Dodecatheon meadia

Dodecatheon meadia Dodecatheon meadia     Family: Primulaceae
(doe-duh-KAY-thee-un  MEE-dee-uh)

Common name: shooting star
Zone: 4 – 8 
Height: 12-20 in (30-50 cm)  Spread: 10-12 in (25-30 cm)
Aspect: full sun; part shade; full shade
Soil: moist, fertile, well-draining
Water: moderate

Dodecatheon meadia flowers

Description: An herbaceous perennial with pale green, lance-shaped leaves which form an upright rosette. As many as four leafless flower stalks emerge from the centre of the rosette, arising to a height of up to 20 inches (50 cm). Each flower stalk has an umbel on top with as many as twenty nodding, lightly fragrant flowers dangling from their individual stems. Each 1 inch (2.5 cm) long flower has 5 reflexed petals. Colour can be variable, ranging from white to pink to lavender purple. A cluster of bright yellow stamens is noticeable below the petals for its pointed formation. The whole floral effect gives the appearance of a bunch of shooting stars plummeting to earth. Bloom time is mid- to late spring…April through May. A seed capsule containing small dark seeds forms on top of the stalk after flower petals die back.


Special Notes: Native to North America…more commonly on the east coast and into the central prairies, but also found in the Pacific Northwest. Typically, this plant is found growing naturally in glades, deciduous forests, treed rock slopes, ledges, and meadows. It is tolerant of most soil types…preferring rich, moist, well-draining soil, but also clay-type as long as drainage is decent. Does not like poorly drained, wet soils, especially in winter. Due to its early bloom time, it is an important foraging plant for queen bumblebees. The whole plant goes dormant in summer, reappearing the following spring.

There are no serious pest or disease problems. Deer resistant.

Slow and difficult to grow from seed. Needs vernalization…exposure to a prolonged period of winter cold…for germination. Easiest method is to allow the plant to self-seed. Alternatively, the seed can be collected in spring, sown in a tray filled with a sterile soil-less potting mix, and placed in a protected shady spot outdoors for the rest of the year. (Make sure the soil is kept slightly damp.) You can also collect the seeds and store them in an envelope or other suitable container, and place them in a cool, dry location. There are a few different methods of germinating collected seeds held indoors. One such method is to place some sterile soil-less potting mix in a ziplock bag, then add some seeds to the mix…making sure they are incorporated into the potting soil. Place the bag in the refrigerator for one day. Next day, place the bag of soil and seeds in the freezer for one day. Repeat this alternating schedule for one week. After stratifying the seeds in this manner, sow them about 0.1 inch (0.3 cm) deep in pots and place on a heating mat set to 20 °C (68 °F). Make sure the pots do not dry out.

Or you can save some of this trouble and simply divide your plant when it is large enough.

In our Zone 7a garden: We have a delightful clump of Dodecatheon meadia under the magnolia tree. Always a pleasure to see it arrive on scene…a true indication spring is really getting underway.

We have allowed this plant to self-seed in place to save the work of germinating seeds ourselves. The plant will be then be divided.

Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit (AGM) 1993


Posted on April 4, 2018


Primula vulgaris ‘Kerbelnec’

Primula vulgaris Belarina® Nectarine Primula vulgaris ‘Kerbelnec’  Family: Primulaceae
(PRIM-yu-luh  vul-GAIR-iss)
Syn. Primula vulgaris Belarina® Nectarine

Common name: Belarina® Nectarine Primrose
Zone: 5 – 9
Height: 6-8 in (15-20 cm)  Spread: 6-8 in (15-20 cm)
Aspect: partial shade
Soil: fertile; well-draining
Water: regular  

Description: A low growing, clump-forming, evergreen perennial with bright green, wrinkled leaves. Fully double flowers open a deep yellow-orange colour and slowly transform through shades of apricot-pinky-orange to a gorgeous rose-orange as they mature. Bloom time begins in April and lasts through into June or July with regular dead-heading. Plant may go dormant in the high heat of summer if in full sun.


Special Notes: For clarity sake, Primula vulgaris ‘Kerbelnec’ is the patented name of this plant. Belarina® Nectarine is the registered trade name by which it is more commonly sold. It was bred by Cambridge, UK plant breeders, David and Priscilla Kerley, and introduced in 2014. Double-flowered primulas were once very popular in England a century or two ago but had become largely extinct. Through careful breeding, the Kerleys have bred a number of different cultivars in the Belarina® series for the gardener’s growing pleasure. (I have acquired a few in this series: Belarina® Pink Ice, Belarina® Valentine, and Belarina® Amethyst Ice.)


In our Zone 7a garden: Belarina® Nectarine was a new acquisition to our garden in 2017 and was planted in the front garden out of direct sunlight behind a Weigela spp. and shaded by the canopy of our large chestnut tree. A very stunning plant. Highly recommend this cultivar.


Posted on February 28, 2018




Viola odorata

Viola odorata flowers Viola odorata                    Family: Violaceae
(vi-OH-lah  oh-dor-AY-tah)
Common name: sweet violet; English violet; wood violet; garden violet
Zone: 5 – 9
Height: 4-6 in (10-15 cm) Spread: 12-18 in (30-45 cm)
Aspect: full sun; partial shade; full shade
Soil: sand; loam; clay; well-drained
Water: moderate
Description: Hardy, rhizomatous perennial with deep green, roughly heart-shaped leaves appearing in late winter. Fragrant flowers are either deep violet or white and appear in early spring. Disease and pest resistant. Propagation is from seed and spreading stolons, or rhizomatous roots.


Special Notes: Originally native to Asia and Europe, the early settlers carried specimens with them to Australia and North America where the specie has become established. The fragrant flowers are very important to the perfume industry in southern France where the flowers are also harvested for use in making flavourings, toiletries, and the violet-coloured liqueur called Parfait d’Amour.

The whole plant contains salicylic acid…the main ingredient in aspirin…which may be why the ancient Greeks wore garlands of flowers on their heads during festivals to thwart dizziness and headache brought on by imbibing too liberally. The leaves contain antiseptic compounds and have been used as poultices or added to ointments for centuries. Infusing them in a tea or making a syrup has long been a remedy for coughs.

The flowers have a mild laxative effect. Roots and seeds contain purgative properties. Herbalists have long recommended the use of a liniment made from violet roots and vinegar to cure spleen disorders and ease the pain caused by gout.

More recently, it has been discovered throat cancer patients who drink violet leaf infusions have realized relief from pain caused by their treatment. Reportedly, there have actually been several cures of this cancer by drinking leaf infusions.

The edible flowers can be added raw to salads, made into dainty crystallized candies for decorating cakes, made into a delicate violet jelly (recipe here), added to vinegar for colour, or fermented for a sweet wine.

An infusion of sweet violet flowers can also be used as a substitute for litmus paper to determine pH. When it comes into contact with alkaline substances, the colour of the infusion turns green. Acid substances will turn the infusion colour red.


Viola odorataIn our Zone 7a garden: I am particularly fond of sweet violets, Viola odorata, as their delicate scent reminds me of my granny. I originally placed three or four clumps around my front garden and over the ensuing years they have gently spread. Some are in the lawn, some in full shade, some in part shade, and a lovely patch has grown up in my Rosa rugosa hedge where it is slowly reaching out to the boulevard. This patch is growing is almost pure sand…with only the barest of soil to found. I never water out there and it receives the hottest sun of the day. For this reason it will languish in the summer months but not before I have picked its flowers for my varied uses.

For some gardeners, sweet violets are too invasive for their preferences. John will not have them in his garden for this reason. However, any wayward plants are very easily removed if the patch gets too rambunctious.


Note: None of the medicinal claims are meant to be followed without the express knowledge of your doctor or a certified herbalist. Please act responsibly in regards to your health.


Posted on April 18, 2017


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