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Sunday, October 23, 2011

‘Ling Ling’ Panda Face Ginger

Are you familiar with Asarum maximum ‘Ling Ling’, the Panda Face Ginger?  This very attractive evergreen wild ginger forms a clump of large dark green leaves that can be up to 8” long in mature plants.  The leaves are often nicely patterned with light green on the sides of a central green strip.

In spring and sometimes again in fall, ‘Ling Ling’ produces some of the most striking flowers in the genus.  The flaring, two inch wide black and white flowers are reminiscent of a panda and give it its common name.  The flowers of many wild gingers are obscured by foliage but, in the case of the Panda Face Ginger, the sheer size and bright contrasting colors make them quite noticeable.

‘Ling Ling’ is at its best when grown in a container where the charming flower and evergreen foliage can be easily admired.  For those of us in cool climates such as in the Pacific Northwest, a container has the secondary benefit of warming up more quickly during the growing season and this encourages better growth.

Asarum maximum can also be grown in the open garden in part to full shade in moist, humus rich, well-drained soil. The Panda Face Ginger is attractive to slugs as well as humans and slug control is a must.  It is native to low elevation forests in Hubei and Sichuan, China and is hardy to 5 to 10 degrees F.  It is a good candidate for a cool greenhouse in colder climates.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pacific Coast Irises in Fall

Iris douglasiana
Fall is the time to move or divide Pacific Coast Irises.  PCI’s are very particular about the timing of root disturbance.  As many gardeners have learned, trying to divide them after spring flowering or during the summer months results in dismal failure.  Trust me on this, I’ve tried it and have been spectacularly unsuccessful.  What begins as a beautiful green fan quickly becomes a disintegrating black clump.

Iris douglasiana in the garden
Like many western native plants, Pacific Coast Irises are adapted to dry summers and moist winters.  They flower in spring at the end of the rainy season, rest during the summer months and resume active growth with the arrival of fall rains.

Lift the clump
The onset of fall moisture causes Pacific Coast Irises to form new roots that will carry them through the coming year.  PCI’s can be successfully moved and older plants can be divided and refreshed during this period.

Check for new roots
Check the readiness of your PCI’s by carefully exposing the base of the fan.  Look carefully for just emerging plump, white roots.  Plants can be divided to a single fan or moved as a larger clump.  In the weeks following transplant, these new roots will quickly penetrate the soil and you will begin to see new foliage growth at the center of the fan. 

Evergreen species like Iris douglasiana will continue to grow through the cool months that follow and reward you with a colorful display next spring.