Category Archives: urban deer

sharing the garden

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.

-30-

Check out these local Camas Meadows:

Lithodora Drought Tolerance

Lithodora diffusa, lithospermum diffusum, glandora diffusa, purple groundwell, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I planted Lithodora diffusa underneath the apple tree years ago. It flourished.

A few years later, a Garden Club Speaker told us Lithodora is far more drought tolerant than most people think. He said that, after getting its root system established, it pretty much took care of itself. I love hearing this kind of news from experienced local gardeners. He would know about the months of drought we get on Southern Vancouver Island. He would know what ‘drought tolerant’ really means to us.

Lithodora diffusa, lithospermum diffusum, glandora diffusa, purple groundwell, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Lithodora originates in Turkey & Greece – another area of the globe with long, dry summers. And temperatures there get a lot hotter than ours. (More clues that Lithodora can survive without me hauling the water hose out every other day. )
Sweet.

Lithodora diffusa, lithospermum diffusum, glandora diffusa, purple groundwell, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

So, I shifted our 3 Lithodora plants to the shallow bed near the top of our rocky outcrop in the fall. They were all large enough to have decent-sized root systems, but I watered them occasionally through the following summer just to be sure they established thoroughly in the new bed.
They survived. 🙂
The next year, with hardly any summer moisture, they did just as well. 🙂 🙂

Then I discovered some small Lithodora volunteers under the apple tree. I decided to risk them. So I planted them on a bit of stacked rock along the path leading up the slope.
They survived. 🙂
They established themselves during our rainy winter…
grew more…
and even bloomed.

Lithodora diffusa, lithospermum diffusum, glandora diffusa, purple groundwell, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I’m so stoked.

Lithodora makes it onto my list of High-Value Plants.

  • The low-growing evergreen covers the ground like I want.
  • It looks even better draping down rock walls.
  • Each May, blue flowers brighten the spring garden.
  • It’s winter tolerant to -15 C — and that’s plenty cold for here.
  • AND the deer leave it alone.

Happiness blooms in our low-maintenance garden.

-30-

Winter Iris

In the first week of February, I cycled past this lovely front yard. Basking in the winter sunshine are some very early flowers. I know about snowdrops blooming in January & snow crocus flowering by Valentine’s Day… but iris? These aren’t the dwarf iris reticulata we have in our garden. These are different.

iris unguicularis, winter blooming allgerian iris, winter iris, Iris stylosa, Joniris stylosa, Neubeckia stylosa, Siphonostylis unguicularis, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

These are Iris unguicularis… aka Algerian iris or winter iris. This evergreen is native to dry Mediterranean regions. We have a very similar climate in the Pacific Northwest, so it can grow here, too. It might be set back by the occasional snowstorm, but it pulls through.

Blossoms start opening as early as November & continue until spring. An unusual feature is that the flowers nestle, protected, near the base of the leaves. Look closely: in this yard, the gardener trims the leaves to the same height the flowers bloom at. Better to see the blooms.

iris unguicularis, winter blooming allgerian iris, winter iris, Iris stylosa, Joniris stylosa, Neubeckia stylosa, Siphonostylis unguicularis, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Back in January (2016), at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific, I saw Iris unguicularis with full leaf. The flowers bloom inside the clump, almost hidden. To my mind, the clump looks a little messy.

It’s a tough call – trim back the leaves or not? Letting them grow natural is not as showy but probably better for overwintering insects. I reckon I can put up with messy if it means the beneficials are snug & warm, and I’m still seeing flowers in January.

iris unguicularis, winter blooming allgerian iris, winter iris, Iris stylosa, Joniris stylosa, Neubeckia stylosa, Siphonostylis unguicularis, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Here’s the same clump 5 weeks later. The winter aconites are almost done. The Hellebores are blooming like mad. The narcissi are opening. And the winter iris is still blooming. 🙂

That’s enough to prove to me Algerian iris is a keeper. But there are even more reasons why I’m a fan:

iris unguicularis, winter blooming allgerian iris, winter iris, Iris stylosa, Joniris stylosa, Neubeckia stylosa, Siphonostylis unguicularis, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • The flowers are fragrant.
  • It’s deer & rabbit resistant (probably because it’s poisonous).
  • It’s happy in part shade under deciduous trees – or the sunny base of evergreens.
  • It survives our summer drought.

Wouldn’t it make sense that every garden in Victoria would have some Algerian iris? I suppose most nurseries don’t carry it because most shoppers don’t show up in winter to purchase plants. By the time we show up in April & May, this iris looks inconspicuous amongst the jewels of spring.
My bad.
I want to find some anyway. It’s my new mission.

-30-

Other January gems in the Pacific Northwest: