Tag Archives: rocky hillsides

Verbascum Challenges

verbascum thapsus, great mullein, common mullein, cowboy toilet paper, wooly mullein, velvet dock, moses blanket, feltwort, Aaron's rod, Sheppard's club, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It was on a road trip in the arid Okanagan Valley that I first came across great mullein.  The statuesque yellow torch stood tall across the dry pastures.  I was smitten.  It reminded me of the blooming spires of foxglove crossed with Wile E. Coyote’s saguaro cactus.  Groovy!

Of course, I wanted one.

verbascum thapsus, great mullein, common mullein, cowboy toilet paper, wooly mullein, velvet dock, moses blanket, feltwort, Aaron's rod, Sheppard's club, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It even grew happily on the gravel verge of the highway. What a tough plant!  I like the idea of growing plants that don’t require me to drag out the hose.

C thought I was crazy, but he honoured my request to stop the van.  I bagged a torch.  When we got home, I sprinkled the seeds across our rocky outcropping.

verbascum thapsus, great mullein, common mullein, cowboy toilet paper, wooly mullein, velvet dock, moses blanket, feltwort, Aaron's rod, Sheppard's club, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

If mullein grew in the semi-desert, would it grow in our temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest?
The next year – – No luck for me.  😦

On another trip, I marvelled at the velvety leaves when we ran across Verbascum Thapsus at the rest stop on the crest of the Cascade Mountains.  That highway shuts down through the winter season!  Mullein has to be an extra-tough plant if it handles baking summers AND freezing winters.

verbascum thapsus, great mullein, common mullein, cowboy toilet paper, wooly mullein, velvet dock, moses blanket, feltwort, Aaron's rod, Sheppard's club, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It seems great mullein grows in a great many places. We saw more in flower in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho & further east near Lewis & Clark Caverns in Montana.

The simple flowers open individually.  Each bloom for one day before fading while another matures, extending the season.

Some folks wrinkle their noses at common mullein, considering it too mundane & even invasive.  Others argue that its usefulness outways its issues.

verbascum, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

In Grande Prairie, Alberta, JM had to remove a beautiful border of great mullein because it’s considered a noxious weed in her province.  I’m relieved that mullein is not on the regulated list in our part of BC.  Maybe there’s a reason why the seeds I scattered didn’t flourish?

Some garden nurseries sell other Verbascum species as garden ornamentals.  Those varieties are much more glamourous:

verbascum, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • Some bloom in different colours, like pastels, reds, purples & oranges…
  • Others flaunt more flower spikes…
  • Or a bigger rush of flowers instead of the gradual display of a few flowers at a time that common mullein presents…
  • A few varieties even promise to be perennial rather than biennial.

They’re all lovely, but I still covet the Verbascum in the wild.

verbascum thapsus, great mullein, common mullein, cowboy toilet paper, wooly mullein, velvet dock, moses blanket, feltwort, Aaron's rod, Sheppard's club, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Last fall, I was delighted to find a furry rosette of leaves growing on our rocky outcropping.  It looked like a foxglove, but different.  I had my suspicions & crossed my fingers.

To my relief, it pulled through our soggy winter & put on a spring growth spurt.  Thankfully, the deer left it ungrazed

verbascum thapsus, great mullein, common mullein, cowboy toilet paper, wooly mullein, velvet dock, moses blanket, feltwort, Aaron's rod, Sheppard's club, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

By June, it was blooming!
🙂

OK, I know it’s kinda puny in comparison to those on our travels…
(Vancouver Island’s spring is not nearly as sunny or hot as the interior.)
I celebrated anyway.
It’s been easily a decade since I scattered those seeds.

By the time the heat came in July (25C), the bloom was pretty much complete.

verbascum thapsus, great mullein, common mullein, cowboy toilet paper, wooly mullein, velvet dock, moses blanket, feltwort, Aaron's rod, Sheppard's club, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I ever so carefully tipped the torch toward a paper bag, collecting a whoosh of seed. The process was graceful enough that the stem didn’t kink.

It still stands today.  There’s even an occasional flower that opens near the top.
I’m leaving it to stand.
My sentinel on our hillside.
Who knows, it might even hold up as winter interest.
And hopefully, in the spring, there will be just a few more on our rocky slope…  I dunno, am I crazy to invite them in?

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Summit Park Crocus Meadow

Time & patience is a beautiful thing.

photo by SVSeekins

Well over a century ago, someone planted crocus in a garden at  Hillside Farm.  In the late 1880’s much of the farm became a subdivision. Then, 90 years after that, the original home site became Summit Park.  Even though the gardens are no longer there, the crocuses are.  They’ve survived & naturalized in the Garry Oak meadow.

snow crocus, woodland crocus, early crocus, summit park, crocus, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwestsummit park, crocus, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It delights me to see the tiny blooms peeking out of the grass as the sun shines down on them.  Crocus isn’t as showy as the native fawn lily & camas that bloom here in April & May, but their energy is exuberant.  In February, I need this excitement.

summit park, crocus, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Snow Crocus (Crocus tommasinianus) is reputed as the best of the 90 Crocus species for naturalizing.  A decade ago, I planted bags & bags of mixed snow crocus in a patch of lawn outside our home. It’s doing okay, but not up to Summit Park’s showing.  I wonder if the Hillside homesteader had access to bags of bulbs way back then… Perhaps, s/he ordered catalogue seed?

summit park, crocus, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

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Here are some other meadows:

 

What’s Eating The Licorice Fern

When we first moved to the slopes of Mt. Tolmie, lush licorice fern decorated the mossy rock outcropping in our side yard.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Urban deer wandered the neighbourhood. They spent long afternoons hanging out at the top of our rock, chewing their cud  & enjoying the safety of the vantage point.

The licorice fern flourished.  The deer seemed uninterested.  Typically deer aren’t interested in licorice fern.  Typically.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

A dozen years pass & their family grows.  The large buck has several generations of grandkids browsing the neighbourhood.

Just down the street, beside a busy pathway to the college, licorice ferns still flourish on a similar rock outcrop.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Perhaps the deer don’t linger there?

Looking more carefully, I find a couple fronds that have been munched.  Mostly the ferns are full-sized & healthy.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

On our chunk of rock – where several more deer now hang out – – the licorice ferns are small, nibbled and struggling.

Coincidence?

Perhaps they’re less ‘deer resistant’ than I think.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

A couple years ago, I shifted a few small mats of licorice fern from our rock to other spots around the garden.  In places where the deer rarely linger, the ferns grow to their regular size.  Hmmmmmm.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Deer aren’t typically interested in licorice fern…

  • unless there’s a dense population of deer…
  • and the hyper-active fawns just want to taste everything
  • and the herd’s favourite hangout is carpeted in licorice fern…

    Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

THEN deer can have a negative impact on licorice ferns.
Just because a plant is considered deer resistant, doesn’t mean it won’t suffer when the population of deer intensifies.

black tail deer near hiking trail in Sooke, Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

That’s my guess.
But really, who knows for sure?

Maybe it’s the raccoons?
Or squirrels?
Rabbits?
Ravens? Cats?
Maybe I’m just blaming deer because I notice them so often.

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Some other ‘resistance’ musings: