Category Archives: bulbs

Playfair’s Camas In Bloom

Playfair Park Camas meadow, great camas, Camassia leichtlinii garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

There seems to be a buzz about Playfair Park this spring – and it’s not just the pollinators.  Several people have told me about how spectacular its Camas meadow is.  Of course, I had to check it out.

Playfair Park Camas meadow garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I used to think that Camas meadows were beautiful gifts from Mother Nature, but it turns out she’s had a helping hand.  First Peoples farmed Camas for its food value.  Their work created more intense swaths of blue each spring.  Left untended these fruitful fields decline & are overtaken by more dominant species.

Playfair Park Camas meadow not restored garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The Camas fields that are now Playfair Park succumbed to invasive grasses and introduced species.  Fortunately, volunteer Colleen OBrien came on the scene around 2010 with grand ideas, determination and stamina.  Over many years she’s gained the respect & cooperation of Saanich Parks, and their Pulling Together Program.

Great Camas, Camassia leichtlinii garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The Common Camas bloom (Camas quamash) was pretty much over when I arrived, but the Great Camas (Camassia leichtlinii) was in full glory. I stopped in my tracks, slack-jawed.  It was so much more intense than I’d expected.

Seablush, shortspur, rosy plectritis, Plectritis congesta garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

What a joy to wander the paths of this paradise.  The over-the-top spectacle of the Camas is complemented by a striking variety of native companion plants:

  • Seablush, shortspur, rosy plectritis, Plectritis congesta garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    Seablush (Plectritis congesta) on rocky outcrops will grow happily at only ankle height. In a deep soil meadow, it reaches my knees in little explosions of pink joy.

  • Spring Gold, Lomatium utriculatum , common lomatium; fine-leaved lomatium garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    Spring Gold (Lomatium utriculatum) is the most recognized punch of color contrasting the Camas.  Even its ferny foliage contrasts the long straps of the Camas leaves.  The flat tops are great landing pads for pollinators to gather their wits until they decide where in this smorgasbord to head next.

  • Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis  garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    Western Buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis) is the royal relative of the common creeping weed that is the bain of Seekers-Of-The-Perfect-Lawn.  This tall cousin also has a long bloom, but is welcome in my garden anytime.

  • Pacific Sanicle , Gamble weed, Pacific blacksnakeroot,  Sanicula crassicaulis, bloom, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    Pacific Sanicle (Sanicula crassicaulis) is a sturdy plant with palm-shaped leaves at its base & small pom-pom flowers on tall stems.   Its deep tap-root reaches moisture even when the summer drought kills off other plants.

  • Erythronium oregonum, white fawn lily, easter lily, Oregon Lily garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    Fawn Lily (Erythronium oregonum) blooms early, often with the first of the common Camas.  The white of the lily is a dramatic pop of contrast against the blue of the Camas.  By the time the taller Great Camas blooms, the fawn lily bloom is completed and it’s setting seed.

  • broad-leaved shooting star, Henderson's shooting star, mosquito bills, sailor caps bloom, Dodecatheon hendersonii, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon hendersonii) are spectacular on their own with their delicate, cyclamen-like blooms.  They’re early bursts of color in rocky outcrops and path edges.  Once the taller Great Camas starts to bloom the Shooting Stars are easily overlooked.

  • Chocolate Lily, Chocolate Lily, checker lily, Fritillaria affinis  garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    Chocolate Lily  (Fritillaria affinis) is much larger in stature (knee-high) but its color is so muted that it’s also easily overlooked among the blooming Camas.  Sightings are few & far between.  SM spotted a patch of them beneath a tree & pointed them out, otherwise I’d have walked past unknowing.  Perhaps there are more around than I realized… perhaps not.

  • Yellow Montane Violet , Viola praemorsa garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    Yellow Montane Violet (Viola praemorsa)  is the darling of the meadow.  When Colleen first started the restoration, she was over the moon to find this endangered plant surviving.  It’s red-listed in BC. Now, because of her attention, others have taken up the cause & also work at restoring populations.

Yellow Montane Violet , Viola praemorsa garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

This piece of land has gone through many changes since colonization.  I’m glad that it was protected from more intense development.  In the 50’s the park was ear-marked for an arboretum, but that didn’t go beyond the incredible planting of rhododendron that’ve made the park famous for decades.

Great Camas, Camassia leichtlinii garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I don’t think anyone really expected that those spring-blooming Rhododendrons would ever play second fiddle to this renewed native landscape.  Colonization meets nature in this lovely garden.

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Top 5 Deer Resistant, Late Spring Bulbs

The deer in our neighborhood of Victoria ( Mt. Tolmie’s black-tailed deer) have shown no interest in these spring blooming bulbs.

An added bonus is that picks # 1, 3 & 4 (and the bonus pick) have proven themselves drought tolerant through our long dry summers (even 100 days without rain).

1- Dutch Iris (Iris hollandica) starts to emerge from dormancy in early autumn.  It’s nice to see their green sprouts through winter.  The blooms fulfill the promise in May.

 Dutch Iris, Iris hollandica, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • 22 inches high
  • naturalizing
  • Full Sun – Part Shade
  • zone 5

special notes
-Like Reticulated Iris, Dutch Iris is a bulb.  Other iris have rhizomes or regular-looking root systems.  So far, all that I’ve grown have been deer tolerant.

2- Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) joins the spring celebrations in April & May.

Leucojum, summer snowflake, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • 14 inches
  • naturalizing
  • Full Sun – Part Shade
  • zone: 5

special notes
-Leucojum is fairly new to me, but it’s delightful to find another spring flower the deer leave alone.  It reminds me of a snowdrop on steroids & blooms much later in the season.

3- Great Camas (Camassia leichtlinii ) is a bulb I anticipate all spring.  It finally blooms in late May early June.

Great Camas, Camassia leichtlinii along Uplands Park path, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • 36 inches high
  • naturalizing
  • Full Sun – Part Shade
  • zone  4

special notes
– Great Camas grow happily in full sun as well as along edges, so it suits my garden. Camassia quamash, the Common Camas, must have full sun.  It doesn’t survive in my beds & borders.
– see also

4- Yellow Onion (Allium Moly Luteum) bloom in June after most of the spring show is waning.

Allium Moly Luteum, golden garlic, yellow onion, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • 10 inches high
  • naturalizing
  • Full sun – Part Shade
  • zone 3

special note
– Allium smell like an onion (so the deer leave them alone) but this is a decorative flower rather than one intended for the grill.
–  The most spectacular Allium are the giant purple balls, but they slowly disappeared from my beds. Moly Luteum  is steadfast, handles shade and drought, and grows easily in our garden — therefore it’s my fave.

5- Calla or Arum Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) appears around town as early as May, but the variety in our garden blooms in June.

Zantedeschia aethioica, calla or arum lily , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • 36 inches
  • naturalizing
  • Full Sun – Part Shade
  • zone: 8

special notes
–  This particular white Zantedeschia (not a true lily) is hardy to our area, but any of the colored varieties have never survived more than one winter outside in our garden.  Dad & Jane, in zone 3,  winter theirs inside the heated garage.
– Visually, I look at the underground part of the Zantedeschia, and it seems more rhizome-like than bulb-ish, BUT I’ve seen it classified as a bulb on some websites…  and it’s often sold at the same time as the spring-blooming bulbs… AND I like it… so it’s staying on this list.  🙂

Special Pick

 Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica & Hyacinthoides non-scripta) carpet gardens & parkland in May.

Hyacinthoides hispanica – spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
Hyacinthoides hispanica – spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
Hyacinthoides hispanica – spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • 14 inches
  • naturalizing
  • Full Sun – Part Shade
  • zone: 4

special notes
-There is SO MUCH controversy about bluebells locally & in Europe.  They’re incredibly determined growers. Once in a garden it’s nearly impossible to be without them. (I once discarded a bunch in the compost & covered them with on 3 feet of garden waste – – they bloomed the next spring!)  I’ve heard claims that bluebells choke out our native Camas. I’ve also heard  warnings that the bluebell bulb contains toxins that kill off the competition — but I haven’t been able to verify that.  (Help me if you can.)
Either way, because Camas is a food source & bluebell isn’t I prefer Camas.
I have so many bluebells in my yard that my procedure is to enjoy the blooms until they show sign of wilt, then quickly pull flowers & foliage – – harsh, but that hasn’t reduced their abundance in any of the beds.
– aka: Scilla campanulataScilla hispanica and Endymion hispanicus.

To be honest, I’m almost exhausted after the spring bloom wraps up.  There’s so much excitement over the past few months.  Now instead of tending garden, my mind turns toward camping.  Fortunately, aside from tidying up after the ephemeral bulbs have died back, there’s little else to do with them – – except remember where they’re sleeping.  I don’t want to disturb them when I get the urge to planting something more.

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Satin Flower (Olsynium douglasii)

Woohoo!! The Satin Flower bloom opened the other day – – AND I’ve checked it 3 mornings in a row now – It’s Still There!!

Olsynium douglasii, Douglas' olsynium, Douglas' grasswidow, grasswidow, blue-eyed grass, purple-eyed-grass, satin flower, Sisyrinchium douglasii, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Ok, so that sounds just a little crazed,
but Satin Flower is one of the very earliest Pacific Northwest native wildflowers –
and it’s so pretty!

garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It’s really well suited to our rocky outcrop that’s very moist in winter & very dry in summer.  So, this Olsynium douglasii (aka Douglas’ olsynium, Douglas’ grasswidow, grasswidow, blue-eyed grass, purple-eyed-grass, or satin flower) should be happy in our gary oak meadow.

But the deer are happy here, too.

Satin Flower, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

When I first bought a couple of these perennial herbs from Sannich Native Plants (Thank you Kristen & James!), I planted them too near the deer’s regular route.  Fortunately, I saw the bloom the first morning.
It was gone the next.
I simply shifted the plants to a steeper section of our rocky outcropping, hoping the deer might leave them alone.  Fingers crossed.

The next year – Success.!

Now I’m hoping these sweet little flowers will happily do their thing & naturalize into more of a clump – maybe even spread around a bit!  🙂

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