Category Archives: bulbs

Great Camas In Bloom

Great Camas, Camassia leichtlinii garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
Great Camas photo by SVSeekins

It’s easy to tell the Great Camas flower from the Common Camas flower, especially in our garden.

  • Each May, Great Camas blooms naturally in the full sun of an open meadow. That said, it’s also happy with a bit of dabbled shade along the forest edge. (Common Camas is a stickler for full sun.) So, if you see Camas flowering in our garden borders, it’s Camassia leichtlinii.
  • Great Camas blossoms open gradually from bottom to top. Sometimes the flowers at the bottom of the spike are finishing while the very top is yet to begin. (Common Camas blooms in more of a rush to open all at the same time. I’m trying to restore a Camassia quamash meadow in some deeper soil around our rocky outcropping.)
  • The spent petals of Great Camas twist themselves into a hug. (Common Camas petals die back willy-nilly without even thinking about tidying up).

While the strappy Camas leaves naturally wither to the ground, feeding the bulb for next year’s bloom, I enjoy the decorative seed heads amongst the supporting foliage of other perennials. The glossy black seeds feed birds (and deer) or eventually drop to sprout in the spring.

In the meantime, the Calla Lily follows with its elegant summer flower. Later, simple pink Japanese Anemone flowers float in the breeze atop tall stems. Then the Viburnum ‘pink dawn’ entertains me through winter. Together, they all make good garden companions.

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Check out these local Camas Meadows:

Orange Candleflower

I’ve admired the fall show of Orange Candleflower for ages. I first saw the funky, candle-like seed spikes beside the front gate at Abkhazi garden. Later, KL & I admired swaths of them in a woodland at Government House garden.

Arum Italicum, orange candleflower, lords and ladies, cuckoo's pint, Italian lily, Italian arum, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Arum italicum leaves die back in the summer leaving a naked stem & seed head. Groovy, eh? Perhaps that’s why it’s sometimes called Lords & Ladies. The Lady is the shy, white, spring flower. The Lord is the seed head. His Lordship might be inconspicuous early on, but as he matures from green to bright red… he’s certainly aristocratic.

Arum Italicum, orange candleflower, lords and ladies, cuckoo's pint, Italian lily, Italian arum, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Over the years I’ve sourced Italian arum through the garden club. I carefully planted several small pots around our garden.
No joy.
The winter ephemeral leaves delight me from late autumn, right through winter & even spring…
but never flowers. 😦

Blooms are supposed to appear in May – but there’s SO MUCH going on then…. maybe I just missed them? Can I blame the deer? Word has it that Arum Lily, & all its parts, is poisonous to people & animals so my deer excuse doesn’t really fly.

Arum Italicum, orange candleflower, lords and ladies, cuckoo's pint, Italian lily, Italian arum, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

This August I was delighted to spy a stem with berries maturing in a shady spot beside our garden gate. Hooray! Don’t believe me? Take a look…. way down…. one lonely stem… It’s really there!

Arum Italicum, orange candleflower, lords and ladies, cuckoo's pint, Italian lily, Italian arum, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I crossed my fingers hoping it would soon turn the vibrant red it’s famous for. It took some time but by October it glowed!

Arum italicum is a Mediterranean perennial that’s naturalized across Britain, Europe and even parts of Australia. It’s apparently causing enough nuisance in Oregon & Washington to be listed as invasive!

Arum Italicum, orange candleflower, lords and ladies, cuckoo's pint, Italian lily, Italian arum, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

And here I am, excited about a single phallic seed stalk. It’s certainly not conquering anything in our garden.

Consulting several sources reveals these nobles cause revolts in moist environments. That’s probably why I have so little success with it – – I only drag around a water hose when it’s really needed.

I dream of seeing the Lady’s flower. Now my plan is to shift some into more favourable conditions – perhaps the hosta patch? When the hostas die back in the fall, the arum leaf will come alive.
Fingers crossed.

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Hungry Deer

It wasn’t unusually cold but this must’ve been a looooong winter for our local deer. They’re feeding on things they don’t even like.

species tulips - browsed by deer,
photo by SVSeekins

Gardeners know that deer like tulips.  But the smaller species tulips have always been safe.  Not this year.  Check this out: in a plot of a dozen botanical tulips- only 4 blooms survive.  It looks like a deer snacked on leaves, then came back a few days later to taste-test the flowers. The flavour must be pretty bad because someone didn’t clean his plate.

laurel browsed by deer
photo by SVSeekins

Each winter the deer get hungry enough to nibble on some of the broad-leaved evergreens. This laurel has never been chewed down like this before.  There’s a toxin in laurels, so deer avoid it most of the time.  I’ll bet this browsing session caused indigestion!

variegated yucca browsed by deer
photo by SVSeekins

Even variegated yucca is looking tattered & much worse for wear.  In our garden, the deer always take the bloom before it opens, but the leaves – – they’re so sharp  & tough & stringy!!  Good grief.  Aside from the toxicity factor, how is it even palatable?

I’ll bet the herd is glad the spring growth is on its way.

But then again…
Even in the growing season, the deer on Mt. Tolmie have taken to eating Lily of the Valley.  They never used to do that.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

We used to have lush licorice fern in the yard.  Now it’s barely holding on.

There must be some other reason than the scarcity of winter.  I reckon it’s because our urban herd is growing, as is human density.  This dynamic presents some challenges:

  • Housing is taking up a higher percentage of space in a city lot.
  • In turn, that increased housing is reducing the size & number of gardens.
  • There are more & more urban deer – – grazing on fewer & smaller gardens.
  • The deer are getting hungry.

I’ve improved some of the caging around our garden beds.  I’m not much of a fan of that look, but it’s better than naked shrubs & dead perennials.  It’s getting more difficult to decide which plantings to leave exposed.
I still enjoy seeing wildlife in our neighbourhood.
We’re both caught between a rock & a hard place.

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