Visiting the Botanical Garden in July is often a singular pleasure. When the temperatures finally rise to something resembling summer heat, the forested paths of the David C. Lam Asian Garden and BC Rainforest Garden beckon visitors to enjoy a cool respite from the sun. It’s easy to while away the hours sitting on a bench by the pond in the Rainforest Garden watching the antics of a wide variety of birds and dragonflies. In the shade of the Asian Garden, cranesbills (Geranium), astilbes (Astilbe), meadow rues (Thalictrum) meadowsweets (Filipendula) and lilies (Lilium) fill gaps between rhododendrons, deciduous trees and tall conifers. Rhododendrons are seldom thought of as summer bloomers, but the Garden has a number of July-flowering species, including the iconic R. auriculatum, with its long leaves, auriculate (ear-like) leaf bases, and sticky, fabulously sweetly-scented, white or pink trumpet-like flowers that emerge in late July. Somewhat earlier is another Chinese species, the equally impressive R. glanduliferum, with its wintergreen-scented flowers.
Hydrangeas, much valued for their summer-borne blooms, are in evidence in the Carolinian Forest Garden, Contemporary Garden and especially the Asian Garden. The Botanical Garden has some fifty different hydrangeas and hydrangea relatives in its collections. The family, Hydrangeaceae, which includes shrubs, climbers and herbaceous perennials is characterized by shade tolerant plants, though there are a few notable exceptions. The bush anemone, Carpenteria californica, a prominent shrub in the North American section of the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden, displays its huge pure white blooms at this time. Plants in flower in the alpine garden are too numerous to mention, but suffice to say that if visitors enjoy both colour and sunshine, this is the place to be. Deutzia is another member of the family. They are shade tolerant, but flower earlier and more exuberantly with sun. The Asian Garden boasts a fine collection of these sprawling shrubs, as well as the better-smelling flowers of the mock oranges (Philadelphus). These hydrangea relatives are notable for their white, intensely orange-blossom-scented flowers. Philadelphus lewisii, which is native to much of western North America, is well represented in both the Garry Oak Meadow and Woodland Garden and BC Rainforest Garden. Climbers in this family include both evergreen and deciduous species—most of them white-flowered, but all of them handsome. The most impressive of the herbaceous hydrangea relatives is the East Asian Kirengeshoma palmata. Japanese seedlings grow to about 1.5 m (5 feet), while our more robust Korean collections top out at more than 2.5 m (8 feet). The stems on both types carry opposite pairs of broad, jagged-edged leaves and are surmounted by waxy, tubular yellow flowers that dangle on wire-like stems. The flowers and are visited by all manner of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Submitted by Douglas Justice, Associate Director, Horticulture & Collections, June 30, 2014.