Tag Archives: native plant

Swamp Lantern, Lysichiton americanus

The first glimpse was a flash of yellow along the trail’s edge. Mid-March can be so grey — but this was bright & happy. ūüôā

Lysichiton americanus, Western Skunk Cabbage, swamp lantern, yellow skunk cabbage, American skunk cabbage, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Anything blooming at this time of year makes me smile. Western Skunk Cabbage is no exception. With a name like that, perhaps you’ll think yourself fortunate to see it in a photo rather than in person… but I’ve never noticed a foul odour around this plant. Some say the smell comes when leaves are bruised. Others contend it’s the flowers trying to attract pollinating flies & beetles.

Lysichiton americanus, Western Skunk Cabbage, swamp lantern, yellow skunk cabbage, American skunk cabbage, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Lysichiton americanus is also called the Swamp Lantern. To my mind, this name is more suited. The flower spike is like the candle flame & it’s cupped by a protective spathe that glows & reflects the light– just like a lantern.
A more fitting name, right?
Even still, I often revert to the first name I learned & struggle to remember this one. Perhaps I just need to concentrate more.

In early spring, the flowers emerge in wet areas all along the Pacific Northwest. This spring is no exception. The low laying wetlands bordering Esquimalt Lagoon are prime habitat for this west coast native.

Lysichiton americanus, Western Skunk Cabbage, swamp lantern, yellow skunk cabbage, American skunk cabbage, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I’ve seen lots of Swamp Lantern before, but just around the corner the patch swells into the largest. The southern trails at Royal Roads University are a prime pick-me up for my March blues.

The leaves follow the bloom, unfurling in a rosette around the flower. At first they’re small, but they grow quickly in the rich, moist soil.

Lysichiton americanus, Western Skunk Cabbage, swamp lantern, yellow skunk cabbage, American skunk cabbage, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

By May, the plants are large & lush. Here’s a patch just off McKenzie Beach near Tofino.

Through the summer they grow even bigger. At peak, a single leaf can be 2 feet wide & twice as long!
Dramatic, eh?

It’s no wonder folks in the UK were impressed when it was introduced as an ornamental in the early 1900’s. It became very popular. It received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Lysichiton americanus, Western Skunk Cabbage, swamp lantern, yellow skunk cabbage, American skunk cabbage, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The conditions in England are so similar to Vancouver Island it thrived. Within 50 years Lysichiton americanus escaped the British garden & was gradually naturalizing along streams & wetlands.
That’s a little too much drama.
Now, the RHS advises against its cultivation.

I’m glad to see Swamp Lantern here, where it grows naturally. It warms my heart. I’m relieved it hasn’t been threatened by more competitive introduced species like many of our wildflowers have been. Its a reminder of how delicate an ecosystem can be.

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Lorraine says:
Hi SV,
I hope you are well and still landscaping.
I remember one of the naturalist talking about bears eating them. So had to look it up.
http://www.mossomcreek.org/swamp-lanterns-skunk-cabbage/
Stay safe,
LS
https://www.yyjproductions.ca/

May Garden Activities

 

saxifraga in bloom, Victoria BC garden
photo by SVSeekins

My morning coffee entertainment is watching the birds relay food to their voracious young back in the nest. If I’m lucky, one of these mornings I’ll get to watch the little ones fledge.

 

Planting

  • If you’re gung-ho about watering hanging baskets all summer, ¬†basket-stuffers galore are at all the plant sales this month. When choosing plants, keep in mind whether the basket lives¬†in a sunny or shady location. Another handy design strategy is providing some ‚Äúthrill, spill & fill‚ÄĚ in each container.
  • Plant summer flowering bulbs (dahlias, gladioli, canna lilies & such), Many folks grew them inside over the past month or two, and move them into the ground now. At¬†the same time as planting the dahlias, put in the stakes. ¬†They’re not¬†needed right now, but they will be later, and then there’s a greater risk of damaging the roots.

Perennials

  • Begonias, geraniums, & other tender plants that have also been over-wintered inside can be set in the garden now. Even tropical house plants can go out to a dappled spot on the deck. It’s amazing how much faster they grow outside in the summer.
  • Even though they’re small now, pinch back snapdragons by 1/2… they’ll respond by growing bushier & produce more blooms.
  • Cut back the euphorbias after their big show. ¬†Letting them go to seed in the garden is sheer folly. ¬†These garden thugs spread easily enough through underground runners.
  • lilac, red hot pokers, irs, lupin, with the ceanothus just about to come into bloom too, Victoria BC garden
    photo by SVSeekins

    Dead-heading spent blooms can spur some plants into another flush of flowers

Weeding

  • Wander through the beds digging the weeds… This is also an opportunity to downsize populations of snails, slugs & tent caterpillars as you discover them
  • Unless you’re totally cool with¬†widespread volunteers next year, cut back or pull out the centurea, forget me nots, cerinthe and other heavy seeders¬†after their blooms are done.

    chestnut bloom
    photo by SVSeekins

Irrigation

  • Whether it’s garden hoses, or a fully automated system, it’s time to prep irrigation before it’s really needed. ¬†Replacing rubber gaskets & rings reduces that nasty dribble at the hose connection.
  • When you water, water slowly and deeply in the early morning or evening when the air is cool and calm.

    early camas bloom Mt. Tolmie, garry oak meadow, garden Victoria BC
    photo by SVSeekins

Lawns

  • If there are bare patches that you’d like to seed over, go for it. Keep that area moist to give the seeds some support until established.
  • Keeping the mower blade above 2 inches will provide a lush lawn, and also¬†enough leaf cover to¬†give the grass’ roots a little shade (so they don’t dry out so quickly).
  • The meadow grasses on our rocky outcropping are ready to go to seed, so C heads out there with the¬†whipper-snipper. That way the seed doesn’t spread into the beds
  • If the lawn gets 1 inch of water every two weeks, it’ll still will turn the color of straw in the heat of summer but will bounce back super quickly after temperatures cool in fall.

    spring blooming Daylily
    photo by SVSeekins

Veg & Berry Patch

  • As it’s warming up, give the ‘starts’ some outside time during the day to harden off… they’ll be ready to plant outside by the Victoria Day long weekend
  • herbs: Plant heat-loving seedlings of annual herbs like basil, cilantro, & parsley. Perennial herbs, like chives (blooming now), oregano, rosemary, and thyme find permanent homes in my borders. Take care with mints¬†‚Äď they should go into containers to keep them from invading the world.
  • As the potatoes start to grow, ‘hilling up’ (adding extra soil around the stems) will help the plants produce more.
  • Enjoy the fresh rhubarb, but leave a few stems to help the plant feed the roots & produce¬†a bigger crop next year.
  • starts: ¬†Direct seed carrots, leeks, onions, spinach, swiss chard, beets, parsnips, broccoli, radishes, arugula, broad beans, corn salad, kale, chard, oriental greens, and peas outdoors.

gravenstein apple blooms in april garden Victoria BC
photo by SVSeekins

Tools

  • It’s best to clean pruners between bushes. Spray with a solution of 10% bleach + water mix. This helps to prevent the spread of diseases through the garden.

Pruning

  • Forsythia & Other flowering shrubs should be pruned right after flowering so they have the full growing season to prepare for next year’s bloom

    wooly sunflower in bloom, oregon sunshine, Victoria BC garden
    photo by SVSeekins

Fertilizing

  • add compost or sea soil to areas of heavy feeding
  • fertilize spring bulbs after bloom so they can soak up nutrient & rebuild the bulbs for next year. Note: Let the leaves (solar panels) continue to grow, helping out with the bulb’s rebuild.

    laburnum tree in bloom, Victoria BC garden
    photo by SVSeekins

Seasonal Color
trees: apples… dogwood… magnolia… chestnuts… laburnum… hawthorn…
shrubs: camelia… heathers… pieris (lily of the valley shrub)… rhododendron & azalea… lilacs… weigelia… california lilac (ceanothus)… wisteria…
perennials: wild violets… trillium… bleeding hearts… erysimum (wall flower)… euphorbia… myosotis (forget me nots)… pulmonaria… vinca (periwinkle)… calla lily… oregon sunshineevergreen clematis & clematis montana… solomon’s seal…
ferns: sword… giant chain… deer… the full gamut…
bulbs: camas… blue bells… alium…

young tree peony in bloom cu, Joe Harvey, Victoria BC
photo by SVSeekins

Planning & Events
Plant sale’s & garden tours abound. Whether I need anything or not, I’m sure to trip over a few.

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© SVSeekins, 2014

Rain Garden’s First Birthday

Fisherman's Wharf rain garden fall 2013 WS2
BEFORE
(photo by SVSeekins)

Fisherman's Wharf rain garden fall 2013 WS2
AFTER
(photo by SVSeekins)

Don’t you just love Before & After photos? ¬†I do! ¬†¬†I lose appreciation when measuring small day-to-day changes. ¬†Progress is so much more apparent when distanced by time.¬†

That’s why I’m excited to compare the changes of the Fisherman’s Wharf Park after its 1st birthday.

When I originally visited the newly renovated park, I was charmed by the landscape architecture.  A flat field had morphed into undulating hills & lovely ponds.  Pretty.

Fisherman's Wharf rain garden fall 2012 WS1
BEFORE
photo by SVSeekins

Fisherman's Wharf rain garden fall 2013 WS1
AFTER
photo by SVSeekins

Careful plant selections of natives & non-local species provide potential for a low maintenance park.

As any new transplants need regular watering until established, Victoria Parks department installed irrigation into the beds.

The plants, trees & shrubs prospered.  The water requirements will diminish as the beds mature.

The holding pond of the rain garden is coming into its own.

Fisherman's Wharf rain garden fall 2012 MS1
BEFORE
(photo by SVSeekins)

Fisherman's Wharf rain garden fall 2013 MS1
AFTER
(photo by SVSeekins)

For the past year, rain has been redirected from the neighboring parking lots & streets, and into the catchment pond.

Check out the height of the drain.  It shows how deep the pond will get before overflowing into the storm drain system.  Any standing water is filtered by the rain garden.  It returns to the natural water table, instead of being sent to out to sea.

These plants / filters sure don’t look any worse for wear, considering they clean up any of the runoff’s pollutants. ¬†Isn’t science & nature groovy?

Fisherman's Wharf rain garden fall 2012 beach
BEFORE
(photo by SVSeekins)

Fisherman's Wharf rain garden fall 2013 beach
AFTER
(photo by SVSeekins)

I’m not convinced the sandy beach is really what was here before Fisherman’s Wharf took over the area, but it’s a nifty idea. ¬†Can’t you imagine leaning your back against a big log & reading a good book?

It’s looking much more natural to me now. ¬†Sunshine & warm sand will be calling to me this summer. ¬†No doubt I’ll have to arrive early to get a spot.

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© SVSeekins, 2014