Category Archives: evergreens

Monkey Puzzle Envy

Half a block along our street grows a tree I admire.

  • It’s evergreen.
  • It’s super tidy & symmetrical.
  • And it’s just so FUNKY looking.
monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, piñonero, pewen, Chilean pine, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The Monkey Puzzle Tree, Araucaria araucana, is the national tree of Chile but seems to grow happily all along the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, piñonero, pewen, Chilean pine, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

That said, I reckon there’s no danger of it overwhelming the gardens hereabouts. That beautiful symmetry is created by triangular leaves spiralling around the branches and even along the trunk. The rigid leaf edges are sharp & the tips are severe needles.

It’s downright dangerous.

Even still, I NEEDED one in our garden.

No gardener in their right mind would position a Monkey Puzzle Tree near a high traffic area — nor underplant with high maintenance perennials.

monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, piñonero, pewen, Chilean pine, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Ever so carefully, I installed a Monkey Puzzle in an out-of-the-way section of our yard. I mulched from the trunk to the dripline. The very first season, a large buck attacked it with his antlers. I watched in amazement. I’ll bet the deer walked away with a migraine. The poor sapling survived with only 1 broken branch.

The Araucaria lasted maybe 3 or 4 years before it had sliced C one too many times.
He disappeared it. 😦
It hadn’t had the opportunity to grow to more than 3 feet.
So sad, but I understood.

monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, piñonero, pewen, Chilean pine, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The neighbour’s Araucaria was here when we arrived in the ‘hood. Over 15 years, it’s grown from a sturdy 6 ft. to an impressive 30 ft tall. (It takes patience to grow a Monkey Puzzle). They’ve limbed up the branches so whoever mows the lawn is much safer.

One day soon, I’m hoping it’ll be mature enough to produce cones. Can you imagine how pre-historic they’ll look, too?

I’ll happily admire it from afar.

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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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White Stonecrop Hanging Basket

I know myself well enough to avoid plants requiring too much moisture. Hanging baskets typically require far more attention than I’m prepared to give, so I’ve created a (relatively) drought-tolerant one.

Sedum album hanging basket, white stonecrop, Oreosedum album , small house leek
photo by SVSeekins

It turns out White Stonecrop is tough enough to survive under my care. Yeah, baby!
(It gets an 8 oz. glass of water every afternoon when I get home from work.)

This discovery was a fluke, really. A couple Sedum album were already growing in the moss I peeled off some rock to create the basket liner. I popped a small reservoir in the bottom before adding the soil & other plants. A few spare sedums went on top for good measure. They grew & exceed my expectations.
🙂

Have you got any other ideas for tough-as-nails, drought-tolerant baskets?

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