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.  🙂


My Fave Gardening Shows

When the pickings are sparse on TV, I’ve gone to the internet for entertainment. gives access to all sorts of videos. There’s more on offer than the common gardening How To’s created specifically for the internet (which I treasure). Broadcasters’ from around the world create some high-quality shows.  Programs, originally aired on TV, are also making it to YouTube.  Here’s a selection of my faves:

Gardeners’ World, with Monty Don

Gardener’s World is a production of BBC2. It’s been running in Great Britain for 50 years.  Their temperate zones are so similar to Vancouver Island that their information really suits our needs. Each spring it begins about the time the crocus bloom & runs through autumn when the garden wraps up for winter. Monty Don hosts the show from his garden, giving tips & introducing special segments by other garden experts. Last winter I watched the 2016 season before the 2017 season even began. Since the 2017 season ended, I’ve been catching up with past episodes from as far back as 2001. I’ve been inspired & learned so much.

ABC – Gardening Australia, with Costa Georgiadis

Australia’s gardening season starts in March each year as the dry season shifts into autumn and folks down under consider seeding. This show is a magazine-style program similar to BBC’s Gardener’s World, with guest hosts adding segments throughout the show. If the Aussie accent gives you a chuckle, you can also check out the brogue in Beechgrove Garden hosted by Jim McColl, Carole Baxter & George Anderson. Scotland’s garden gurus take us through their growing season with humor and a bent toward plant trials.

Love Your Garden, with Alan Titchmarsh

I’m pretty sure the Canadian HGTV used to carry this show when they were actually making an effort to air gardening programs, but that time is long past.  Love Your Garden is a makeover show that’s also produced in Britain by the BBC. Fun fact: Alan was the host of Gardener’s World before Monty stepped up a couple of years ago. Now Alan Titchmarsh leads his crew of specialists through a new garden reconstruction each episode.

Great British Garden Revival, series 1 & 2

With guest hosts Rachel de Thame, Francis Tophill, Arit Anderson, Joe Swift, Adam Frost, Nick Bailey, and more.  Each episode campaigns for the revival of a declining style of gardening. Take on the plight of the British bluebell… or kitchen gardens… or woodlands… ponds… topiary…. Get ready to be inspired!

Smarty Plants: Uncovering the Secret World of Plant Behavior

My favorite Canadian production from the past year is a documentary presented on The Nature of Things.  Because I’m in Canada, it’s available for me to watch again on CBC’s website.  Ecologist JC Cahill treks around Canada & the States talking with other scientists who are proving that plants not only communicate with each other, they make extra efforts to share resources with each other to help out the community as a whole.  It’s Avatar in real life.

Bees Butterflies and Blooms, with Sarah Raven

Planting nectar & pollen-rich plants in our landscapes help to make our pollinators healthy, and in turn, keep all of us healthy. I expected this 3 part series to be more preaching to the converted, but I was pleasantly surprised by new information & worthwhile suggestions.

The Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Show

Two friends from garden club are attending a day at England’s prestigious Chelsea Show this year, and I’m so excited for them. If you think our own Club Shows & local Fall Fairs put a spotlight on growing and gardening, you’ve gotta check out this over-the-top Garden Extravaganza!

Highgrove Garden, Alan Titchmarsh meets Prince Charles

Whatever else I think about Britain’s Prince Charles, I ‘d heard he’s a keen gardener & respected that. In this special presentation, the charming Alan Titchmarsh introduces us to the Prince & the garden he’s created over the past 30 years. Then, if you have time, follow Alan through the seasons of The Queen’s Garden at Buckingham Palace.  Or check out a 5 part series of how Troy Scott Smith works to revive The National Trust’s Bodnant, A Garden in Snowdonia.

BBC – The Secret History of the British Garden (2015), with Monty Don

In this 4 part presentation by Documentary Two, Monty Don explores how garden designs reflect the issues & celebrations of the era they were created in. Starting with the tight control of the 1600’s, through the landscape movement in the 1700’s, and the plant hunters’ lusts of the 1800’s, the evolution continues to modern-day gardens for the masses. This is a delightful way to absorb history!

Around The World In 80 Gardens, with Monty Don

I caught the last episode one night on Knowledge Network, but then it was over & I was left wanting more, so I went to YouTube to find it.  In this 10 part series, BBC’s Monty Don travels the world exploring what gardens look like across cultures & continents. I was enthralled by some gardens and put off by others, but was happy to learn so much about cultural & environmental diversity.

Gardener’s Year, with Alan Titchmarsh

These 6 seasonal episodes take us through time. The first episode, Winter, starts in November with winter pruning. You’ll be hooked soon after. Another selection is Alan’s 7 part, How To series: How To Be A Gardener, introducing beginners to the art of gardens & tending them. On the YouTube site that I used to watch this series, there were some issues with sound drop out, but I still found it interesting. There were certainly gems of information that I stashed away for a sunny day.   🙂

Finding The Shows

It’d be nice to give out an exact address for each of these programs, but that’s not as easy as it seems. Here’s why: Copyright. Sometimes a broadcaster will post their TV shows on YouTube, and later block them for anyone outside their viewing area. Often other folks copy & post those same TV shows to their own YouTube Channels. It’s unlikely they have copyright clearance, so sometimes the broadcaster will track them down & request the video be removed. What might be on one address today, might not be on it tomorrow.  (I’d be happier paying a subscription for watching programming that’s copyright cleared, but so far I haven’t found the option.)

Some shows are so popular that they’re posted by several different sources. The easiest way to find them is to do a search from inside YouTube itself.

  • At the top of the YouTube page is a search tool. Simply enter the name of the show, host, or topic… and see what comes up.
  • For each video, there is title & note of who posted it.
  • Clicking on the Title will start the video.
  • Clicking on the Note of who posted it, takes you to their YouTube site & shows you what else they’ve posted. I’ve discovered some great TV shows that way.

A Couple Things To Ponder About Bandwidth

  • Watching programs over the internet takes a decent amount of data. I always use my home internet rather than my pricey cell phone data. Even still, my home internet has limits to download quantities, but even with all the watching I do, I’m not near those limits.
  • Download speed has sometimes been an issue for me, so I tend to avoid videos that are Hi-Definition. I can appreciate super sharp pictures, but I’m not so keen on waiting for the video to load.

YouTube Tip

If you “Sign in” through a Gmail account or on your own. You’ll get extra features, like:

  • flagging interesting shows to ‘watch later’
  • a ‘history’ of what you’ve already watched.
  • ‘Subscribe’ to a site, and they’ll send an email when they’ve posted new shows.

Still Worth Mentioning

Ads are all over the internet, always trying to get us to click on their offerings. It’s just a fact of life when it comes to accessing free websites.
Use discretion.