Category Archives: months 10-12: fall

October thru December

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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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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Sign of Autumn

Tofino potholes Tofino Botanical Gardens garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

 

What can you do when the average precipitation is almost 11 feet each year?  (That’s well over 3 meters!)

  • Accept that potholes happen.
  • Commit to continuous maintenance program.
  • Promote a sense of humour.
Tofino potholes garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

These wicked road conditions remind me of our farm in northern Alberta.
Each rainy season, the driveway was impassable. We parked & packed groceries the 1/4 mile to the house.
Each year we added more rocks & gravel.

This is one reason I really enjoy the surf haven of Tofino.

Tofino Botanical Gardens garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • It’s another crazy place of extremes.
  • Folks love it anyway.
  • They have a sense of humour.

PS – The signs are from the Tofino Botanical Garden & the potholes are from MacKenzie Beach Road.

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