 The petiolate leaves are dentate (toothed margins) and sticky. The lower leaves are opposite and ovate or heart-shaped, while the leaves higher up the stem are arranged spirally.

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Blooming in Summer, the inflorescence is a terminal head (capitulum), 10 to 50 centimetres in diameter, with a world record of 87.63 centimetres.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 20.05.37 Each flower head is surrounded by three rows of bracts (phyllaries)- see photo above- and is composed of sterile outer yellow (or orange/ rust red) ray florets, which attract pollinators, and fertile inner brownish disc florets.blogsunflowers50reszdimage-160 A single flower head may have up to two thousand disc florets, each with the potential to develop into a seed. If there are multiple flower heads on the same plant, the number of disc florets per head will be much lower.BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-28 09.50.43 The disc florets open in sequence, beginning at the periphery of the disc and moving inward. The disc florets are arranged in spiral whorls from the centre of the flowerhead, according to the famous Fibonacci sequence, which allows for the uniform packing of the maximum number of seeds on a seed head without any central overcrowding or bare patches at the outside edges. The Fibonacci sequence is a number set, in which each number is the sum of the previous two numbers: ie 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610 and so on, and was described by Fibonacci (also known as Leonardo of Pisa) in his book : Liber Abaci in 1202.image-159-copy-copy

In the case of sunflowers, count the clockwise and counterclockwise spirals that reach the outer edge, and you’ll usually find a pair of numbers from the sequence: 34 and 55, or 55 and 89, or—with very large sunflowers—89 and 144. Another interesting mathematical fact is that each floret is oriented to the next by the Golden Angle, 137.5 degrees.BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-03 19.38.59 Botanists have not yet been able to determine a mechanistic model that fully explains how the sunflower seed patterns arise, as some  plants don’t always show perfect Fibonacci numbers. A study published by the Royal Society Open Science on 18 May 2016 of 657 sunflower photos revealed one in five flowers had either a non-Fibonacci spiralling pattern or more complicated patterns, including near-Fibonacci sequences and other mathematical patterns that compete and clash across the flower head. See: http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/5/160091 . Another interesting link is: https://plus.maths.org/content/sunflowers. Click on the first article in the search results: ‘Citizen scientists count sunflower spirals’ by Marianne Freiberger.

For more information about sunflowers and the Fibonnaci sequence, see :

http://momath.org/home/fibonacci-numbers-of-sunflower-seed-spirals/

and    https://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/nature-golden-ratio-fibonacci.html.BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-05 16.04.53Another fascinating fact about sunflowers is their heliotropism (sun tracking) when young. During growth, sunflower leaves and flowers tilt to face the sun during the day, accounting for their French and Portuguese names: Tournesol (French) and Girassol (Portuguese). As the buds open, the flexible part of the stem tissue (the pulvinus) hardens and heliotropism ceases, the sunflower blooms permanently facing east, thereby acting as a living compass!BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 17.41.12 Sunflowers are pollinated by bees, though some modern varieties are fully self-fertile. The following website has some interesting information about sunflower pollination, which highlights the importance of bees. See: http://www.pollinator.ca/bestpractices/sunflowers.html. Initially, each floret is male, the pollen-bearing anthers extending above the rim of the floret, then later on, the style emerges and the stigmatic lobes spread, opening the receptive surfaces for pollination – see the photo below. If there is enough pollinator activity, the pollen is removed from each floret before the stigma opens, reducing the chances for self-pollination. The resultant seeds are 15 to 25 mm long and vary in colour from white to brown and black and even striped.BlogFeb Garden20%Reszd2016-02-12 10.24.58Growing Conditions and Propagation

Heat and drought-tolerant, sunflowers are very easy to grow in most climates, so long as they have full sun all day  (6 to 8 hours) and well-dug, nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. They are propagated by seed. Dig the seed bed well with plenty of manure/ compost, as they are heavy feeders, then rake the soil level. Broadcast the seed and rake into the surface or plant seeds individually to a depth of 2 cm. In cool temperate climates, sow seed in Spring after the last frost (we sowed our Burgundy Spray sunflower seeds on 7 October last year); in warm temperate climates, from late Winter to late Spring; and in frost-free subtropical and tropical regions, seed can be sown all year round, though Autumn to Spring is best. Sunflowers prefer long, hot Summers and hot wet humid Summers increase the risk of fungal diseases like downy or powdery mildew or rust. Mulch the seedbed with chopped sugar cane or lucerne to retain moisture, keep the soil cool and deter pigeons or mice. As the seedlings develop, thin them according to the size of the plants. Giant Russian sunflowers grow to over 4m high with a flowerhead of 5o cm, so require 1.5 m between each plant.BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5166 Water or foliar feed weekly with seaweed extract in the morning, so that the foliage is dry by sunset, also reducing the risk of fungal mould and rot. For show flowers and maximum seed production, apply two handfuls of poultry manure per square metre when the seedlings are 15 cm high and a 4 cm layer of well-rotted cow manure and compost when they reach 0.5 m in height. Stake the stems when necessary- old pantihose are good. The dwarf varieties should flower within 10 to 12 weeks of sowing, while the taller varieties take 12 to 16 weeks to bloom. Our Burgundy Spray sunflower had its first bloom open at 12 weeks, just in time to celebrate the New Year! We harvested the seeds on the 23 February 2016.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.10.42

If your plants are affected by fungal disease, a general fungicide can be applied. Slugs and snails love browsing on the stems and leaves of sunflowers, so spray the seedlings with an organic snail bait or a mixture of 1 part espresso coffee to 3 parts of water, then mulch, repeating after heavy rain or irrigation. Bees and butterflies love the flowers, while birds, rodents, squirrels and deer are attracted to the sunflower seed, though large amounts are fatal to the latter! There are numerous insect pests, most of which attack other plants as well. More information on these insects and their management can be found on :http://ipmguidelinesforgrains.com.au/wp-content/uploads/Sunflower_IPM-Workshops_north-March2013.pdf and https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/pests/e1457.pdf BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0005 (2) Seed heads should be harvested when very dry ie once the back of the flower heads are turning yellow or brown. Tie paper bags over their heads, then cut the stems and hang upside-down in a dry, well-ventilated place till fully dry.BlogFeb Garden20%Reszd2016-02-12 10.21.10 The seed head can be sharply struck or rubbed across an old washboard to release the seeds. To process sunflower seed for consumption, soak them overnight in a bucket of 1 gallon (4.5 litres) water and 1 cup salt. Redry in a 250 degree Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius) oven for 4 to 5 hours and store in airtight containers.For replanting,  the seeds are viable for 5 years, according to: http://tcpermaculture.com/site/2013/06/14/how-long-will-seeds-last-stay-viable/, but if you want to check their viability before planting, see: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/check-sunflower-seeds-viable-68389.html.

Uses

Sunflowers are grown extensively throughout the world for human and animal food and sunflower oil production. There are two types grown. The first is oilseed, a very small black seed  with a very high  oil content , which  is processed into sunflower oil and meal and is also the seed of choice of most bird feeders. The second type is non-oilseed (confectionery sunflower), a larger black and white striped seed used in a variety of food products from snacks to bread. Sunflower seeds are rich in healthy fats, oil, vitamin E, protein, fibre and minerals and can be eaten raw or roasted for a savory snack or ground into a seed paste (Sun Butter) like peanut butter. They are excellent for promoting heart health and lowering cholesterol. The seeds can also be ground into a sunflower meal and used as a substitute for wheat flour in breads and cakes and the seed husks can be ground into a coffee-like beverage.blogsunflowers20reszdimg_0176 Sunflowers are also widely used as an animal food, mainly for birds (seeds) and cattle (forage crop or a high protein meal, which is a by-product of sunflower oil extraction and is often blended with soya bean meal). The seeds can also be pressed to make an  oil, which has been used in salads and for cooking, margarine production and in industry : as drying oils for paints and varnishes and in beauty products like soap and cosmetics. However, readers should be aware that there is some research about health risks associated with cooking with vegetable oils. See these links for further information: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11981884/Cooking-with-vegetable-oils-releases-toxic-cancer-causing-chemicals-say-experts.html and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20886885. The cooking oil is recycled as a biofuel. For more on the commercial industry overview of sunflowers in the United States, see: http://www.sunflowernsa.com  and   http://www.soyatech.com/sunflower_facts.htm. Sunflower oil can also be used in medicine: for constipation and lowering bad LDL cholesterol or applied directly to the skin for poorly healing wounds, skin injuries, psoriasis and arthritis and as a massage oil.blogsunflowers20reszdimg_0171Native Americans also grew sunflowers for food and oil, medicine, fibre and dyes , as well as to provide shelter for crops of maize, pumpkins and beans. The juice from the stems was used to treat wounds and an infusion of the plant in water was used to treat kidney and chest pain. The fibre from the stalks could be made into cloth and both the seeds and flower heads yielded a dye: purple, blue and black from the seeds and a bright yellow from the flowers.image-159-copySunflowers can also be grown as a green manure crop, the plants being dug into the ground once the seedlings reach a height of 30 cm. The plants can bioaccumulate heavy metals in contaminated soil, like lead, arsenic and uranium, and were used to remove nuclear fallout after the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.image-160-copy-copyAnd finally, sunflowers are commonly used in floristry and are often given on the third wedding anniversary as a sign of adoration, strength and loyalty. Stems should be cut early in the morning before the flowerbuds are fully open- preferably ½ to ¾ open. If buying them, the leaves should be a strong green colour and the stems should be strong. They must be sold with a water source, as they shock easily. Remove any foliage below water level and cut the stems on a sharp diagonal (2 to 4 cm from the stem ends), under water if possible to avoid air blockages in the stems. Do NOT bash the stems. Use a preservative to maintain open flowers and change the vase water daily. The flowers have a vase life of 7 to 10 days. The leaves will wilt and die before the flowers, so only retain the upper leaves. To help prevent leaf drooping, add 10 drops of household detergent to 5 litres of water and leave in this solution for 1 to 3  hours, but no longer than overnight. If the leaves do start to droop, immediately recut the stems up to 6 cm and place in deep water with preservative for up to 3 hours. If the flowers droop completely, recut the stems and place them in boiling water to clear the blockage quickly (though the lifespan of the flower will be halved).

I really enjoyed researching my last feature post for this year. The sunflower is a fascinating plant and I hope you enjoyed the post as much as I enjoyed writing it.  If I have whetted your appetite to know more, it would be worth trying to source ‘Sunflowers: the Secret History’ by Joe Pappalardo. See: http://www.overlookpress.com/sunflowers-the-secret-history.html.

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Poppies: November Feature Plant

It’s Poppy Season again! Our first Peony Poppy opened overnight, while we have had plenty of wild purple single poppies for the last fortnight.blogpoppy20reszd2016-10-29-09-26-27blogpoppy20reszd2016-10-29-09-25-32Poppies belong to the family Papaveraceae and subfamily Papaveroideae . Papaver is derived from the Latin word ‘pappa’ for food or milk and alludes to the milky sap produced by some poppies. There are a number of different genera and cultivars listed below:

Genera:

Papaver:

P. rhoeas: Field or Corn Poppy Cultivars: Shirley Poppy

P. commutatum ‘Ladybird’

P.somniferum: Opium Poppy: Flore Plena cultivars- semidouble and double, including Peony Poppy: Paeoniflorum/ Laciniatum groups

P. setigerum: Poppy of Troy

P. orientale: Oriental Poppy: Flore Plena cultivars- semidouble and double

P. nudicaule: Iceland Poppy

Eschsolzia :

E.californica: Californian Poppy

Meconopsis:

M.cambrica: Welsh Poppy

M.grandis: Himalayan Blue Poppy

M.napaulensis: Nepal Poppy or Satin Poppy

M. betonicifolia: Tibetan Blue Poppy

Romneya: Matilija Poppy or Tree Poppy

Stylophorum: Celandine Poppy

Argemone: Prickly Poppy

Canbya: Pygmy Poppy

Stylomecon: Wind Poppy

Arctomecon: Desert Bearpaw Poppy

Hunnemannia: Tulip Poppy

Dendromecon: Tree Poppy

History :

Poppies have a very long history. The Opium Poppy, P. somniferum, was domesticated by the indigenous people of Western and Central Europe between 6000 BC and 3500 BC. There are images of opium poppies in ancient Sumerian artifacts from 4000 BC. Ancient Egyptian doctors prescribed the chewing of poppy seed to relieve pain. The Ancient Minoans also made and used opium. The Ancient Greeks later called the sap ‘opion’, which then became ‘opium’ and opium poppies were used  as offerings to the dead in both Greek and Roman myths. They are used as emblems on tombstones, symbolizing eternal sleep and its flower and fruit is depicted on the coat-of-arms of the Royal College of Anaesthetists.BlogSoftNovRain 20%Reszd2015-11-05 16.58.04In fact, all poppies are seen as a symbol of sleep, death and peace: Sleep, because of its sedative effect, and death, because of the blood-red colour of many poppies. P. rhoeas, the Flanders Poppy, grows wild on the First World War battlefields and is a symbol of remembrance of the soldiers, who died in the Great War. Ironically, they were also the subject of the First and Second Opium Wars of the late 1830s to the early 1860s between China, France and the British Empire. China tried to stop Western traders from selling and later smuggling opium from India into China. On the other side of the coin, in Persian History, red poppies symbolize ‘eternal love’.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (143) - CopyThe poppy is on the coat-of-arms of the Republic of Macedonia, while the Californian Poppy is the state flower of… yes, California! For more interesting facts about the history of the poppy, see: https://www.deamuseum.org/ccp/opium/history.html

Description:

Herbaceous ornamental plants, including annuals, biennials and short-lived perennials.BlogEndofSpring20%Reszd2015-11-19 09.40.31Most flower in late Spring/ early Summer and have blooms with 4 to 6 showy petals, which are crumpled in the bud, then open out flat as they mature, before falling away.

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Crumpled petals in opening poppy bud  Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

BlogEndofSpring20%Reszd2015-11-16 08.57.23 The two sepals fall away as the flower bud opens up.BlogPeonypoppy20%Reszd2015-11-12 10.03.09 The centre of the flowers is a whorl of stamens and the ovary has 2 to many fused carpals.BlogPeonypoppy20%Reszd2015-11-11 09.17.08 The pollen of Oriental Poppies is dark blue, while that of Corn Poppies is grey to dark green.BlogPeonypoppy20%Reszd2015-11-13 12.02.06 Most poppies secrete a milky white latex when injured.BlogSummers here 20%Reszd2015-11-25 18.45.46Flowers are followed by  attractive unilocular seed capsules, capped by the dried stigma and containing many fine black seeds , which escape through tiny holes below the stigma disc with the slightest breeze. Some species are monocarpic, dying after flowering. Many species self-seed freely and can become an agricultural weed.BlogSummersplendrs20%Reszd2015-12-17 18.30.01There are 70 to 100 species in Papaver genus alone, so I will be discussing the more common garden varieties.

Species Notes:

Papaver rhoeas : Corn Poppy/Field Poppy/ Flanders Poppy

Annual herbaceous plant up to 70 cm tall.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (141) - CopySymbol of agricultural fertility in the ancient times and of remembrance of the First World War casualties. We drove past fields of wild poppies in the Cevenne region of France.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (146) - CopyPapaver, also ‘pappa’, is the Latin for food or milk and rhoeas means red in Greek.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (141)Habitat: Thought to be native to the eastern Mediterranean region, and probably introduced to northwest Europe in the seed-corn of early settlers. Now widespread throughout Western Asia, Europe and North Africa.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (145) - CopyDescription: Flowers late Spring with blooms, 50-100 mm across, with 4 vivid red petals with a black spot at their base.

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Papaver rhoeas flower   Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

The flower stem has coarse hairs and the seed capsules are obovoid. They contain the alkaloid rhoeadine, which is a mild sedative.

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Wild red poppies   Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Cultivars (all available from Lambley Nursery) include:

Shirley Poppy ‘Angels’ Choir’:  Double, semi-double and single flowers, many of which are bicolors, in cream, pastel pink, rose, salmon, peach, apricot, lavender  and dove grey;

Shirley Poppy ‘Double Mixed’: Double flowers ranging from white to  pale lilac, pink and red.

Shirley Poppy ‘Dawn Chorus’: Flecked and edged in many colour combinations, these crinkled satin flowers range in colour from pure white and vanilla to soft pink, apple-blossom, scarlet and slate blue.

Papaver rhoeas ‘Bridal Silk’: New strain of P. rhoeas with white flowers

Papaver rhoeas ‘American Legion’: Heirloom red flower with white cross in the centre

Papaver rhoeas’Pandora’: Burgundy-red to pinkish-red flowers

Papaver rhoeas ‘Mother of Pearl’: Strain developed by Welsh artist Cedric Morris in his Suffolk garden ‘Benton End’. Soft smoky colours include white, grey, lilac, mauve, pink and soft orange. Many of the poppies are flecked and there are some picotees.

Seeds should be surface sown in a sunny spot late Autumn to mid-Winter, then thinned to 10 to 40cm apart. Forms a long lived soil seed bank that can germinate when soil is disturbed, so is virtually a weed in parts of Europe.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (144) - CopyPapaver commutatum: Ladybird Poppy

Erect annual 45 cm tall and 15 cm wide with 8cm diameter bright red flowers with a shiny black splotch at the base of each petal in early Summer. Self-seeds easily.

Native to North Turkey,North-West  Iran and the Caucasus, Papaver comutatum was developed using a species introduced from Russia in 1876 by Mr William Thompson, the founder of Thompson and Morgan.

The species name commutatum comes from the Latin commutata, meaning ‘changed or changing’. It is used for a species that is very similar to one already best known. In this case, ‘similar to’ the common poppy Papaver rhoeas.

Surface sow seed late Autumn/ early Winter.

Papaver somniferum: Opium Poppy

Habitat: Originated in the Eastern Mediterranean, but its origin has been obscured by ancient cultivation throughout Europe and South-East Asia. It has naturalized in Britain and other temperate climates throughout the world. It is the only poppy, grown as an agricultural crop on a large scale, primarily for opium and poppy seeds.BlogEndofSpring20%Reszd2015-11-16 08.57.08Name:Somniferum’ is the Latin word for ‘Sleep-inducing’.BlogSummers here 20%Reszd2015-11-25 18.45.32Description: Annual herb up to 1m high. All plant parts are glaucous (grey-green), the stem and leaves sparsely covered with coarse hairs, the lobed leaves clasping the stem at the base.BlogPeonypoppy20%Reszd2015-11-14 09.17.47 The flowers are 120mm diameter and have 4 white, mauve or red petals, which can have dark markings at the base.BlogSoftNovRain 20%Reszd2015-11-05 13.23.58 They flower in Spring and early Summer. The hairless, round seed capsule is topped with 12 to 18 radiating stigmatic rays and contains many fine black seeds.BlogBugsBBB20%Reszd2015-12-08 16.53.06There are many subspecies and varieties and cultivars, so great variation in : flower colour; petal number and shape; number of flowers and fruit; number and colour of seeds; and production of opium, though most varieties, including those most popular for ornamental use or seed production, have higher morphine content than other poppies.BlogPeonypoppy20%Reszd2015-11-11 09.16.26There are two subgroups grown for ornamental use in the garden :

Paeoniflorum Group: Peony Poppies: very double flowers of many colours;BlogPeonypoppy20%Reszd2015-11-12 13.38.37Laciniatum Group: very double, deeply lobed flowers, which look like pompoms.BlogSummers here 20%Reszd2015-11-23 17.54.42Lambley Nursery sells the seed of a variety of Peony Poppies for the garden: Double Coral; Double Red; Double White and Double Mauve and Pink, which I grew last year- I suspect some of them may have been Laciniatum strains as well!BlogPeonypoppy20%Reszd2015-11-12 13.37.44 Seed should be sown in situ 3mm deep or just sprinkled on the soil surface from mid-Autumn to mid-Winter, then the seedlings thinned to 20 to 30 mm apart.BlogEndofSpring20%Reszd2015-11-19 09.39.23 They self-seed easily, with many seedlings appearing spontaneously in the Soho Bed and I have also sown last year’s seed in the Cutting Garden in rows. Lambleys also sell a Peony poppy called ‘Danish Flag’, a bright red single flower with a central white cross.

Papaver setigerum: Poppy of Troy/ Dwarf Breadseed Poppy.

Herbaceous annual plant, closely related to and sometimes classified as a subspecies of P. somniferum.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (142) - Copy Native to the Mediterranean region and grows wild in pastures and fields in southwestern Europe (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece) and in North Africa.BlogSoftNovRain 20%Reszd2015-11-05 10.19.01Species name ‘setigerum’ derives from the Latin word ‘saetiger’, meaning ‘bristly’, referring to the short bristle on the top of the lobes of its leaves.BlogPeonypoppy20%Reszd2015-11-11 09.15.59The flowers have four pink-purple petals, with a dark purple blotch at the base and bloom in late Spring/ early Summer, followed by glabrous seed capsules, 2 to 3 cm long.BlogSoftNovRain 20%Reszd2015-11-05 10.19.09Papaver orientale: Oriental Poppy

Perennial flowering plant.

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Oriental Poppy   Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Native to the Caucasus, North-east Turkey and Northern Iran.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (145)Grows a mound of finely-cut hairy foliage in Spring, followed by flowers. After flowering, the foliage completely dies away, an adaptation allowing survival in the Summer droughts of Central Asia, to be renewed after Autumn rains.

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Oriental Poppy   Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Originally a scarlet-orange, there are a number of cultivars with colours ranging from white with black blotches to pinks and salmons to deep maroon and plum. Some well-known cultivars are:  ‘Beauty of Livermere’ (red);  ‘Cedric Morris’ (pale pink and black) and ‘Perry’s White’ (white with dark purple splotches in the centre).

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Oriental Poppy cultivar   Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Oriental Poppies do not produce any narcotic alkaloids like morphine or codeine.

They like a light calcerous soil and full sun or partial shade. Sow the seeds at a depth of 1 cm after the frosts have passed, when the days are 21 degrees Celsius and the soil has warmed up. Germination takes 10 to 20 days. They do not handle transplanting or over-watering well. Mulch in Winter to protect the plant from frosts.

Papaver nudicaule: Iceland Poppy

Boreal flowering plant, native to the subpolar regions of Europe, Asia and North AmericaBlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-15 16.28.23Hardy short-lived perennials, often grown as biennials.Blog late19centBG20%ReszdIMG_3425Large papery bowl-shaped slightly fragrant flowers on hairy curved stems, one foot long, in late Spring/ early Summer.BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-14 13.56.21 Wild species is white or yellow, but the cultivars range in colour from white, cream, lemon and yellow to pink, rose, salmon, orange and red and even bicolors.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (144) Last year, I grew ‘Excelsior’. Other cultivars include: ‘Matilda’ and ‘Oranges and Lemons’.BlogBdayblessgs20%Reszd2015-10-09 14.16.59 They are the best poppy for cutting, the blooms lasting several days in a vase.BlogPeonypoppy20%Reszd2015-11-14 09.17.03Feathery blue-green foliage. All parts of the plant contain toxic alkaloids and are poisonous.BlogSoftNovRain 20%Reszd2015-11-03 16.14.37The seeds are extremely tiny and should be scattered on the soil surface in situ, as their long tap roots resent disturbance, in Late Autumn and Winter. They like a well-drained garden bed in full sun, but do not handle hot weather well, so are best in climates with cooler Summers, where they can last 2 to 3 seasons.BlogDaylightslavg BG20%ReszdIMG_1562Eschsolzia californica: Californian Poppy

The Eschsolzia genus has 12 annual or perennial species and was named after the Baltic german/ Imperial Russian botanist, Johann Friedrich von Escholtz (1793-1831).BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (149) - CopyLeaves are deeply cut, glaucous and glabrous, and mainly basal.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (154) - CopyFlowers are funnel shaped and terminal with 4 yellow or orange petals and 12-numerous stamens. There are a large number of cultivars, whose name generally reflect their colour: Orange King; Tropical Sunset (sunset colours- red, orange, gold); Tequila Sunrise (mandarin, red and cream); Dusky Rose and Buttercream.

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California Poppy flower and seedpod    Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

They are borne alone of in many cymes and close in cloudy weather. The two fused sepals fall off as the flower bud opens. The seedpods are long and pointy and split when ripe to release many tiny black seeds.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (143) They self-seed easily, but do not breed true to type, which leads to some interesting combinations and chance surprises. Compare the photo above of the original plantings (only orange) with the photos below (2nd generation plants in the same spot).BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (155) - Copy I was  delighted to discover second-generation bright orange poppies under my deep purple Rugosa roses, while their butter-cream sisters chose to carpet the ground under my salmon-pink Vanguard rose, even though I originally only planted the orange form (see photo above and compare to photo below). Definitely the garden devas at work!BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (148) - CopyCalifornian Poppies like warm dry climates, are drought-tolerant and can withstand some frost. They grow in poor or sandy soils with good drainage and are easy to grow. In fact, once you have them, you will never get rid of them! They can be quite invasive. Their taproot gives off a colorless or orange clear juice, which is mildly toxic.

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California Poppies growing wild      Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Meconopsis

Name derives from the Greek words : ‘Mekon’ meaning ‘Poppy’ and ‘opsis’ meaning ‘alike’.

Shortlived perennials, which like partial shade and are heavy feeders.

The Welsh Poppy, Meconopsis cambric, is indigenous to England, Wales, Ireland and Western Europe. It has yellow or orange flowers, self-seeds readily and likes damp shady places and rocky ground.

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Welsh Poppy    Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

The 40 other species of Meconopsis are all found in the Himalayan region, including Meconopsis grandis: Himalayan Blue Poppy, the national flower of Bhutan, M. betonicifolia, the Tibetan Blue Poppy and Meconopsis napaulensis, the Nepal Poppy or Satin Poppy. Most are monocarpic and difficult to maintain in cultivation. For new growers, some good sites are: http://www.meconopsis.org and  http://www.gardenershq.com/meconopsis-grandis.php.

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Himalayan Blue Poppy    Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Romneya: Matilija Poppy/ Tree Poppy

Native habitat is Southern California and Northern Mexico.

Perennial sub-shrubs with woody stems, 2.5m high and 1m wide.

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Tree Poppy    Courtesy of https:pixabay.com

Silver-green deeply cut leaves and 13cm diameter flowers with an intense yellow centre, resulting in its other name of ‘Fried Egg Plant’.

Grow in a warm sunny spot with fertile well-drained soil. Not easily grown, but once established are difficult to remove. Often sprout after fire in its native habitat.

Use:

Ornamental garden plantsBlog late19centBG20%Reszdmid september 2012 097

BlogBdayblessgs20%Reszd2015-10-10 14.25.01BlogEndofSpring20%Reszd2015-11-19 09.27.02BlogEndofSpring20%Reszd2015-11-15 12.14.59BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (142)BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (157) - CopyFood:

Poppy seeds are edible and are an important food source, being rich in oil, carbohydrates, calcium and protein.BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-26 17.24.32 The seeds are harvested from P.somniferum.BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-26 14.27.21 Poppy seed production is largest in the Czech Republic, followed by Spain, Hungary, Turkey, Germany and France in that order. Poppy seeds are used widely in traditional pastries and cakes in Central Europe, as well as in a Poppy Seed Cake in Turkey and Kutia (a grainy pudding) in the Ukraine. They are also used in curries and sprinkled on bread. Poppy Oil is used as a cooking oil, in salad dressings and in margarine, as well as being added to spices for use in cakes and bread.

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Bread sprinkled with poppy seed  Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Medicine:

Papaver somniferum is also the source of the drug opium, which contains powerful medicinal alkaloids called opiates, which  include morphine, thebaine, codeine, papaverine, noscopine and oripavine and has been used as an analgesic and narcotic medicinal drug, as well as a recreational drug.

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Opium Poppy field    Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Widely cultivated throughout the world, its production is monitored by international agencies and every country has its own rules and regulations about its growth and production. For medicinal crops, it was traditionally produced in Turkey and India, but is now also grown in Australia, especially Tasmania.BlogButterflyHeaven 20%ReszdIMG_1764 Incisions are made in the green seed pods and the latex, which oozes out is collected when dried and opiate drugs extracted from the opium. Opium was dissolved in alcohol and/or water to make Tincture of Opium or Laudanum, used widely in the late 1800s. It has been used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions from pain to asthma, stomach complaints and even bad eyesight!BlogPeonypoppy20%Reszd2015-11-12 10.02.57Floristry: Both flowers and seedpods. Cut or buy when 1 to 2 flowers are opening and the rest of the buds are showing some colour (photo below). The ends of the poppy stems can be scalded with boiling water to stop the leakage of sap, otherwise wear gloves when handling the flowers to avoid skin irritation. Condition in a separate container of water for 24 hours before recutting the stems and arranging in a vase with floral preservative. Will last up to 5 days.Image (143)BlogSoftNovRain 20%Reszd2015-11-05 10.46.14Miscellaneous:

Poppy products are also used in paints and varnishes, as well as cosmetics.BlogPeonypoppy20%Reszd2015-11-11 15.30.08Finally, the last feature post request for my talented daughter Caro- a quick study of some of our garden poppies, which would make great cards. December’s feature post plant is based on one of her early watercolours. Thank you so much darling for all your wonderful paintings! I really appreciate and treasure all your work! blogpoppy50reszd14881561_10154616681724933_451210402_oAnd to finish this post, a dramatic photo of a sunlit peony poppy, which I took yesterday!blogpoppy20reszd2016-10-29-12-13-11

 

Iris: October Feature Plant

My feature plant for October is the Iris and our first Dutch Iris bloom has just opened, right on time! They are such beautiful regal flowers and definite confirmation that Spring is here to stay and the long cold Winter is over!blogiris20reszd2016-09-29-11-19-29Irises, commonly known as ‘flags’, belong to the family Iridaceae and the genus Iris, which contains 260 to 300 species, many of which are natural hybrids. The number of different types be quite confusing, but  the first and major difference is whether they are rhizomatous or bulbous. Rhizomes are horizontal underground stems that strike new roots out of their nodes down into the soil, and that shoot new stems out of their nodes up to the surface. Most iris in this group are evergreen, but some go dormant, usually in late Summer/Autumn. Rhizomatous iris are either bearded or beardless. Bearded Iris have a tuft of short upright filaments down the centre of the blade, while beardless iris usually have a flash of colour, mostly yellow, at the top of the lower petals (known as falls), called a ‘signal’.BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-15 16.29.20 Beardless iris include: Pacific Coast, Louisiana Iris, Siberian Iris and Japanese Iris. Bulbous iris have a small bulb like an onion and are dormant and lose their leaves for part of the year. They include Dutch, English and Spanish Iris, as well as Iris reticulata. The photo above is a Dutch Iris.  There is an excellent diagram on the Iris Society  of Australia (http://www.irises.org.au/TypesIris.htm), which  clarifies the situation in a simple form. I will discuss some of the major groups in more detail later in this post. The photo below shows my Dutch Iris in the cutting garden last year.BlogReignroses20%Reszd2015-10-24 14.40.55Habitat: Temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere from Europe to Asia and across North America. They are found in a variety of habitats from dry semi-desert to colder, rocky, mountainous areas, grassy slopes and meadows and even bogs, swamps and riverbanks.BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-14 13.59.47History:

Iris comes from the Greek word for rainbow, referring to its wide colour range. It is also the name of the Greek goddess of the rainbow, who was the messenger of love, thus iris are symbols of communication and messages. In the language of flowers, iris generally means ‘eloquence’, after which its meaning depends on its colour : purple iris represent wisdom and compliments; blue iris symbolize faith and love; a yellow iris means passion and a white iris represents purity. The photo below is a bed of Bearded Iris of mixed colours.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (152) - CopyThe iris first appeared in artwork in the frescoes at King Minos’s palace on Crete and date from 2100 BC.  It became the symbol of King Clovis of France (466-511 AD) on his conversion to Christianity, the iris being known as one of the Virgin’s flower. The fleur-de-lis, a stylized representation of the iris, was the emblem of the House of Capet, which ruled the Kingdom of France from 911-1328 AD, and was also adopted as a symbol by King Louis VII in  12th century France. A red fleur-de-lis is found on the coat of arms of Florence, Italy, where it has been their symbol since 1251, as well as that of the Medici family, while yellow irises are depicted on the Quebec flag.blogiris25reszd2016-09-15-16-47-28 The iris is also one of the state flowers of Tennessee. It is even found on Japanese banknotes! The back of the 5000 yen banknote depicts “Kakitsubata-zu”, the most renowned painting of irises in Japan. It was painted by Ogata Kouri, one of the most famous Japanese painters . See : http://jpninfo.com/17450.  Another famous artwork ‘Irises’ was painted in 1889 by Vincent Van Gogh and was sold at auction in 1987 to Alan Bond for a record $53.9 Million. It was resold in 1990 to the Getty Museum for an undisclosed amount. Iris flowers have also been painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, Durer, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin and Monet, as well as my daughter Caroline, especially for this post!blogiris25reszd2016-09-19-12-45-38Garden cultivars were found in Europe by the 16th century. There was a big boom in breeding from 1830 on and by 1930, the American Iris Society listed 19 000 iris species and hybrids. There are now literally thousands of cultivars of Bearded Iris – over 30,000 Tall Bearded Iris alone! Compare the following photos to see the difference between the old (1st photo) and new (2nd photo) iris blooms.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (151) - Copy

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Modern cultivar of Bearded Iris       Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Unfortunately, like many other plant species, hybridization to produce increasingly large, dramatic frilled blooms of a huge colour range has been at the expense of fragrance, but there are conservation groups, for example : the Historic Iris Preservation Society ( http://www.historiciris.org/ ) in America, which specializes in the preservation of  heritage iris varieties, which are over 30 years old and are tougher plants with less frills, but more fragrance. New Zealand also has a Heritage Irises blog with links to Iris gardens and growers throughout the world. See :  http://historiciris.blogspot.com.au/. The Presby Memorial Garden (http://presbyirisgardens.org/wordpress/) in New Jersey is a living iris museum with over 10 000 iris plants, while the largest garden in Europe is the Giardino dell’ Iris in Florence, Italy, (http://www.intoflorence.com/giardino-dell-iris/), which has 1500 varieties in its two acre garden and hosts an annual international iris festival in late May.

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Highly Frilled Bearded Iris  Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

In Australia, irises are best seen in October/ November at specialised iris nurseries like:

Yarrabee Water Garden and Iris Nursery, One Tree Hill, South Australia :  Tall Bearded Iris and Louisiana Iris : http://www.yarrabeegardenandiris.com

Sunshine Iris, Lockhart, west of Wagga Wagga, NSW in the Riverina : 300 varieties and specializes in older vintage Bearded Iris: http://www.sunshineiris.com.au/.

Riverina Iris Farm, Lake Albert, is another Iris nursery, just south of Wagga Wagga, which specializes in Tall Bearded Iris : http://www.riverinairisfarm.com/. It has open gardens on the weekends from the 8th of October 2016  to the 6th of November 2016 from 10 am to 5 pm. They are  also open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and other times by appointment.

Rainbow Ridge, Burnt Yards, west of Carcoar, NSW : Tall Bearded and Median Iris, Louisiana and Californian Iris: http://www.rainbowridgenursery.com.au/

Iris Splendor, Railton, Tasmania : Tall Bearded Iris: http://iris-splendor.com

Tempo Two, Pearcedale, Victoria : Specialist Iris nursery : http://www.tempotwo.com.au

Tesselaars, Monbulk, Victoria also sells Dutch , Bearded, Siberian and Japanese Iris: https://www.tesselaar.net.au/.

BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-18 09.03.10

Description:

Iris are handsome, herbaceous, evergreen perennial plants, which grow from creeping rhizomes (rhizomatous iris) or bulbs (bulbous iris).

They have long, erect flowering stems, which are simple or branched, solid or hollow and flattened or with a circular cross-section, depending on the species. The photo below of my gold Bearded Iris shows the basic structure of the plant.BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-15 16.26.22

Rhizomatous iris have 3-10 basal sword-shaped leaves, which form dense clumps, while bulbous iris have cylindrical basal leaves.BlogBdayblessgs20%Reszd2015-10-10 14.21.07Iris have 6 symmetrical lobed flowers, which grow on a pedicel or peduncle. The 3 sepals drooping downwards are called ‘falls’ and have a narrow base (haft), which widens into a blade, which may be covered in dots, lines or veins.BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-15 16.29.20 In Bearded Iris, the centre of the blade has a tuft of short upright filaments to guide the pollinating insects down to the ovary. The blades of the iris act as a landing stage for flying pollinators. There are also 3 upright petals called ‘standards’, which stand behind the base of the falls. All petals and sepals are united at the base into a floral tube above the inferior ovary and the style divide towards the apex into petaloid branches. The Bearded Iris in the photo below is much frillier and larger than my gold Bearded Iris, shown above.

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Gold Frilled Bearded Iris  Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Flowering occurs from late Winter through to late Summer, depending on the species. There is a good diagram on: http://gardendesignforliving.com/a-guide-to-growing-iris-blooms-all-season/  , giving a guide to flowering times for the Northern Hemisphere. Basically, Iris reticulata starts the iris flowering season in late March to mid April, followed by Iris pumila for 2 weeks in early May; then Crested Iris for 1 week in mid to late May. Tall Bearded Iris also bloom in mid to late May for 2-3 weeks, overlapping with Siberian Iris, which are slightly later and have a shorter blooming period. Japanese Iris bloom in late June to mid July, then the iris season closes with reblooming Bearded Iris in August and September. In Australia, Dutch Iris flower in early Spring (September) and Bearded Iris bloom in October/ November.BlogPoppy50%ReszdImage (156) - Copy

The fruit is a capsule, which opens into 3 parts, revealing many seeds. In the desert dwelling Aril Iris, the seed bears an aril.

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Seed case of Iris pseudocorus   Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Species Notes:

Iris are divided into 6 subgenera, which are then divided into a number of sections, but I will mainly focus on the more common garden iris, including the varieties I grow in our garden. All of the subgenera are from the Old World, except for Limniris, which has a holarctic distribution. The largest subgenera are marked with an asterisk *.  Here are the names of the 6 subgenera:

*1. Bearded Rhizomatous Iris:

Iris series

eg Table or Stool  Iris:  Iris aphylla

eg Bearded Iris : Iris germanica

Oncocyclus series:

eg Sweet Iris: Iris pallida

eg Hungarian Iris: Iris variegata

*2. Limniris: Beardless Iris:

 Californicae series

eg Pacific Coast Iris

Hexagonae series

eg Louisiana Iris

Sibericae series

eg Siberian Iris: Iris sibirica

Laevigatae series:

eg Japanese Iris: Iris ensata

eg Large Blue Flag: Iris versicolour

eg Yellow Flag: Iris pseudacorus

Spuriae series:

eg Blue Iris: Iris spuria

eg Yellow-banded iris: Iris orientalis

eg Crested Iris: Iris cristata

3.Xiphium: Smooth Bulbed Bulbous: formerly Xiphion

eg Spanish and Dutch Iris:  Iris xiphium, though Dutch iris also known as Iris x hollandica

eg English Iris: Iris latifolia

4.Nepalensis: Bulbous Iris: formerly Junopsis

5.Scorpiris: Smooth Bulbed Bulbous: formerly Juno

eg Iris persica

6.Hermodactyloides: Reticulate Bulbed Bulbous: formerly Iridodictyum:

eg Iris reticulata: white, blue and violet: see photo below from the Portland Botanic Garden.Blog late19centBG20%ReszdIMG_4174Bearded Iris

The most common iris in the garden, which is a result of a cross between an early German  hybrid, Iris  5 germanica and other naturally occurring European hybrids of Iris pallida and  Iris variegata, as well as wild species like Iris aphylla.BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-17 09.30.44 There are so many hybrid cultivars, but they are divided into groups based on size:

Tall Bearded Iris  Over 71cm: Largest iris and the last to bloom.

Border Bearded Iris  38-71 cm tall: Similar size flowers to Tall Bearded Iris, but shorter stems.

Miniature Tall Bearded Iris  38-71 cm tall; Smaller flowers to Border Bearded Iris; Also  called Table Iris, because they are very dainty and suitable for small arrangements. Similar growing conditions to other Bearded Iris.

Intermediate Bearded Iris  38-71 cm tall. Very prolific. Cross between Dwarf and Tall Bearded Iris and require a bit more cooling and a bit more watering than the latter.

Standard Dwarf Bearded  20-38 cm tall and the shortest Bearded Iris; Suitable for borders. Dwarf Bearded Iris are easy to grow, but do require full sun and frosty Winters and loose, well-drained soil. Do not allow to dry out totally over Summer.

Miniature Dwarf Bearded  Up to 20 cm. Suitable for rockeries only.

Aril Bred Iris: Arilmeds:    45-75 cm. Cross between Tall Bearded Iris and desert Aril Iris. They like very well drained soil and may die down in Summer.

A good site for more information on Bearded Iris is: https://www.claireaustin-hardyplants.co.uk/blog/types-of-bearded-irises.

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Bearded Iris   Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

For a description of the many different species, see: http://www.irises.org.au/TypesIris.htm and follow the underlined links.

Siberian Iris:  Iris sibirica

Hybrids of Iris orientalis and Iris sibirica.

Native to Asia and Europe.

Beardless flowers in blue, lavender, yellow and white in late Spring/early Summer. The flowers are smaller than those of Bearded Iris and the foliage is very decorative. They do not grow in water and are not bog plants, but are very tough and can be planted in Spring and Autumn. They need a frosty Winter to flower well. Flowering time is usually November in Australia. The best situation is a damp, sunny spot and they are dormant in Autumn to early Winter.

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Siberian Iris  Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Japanese Iris:  Iris ensata

Once called Kaempferi Iris, they have been cultivated in Japan for more than 500 years and were once grown exclusively for royalty. Flowers are purple, pink and bicolours and both the sepals and petals are flat. They do not actually live in water, but like the same moist conditions as ferns. Flowering  in November to December, they like damp, acid soil with cold Winters and will be dormant from Autumn to Winter.

Large Blue Flag:  Iris versicolour

Grows in boggy areas and swamps in North-Eastern USA and comes in blue, violet and white.

Yellow Flag: Iris pseudocorus

Native to Europe, where it grows in swamps and boggy ground, but naturalized all over the world. Very invasive and aggressive growth, so should not be planted near waterways. Much safer contained within a walled garden like this one at Dalvui, Noorat, Victoria!Blog PHGPT2 20%ReszdIMG_2090

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Iris pseudocorus ‘Berlin Tiger’

Pacific Coast Iris

From west coast of USA, they are low growing, extremely drought-hardy irises, that need a sunny spot with acid soil. They must only be moved in late Autumn to early Winter .

Louisiana Iris

From the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River area of USA. They are evergreen and one of the few irises that like tropical areas, although they will grow in most of Australia. Has flatter flowers 4 to 6 inches across and bloom in October to November in Australia.  Likes similar conditions to Japanese Iris: moist rich  acid soil and partial shade.

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Louisiana Iris   Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Spuria Iris :

Come from Central Europe. They usually go dormant for a while in Autumn. They grow in a wide range of soils (especially alkaline), but need a cool Winter and dislike extreme Summer humidity. Flowering in Australia is in October to November.

Dutch Iris: Iris x xiphium  70 to 90 cm tall

Beardless bulbous iris, with royal blue, white and gold flowers in Spring. A favourite with the florists. The blooms last 5 to 7 days.

BlogReignroses20%ReszdIMG_2941BlogReignroses20%Reszd2015-10-24 14.40.33Growing Conditions and Propagation:

Basically, iris like a well-drained soil, with at least 6 hours of sun a day. Full sun all day is even better, but darker-coloured varieties are probably better with protection from the  hot afternoon sun. Because of the wide geographical distribution, cultivation requirements vary greatly and there is an iris for every situation.

Most Iris like to be chilled in Winter, in fact some Dwarf Bearded iris actually require frost to bloom. Bearded Iris are grown in Zones 3-9, while Dutch Iris can be grown in Zones 5-9.

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Bearded Iris in the garden of Villa Lettisier, Morninton Peninsula, Victoria

Bearded Iris likes dry Summers and cool to cold Winters and a neutral to alkaline soil, which is moist during their active growth and flowering, but dry after that. Siberian Iris like damp boggy soil, shade and a frosty Winter. Pacific Coast Iris like a dry Summer, a cool damp Winter and an acidic soil, while Louisiana Iris also like a damp, wet, acidic soil. Rockery Iris like moist, perfectly-drained gritty soil. Iris reticulata likes a good porous soil in a sunny or shady spot with leaf mulch in Winter. None of them like too much nitrogen.

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Dutch Irises: Discovery either side of Hildegard
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Dutch Iris: Lilac Beauty
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Dutch Iris: Hildegard

Plant Dutch Iris bulbs in the Autumn for Spring flowering. Last year, we ordered and planted 5 bulbs each of Discovery (Royal Blue); Hildegard (pale blue); Lilac Beauty (violet); Casablanca (white); and Golden Beauty (gold) from Tesselaars. Plant bulbs 10-15 cm deep and 10-15cm apart, pointed end up. Lift and divide every few years to avoid overcrowding. I planted them with cornflowers to hide their dying foliage after blooming.

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Dutch Iris: Golden Beauty
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Cornflowers replacing the Dutch Iris for Summer in the cutting garden

Propagation is usually by division, more rarely seed. In the following paragraph, I will describe the cultivation of Bearded Iris:

Divide the clumps in Summer every 2to 3 years, when they become congested. Separate the rhizomes by hand or with a sharp sterile knife if necessary. Check the rhizomes for borer attack, to which they are susceptible, and discard any infested ones. A good rhizome will be the thickness of a thumb with healthy roots and 1-2 leaf blades. Plant bare-rooted in late Summer in an open sunny position. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rhizome should still be visible on the surface of the soil, where it can absorb the sun’s warmth, but in Australia, they can be covered with  1.5 cm soil to avoid scorching. My gold Bearded Iris came from our rental place and last year, we discovered some forgotten Bearded Iris clumps growing under the shade of the cumquat trees, so we divided the clumps and replanted the rhizomes singly along the edge of the Moon Bed. Already, they have multiplied profusely and I cannot wait for them to flower this Spring, so that I can discover their colours!BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-18 09.01.28Uses:

Highly ornamental plant, which is fragrant, low maintenance and  multiplies readily. Good as a feature plant, in a border or in a rockery. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love them!

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Bearded Iris in ornamental bed at Carrick Hill, South Australia

Floristry: Buy when the colour is visible beneath the sheath, but before the petals have started to unfurl (see photo below). They do not like preservative, as iris do not like sugar, so only use a few drops of chlorine bleach in the vase water. Do not arrange with daffodils unless the latter have been conditioned, as the daffodils’ toxic sap will affect the iris stems.

BlogDaylightslavg BG20%Reszd2015-10-05 16.25.10BlogSpringfeastg20%Reszd2015-10-29 11.04.10BlogReignroses20%ReszdIMG_3012Perfume Industry and Medicine:

Grown for the production of irone, orris oil and orris root. Irone is a methylione odorant, used in perfumery, which is derived from orris oil and has a sweet floral, woody, ionone odour. Orris root is used in perfumery, potpourri and medicine and is actually the rhizome of Iris germanica and Iris pallida. The rhizomes are harvested, dried and aged for up to 5 years, during which time the fats and oils degrade and oxidize, producing fragrant violet-scented compounds, which are valuable in perfumery. Aged rhizomes are stem-distilled to produce iris butter or orris oil. This essential oil is used as a sedative in aromatherapy. The dried rhizome has also been given to teething babies to soothe their gums. Orris root and iris flowers are also used in Bombay Sapphire Gin and Magellan Gin for its flavour and colour. In the past, iris has been used to treat skin infections, syphilis, dropsy and stomach problems, as well as being used as a liver purge, however it should only be used by a qualified practitioner, as the rhizomes can be toxic. Iris contain terpenes and organic acids, including ascorbic acid, myrsistic acid, tridecylenic acid and undecylenic acid. The Large Blue Flag, Iris versicolour, and other common garden hybrids, contains elevated amounts of toxic glycoside iridin, which cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and skin irritation, though it is not normally fatal.

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The Yellow Flag Iris,  Iris pseudocorus, used to be grown in reed bed substrates for water purification, as they consumed nutrient pollutants and agricultural runoff, but they are extremely invasive and have become a noxious weed, clogging up waterways.

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Iris pseudocorus   Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Finally, a brief description of some other types of iris in the Iridaceae family:

Native Iris

Peacock Iris: Moraea aristata: Endemic to Cape Town, South Africa

Rare Winter-flowering bulb, with large white blooms (5 to 7cm across) with a deep, iridescent blue eye on each petal. Their undersides are also white, but covered in decorative blue freckles. They have no scent. Easy to grow, they are best left in the ground to naturalize. The foliage and flowers emerge Winter to Spring and they are dormant through Summer. The flower stems grow 20to 35cm tall and the narrow foliage grows to 40cm. Can easily be cultivated in sunny gardens with sandy or clay soils , but prefers well-drained, humus-rich soil. Grow in full sun to light afternoon shade. Water in and keep moist during active growth and keep relatively dry during dormancy. Critically endangered in the wild.

Dietes, also called Wild Iris, Butterfly Grass or African Iris: Dietes iridioides

A clump-forming, rhizomatous perennial, also from South Africa. Dietes have dark green, strappy foliage and white (marked with yellow) and mauve, iris-like flowers on tall stems in Spring. The flowers have six free tepals, that are not joined into a tube at their bases and only last one day. The flowers are followed by 3-celled capsules, containing numerous seeds, on stalks, which bend right down to the ground for easy propagation. Grow in full sun or part shade. Although tolerant of tough conditions, Dietes will perform best in well-drained soil, rich in organic material. Fertilize occasionally and water during dry spells. Do not remove flower stems, as they continue to flower for several years. Propagate by seed or by division of established clumps.

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Dietes   Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Native Iris or Silky Purple Flag: Patersonia sericea

Densely-tufted, perennial herb with short rhizomes. Endemic to the east coast of Australia and first described in 1807, Patersonia grows in dry sclerophyll forests, woodland and heath, preferring sandy, well-drained soil on the coast and ranges.blogiris20reszdimg_0651 Up to 60cm tall, with stiff grass-like grey-green leaves and three-petalled, blue-violet flowers in terminal clusters, enclosed in two large papery bracts, in Spring and Summer, which last less than a day. Frost-tolerant and thrives in hot, dry situations. There are 6 other species in the Patersonia genus.blogiris20reszdimg_0673

 

Spring Bulbs in My Cutting Garden : Feature Plant for September

Since it is the very start of Spring, I thought I would celebrate with a post on my favourite Spring bulbs in the cutting garden. I have also included bulbs from other parts of the garden, where they fit into the same bulb type. These were our first jonquils for the season.BlogJune Garden 20%Reszd2016-06-09 15.05.18Most of the bulbs were sourced from Tesselaars (https://www.tesselaar.net.au).BlogFavNurseries20%Reszd2016-02-25 11.24.43BlogFavNurseries30%Reszdmelbourne spring 280BlogFavNurseries30%Reszdmelbourne spring 248 However, I bought the Narcissus panizzianus and Lady Tulips from Lambley Nursery (http://lambley.com.au/) and the rest of the latter from the Drewitt Bulbs stall (2nd photo below) at the Lanyon Plant Fair (http://www.drewittsbulbs.com.au/).BlogFavNurseries20%Reszd2016-02-25 11.24.04BlogSpecialistnurseries20%ReszdIMG_0650 (2)The erlicheer jonquils were given to us by a friend. We have been enjoying the jonquils for the last few weeks of Winter, so I will start with Narcissi, then progress to tulips, freesias, anemones and ranunculus.

Narcissi           Also known as  Daffodil, Daffadowndilly, Jonquil and Narcissus

Belonging to the Family Amaryllidaceae, the genus name comes from the Greek word for ‘intoxicated‘: ‘narcotic’ and is associated with the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in a pond and drowned.BlogPrivCountry25%Reszdseptember 178The genus arose in the Late Oligocene to Early Miocene epochs and is native to the meadows and woods of Southern Europe and North Africa, with the centre of diversity in the Western Mediterranean, especially the Iberian Peninsula. Both wild and cultivated plants have naturalized widely and are hardy to Zone 5. They have been cultivated since early times and were introduced into the Far East before the 10th century. They became increasingly popular in Europe before the 16th century and were an important commercial crop in the Netherlands in the late 19th century. Some species are now extinct, while others are threatened by increased urbanization and tourism. They are the national flower of Wales and a symbol of Spring, as well as cancer charities.BlogPrivCountry25%Reszdseptember 188Description:  Perennial herbaceous, bulbiferous geophytes, which die back after flowering to an underground storage bulb. The bulbs are long-lived and naturalize easily.

Mainly green or blue-green narrow, strap-like leaves arise from the bulb.BlogJune Garden 20%Reszd2016-06-06 17.51.22Flowers normally solitary (ie one flower per stem), though there are cluster varieties, which bear their flowers in an umbel. They are generally white, yellow or both, though salmon varieties have been bred. The perianth consists of 3 parts:

Floral tube above the ovary

Outer ring of 6 tepals = undifferentiated sepals and petals

Central cup or trumpet-shaped corona

The flowers have 6 pollen-bearing stamens around a central style and an inferior trilocular ovary and are hermaphroditic, being insect-pollinated by bees, flies, butterflies and hawkmoths. They flower for 4 months from late Winter (June in Australia) to Late Spring (October in Australia) and are divided into early/ mid and late blooms. The fruit is a dry capsule, which splits to release lots of fine black seeds.BlogPrivCountry25%Reszdseptember 190There are thousands of hybrids, but they are generally divided into 13 sections with up to 50 species : Trumpet; Large-cupped cultivars; Small-cupped cultivars; Double Daffodil cultivars; Triandrus cultivars; Cyclamineus cultivars; Jonquilla cultivars; Tazetta Daffodil cultivars; Poeticus daffodils; Bulbocodium cultivars (Hoop Petticoats); Split Corona cultivars and 2 Miscellaneous groups.BlogPrivCountry25%Reszdsept 2012 016Growing Conditions:

Cold is required to initiate flowering, though some varieties tolerate more heat.

Full Winter sun is best or at least half a day.

A well-drained soil is also best.

Plant bulbs in Autumn with pointy end up 1.5 – 5 times the height of the bulb deep and 10 – 12 cm apart or more if naturalizing. Well-rotted manure can be dug into the bed a few weeks before planting the bulbs. The application of potash or a slow release fertilizer with low nitrogen content will encourage more flowers. After flowering, the leaves should be left to dry out over 6 months to allow photosynthesis to replenish the nutrients and energy of the bulb for the next season’s flowering. Bulbs should not be watered when dormant. Daffodils are propagated by bulb division. Diseases include: viruses (eg yellow stripe virus); fungal infections; and basal rot. Pests include: narcissus bulb  fly larvae; narcissus eelworm; nematodes, bulb scale mites; and slugs.Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.23.35Use:  Ornamental plants for Spring displays;BlogPrivCountry25%Reszdsept 2012 074 Mixed herbaceous and shrub borders;BlogPrivCountry25%Reszdseptember 189 Deciduous woodland plantings; Blog PHGPT2 25%Reszd2014-09-20 10.20.33Rock gardens; Naturalized meadows and lawns and even in containers.BlogPrivCountry25%Reszdsept 2012 019They are excellent cut flowers, lasting for up to 1 week, but should not be mixed with other flowers in the same vase, unless preconditioned. Their stems emit a toxic slime, which clogs up the stems of the other flowers, causing their stems to wilt prematurely. Flowers should be picked while still in bud and no floral preservative should be used in the cold water – only a few drops of bleach. To precondition narcissi, cut the stems on the diagonal and stand alone in cold water for at least 24 hours, then discard the water, wash the container thoroughly and arrange with other flowers without recutting the stems of the Narcissi.BlogDaylightslavg BG20%ReszdIMG_1470 Care should be taken when handling, as the sap can cause dermatitis, commonly known in the trade as ‘Daffodil Itch’. All daffodils are poisonous if ingested, though they have been used in traditional medicine. Narcissus produce galantamine, which is used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Dementia.BlogJune Garden 20%Reszd2016-06-06 17.51.36The range of daffodils and jonquils is so extensive (there are over 25 000 cultivars!) that I am only describing the types I have in my garden. For more information on daffodils, there is a beautiful book called:  ‘Daffodil: Biography of a Flower’ by Helen O’Neill. Other titles can be found on :  http://thedaffodilsociety.com/wordpress/miscellany/books-on-daffodils-some-titles-for-the-interested-amateur-grower/. In fact this site, http://thedaffodilsociety.com/wordpress/, the blog of the Daffodil Society of Great Britain, is a mine of information with links to other societies worldwide;  other sources of information; articles on daffodil history; places to see daffodils; suppliers; growth notes and interesting obscure facts about them like the use of their juice by Arabs to cure baldness and their yellow flower dye by high-born medieval women to tint their hair and eyebrows!BlogPrivCountry25%Reszdsept 2012 012Species Daffodils:

See : http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/NarcissusSpeciesFive

Narcissus poeticus: Pheasant Eye Daffodils: ‘Actaea’

I have always loved these elegant heirloom daffodils, which are one of the earliest daffodils and probably those associated with the ancient Greek myth, which gives them their name. The species was first described by Linnaeus in 1753 in his work: ‘Species Plantarum’. Their natural habitat is from Greece to France, with the northernmost wild population in a valley in West Ukraine near the Russian border.BlogPrivCountry25%Reszdgrampians 3 182They have long stems, each bearing a single flower, 7 cm wide,  with a small shallow yellow corona with a neat red rim and wide vivid, white, pointed, reflexed petals. They have an earthy clove-like fragrance. They flower late in the season and cope better with wet, poorly drained areas than most other daffodils. Best in full sun and well-drained soil, they should be planted at a depth 3 times the height of the bulb and 10 – 20 cm apart. They naturalize well.Blog Gardenwakesup20%ReszdIMG_0442Narcissus panizzianus

Another heirloom variety, which were grown by Lambleys Nursery from wild seed collected in Italy over 20 years ago. This paperwhite tazetta daffodil grows wild from Portugal to Italy and Greece in Southern Europe and Algeria and Morocco in North Africa. The 35 cm tall stems bear up to 12 pure white flowers with a spicy fragrance in Winter. They have grey green leaves and grow well in dry parts of the garden. I have planted  4 bulbs under my deciduous maple in front of my white statue, Chloe; 5 bulbs around the rusty iron ring statue; and 5 bulbs under the Bull Bay Magnolia; but while they have all produced leaves, they are yet to flower!

Narcissus x tazetta :  Fragrant Daffodils and Jonquils:

Paperwhite Ziva N. tazetta subsp papyraceus ‘Ziva’

The most commonly grown paperwhite, this long-lived frost hardy bulb hails from the West Mediterranean region : Greece, Portugal, Morocco and Algeria and can be grown from Zones 8 – 11. They have blue-grey strap-like foliage and  45 cm tall slender stems bearing clusters of highly fragrant, musk-scented, pure white star-shaped flowers from late Winter to early Spring. The bulbs are frost hardy and should be planted at a depth  of 10 – 15 cm and 10 cm apart. They flower 2 – 3 weeks after planting.BlogJune Garden 20%Reszd2016-06-02 14.20.13Erlicheer

These tazetta type jonquils have highly fragrant clusters of  6 – 20 cream to ivory flowers on each stem and are 30 – 75 cm high.BlogAugustGarden20%Reszd2016-08-15 11.43.45 Bulbs should be planted at a depth 3 times the height of the bulbs and 10 – 12 cm apart. They naturalize easily, are good in warmer climates and are one of the first narcissi to flower. And they are really tough. Our bulbs were given to us by friends while we were still renting and they sat in a box in the dark under the house for one whole season before we finally remembered them and planted them out and even the drying shrinking bulbs survived and regained their vigour after a year in the ground!BlogTinyTreasures20%ReszdIMG_0271Golden Dawn

Another fragrant cluster daffodil with broad leaves and 40 cm tall stems, each bearing 5 pale yellow flowers (each 4.5 cm wide with an orange corona). See yellow flowers next to the Actaea in the photo below. They have a strong sweet fragrance.BlogSpring bulbs 20%Reszd2015-09-15 09.47.35 Very similar to Soleil d’Or, they flower much  later in mid to late Spring. BlogSpring bulbs 20%ReszdIMG_1072 The bulbs should be planted at a depth 1.5 – 2 times their own height and naturalize well. BlogAugustGarden20%Reszd2016-08-17 15.14.52Double Daffodils: Narcissus x pseudonarcissus:

Acropolis

A late season bulb, they are 30 – 70 cm tall and have very  double, creamy white petals and petaloids with a small deep orange cup. The planting depth is 3 times the height of the bulb and they should be positioned 10 – 20 cm apart.Blog SpringsprungFav20%ReszdIMG_0522Wintersun: Wintersun is a mid-season bulb, 30 – 70 cm tall,  with a bright yellow flower.BlogAugustGarden20%Reszd2016-08-17 15.15.31Miniature Daffodils: Tête à Tête

These tiny daffodils have golden yellow flowers, 3 – 4cm wide, on 15 cm stems early to mid-season. Each bulb produces more than one flower- usually up to 3 – 4 and often in pairs, with the flower heads facing each other, so they look like they are engaged in a private conversation, ‘tête à tête’, thus their name! They are placed in the Miscellaneous category, as they do not fit easily into the other types. Their seed parent was a primary hybrid of N.cyclamineus and N. tazetta ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’, while the pollen parent was N. cyclamineus.BlogAugustGarden20%Reszd2016-08-25 11.10.08 Bulbs should be planted 5 – 15 cm apart at a depth of 3 times their height. Tough and hardy, they are tolerant to both heat and severe cold and are perfect for small gardens, rockeries, the front of beds and pots. Mine are in my treasure garden and have just flowered for the first time! The plants are sterile, but are propagated by bulb division.BlogSpring bulbs 20%Reszd2016-08-22 15.01.04Tulips:

Tulips are also very popular, highly hybridized bulbs, which have been cultivated since the 10th century. They belong to the Liliaceae or Lily Family and their genus name is the Latinized version of the Turkish name ‘tulbend’, meaning ‘turban’ and referring to the inverted flowers of some of the species.BlogFavNurseries30%Reszdmelbourne spring 249Habitat:  Mountainous areas of temperate climates in Turkey and the Mediterranean areas. 14 wild species are still found in Turkey, but they are very different to the huge showy blooms of the modern hybridized tulips.BlogFavNurseries30%Reszdmelbourne spring 274 History:  Wild collected plants were first hybridized in Persian gardens. They were very popular with the Seljuks and during the Tulip Era of the later Ottoman Empire, when they were a symbol of abundance and indulgence.BlogFavNurseries30%Reszdmelbourne spring 260Introduced to Europe in 1594 by Carolus Clusius (1526 – 1609), a Flemish medical doctor and botanist, they became a subject of speculative frenzy in the Netherlands and a form of currency during a period called Tulipomania from 1634 – 1637, when a single bulb fetched an exhorbitantly high price!BlogFavNurseries30%Reszdmelbourne spring 314 They were also painted in many Dutch still-life paintings of the period. The Keukenhof in the Netherlands is the largest permanent display garden of tulips in the world. See: http://www.keukenhof.nl/en/footer/about-keukenhof/.BlogFavNurseries30%Reszdmelbourne spring 334For more information about the fascinating history of tulips in both Turkey and the Netherlands, try to read a copy of ‘Tulipomania’ by Mike Dash.Blog SpringsprungFav20%ReszdIMG_0557Description:  Bulbous perennials with Spring flowers of a wide range of forms (single/ double), stem lengths, colours (single and bicolours) and flowering times (early/ mid/ late Spring). They have an upright clump habit with medium green to grey green glaucous foliage.BlogSpring bulbs 20%Reszd2016-08-15 17.57.48 The oblong to elliptical leaves, up to 38 cm long and 10 cm wide, twist as they rise directly from the underground bulb and have acute apices.BlogSpring bulbs 20%Reszd2016-08-18 14.45.57 The fruit is an elongated to elliptical ribbed capsule on the spent flower stem and contains many fine black seed.Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1246Growing Conditions: Tulips like climates with a long cool Spring, a dry Summer and a cold Winter (Zones 5 – 7). They need a period of cool dormancy (vernalization). In areas with a warm Winter, they should be grown as an annual. They love full sun (but will tolerate partial shade) and moist, rich, well-drained soils. The bulbs should be planted in late Autumn (after 6 weeks in a brown paper bag in the fridge) at a depth of 3 times the height of the bulb- usually 10 – 20 cm deep and 10 – 15 cm apart. I usually plant them on Mothers’ Day. After flowering, leave the leaves to fully senesce before removing in Summer, so the bulbs can replenish their nutrients via photosynthesis for optimal growth the following season.BlogSpring bulbs 20%Reszd2016-08-16 17.14.40 Propagation is by bulb division or bulblet separation, the seeds taking at least 2 years to propagate! Hybrid tulip bulbs decrease in floral performance and vigour within 1 – 2 years of planting, unlike the species tulips, which get better and better! Their primary disease is bulb rot due to poor drainage, but there are also other fungal and viral diseases. The 2nd photo below shows last year’s tulips in their 2nd season.

Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1256BlogSpring bulbs 20%Reszd2016-09-04 13.02.23BlogSpring bulbs 20%Reszd2016-09-02 13.43.08Use:  Tulips are planted as a Spring accent in beds and borders, naturalized drifts and even in pots.BlogPrivCountry25%Reszdgrampians 3 146 They  are lovely in vases, but any wiring to support their heads must make allowance for the fact that their stems will continue to grow towards the light. Preservative should be avoided, as the sugar results in stem stretching, causing the flowers to flop over. Use cold water with 30 ppm chlorine and never mix with freshly cut Narcissi, until after the latter have been conditioned. Care should be taken when handling tulips, as their anthocyanin causes allergies and dermatitis. They are toxic to horses, cats and dogs.BlogFavNurseries30%Reszdmelbourne spring 300Species Tulips (also known as Botanical Tulips)

There are 150 different wild species from Central Asia to Spain and Portugal. They differ to the hybrids in that they are usually much smaller in both plant height and flower size; have pointed petals;  flower from late Winter to  early Spring and like hot dry Summers; and they increase in bulb number and floral performance over the years. In the photo below, the hybrid tulip on the left dwarfs the Clusiana species tulips on the right.BlogSpring bulbs 20%ReszdIMG_1157 A good site to consult about species tulips is : http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/TulipaSpeciesOne.

Some of them include:

Tulipa batalinii ( yellow dwarf species) and T. linifolia (red Flax-leaved or Bokharan Tulip) from the Bukhara region of Uzbekistan and Turkey.

Tulipa kaufmanniana (Water Lily Tulip): Turkestan; Low growing; Cup shaped blooms with pointed petals of variegated base colour; One of the earliest tulips to flower.

Tulipa gregii: Turkestan; Short stems and large orange-scarlet to creamy-yellow blooms.

Tulipa altaica: Central Asia; Yellow pointed petals.

Tulipa agenensis (Eyed Tulip): Middle East; Crimson red with yellow patch around black centre inside.

Tulipa hageri: Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey and Greece. Red flowers. See photo below.

Tulipa saxatilis (Satin or Rock Tulip) : Bright pink flowers with yellow centres. Hails from the Southern Aegean islands, Crete, Rhodes and Western Turkey.

Tulipa tarda (Late Tulip): Tien Shan mountains of Central Asia; Yellow petals with white pointed tips.

Tulipa acuminata (Fire Flame or Turkish Tulip): Turkey; Rare heirloom tulip, described 1813; Flowers mid Spring; Long narrow scarlet and yellow petaloids with pointy ends.

BlogFavNurseries30%Reszdgrampians 1 262

Tulipa clusiana ‘Cynthia’  Also known as Lady Tulip, Candlestick Tulip or Persian Tulip

An heirloom species, it was originally thought to be native to the Middle East, specifically Iran (Persia), Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tibet, Kashmir and the Western Himalayas, but now believed to be indigenous to Spain. It has been cultivated through much of Europe since the early 1600s. Tulipa clusiana was named after the Flemish botanist, Carolus Clusius, whose work ‘Curae Posteriores’ (1606) documents the obtaining of bulbs via a Florentine grower from Constantinople. The species is normally striped red and white like a peppermint stick, but ‘Cynthia’ is striped red and yellow. It was introduced to gardeners in 1959 by CG Van Tubergen.BlogSpring bulbs 20%ReszdIMG_1158Description:  Narrow grey-green leaves; Solitary flowers in early Spring, borne on 25 cm stems. The pointed , rose-red tepals are edged with pale yellow on the outside and are pale yellow within. I cannot wait for this bud to open and to see the flower for the first time!BlogSpring bulbs 20%Reszd2016-09-04 13.01.56Growing Conditions:  They require a chilly dormancy, so cold Winters are a requirement (Zones 3 – 8). They love full sun and perfect drainage in an organically enriched sandy soil. Plant in the Autumn, 5 – 10 cm deep and 5 – 10 cm apart. Don’t water much, as too much water during Winter dormancy results in bulb rot. These bulbs do not set seed, but are propagated by bulb offsets and stolons. The bulbs naturalize easily to form large colonies.  Diseases include gray mould and mosaic virus, while pests include aphids; slugs and snails; and mice and voles.BlogSpring bulbs 20%Reszd2016-09-04 14.21.32Use: Best planted in groups of more than 15 bulbs in beds, borders, rockeries and naturalized in grass. Ingestion causes severe discomfort and the sap can cause skin irritations.

Tulipa x hybrid: 

Bokassa Tulips : Bokassa White/ Bokassa Red/  Bokassa Verandi/ Bokassa Gold

Strong growth, compact foliage and medium stems. Good for pots and small gardens.Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1153Blog SpringsprungFav20%ReszdIMG_0543BlogSpring bulbs 20%Reszd2016-08-18 14.46.26Parrot Tulips: Destiny Parrot:

A flamboyant mid season tulip with pink-red feathered petals.Blog Gardenwakesup20%ReszdIMG_0303Blog Gardenwakesup20%ReszdIMG_0296Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-22 10.59.57Lily TulipsSynaeda Orange/ Claudia (pink)/ Tres Chic (white)

Late season, urn-shaped flowers with a distinct narrow waist with pointed reflexed petals.

Blog Gardenwakesup20%ReszdIMG_0431Blog SpringsprungFav20%ReszdIMG_0521Blog SpringsprungFav20%ReszdIMG_0617Monet Pink:

Late blooming, huge goblet-shaped flowers on tall stems.BlogBdayblessgs20%Reszd2015-10-09 14.15.19Freesias:

A member of the Family Iridaceae, Freesias were first described as a genus in 1866 by Chr. Fr. Echlon (1795 – 1868) and named after German botanist and doctor Friedrich Freese (1794 – 1878).

Habitat:  Eastern side of South Africa from Kenya to South Africa, most species being found in the Cape Provinces.

Description:    Herbaceous perennial flowering plants, 10 – 20 cm tall and wide, with fragrant funnel-shaped flowers, borne zygomorphically along one side of the stem, in a single plane, with all flowers facing upwards.BlogAugustGarden20%Reszd2016-08-24 11.25.20Growing Conditions:  They like wet Winters and dry Summers; Full sun or light shade; Must have good drainage and be left to dry out when dormant. Plant bulbs 5 cm deep and 5 – 8 cm apart with pointed ends up.BlogBdayblessgs20%Reszd2015-10-09 14.16.14Use:  Massed in garden beds and borders and in pots; In floristry, they are an excellent cut flower: the yellows, blues and whites have a longer vase-life than the reds and pinks, with some lasting 3 weeks when cut in bud. Use floral preservative.

Grandma’s Freesias ‘Alba’: Freesia refracta alba

The original and most fragrant of all the freesias, its cream flowers have hints of violet-blue and gold. Naturalizes in well-drained soils.

Freesia hybrids: Freesia x hybrida: Derived from crosses made in the 19th century between F. refracta and F. leichtlinii, as well as the resultant cultivars and the pink- and yellow-flowered forms of F. corymbosa..

Bergenden Freesias: Large bright single scented florets

Fantasia Freesias: Double flowers with sweet fragrance

Bedding Freesias: Shorter stems, so ideal for massed plantings and containers.

The last two bulbs in this post are members of the Ranunculaceae family, which contains 2346 species of flowering plants from 43 genera worldwide, the largest being: Delphiniums (365 sp); Clematis (325 sp); Thalictrum (330 sp); Aconitum (300 sp); and Ranunculus (600 sp).

 Anemones are a large genus with up to 150 species, including:

A.hupehensis (Chinese Anemone) and A. hupehensis var. japonica and A. hybrida (both called Japanese Anemone ): Fibrous roots; 90 cm tall; White and pink flowers late Summer and Autumn  on branching heads; Likes rich friable soil in semi-shade.

A.nemerosa (European Wood Anemone): Rhizomous roots, which spread quickly through the surface leaf litter under trees; White flowers in Spring; 40 varieties; Likes humus-rich soil and shade.

A.blanda (Winter Wind Flower): Rhizomes; Violet blue, pink or white; From SE Europe and Turkey.

A.sylvestris (Snowdrop Anemone): Nodding fragrant white flowers with golden stamens  late Spring/ early Summer; Ferny foliage; Fluffy seed heads; Spreads by underground runners and stolons.

Anemone coronaria  (Garden anemone/ Poppy anemone/ Wind flower)

Genus :  Anemone:  from the Greek word for ‘wind’ : ‘anemos’.

Species: coronaria:  meaning ‘crown’ and pertaining to head garlands.

Habitat:  Native to the Mediterranean region : Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Western Crete. In Israel, the Shokeda Forest, Northern Negev region, is a vast red carpet of wild anemones in Spring, while the Omalos Plain in the White Mountains, West Crete, is mainly a huge sea of red, but with pools of crimson, blue, magenta, mauve and white near the field edges.BlogDaylightslavg BG20%ReszdIMG_1421History: The anemone is the national flower of Israel, but is also very popular elsewhere. The Italian nobleman, Francesco Caetani, the 8th Duke of Sermoneta (1613 – 1683), is said to have planted 28 000 in his parterres at Cisterna, south of Rome. They were also commonly painted in 17th Century Dutch paintings.Blog LateWinter20%Reszd2015-08-31 11.13.19Description:

Herbaceous, tuberous perennial plants, 20 – 40 cm tall.

Basal rosette of a few palmate leaves, each with 3 deeply lobed leaflets.

Flowers are borne singly on long stems in early Spring. There is a whorl of small leaves just below each flower. Flowers are 3 – 8 cm in diameter and have 5 – 8 red, white or blue petal-like tepals, often with a black centre.Blog Gardenwakesup20%ReszdIMG_0306

There are numerous cultivars, developed over the years by gardeners interested in breeding and showing flowers. The majority of hybrids being in the De Caen (single) and St Brigid (double) groups.Blog LateWinter20%Reszd2015-09-01 15.09.17BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-15 16.30.20Blog Gardenwakesup20%ReszdIMG_0257Blog Gardenwakesup20%ReszdIMG_0258I planted the De Caen anemones last year and loved their single simple flowers in a multitude of colours over a long period, so I will focus on them. The De Caen group was supposedly bred by Mme Quetel de Caen, but certainly they were hybridized and cultivated in the Caen and Bayeux regions of France. Crosses between the single Anemone coronaria and other singles like : the starry A. pavonina, which grows wild in Greece; A. hortensis; and  the scarlet A. fulgens, resulted in hybrids like the deep purple-blue Mr Fokker; the bright red Hollandia; the deep pink Sylphide and the white blooms of The Bride.BlogBdayblessgs20%Reszd2015-10-08 13.36.51BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-15 16.30.36BlogBdayblessgs20%Reszd2015-10-09 14.18.08Growing Conditions:  I am definitely still learning when it comes to growing anemones, as all of my corms disappeared last year, so I have since done a bit of research! Anemones grow from knobbly corms, which can be soaked overnight before planting for faster germination and growth. They do best in Zones 7 – 10, disliking heavy Winter frost or hot humid Summers. While they like moist soil when germinating, they hate too much moisture, which results in root rot. They also don’t like other plants or weeds and should be grown alone in their own bed. Perhaps, this is why I lost my anemone corms, as I had zinnias in the same bed. Information on soil type varied from a rich loam-based soil to a light sandy soil with light compost and a deep root run- I think the moisture content and drainage is the most important factor. A well-drained raised bed in full sun seems to be the best situation. Corms should be planted with their claws facing upwards 5 cm deep and 10 cm apart. They will flower 10 – 12 weeks after planting out. While traditionally planted in Autumn for Spring, they can in fact be planted all year round for constant colour- in Spring for early Summer, and again in early Summer for an Autumn display. They should be kept dry during dormancy and can be lifted and stored till the following Autumn or treated as annuals. At least, that is what I will do next time!

Pests and diseases are minimal- they can get powdery mildew or be attacked by slugs or leaf and bud eel worms.BlogFavNurseries30%Reszdmelbourne spring 250Use: These beautiful bright anemones are grown for their decorative flowers in borders and rock gardens, and also for floristry. They last well as a cut flower, up to 2 weeks, if kept cool with a drop of bleach or floral preservative in the water. Do not put in a vase with Narcissi, otherwise the anemone stems will become limp. Care should be taken when handling the flowers, as the white sap can cause skin irritation and dermatitis. Ingestion can cause mild stomach upset.Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1188BlogDaylightslavg BG20%ReszdIMG_1465Ranunculus

A large genus of 600 species including buttercups, spearworts and water crowfoots.

The genus name, Ranunculus, comes from the Latin words: ‘rana’ (‘frog’) and ‘unculus’ (‘little’), ‘little frog’, being the name given to them by Roman Pliny, as many of these plants are found in wet conditions.BlogFavNurseries30%Reszdmelbourne spring 281The common buttercup found along creek beds is often meadow Buttercup, R. acris, or Creeping Buttercup, R. repens, and has single gold flowers, but the Ranunculus I grow in the cutting garden is the:

Turban Buttercup or Persian Buttercup     R. asiaticus

Also known as the Persian Crowsfoot, due to the shape of the corms). The Tecolote strain is the most common type with fully double flowers, 7 – 15 cm wide, on 30 – 45 cm stems, with a wide colour variation from bicoloured picotee and pastel mixes to single colours of white, pink, red, rose, salmon, yellow, gold and sunset orange. The Bloomingdale strain is less common, on shorter stems up to 10 inches and double flowers of pale orange, yellow, red, pink and white flowers. Last year, I ordered the Picasso collection from Tesselaars and I was thrilled with their exotic jewel-like colours.BlogFavNurseries30%Reszdgrampians 1 282Description:  Frost hardy cool-season perennials, which do best in mild Winters and long cool Springs. Lacy, celery-like leaves which form a mound 15 – 30 cm across. BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-14 13.57.18BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-14 13.56.39Lustrous, colourful double flowers with multiple, crepe-thin satiny petals in Spring.BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-17 09.28.37BlogBdayblessgs20%Reszd2015-10-10 14.20.06BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-14 13.57.13Growing Conditions:

Ranunculus like moderate temperatures, Zones 4 – 7, but they are winter hardy to Zone 8. In fact, they need 6 – 8 weeks of cool weather in which to sprout and grow, so should be planted in Autumn for early Spring flowers (lasting 6 – 7 weeks) or late Winter for Mid-Spring (lasting 4 – 6 weeks). They prefer full sun and a well-drained soil is essential. If the soil gets water-logged, the bed should be raised with a 5 – 7 cm layer of peat moss, compost or decomposed manure. The tubers should be planted, claws facing down, 5 cm deep and 10 – 15 cm inches apart. Water well on planting and only lightly after that, though the roots should be kept cool and moist. Flowers appear 90 days after planting. They should not be watered once dormant and the corms can be lifted and stored in colder climates, where the soil freezes. Snails and mildew can be a problem, but generally they are very hardy. They can be propagated by tuber division or seed.BlogReignroses20%ReszdIMG_2987BlogPrivSpec25%Reszdoctober 158Use:  In borders and beds, accompanied by other cool-climate plants like forget-me-nots, calendula, primroses and pansies and Iceland Poppies (2nd photo below). BlogPrivSpec25%Reszdoctober 170BlogSpringpalette20%Reszd2015-10-15 16.28.23In floristry, they are also an excellent cut flower, lasting up to 10 days with floral preservative. Change the vase water often. BlogSpringfeastg20%Reszd2015-10-29 11.01.43BlogSpringfeastg20%Reszd2015-10-29 11.00.01BlogSpringfeastg20%Reszd2015-10-29 13.46.25All types of Ranunculus are poisonous to livestock. These birds don’t look too worried! In fact, they complement the colours of the Spring bulbs! Or maybe they think vice versa!BlogDaylightslavg BG20%ReszdIMG_1298This goose looks completely at home in amongst the daffodils- my daughter Caroline’s latest Feature Plant painting! Thank you, Caro!BlogSpring bulbs 20%ReszdIMG_1074

 

 

 

Camellias: August Feature Plant

Camellias are indispensable to the Winter garden and bloom generously from late Autumn through to mid Spring. They are long-lived, evergreen ornamental shrubs and small trees (up to 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide) with glossy, dark green leaves.Blog LateWinter20%ReszdIMG_9079Their blooms exhibit great variability in :

Colour: Pure white to deep dark red; Bicolour combinations

Form: Single; Semi-Double; Irregular Semi-Double; Formal Double; Informal Double (Peony); and Elegans (Anemone). For a description of each form, see: camelliasaustralia.com.au/cultivation/camellia-types/camellia-flower-types/

Size: Miniature: less than 6cm; Small: 6-7.5 cm; Medium: 7.5-9cm; Medium-Large: 9-10cm; Large: 10-12.5cm; and Very Large: more than 12.5cm;      and

Flowering period (these times refer to Australia and Southern Hemisphere):

Early: Autumn: March to June; Mid: Autumn to Winter:Mid June to August; Late: Winter to Spring: Late August to October.BlogJune Garden 20%Reszd2016-06-01 16.50.16Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0695BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-08-03 12.53.30My only reservation about these beautiful flowers is that most of them have no scent, but I have named a few fragrant varieties later on! Despite that, it doesn’t seem to worry the bees! The fruit of the camellia is a globe-shaped capsule with 3 compartments (locules), each with 1-2 large brown seeds.

BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-07-16 12.17.09
Our huge old camellia at the entrance

Blog LateWinter20%Reszd2015-09-01 14.06.41BlogCamellias20%ReszdIMG_0693Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0696BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-07-10 11.53.13BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-08-03 12.53.21We were lucky enough to inherit a huge old camellia tree right at our entrance and its white, pale pink, striped pink and deep pink double blooms sustain our spirits all Winter. They look beautiful against the dark green foliage and their fallen blooms form an attractive carpet underneath, interspersed with violets and hellebores.BlogCamellias20%ReszdIMG_8681Blog Mid Winter20%ReszdIMG_8674 Their seeds strike well, producing many tiny seedlings beneath the parent plant.BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-07-02 11.29.53 Up until now, I went along with the suggestion that it was a multi-graft camellia, since it bears flowers of a number of different colour combinations, but during my research for this post, I came across an article (www.gardenclinic.com.au/how-to-grow-article/australia-s-first-camellia) by Graham Ross about an early Australian variety: C.japonica ‘Aspasia Macarthur’, which also throws blooms of a number of different colours. It has flowers of variable colour from a pale flesh or cream colour with pinkish/ red splashes, reverting to pure pink and pure red flowers. It also has a number of sports including ‘Lady Loch’ 1889, which has medium to large pale pink peony flowers, and ‘Otahuhu Beauty’ 1904 with medium informal double rose pink blooms. For photos of all the sports, see  : http://www.camellias.pics/mutations-gb.php?langue=gb#ANC-ID1106  and https://humecamellia.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/850/ .BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-08-03 12.54.16 I have strong suspicions that my old plant might be ‘Aspasia Macarthur’ or at least related to it, as its flowers are very similar to all of these varieties. Graham Ross states that his plant dates from 1920 and our plant could well be the same, as our house was built in 1925. There is also a useful site for camellia identification: www.camellias.pics/index-gb.php?langue=gb, though I was a bit confused as to which flower to include in their search facility!BlogCamellias20%ReszdIMG_0692Blog Mid Winter20%Reszd2015-07-31 07.27.13BlogJune Garden 20%Reszd2016-06-17 14.20.50BlogJune Garden 20%Reszd2016-06-18 18.19.54BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-07-16 12.24.16I have also planted some new camellia plants along the fence line:

C.vernalis ‘Star above Star’ :  I first saw this beautiful camellia at my friend’s place at Black Mountain, NSW (1st photo below) and on the way home, I found a plant at a nursery. It has just bloomed for the first time,  its creamy-pink bloom ageing to a lolly-pink (2nd and 3rd photos below);

Blog Mid Winter20%Reszd2015-07-28 13.52.31BlogJune Garden 20%Reszd2016-06-17 14.22.34BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-06-28 13.21.09C.japonica ‘Nuccio’s Gem’: I was thrilled to discover a tiny specimen at our local hardware store, as its exquisite, formal double white flower has always been a favourite of mine; BlogCamellias25%Reszd2015-08-24 16.26.18

And C.japonica ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ : It has had a number of eye-catching, pretty, pure red formal double blooms this year.BlogCamellias20%Reszd2015-10-09 09.03.28BlogJulyGarden20%ReszdIMG_0331BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-07-16 12.13.05Camellias belong to the order Ericales, which includes azaleas and blueberries, and the family Theaceae, which also contains Stewartia and Gordonia, all plants having serrated glossy leaves (mostly evergreen), flowers with multi-stamens and fruit in capsules or seedpods. The genus Camellia, named after the Jesuit priest and botanist, George Kamel (1661-1706), has between 200 and 300 species. Here are some brief notes about some of the main species:

The most famous species is Camellia japonica, from which thousands of cultivars have been developed. It hails from the forests of Japan, as well as China and South Korea (300-1100m altitude), where it is pollinated by the Japanese White Eye bird (Zosterops japonica). It grows best in partial shade.BlogJune Garden 20%Reszd2016-06-18 18.20.35Camellia sasanqua is also very well-known. It is a smaller shrub with denser, smaller, rounded foliage and smaller flowers with a similar form and colour to the Japonicas. Unlike the blooms of the latter, which fall intact, sasanqua flowers shatter on impact, carpeting the ground below with petals rather than flowers. They also tolerate more sun than C.japonica, ‘sasanqua’ being the Japanese word for ‘sun’. Sasanquas are native to Southern Japan and the Liu Kiu Islands.Blog Early Winter20%Reszd2015-06-14 12.43.36Camellia vernalis is a cross between C.japonica and C.sasanqua and its blooms do not shatter easily like the sasanquas.‘Star above Star’ is an example.BlogJune Garden 20%Reszd2016-06-17 14.22.50Camellia reticulata is also grown as an ornamental shrub in many gardens and has larger, showy flowers and leaves with distinct veins. It also tolerate a fair amount of sun. There are a number of hybrids, which have been produced by crosses between C.reticulata and C.japonica/ C.sasanqua.

Camellia sinesis, from China (as well as Japan and the rest of South East Asia), is a very important commercial plant, as it is the source of all our black and green tea and Camellia oleifera is harvested for its oil, which is used in cooking and cosmetics. I have just bought a plant of C.sinensis at our local hardware store for its lovely little white flowers and novelty value, as well as in deference to our family’s huge consumption of tea! It has very small, simple, semi-fragrant , white flowers with a boss of gold stamens from late Summer to early Autumn. Bees and butterflies love the flowers, while humans prefer the leaves!BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-07-02 13.57.56BlogCamellias25%ReszdIMG_8770BlogCamellias25%ReszdIMG_8768 Tea leaves were used as medicine in the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE) and have been consumed as a beverage since the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE).  In green tea, the leaves are dried and steamed, while in black tea, the leaves are dried and fermented. We enjoyed an informative visit to the Nerada Tea plantation on the Atherton Tableland, Queensland. (http://www.neradatea.com.au) in 2008.BlogCamellias25%ReszdIMG_8786BlogCamellias25%ReszdIMG_8757 We learnt that C.sinensis can reach a height of 5-10 m if left untrimmed (see old tree in the first photo below) and that it takes up to 7 years before the leaves can be harvested for tea, after which the plant will produce leaves for tea for 100 years! We also had a guided tour of the processing factory (2nd photo below).BlogCamellias25%ReszdIMG_8763BlogCamellias25%ReszdIMG_8781Other species have smaller leaves and miniature flowers and a few are even scented like C.lutchuensis, C.transnokoensis, C.fraterna; C.kissi; C.yuhsienensis and C.grijsii. The japonica cultivar ‘Kramer’s Supreme’ is slightly fragrant, while the fragrance of the sasanqua cultivar ‘Daydream’ is more intense, but not sweet. Other fragrant hybrids, using C.fraterna, C.yuhsienensis and C.grijsii as breeding stock, include : ‘ Cinammon Cindy’; ‘Cinammon Scentsation’; ‘Fragrant Joy’; ‘Fragrant Pink’; ‘Helen B’; ‘Hallstone Spicy’; ‘High Fragrance’; ‘Sweet Emily Kate’ and ‘Scentuous’.

Camellias originated in Eastern and Southern Asia from the Himalayas to Japan and Indonesia. Camellia japonica was portrayed in 11th Century Chinese porcelain and paintings, usually as a single red bloom. The oldest camellia in the world, at the Panlong Monastery in China, dates from 1347. The camellia was introduced to the West by the Dutch East India Company surgeon, Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716), who discovered them while in Japan. On his return, he described the details of more than 30 varieties. The oldest camellia trees in Europe were planted at the end of the 16th century at Campobello, Portugal.

The first camellias in Australia were planted by Alexander Macleay in 1826 at Elizabeth Bay House. The history of the camellia in Australia is recounted in http://www.gardenclinic.com.au/how-to-grow-article/australia-s-first-camellia. One of the early pioneers was the Waratah Camellia, C.japonica ‘Anemoniflora’, planted in the Sydney Botanic Garden in 1828 and by William Macarthur in 1831 at Camden Park Estate to be used in his breeding program. Other varieties imported in the same 1831 shipment were: ‘Alba Plena’, ‘Camura’ (Syn.’Incamata’) ‘Myrtifolia’, ‘Rubra’ and ‘Welbankiana’. In 1850, Macarthur listed 62 hand-bred varieties, the first of which was C.japonica ‘Aspasia’ or ‘Aspasia Macarthur’, as it is now known. By 1883, the leading nursery in Australia, Shepherd and Company, listed 160 varieties of C.japonica, but by 1891, the number of varieties had dropped to 53 and in 1916 to 16.

BlogCamellias20%Reszd2015-06-16 14.46.48
Similar to ‘Aspasia Macarthur’
BlogCamellias20%Reszd2015-06-16 14.42.43
Similar to ‘Lady Loch’

BlogCamellias20%Reszd2015-06-16 14.45.00BlogCamellias25%Reszd2015-08-26 16.47.45The revival of the camellia industry in Australia owes an enormous debt to Professor EG Waterhouse, a world authority on camellias,who researched and wrote 2 books about these lovely plants and propagated them between 1914-1977  at his home ‘Eryldene’ (17 McIntosh St Gordon, North Sydney) and nursery, Camellia Grove Nursery, based at St. Ives from 1939 to 2004 and now at Glenorie, 8 Cattai Ridge Rd., Glenorie (http://www.camelliagrove.com.au/). ‘Eryldene’, an Art Deco house built in 1914, is listed on the National Estate and the NSW Heritage Register and is open to the public on selected weekends during Winter. The next open day is 13th and 14th August 2016. See: http://www.eryldene.org.au/ for dates and further information.

Camellias can also be viewed at the EG Waterhouse National Camellia Gardens, 104 President Ave, Caringbah South, near Cronulla. They were established as a Captain Cook Bicentenary project in 1970 and they are only one of 40 International Camellia Gardens of Excellence in the world and the only such garden in New South Wales. They showcase 400 cultivars and species from Autumn to Spring. Camellia sasanqua blooms from Autumn to early Winter or early Spring; followed by Camellia japonica, from late Autumn right through Winter; and Camellia reticulata in bloom from mid-Winter to September/October. The gardens are open from 9am-4pm on weekdays and 9.30am – 5pm on weekends and public holidays. See: http://www.sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/Outdoors/Parks-and-Playgrounds/Parks/Camellia-Gardens-Caringbah-South  and  http://camelliasaustralia.com.au/gardens/e-g-waterhouse-national-camellia-gardens/.

The Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne (https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/visit-melbourne/attractions/plant-collections/camellia-collection  also has a large collection of camellias, with 950 species and cultivars, some dating back to 1875, while Araluen Botanic Park, Western Australia (http://araluenbotanicpark.com.au/) has 450 cultivars. The Mount Lofty Botanic Garden in South Australia (http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/botanicgardens/visit/mount-lofty-botanic-garden) also has an important collection.

All the states have their own camellia societies, affiliated under an umbrella association called Camellias Australia Inc.(See their website: http://camelliasaustralia.com.au). It also hosts a project called the Camellia Ark, set up to conserve some of the very rare early species in Australia, which are now disappearing. It includes 75 endangered cultivars and species and can be accessed at : http://camelliasaustralia.com.au/gardens/camellia-ark/.BlogCamellias20%Reszd2015-05-30 09.15.22Camellias are best selected when in bloom. They should be planted (and transplanted) during Autumn and Winter. Their ideal site is:

  • Partial shade. Full shade reduces the amount of flowering, while full sun will burn the foliage; White and light pink varieties prefer more shade; C.sasanqua and C.reticulata will tolerate more sun than C.japonica.
  • Organic, slightly acidic (pH 6-6.5), semi-moist but well-drained soil.

The site should be prepared prior to planting with generous amounts of peat moss, compost or old manure mixed in with the soil. The hole should be twice the diameter of the root ball and 1½ times the depth. The planting depth is critical, otherwise if the root ball is set too deep, the plant may refuse to bloom. Plant, so that the root ball is 1 inch above the existing soil level to allow for settling. Water heavily and keep well-watered until the plant is established. A thick layer (2-3 inches) of mulch (leaf mould or shredded bark) will help to retain moisture. Having said that, make sure the soil is well-drained, as camellias hate wet feet, as too much water results in root rot.

Camellias are very easy, minimal care plants, which seldom require pruning, except for weak, spindly, or dead branches. For a more upright growth, the inner branches can be thinned out and the lower limbs shortened. If you must prune, do it immediately after the blooms fade or in mid Summer. They are not heavy feeders, but if growth is weak or the leaves are yellowing, a slow release Azalea and Camellia Fertilizer can be applied sparingly around the drip line of the plant in December, after which the plant should be watered well. Avoid the use of mushroom compost, fresh chook manure and lime (all too alkaline). A few handfuls of sulphate of potash can be beneficial just before flowering.BlogCamellias25%Reszd2015-06-19 09.03.41Diseases are mainly fungal and algal, including;

  • Spot Disease – round spots and upper side of leaves silvery, leading to loss of leaves
  • Black Mold
  • Leaf Spot
  • Leaf Gall
  • Flower Blight – flowers brown and fall
  • Root Rot
  • Canker – caused by fungus Glomerella cingulata, which attacks through wounds.

Physiological diseases include:

  • Salt Injury – high levels of salt in soil
  • Chlorosis – insufficient acidity in soil prevents the absorption of essential soil elements
  • Bud Drop – loss and decay of buds due to over-watering, high temperatures and potbound roots
  • Bud Balling – treat with 2 tsp Epsom salts to 10 litres water; a good feed of Azalea and Camellia fertilizer or move to a different place.

Camellias  can also suffer from oedema and sunburn.

Pests include :

  • Fuller rose beetle Pantomorus cervinus
  • Mealy bugs Planococcus citri and Planococcus longispinus
  • Weevils Otiorhyncus slacatus and Otiothyncus ovatus and
  • Tea Scale Fiorinia theae
BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-07-02 11.34.43
All 4 stages of the camellia life cycle: Flower bud, flower, seedcase and seedling
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Closeup of previous photo with seedcase and seed on dying leaf and new seedling

BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-07-02 11.29.44Camellias can be propagated by :

  • Seed: Hybrid plants may be sterile; Seed is not necessarily true to its parentage; Seeds should be soaked in warm water for 24 hours and sown indoors in Spring and Fall in a 70-75 degree growing medium until germination (within 1-2 months). Our old camellia does not seem to have any trouble producing seedlings under its skirt, without any help from us!
  • Softwood cuttings:  From new growth in early Summer, but is a slow process; Each cutting should have more than 5 nodes; Remove the lowest leaves and trim the other leaves by half. Insert into a mix of sand and peat moss.
  • Air Layering: Produces larger clones and can be done at any time of the year, but best in Spring during active growth. It is the easiest propagation method and is described in : http://camelliasaustralia.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Camellia-Propagation_Garnett-Hunt.pdf    and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqJ1onrFfR4
BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-07-02 11.30.19
Closeup of seedcase with seeds
BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-07-02 11.36.28
I love to collect the empty seed cases. They look like tiny wooden flowers.

Camellias are lovely specimen plants and can also be planted as massed plantings and in mixed borders. Sasanqua camellias planted close together make great hedges and screens. They can be espaliered and trellised, as well as grown in containers and planters on patios, porches, pathways and gazebos. They can even be used in bonsai and topiary or grown as standards.BlogCamellias20%Reszd2015-06-14 12.43.29BlogCamellias20%Reszd2015-06-14 12.46.01They are the food plant of some Lepidoptera, including the Engrailed Ectropis, Crepuscularia. In China, camellias are lucky symbols, exchanged as gifts during the Chinese New Year (their Spring), and promising prosperity and a long life. They also have a superstition that Chinese women should never wear a camellia in their hair or they won’t be able to bear sons for a long time. In the language of flowers, a white camellia means ‘exquisite loveliness’, while a red camellia means ‘unpretentious excellence’.BlogCamellias20%Reszd2015-06-14 12.45.04Camellia foliage is used in floristry as a filler. I like to float their flower heads in a shallow bowl of water, though I use a pottery bowl these days! I once had a lovely glass shallow bowl, but it had a small lip, which led to its downfall and a very memorable dinner party! Filled with floating flowers and tea lights, the candles floated under the edge of the lip and started to heat the glass. I dismissed a small ‘ping’, only to have the whole bowl literally explode a few minutes later, the water pouring all over and even through the dinner table! Very dramatic and certainly a conversation stopper! These are my latest camellia blooms.BlogCamellias20%Reszd2016-07-16 12.30.16 They can also be used in corsages, wedding bouquets and funeral wreaths. Care should be taken when handling the flowers, as they bruise and brown easily. Flowers last 5-7 days in floral work and may need wiring. Preservative is optional. Here is a photo of a beautiful vase of ‘Star above Star’ in our bedroom, when we visited out friends in Black Mountain. Thank you, Jane  xxx
Blog Mid Winter20%Reszd2015-07-28 14.09.27For more information on camellias, which you can enjoy over a pot of China Tea, please see: https://simplebooklet.com/camelliaquide.

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Painting and photograph by Caroline Stephens