Spring Colour

Just a few garden pics:


Narcissi. Click on any pics to enlarge.

Iberis sempervirens

Iberis sempervirens

Greigii tulips

Greigii tulips–fewer every year. There’s only two now; wonder if it’s the last year I’ll see them…

No-Name tulips

No-Name tulips–love the red-orange-pink colouring!

Tulipa saxitalis

Probably Tulipa saxitalis

Tulipa saxitalis

Tulipa saxitalis–these multiply every year. I think I only planted a dozen or so. the multi-stems are the best part.

Bees A-Buzzin’

I can’t help myself. If I hear bees a-buzzin’ and I think I can video them I have to do it. Can someone ID this bee for me?

If I knew how, I’d have edited out that horrible Skytrain roar at the end…

A few minutes earlier there was a giant bumble bee (I imagine a queen, but I’m no  expert!) enjoying the blooms of the Daphne odorata. And sooo odorata! Even tho’ it’s a really frail and little shrub–at least 10 years old, maybe 11, and still less than 3′ tall and wide– I’ll usually cut off just one little branch to bring inside to fragrance-up my living room. A shrub this fragrant should always be planted in a place where its delight can be appreciated–near the front door, or walkway that you use regularly.

Daphne odorata

Daphne odorata

But back to the bees… I didn’t have my phone on me, so didn’t photograph or video it/her. But I was able to see her very long pointy tongue. No wonder she likes the trumpet shaped flowers of the Daphne. Yesterday I saw her, one one just like her, crawl into a tunnel underneath the Spirea in the back yard. Interestingly, that Spirea was just transplanted into its spot last month, so she certainly didn’t over-winter in that tunnel. Wish I knew more about bees…

Viewpoint Part II, and Ferns

Take Advantage of Timing

Yesterday I mentioned the two ephemerals Sanguinaria (bloodwort) and Erythronium (trout lily). The Sanguinaria was coming up under the foliage of the Asplenium (hart’s tongue fern), and the Erythronium is concealed behind the Buxus (boxwood). But spring ephemerals are perennials that erupt, bloom, set seed and “die back” all in spring, so that by early summer there’s nothing to be seen but a bare space.

So in fact, I could in theory have left the fern where it was, cut off the foliage, which is normal procedure for most hardy ferns, and allowed the Sanguinaria to grow and bloom (or “bloom and grow”), because by the time the fern’s foliage was well up and in danger of  hiding the Sanguinaria, there’d actually be no Sanguinaria left visible to be hidden.

Sanguinaria canadensis

Sanguinaria canadensis

Now, as it happens–and this is where “Viewpoint Part II” comes in– from my “preferred view from my living room window”  the fern was obscuring my view of the waterfall, and I couldn’t have that! So fern was moved, replaced with something that will stay shorter.

But that brings me to ferns, and cutting down foliage.

Of all the ferns with really ratty late winter/early spring foliage, Asplenium is the least ratty. In fact, were it not for the utter beauty of the new foliage coming up but hidden in the old foliage, one wouldn’t feel the need to prune away the old foliage at all.

Asplenium Scopularium

Asplenium scopularium in January

But then I’d miss this:

Asplenium Scopularium

Asplenium scopularium

Asplenium scopularium

Asplenium scopularium today Ap 11

Some other ferns I don’t hesitate to prune to the ground as soon as I can, there being nothing of aesthetic value. E.g., the following:

Dryopteris affinis 'Cristata'

Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata’ late Feb 2020.

Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata’–Crested Male Fern–is one of my (many) fave ferns. Not at all beautiful in Feb, tho’ technically “evergreen”. But in summer:

Dryopteris affinis 'Cristata'

Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata’–almost 4′ tall, about 3′ in diameter.

…stunning. So I chop off everything above ground, and now I’m waiting for the “tarantulas” to unfurl:

Dryopteris affinis 'Cristata'

Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata’

Dryopteris affinis 'Cristata'

Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata’

Adiantum venustum–Maidenhair fern–behaves differently from year to year. This winter, altho’ not any more severe than any others lately,  she suffered a lot of die back, so even tho’ the dead and “mostly dead” foliage was lying flat on the ground, and new growth rises prettily above it, I pruned away most of the dead stuff so that when the new growth began it would indeed be pretty, like this:

Adiantum venustum

Adiantum venustum–click to enlarge–in fact, all images can be clicked to enlarge.

And then this:

My favourite combination: Adiantum venustum and Athyrium niponicum 

Adiantum venustum

Adiantum venustum

So two take-aways:

  1. Understand the life cycle of your plants, and you’ll be able to coordinate blooming times, colour combinations, pruning times.
  2. Most hardy ferns can and should be cut down to the ground so you can see the wonder of new growth.

More Winter Interest

More Winter Interest

This time of year there are lots of blog posts about having multi-season interest, and especially Winter interest, in your garden. I love THIS from The Gardener’s Eden. Beautiful colour, strong contrast, everything you could want to take your mind off the bone shattering cold.

Or from Monrovia’s Top 7 Garden Trends for 2019: subtlety, wistfulness, peace. 

Unfortunately, most of these beautiful scenes depend on sun, snow, or both to really show the virtues.

Unlike the torrential rains, winds and gloom that is the usual lot for us in coastal BC, or coastal PNW (this past week notwithstanding…). 

So here we need to look for plants (or structures or art pieces) that can hold their own not only in the absence of glistening snow and soft winter-low sun, but in the presence of that pounding rain. The flowers of the Pennisetum (above in the Monrovia image) wouldn’t have maintained that lovely mounded shape through the deluge over the first couple days of 2019, but other grasses, like Carex ‘Frosted Curls’ (one of my all-time faves) can still give you the mounded shape, the potential for this frosted effect (real frost) when it happens, without the risk of total loss.

Carex ‘Frosted Curls’–actually frosted.

So assuming you don’t have the acres that for example Anglesey Abbey in Cambridge has…

Cornus stems and Rubus cockburnianus provide interest in the winter months. Credit: Jason Ingram The English Garden

…and that you don’t have California warmth and New England sun, here are my best tips for winter interest: berries and gold foliage.



Clockwise from top left: Pyracantha ‘Flava’; Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’; Skimmia japonica

The Pyracantha and Skimmia will glow in pretty much any location, partly because they have evergreen foliage to frame the berries. The Callicarpa however is deciduous, and really needs some other evergreen colour to set off even these neon purple berries. The above pic was taken in late Autumn, when the grasses were still vivid. They aren’t now, so be sure to plant something else around your Callicarpa that will still be present at this time of year. Which leads to the next category of winter interest for dour dreary coastal BC:

Gold Foliage

Gold foliage

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Fernspray Gold’; Choisya ternata ‘Goldfingers’; Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’

One of the great things about gold foliage is that it serves equally well as background colour and foreground colour.

gold foliage

Hamamelis ‘Diane’ in foreground, Chamaecyparis ‘Fernspray gold’ in the background

Had to borrow this picture of Euonymus japonica ‘Aureomarginata’ since my own has been badly eaten by root weevils.

Honourable Mentions

Everyone should have some creeping sedums in their garden.

creeping sedums

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ and Sedum spurium ‘Fuldaglut’–both put on extra layers of colour when it gets cold.


Hamamelis and Hummers–5 Things

Hummingbirds and Witch-hazel.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

I don’t know how this escaped my notice all these years, but it appears that the hummingbirds LOVE Witch-hazel–Hamamelis. The boys and girls were out there this morning drinking to their hearts’ content.

I scoured Google images for one of a Hummingbird enjoying the nectar of the Hamamelis, without success. And try as I might, I couldn’t get one myself.

So I’m afraid you’ll have to take my word for it–and the word of multitudes of garden writers like Ciscoe Morris in Seattle.

And here are a few other items of interest about the lovely Hamamelis species:

  1. The most commonly noted virtue of the witch-hazel is its fragrance. And indeed, if you’ve smelled ‘Arnold Promise’ or ‘Pallida’, you’d have to agree. But before you buy that ‘Diane’ (above) or ‘Jelena’ you’ll have to choose either colourful flowers or fragrance. ‘Diane’ reputedly has “subtle fragrance”, but it’s too subtle for my nose.  ‘Jelena’ has no fragrance.
  2. The shape of the Hamamelis is also delightful: some like ‘Diane’ and ‘Arnold Promise’ are vase shaped, others much rounder.

    Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’. This pic is from 2015 when I still had a tiny front lawn. (Chafer beetle- and raccoon-assaulted as you can just see on the right upper corner.)

  3. Hamamelis, according to Cass Turnbull from Plant Amnesty ( highly recommend her pruning videos) is an “untouchable”. You will quickly destroy that desirable branch structure if you are a little too aggressive pruning her. Hamamelis easily suckers, which means you could have a shrubby messy hedge instead of a tree before long. The suckers must be removed and the earlier the better. If they’re only a couple inches tall when you notice them, removing them won’t do the tree any harm at all. On the other hand, if you’ve planted it a bit too close to the walkway or drive, and feel the need to remove some branches for convenience sake, you may end up with not only more suckers, but watersprouts as well. That’s shoots/branches that appear from some random spot on other branches or the trunk, and most often with a different appearance from the rest of the tree. Avoiding watersprouts is a good think. So plant your Hamamelis where it will have room to grow to its full natural size, only ever cut branches when you really have to, and cut whole branches, don’t “heading-cut”.
  4. Fall colour: hard to beat. Nuff said.
  5. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ from Oct 2017.

    Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ from Oct 2017. This isn’t even late day sun; apparently it’s 10:24 am.