Garden Plants In The Wild
Hello plant people
It’s been a tad longer than I had expected, time flies when you’ve got your hands elbow deep in soil. I’ve been planting like crazy trying to take advantage of all this incredible spring energy. The season is starting a little earlier this year and the plants are just loving it. As to tempt the fates let me brag a little more about how frost free my back garden has been this season, it’s almost subtropical. Aeoniums growing outdoors, an echium stands proud at nearly 12 feet; perhaps climate change isn’t so bad after-all.
From the still moments of winter emerges a fury of activity. It’s finally March and it’s time to get out there and get your hands dirty. I decree it’s a prime season to do some gardening! Although heavy with rain, a pineapple express has been gusting through our island bringing in the most amazing warm temperatures. The other morning I was opening up my greenhouse to the the sounds of birds singing, a crisp freshness in the air, it’s serenity was absolute. I love my job.
Today I took some time away from the greenhouse and garden and hiked out in East Sooke Park. Would you believe it’s the first time I’ve been out there? I’ve lived in Victoria for almost 7 years now and still haven’t explored Aylard’s farm, for shame. Through raindrop and mud puddle my girlfriend and I spent an wet afternoon exploring beaches and salal meadows. The lush temperate rain-forests prevalent on the coast of BC resemble a jungle-like setting a lot more than I often give credit. The place was absolutely bursting with life. With all the Skunk cabbage, sedums, orchids and lichen, you couldn’t imagine a place with more wild lushness. Sometimes I’m blind and nearly daft to how much diversity we have in our forests, but take a closer look, it’s picture perfect.
Anyhow onto the topic at hand, Sedum spathulifolium. Just because I can’t make it to the deserts of the Baja or jungles of South America, doesn’t mean I can’t do a little plant exploring here at home. It’s no surprise to anyone on the coast that Sedum spathulifolium can be found pretty much anywhere moss grows comfortably. Often growing on exposed rock amongst the moss and lichens, this horticultural favorite grows effortlessly in some pretty obscure locations. It’s drought tolerant and changes colors depending on it’s growing conditions. The flowers in the spring are a electric yellow and suddenly succulent hillsides glow gold for a months on end. From the very first moment I encountered sedums I was in love. While some plant’s loose their luster over the years I still can’t help but stand and admire whenever I come across them.
Now for sedums in the wild.
Beautiful British Columbia. Mother Nature has got me beat again. . .
Until next time.
Happy May Long Weekend, hopefully some of you got some time off to appreciate the great weather we’ve been having. Although I couldn’t negotiate the whole 4 day weekend, I was still able to escape the greenhouse for a couple days and do my annual May Long trip to Salt Spring Island. In my two and a half days there I drank entirely too many beers, watched soccer and climbed a mountain. While the obvious reason to be on Salt Spring Island was the soccer and beer, in idle moments I still made time for plant nonsense. A friend and I climbed Reginald Hill in the Fulford Valley, and spotted some rather exciting botanical treats.
The top of Reginald Hill hill has some really incredible Arbutus menziesii trees. After growing up on Salt Spring Island I’m no stranger to these trees, still I can’t help but to get lost in their beauty. Such beautiful leaves and bark.
We found quite a few rattlesnake plantain’s growing amongst the moss. Upon further inspection this one is about to flower. The foliage is quite remarkable.
The highlight of the journey. On our way down the mountain I spotted a small pink flower no bigger then a quarter. To my surprise and excitement, it was a fairy slipper orchid, (Calypso bulbosa) which are somewhat rare. This is the first time I’ve spotted one of these before and it’s a real treat. I feel as though I’m finally starting to recognize enough plants that something as small as this stands out. I think I’m finally getting the eye for this gig. When I got down on the forest floor to snap some photos it made me realize how delicate these ecosystems really are. The orchid grew on the side of the path, easily stepped on by a blind nature enthusiast. The leaf it grew out of was even smaller then flower, the whole things seems so incredibly delicate.
It looks like I might have caught this orchid on one of it’s last days, the color of the flower seem a bit faded. Either way I was happy to spend some time admiring it, what a great gift to this lone plant geek.
One of the first garden plants I fell in love with was Armeria, better known as Sea Thrift. These strange mounds of grass like foliage produce little crystal buds that explode into charming puffs of pink and red. Over the past couple years I’ve become well acquainted with this plant and my appreciation for it only grows bigger. Last year while walking adjacent to the beach I noticed some familiar clumps of “grass” growing throughout a field where people let their dogs play. Although it wasn’t flowering at the time (it was winter) I was sure of my id and I took a little specimen home to see if I could make it thrive. Sure enough it was a naturalized variety of Armeria. In spring I was rewarded for my patience with a bountiful show of flowers almost more prolific then the garden varieties I had planted the year before.
I’m not exactly sure if armeria is native to Victoria or if it somehow escaped someone’s garden and loved life free on the the coast. It’s spread with vigor and with a keen eye can be found in certain areas of coastal Victoria. With a name like sea thrift one would deduce that the plant often grows by the sea, the salt doesn’t seem to bother it at all. Now with that being said I found last years specimen about 2 km from where this following photograph was taken, in a field, not on the beach. What looks like a dried up clump of grass is actually an established mound of armeria growing off a rock, a stone’s throw away from the ocean. Plants always find a way to survive in the most unlikely of places.
Sea thrift spotting, on the beach, living on a rock with salt sprays.
<left photo> Armeria juniperifolia in bud at the greenhouse <right photo> Garden Varieties in bloom in June.