Updated: Jul 18, 2022
Scientific Name: Papaver rhoeas
Common Name: Common poppy, Shirley poppy, Flanders poppy
Family: Papaveraceae (poppy family)
This is THE poppy we all know because we always stick an artificial version to our jackets in November, backed with a little piece of an eraser so as not to stab ourselves. We use the poppy as a sign of remembrance because of the poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, where he speaks of the poppy growing row on row. In class, we talked about how the poppy was able to grow in this graveyard of fallen soldiers. This species is an annual, typically growing up to 18" tall. It has a nodding bud where scarlet red, 4-6 petaled flowers with a black blotch at the stem are borne. They only flower for a short amount of time in early-late spring, because they will not tolerate the summer heat. It does best in rich, well-draining soils with average moistures and a good amount of sun. The poppy family is also known for having delicate/flimsy stems that will not tolerate a high-traffic area or a big dog running through it.
Scientific Name: Hosta 'Halcyon'
Common Name: Plantain Lily
Family: Asparagaceae (asparagus family)
Hotsa 'Halcyon' is one of those plants you just can't miss as you walk past it (in my case, at least). It boasts thick, glacious blue-green cordate leaves. Arranged with care, I can see how this might easily become a staple in many landscape architect's toolkits. This is not only because it looks great paired with colourful plants, but also because it' is tough and easy to care for. It's great for the shadier and more moist area in the planting plan. Watch out for slugs and snails, and be sure to cut back the stems after those bell-shaped pale lilac blooms have gone away in late summer.
Scientific Name: Rodgersia podophylla
Common Name: Rodgersia
While we're on the topic of thick, large leaves, Rodgersia podophylla is also hard to miss. Its palmately compound, feet-like (hence the name 'podo-phylla') have a lovely bronze tinge on new spring leaves that mature to dark green as the summer gets going. When we saw them today, we got to see their fluffy white panicles. I'm looking forward too seeing them later on when the calyx has turned reddish-brown as I'm curious how that will change its appearance. This species needs moisture, and does best in a partially shaded space.
Scientific Name: Amsonia hubichtii 'Blue Star'
Common Name: Arkansas Blue Star
Family: Apocynaceae (dogbane family)
Awarded the Perennial Plant of the Year in 2011 by the Perennial Plant Association, Amsonia hubichtii is a great perennial for extended visual interest into the fall. It has delicate, needle-like leaves on long stems which are terminated by the little blue, star-shaped flowers. They keep the flowers for about four weeks. In the fall, the leaves turn into a lovely golden orange colour. I'm looking forward to seeing that fall colour in action. This species is not particularly fussy in terms of soil but needs a good amount of sunlight. This perennial would be great for boarders, or open woodland areas. I can see how it would be best in a mass planting or paired with some ornamental grasses.
Scientific Name: Lavandula pedunculata
Common Name: Butterfly lavender, French lavender
Family: Lamiaceae (mint family)
This aromatic, bushy species is known for its butterfly-like, narrow petals that emerge from the top of a narrow stalk. It was awarded the Award of Garden Merit in 2002 from the Royal Horticultural Society. It blooms continuously from mid-late spring to late summer. In warmer climates, it might be evergreen and might even flower all year round. It does best in full sun, and drier, well-drained soils. They have narrow grey-green leaves, little purple bracts, and purply-plum or nearly black flower heads. It is amazing for attracting bees (as you can see in the gif below). This would be great in a mass planting, or in containers.
Scientific Name: Sempervivum tectorum
Common Name: Hens and Chicks, Common Houseleek, Roof House Leek
Family: Crassulaceae (stonecrop family)
I might be becoming obsessed with sempervivums. I love how they grow in the cracks of stone as if they just appeared on their own to bring some colour to those in-between places. This species is no exception. Sempervivum tectorum is a rosette succulent that produces above-ground runners called stolons that help it spread across rocky walls. It is a hapaxanthic plant, which means that it produces its flowers only once right before it dies. In essence, that's not much different from an annual, except in this case, the phase of establishment is longer (Willert, 1992, p. 306). It grows best in very well-drained soils and full sun. It's often planted in those rock face cracks because that ensures it's well-draining, has root protection, and has radiant heat.
Fun fact, it was cultivated in Europe partly for its appearance but also partly because of a Roman legend claiming that it helps protect building faces from lighting strikes (NC State, n.d.). Interestingly, the word sempervivum in Latin means "live forever."
Scientific Name: Bistorta officinalis
Common Name: Bistort, common bistort
Family: Polygonaceae (knotweed/buckwheat family)
Bistorta officinalis is a great tough, herbaceous perennial. Its pale pink, bell-shaped flowers are arranged atop long stems in cylindrical, bottlebrush-like inflorescences. It might be confused with its close relative, bistorta affinis, except this species is bigger and more coarse. If this species is planted in a spot with a good amount of sun and moisture-rich soil, it will have good leave development. It might be characterized as having semi-evergreen foliage which means it might retain some green foliage into the winter in milder parts of its range. In Latin, its name refers to its twisted root system, as bis means twice and torus means twisted (Missouri Botanical Garden, n.d.). I find this shrub to have rather distinct flowers that make it nice for borders of paths (due to its toughness), containers, or near ponds or streams (due to its moisture tolerance).
Bistorta officinalis is arranged at the UBC Botanical Garden with the following plant, which I quite enjoyed and will get to in a moment...
Scientific Name: Euphorbia characias
Common Name: Mediterranean spurge
Family: Euphorbiaceae (spurge family)
To me, this plant looks like something straight out of Dr. Seuss. It's blue-green, radially arranged foliage paired with its limey-yellow bracts make it quite a shocking plant. Additionally, this plant offers prolonged interest as its bracts are long-lasting and the foliage is evergreen. However, if we have a harder winter than usual it can get damaged. Be sure to cut back the flowers after bloom and not to let all the stems flower at once. It prefers lots of sun and well-drained soils. I love the way it was paired with Bistorta officinalis, the colours of their foliage complement each other nicely, and they both have more-so upright cylindrical inflorescences. I also think this plant is extremely distinct and hard to forget as its foliage looks kind of like those big spinning brushes at a touchless car wash, and the bracts look kind of like suction cups.
“Bistorta Officinalis.” Missouri Botanical Garden, www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=440954.
"Lavandula pedunculate subs. pedunculate (Lavender)." Gardenia.net https://www.gardenia.net/plant/lavandula-pedunculata-subsp-pedunculata-lavender
"Papaver rhoeas." Missouri Botanical Garden, https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=284850
“Sempervivum Tectorum.” North Carolina State University - Extension Gardener, plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/sempervivum-tectorum/.
Willert, Dieter J. v. Life Strategies of Succulents in Deserts: With Special Reference to the Namib Desert. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge [England]; New York;, 1992.