Updated: Jul 17, 2022
Scientific Name: Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’
Common Name: Hakone grass, Japanese forest grass
Family: Poaceae (grass family)
This award-winning plant gets its name from "Hakone" (from Mt. Hakone, Japan, where this plant grows naturally) and "chloa" meaning grass in Greek - aka grass from Japan (Walters Gardens Inc., n.d.). I can't stop thinking about this clump of loveliness. Hakonechloa is an easy-to-grow, popular ornamental grass. This species prefers more moist, well-drained soils, and partial shade. Spreading by rhizomes, the plain green variety isn't as popular as it is more aggressive than the variegated ones. This grass is great for borders, cascading down banks, containers, and pretty much every garden. One thing to note about hakonechloa macra is that a lot of retailers will sell tissue-culture propagated specimens, which is something to look out for and avoid. Tissue-culture grasses often show signs of reversion, just as one of the specimens at the UBC Botanical Garden did (see the image below on the right).
Speaking of staple grasses...
Scientific Name: Luzula sylvatica
Common Name: Greater wood-rush
Family: Juncaceae (rush family)
Luzula sylvatica is a tough, clump-forming perennial grass. While it is categorized as a perennial, it does keep its leaves most of the time, making it nearly evergreen. This grass is a staple for those shady spots in the landscape or garden. Like most plants in the Juncaceae (rush) family, this plant needs moisture. If given ideal conditions this will form a very attractive, glossy and ribbon-like groundcover/mat (staying 30-35cm tall) that requires little maintenance. This species would be great paired with a fern and a moisture-loving perennial (ideally one with better-looking flowers).
Scientific Name: Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’
Common Name: Solomon's seal
Family: Asparagaceae (asparagus family)
Awarded the Perennial Plant of the Year in 2013 by the Perennial Plant Association, Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ is a staple for the shade garden. This species boasts graceful arching red stems, and alternately arranged leaves with white margins, almost as if they were just brushed with white paint. It flowers with white, fragrant, bell-shaped leaves that come up in late spring. This plant likes partial to full shade. It works well in a container or in a shady woodland environment where it looks great with ferns and hostas. It might take some time to establish itself, but once it does it is long-lived and low maintenance (Perennials.com, n.d.).
Scientific Name: Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus
Common Name: Lemon lily, yellow daylily
Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus is a herbaceous perennial, however, there are some evergreen varieties. In the early spring, we see strap-like leaves and in late spring we get fragrant flowers. The flowers are golden trumpets that open in the early evening and close the following morning, before being replaced by another flower the next evening. Spreading via rhizomes, this species will spread and form a colony. Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus works very well in the Vancouver climate, as it thrives in moist, well-drained soils, and partial to full sun.
Scientific Name: Paeonia lactiflora cultivars
Common Name: Chinese peony, garden peony
Peonies are such a classic perennial that I thought I'd take this opportunity to get to know them more. They were introduced in North America in the 1800s, but they have been used and grown for traditional Chinese uses since the 7th century. The genus name comes from the Greek name for Paeon, who was a physician to the gods and (reputedly) discovered the medicinal properties of the plants in this genus (Missouri Botanical Garden, n.d.). These are long-lived perennials that grow from a fleshy root system that becomes woody. They have been quite tolerant of the changing climate and continue to grow faster as the soil warms. They have dark green biternate compound leaves with irregular margins that might turn to a rusty colour in the fall. They are grown for their bowl-shaped flowers, sometimes 5" across and getting so heavy they force the plant to fall over. The flowers have 8-10 white-crimson petals and often have a centre boss of yellow stamens (Ibid). Many cultivars are sold today, and generally, they are pretty easy to take care of if they get the right moisture and partial shade but watch for grey mold.
Scientific Name: Osmunda regalis
Common Name: Royal fern
Dimorphic and deciduous, this statuesque fern has real architectural potential. This species gets its royal name from its bi-pinnate, fertile fronds that rise above the sterile pinnae forming somewhat of a crown (Go Botany, n.d.). Noticing the differing appearance between the fertile and sterile fronds is one of the ways to distinguish this fern. These ferns typically grow from rhizomes which form a mat above the soil surface. In early spring, fiddleheads covered with brown hairs emerge from pink/wine stems, which later become smooth. They prefer moist soils, as they are often found in wetland habitats and stream banks. Its shade, sun, and moisture tolerance along with its grand stature make it a great choice for the landscape.
Scientific Name: Allium christophii
Common Name: Persian onion, star of Persia
Family: Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis family)
This valuable bulbous perennial is often grown for its spring bloom of large, spherical, lavender flowerhead. Its flowerhead, consisting of up to 100 individual flowers, are some of the larger inflorescences we see with ornamental inions, making it a very popular choice (Missouri Botanical Garden, n.d.). The umbels, blooming in late spring to early summer, sit above the strap-like leaves and have a distant metallic maroon sheen. Aside from its showy bloom, this perennial is valuable because its also tolerant, low maintenance, and tough. It is relatively drought tolerant but prefers well-drained, average moisture and lots of sun.
“Allium Cristophii.” Missouri Botanical Garden, www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=282301.
“Ferns of the Adirondacks: Royal Fern (Osmunda Regalis Var. Spectabilis).” Adirondacks Forever Wild, wildadirondacks.org/adirondack-ferns-royal-fern-osmunda-regalis.html.
“Hakonechloa Macra 'Aureola'.” Walters Gardens Inc., www.waltersgardens.com/variety.php?ID=HAKMA.
“Osmunda Regalis - Royal Fern.” Native Plant Trust: Go Botany, gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org/species/osmunda/regalis/.
"Paeonia lactiflora." Missouri Botanical Garden, https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=286081
“Polygonatum Odoratum 'Variegatum'.” Perennials.com, Heritage Perennials, www.perennials.com/plants/polygonatum-odoratum-variegatum.html.