Monday, October 25, 2010

Provincial Post - Ontario

As the garden season is coming to an end around here I've been trying to decide how I am going to get through the next little while with this blog. So once a week I will tell you about the flowers and trees that are symbols for each of our provinces and territories. Each Canadian province and territory has a flower, tree, animal, bird and mineral symbol, as well as, a motto. For those of you who don't know, Canada has 10 provinces and 3 territories. Yup, it's a big country. I begin with my home province, Ontario.

Ontario - White Trillium and Eastern White Pine.

The White Trillium or Trillium grandiflorum is in the lily order. There are 40-50 species of trilliums but the grandiflorum is found in Eastern North America and Asia. The white trillium is a woodland plant that flowers in spring for a few weeks, usually in June.  The flowers are large with three petals (about 3 inches across) and sit atop a whorl of three leaves (Tri - three - Trillium). As the flowers age they turn a light pink. White trilliums have been found with green streaking, which while attractive, means they are virus-ed. Trillium seeds are spread by ants who like to eat the elaiosome in the seed and then compost the rest. Germination may take place in this ant garbage area as it is full of rich nutrients.
Growing your own trilliums from seed is known to be a lengthy process. The rule of thumb is not to expect flowers for 7 years. Once germinated, the first year is spent putting down roots. The second year you may get the seed leaf and the third year a true leaf. Then you wait for the flower which may take another 5 years or longer.

Photo from UBC Botanical Garden
The Eastern White Pine or Pinus strobus is one of my favorite trees. This is a magnificent evergreen conifer that can live up to 200-250 years and reach heights of 80 feet at maturity (180 feet/50m in the wild) and a diameter of 2-3 feet. Pyramidal in shape when young the white pine is known to develop a ragged windswept look with great age. The Group of Seven are famous for their paintings of the white pine. The needles are bluish green and grow in bundles of five. They are soft to the touch. The cones are long and slender and the scales open up and are reflexed. Cone production peaks every five years. The seeds are wind dispersed.
Once, this tree covered most of eastern North America. Now only 1% of the original trees remain from the intensive logging that took place between the eighteenth and early twentieth centuries. White pines were used as masts on sailing ships for the British Royal Navy. The marking and seizure of the white pines by the king of England was a point of contention for the (Canadian and American) colonists and their removal played a part in the American Revolution. The white pine is used for lumber and has been prized for lengths of knot free wood. Today it is farmed commercially in areas where it grows naturally.
Growing a white pine in your garden requires a lot of space so you might prefer to find dwarf varieties. They grow well in full sun to part shade and ordinary soil. They can be used for hedging or windbreaks.


  1. Dear Patty, I do so love Trilliums but struggle to keep them alive let alone multiply. How wonderful to have this most majestic of plants as the symbol for your county!

  2. I have good success with the white trillium and they are slowly spreading. I have tried T. erectum a red,and a yellow T. sessile but unsuccessfully.

  3. I liked your post today. Very interesting info. Canada is huge and beautiful country. And the white pine is one of my favorite trees. Today, as a matter of fact, I was cutting branches off two of them to make wreaths for our neighborhood. It was a 'training' session to teach the neighbors how to make a wreaths using white pine, blue spruce and noble fir. They are learning early because come Christmas, they will not get my help. I do this for my friend's business and make hundreds of wreaths to sell. White pine is my favorite to use. BTW, no pine is injured. They just lose a few lower branches and get some thinning.

  4. gardenwalk: Thank you for your comment. It sounds like you will be very busy soon making wreaths for Christmas. I bet they are beautiful. Please post some pictures on your blog for me, I'd love to see some examples.