Category Archives: drought tolerant

Common Snowberry

The simple addition of the word ‘Common’ before a plant name seems to make it less desirable, doesn’t it?

common snowberry, wax berry, white coral berry, corpse berry, snake's berry, Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos rivularis, Symphoricarpos racemosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Who would want a common plant in a garden? Don’t we all want flash – bling — the unusual? In truth, the backbone of a great many gardens is made up of ‘Common ‘ plants. It’s the common plants that enhance the flash & bling of unusual ones.

common snowberry, wax berry, white coral berry, corpse berry, snake's berry, Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos rivularis, Symphoricarpos racemosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Common Snowberry seems an insignificant deciduous shrub, but it has qualities that raise its value in a garden.

  • ‘Common’ basically means: it can grow pretty much anywhere.
    • Here on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, where our challenge is summer drought & winter wet, Symphoricarpos albus still thrives.
    • Have you got a steep yard where your hedge struggles because it’s dry at the top of the slope & soggy lower down? Snowberry handles that broad spectrum. It also handles sheering if you’re after a tidy, dense form. AND It supplies a nice cohesive look dotted throughout a mixed hedgerow.
    • How about that difficult dry, shady patch where it’s tough for plants to survive? Yup, snowberry handles that, too.
    • It grows well in the feast or famine water supply of bioswales & rain gardens that are so prized for slowing stormwater runoff.
    • Because its vigorous roots spread via suckers, snowberry is a workhorse in erosion control, which is why it’s also recommended for restoration sites.
common snowberry, wax berry, white coral berry, corpse berry, snake's berry, Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos rivularis, Symphoricarpos racemosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • Snowberry has unusual fruits.
    • White berries are not the norm — and the snowberry is even more unusual in that it’s NOT even a berry! It’s a ‘drupe.’ Each fruit contains 2 ‘nutlets’ — just like the fruit of a cherry contains a pit. Cool, eh? How many folks at the garden club can you entertain with that trivia?
    • Symphoricarpos albus’ bitter drupes persist late into the winter, providing welcome food for birds when other supplies run low.
    • This small shrub was considered interesting & decorative enough that a couple centuries ago, it was imported by Britain & grown in many fashionable gardens. Side note: It’s become so comfortable there that it spread into their wilderness areas, too! See — it’ll grow pretty much anywhere.
common snowberry, wax berry, white coralberry, corpse berry, snake's berry, Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos rivularis, Symphoricarpos racemosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • Snowberry is a native plant that welcomes wildlife to the garden.
    • The diminutive pink flowers in early summer are especially appreciated by native pollinators & other beneficial insects. Both the Anna’s & Rufus hummingbirds compete for access to the blooms.
    • Deer & other ungulates browse on snowberry, but it isn’t tasty enough to be gorged on as their dessert.
    • Even in its naked winter state, a Symphoricarpos albus thicket provides protection, food & shelter for small birds & mammals.
common snowberry, wax berry, white coral berry, corpse berry, snake's berry, Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos rivularis, Symphoricarpos racemosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I used to think snowberry was a pretty dull little shrub, but I’ve since changed my mind. A couple of years ago, I planted one in our little woodland border. Without any further attention, the snowberry survived last summer’s drought & this year, it bore fruit– several puffy white drupes. 🙂

Now the plan is to introduce it into a couple other challenging spots. The wildlife will be happy if it flourishes. If its vigorous roots spread too far, I’m sure the deer will help keep it in check.

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White Stonecrop Challenge

Sedum album hanging basket, white stonecrop, Oreosedum album , small house leek, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Ok – I thought it was a gorgeous, drought-tolerant addition to a hanging basket. I was so pleased with the look of the white stonecrop when it started to flower in July. The blooms looked great for a month or so.
I was stoked.

Sedum album hanging basket, white stonecrop, Oreosedum album , small house leek, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

AND then, as nature progresses, the flowers turned to seed heads.
hmmm. Brown.
Kinda messy looking. .. My inner tidy freak cringes. 😦
An over-tidy garden isn’t all that great for wildlife.

And THEN we went camping for a couple weeks in early September & I didn’t have to control my urge to deadhead the perfectly good birdseed.

Now, autumn is arriving & with it cooler temperatures + some moisture. The licorice ferns are coming alive.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza, many-footed fern, sweet rootSedum album hanging basket, white stonecrop, Oreosedum album , small house leek, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The messy seed heads of the sedum album are overshadowed.
Crisis averted.

Last year the ferns on our rocky outcrop were not surviving the appetite of our local deer. Shifting sheets of moss that the licorice ferns were growing in & creating a basket hanging above the reach of Bambi has proved successful. 🙂
The baskets promise to hold my interest through the humidity of fall & winter,

So now the question:
Is there anything I could plant to distract from the brown look through August & early September until the licorice fern becomes The Show? It needs to be drought tolerant & happy in a bit of shade ….
Any suggestions?

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Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger looks lovely carpeting the understory of a Pacific Northwest forest. I’ve often admired it in its native landscape & longed to grow it in our garden.

wild ginger, asarum caudatum, British Columbia Wild Ginger, Western Wild Ginger, Long-Tailed Wild Ginger, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Years ago, I bought a small pot at the Swan Lake Native Plant Sale & dug it into a nice spot in our woodland.
It didn’t survive.
Apparently, Asarum caudatum is only summer drought-tolerant “once established.” Mine died before its roots grew deep enough to survive between waterings.
My bad 😦

wild ginger, asarum caudatum, British Columbia Wild Ginger, Western Wild Ginger, Long-Tailed Wild Ginger, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Later, I sourced another one from the Native Plant Study Group. I carefully planted it in a pot in our courtyard, where I knew it would get enough water. It thrived & eventually filled the pot.
Redeemed!!!!! 🙂

By this spring, the Wild Ginger was established enough to divide.

wild ginger, asarum caudatum, British Columbia Wild Ginger, Western Wild Ginger, Long-Tailed Wild Ginger, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Carefully, I slid the plant into a tub of water to tease the roots out of the soil. There’s so much to learn when I get a really good look at the roots of a plant. Asarum caudatum spreads through rhizomes, slowly travelling outward, just under the soil & starting new plants. This way, the established mother ginger can support the young ginger until its new root system develops & reaches deep enough into the ground to find moisture itself.

wild ginger, asarum caudatum, British Columbia Wild Ginger, Western Wild Ginger, Long-Tailed Wild Ginger, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The original plant had crept around the pot several times. It created at least a dozen decent-sized root balls.
Score! 🙂 🙂

We’ll get several pots to tend through the summer diligently. With regular water & attention, these larger root balls will develop some of those delicate feeder roots & be ready to go into the garden in a few months.

wild ginger, asarum caudatum, British Columbia Wild Ginger, Western Wild Ginger, Long-Tailed Wild Ginger, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Asarum caudatum is also known for shy spring flowers that hide under its evergreen leaves. Last month I found seed heads leftover from the blossoms. (Flies & beetles pollinate them – so those beasties had paid better attention than I had when the plant was flowering). I searched for some sign it self-seeded into the pot. (Ants typically carry the seed away.)

There were at least 6 Wild Ginger babies. Most were pretty tiny & I worry they might not survive the transplanting. Here are 3 with roots that are large enough to show up in a photo.

It took 4 new pots the same size the ginger had just come out of to give homes to all the divisions. That’s 5 in total.

wild ginger, asarum caudatum, British Columbia Wild Ginger, Western Wild Ginger, Long-Tailed Wild Ginger, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

By late September or October, the weather should still be warm & the rains will make the ground workable again. It’ll be an excellent time to transplant our treasures. They’ll settle in over winter & be ready to begin fresh in the spring. I reckon that with this many pots, we’ll be able to test them in a few different spots — to see which locations they like best.

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