Category Archives: months 04-06: spring

April thru June

Yellow Flowering Onion, Alium moly luteum

One of my favourite spring ephemerals is the lesser-known Yellow Flowering Onion. It’s native to southern Europe (Mediterranean), but it’s a tough little bulb that rates at zone 3. It also grows well here, in the Pacific Northwest.

Allium luteum moly, Allium moly luteum, golden garlic, lily leek, yellow flowering onion, Allium obliquum, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The strappy leaves appear in spring. They look quite a bit like bluebell leaves but have a faint oniony odour if bruised. (Ditto for the bulb). Once the flower buds come out, it’s easy to see the difference.

Bluebells flower here in May and finish up before Golden Garlic blooms emerge in June.

Allium luteum moly, Allium moly luteum, golden garlic, lily leek, yellow flowering onion, Allium obliquum, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Alium moly luteum blooms as an umbel of flowers at the top of the stem, similar to other onions. It typically reaches mid-calf rather than knee or thigh height of the large purple alliums.

At first, I figured the short Allium moly luteum was best at the front of the border. Unfortunately, the foliage dies back shortly after the bloom does. As it’s declining, the leaf is still feeding the bulb for next year’s flower production. It’s better to let that foliage fade naturally. But that looks pretty sad.

Allium luteum moly, Allium moly luteum, golden garlic, lily leek, yellow flowering onion, Allium obliquum, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

These days, I’m shifting some bulbs further into the border & mixing with asters. The hope is the emerging aster foliage catches attention as the allium fades. If it works out, it’ll mean we get 2 seasons of bloom from relatively the same location.

Here are a few other reasons why Lily Leek is a keeper:

  • Our neighbourhood deer have never touched it. (I guess Bambi doesn’t want onion breath.)
  • The bulbs survive our incredibly arid summers & very wet winters.
  • It seems just as happy in dappled, dry shade as in full sun.
  • It’s basically NO maintenance, if situated somewhere that other plants distract from the onion’s fading foliage.
  • Allium moly luteum looks lovely blooming alongside red hot pokers, California lilac, foxglove & peony (other drought-tolerant & deer-reistant plants).
Allium luteum moly, Allium moly luteum, golden garlic, lily leek, yellow flowering onion, Allium obliquum, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

With that much going for it, Golden Galic is assured of its space in our garden.

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Othe Allium on my Keeper list::

Iris Foetidissima Through Four Seasons

It’s an uncommon garden plant for 2 good reasons.

Iris foetidissima, Stinking iris, Fetid Iris, Scarlet berry iris, roast beef plant, Scarlet-Seeded Iris, Coral Iris, Orange Seeded Iris, blue seggin, Gladden, Gladdon, Gladwin, Gladwyn, Stinking Gladwin, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  1. Most gardeners aren’t plant shopping in winter when this iris looks its best.
  2. Fetid in a name just puts folks off.

It’s sad, really. Stinking Iris is a harsh moniker – – uncalled for, in my humble opinion. Apparently, if you stomp on a clump, the crushed leaves reek of spoiled roast beef. I’ve gardened around it for several years now & have yet to detect any offending odour. Iris foetidissima is very welcome in our garden.

I mean, it’s not the first plant I’d buy for a new garden, but it’s a great supporting actor.

Iris foetidissima, Stinking iris, Fetid Iris, Scarlet berry iris, roast beef plant, Scarlet-Seeded Iris, Coral Iris, Orange Seeded Iris, blue seggin, Gladden, Gladdon, Gladwin, Gladwyn, Stinking Gladwin, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • It’s evergreen.
    & year-round structure is coveted in December when pretty much everything else has collapsed to the ground.
  • It happily handles the dry conditions under a shady tree where few plants survive.
  • Our hungry neighbourhood deer leave it strictly alone. 🙂
    & it’s getting harder to find something they won’t eat around here!
Iris foetidissima, Stinking iris, Fetid Iris, Scarlet berry iris, roast beef plant, Scarlet-Seeded Iris, Coral Iris, Orange Seeded Iris, blue seggin, Gladden, Gladdon, Gladwin, Gladwyn, Stinking Gladwin, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The flower is easy to miss. Pale lavender petals open in June & are overshadowed by other, more boisterous blooms. It’s pretty but not spectacular, like so many other iris. I reckon it’d be perfect potted up on a north-facing balcony where little else gives four seasons of interest. Right?

But don’t be too quick to tidy those flower stems!
They morph into heavy seedheads that curl open in autumn with the actual show. 🙂

Iris foetidissima, Stinking iris, Fetid Iris, Scarlet berry iris, roast beef plant, Scarlet-Seeded Iris, Coral Iris, Orange Seeded Iris, blue seggin, Gladden, Gladdon, Gladwin, Gladwyn, Stinking Gladwin, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • Those bright orange berries are just so funky looking!
    & it’s so gratifying to have interest through fall & winter.

The seed doesn’t seem to appeal to the birds – – and it turns out to be toxic to cats, dogs & humans… even cattle will sicken if they chew on the roots. So, Scarlet Berry Iris might be an issue if I plant it on the woodland edge of pastureland. I’m surprised cows would take a nibble when the deer clearly don’t.

Iris foetidissima‘s native range is southern Europe & northern Africa. I’ve never heard of it going astray in North America. Still, it’s considered invasive in parts of New Zealand & Australia. I found some berries dropped onto the lawn edge so I tucked them in the soil around the plants. I’d be happy a bigger show next year.

Iris foetidissima, Stinking iris, Fetid Iris, Scarlet berry iris, roast beef plant, Scarlet-Seeded Iris, Coral Iris, Orange Seeded Iris, blue seggin, Gladden, Gladdon, Gladwin, Gladwyn, Stinking Gladwin, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

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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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