Category Archives: evergreens

Red-Hot Pokers in Winter

A blooming swath of red-hot pokers (aka torch lily, aka Kniphofia) caught my eye last November.  Seriously – November!

red hot poker kniphofia garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

That seems crazy.  Its broad, strappy foliage looks like the Kniphofia that blooms in our garden in May– six months earlier.  Who knew there were such varieties?  And how can I get some??

In the cool overcast of autumn, these kniphofia flowers stand up much longer than our spring bloomers.

red hot poker kniphofia snow garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

When it started to snow on Christmas Eve, I was concerned.  On Christmas Day the snow sparkled on the garden, stating to the world that winter is here.

In my experience, snow cover is the tipping point when red-hot pokers disintegrate into a slimy mess. (Fortunately, they come back in spring! Some Kniphofia are actually cold hardy to zone 5 – that’s to -25 C  🙂  I can’t you imagine them growing in the Tiffindel ski area of South Africa, but apparently that’s home. )

red hot poker kniphofia snow garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

By Boxing Day the snow was gone.  I was ecstatic.  Don’t get me wrong – there is something magical about a White Christmas – – but followed with a Green Boxing Day is perfection!

red hot poker kniphofia garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Mysteriously all the Kniphofia survived, leaves and all!  Now I’m curious to know precisely which temperature induces their disintegration.

red hot poker kniphofia garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

In Victoria, we have a School-Based Weather Network.  Most schools host tech monitoring the individual climatic pockets around town.  It’s very handy.  There’s a station just a block away. I like to confirm rainfall & temperatures uber-locally, and not count on the information coming out of Victoria Airport 25 km away.

red hot poker kniphofia garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

As it turns out, the temperatures through the storm barely dipped a degree below freezing.   We had plenty of mornings like that through December, just without the snow. Perhaps it’s temperatures like -5 or -10 C that knocks the Kniphofia back? we get those temperatures here, but rarely.   Any idea?

Now, at the end of January, the blooms around the corner from us are just wrapping up.  It’s amazing really:  3 months of color.  I admit they’re looking a bit ratty, but in January, I’m desperate for flowers.  🙂

-30-

Advertisements

A Heavy Snow Load

It was a dark and snowy night…

This is not normal for Victoria.  The snow might be pretty but this is a rain-forest.  We’re not set up for snow.  Neither are our gardens.

the Yew bending under the weight of snow
photo by SVSeekins

Tonight’s concern is the snow load on the hedging.  It’s amazing how flexible some branches can be as snow gathers & literally weighs them down. But some wood fibers are breaking as the branches bend.  The sooner the weight is removed, the more likely a branch is to bounce back & resume its regular shape for good.

the Yew recovering from the weight of snow
photo by SVSeekins

Out comes my trusty rake.  Wielding it backward, I thrust the pole end into the lowest branches & give the shrub a light shake.

It’s best to start low & gradually work up.  Release the load from lower branches before risking adding more to them with the snow falling off upper branches.

Arbutus unedo bending under the weight of snow garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Once broken, there’s no mending a branch.  All those years of growing into a full-sized shrub…
the lovely shape…
our increased privacy…
can be ruined overnight.  Heart-wrenching.

Arbutus unedo recovering from the weight of snow garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by sVSeekins

Although hedgers like yew & cedar are especially susceptible, same goes for the broadleaf evergreens.  Rhododendron.
Strawberry Tree.
Camellia.

Flower buds are already well-formed on the rhodos & camellia.  So if I want many blooms this spring, it requires a delicate shake to remove the snow & only the snow.

After that, it’s good to head inside, dry off & treat myself to a hot chocolate (with Frangelico). After all, it’s a dark and snowy night…

-30-

 

Changing Attitudes About Yarrow

yarrow, Achillea millefolium
photo by SVSeekins

As a kid I thought wild yarrow was a boring flower.  Its helicopter-landing-pad  flowers might be interesting to butterflies & other pollinators, but I couldn’t get past the bland white petals.

Little did I know, but there are varieties beyond our native wildflower.   Just a block or so away from our current garden, a neighbour grows a striking stand of yellow yarrow (probably Achillea ‘moonshine’ in a very sunny, & dry border.

yarrow achilea moonshine garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Now that I care for my own garden, I can appreciate a plant that rarely needs water or attention.

It rocks that our local deer left it alone when I added it to our landscape.

It was an additional bonus that, after cutting back the flowering stems in autumn, a ferny mound of foliage remained evergreen.

yarrow achillea millefolium pomegranate garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

More recently I saw a red-flowering yarrow (likely Achillea pomegranate).  I’m not sure why I’d assumed our native yarrow was the only variety, but I’m delighted it isn’t.

yarrow achillea millefolium pomegranate garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

There’s a place for this one in our garden, too. Even though the West Coast is a rain forest, very little of that rain falls in July or August.  Tough ornamentals are treasures.

It’s good to note that if regularly irrigated, yarrow is a vigorous spreader.  The easiest way to keep it in a manageable clump is to reduce irrigation.  Easy-peasy.  I can do that  🙂

-30-