Herbaria (June 22, 2012)

The highlights of this week are my breadbox poppies, which are treating me every day to a new colour and form, and the cold hardy opuntia that have made me so very, very happy to have chanced into the good fortune of exceptionally well-draining soil that is on the sandy side. This garden is an absolute pain in the butt to water, but the growing possibilities are mind-blowing for someone like me who has a longstanding fixation/fascination with dry land flora. It’s going to be unreal next year when all of the new opuntias I have added are abloom. I may pass out from the sheer joy of it.

The plants…

From Left to Right:

Top Row: 1. Clematis ‘Jan Fopma’ This pretty little bell-shaped clematis was a gift from my friend Barry who happens to be a clematis grower extraordinaire. I’m just getting started out so I don’t know much really, other than that I know what I like. And what I like most are the bell-shaped flowers. 2. Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber) Last time I showed you white valerian; now here is red. However, the two are not closely related (by Family only) and I have no idea how the common name came about. Parts of this plant are edible, but I couldn’t be bothered and simply grow it for the pretty flowers and the fact that the butterflies love it.3. Cold Hardy Opuntia (Opuntia humifusa) I bought this cold hardy opuntia last year at a parking lot garden shop end-of-season close-out sale. It was one of the few plants that still looked good. I planted it in the part of my garden that is now home to a burgeoning collection of cold hardy cacti and succulents. It is the first that I overwintered there and consequently the first to bloom. I can’t wait until the little edible fruits arrive, wherein I will make the smallest and most hard-won batch of nieve de tuna (cactus pear sorbet) you have ever seen.

Middle Row: 4. Dwarf Lily (Lilium asiatic ‘Lady Like’) I have to admit that I probably would not have purchased this particular lily; it was a free trial from Loblaw that I received a few summers ago, well before I moved to this garden. I kept it on the roof and later plunked the pot into the ground with no fan fare shortly after we moved here and before the ground froze solid. Last year I freed it from its confines and planted it in yet a third or possibly forth location. It has taken to freedom like you would not believe, tripling in size since last winter. 5. Blauwschokkers Blue Podded Pea I know very little about this heirloom purple pea, but I am always looking for something unusual and edible so I gave it a go this spring. So far I like it better than other purple/blue varieties that I have grown, but it still doesn’t compare to ‘Golden Sweet’ which continues to rein as my long-standing favourite of the colourful varieties. 6. Fragrant Butterfly Lavender (Lavandula stoechas pendunculata) Here is another Loblaw freebee that I received this spring. Yet another that I probably would not have bothered to try on my own as the tag was not very illustrative and I generally avoid the tender lavenders since they don’t survive here over the winter and don’t make for good eating either. I put it into the dry bed shortly after I received it and promptly forgot it was there, tucked in among the hardy lavenders that I am far more interested in keeping. So when the flowers showed up I was surprised by how much I like them. I love their dark bodies and the fact that the plant is quite short. It’s not likely that I will overwinter it given the number of plants I have to wrangle indoors each fall. But I am enjoying it while it lasts.

Bottom Row: 7. Speedwell (Veronica longifolia) I don’t recall where I got it. I put this spiky Veronica into the Guerilla Garden years back, but it was never happy there and needed more support than I could give it. Here it has flourished with the help of the duck manure that I’ve added to the soil, the peony ring that I placed around it for literal support in the early spring, and the regular attention I have been able to provide now that it is located right outside my back door (and I have an outdoor water source). 8. Delosperma cooperi California natives will gasp in horror when you recognize this plant, an invasive menace in your parts. It is hardy here, but hardly a problem. I’ve got this one in a pot but am considering unleashing it into the dry bed before the fall comes. 9. Red Peony Poppy (Papaver paeoniflorum) I threw a few different packets of poppies into a section of the garden back in the very early spring and they are blooming now. I particularly like this very peony-like bloom (where it gets its name). It was a surprise as I do not recall a packet listing this one.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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6 thoughts on “Herbaria (June 22, 2012)

  1. I can’t believe how many different flowers you have blooming in your garden Gayla! It would be great to see some pictures of your garden as a whole or perhaps a video tour.

  2. I agree with the above comment Gayla , I love this series you’re doing but I’d love to see some pictures of your garden in full . You are such an inspiration :)

  3. I love the cactus – my parents were from the badlands of southern Saskatchewan and as children they would harvest cactus fruit for treats and jam. We would search the hills trying to find some on annual summer trips to visit our grandparents, but it was always too early in the season – only green unripe fruit. Something i haven’t thought about for a very long time. Good luck with the dryland plants.

    I’m hoping for shaggy grape-purple breadseed poppies – a few big silver-blue plants. Still a bit before they bloom.

    cheers from Calgary.

  4. I grew purple blauschokkers last year. Very pretty, but like you, I didn’t find them very tasty. If you don’t have enough cactus pears for a decent sorbet, Jane Grigson has a wonderful recipe for cactus pear and passionfruit jelly in her Fruits book, which is glorious as a sorbet too. It looks like a sunset, and the acidity of the passionfruit offsets the cactus pears’ melony flavour wonderfully.

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