Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Not so Cool Tricyrtis virus?

I've always been a fan of the Tricyrtis or Toad Lily, particularly for their late, orchid-like blossoms. It was only recently that I was to learn about the origins of the name, thanks to Dr. Armitage, who said it likely refers to the three toad-like bumps that are visible when you view a flower from the reverse angle. This makes sense to me.

Above is the variety 'Taipei Silk', and if you look closely at the bottom or rear of the buds that are just about to open, you can see the "toad-like" bumps.

In any case, they are beautiful flowers that provide subtle colour and exotic form to the late summer or fall, partially-shaded garden. However I was shocked to also learn recently that some of the "spotting" characteristics on some well-known cultivars, may be due to a virus. Chris Wilson of Hallson Gardens seems to be on the cutting edge of this discovery and writes about it here.

The above is the cultivar 'Empress" and may be part of the group that is virus-infected. It's unfortunate because this was one of my favourties for vigour and colour. This may lend to the question, "Who cares if it has a virus?"

Here's to dirt under your nails.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cool Grass -- Molinia (Moor Grass)

Ornamental grasses are a prominent feature of the late summer and autumn garden -- the more common Calamagrostis (Feather Reed Grass), Miscanthus (Maiden Grass, or Chinese Silver Grass), or Panicum (Switch Grass) are common, easy, and useful plants.

One slightly less known is Molinia (Moor Grass). A noted feature of most varieties within this genus are their "transparent" or "semi-transparent" habit. This is in reference to their relative low mound of foliage, and much taller but loosely-bunched "flowering" stems, through which the observer can see plants in the background.

The above shows the "semi-transparent" nature of Molinia 'Variegata' with Physostegia (Obedient Plant) visible behind it. Generally, the non-variegated varieties are even more useful for this purpose.

The above is Molinia 'Variegata' in all its glory on its own.

Here's to dirt under your nails.


Native Plants

Here's a beautiful combination I saw the other day of late summer native perennials in a garden at the Niagara Parks' Botanical Gardens.

It's a relatively "hot" combination (i.e. hot colours) with the red Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower), the orange Helenium (Helen's Flower), and the yellow Solidago (Goldenrod -- looks like 'Fireworks' just beginning to open).

"Native" plants are all the rage in gardening circles, particularly those with an environmental consideration. I'm not a big "tree-hugger" but I do believe that the use of native plants makes sense for most gardeners. In a nutshell, I will support the fact that plants that originated in North America will generally be easier to grow in our gardens. Of course, we still have to take sun/shade (i.e. prairie/woodland), and other variables on occasion, into consideration.

In any case, this is a great combination with lots of colour for late summer and early fall.

Here's to dirt under your nails.