What better way to celebrate the start of Summer than with a feature post on the wonderful exuberant Sunflower, Helianthus annuus! 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’.Mythology
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.Habitat 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.Description
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. 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! The erect stem is rough and hairy and is branched in many wild varieties, but unbranched in cultivated varieties. 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.
Blooming in Summer, the inflorescence is a terminal head (capitulum), 10 to 50 centimetres in diameter, with a world record of 87.63 centimetres. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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 :
and https://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/nature-golden-ratio-fibonacci.html.Another 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! 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.Growing 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. 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.
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 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. 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.
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 (SunButter) 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. 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.Native 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.Sunflowers 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.And 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.
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.Poppies 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:
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
E.californica: Californian Poppy
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
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.In 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’.The 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
Herbaceous ornamental plants, including annuals, biennials and short-lived perennials.Most 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.
The two sepals fall away as the flower bud opens up. The centre of the flowers is a whorl of stamens and the ovary has 2 to many fused carpals. The pollen of Oriental Poppies is dark blue, while that of Corn Poppies is grey to dark green. Most poppies secrete a milky white latex when injured.Flowers 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.There are 70 to 100 species in Papaver genus alone, so I will be discussing the more common garden varieties.
Annual herbaceous plant up to 70 cm tall.Symbol 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.Papaver, also ‘pappa’, is the Latin for food or milk and rhoeas means red in Greek.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.Description: Flowers late Spring with blooms, 50-100 mm across, with 4 vivid red petals with a black spot at their base.
The flower stem has coarse hairs and the seed capsules are obovoid. They contain the alkaloid rhoeadine, which is a mild sedative.
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.Papaver 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.Name: ‘Somniferum’ is the Latin word for ‘Sleep-inducing’.Description: 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. The flowers are 120mm diameter and have 4 white, mauve or red petals, which can have dark markings at the base. 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.There 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.There are two subgroups grown for ornamental use in the garden :
Paeoniflorum Group: Peony Poppies: very double flowers of many colours;Laciniatum Group: very double, deeply lobed flowers, which look like pompoms.Lambley 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! 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. 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. Native to the Mediterranean region and grows wild in pastures and fields in southwestern Europe (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece) and in North Africa.Species name ‘setigerum’ derives from the Latin word ‘saetiger’, meaning ‘bristly’, referring to the short bristle on the top of the lobes of its leaves.The 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.Papaver orientale: Oriental Poppy
Perennial flowering plant.
Native to the Caucasus, North-east Turkey and Northern Iran.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.
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’sWhite’ (white with dark purple splotches in the centre).
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 AmericaHardy short-lived perennials, often grown as biennials.Large papery bowl-shaped slightly fragrant flowers on hairy curved stems, one foot long, in late Spring/ early Summer. 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. Last year, I grew ‘Excelsior’. Other cultivars include: ‘Matilda’ and ‘Oranges and Lemons’. They are the best poppy for cutting, the blooms lasting several days in a vase.Feathery blue-green foliage. All parts of the plant contain toxic alkaloids and are poisonous.The 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.Eschsolzia 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).Leaves are deeply cut, glaucous and glabrous, and mainly basal.Flowers 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.
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. 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). 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!Californian 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ornamental garden plants
Poppy seeds are edible and are an important food source, being rich in oil, carbohydrates, calcium and protein. The seeds are harvested from P.somniferum. 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.
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.
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. 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!Floristry: 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.Miscellaneous:
Poppy products are also used in paints and varnishes, as well as cosmetics.Finally, 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! And to finish this post, a dramatic photo of a sunlit peony poppy, which I took yesterday!
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!Irises, 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’. 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.Habitat: 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.History:
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.The 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. 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!Garden 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.
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.
In Australia, irises are best seen in October/ November at specialised iris nurseries like:
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.
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.
Rhizomatous iris have 3-10 basal sword-shaped leaves, which form dense clumps, while bulbous iris have cylindrical basal leaves.Iris 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. 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.
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.
The fruit is a capsule, which opens into 3 parts, revealing many seeds. In the desert dwelling Aril Iris, the seed bears an aril.
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:
eg Iris reticulata: white, blue and violet: see photo below from the Portland Botanic Garden.Bearded 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. 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.
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.
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!
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 .
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.
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.
Growing 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.
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.
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.
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!Uses:
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!
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.
Perfume 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.
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.
Finally, a brief description of some other types of iris in the Iridaceae family:
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.
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. 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.
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.Most of the bulbs were sourced from Tesselaars (https://www.tesselaar.net.au). 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/).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 asDaffodil, 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.The 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.Description: 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.Flowers 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.There 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.Growing 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.Use: Ornamental plants for Spring displays; Mixed herbaceous and shrub borders; Deciduous woodland plantings; Rock gardens; Naturalized meadows and lawns and even in containers.They 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. 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.The 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!Species Daffodils:
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.They 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.Narcissus 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.Erlicheer
These tazetta type jonquils have highly fragrant clusters of 6 – 20 cream to ivory flowers on each stem and are 30 – 75 cm high. 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!Golden 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. Very similar to Soleil d’Or, they flower much later in mid to late Spring. The bulbs should be planted at a depth 1.5 – 2 times their own height and naturalize well. Double Daffodils: Narcissus x pseudonarcissus:
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.Wintersun: Wintersun is a mid-season bulb, 30 – 70 cm tall, with a bright yellow flower.Miniature 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. 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.Tulips:
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.Habitat: 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. 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.Introduced 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! 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/.For more information about the fascinating history of tulips in both Turkey and the Netherlands, try to read a copy of ‘Tulipomania’ by Mike Dash.Description: 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. 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. The fruit is an elongated to elliptical ribbed capsule on the spent flower stem and contains many fine black seed.Growing 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. 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.
Use: Tulips are planted as a Spring accent in beds and borders, naturalized drifts and even in pots. 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.Species 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. 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.
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.Description: 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!Growing 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.Use: 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.
Strong growth, compact foliage and medium stems. Good for pots and small gardens.Parrot Tulips:Destiny Parrot:
A flamboyant mid season tulip with pink-red feathered petals.Lily Tulips: Synaeda Orange/ Claudia (pink)/ Tres Chic (white)
Late season, urn-shaped flowers with a distinct narrow waist with pointed reflexed petals.
Late blooming, huge goblet-shaped flowers on tall stems.Freesias:
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.Growing 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.Use: 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.
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.History: 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.Description:
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.
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.I 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.Growing 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.Use: 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.Ranunculus
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.The 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 ButtercupR. 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.Description: 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. Lustrous, colourful double flowers with multiple, crepe-thin satiny petals in Spring.Growing 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.Use: In borders and beds, accompanied by other cool-climate plants like forget-me-nots, calendula, primroses and pansies and Iceland Poppies (2nd photo below). In floristry, they are also an excellent cut flower, lasting up to 10 days with floral preservative. Change the vase water often. All 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!This goose looks completely at home in amongst the daffodils- my daughter Caroline’s latest Feature Plant painting! Thank you, Caro!
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.Their blooms exhibit great variability in :
Colour: Pure white to deep dark red; Bicolour combinations
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.My 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.
We 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. Their seeds strike well, producing many tiny seedlings beneath the parent plant. 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/ . 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!I 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);
C.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;
And C.japonica ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ : It has had a number of eye-catching, pretty, pure red formal double blooms this year.Camellias 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.Camellia 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.Camellia 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.Camellia 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 Camelliaoleifera 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! 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. 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).Other 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.
The 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.
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/.Camellias 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.Diseases are mainly fungal and algal, including;
Spot Disease – round spots and upper side of leaves silvery, leading to loss of leaves
Flower Blight – flowers brown and fall
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
Camellias 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.
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.They 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’.Camellia 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. 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
For more information on camellias, which you can enjoy over a pot of China Tea, please see: https://simplebooklet.com/camelliaquide.
This month, I am featuring my tiny treasures : violets; forget-me-nots; snow drops and snowflakes; hellebores; and the tiny flowers of Winter daphne and Winter honeysuckle, all cherished for their fragile beauty and scent in a cold Winter world, when the rest of the garden has gone to sleep.Violets (Viola odorata) are a mainstay in our garden from late Autumn to early Spring, lining the main staircase up to the house and the back path (photo 3), blanketing the ground under the deciduous trees along the fence and our front door camellia and filling their own bed, where their bright blue flowers contrast dramatically with the fallen red maple leaves. We have 3 different colours : blue, a deeper purple and pink. In our old Armidale garden, we only had white violets and I used to dream of our current violet banks.
Viola odorata, or Sweet Violet, belongs to the family Violaceae and genus Viola, which contains an unbelievably large number of species : 400-500 species, though some sources suggest it could be as high as 600 species. Some of the more common ones are :
Viola arvensis – Field Pansy
Viola biflora – Yellow Wood Violet or Twoflower Violet
Viola canina – Heath Dog Violet
Viola hirta – Hairy Violet
Viola odorata – Sweet Violet
Viola pedunculata – Yellow Pansy
Viola riviniana – Common Dog Violet – similar in looks to V.odorata, but scentless
Viola tricolor – Wild Pansy or Heart’s-Ease – purple, yellow and white
Viola adunca – Early Blue Violet
Viola nephrophylla – Northern Bog Violet
Viola pedatifida – Crowfoot Violet
Viola pubescens – Downy Yellow Violet
Viola rugulosa – Western Canada Violet
Viola lutea – Mountain Pansy – yellow flowers
There are also 3 Australian native species :
Viola hederaceae- common Native Violet – bright green, kidney-shaped leaves and purple and white flowers. Useful ground cover in moist shady areas.
Viola odorata is a small perennial plant with heart-shaped leaves and highly fragrant, assymmetrical flowers (purple, blue, yellow, white, cream or blue and yellow), which bloom in Winter and early Spring. It is native to temperate areas in the Northern Hemisphere and loves moist shady conditions, though it does equally well in full sun. It thrives on moist, well-drained soil, rich in organic matter and only requires moderate watering. It is a tough little plant and transplants easily with minimal after-care. In truth, they are almost a weed at our place, as they throw out underground rhizomes with abandon, quickly invading large areas with their long runners. They can be propagated by seed and root cuttings, division best done in Autumn or just after flowering, though really they can be planted at any time from Spring (after frost) through to Autumn with a spade of compost and mulch to keep the roots cool. Occasionally, they get red spider mite in dry weather, but otherwise they have few pests. They are the food plant for some Lepidoptera larvae, including Giant Leopard Moth, Large Yellow Underwing, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, High Brown Fritillary, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Setaceous Hebrew Character. Sweet violets are grown as a ground cover in woodland gardens, in garden beds and along water edges, as accent plants around trees and even as container plants.
Violets were cultivated in Greece before 500 BC and were used by both the Ancient Greeks and Romans in herbal remedies, love potions, wine (Vinum violatum), festivals and even to sweeten food. While our society sees the violet as a symbol of modesty, sweetness and faithfulness, to the Ancient Greeks, it was a symbol of love and fertility. For more about the mythology surrounding the violet, see: http://comenius-legends.blogspot.com.au/2010/07/legend-of-violet.htmlAncient Roman physician, Pliny the Elder, advocated the wearing of a garland of violets on the head to ward off headaches and dizzy spells. Perhaps the intoxicating scent of the violet blooms banished the headache! Certainly, both the leaves and flowers are edible and rich in vitamins and can be used in medicines and as a laxative, though they should not be taken internally in large doses! Clinical trials have shown that a syrup of V.odorata can improve cough suppression in asthmatic children. Intranasal administration of V.odorata extract has also been shown to be effective in treating insomnia. What a blissful sleep! For more information on the use of violets as a herbal remedy, see : http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/v/vioswe12.html .Fresh flowers add a lovely flash of colour in salads, fruit punches and ice bowls. The flowers can also be candied, using egg white and crystallized sugar, to decorate cakes and are still produced commercially in France, where they are known as ‘Violettes de Toulouse’. I tried making crystallized violets and rose petals for my son’s birthday cake (1st 3 photos), and while I wouldn’t say it was a roaring success (especially because I confused salt for the castor sugar initially!), it still did provide some colour! Making candied violets is obviously an art form! The French also make a Violet Syrup from Extract of Violets. The syrup can be used to make violet scones and marshmallows. I decorated the banana cake in the photo below with fresh pink and blue violets. But the most obvious use of the flowers is as a source of scent in the perfume industry, as well as in nosegays and Spring bouquets. There is even a Violet Day in Australia and New Zealand, on 2 July , when fresh violets and badges depicting violets were sold for fund-raising efforts to commemorate the lost soldiers of the First World War. Before the Flanders poppy, the violet was considered to be a ‘symbol of perpetual remembrance.’ See : http://www.familyhistorysa.info/sahistory/ww1violetday.html and http://adelaidia.sa.gov.au/events/violet-day.
An ideal lead-in for my next tiny treasure, the humble Forget-me-not, Myosotis! In Newfoundland, the forget-me-not is a symbol of remembrance of the nation’s war-dead. It was used as a symbol in the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, in remembrance of the 1.5 Million killed by the Ottoman Turks between 1915-1923 . In medieval times, the forget-me-not was a symbol of faithfulness and enduring love. Its name is purported to have originated from the German legend of a lover who, while gathering the flowers, fell into a river and cried ‘forget-me-not’ as he drowned.
The scientific name Myosotis comes from the Greek word: μυοσωτίς or “mouse’s ear” after the leaf. It belongs to the family Boraginaceae and the genus contains 74 species, 60 from Western Eurasia and 14 from New Zealand. The most common species are the biennial Woodland Forget-me-not, M. sylvatica, and the perennial Water Forget-me-not, M. scorpioides. They are now common throughout temperate latitudes, especially in moist areas.Forget-me-nots are small tufted plants with simple, blunt, lance-shaped, greyish, finely -haired leaves and tiny 5-petalled blue, mauve, pink, white or cream flowers, usually borne in sprays on short branching stems in Spring and early Summer, though my plants are currently flowering! They grow well in both sun and shade, but prefer cool weather and moist soil. They are propagated by seed or careful division in Winter. One sure fact is that once you have them, you will always have them! Some people may even go so far as to describe them as invasive, but I could never begrudge forget-me-nots nor violets for their profligacy, as I love them and despite their prevalence, they are not always that easy to locate when you are searching for them for a new garden! We found our plants growing wild on the banks of the extinct volcano, Mt Noorat (photos below). I love watching them multiply and appear in odd spots throughout the garden. Traditionally, they are used as a ground cover in woodland gardens, in rockeries and beside ponds. I love using their fragile feathery blooms to soften floral arrangements. Like violets, they are also a food plant for various Lepidoptera species, including the Setaceous Hebrew Character.
Other woodland ground covers include the delicate white snowdrops and snowflakes, often confused with each other because of their green-tipped white drooping bells. They are however quite different plants. Snowdrops (1st photo) only have one flower per stem and each flower has 3 large exterior petals and 3 smaller central petals, tipped with green.
Snowflakes are a larger plant with each stem bearing several flowers, each of which has 6 petals all the same size and each tipped with green. We grew up with snowflakes, which are members of the Leucojum genus, but the true snowdrop belongs to the Galanthus genus.
Leucojum is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family and hails from Central and Southern Europe. The scientific name comes from the Greek words: ‘leucojum’ meaning ‘white violet.’ There are only 2 species: the Spring Snowflake L.vernum (‘vernum’ is the Greek for Spring) and L. aestivum (‘aestivum’ meaning Summer, though really it flowers in late Spring after L. vernum). It looks great in clumps under deciduous trees and shrubs and can be propagated by division immediately after flowering or when the leaves have died down. Our Leucojum are pushing their way through a border of Mondo grass on the path edge. Snowdrops however are seen far less commonly in Australia, as they only like cold to moderately cold Winters. Their scientific name comes from the Greek words : ‘gala’ meaning ‘milk’ and ‘anthos’ meaning ‘flower’. These hardy, bulbous, perennial herbaceous plants have grey-green leaves and flower in Winter before the vernal equinox, pushing their stalks through the snow. Like snowflakes, they are also from the family Amaryllidaceae and are found in the deciduous woodlands of Southern and Central Europe from the Pyrenees to Ukraine. They were introduced to Britain in the early 16th century and readily naturalized, so much so that they are often called the English Snowdrop. In England, they are also known as ‘the flower of hope’, while in France, they have a much more prosaic name ‘Perce-neige’ (‘perforating snow’). In the Language of Flowers, they are a symbol of purity and hope. There are 20 species in the genus, the most widespread and well-known being the Common Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis (‘nivalis’ is Greek for ‘of the snow’). There are a huge number of single and double-flowered cultivars (over 500 in 2002, but now a further 1500 new cultivars), all differing in size, shape and markings, and developed from G.nivalis, as well as the Crimean Snowdrop, G. plicatus, and the Giant Snowdrop, G. elwesii. In fact, snowdrop collectors are known as ‘galanthophiles’ and it is quite a competitive and exclusive hobby. See : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16789834. There are a large number of snowdrop gardens in the United Kingdom, which are open to the public during the season. See: http://www.saga.co.uk/magazine/home-garden/gardening/ideas/days-out/snow drop-gardens-to-visit-in-the-uk. Scotland celebrated its first Snowdrop Festival from the 1st February to 11th March, 2007. I bought my snowdrop bulbs from a specialist plant nursery. They were quite expensive, but fortunately, they multiply easily from offset bulbs and we were able to divide the clumps and plant them as a curved border to the fence shrubbery in front of the lilac and flowering quinces and around the bird bath. It is the perfect spot for them, as they like moist well-drained soil and shady areas. I look forward to seeing them naturalize and multiply in the grass. They have such exquisite flowers! I certainly won’t be eating them though! Galanthus are poisonous to humans, causing nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting if consumed in large quantities. Its active ingredient is galatamine, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, which is used in the management of Alzheiners and traumatic injuries to the nervous system. It is also an effective insecticide in the management of beetles, Lepidoptera and Hemiptera. In fact, these plants are pest-free, avoided by rabbits, deer, chipmunks and mice! Current research is focused on its use in genetic engineering for pest resistance and the treatment of HIV. See : https://www.researchgate.net/publication/255618182_Analysis_of_Pusztai_Study_on_GM_Potatoes_and_their_effect_on_Rats
I have planted them under separate deciduous trees, as they are highly promiscuous, interbreeding with abandon, and I really want their offspring to retain their original forms true to type. For example, the white double hellebore complements the white statue Phoebe and white anemones under the maple tree on the terrace (1st and 2nd photo above); my deep red hellebore is under the Protea (3rd photo above) and my species hellebore, Helleborus x ballardiae ‘Pink Frost’, occupies a special place under the camellia beside the front door (below).
Hellebores are also known as Winter Rose, Snow Rose, Lenten Rose and Christmas Rose, due the fact that they flower round this time in their native environment, the deciduous woodlands of Southern and Western Europe and Western Asia. Their scientific name, Helleborus, comes from the Greek words : ἑλλέβορος helléboros, from elein “to injure” and βορά borá “food”, referring to their toxicity. They are low growing, clump forming, evergreen, Winter-flowering perennials from the family Ranunculaceae, the same family which includes delphiniums, anemones, aquilegias, buttercups and clematis. Hellebores have attractive, leathery, evergreen, toothed, palmate leaves and open, cup-shaped flowers in Winter. Most varieties are single with 5 petals. There are 17 different species, divided into 2 different categories.
The Caulescent types have leaves on the flowering stems and include :
Stinking hellebore, H. foetidus: Pungent smell when foliage is crushed; tall plant; large number of small lime-green bell-shaped flowers; See 2nd photo below.
Corsican Hellebore, H. argutifolius: heavily toothed leathery evergreen leaves; up to 1 m tall, so best at the back of the border; heads of lime-green flowers. One of the toughest hellebores and tolerates more sun than other species; See 1st photo below.
Majorcan Hellebore, H. lividus: Silvery leaves and smoky-pink flowers.
and the rare H. versicarius: From SW Turkey; red-tipped lime bells; thrives in the sun.
In acaulescent varieties , the leaves are basal and stemless and include :
Oriental Rose, H. orientalis, the most common species in Australia. Pink, maroon and cream single flowers, ageing to green.
Green Hellebore, H. viridus: Green flowers.
Black Hellebore, H. niger: The roots are black and the flowers white, flushed with pink or purple as they mature.
Ferny Hellebore, H. multifidus: Green flowers and finely-divided leaves.
H. cyclophyllus : Yellow-green flowers and slight perfume.
H. odorus: Light green flowers.
Helleborus atrorubens : Dark green and purple flowers (photo below).
There are also a large number of hybrid cultivars, including:
sternii : H. argutifolius x H. lividus
nigercors: H. argutifolius x H. niger
x ballardiae ‘Pink Frost’: H. lividus x H. niger (1st photo below) and
orientalis x H. purpurascens : Red-purple hybrid.
Other crosses using oriental hellebores have created a wide colour range from slate grey and metallic black to red, purple, dusky pink, lime green, yellow and cream and white, often with speckles and flashes. There are also double and semi-double forms. To fully appreciate the huge variety in hellebores, consult the following websites: https://www.postofficefarmnursery.com.au/galleries and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/10648349/A-hellebore-for-almost-any-situation.html.Hellebores grow throughout cold and temperate areas in Australia from Tasmania, Victoria and the coastal stretch up to Sydney; inland as far north as the Queensland border and in temperate areas in South Australia. They like Winter sun and Summer shade and can handle dry periods, so are ideal under deciduous trees. Dappled shade is best, as full shade results in less leaf growth. They also like a humus-rich, slightly acidic soil and hate waterlogged soil or sand. They are used in mass plantings and as ground cover, especially in dry shade and under established trees. They combine well with galanthus (very similar growing conditions), hostas, anemones, aquilegias, epimediums, solomon’s seal, ferns, vinca, scilla, cyclamen, leucojum and crocus. They look lovely at the feet of camellias, magnolias, dogwoods, flowering quinces, daphne and hydrangeas (photo below). They can even be grown in pots. Hellebores propagate from seed, which spreads readily. Seedlings should be transplanted when very young (only a few centimetres high), as they do not like having their roots disturbed. They can also be lifted and divided in Autumn and early Spring. They should be planted with organic compost, then mulched in Summer to keep their roots cool. Old leaves and flowers should be removed in Autumn, as the new leaves appear, to allow them to flourish and display the flowers to their best advantage. The only exception is the caulescent hellebores, in which the old flower stems should be removed in mid to late Spring after flowering. The plants benefit from a well-balanced fertilizer in Autumn, as well as a handful of dolomite lime. Generally though, hellebores are tough and individual plants have been known to reach 40 years of age. The flowers last a long time on the plant, but only up to 7 days in the vase. Their heads tend to droop and should be propped up with other flowers or the vase placed on a high shelf, where their flowers can be appreciated. Floral treatments in the past vary from splitting stems to scalding them by plunging the stem ends into boiling water (often still done by commercial growers), but most experts agree that a good long soak prior to arranging is essential, even to the extent of totally submerging the flower heads in water for up to 3 hours. Recut the stems 2-3 cm from their ends, especially if they have been seared by the grower and use preservative in the water. Misting the flowers is also beneficial. Their flowers also look good floating in a shallow bowl of water. Flowers can be wired for support, but should not be used for corporate designs, as their flowers will droop and dry out in air conditioning or heating. They also hate foam, so only use a vase. The flower centres are also suitable for drying.
Do be aware though when collecting seed and handling hellebores that they are extremely toxic. They contain protoanemonin and are strongly emetic and laxative. In fact, they were used in the past to induce vomiting. They can cause diarrhoea, cardiac problems and skin irritation. They are also very poisonous for livestock. But don’t let it put you off these otherwise delightful plants!
And now for some slightly larger plants, whose tiny scented Winter flowers still allow for their inclusion in a post on tiny treasures:
Winter Daphne Daphne odora
Native to China and Japan, Winter Daphne belongs to the Thymelaeceae family and the Daphne genus, which includes 50 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs throughout Asia, Europe and North Africa.
Winter Daphne is an evergreen, densely-branched, ornamental shrub, up to 1m tall, with simple, alternate, glossy-green leathery leaves. There is a variety ‘aureomarginata’, whose leaves are edged in a creamy-yellow colour. It has highly fragrant pale-pink fleshy tubular flowers, each with 4 lobes, from mid Winter to late Spring. There is a variety, ‘Alba’ with pure white flowers. The flowers are hermaphroditic and are pollinated by bees, flies and Lepidoptera.Daphne has a reputation for being difficult, but if they are planted in the right spot, they can be quite long-lived , tough, low maintenance and drought-tolerant shrubs. My research into their ideal planting site revealed their preferences:
Morning sun or easterly-facing aspect with shade from the hot afternoon sun.
Fertile, slightly acidic peaty soil.
Perfect drainage- a raised bed or drier spot under the eaves is ideal, as they are prone to root rot.
They should not be over-watered or over-fed and pruning should be minimal. After flowering, a slow-release fertilizer with iron chelates can be applied. Mulch will keep the root run cool, but should be kept away from the stem. Daphne hates any root disturbance or cultivation around its roots and transplants badly. It can be propagated by softwood cuttings in early to mid Summer and semi-ripe or evergreen cuttings in mid to late Summer. They are susceptible to a virus infection, which causes mottling of the leaves, and attack by scale insects, which can be squashed or smothered in white oil.All parts are poisonous to humans and livestock. The sap can cause dermatitis, so be careful when cutting. Despite their toxicity and their finicky nature, I would not be without a Winter Daphne. Their scent is divine, both indoors and outside, so make sure it is in a prominent position. Our plant is right beside the back steps as we leave the house, very close in fact to the Winter Honeysuckle, my last feature plant for this post, so the air smells quite heavenly in Winter!Winter Honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissimaAlso known as ‘Chinese Honeysuckle’, ‘Sweet breath of Spring’ and the quaint name ‘Kiss-me-at-the-gate’, Winter Honeysuckle belongs to the Caprifoliaceae family and the Lonicera genus, which contains 200 species of Honeysuckle shrubs and climbers, including the well-known white-and-yellow Japanese Honeysuckle, L. japonica and pink-and-gold Woodbine, L. periclymen (photo below).Winter Honeysuckle is native to China and was introduced to England by Robert Fortune in 1845, making its way to America by 1852. It is a semi-evergreen shrub 1-3 m tall and wide, though it can reach 4.6m tall and it takes 5-10 years to reach full height. Its slender spreading branches form a bushy tangle over time. It is deciduous in areas with harsh Winters. White to creamy white, two-lipped flowers with protruding yellow anthers are borne in pairs in Winter and early Spring. They are highly fragrant. Branches cut for the house will perfume a room for days, so long as the vase is kept away from heat. The flowers are also a great nectar and pollen provider for insects and birds in Winter. Winter Honeysuckle loves full sun, though will tolerate partial shade. Propagation is by hardwood or semi-hardwood cuttings in late Summer. There are very few pests and diseases.These old-fashioned ornamental plants can be grown as a specimen plant, a clipped or informal hedge or screen or at the back of a shrub border. My Winter Honeysuckle is in an ideal location right outside the back door and on the bend of the back path, as it becomes the entrance path. I adore that waft of fresh lemony scent every time I go out the back door at this time of year. It is so uplifting! It also flowers for a long time- at least 3 months! I feel so lucky to have inherited such a beautiful old shrub- in fact, it was one of the reasons we bought the place, as it was in full bloom we first discovered the house in August 2014.I also like to use their flowers to decorate cakes. Here is a photo of a rustic apple cake, topped with the sweet blooms of erlicheer jonquils, Paperwhite jonquils and Winter honeysuckle.To finish my post, here is another delightful watercolour painting by my daughter Caroline, illustrating some of my tiny treasures. It reminds me of a wonderful description I once read in ‘Tulipomania’ by Mike Dash about the festivals of the Ottoman Empire during the Tulip Era (1718 -1730), the latter half coinciding with the reign of Sultan Ahmed III (ruled 1703 -1730), during which tortoises, with candles fixed to their backs, moved slowly through tulip beds under the April full moon on the first night of the Tulip Festival. I just love it! Thanks Caro! x
Nothing gladdens the heart on a cold Winter’s day so much as a vase of cheery red or delicate soft pink-and-white or even virginal white sprays of Chaenomeles, nor the warmth, taste and sweet aroma of a jar of quince paste made from the golden fruit of Cydonia! In this post, I will be featuring both these plants, long-time favourites of mine and an essential element of every old-fashioned garden. Unfortunately, our tiny plants of flowering quince have only just started producing flower buds- in fact, they have not even lost all their leaves yet and our new quince tree is years away from bearing fruit, so I have used some images from http://www.pixabay.com, as well as old personal photos from our previous gardens. We also saw some wonderful old shrubs of 3 different colours (red/ white/ pink-and-white) blooming in the old garden at Bolobek, Mount Macedon, Victoria.
Chaenomeles, pronounced ‘kee-mom-ee-lees’, are also known as Flowering Quinces or Japonicas, though the latter really refers to the origin of one of the species (Japan) and also refers to camellias.
Extremely tough, low maintenance, heritage ornamental plants, they originated in China, Japan, Korea, Bhutan and Burma and their beautiful blooms are often depicted in oriental paintings.
Family : Rosaceae : 5 petals and 5 sepals : Includes apples and pears, strawberries, potentilla, cotoneaster and roses.
Genus : Chaenomeles: Derived from Greek words : Chaino, meaning ‘to gape’ and Melon, meaning ‘apple’, referring to the erroneous belief that the fruit splits open.
Originally placed in the genus Pyrus, then Cydonia, then back to Pyrus and finally Chaenomeles.
Chaenomeles are related to quinces (Cydonia oblonga) and Chinese Quince (Pseudocydonia sinensis), but are different to them in that there is no fuzz on the leaves of Chaenomeles and the flowers have deciduous sepals and styles, which are connate at the base.
Species : There are 3 species :
1.Chaenomeles speciosa : Ornamental Quince/ Chinese Flowering Quince
‘Speciosa’ means ‘showy’.
Native to China and Korea, they were introduced to Europe in 1784 by Joseph Banks as Pyrus japonica.
6-10 feet tall and wide.
Flowers are red, white or flecked with red and white.
Hard green apple-shaped fruit 5-6cm diameter.
2.Chaenomeles japonica : Kusa-boke (草木瓜) : Japanese Quince (japonica means Japanese) or Maule’s Quince, named after the Bristol nurseryman W Maule, who introduced the plant to Britain in 1869.
Smaller and suckers freely.
Flowers mainly red, but some varieties are pink or white.
Small golden apple –shaped fruit 3-4 cm wide and containing red-brown seeds.
3.Chaenomeles cathayensis : ‘cathayensis’ means ‘Chinese’, referring to its origin in China, as well as Bhutan and Burma.
6m tall shrub.
White or pink flowers.
Largest fruit of the genus 10-15mm long and 6-9cm wide.
x superba : C. speciosa x C. x japonica
x vilmoriniana : C. speciosa x C. cathayensis
x clarkiana : C. japonica x C. cathayensis
x californica : C. x superba x C. cathayensi
There are up to 500 named varieties of Chaenomeles including :
C.speciosa varieties :
Moorlooseii : Apple Blossom : 6 foot tall; spreading habit; large pink and white flowers 3.5cm across; coral buds open to white flowers, which turn pink as they age.
Yukigoten : 1.5m tall and wide; semi-double white flowers.
Toyo-Nishiki: 6-10 foot tall and wide with pink, red and white flowers all on the same branch, as well as within the same flower.
Contorta: 2-3 foot tall and wide with twisted, contorted dark brown branches and pink and white flowers.
Double Take™ series: Scarlet Storm; Orange Storm and Pink Storm : 4 foot tall and wide; thornless; fruitless; double flowers in scarlet or orange or pink.
Rosea plena : semi-double pale rose pink flowers.
Falconet Charlet : semi-double salmon-pink and rose flowers.
Red Kimono : red flowers; thornless.
Winter Cheer : compact- 2-3 foot high; scarlet red flowers- one of the first to flower in late Autumn/early Winter.
Simonii : prostrate dwarf, spreading habit; semi-double dark red flowers.
The flowering quinces, which we have planted in our garden, are all C. speciosa varieties : Apple Blossom 2-3m tall and wide; White Flowering Quince 1.5m tall and 1m wide; and Red Flowering Quince 1m tall and 1m wide.
2. C.japonica varieties
Fuji: upright; vase-shaped; thornless; single red flowers.
Orange Beauty : 1.2m tall and 1.5m wide; orange red flowers.
C.x superba varieties
Rowallane : developed early years of last century; bright red flowers.
Crimson & Gold: 1-1.5m tall and 1.5-2.5m wide; suckers easily, so makes a good hedge; flowers are dark red with a gold middle.
Nicoline : small shrub; single scarlet flowers.
Knaphill Scarlet : flame red flowers.
Hollandia: single scarlet flowers; thorns.
Texas Scarlet: 2-3 foot tall; red flowers.
Fire Dance : C. x superb x C. speciosa : red flowers followed by a heavy crop of fragrant fruit.
Colombia: deep red flowers.
Vermilion : orange flowers.
Pink Lady : dark pink flowers.
Cameo: compact, low and spreading; double pink and white flowers.
Minerva: compact; flowers range from white to pale peach and pink.
Jet Trail: ground cover with white flowers.
Lemon & Lime : greenish flowers.
Deciduous shrub, up to 3m tall and wide, though dwarf varieties can be 1m tall and up to 2m wide.
Multi-stemmed, they sucker freely to form dense thickets.
Long, thin, sharp thorns along their stems, so they should not be planted along paths and care should be taken when pruning or weeding.
They are one of the first flowers in Winter, their flowers appearing on bare stems from early Winter to early Spring, when the foliage reappears. The flowers are 3 – 4.5 cm wide, have 5 petals and a boss of golden stamens in the middle and are borne in clusters. They come in a wide variety of colour (white, pink, salmon and red) and form (mostly single, but some semi-double and double). They bloom for 2 months and deepen in colour as they age. The flowers are hermaphroditic (both male and female organs in the one flower) and are pollinated by bees.
Leaves are oval, glossy, simple and dark green; have a serrated edge and are alternately arranged.
Fruit : pome with 5 carpels, borne in Autumn; it looks and smells like a quince, but is inferior to the latter. Hard and astringent, it is softer and less tart after bletting (softening with fermentation process); Higher in Vitamin C than lemons and more pectin than apples or quinces; can still be made into liqueurs and preserves like paste, jelly and marmalade. Alice Coates in her book ‘Garden Shrubs and Their Histories’ describes a tea party during the First World War, in which Reverend JJ Jacobs serves jelly made from 6 different varieties of C. speciosa.
Use in the Garden
While the Victorians grew them as standards, today they are grown as :
An open bush or shrub; in massed plantings in a woodland garden or as an early Spring accent in a mixed shrub border; or as a wall shrub.
They can be espaliered on a wall or in a fan-shape. Once the flexible branches are tied to the horizontal framework, the side growths can be pruned back to a couple of buds in Summer.
They make an excellent impenetrable thorny security hedge, deterring people, dogs and cats and even deer, but not rabbits! They provide excellent wildlife habitats, especially for nesting birds and are a good bee plant, providing both nectar and pollen. They are the food plant for the larvae of some Lepidoptera : Brown Tail (Euproctis chrysorrhea)and Leaf Miner (Bucculatrix pomifoliela). Here is my daughter’s latest feature plant watercolour, depicting a very colourful abstract rabbit wearing a floral crown of Japonica blooms!
Climate: Wide climatic range and can be grown everywhere in Australia except the tropics. They can tolerate cold up to minus 25 degrees Celsius. Because they are one of the first deciduous flowers to appear, they can be damaged by severe frosts, so avoid planting them in frost pockets.
Growing in sun or part-shade, they flower better when planted in sunny positions.
Soil : They also tolerate a wide range of soils from acid to slightly alkali, but will become chlorotic (yellowing leaves due to insufficient chlorophyll) on very alkaline soils. They do best in a fertile, neutral, well-drained soil. They don’t like wet feet. They tolerate heavy clay soils, but are not as vigorous.
They are really tough plants, coping both with drought and urban atmospheric pollution. Windy areas should be avoided, as the wind can snap the branches.
Planting and Care :
Buy plants in late Winter/ early Spring, when the plants are blooming so you can select the desired colour. There is a big variation in all the colours, especially the red hues!
Dig a hole no deeper than the depth of the soil in the pot, but twice as wide.
If the soil is clay, add grit to the clay or grow your plants in a raised bed of loose topsoil and compost. Avoid frost pockets or very windy locations, as the wind can snap the branches.
After planting, water well and mulch to suppress the weeds and retain soil moisture. Weeding can be perilous with all the sharp thorns and you don’t want unsightly Kikuya marring the picture-perfect blooms! Water at the base of the plants, as spraying water at the top will encourage rot.
Water well in the first year, then reduce the amount and frequency of watering once established, except in times of drought, when irrigation will promote more growth and better flowering.
A slow release fertilizer or compost can be applied in early Spring.
To avoid the development of a thorny thicket, pull out suckers as they appear. They can be pruned to any shape and size and will tolerate heavy pruning, though really it is best to keep it light. Prune just after the blooming is over, as the bush blooms on old wood. One source I read suggested removing one third of the oldest shoots right back to the ground each Spring, so that the centre does not become woody and congested and the flowers are shown off to their best advantage. That’s if you can get in there, that is!!! Otherwise, just remove any shoots growing in the wrong direction or any diseased wood.
Pests and Diseases :
They have few pests and diseases : occasional attacks by aphids, scab, brown scale or mites; fungal leaf spot during heavy Spring rain, which causes defoliation of the leaves, and the worst case scenario: fireblight, a bacterial disease common to all members of the Rosaceae family, which spreads through the plant’s vascular system until the plant eventually dies.
Cuttings are best. Take cuttings from half-ripe wood (new season’s growth) in Summer or mature wood (current year’s growth) in late Autumn and plant in a cold frame.
Layering can be done in late Spring and Autumn, but it takes a whole year to produce new plants.
Seeds can be planted as soon as they are ripe in a sheltered position outdoors or in a cold frame and germinate within 6 weeks. Seed can be stored in the greenhouse in Winter. Prick out the seedlings and plant in individual pots. Plant out in Summer and protect the first Winter or plant out in the following late Spring.Uses : Chaenomeles make stunning indoor floral arrangement during a time when very few other plants are flowering. The blooms last well in water (vase life 3-10 days). Flowers should be picked when the buds are showing some colour, as tight buds will not open inside unless forced. The colour of the newly opened buds inside will be paler than those on the shrub outside.
To force stems to bloom indoors in late Winter:
The best flowers for forcing are near the top of the plant with the buds swollen and closely placed. The larger the bud, the more quickly it will open indoors.
Trim any side shoots or buds which will be under the water level of the vase.
Recut the stems on a long diagonal and place in a bucket of cold water in a cool place for 2 days.
Recut the stems again and place in a vase of fresh warm water and keep in a bright area. Within 4 weeks, you will have a beautiful bouquet, which will hold its blooms for 10 days or more.
Flowering Quince are popular in Ikebana, the art of Japanese floral arranging, as its long stems can be bent and shaped and the flowers are long-lasting, even when out of water (2-3 days).
C. speciosa has been widely used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The greenish-yellow unripe fruit is picked in late Summer/ early Autumn, blanched to a grey-white colour with boiling water, then cut in half lengthwise and dried. It relaxes the tendons, muscles and meridiens.
All Chaenomeles fruit has analgesic, anti-inflammatory; anti-spasmodic; astringent and digestive properties. It contains organic acids (malic; tartaric; fumaric; citric; ascorbic) and saponins, which reduce pain and spasms.
Chaenomeles has been used to treat the following conditions: sunstroke; arthritis and joint pain and swelling; muscle spasm; cholera and associated cramps; nausea, colic and indigestion; diarrhoea.
As already stated, the Cydonia genus originally contained the 3 shrubby quinces, now classified in the genus Chaenomeles, leaving the quince as the only member of the Cydonia genus today. The name, Cydonia, refers to the ancient Greek name of the Cretan town ‘Chania’. The latter was called ‘Cydon’ in Minoan times, a name, which is thought to be a corruption of the ancient Greek word ‘Chthonia’, meaning wet, rich and soily grounds, referring to the fertile dense forests, which once covered Crete. The Arabs are thought to be responsible for the name change of the city. When the Saracens from Cordoba, Spain razed the original town to the ground in 828AD, they built a new city with a suburb called ‘Al Chania Kome’, after the God’ Velchanos’ or ‘Vulcan’. They then applied the name ‘Al Chania’ to the whole city and after they left, the Byzantines removed the prefix ‘Al’ and the city became ‘Chania’. The species name ‘oblonga’ refers to the oblong shape of the fruit.
The modern name ‘Quince’ originated in the 14th century as a plural of quoyn, derived from the old French cooin from the Latin cotoneum malum / cydonium malum.
The quince was cultivated by the Ancient Greeks and Romans and dedicated to Aphrodite (the Roman Venus), the Goddess of Love. It is a symbol of beauty, love, fertility and happiness and the fruit was given to every Greek bride on her wedding day. Eating quinces at a wedding was said to be preparative to the sweet and delightful days between married persons! Quinces are planted in the Balkans on the birth of a baby promising fertility, love and a happy life.
It was introduced to Britain in 1254 on the marriage of Eleanor (1241-1290) of Castile to the elder son of King Henry III, Edward I and were planted at the Tower of London. The Spanish love quince cheese, a sweet quince confection called ‘mermelada’, the original marmalade, whose name derives from the Portuguese word for quince: ‘marmelo’. It was only in the 18th century that citrus fruit were identified with the making of marmalade!
In 1292, the quince was held in high esteem. The cost of 100 quinces was 4s, compared with 3d for 100 apples and pears. However, by the early 20th century, quince production had decreased due to the rising popularity of apples and pears. They were introduced to the New World and Australia and New Zealand, where many of them are now wild. They are now rare in America due to their destruction by fireblight with only 100ha in production, mainly in California.
Worldwide, there are 43000 (106,000 acres) of quince in production, the total crop weighing 335 000 metric tons. Turkey is the largest producer, with 25 percent of the world’s crop, while China, Iran, Argentina and Morocco each produce less than 10 per cent of the world’s crop. There are 23 named varieties in production, including ‘’Champion’; ‘Isfahan’; ‘Morava’; ‘Vrajna’; and ‘Smyrna’ (our tree). ‘Champion’, an American variety, has large golden pear-shaped fruit with a slightly lemony fragrance mid to late season. Their fruit becomes a superb ruby red colour when cooked. ‘Smyrna’, originating in the Greek islands, but a favourite variety in Turkey, has rounder, slightly oblong fruit, which keep longer and have a stronger fragrance, but less prominent, but still excellent flavour. Maggie Beer (see later) likes this variety, because the white flesh holds its shape when cooking and doesn’t break up. It is also the best for quince paste.Description : A multi-stemmed shrub or small deciduous tree, 5-8m tall and 4-6m wide and takes 10-20 years to reach maturity. Our Smyrna quince will grow to 7m high and 7.5m wide. They are very long-lived and become increasingly gnarled and twisted with age.
The leaves are alternately arranged and are simple with entire margins and are covered with a dense pubescence of fine white hairs. The flowers appear after the leaves in Spring and are single; solitary; 4-5 cm diameter; pink and white and scented with 5 petals; 20 stamens; 5 styles and an inferior ovary with many ovules. Having hermaphroditic flowers, quinces are self-fertile, but can have larger yields of fruit from cross-pollination with another quince variety in the garden. They are pollinated by insects.
The fruit is a golden-yellow pome 7-12 cm long and 6-9cm wide. When immature, it has a dense grey-white pubescence, which rubs off before maturity in late Autumn, as the colour turns golden. In Australia, it is harvested between mid-February in warmer ares and late April in cooler areas. The stringy perfumed flesh is high in pectin, which decreases as the fruit ripens, but apart from a few varieties, generally, the fruit is too hard and astringent to eat raw, unless bletted.Growing Conditions:
Like its flowering namesake, Quinces are extremely tough and hardy. They are resistant to frost and hardy to minus 15 degrees Celsius. They require a minimum 500 hours of chilling to produce fruit i.e. less than 7 degrees Celsius, so thrive in cold climates. They are adapted to hot, dry climates and need warm sun to fully ripen the fruit. They are grown in Australia from the cool subtropics to the cool temperate areas.
As already stated, they perform best in a sunny position. They still grow well in semi-shade, but produce less fruit and can tolerate deep shade, but produce no fruit.
They like moist, fertile, light, slightly acidic soils best and hate water-logged soils. In highly alkaline soils, they become stunted and suffer iron chlorosis.
They can withstand both drought and severe cold, but avoid planting on south-facing slopes with a cold Spring (lack of pollinating insects); frosty hollows (flower damage and resultant lack of fruit) and excessive wind (broken branches).Planting and Care: Plant in late June/ early July when dormant. They may sucker as a young tree, so prune for the first few years to produce an open-crowned tree rather than a small thicket, which is much harder for control of pests and diseases. Prune minimally when older, as fruit sets on the current year’s growth. They like organic matter, so put some compost in the planting hole and feed 1-2 times a year with compost, aged manure or blood-and-bone. They don’t like being shifted. We bought the Smyrna quince tree photographed below for our friend’s 50th birthday- it’s the first tree in their orchard!Propagation : is mainly by cutting and grafting. Cuttings of mature wood are taken in Autumn and grown in a cold frame. Layering in Spring takes a full year to produce a new plant. Seed can also be sown, as soon as it is ripe, as well as in late Winter in a cold frame . Seedlings should be pricked out and kept in individual pots in the cold frame for the first Winter, planting out in their permanent position in late Spring and early Summer after the last frosts have passed.For more information on quince growing, see : http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/2009-67-1-cydonia-oblonga-the-unappreciated-quince.pdf;
The worst one is Fireblight, which is common to apples, pears and quinces and is caused by a bacteria Erwinia amylova, which is particularly prevalent in areas with warm, humid Summers, thereby restricting its cultivation. Cydonia is one of the most susceptible of the Rosaceae family to fireblight, which spreads through the vascular system , eventually destroying the tree. The leaves and branches appear scorched and blackened, as if damaged by fire. To avoid, do not use excessive nitrogen and do not prune much. There is no cure, only prevention, though genetic modification may help.
My tree suffers from Fleck or Quince Leaf and Fruit Spot, caused by a fungus: Diplocarpon mespili ( formerly Fabraeae maculata). Symptoms include : reddish purple spots with tan centres and reddish halo on the leaves, which drop early; defoliation; brown spots on the fruit; disfigurement of fruit. Cool wet weather favours the development of the disease in Spring and it is worse in moist coastal areas. To treat, rake up and burn all the fallen leaves and remove affected leaves and dead wood and do not overhead irrigate. There are treatments with fungicide. See : http://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/quince-leaf-spotPowdery mildew and rust can also be a problem. The main pests are Fruit Fly , Codling Moth and Light Brown Apple Moth. See : https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/plants/fruit-and-vegetables/a-z-list-of-horticultural-insect-pests/queensland-fruit-fly ;
Other pests include : Pear and Cherry Slug Worm; Borers; Curculio; Scale and Tent Caterpillars. Birds can also cause damage to the fruit.Uses :
An attractive display tree in the garden : superb Autumn colour.
The quince is the food plant for a number of Lepidoptera larvae:
Brown Tail Euproctis chrysorrhea; Bucculatrix bechsteinella; Bucculatrix pomelifoliella; Coleophora cerasivarella; Coleophora malivorella; Green Pug and Winter Moth.
Dwarfing Pear Root Stock
In England, France and the United States of America, the plant is widely used as a dwarfing pear root stock, the technique having been used in Angers, France before the 1500s using quince as a root stock dwarfs pear growth. It forces earlier fruiting and faster maturing of the pear fruit and encourages the growth of more fruit-bearing branches.4.Medicine
The fruit has been used since ancient times and its use was described in writings by the Greek physician Theophrastus in 300 BC and the Roman physician Pliny the Elder(23AD-79AD). Persian philosopher, Avicenna (1025 AD), notes in his ‘Canon of Medicine’ that quince can be used to control abnormal uterine bleeding. A review in 2015 found that this effect was achieved by inhibiting inflammation and counteracting the proliferation of human cervical cancer cells. The Canon of Medicine was an overview of the contemporary medical knowledge, largely influenced by Galen and thus Hippocrates and remained a medical authority for centuries. It set the standards for medicine in Medieval Europe and the Islamic World and was used as a standard medical textbook throughout the 18th century in Europe. It is still used in Unani medicine , a traditional medicine used in India.
Culpepper (1616-1654) advised bald men to mix the silky down of the quince skin with wax and apply to their scalps to encourage hair retention and new hair growth.
The seeds of the quince contain nitriles, like all the Rosaceae family, which are hydrolyzed in the stomach by enzymes and/or stomach acid to produce hydrogen cyanide, a volatile gas, which is toxic, so large quantities of seed should not be ingested. However, used carefully, the seed are very useful in a wide variety of conditions. They are a mild, but reliable, laxative and have astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. When soaked in water, the seed swells to a mucilaginous mass, which has a soothing demulcent when taken internally and can be applied externally to minor burns. In subcontinental Indo-Pakistan, the seeds, known as Bihi Dana, are soaked in water to produce a gel, which is used by herbalists to treat throat and vocal cord inflammation; skin rashes and ulcers and allergies. The stem bark can also be used to treat ulcers. The fruit and juice can be used as a mouth wash or gargle for mouth ulcers gum problems and sore throats. The soaked seeds are used in the treatment of respiratory diseases, especially in children. In Iran and Afghanistan, the boiled seeds are eaten raw for pneumonia. The unripe fruit is very astringent and quince syrup can be used to treat diarrhoea. In Malta, 1 tsp quince jam in 1 cup boiling water relieves intestinal discomfort. The fruit contains pectin, which reduces blood pressure. These are just a few of the medicinal benefits of Cydonia oblonga. For more information, please read : http://www.idosi.org/gv/gv14%284%2915/9.pdf.
The mucilage from the seed coat has even been used as a gum arabic substitute to add more gloss to material, but its greatest claim to fame is in the culinary world, even from Ancient Roman times! Apicius, a ancient Roman cookbook from 4th-5th century BC (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29728/29728-h/29728-h.htm) recommends stewing quinces with honey or combining them with leeks!Cooking:
They can be eaten raw and soft in tropical climates, the best varieties being ‘Aromatnaya’ and ‘Kuganskaya’, but generally they are best cooked before consumption. The fruit will keep for months after picking, scenting the room with its sweet, spicy aroma.
Once peeled, they can be roasted, baked or stewed, the colour of the flesh deepening to a caramel red, the longer the cooking time. They can be poached in wine or water. Their high pectin content make them ideal for making quince jam, quince jelly and quince cheese. Small amounts of quince can enhance the flavour of apple pies and jams. In Italy, they are the main ingredient of a traditional food called mostarda di frutta, in which quince fruit jam is mixed with candied fruit, spices and flavourings to produce regional variations eg: mostarda vicentina; mostarda di Vicenza and mostarda veneta. In Spain, quince flesh is eaten with cheese and in boiled desserts, but their favourite confection is the sweet fragrant jelly-like Dulce de membrillo, which is cut into slices and served with cheese. Portugal also makes a similar dish called marmelada, as do the Balkans, Hungary and Dalmatia. In Albania, Kosovo and Bulgaria, quinces are eaten raw in Winter. Quinces (known as ‘Ftua/ Ftonj) are stewed in a sugar syrup in Albania, while in Kosovo, they makes a quince jam, as does Lebanon and Syria (where the jam is called’ sfarjel’).In Syria, quinces are cooked in pomegranate paste and served with shank meat and kibbels. Morocco uses quince in their lamb tagines, along with other herbs and spices. Quince is also popular with lamb dishes in Armeria, as well as in other savory and sweet dishes.
In Iran, ‘beh’ is eaten raw, stewed, pickled, or made into soups or jam, the leftover syrup saved for use in a refreshing Summer drink with iced water and a few drops of lime juice.With its high malic acid content, quinces are used to make a sweet dessert wine, high in alcohol, as well as liqueurs : Liqueur de coing is a digestif in Alsace, France and the Valais in Switzerland; and sburlone in Parma, Italy; as well as a brandy and liqueur in the Balkans. There is even a Quince cider!So, there is a lot of experimentation to do in my kitchen , when my little Quince tree finally bears fruit!!! Here in Australia, chef Maggie Beer’s name is synonomous with the quince. See: https://www.maggiebeer.com.au/visit-usOn her property, ‘Pheasant Farm’ in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, she planted 350 Smyrna quince trees, which she uses to make her famous Quince Paste, as well as quince wine; quince jelly; quince conserve; quince glaze; quince puree; preserved quinces and pickled quince (see photo above). She also uses them in flat quince tarts; poaches them with pears in verjuice and bakes them, stuffed with walnuts butter and brown sugar or honey. You can read more about her quince adventures by visiting her and reading her books: Maggie’s Farm and Maggie’s Orchard. See: https://www.penguin.com.au/contributors/129/maggie-beer and https://cheznuts.com.au/guest-chef/guest-chef-maggie-beer/.We visited her farm back during our Australian trip in 2008 and I ended up by mistake in her TV kitchen, where I was photographed posing behind her kitchen counter by a visiting tour group! On our heritage rose trip to the Heritage Garden in Clare, South Australia in November 2014, we discovered that our host Walter Duncan was growing a whole orchard of quince trees for Maggie Beer! The quince orchard can be seen in the background of the photo below.CHINESE QUINCE
The final quince that I should touch on is the Chinese Quince Pseudocydonia sinensis, also the sole species in its genus Pseudocydonia. It is closely related to Chaenomeles, but lacks thorns and bears its flowers singly rather than in clusters. It looks superficially like Cydonia oblonga, to which it is also closely related, but its leaves have serrated edges and no fuzz. It is native to China and East Asia, where it is known as ‘mugua’ and ‘mogwa’ in Korea.
Description: It is an attractive deciduous or semi-evergreen tree , 10-18m tall, with a dense twiggy crown and a mottled trunk, which tends to flute with age and exfoliating bark, revealing patches of brown, green, orange and grey. The shiny leathery leaves are simple and alternately arranged and have a serrated margin. They turn a red orange in Autumn. Its single, pink, 2.5-4cm wide, Spring flowers are earlier than Cydonia , but after Chaenomeles. The large, oval pome, 12-17cm long, has 5 carpals and ripens in late Autumn. The fruit is highly aromatic with an intense, sweet smell. It is hard and astringent, but softens and becomes less tart after frost.
Propogation: Chinese quinces are propagated by seed, cuttings, rootings and grafting. As with all the quinces, seed is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Stored seed requires 3 months cold stratification and should be sown as early in the year as possible.When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. As with the other quinces, fireblight can also be a problem.
The high pectin content of its fruit makes it ideal for jams and chutneys. The wood is used in Japan to make low-end shamisen, a three-stringed musical instrument, which is plucked with a plectrum called a bachi and which sounds a bit like an American banjo. Chinese Quince has also been used for years in traditional Chinese medicine to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis. Extracts of its phytochemicals have antioxidant and antiviral properties. For more information and a photo of this beautiful tree, please read : http://www.louistheplantgeek.com/a-gardening-journal/1053-pseudocydonia-sinensis.
Unfortunately, I cannot even find a photo, but it certainly sounds worthy of a place in the garden! If only we had the room! Maybe, I shall have to investigate a bonsai version, though I suspect it is all a bit technical for me!