Category Archives: months 07-09: summer

July thru September

Geum macrophyllum – Large-Leaved Avens

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

I first really noticed Large-Leaved Avens as a specific wildflower when I found it blooming beside the waterfall at Goldstream Park one May.  Before that, it was just one of the many yellow blooms we see in spring.

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

Recently I was pleased to see it blooming in a parking lot, not far from the ocean, near Tofino.  That was at Thanksgiving!

October is really very late for a spring wildflower to be blooming – but I’m not complaining.   🙂

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

The flower is a simple yellow daisy style; a smiling happy bloom that I find charming.
Unassuming.
Easy.

But Geum macrophyllum is not as plain as it first appears.

large-leaved avens, Geum macrophyllum, largeleaf avens, big leaf avens, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The seedhead is funky – certainly something that I’d let stand in my garden rather than tidy up.

The achenes (fruits) kinda remind me of googly eyes floating above the alien body.    Apparently, the pom-poms are happy to catch rides on passing pant legs or animals: free spirits looking for adventures far afield.  Groovy.

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

But really, the magic is in the foliage.  What other plant has 2 kinds of leaves?  Right at the base, near the ground, the leaves are round.  Further up the stem, near the flowers, they’ve morphed into 3 lobes with deep serrations.  Crazy.

The guidebooks say Avens are common to wetlands across most of North America.  I’m hoping they’ll become common in my garden, too.  Last month I won 3 in the plant raffle at the Native Plant Study Group.  They’re now growing in one of our courtyard beds (where they’re more likely to get the extra summer moisture they need).  Cross your fingers for me.

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Bunchberry Sightings

On a moist spring day in June, I spotted my first bunchberry.  It was blooming in the dappled shade, beside an old stump in Strathcona Park.

bunchberry, Cornus canadensis, dwarf dogwood,, creeping dogwood, dwarf cornel, crackerberry,, native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

You know how it is, once you notice something, you suddenly start seeing it everywhere?

That’s what it’s like with Cornus canadensis.

bunchberry, Cornus canadensis, dwarf dogwood,, creeping dogwood, dwarf cornel, crackerberry,, native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It was in an old clear-cut near Jordan River (also Vancouver Island) , I found it again.

bunchberry, Cornus canadensis, dwarf dogwood,, creeping dogwood, dwarf cornel, crackerberry,, native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Even in full sun, it seems decaying wood is bunchberry’s happy place.

The underground rhizomes spread out, creating a matt of blooms – – almost a meadow   🙂    No wonder it’s also called creeping dogwood. What a beautiful transition for a logging debris field.

After getting comfortable identifying the dwarf dogwood flowers, it became my mission to find the plant in berry.  Shouldn’t be hard, right?  After all, it’s named bunchberry.

bunchberry, Cornus canadensis, dwarf dogwood,, creeping dogwood, dwarf cornel, crackerberry,, native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It was 1000 km away, seeking shade from a scorching summer day at Fairmont Hot Springs in the Rocky Mountains when I found the berries.

bunchberry, Cornus canadensis, dwarf dogwood,, creeping dogwood, dwarf cornel, crackerberry,, native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Now I realize why the latin name Cornus canadensis makes sense.  They grow all across Canada.

The bright orangey-red berries stand out, even in the dappled shade of the understory.

Apparently, they’re edible, but I didn’t test them.  Alongside this well-travelled trail, and easily below a dog’s hip level…  ??  Nope. I was a teeny bit squeamish.

bunchberry, Cornus canadensis, dwarf dogwood,, creeping dogwood, dwarf cornel, crackerberry,, native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Back on the coast, near Tofino, the bunchberries persisted.

Yup.

Berries
– – in October!

Isn’t that a good way to mark Thanksgiving?

bunchberry, Cornus canadensis, dwarf dogwood,, creeping dogwood, dwarf cornel, crackerberry,, native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Word has it that bunchberry leaves turn a beautiful red color in the fall.  I noted some autumn color, but perhaps there’s more to come?

It’s also reported semi-evergreen in the Pacific Northwest… so now I have a new mission.  Do you know where I might find more nearby to monitor through winter?

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Potato Challenge

Back on the farm, when I was a kid,  the veggie patch was huge – –  probably bigger than the footprint of the entire city property I live on now.

potato challenge
photo by J.Sturney

Other than planting, weeding, harvesting & cold storage, my memories don’t include any magic formula for producing a bumper crop.  Maybe just building the soil with old manure from the barns?  I was grunt labor at that time & wasn’t paying much attention.

This year, for kicks, the garden club hosted a Potato Challenge.  Each member took a spud to grow through summer so that, in the fall, we could compare harvests.

my pot of potato
photo by SVSeekins

Our current garden isn’t fenced, so potatoes are deer food. For safety, I decided to experiment with growing the spud in a 3-gallon deck pot. Trending stories show growing bushels of potatoes this way, so why not test it out… right?

I had jitters, perhaps because of the “challenge” part of the experiment,  so hedging my bets, I planted 2 pots.

potato harvest
photo by SVSeekins

After adding just a few inches of soil to the bottom of each pot, I planted the  Kennebec seed potatoes.

As the young sprouts grew, I hilled them,  adding more soil, covering the stem up to the first set of leaves.

They grew.   I hilled.

Eventually, the pots were full.   I dreamt of the deep root system developing oodles of edible tubers.

the 'seed potato' top right
photo by SVSeekins

I diligently watered.  Even the house-sitters kept up  the watering during a very hot August.

When it came time for the Competition, it completely slipped my mind… or was it performance anxiety?  No. It was simple forgetfulness.

Finally, it was time to harvest.  Ta-Da !!!

potato challenge - highest yield
photo by J.Sturney

Hmmmm…
Underwhelming.

Each plant yielded 2 lovely potatoes + 1 tinier one.  In one pot, the original seed potato was even visible, at least what was left of it.  It had doubled the investment, but it wasn’t gonna feed us through the winter.  Where were all those bushels?   What had I missed?

potato challenge - ugliest potato
photo by J.Sturney

The Fall Show boasted categories for biggest & smallest potato,… ugliest potato.   Even highest yield.

I didn’t win any prizes, but we did enjoy 2 autumn meals.  Boiled & buttered.  They were delicious.  That’s what really counts… right?

potato challenge
photo by J.Sturney

But wait – – this just in:
Growing potatoes above ground only works well IF the soil is protected from heat.    Our courtyard is super-hot.  So now the pressure’s off – – next year I can try potatoes in the rich compost at the top of our mountain, and as long as I can keep them watered… and safe from the deer…

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