Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Succession of Spring Blooms in the Neighborhood

A climbing tea rose
a purple pansy 'Viola'
I could not help but stop, smell and take photos of the glorious display of flowers in my Fairfield neighbourhood in Victoria. I used my Blackberry to capture these beauties. Just gorgeous!
yellow poppy along the curb.
another of the kind of the Papaveraceae family
a gorgeous unknown flower
orange variety of a daisy from family Asteraceae
Antirrhinum 'Snapdragons'
a trio of pansy, daisy, and geranium

purple phlox hybrid
purple Irises
blue and purple Columbines from the genus Aquilegia

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Different Ways to Propagate Plants Part 1: Stem Cuttings

In this new post, I was planning to write about topics related to Botany--I thought I could share some helpful tips on what I finished in college. But I really don't know where to start...Plant nomenclature perhaps? Pollination? Just then I thought of how many people are interested on how to multiply their well-loved plant treasures but just do not have an ounce of idea on how to do it. This made me write about the ways plants can be reproduced through using various propagation techniques.

In this first part, I will teach you on propagating plants through stem cuttings. Some of you may already know this common way of propagating flowers but for those who don't know, this will help you.

Stem cuttings:

It is what it says- severing a part of the stem and planting it in the pot or garden. You may choose to cut either soft terminal cuttings or partially hard cuttings.

1. Make sure you make a clean cut (jagged cut attracts infection). Use a sharp pruning shears. Cut at around 60degrees angle--this will provide a wider surface area for water to get in. Cut precisely as you would cut a stem from a rose for a cutflower display.

2. Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone. Speaking from experience, when I did stem cuttings of Bougainvillea sp. in my Asian hometown, I did not have rooting hormone. What I did was I made a precise cut (60degrees angle) and chose a potting mix rich in humus and is well-drained. I placed the cuttings to establish  in a shady area. After I noticed significant shoot growth, I then move it to a brighter area so that it will be exposed more to the sun. Bougainvilleas and Ixora chinensis love the sun as well as hibiscus. But in the temperate zones like Canada, these plants must be grown indoors.

Cutting stems from bougainvilleas are done by cutting the soft stems in summer and semi-hard stems in winter (getting soft stems in summer promotes growth from the main plant and getting hard stems in winter will help prune the mother plant to be ready for a new growth in spring).

3. Choose a potting medium well suited for the cuttings. Put the cuttings in an area that does not get direct sunlight to give it chance to make new growth. Take note that some plants--like bougainvillea--some of its leaves will die back. Do not worry, just water the plant enough to make the topsoil moist. Water sparingly after then so as to keep it evenly moist but not soggy. Once significant growth is noticed, transfer the plant to an area where it receives more hours in the sun--or in the shade (like begonias) as per light requirements.

Plants Propagated by Stem Cuttings

Gardenia jasminoides (gardenia)

Ixora chinensis
Camellia sinensis

Crossandra infundibuliformis (firecracker flower) 

Bougainvillea glabra and other varieties

Rosa (rose family)

Jasminum grandiflorum (jasmine)
Portulaca grandiflora 

Hibiscus rosa-chinensis (hibiscus flower)

Some of the plants shown here are tropical plants, however they can be grown indoors like in a greenhouse where temperature is controlled.


I only own one of these photos. I used these as graphic examples of the flowers I talk about.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Plants Suitable for a Rock/Crevice Garden

Achillea oxyloba 
A type of a rock garden plant that has a carpet-growing/creeping habit. Grows best in humus-rich soil but will tolerate poor, gravely soil. Best grown under bright-filtered light/semi-shade conditions. Can be propagated by dividing the offsets.

photos courtesy of
Anemone x lesseri Wehrh.

Tuft-like in growth habit, the plant thrives in full sun, slightly rich, well-drained soil. It seeds in  winter and  grows  after 3 to 6 months.
Antirrhinum sempervirens

Known widely by the common name of 'snapdragons,' this decumbent-growing shrub is popular in crevice and rock gardens. Grown in full sun or light shade, it will grow best in well-drained soil but will adapt to poor soil. There are various species of the shrubs with different colored-blooms (pink, white, fuchsia).
Arnica cordifolia

The plant follows a tuft-like growing habit where it grows from a single base. The plant likes to grow in shady spots in the garden.  It thrives best in moist, humus-rich soil.
Aster souliei

A flowering, tuft plant, asters are very common in rock and crevice gardens. They grow abundantly in the alps, mostly in slightly humus-rich ground. Grown best in full sun. Flowers in the early summer to early fall.
Campanula bellidifolia

The plant thrives in the higher altitudes in the mountains in temperate zones. It blooms in late spring till summer.  Grows in dry, rocky terrain in full sun.
Coreopsis lanceolata

Grows in sunlit areas in very well-drained soil. Shows off golden-yellow blooms in  summertime. Leaves resemble spears (that explains the Latin suffix 'lanceolata').
Cistanthe tweedyi

This gorgeous plant grows from a rosette base (resembling a rose petal).  Flowers are pink and yellow observed at springtime. Thrives in sunny areas on crevices and rock gardens.
Dianthus haematocalyx

With purple-red flowers observed during summer, this cushion plant is excellent for covering up bare spaces in the garden but becomes a highlight in rock gardens. Propagated by seeds or through stem cuttings.

Alyssum daghestanicum

Alyssum is one of the favorites when it comes to the rock garden landscape. It is a very hardy plant and survives when grown in poor, rocky conditions just like its natural habitat up in the alpine mountains. It pops out from dry cracks in the rocks and blooms in spring. Stem cuttings are used to propagate this plant.

These are just a few of my favorites when it comes to rock garden plant ideas. Check with your local garden shops on what suitable plants to use in your particular hardiness zone.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Part 2: How to Create a Crevice Garden

Creating a crevice garden is not just throwing any kinds of rocks, pebbles, or gravel on where you want to establish your crevice garden--it is the art of setting up stones and filling in plants in a manner that it will resemble as if Mother Nature molded it herself. In the mountains of California and on peaks of the Canadian Rockies, one will notice plants growing from fissures in rocks from rocky terrains which are produced because of natural erosion.

You will need:
  • rocks of various forms (flatter, round, rough, smooth, etc.) around 8 to 10cm thick and approximately 500 to 1000kg.
  • gravel or pebbles (you can opt to choose one color throughout or spice it up with a different color tone) weighing 50kilos.
  • rock garden/alpine plants
  • a mound of soil or sand
NOTE: You can increase the number of rocks and soil if you want a bigger crevice garden.

  • Before doing anything, it is important to plan the outline of your future crevice garden. Pay attention to the location of the garden (sunny or shady), and have a rough idea of what plants you want to include and the overall look of the area.
Photo from WildGingerFarm
Photo from E. Drcar
  • Cultivate the soil (and add in some sand if you want to pull off a desert look with cacti and succulents). A 3m by 3m measured crevice garden is ideal for someone who is just starting to master his skills in creating this kind of garden theme, or if he does not have enough space to make this garden. (For inspiration, you can get crevice gardening ideas by checking crevice garden images online).
  • Layout the bigger rocks on the ground first. Do it in such a method that it looks like a gently sloping hill. Position it at least twenty degrees to assist with drainage of water from the top to bottom. The other side must be a lot steeper. Start placing the rocks and work your way from the top going down. Position the rocks at least 5cm apart. Border the bottom stones against the top rocks to reinforce the foundation (rearrange the rocks until it looks natural and you are contented with its appearance).
  • On the more steep side, bury the rocks in the mound as if you are forming a ledge. Tilt it inwards while following the same angle (20 degrees) as on the other side. Dig about 2/3 deep when burying the rocks.
  • Add soil to fill in the cracks or crevices. Start planting with your chosen plants. Cover it with mulch (fine gravel or tulfa depending on your preference) to put everything together.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Part 1:What is Crevice Gardening?

Phlox subulata 'Creeping Phlox'
Nobody would want to be stuck between a 'rock and a hard place.' But the opposite happens when it comes to nature. I am amazed at how certain plants adapt to such harsh growing conditions (rocky, sandy soil, drought) and still flourish.

Crevice gardens are naturally formed on the alpine regions where there is little or sans fertile soil available; drier surroundings, and lesser oxygen supply...plants survive adversity, grow up to be healthy and give off a glorious display of foliage and blooms. It's as if these plants just popped up from the cracks or crevices created by a pile of rocks! Many mountain trekkers who have seen the savage yet alluring contrast between stones and flowers, have decided to create a garden of their own resembling that of the natural display of plants growing in a 'sea of rocks.'

The stark contrast between delicate, pretty blooms and the rugged, rough gravel and rocks make crevice garden a masterpiece of its own (I guess those nooks and crannies in the garden are useful after all).

Calluna vulgaris 'Heather' growing between rocks.

These photos were taken when I was walking along the neighborhood in Fairfield, Victoria. The flowers are so beautiful to ignore that I had to stop and greet them with my camera. I happened to come across a house with a crevice garden so I took a picture of it. The garden was just occupying a small area on the front yard.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Vegetable Compatibility Gardening: The Benefits of Planting Plants that Grow Well Together

To create a vegetable garden, we all go back to the basics--weeding, tilling the soil etc. We typically sow lettuce seeds in rows on one garden plot, and tomatoes on the other mound. We mix in potatoes and beets on other separate plots, and we keep a close watch on animal pests or diseases that may damage our crops.

Vegetable gardening is both rewarding and physically entertaining. Once the veggies get established in their respective plots, they are practically carefree--but not all of them. The plants still need to be watered and protected from pests. Planning your garden ahead will make you achieve a higher yield, but there is another method that makes your plants healthy and less prone to certain plant illnesses.

Companion Planting

The process simply means to plant two or more separate but compatible vegetables together. There are several reasons as to why we should do vegetable compatibility gardening.
  • Control pest infestations and occurrence of diseases
  • Enhance the flavor of certain vegetables
  • Enhances nutrient availability
  • Provide protection to other plants
  • Facilitate in pollination

Plants Effective in Deterring Bugs
  • basil to tomato (tomato wards off flies and mosquitoes)
  • borage to tomato (borage repels tomato worm)
  • cabbage family (brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale) to aromatic plants (e.g. rosemary, chamomile, dill, celery, thyme, sage, pennyroyal, onions) = [aromatic crops drive away cabbage worms]
  • Dead Nettle to potato (dead nettle wards off potato bugs)
  • Catnip planted in borders fight again'st flea beetles
  • chive and carrots to fruit trees (chive & carrots prevent insects from climbing up the trees)
  • garlic to raspberries/roses (repels Japanese beetles)- if planted with herbs, it will enhance production of essential oils and repel pests if mass planted with garlic
  • horseradish to potato and plum trees (repels potato beetles and curculios from plum trees)
  • hyssop to cabbage (hyssop drives away cabbage moths)
  • Nasturtium to tomatoes, cabbage, fruit trees and cucumbers (it deters aphids and cucurbit pests)
  • onion to lettuce, tomato, strawberries, beans and beets (lettuce protects onion from slugs; beans repel ants)
  •  pot marigold to tomato (protects tomato from tomato worm; deters asparagus beetle and other pests)

*MARIGOLD (garden police!) -deters ground nematodes, repels a huge group of insects and pests

Plants Promoting Growth and Flavor of Vegetables
  • Basil enhances the taste and growth of tomatoes
  • Bee balm improves growth and taste of tomatoes
  • Borage improves flavor and growth of tomatoes
  • Radish improves the taste and plant life of chervil
  • Cabbage improves health of dill
  • Yarrow, when planted among'st herbs, will assist in their production of essential oils

*PETUNIA, SOYBEAN, TARRAGON, VALERIAN -very beneficial for plants throughout the garden

Gardens Alive! Tomatoes with Logo

Monday, April 2, 2012

As Cherries Bloom: A Spotlight on the Different Kinds of Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blooms, View St. Victoria, BC

There are green grasses, daffodils, crocuses…and squirrels are on top of tree branches and the song of the birds with their new progenies is music to the ears. Best of all, cherry blossoms are flooding the streets of downtown and parks- Such a wondrous sight!

Cherry blossoms are introduced by the Japanese people in olden times as a generous present to Canada. From then on, many species were cultivated and grown all across Canada- especially British Columbia. With its burst of pinks and whites, cherry blossoms bring a kind of solitude at the same time excitement to everyone who sees and passes by droves of it.

In Victoria and most of all Vancouver, there are several species of cherry blossoms that can be observed. In fact, coming April 17 this year, Vancouver will celebrate its Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. It touches every spirit with the delicate beauty of the cherry blossoms.

Cherry blossoms continue to inspire and attract people every spring. Countless cultivars grow around British Columbia. Among the cultivars are listed below.


This is a type of a cherry tree that is short, umbrella-shaped and with branches which are fine and spread out, usually blooming sometime in February to March. The tiny, intense light pink-colored flower is the modern variation of Prunus sargentil or O-yama-zakura in its Japanese name. It is also a hybrid of the spring cherry (Prunus subhirtella) that is, sad to say, very delicate when it comes to diseases mostly aggravated when the tree is grown in a crowded place.

Afterglow cherry

This is the 1984 cultivar of the American cherry and is a random seedling of the species Prunus yedoensis “Akebono.” The species varies from the Somei-yoshino and the Akebono since its branches are set up more horizontally stretching branches, and the flower buds and the branches are thought to have been studied as resistant to frost damage.

Daybreak cherry

Daybreak cherry or ‘Akebono’ cherry tree is a middle-sized tree reaching up to eight meters and possesses a rigid, erect-extending top, eventually conforming to the shape of an umbrella. The tree blooms usually in the last weeks of March or the early weeks of April usually after the plum trees have started flowering. The flowers resemble pink and slowly fading to white flowers. Akebono is an offset of the Prunus yedoensis that was chosen from a nursery in California during 1925. The tree is otherwise regarded as the spring cherry since it is the first cherry tree to bloom in spring and is also revered for its rainproof blooms and hardiness from certain diseases. In the fall, the leaves turn to golden yellow or orange.

Birch Bark Cherry tree

Also known as Tibetan cherry, the plant is a local in the elevated mountains of western parts of China which includes Tibet. The plant’s scientific name is Prunus serrula. The small blooms are colored green with a tinge of white, but the sloughing, mahogany-colored bark is its most unique characteristic. The only issue with the tree is its susceptibility to bacterial canker infection and it damages the tree’s appearance once the bacterial disease strikes. Some arborists as well as horticulturists graft other species of cherries on the stems of the Tibetan cherry but it mostly yields undesired results.

Information in this article is extracted and in honor of the or Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival.