Thursday, 29 May 2014

Another Spring plant show with an abundance of great plants

Recently I made a lightning excursion across the Salish Sea, from Vancouver to Victoria, BC. I was on a mission to judge another alpine plant society's show. There was amazing diversity of plants offered to the public, even some great trophy hardware!


Often in Spring life happens in a rush, but its generally forgiven, as we're excited to get out and enjoy new events. I dashed across to our province's capital city to visit the Vancouver Island Rock and Alpine Garden society's (aka VIRAGS) Spring plant show. I attended once again as a judge and I really love dropping in on their plant world.

The show plants are marvelously grown and often a bit different to those over the water in Vancouver. Victoria's climate is a bit earlier and milder than we can muster. The members are a also a highly dedicated group of growers, always putting on a super effort. Weather was even surprisingly summer-like, so all signs promised a happy morning's work at the show tables.

Every Spring the venue is full of alpine treasures

Arriving early gave me a chance to walk round and enjoy some of the entries purely on their overall appearance. The flower power was enormous, filling my retinas with the fantastic forms and colours of Spring.  I was particulary excited in a display of Lewisia, which is a pet genus of mine.  This succulent perennial is an evergreen rosette during winter and its exuberant blossoms come in a range of bright and soft colours: yellow, orange, pink, white and this dazzling red. What's best about them is that they are simple to cultivate. Several species, selections and hybrids are availabe at nurseries. My friend Yolanda has recently been bitten by this wonderful bug in her blogpost from Spain.

Lewisia cotyledon selection

I was also excited to see this Tropaeolum tricolor. It is a climber from Chile and grows from a tuber. Here is a prime example of a potted plant that the Victoria club members can grow without much trouble, whereas we muddle through with it, if we can grow it at all. It's also known as  'three-coloured Indian cress'. Looking closely at the flowers, you see why.  Marvelous!

The troughs for home displays of small plants were outstanding. This one featured a less-is-more approach that won it a prize. Just three plants: on the left, Berberis buxifolia 'Nana', white Gypsophila cerastioides - alpine baby's breath - and a rosy Antennaria dioica 'Minima'. All dwarf plants, all in scale with their planter, the two perennials flowering well, and an evocative piece of sandstone thoughtfully placed in the center. Well done, with style!


Tilting toward the positively nerdy was this rare Adiantum, or maidenhair fern. This one is Adiantum aleuticum var. subpumilum. Amazing overlapping leaves... cool !!

native to the U.S. Aleutian islands

 Most of these exotic looking plants are quite growable. I started some of this fern from spores last year. I scattered some on top of moist sphagnum peat in a small pot, covered with a glass lid, and a few weeks later, voila, new plants. Sowing seed or spore provides the spice of genetic variation - each new plant will be a little different from the next.

From A to Z... Zaluzianskya ovata from South Africa is a perennial with a heady perfume. It is also called night phlox, as its flowers open best then, out of the day's heat.  And, back again to 'A'...

'A', as in Asarum splendens

 Here is a spectacularly grown specimen from the wilds of China, fully tamed in cultivation. These 'wild gingers' are really in the dutchman's pipe family. They are found all over East Asia, even North America. The most showy in flower and leaves however, are the Chinese and Japanese plants.

 How about these charming Cylamen persicum? Their leaves are a great compliment to the butterfly flowers. This high altitude form is actually hardy - in Victoria, at least - whereas the supermarket "persicums" are certainly not.
These are flawlessly grown, and shown.

At this show were these and many, many other delights. The best of them took home the hardware, as best always does. For the rest, some may return in following years to take their place of honour. Thank you for joining me!
The silver-plated end!


  1. Great post Bud!
    It's easy to fall in love with Lewisia, is spectacular! and true! has few requirements, can not wait to try the seeds!
    I was fascinated by Tropaeolum tricolor, wow! so ornamental, the Chilean flora is amazing!