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

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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