Category Archives: garden seasons

joy in every season

Cardamine hirsuta, Hairy Bittercress Weed

 There’s a pretty little rosette of lacey leaves proliferating in garden beds all around the world.
Hairy bittercrest, weed, Cardimine hirsuta flexuosa garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

 

Their delicate white flowers are some of the earliest of our spring display.   In a blink, they transform into a tall spindle of seed pods.  Even when I gently brush against them they explode like fireworks casting their spell across the warming spring soil.  Fortunately, I wear glasses.  The little missiles splatter my face but they don’t blind me.  I flinch in surprise every time.

Hairy bittercrest, weed, Cardimine hirsuta flexuosa garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

In just a couple of weeks, the ground will magically transform into a carpet of them happily taking over the world.

In an unfamiliar garden, it makes sense to let all plants grow until you identify them or they show their true intent.  Then decide their fates.

These little monsters are Hairy Bittercrest (aka Cardimine hirsuta). They’re annuals – seed factories.  The best defense is easy –
NEVER LET THEM GO TO SEED!

Hairy bittercrest, weed, Cardimine hirsuta flexuosa garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The straightforward action might be to get out there & weed like crazy.

  • Yes, that helps + it’s good anti-Seasonal-Affects- Disorder therapy.
  • Yes, it removes the offending seed creator, but many of last year’s seeds are still on the ground getting ready to sprout … just more weeding for tomorrow!
  • AND pulling out the weed stirs up the soil as far down as its roots went.  That brings up the weed seeds from years gone by… even more weeding for tomorrow and the day after that!

There’s a better way.

Hairy bittercrest, weed, Cardimine hirsuta flexuosa garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Mulching.

Each winter I lay down 2-4 inches of fish & bark mulch.
Yup.
2 to 4 inches.
It buries any seeds deep enough that they won’t get enough light to start growing.
Easy-peasy.
If you’ve already mulched, the problem’s solved before it’s even begun.     🙂

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Indian Plum – A Winter Joy

It’s not really a pretty shrub, but still, I’d like a thicket of Indian Plum in our border.

Oemleria cerasiformis, Indian Plum, June plum, Osoberry, Oregon Plum, Indian Peach, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It’s specifically because of the leaf buds & blossoms in February.  They calm my cabin fever & help me through the last several weeks of winter.  Against the grey skies, the leaves look so perky & hopeful … and determined.  Even the inconsequential greenish-white flowers are exciting when little else is happening.

Indian plum grows happily in Partial Shade, not needing the prime Full Sun real estate that I protect for really showy plantings.  It’s common across the coastal Pacific Northwest below  Vancouver Island.

Oemleria cerasiformis, Indian Plum, June plum, Osoberry, Oregon Plum, Indian Peach, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

When we lived on Cedar Hill, there was a large suckering thicket behind our house, at the base of the rocky slope.  The robins nested in the multiple stems of the 12-15 ft tall thicket.  The shrubs did their thing in the understory before the gary oaks hogged most of the sunshine through summer.

Perhaps best known as Indian Plum, Oemleria cerasiformis, is sometimes called June Plum, Osoberry, Oregon Plum and Bird Cherry.

Oemleria cerasiformis, Indian Plum, June plum, Osoberry, Oregon Plum, Indian Peach, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It might sound like a promising fruit source, but those inconsequential flowers turn into inconsequential fruits.  I’ve heard the berries shift through a pretty orange kaleidoscope before maturing into a dark purple-black, but I can’t say I’ve noticed.  The shrub blends into the background as other plants compete for attention in later spring.

Oemleria cerasiformis, aka Indian Plum, June plum, Osoberry, Oregon Plum, Indian Peach, or Bird Cherry, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I did check out the un-inticing tiny black plums once.
Bitter.
With pits.
Perhaps it’s best to consider it wildlife forage.

The early flowers feed hungry resident Anna’s hummingbirds e and signal that the Rufus will soon be returning from warmer climes.  The leaves & fruit provide forage for birds, deer & other mammals.  Isn’t it just good Karma to host a thicket?

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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.  🙂

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