Garden Story, July 10, 2020: A Tale of One Trellis and Two Roses…the Formal Rose Garden It’s hard to imagine the Formal Rose Garden without the trellis over the east entrance, but that wrought iron arch was not part of the original design. It was donated in 1999 by the Vancouver Rose Society in honour of their fiftieth anniversary. The structure is now mostly hidden by the climbing Rosa ‘Ghislaine de Féligonde’ and R. ‘Dublin Bay.’ The orange-pink R. ‘Ghislaine de Féligonde’ celebrated its 100th birthday in 1916. It was named after the daughter of a French count. Scarlet-coloured R. ‘Dublin Bay’ is a bit younger. It was hybridized in 1975 in New Zealand by a well-known rose breeder, Sam McGredy, who had emigrated from Northern Ireland during the Troubles. He named some of his roses after the bays of Ireland. Hear Sam talking about this rose. McGredy was the fourth generation of a Northern Irish rose-growing family. Wednesday cart captain, Carole Shaw, grew up near the McGredy nursery and has fond memories of visiting it as a child with her father who was an avid rose grower.
Garden Story, July 2, 2020: No sex please, we’re Canadian…Amelanchier canadensis In honour of Canada Day, we are featuring Amelanchier canadensis, a deciduous understory shrub native to Eastern North America from Newfoundland south to Alabama. It has an unusual way of reproducing in that it can form viable seeds without the need for fertilization. This rare phenomenon is called ‘apomixis’. A. canadensis may also hold the record for the highest number of common names: shadbush/shadblow/shadwood (because it blooms when the shad run), serviceberry, sarvisberry, juneberry. Early pioneers made pies from the small berries later on in the summer. Several of these shrubby trees can be found in the Eastern North American and Canadian Heritage Gardens.
Garden Story, June 26, 2020: A ‘Birthday’ Bollwyller? A few years ago, the guides adopted the Bollwyller pear tree at the eastern point of the rosaceae/grasses bed in honour of long-time guide Erica Dunn. This unusual tree was first discovered in Bollwiller, a small town in Alsace, in the 1600s and is only propagated by cuttings, as the seeds do not come true. It is an intergeneric hybrid, x Sorbopyrus auricularia, which is a cross between Sorbus aria (whitebeam) and Pyrus communis (pear). On Erica’s June birthday, the small fruit is green, but it turns orangey-red in September and is edible (although somewhat bland). It is also called the Shipova pear (possibly after a city in Russia).
Garden Story, June 19, 2020: Ants on Peony Buds - An Enduring Myth The recent rains have put an end to the peony season, but a myth about peonies goes on forever: that herbaceous peonies need ants in order to bloom. False! Sweet-toothed ants are attracted to herbaceous peony buds by the sugary nectar found at their base, but those ants also chase away other, more destructive insects looking for food. Once the flowers are fully open, the nectar dries up, and the ants are on their way to another food source. The ants have nothing to do with the actual flowering process. Ants are also found on the Perennial Garden’s Itoh peonies, which are a cross between herbaceous and tree peonies. You are less likely to find them on tree peonies, maybe because it’s too much of a hike for the ants up those tall shrubs? Here's some video information about this phenomenon and a glimpse of some of the Garden's peonies.
Garden Story, June 12, 2020: Epiderm? EpiPen? No, it’s Epiphylly: Helwingia chinensis Still in bloom along the path next to Bed 127A in the Sino-Himalayan Garden, the shiny evergreen foliage of the shrub Helwingia chinensis catches the eye. A closer look discovers tiny white flowers growing directly out of the middle of the leaf. This is a rare phenomenon called ‘epiphylly’, meaning ‘on the surface of the leaf’. The species is dioecious, with separate male and female plants. If male and female plants are in proximity, small fruits will appear in the fall. In the winter, small bumps on the leaves indicate that next year’s flowers are on the way. The plant is named after Georg Andreas Helwing, a 17th-century Prussian botanist, who never knew about this plant. H. japonicus was introduced into Europe by Phillip von Siebold in 1830, and our H. chinensis only appeared on the Western scene in the 20th century.
Garden Story, June 5, 2020: Rhododendron 'Cynthia' Partway up the Rhodo Walk is a large rosy-pink rhododendron named 'Cynthia'. Who Cynthia was is lost to history, but we do know that the plant was hybridized in the mid-19th century in England when Himalayan rhododendron species first made their way to the West. One of those hybrids came to Ladysmith, B.C. before 1900 and is still a tourist attraction when in bloom. Our R. 'Cynthia' was planted in 1972 as part of the original Rhodo Walk and is quite a bit smaller than its Ladysmith cousin.