ARS Emblem

Rhododendron and
Azalea News

ARS Emblem
Spring 2009  Vol. 12  No. 1
ARS Home Page        R&A Index        Plant Tips        People and Events        Ideas for Chapters          


Trillium...a companion plant

It is a great mystery to me how some common names for plants ever get started.  Of course, there are the easy ones...'Monkey Puzzle Tree' and 'Strawflowers'...but what about 'Bloody Butcher', 'Stinking Benjamin', 'Wakerobin' and 'Toadshade'?  These are all colloquial names for the Trinity Flower...the only name I can certainly understand as all the major parts of the plant...leaves, petals, and sepals...all come in groups of three.

trillium...a woodland gem...

The Trillium is a woodland perennial found in many areas of North America and Canada.  I stress 'woodland' because a conventional cultivated garden border would not make them happy.  They demand a deep humusy acidic soil with liberal additions of leaf mulch each Fall, in a sheltered shady area.

characteristics of trillium...

The traditional white tricorn blooms are common, and pop up from the center of the trifoliate green leaves, on such species as T. grandiflorum, T. cernuum, T. nivale, and our native T. ovatum.  But for a great contrast, try one of the purple or yellow-flowered forms, with the boldly marbled leaves.  The most striking are T. sessile and T. luteum, but other colored forms are available with plain leaves...T. erectum or T. recurvaatum.  Petals may be broad and overlapping...or narrow and upright...and the singly borne flowers may be nodding or up-facing.  They could be musk-scented...or downright is the U.S. Midwest species T. viride.  Most of these are native to the Eastern United States, but do well here (Canada) also...being in Zone 5.

One thing must be stressed though...because they are native species, not garden hybrids or cultivated selections...when buying, please be sure they have been commercially produced...and not raided from the wild.

trillium for spring!

The trilliums form tidy clumps of foliage standing 1 to 1 feet tall...except for dwarfs, spreading slowly from rhizomes and bloom in spring to early summer.

Seed should be sown as soon as ripe...but may take two years to sprout...and at least five more to bloom.  Patience!

The clump may be carefully divided in Spring...but don't expect it to take right off either.  Best to plant and leave it alone to spread slowly by itself.  The dwarfs, T. nivale and T. rivale, are quite at home tucked into a shady rockery because of their diminutive size...and like all trilliums...they die down in winter.  But what a cheerful and welcome emergence in Spring!

Visit specialist and cottage nurseries to find these...especially ones with show gardens...and be sure to take Spring walks in the forest to see the coast Trillium in its native all its pristine glory.

Happy Planting!

- Colleen Forster, Fraser South Chapter


Ten Choices of Ciscoe Morris

Ciscoe Morris, a gardening expert, delivers his high energy style on both tv and radio and voices his opinions of his ten choice selections.  Take a look at what makes him happy in his garden.
  • Acer palatum 'Shishigashira' ...lion's mane maple.  First to  leaf out in Spring, last to drop its crinkled leaves, and the golden Fall color...makes grown men cry when they walk by my house...and matures to red.  Both the colors of fruit and flowers often appear on the tree at the same time.
  • Stewartia monadelpha...Tall Stewartia.  Incredible red bark, fantastic Fall color and pretty white camellia flowers bloom well in deep shade.  Choose carefully where you put it...they don't like to move.
  • Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Kamaeni Hiba'.  Rare, slow growing, spectacular golden conifer to 2' tall and 15" wide in 10 years.
  • Melianthus major 'Antonov's Blue'...Honey Bush.  Stunning bluish green South African shrub to 10ft fall and wide.  Plant this shrub 4 inches deeper than it comes out of the pot for increased hardiness, and cut back to the ground each Spring.
  • Grevillea victoriae.  Who would think that a shrub from southern Australia would not only thrive, but even bloom throughout the Winter in the Pacific Northwest?  Gray-green leaves serve as the perfect foil for the gazillions of bright, orange-red, inch-and-a-half long trumpet flowers that keep the Anna hummingbirds fat, happy  and in your garden all Winter long.
  • Cimicifuga simplex 'Brunette'...Bugband.  Recently renamed Actaea, its airy fem-like, dark red foliage to 5 feet tall is topped by fragrant purplish white flowers in Fall.  Likes moist, sunny location.
  • Beschcorneria yuccoides.  Agave relative with 3' long spiky...but soft and spineless, blue-green leaves.  In early summer a 6' tall, dark red flower spike arises to present you and your hummingbird friends with an irresistible display of green flowers with red and yellow bracts.  It can live outdoors with dynamite drainage.
  • Eryngium amethystinum 'Sapphire Blue'...Sea Holly.  You'll swear this perennial with its spiny, sapphire-blue flower bracts is a type of thistle...but this star of the sunny border is a member of the carrot family.  Don't back into it when you are weeding...or you'll have a very uplifting experience!
  • Chamaerops humilis var. argentea...Mediterranean Fan Palm.  Very slow growth to 10 feet, with small, stiffly radiating fronds.  Best specimens have blue leaves.  Purportedly hardly to around 10 degrees in very well-drained soil.  I grow min in a pot and bring it into the garage during freezing weather.
  • Encephalartos horridus.  No other cycad can match this South African native for blue foliage.  Nor can any other cycad...or most any other plant...match its ferociously sharp spines!  It features a fat little trunk that can eventually reach 2 feet or more tall.  This plant is available through mail order...but is incredibly rare and expensive.  Grow this heavily armed beauty in a pot in cactus soil.  Keep it in a window in an unheated garage during Winter...and in full sun in Summer.  Hope you don't have to transplant too often!


The Chelsea Flower Show

May is that time of the year for the Chelesa Flower in London, England. It is a remarkable event that any number of us have been privileged to have attended.  Most interesting, the New Zealand Rhododendron Society entered a display a couple of years ago...and won a prize!  Norma Senn of the Fraser South Chapter had the privilege of seeing the Show in 2007 and wrote about it in her chapter's newsletter in February 2008.

It seems so appropriate to share her comments...just in case you plan to go!  Now, you can read her thoughts.

There's a movie out called, "The Bucket List".  As I understand the plot, it's about two men who decide to do all the things in life they'd wanted to do before they "kick the bucket".  High on my bucket list was to attend the Chelsea Flower show, and last May, I finally went.  It's everything I'd hoped for and more.

the settings and grounds...


The tickets were expensive, but definitely worth it...after was a full day’s entertainment.  The crowds were amazing...but everyone was good-natured, and I found that in the late afternoon, the crowds thinned out, so it was a good time to have a better look at some of the displays.  One of the things that I enjoyed was a large amphitheater where a variety of entertainment was offered all day.  Hereby there were also lots of good food when made a nice place to rest and refuel.

There's tons of stuff to buy...but since I only had one suitcase...that was already full...extra spending wasn't much of an issue for me.  I did see a very nice metal sculpture that would have been very temping...if not for the transportation problem...and the price!

The day I attended was hot and sunny...but two days had been pouring if you prepared for any kind of weather.  And, of course, the plants and landscape garden designs were fabulous.

#1 award winning design...


The #1 award winning design last year (gold, best show garden) was an interpretation of what a garden might look like on Mars.  The "rock" used (really pressed concrete) were a deep reddish color, and the plants chosen were "tough", able to withstand heat, drought, and wind.  Personally, I found it a bit too stark...but then...I always want to see lots of plants and prefer a softer, more woodsy-type of garden.

I do realize that part of the show's goal is to stretch our imaginations about a display like this one was eminently suitable.  However, I think the average attendee shares my taste as the display voted most popular by the public was designed by the staff from Hidcote Garden to represent one of their "garden rooms".  It was filled with lots of colorful flowering plants and much more traditional design.

Norma's favorite...

  My favorite large show garden was the one sponsored by Fortnum and Mason which had the look of an old estate walled garden, complete with beehives.  It had beds of perennials with a border of pleached trees set alongside brick walls, and a central sward of grass leading up the middle of the garden.

tribute to Linnaeus...

  Another show garden very much to my taste was entitled, "A Tribute to Linnaeus".  Its inspiration was that of a garden that might typically be found in the Swedish countryside.  It featured lots of small trees, some shrubs, and very lovely stream.  The stream was designed to flow over carefully placed cobblestones so the rocks shown in the sunlight and a charming footbridge led over the cobblestone stream.  This garden also made good use of vertical accents by including lovely birches and some crabapple trees among the beds of perennials, perhaps offering more realistic inspirations to shoe of us who are gardening in increasingly smaller areas.

a small gem from Fetzer Winery of California...

  One of my favorites was The Fetzer Garden, sponsored by the Feter Winery of California.  This little gem was planted with California wildflowers and looked just like the hillsides outside of San Francisco in early Spring, with Linum, Phacelia, and Limnanthes all in bloom to give the impression of a wild meadow.

many display by specialty growers....


It was lots of fun looking at all the Show Gardens...but even better were the dedicated displays from the specialty growers.  The first thing that comes to mind were the sweet pea displays.  Depending on the grower, each bouquet had 12 to 24 absolutely perfect stems, arranged so every single bloom could be seen.  Then...there were the roses, the orchids, the wildflowers, the insectivorous plants.

unbelievable Cancer Agency display...

  The Cancer Agency garden was also very appealing because of the feeling of movement created partially by the use of a flowing oaken sculpture that threaded its way around the garden.  The sculpture reminded me of strands of DNA as it twisted in a somewhat helical fashion.  Flowing movement was reinforced by the use of a lot of Stipa and Fennel, whose soft, silky foliage would blow with every breeze.  As well, I liked the dense plantings in this garden.
small garden displays...  

Chelsea also features many small garden displays...the gingers, tulips, Cacti, and...well, you get the picture.  If you lived in Great Britain, it would have been difficult resisting the catalogues.  Fortunately, for my pocketbook, I couldn't order anything.

selected treasures carried on shoulders...   While I didn't buy any plants...lots of other people did...especially as the show closed.  On Saturday evening, I was on the Picadilly train line shortly after Chelsea closed...and I saw lots of people carrying home treasures they'd bought as the displays were being dismantled.  I saw several large, blooming Cymbidiums and some Cycads being carted home in shopping bags and hoisted on people's shoulders on the Tube.
two-hour BBC broadcasts during Chelsea...   One unexpected...but very interesting discovery...was that the BBC runs a nightly, two-hour broadcast all about Chelsea during show week.  The commentators get into each show garden for close ups of plants and materials.  They interview the garden designers and you got a more detailed understanding of the design goals for each display.  As well, the specialty  growers were highlighted...and the programs showed many of their home nurseries and well as how their show exhibits were prepared.  I just love the idea that there is enough interest in Chelsea to warrant a special program devoted to gardens and gardening on national television every night for a week.
Chelsea is on my "bucket list" again...  

Well, it's nice to have finally attended the Chelsea Flower Show.  But it was so much fun, I've kept it on my "bucket list" because I want to go back and do it all over again.

If you haven't been and you get the chance, make sure you go!  You'll be glad you did!

A tree for all seasons  

For any noteworthy garden...and especially valuable for a garden of moderate a tree that excels categorically.  I refer to the genus Stewartia in its several specials and...particularly to Stewartia pseudocamellia (origin Japan) which has resided in the Smith Garden for a number of years.  (The Smith Garden is in Portland, Oregon, area and is supported by the Portland Rhododendron Society).

characteristics much like a camellia...   The Stewartias, in general, are ornamental woody plants with large, show flowers borne during the summer.  The distinctive flowers are white with prominent yellow stamens and, in the case of S. pseudocamellia, much resemble a small camellia bloom.  The flowers are shed in regular fashion for several weeks and contribute little disarray in the garden.  The ensuing seed capsules are decorative in their own right.
the leaves...   The leaves are handsome, prominently veined and not so large as to present a problem in late Fall when, upon shedding, they provide a light, colorful, and ultimately nourishing ground cover.  As alluded, the color of the leaves can run the gamut from red, orange to scarlet.  In Winter, the clean definitive line of the trunk and branches offers a delightful contrast to any number of evergreens and, further, a catchment on those days when snow pays a visit to the Garden.  Attaining moderate height with a compact and rather fastigiated posture...and requiring virtually no pruning...this tree can fit the bill in any number of situations.
more vitures...  

Further recommending this tree is the exfoliating bark which continues to gain character as the tree matures; it lends a marvelous foil for plants at the base and around the tree itself.

The Stewartias thrive in a deep, rich, and moderately moist and porous soil.  They prefer a mixture of peat and loam…and a warm, sunny position in northern locales.

another Stewartia added in the garden...  

Another outstanding species, is Stewartia monadelpha.  This tree...much as the other slow growing and is often more fastigiated in habit.  While its flowers...borne in the early summer...are somewhat smaller than S. pseudocamellia, its  wonderful, deep pink fall color more than offset this slight diminishment.

What really draws comment with S. monadelpha is its exfoliating bark which is produced earlier in life and in a more pronounced way than in S. pseudocamellia.  It is a design element that is impossible to overlook.

This tree was planted as a memorial to Molly Smith...a founder...a contributor to and life supporter of the Smith Garden.

- Peter Kendall, Smith Garden and Portland Chapter

Thought for Spring  

I dwell in possibility .... Emily Dickinson


American Rhododendron Society
Executive Director: P.O. Box 525,  Niagara Falls, NY 14304
Ph: 416-424-1942   Fax: 905-262-1999   E-Mail:
1998-2016, ARS, All rights reserved.