Right plant, right place: A tiny tour of February’s flowers

Celebrating winter-blooming beauties around Windsor Park

From Windsor Park: Helleborus x ballardiae ‘HGC Pink Frost’

A few readers have told me that despite not having a garden anymore, they still enjoy reading the Cultivated column. Thankful for their kind words, I thought I’d take those readers on a tiny tour of south Oak Bay, a plant tour that you might take in your imagination, by foot, or even by car (though a few short steps will add to your delight). We’ll head out to look at flowers in February (lucky us!) and I’ll try to explain as we go why these plants are thriving.

Let’s start at Windsor Park, on the west side of the pavilion where a fabulous patch of hellebores are in full bloom. Hellebores are typically a shade perennial, so why are these huge plummy clumps so healthy?

After a call to Oak Bay Parks horticulturalist Helen Strohschein, I learned that their leaves were trimmed back in January, which means the plant can put its energy into heavy blooms (and you can better see them in all their glory). Secondly, the plants are fed with compost and leaf mulch every year.

As for all that summer light? It’s hot afternoon sun, yes, but this variety is Helleborus x ballardiae ‘HGC Pink Frost,’ a hybrid of H. lividus and the Christmas rose, H. Niger. The first parent is native to Majorca, a dry island in the Mediterranean.

Moving on to the northeast corner of the park, in the new scented garden, a small but interesting shrub is in now bloom. Known as buttercup witch hazel or winter hazel (Corylopsis pauciflora), the plant provides winter interest in semi-shaded locations and will grow to approximately 5×8 ft. Blooming in pale yellow on bare twigs, Corylopsis makes a fine choice for those who find the yellow of Forsythia too glaring or common.

Directly across Windsor Road, on the south side of W & J Wilson, look towards the clipped rosemary hedge, currently blooming blue (just 10 feet inland from Newport). If you’ve tried growing rosemary at home and lost it to cold or damp, note that this rosemary (the robust classic Rosmarinus officionalis) is protected from the rain by the eaves of the building and planted on a south-facing wall. This tender herb likes poor soil and needs drainage. Always treat it (even in a pot) as the sun-lover it is.

Now you’ll have to head south, onto the south block of the two-block-long Linkleas Avenue which is just greening up for spring. This block remains one of the few ‘wild’ lanes in south Oak Bay where native vegetation thrives on the boulevard (though development and invasive plants are threatening that). In the understory, the spring green leaves and drooping white flowers of our native Indian Plum Oemlaria cerasiformis, are out. Their darling upright leaves are so optimistic they make my heart break a little on a grey winter’s day. Indian plum loves seepage areas, so if you’d like a bird-friendly plant, or need a quick-growing deciduous screen in a damp corner of the garden, try it. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the flowers aren’t particularly pleasant-smelling, so don’t snip them for the vase).

That was quick: four plants and I’ve run out of space! I might make ‘plant tours’ a regular feature of the column as so often I walk my dog and find botanical wonders worth sharing. If you’ve been out in Oak Bay and would like to know the name of a plant, please write to me through my website, cultivatedbychristin.com, and I’ll do my best to investigate. And thanks again to all the retired gardeners reading the column: you inspire me with your attention, knowledge and kindness.

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and creative non-fiction writing teacher at UVic.

 

Just Posted

Student group seeks cap on international tuition fees

UVic increased international fees 20 per cent for 2018-19

West Shore firefighters answer call to battle fires in north-central B.C.

Crews to help with structural fire protection in Fort St. James

Esquimalt man faces four charges of sexual assault, investigators suspect more victims

71-year old Kit Wong practiced acupuncture from his home during the time of the assaults

Heat and smoke raises health risks

Rick Stiebel - Sooke News Mirror Health risks arising from heat and… Continue reading

Victoria’s Global Village Store celebrates 30 years in business

The City’s first free-trade store sells products from 28 countries around the world

Interim GoFundMe payments approved in Humboldt Broncos crash

$50,000 to be given to each of the 13 survivors and each family of the 16 people who died

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Aug. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Altidore nets 3 as Toronto drubs Whitecaps 5-2

Vancouver falls 7-4 on aggregate in Canadian Championship final

Ottawa intervenes to get B.C. ball player, 13, to Little League World Series

Before immigration issue was resolved, Dio Gama was out practicing the game he loves Wednesday

Pet goldfish invades small B.C. lake

Pinecrest Lake is located between Whistler and Squamish

Mounties deployed to help B.C. communities affected by wildfires

RCMP officers heading to places particularly within central, northern and southern B.C.

Quebec sets aside $900 million for companies hurt by U.S. tariffs

Premier Philippe Couillard says his government will make $863 million available over five years

Most Read