Category Archives: months 10-12: fall

October thru December

Wooly Sunflower has Staying Power

May blooms in our garden
photo by SVSeekins

This year I’ve really enjoyed the usual spring flush of color in the garden.  One plant, in particular, has attracted my admiration more than any of the others.

Eriophyllum lanatum, Woolly Eriophyllum, Wooly Sunflower, Oregon Sunshine, woody eriophyllum, wooly daisy, sunshine flower, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Wooly Sunflower (aka Oregon Sunshine & Eriophyllum lanatum) started blooming mid-May and didn’t stop until the end of June!  The sunny, yellow, daisy blooms lasted as the peonies & rhododendron spectacles came and went.  Hooray for Staying Power.

There are more reasons to admire Wooly Sunflower:

  • Eriophyllum lanatum, Woolly Eriophyllum, Wooly Sunflower, Oregon Sunshine, woody eriophyllum, wooly daisy, sunshine flower, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    Deer leave it alone – – no missing flowers or over-pruned foliage.

  • It attracts & feeds the local pollinators especially well because it’s native to our part of the world (southern BC & through the states to Mexico).
  • Eriophyllum lanatum, Woolly Eriophyllum, Wooly Sunflower, Oregon Sunshine, woody eriophyllum, wooly daisy, sunshine flower, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    It’s very drought tolerant.  I’ve seen them in Strathcona Park, growing in the gravel of a roadside pull-out!  They actually seem to do better with LESS water in our garden.  The plants that I watered more regularly sent out long blooming stems that flopped over under the weight of the blooms.

  • Once established, it’s easy-care.  all I do is sheer off the spent flowers in July or August, creating a well-groomed look.
  • Eriophyllum lanatum, Woolly Eriophyllum, Wooly Sunflower, Oregon Sunshine, woody eriophyllum, wooly daisy, sunshine flower, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    In our climate, it’s evergreen – – or shall I say, ever-grey. It’s so nice to have the tidy mounds of foliage through the more barren garden of winter.

Originally, I thought it would be an easy addition to our garden.  I had a tough time getting the small 4-inch pots of Eriophyllum lanatum established.   Although I watered them weekly, they struggled on our rocky outcrop – – a match to their natural habitat!  After a couple of years, I was frustrated.  What worked, in the end, was shifting the small starts to an area with deeper soil, that was still watered weekly but not baked in as much sun.

Eriophyllum lanatum, Woolly Eriophyllum, Wooly Sunflower, Oregon Sunshine, woody eriophyllum, wooly daisy, sunshine flower, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The plants quickly grew, spreading to a foot wide in one season.  They were a bit lanky & not terribly attractive, but had established a stronger root mass.  In the fall I divided them, keeping deep rootballs, & planted them into drier areas.  They settled into their new homes over our moist winter & flourished with very little water through the following dry summer.

Eriophyllum lanatum, Woolly Eriophyllum, Wooly Sunflower, Oregon Sunshine, woody eriophyllum, wooly daisy, sunshine flower, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Now we have Wooly Sunflower in several areas: the boulevard, the rocky outcrop, & our more traditional flower garden.  I’m on the lookout for even more easy-care native plants that suit…..

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Other native plants that I’d welcome into our garden:

 

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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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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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