Tag Archives: native plants

A Place for Fireweed

Fireweed, bombweed, rosebay willowherb, Chamerion angustifolium, great willow herb, wickup, Epilobium angustifolium, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Even as a  child, I thought fireweed was one of the prettiest flowers going.  Each tiny bloom in a spire of blooms is beautiful on its own – together, they’re just gorgeous. In any kid’s wildflower bouquet, fireweed is the showpiece.

I admired the large swaths of purple along Alberta’s ditches, meadows & forest edges.

Now, living on the West Coast, they delight me along hiking trails & even shorelines.   In fact, I’ve seen them growing pretty much everywhere in BC, except in the arid Okanagan.

Fireweed, bombweed, rosebay willowherb, Chamerion angustifolium, great willow herb, wickup, Epilobium angustifolium, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

When I found some growing in the gravel of a parking lot, I figured they had to be tough enough to grow in our yard. 
(I ‘rescued’ a few.)

It turns out that deer enjoy the young shoots. The fireweed flourished, planted at the base of a new tree that we’d caged to protect from deer too.

Fireweed, bombweed, rosebay willowherb, Chamerion angustifolium, great willow herb, wickup, Epilobium angustifolium, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Aside from the beauty factor, there are a few other reasons I grow this perennial in our garden:

  • The blooms start low in the tier & gradually open further and further up as the summer progresses, providing color over a long stretch.
  • Bees & butterflies love fireweed– as do hummingbirds…. honey producers, tea & jelly makers…. herbalists…

    Fireweed, bombweed, rosebay willowherb, Chamerion angustifolium, great willow herb, wickup, Epilobium angustifolium, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins
  • Even when it’s ‘gone to seed’ it’s decorative.  The fluffy seedheads carry the seasonal interest well into the fall with a funky Halloween vibe.

    Fireweed, bombweed, rosebay willowherb, Chamerion angustifolium, great willow herb, wickup, Epilobium angustifolium, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins
  • AND fireweed isn’t a super-thirsty plant.  Yes, it wants some water, and can even go crazy in a moist setting. But it does just fine through our long dry summers without anything more than what it gets when I’m dragging around the hose.  No fuss.
Fireweed, bombweed, rosebay willowherb, Chamerion angustifolium, great willow herb, wickup, Epilobium angustifolium, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Nature is a great gardener.
What was there to admire after fires wiped out Yellowstone?
Or after Mt. St. Helens erupted?
Or even after London was bombed in WWII?
Fireweed.

Nature is beautiful &  tenacious.  Celebrate fireweed.  There will always be a place for Chamerion angustifolium in our garden.

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Scary Berries – Red Osier Dogwood

Cornus sericea,  Cornus. stolonifera, Swida sericea, red osier dogwood, red-osier dogwood berries, flowers, white berry, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Until recently I hadn’t seen the freaky eyeball berries of the Red Osier Dogwood even though I’d planted the shrub in our garden several years ago.

Cornus sericea,  C. stolonifera, C.  alba, C. occidentalis, Swida sericea, red osier dogwood, red-osier dogwood, red willow, red stem dogwood, red twig dogwood, red-rood, creek dogwood, western dogwood, American dogwood, white berries, white flowers, white berry, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

There are several reasons why I’d planted Cornus sericea in our garden:

  • It’s native to Canada & flourishes around BC, so I figured it would survive well & be low maintenance.
  • Cornus sericea,  C. stolonifera, C.  alba, C. occidentalis, Swida sericea, red osier dogwood, red-osier dogwood, red willow, red stem dogwood, red twig dogwood, red-rood, creek dogwood, western dogwood, American dogwood, white berries, white flowers, white berry, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    The flowers attract local pollinators.

  • The berries are a food source for many songbirds.
  • The dense vegetation provides wildlife shelter.
  • Red Osier Dogwood provides garden interest through all 4 seasons:
    Cornus sericea,  C. stolonifera, C.  alba, C. occidentalis, Swida sericea, red osier dogwood, red-osier dogwood, red willow, red stem dogwood, red twig dogwood, red-rood, creek dogwood, western dogwood, American dogwood, white berries, white flowers, white berry, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    Cornus sericea,  C. stolonifera, C.  alba, C. occidentalis, Swida sericea, red osier dogwood, red-osier dogwood, red willow, red stem dogwood, red twig dogwood, red-rood, creek dogwood, western dogwood, American dogwood, white berries, white flowers, white berry, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins
  1. Cornus sericea,  C. stolonifera, C.  alba, C. occidentalis, Swida sericea, red osier dogwood, red-osier dogwood, red willow, red stem dogwood, red twig dogwood, red-rood, creek dogwood, western dogwood, American dogwood, white berries, white flowers, white berry, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    Flat-topped, white clumps of small flowers emerge in spring.

  2. Those flowers morph into panicles of white berries in summer & persist well into winter.
  3. The green leaves have the distinct parallel veins that make the shrub noticeable from other background shrubs in summer, but it’s the reds of fall foliage that’s even more eye-catching.
  4. Red Osier Dogwood’s ornamental fame is based on the vibrant red bark of young stems – so decorative in winter when deciduous shrubs are bare & the world seems grey.

This is all true.
But there were 2 attributes I soon discovered for myself.

  1. Cornus sericea,  C. stolonifera, C.  alba, C. occidentalis, Swida sericea, red osier dogwood, red-osier dogwood, red willow, red stem dogwood, red twig dogwood, red-rood, creek dogwood, western dogwood, American dogwood, white berries, white flowers, white berry, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

    Red Osier Dogwoods survive drier sites but prefer lakesides & wet ditches.  It’s happier with more moisture than our garden gets through long, dry summers.

  2. Deer.
    Deer enjoy the foliage & the flowers.  Unfortunately, they’re too greedy to ever let the specimen in our garden prosper – much less ever go into berry.

I finally gave up & dug out the struggling shrub.

Cornus sericea,  C. stolonifera, C.  alba, C. occidentalis, Swida sericea, red osier dogwood, red-osier dogwood, red willow, red stem dogwood, red twig dogwood, red-rood, creek dogwood, western dogwood, American dogwood, white berries, white flowers, white berry, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Now I enjoy sightings of Red Osier Dogwood in the wild – where the deer population is not as condensed.

At this time of year, when I’m out hiking, the freaky eyeball berries remind me the spooky season is upon us & trick-or-treaters will be coming to our door.

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

Another dogwood that I admire:
Creeping Dogwood
aka
Bunchberry
(Cornus Canadensis)
– – a groundcover,
rather than a shrub
🙂

Devil’s Club In Berry

Devil"s Club Oplopanax horridus native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Late August, while camping at Meziadin Lake in Northern BC, I happened across a lovely hedge of Devil’s Club in berry.

Leaves the size of dinner plates contrast nicely with the background greenery. But it’s the large pyramids of red berries that really catch my eye.

Devil"s Club Oplopanax horridus native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

No wonder this moisture loving shrub is gaining popularity as a decorative garden specimen.

But for me, no matter how enticing the look of the plant, I’m keeping my distance.  Consider the warning in the name: Devil’s Club.
Even in the Latin name: Oplopanax horridus.  

Devil"s Club Oplopanax horridus native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • To start, the thorns are especially horridus.  

Spikes & brittle thorns not only circle trunks & stems but protect the leaves– both top & bottom!  They easily break off, causing festering wounds in the victim.  What gardener wants that?
Devil’s Club is just plain standoffish.

Devil"s Club Oplopanax horridus native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • And those beautiful berries?
    Poison.
    Unless you’re a bear…

Bear are really hungry in late summer.  They’re desperate to gain weight before winter & must have guts of steel.
Devil’s Club just wants to be left alone.

Devil"s Club Oplopanax horridus native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • And then there’s the sad tendency for Devil’s Club to get tall & lanky.  That looks fine in the ditches of a campground, but in a well-groomed garden?
    Not so much.

Even though I’m extremely wary of Devil’s Club, it’s held in high regard by many indigenous nations throughout its range.  Perhaps because of its many threats to humans, folks gain stature for mastery over its dangers.  I’m not that kind of gardener.  I’m looking for pretty, low maintenance plants that attract birds & butterflies.  I’m kinda wimpy that way.

Devil"s Club Oplopanax horridus, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

But for others, if the attraction is the primordial look, I suggest  Japanese aralia (Fatsia Japonica).  It has large palmate leaves, too, but without prickly spines.  I also prefer its funky spring flower.  And the big bonus: Japanese aralia isn’t poisonous.  🙂

Devil"s Club Oplopanax horridus native wildflower, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

If it’s the bright red berries you’re hoping for, then I reckon those on the Mountain Ash are just as stunning.  They attract birds, not bear, and persist long after the leaves have fallen. (Great outdoor Christmas decorations.)

Don’t get me wrong – – Devil’s Club is a beautiful & powerful native plant.
I garden with many other native plants.
And I really admire Devil’s Club– in the wilderness   🙂

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