Winter Garden Tour

Winter Garden Tours

Winter garden tours may seem like a dream unless you live in a warm climate, but today when the sun was out I decided to take a tour of my garden, with camera in hand.  Normally the weather would make this a rather chilly walk, but as the early morning sun and temperatures up to 9 º Celsius had melted the snow on most of my property  while others around were full of snow!

two seasons at once

two seasons at once

 

While this January has not yet seen the record -15º, with the exception of the Hellebore plant in my side garden, I expected everything to be frozen. To my surprise there were so many plants still alive, despite the -4 º temperature nights and warm almost Spring like weather during this unusually warm January in Canada.

 

Who know there would be a lovely green Fever-few (Tanacetum parthenium) plant nodding at me in the wind? In fact, there were parts of the old plant with new growth bursting forth in both the side and back gardens.

 

Feverfew

Feverfew

 

Close to the Feverfew, are the mixed red and green leaves of the Toad lily (Tricyrtis latifolia) which survives being previously buried in many inches of snow.

Toad Lily leaves and Blue Fescue

Toad Lily leaves and Blue Fescue

The snow in the front garden also was inches deep for several weeks, but not long enough or cold enough to kill off the small pink rose bush that bloomed there all summer and was now an inspiring part of my winter garden tour. While there are no flowers, there quite a few dark green leaves and even a rose hip that waved as a reminder of past glory!

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Past the front and through the side gate, leading to the north side yard, revealed even more winter surprises. First my eyes fell on the lovely green crinkled leaves of a Primula, easily recognized despite none of the yellow flowers being evident.

Primula

Primula

Representing the wildflower family, not to be outdone, was one Golden rod.  Bouncing in the wind, its tiny yellow flowers made a statement, despite not displaying their brilliant summer colour. Buried also in the snow, but not down for the count, was a wild weed Geranium (possibly a Dovefoot Geranium).

 

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

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wild Geranium

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I walked completely around to the rock garden as my winter garden tour continued, under the huge Spruce tree, I found buds forming on the heather plant (Calluna Vulgaris) that in early to mid summer would be filled with lovely, tiny, pink blooms.

 

my Heather in bud

my Heather in bud

Heather in bloom

Heather in bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beside this was a Chrysanthemum plant fiercely growing new green leaves, despite the dried flower bud still attached!

 

 struggling Chrysanthemum

struggling Chrysanthemum

 

Not to be outdone was the lovely evergreen fern Dryopeteris erythrosora (Autumn fern).

 

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 Last, but not least, was a Heuchera key lime pie that didn’t seem to mind the cold at all!

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Today, despite the return of real winter weather and -10 º weather the Hellebore is happily bobbing its head and I am bundled up, remembering my inspiring winter garden tour while dreams of seedlings run through my head.

sunflowerseedlings_1

 

Goldenrod and the Fall Family

Goldenrod and the fall family of plants lend lovely colour to any fall day. Yet,with the arrival of cooler temperature, all many of us can think about when looking at the gardens coming to rest, is the long list of things to be done before the arrival of winter. In fact, I even wrote an article on my chores list, which is hanging nicely on the fridge door, waiting for me to tick things off.

While I have trimmed the shrubs along the driveway and tackled the honeysuckle that was threatening to leave the trellis and head for the neighbouring pine, very little else has been done. When time is available I am currently sitting on the front porch soaking up the warm sunshine and admiring the two pots of mums there.

Not to be outdone are the glorious purple Asters standing tall and waving their heads in the wind. These blooms are just another example of inspiration personified, as the plant traveled from the wildflower patch behind my cottage several years ago, to my city garden.

 

As hybridization of wildflowers to domestic species, plants are acclimatized from countries around the world and xeriscaping becomes more popular, once common field flowers like Goldenrod and the fall family are spreading to gardens everywhere. Certainly one example I have grown personally is Goldenrod, which grows in mass behind my country home as well as in the front and back in  the gardens of my permanent urban residence.

 

In fact, recently a city dweller went past my tall stand of yellow blooms and proceeded to tell me that despite being pretty, I should not be growing it “as people are allergic to it.” In defense of the wrongfully blamed plant, I proceeded to give her a mini lecture based on information I read, as a hay fever sufferer.

 

Goldenrod Pollen

 

Goldenrod’s pollen is heavy and sticky and can’t be blown by the wind . In fact the bright yellow need to attract insects to spread the plants pollen. On the other hand, Ragweed’s pollen is lightweight and spreads easily in the breeze. Combine this easy of movement with the larger number of spikes in its surface and it is easy to understand why Ragweed is considered the main respiratory irritant of hay fever.

 

www.gpnc.org/goldenro.htm

 

Despite having this information, I had little else to add except bees, wasps and other assorted bugs love the flowers. In fact, until I took several photographs of the yellow flowers, I had no idea of the mass of tiny buds that each golden stem or rod contains.

 

Golden Rod

 

When I explored further I found that this “wildflower” with many species, has been prized as a garden plant in British gardens and now in American ones since about 1980. But in many other countries including China and Germany it has become an invasive species that is causing problems with the areas natural habitat.

 

With a natural habitat consisting of both domestically grown plants and now some wild country relatives, my garden has become a family affair. In fact, when I checked in to the “Family” and Genus of both the Goldenrod and the Aster, I was surprised to learn that they too belong to family Asteraceae , as did the Chrysanthemum in my last Post.

 

 

Certainly I can see the similarity in the bloom of the star shaped mini-petaled Aster and the more heavily laden Mums, but the tiny florets of the Goldenrod  and fall family, seen entirely unrelated until I read further on this Family.

Asteraceae are mostly  herbaceous plants, but there are also some shrubs, trees and even climbers in the family. One characteristic the plants in this family share is something called inflorecence. Here is where I got the connection as inflorescence is a group of cluster of flowers  arranged on a  stem, main branch or group of branches. Chrysanthemums, Asters and Goldenrod all have flowers that are grouped along a naim stem of smaller stems off the main one.

 

Golderod Florets

 

 

According to data there are 41 invasive weeds worldwide that are classed as Ragweed plants, all of which are also part of the big Asteraceae family. The flower clusters along the stems in this case are not pretty as they do not need to attract insects to spread their pollen. On a dry windy day is it estimated that this wind-borne pollen is transmitted many Kilometers. In addition, each plant is estimated to be able to release over a billion grains of pollen in the late summer through fall which spread the plants growth and makes it the number one allergen of Hay Fever.

 

Ragweed

 

Armed with a picture of one big Fall Family in my head,  I decided reading more about what characteristics this family has was a good idea. However, further reading on plant classification  and trying to connect the dots between family, genus, species, etc, revealed an overwhelming amount of information. Of course not only was it fascinating, but it was very complicated with one thing leading to another, as if the seed of an idea has sprouted more branches and definitions than my poor brain can comprehend.

 

One thing I did get was the plant world is composed of families where the plants are not all the same size, shape or colour but they share a set of growing conditions. Keeping this in mind as I continued to read, helped me to relate this to humans across the world and the differences that make up our one global family.

 

Goldenrod and Fall  family of flowers  provide not only lovely blooms but also the inspiration for further research in to the nomenclature of botany .Certainly my condensed version  will amount to shrinking all the information on the evolution of life, in to a few hundred words…but that’s another post to write…think I’ll give it a go!

 

 

 

Chrysanthemums

All along my street  this fall I notice gardens  blooming with sedum, tall grasses, Zinnias, roses and then of course there are the hardy Chrysanthemums. Now that the extreme heat and humidity of summer has passed, leaving much more pleasant weather for us to enjoy, it is as if the plants recognize it as well. Fall flower gardens are amazing!

 

 

Chrysanthemums, or mums to most gardeners, have been on my mind lately as pots of them are everywhere you look. Whether it is a local mall garden centre, a nursery, hardware mega store or even a small local department store, there are racks of their brightly coloured blooms.

Recently I rode my bicycle past yet another garden where they were bursting in to bloom, and realized how little I know  about this well know and lovely fall plant? Just where did these mums come from originally and how did they end up on in our gardens?

 

Potted Mums

Years ago I regularly watched a show on HGTV called Flower Power that explored these and many more questions. In each episode the host, who was and still is a well known garden expert, would present a synopsis on a different flower. I also enjoyed the photography of the plant’s country of origin as well as its many varieties.

While I am not an expert, with many gardening resource books and the internet at my finger tips investigation should be a breeze. Perhaps now is the time for another plant   adventure, inspired by many gardens this time, not just my own.

 

Chrysanthemums

 

Chrysanthemums or mums are herbaceous perennial flowering plants that are native to Asia and northeastern Europe. They are related to marigolds, zinnias, dahlias and sunflowers, by being from the same family Asteracea. Originally cultivated in China as a flowering herb, as early as the 15th century B.C, it is believed the early forms were Chrysanthemum Sinese and Chrysanthemum Indictum. In addition to a wide variety of uses the blooms were incorporated in to their artwork and are still to this day.

 

Chrysanthemum indicum

Chrysanthemum Sinese

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I was unable to determine the range of this flower and its spread, records say the flower was brought to Japan sometime in the 8th century. There it took on as equally prestigious status as in China, by becoming an important symbols used widely in festivals, and artwork. In fact, they were embraced by the Emperor as his official seal in the 12th century and it remains even now a symbol of the Japanese Imperial Family. In addition, during the 18th century Japan created the Grand Order of the Badge of the Chrysanthemums.

 

Imperial Seal of Japan

 

The name Chrysanthemum was given to this plant genus in the 17th Century with its spread throughout Europe, by the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus. Linneaus is considered to be the father of modern plant classification. The name Chrysanthemum is derived from the Greek word Chrynos which means “gold” and the word Anthemon which means” flower”. The original flowers were small, yellow blooms,as shown above but exploration eventually revealed about thirty species that were documented.

Chrysanthemums extended through Europe and to North America. In 1846 the Stoke Newington Chrysanthemum Society was formed, becoming the National Chrysanthemum Society in 1884. In addition to meetings etc, they held three shows yearly at the Royal Aquarium in London until 1902 and then at the Crystal Palace. Despite interest in the Chrysanthemum in North America, I found no information on society’s formation until the 1940’s

Read more: http://www.nationalchrysanthemumsociety.co.uk

 

1902 Garden Show Poster

Plant Description

General

The many varieties, colours etc. are vast, to an ordinary gardener these plants are separated in to two groups, the exhibition plants grown primarily for floral arrangements and the hardy plants grown by gardeners across Canada. The plants range in height from about 15 cm to 150 cm with deeply lobed leaves.

Bloom

The flowers have been classified internationally in to 13 different bloom forms including daisy-like, pom-pom, spiders and the more traditional garden variety of single and double blossoms. The more exotic and taller varieties require more stringent conditions of temperature and care, including staking due to their height. Generally these are commercially raised to show off in florist bouquets and for Chrysanthemum enthusiasts up to the challenge.

Mums primarily bloom in lovely shades of bronze, lavender, white, pink, purple red and yellow. Of course, as new hybrids are developed, the variety of sizes, blooms, shapes and colours grow.

 

 

http://www.plant-care.com/hardy-chrysanthemums.html

 

Plant Usage

Ornamental

The chrysanthemums are the second most popular flower sold after the Rose. With thousands of cultivars in different colours, heights petal size and formation there is something for everyone. The garden hardy mums survive in zones 3-9, produce lots of small blooms and require no staking. The exhibition varieties are grown primarily by collectors and for the Florist industry, requiring much more detailed care.

The variety of colours, hardiness even of individual flowers from the small pom-pom to the larger exotics is one of the reasons this flowering plant is so popular. Once cut, the chrysanthemum flowers have an excellent survival time which makes them an excellent choice for all types of flower arrangement. In fact mums are often the flower of choice for sculptural elements in flower shows for example.

 

 

 

 

 

Culinary

Both the leaves and flowers are used for seasoning in several ways throughout the world. Flowers are used in many Asian countries to make tea, flavour rice wine and to add aroma to soup. Tiny flowers are also used as a garnish and the leaves are boiled and eaten as greens.

Insecticide

If you use environmentally safe insecticides, you may have seen the word Pyrethrin on the label. Pyrethrin, from crushed Chrysanthemum seed, is an organic compound used in a liquid, oil or powder form, as an insecticide. Specific to the nervous system of insects, this compound kills or repels most plant insects, while being far less toxic to birds and mammals than many synthetic insecticides.

Environmental

While we all know mums as well as all flowering plants brighten up both gardens and any room they are placed in, NASA took things one step further. They included this plant in their Clean Air Study and determined Chrysanthemums were one of the top 10 plants most effective in removing Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Carbon Monoxide from the air inside a building.

 

Medicinal

Alternative medicine maintains there are many medicinal health benefits from the Chrysanthemum, especially when steeped in to a tea. Traditional Chinese medicine promotes the tea as a great way to prevent sore throats and fevers of a cold and to lessen the symptoms when you have a cold. In Korea they use it as a stimulant to keep you awake, while Western holistic and herbal medicine touts the tea as a treatment for atherosclerosis and varicose veins.

Externally the steeped flowers are squeezed to remove excess water and then used as a compress to treat a variety of eye ailments such as dry or itchy eyes, blurry or diminished vision as well as the reducing the inflammation of acne.

While studies have shown some effectiveness to these treatments, more data is needed for most traditional medicine doctors. In addition, adverse reactions to consuming and even handling chrysanthemums have been recorded. Symptoms range from upset stomachs to skin rashes, while the vast majority of people have no reaction what so ever.

Read more: Health Benefits of Chrysanthemum Tea | eHow.com

 

Summary

Summing up the centuries of history, lineage, usage and beauty of Chrysanthemums really is impossible, therefore I won’t attempt to. Instead I’m going to fill my car up with beautiful mums and take them home. Then no matter where I sit in my garden their lovely blooms will brighten my day…and I can imagine a Buddhist monk watering his plants generations ago, on a sunny porch in Tibet!