A familiar member of the onion family, the lowly chive (Allium schoenoprasum) is one of the earliest edibles to appear in the garden. Think you know all there is to know about this under-estimated herb?
Mark MacDonald at West Coast Seeds offers details on the origins of this useful plant and cultivation tips to keep your chives growing happily.
Read the article. While you are visiting this Canadian seed house, browse the other articles in the Garden Wisdom Blog.
Oh, and did I mention West Coast Seeds has an inspiring online seed catalogue? If you fall in love with a plant, watch out for its hardiness, as this is a BC-based seed house.
news from the
I wonder, do you know this attractive native plant?
Fine Gardening magazine describes Chelone obliqua as a "great mid-border plant." This native wildflower loves moisture, growing well in partial-to-dense shade with moist soil. It will even grow in full sun if the soil is soggy, making it a plant to chose for a bog garden.
The Missouri Botanical Garden – another go-to site for solid plant information – describes Chelone as "a stiffly erect, clump-forming Missouri native perennial which typically grows 2-3' tall and occurs in moist woods, swampy areas and along streams. Hooded, snapdragon-like, two-lipped, deep rose flowers appear in tight, spike-like terminal racemes from late summer into autumn. Flowers purportedly resemble turtle heads." Apparently the plant's name comes from "the Greek word chelone meaning tortoise, in reference to the turtlehead shape of the flowers." The epithet (the second part of the Latin name) means "lopsided or oblique."
Chelone is, according to Todd Boland of the MUN Botanical Garden in Newfoundland, one of only a handful of ornamental plants that "are purely North American natives." Chelone is not as well known as our other natives – Phlox, Rudbeckia and Echinacea – but this plant is becoming more popular.
In his excellent factsheet, Turtleheads–The Genus Chelone, Boland explains that there are only four species in the genus Chelone.
Chelone glabra is the white flowered species. Chelone obliqua and Chelone lyonii both have pink flowers, but vary in their leaf shape and their native range. Boland's factsheet helped me examine the characteristics of the leaves on the Chelone in my garden and I am pretty sure it is Chelone lyonii. A beauty by any name!
Click each map to view the US Department of Agriculture plant profile.
Chelone is identified as hardy to Zone 4, making it marginal in the northern garden. My Chelone did come with a warning about hardiness, but I am hopeful that with leaf mulch and reasonable snow cover, this little turtle will come back again next year.
Want to more information?
Read more about Chelone glabra
Read about Chelone obliqua in the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, Minnesota. Excellent images.
Source for Chelone obliqua plants - Ontario Plant Source
Source for Chelone glabra seeds - Wildflower Farm, an Ontario supplier.
Pussy willows – those brave furry buds we all watch for – are a true promise that winter will finally take its leave. Indeed, pussy willows are one of the first plants to bloom in the north, starting their flowering as early as March with the first hints of spring warmth. After seeing some particularly fluffy pussy willow cuttings on display, I wondered how well willow varieties grow in the cold zones.
First, let me remind you that willows are actually a flowering shrub or small tree. The parts of plant that we consider 'pussy willows' are, writes Johnny Caryopsis at naturenorth.com, "in fact, the male flowering parts, or male catkins. The female catkins tend to develop and open a little later than the males, but they can form attractive pussy willows, too. And what, to us, is the most attractive stage in the pussy willow is actually very early on in the emergence of the catkin ... The willow flowers are fully "open" when the yellow pollen-bearing anthers are protruding and the stigmas are visible.
"Most plants that have catkins are wind-pollinated. That is, the pollen grains are simply released on the breeze and the plants count on chance to bring some of their pollen to rest on stigmas of their own species. Close relatives of the willows, the poplars (Populus spp.), all spread their pollen in this manner."
Does willow belong in your garden?
It depends on your space and taste, of course, but consider the attributes of this fast-growing, low maintenance shrub. Willow is easily propagated from cuttings, requires only moderate watering, little or no fertilizer, and offers interest throughout the seasons.
The varieties available to us are generally native to or developed from subspecies from northern Europe. Several varieties are hardy to Zone 3 or 4. Southern British Columbia's Bluestem Nursery – which lists over 50 varieties in its online catalogue – is a great place to learn more.
I'll highlight two varieties.
Salix caprea 'Select' is also known as French Pussy Willow, Pink Pussy Willow, Kilmarnock Willow, Goat's Willow or Great Sallow. It is reliably hardy to Zone 4, but can often be grown in Zone 3 with shelter.
As they note at Bluestem Nursery, Salix caprea "produces an abundance of nectar and pollen on its many fat catkins" which are very attractive to bees. As willows bloom early, they are an important food source for wild bees and honeybees as they begin to forage in spring. S. caprea is also one of the famous pussy willows used in the floral trade. This shrub can grow 10 to 15 feet and become quite bushy. As a landscape addition, it can be placed in the garden, grown as a large foundation anchor or serve as a solitary accent.
French Pussy Willow's cousin, Salix discolor, is the native willow we see in many areas of Canada. It is almost as showy and reliably hardy to Zone 2.
Salix triandra 'Noir de Villane' intrigues me. The Bluestem Nursery listing describes it as a popular willow in Europe for basketry. Hardy to Zone 3, S. triandra can grow to 26 feet, but it is this willow's dark maroon new growth – which shoots out in 7 foot rods – that makes it so attractive for baskets, living willow structures or screens. Apparently this variety breaks dormancy later than other willows, but is also attractive to bees and butterflies. S.triandra thrives with regular deep watering.
What is coppicing?
The term 'coppicing' is associated with the commercial cultivation of willows, but it is a pruning technique that can be applied to willows in the home garden too. Coppicing is the practice of pruning right to ground level to force new shoots or rods to grow from the crown. Willows respond to this severe pruning with vigorous growth, producing rods of 4 to10 ft in a season. Coppiced willows are excellent as a screen.
In many areas of Canada, crafters have explored willow furniture making, but living structures – which are common in Britain and France – are another matter. Maybe we need to get more adventurous. Wouldn't you love to encourage a willow fence – called a 'fedge' – in your yard?
Want to learn more?
Visit Bluestem Nursery for the landscape uses of willow.
Visit JPR Environmental in Britain to see ideas for living willow fences, arbours, and sculpture.
Height: 24 inches
Spread: 24 inches (non-invasive)
Light: Prefers part to full shade
Soil: Grows best in moist soil with plenty of organic material; requires more frequent watering during times of drought
Fertilize 1–2 times a year for best growth
Hardiness: Zone 4 (requires a sheltered micro-climate in the northern garden)
Notes: Excellent cut flower and dried flower
View the impressive range of Astrantia cultivars at Perennials.com
First image of Astrantia major - therebloomsagarden.com
Second image of Astrantia major - Enrico Blasutto via Wikipedia, Creative Commons
More articles by Tod Boland on Dave's Garden
Memorial University of Newfoundland Botanical Garden
I know. I've been away from this web space, but I'm back – just like a reliable perennial plant. Working in my garden this year, I am reminded that Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon' is one of my favourite plants. It is a little tender for my Zone 2-3 garden, so I am especially appreciative that this beauty made a healthy return after the hard winter we endured. Let me tell you why.
The open leaf structure formed on sturdy stems makes Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon' an airy, rather mysterious addition to a mixed border. The burgundy foliage is tinged with lime green, no doubt the characteristic that gave this cultivated variety its 'changeable' name. 'Chameleon' was developed in Europe – is grown for its foliage; its flowers are small and insignificant.
Like its tough green-yellow cousin Euphorbia polychroma, 'Chameleon' grows well in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to light shade. It produces its best purple leaf color in full sun. It tolerates poor soils that are somewhat dry; it does not thrive in extreme humidity.
I love to see this plant contrasted with the chartreuse foliage of Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' (Golden Creeping Jenny) or the grey leaves of Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver Queen' (Western mugwort 'Silver Queen'). It has an attractive way of blending within a border.
Watch for this exceptional herbaceous perennial. It may take a little extra care, but I guarantee it will quickly become one of your favourite plants.
Cultivation details for Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon'
Height: 12-20 inches
Width: 12-20 inches
Zone: 4 – tender in the northern garden, but can endure winters with good mulch
Habit: Erect growth, spreads by rhizomes and self sows regularly
Flowers: Yellow; the true flowers are yellow-green and inconspicuous, appearing on showy bracts
Bloom time: Late spring
Tolerance: Deer tolerant
Of note: Milky sap in the stems can irritate skin and eyes and is mildly poisonous if ingested.
Summary adapted from Missouri Botanical Garden
Did you know? ...
A rhizome is a horizontal, underground stem that typically sends out roots and shoots from its nodes.
Have you grown Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon'?
Share your experience with this plant in a comment.
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