Saturday, December 02, 2006

Winter Gardening Indoors

It is that time of year a gardener takes an involuntary leave of the dirt in the yard and must resort to satisfying the gardening passion indoors. So far, I have reorganized the seed collection, adding computer labels, alphabetizing them, and dividing them into annuals, tropical/indoors/novelty, and perennials.

I got the handy seed binder with clear plastic zip-loc compartments from Lee Valley Tools. I had to buy a few extra pages for the now-bulging collection of seeds. Of course, the solution to the burgeoning seed population is to plant them next spring!

The orchid collection is getting a bit more attention now, with my efforts focused on making them bloom. This is a combination of a battle of wills, wishful thinking and some surfing on the internet for tips to get the finicky plants to bloom. As it turns out, neglect is often the answer -- an absence of water and fertilizer in the winter will do it for several kinds of orchids.

The one pictured in bloom right now is the Dendrobium spatulata, my least favourite but most vigorous grower and bloomer. It's green flowers to eventually turn yellow and just slightly more attractive. I bought this plant as a shriveled up discounted item from the back of Dutch Growers in Saskatoon. It had no blooms on it at the time, but I was determined to try growing it anyways.

One of the other indoor plants I am growing: a dwarf Musa acuminata "Cavendish", which grows only to a dwarfish 7-9 ft tall! This plant grows very fast, likes lots of water and fertilizer. My hope is to eat my own northern-SK-grown bananas in another 2-3 years!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Burying fall treasures

I planted bulb number 192 today and have 100 crocuses yet to go (but they're small and you can bury them in groups). Today's bulb plantings include Eranthis (Winter aconite), Tulips, and Scilla campanulata. This picture shows the planting of the Tulip "Skagit Valley", a frivolous botanical splurge for bicolored purple and white may-flowering tulips. I use the manual bulb-planter I bought in BC last year, a replacement for the cheap one that broke on last year's muddy soil.

The fluffy backyard companion is happy to have company outside, but would rather go for a walk than supervise bulb-planting from behind the fence!

I dug up 3 of the cannas from the whiskey barrels today. I am not really intent on drying and saving the roots for next year (because it's more fun just to buy new ones every year!). However, I brought the 3 plants into the garage and potted them up. One has buds on it and I will feel cheated if I never get to see a bloom out of the poor tropicals that tried and ALMOST made it in this forelorn northern climate.

The fall colors are cheerful as some of the trees still cling to their leaves. The Siberian dogwoods have brilliant red leaves and the spirea shrubs are bright yellow. This pretty seed head belongs to Pulsatilla vulgaris (Prairie crocus) which rebloomed late in the season, after its big showing in Easter.

At left is the full bloom of Aster dumosus "Alert", a late-season bloomer. It is certainly the only plant with such a floral show in October! In another two weeks it will likely be covered in snow. It works much better here than the standard chrysanthemums, which never did bloom before snow and hard frosts.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Fall seeds and leaves

Well, fall is officially here today -- at least that's what the Autumn Equinox and colored leaves are telling us. I have left almost all of the dead flowers and foliage on the perennials to keep them hardy over winter, as they will trap more leaves and snow that way.

The squirrel has found the dried up sunflowers and made quick work of the seed heads.

I planted most of the first box of 135 bulbs from Botanus. Triumph Tulip "Negrita" (dark purple), Single Late Tulip "Florissa" (dark pink), and a bicolored purple/white "Skagit Valley" Tulip are the large bulbs of this fall. I also ordered/planted mini botanical tulips, crocuses, narcissus, and a few others. The show of bulbs in May/June is sure to be pretty next year!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

September Garden Colors

My garden is still a work in progress and I have yet to fill in the perennial beds. However, several plants are blooming now whether through natural processes or fortunate accidents creating out-of-season flowers.

(Right) Blue flowers of Gentiana dahurica, a small perennial with lovely true-blue flowers.

(Right) The Japanese pink-flowering crabapple has tiny red apples on it. The tree is really just ornamental, as the little apples aren't really worth picking.

I was suprised by the delicate-looking yet tough little primulas in the perennial border. They have bloomed from spring to late summer! These are yellow "Spring fever" primulas.

Potentilla "Helen Jane" is one of the new color varieties of the plain-old common yellow potentillas of shopping-mall-parking-lot landscaping.

Wild and domestic roses are making bright red rosehips. We discovered that the doggie likes eating rosehips! Her diet will be certainly be complete in vitamin C.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Growing A Garden of Birdseed

The yard is growing well, but many of the perennials are done for the season and others with aspirations of world domination were removed, making me wish I had some annuals to fill up the empty spaces!

These sunflowers grew out of compost laden with birdseed! Resident-lawnmower-man had put the birdseed in the compost (after it got wet and he thought it had gone rotten) and I added the compost to this flowerbed in the spring.

Here's the center raised bed after my "renovations". I am going to add some colorful short annuals to the front next year. I also need to divide the lilies, as they multiply so quickly!

Pictured at right: The pink Digitalis purpura (Foxglove) were started from seed early this year and I am happy to see this late summer bloom.

Pictured at left: The bright pink Echinacea purpura attracts hundred of butterflies and is a joy of the late summer flower garden.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Beavers down the Road

While I get the yard weeded and worked-upon, here is an unique nature image: a beaver dam with sophistication. I saw this yesterday on the highway 105 km south of La Ronge. You may ask what a beaver would do with digital cable from Bell Express Vu? Well, perhaps the winters are too long and boring. Or maybe they're watching HGTV for ideas on home (dam) renovation? The possibilities are endless, really.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Echinacea and Bee Balm

Two well-known perennials are blooming this week. Both are big butterfly favourites and grow as wildflowers elsewhere in the world.

Pictured: A purple Mondarda didyma (Bergamot, Bee Balm). This plant does spread by rhizomes, popping up several new plants around the base, but it is not yet the worst of the garden thugs. If you have this plant, you need to either regularly hack up the growth around the base or give the new plants away to friends.

Pictured: Pink Echinacea, some melon-colored short lilies, and a background of pink Malva Moschata (Mallow).

My Echinacea is the old fashioned type whichI grew from seed. Of course, now they have the hybrids with orange and yellow flowers, double-flowered and double-decker flowers, and ones that can operate heavy machinery...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hot Hot Hot in the Flower Garden

It seems the western provinces (and some of Europe!) are currently in the midst of a heat wave. The temperatures are drying out the lawn, so we're out moving sprinklers a fair bit. I don't worry about most of the perennials, as they are well established and quite drought-resistant.

Pictured: I took this picture of a colorful mosquito-eating insect in the flower garden. It was about 1.5" long and smaller than the usual 3" blue and white dragonflies so I'm not sure if it's a damselfly or small dragonfly!?
Pictured: LA Hybrid Lily "Inzell", a nice clear white lily.

Pictured: These Adenophora hybrida "Amethyst" are flopped over more than unsual because I just had the sprinkler on them for a few hours. They may look pretty from a distance, but they are invasive to the point of unruly. They will be removed after flowering.

Pictured: This hardy Rose "Morden Blush" is all but invisible behind the mass of Adenophora. I might move it to the front of the raised bed this fall. I thought it was killed by an early snow this spring. Fortunately, it sent some new growth from the roots (I'm glad I never dug it up!) and is now a nice little bush again.

Pictured: The pincherries are ripe and doing well this year. These small-ish trees grow wild around the yard. A nice jelly can be made from the fruit, but I don't have the patience to pick them! I've also been grazing on Saskatoon berries directly from the bush, of which we have wild and domesticated species growing in the yard.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Lavender Triumph

LA Hybrid Lilies: Probably "Fangio", a dark reddish-pink Asiatic hybrid (crossed with Aurelians/Trumpets).
Close-up of one of the tall Delphinium elatum "Summer Skies".

I am very excited about the survival of the lavender (Lavendula angustifolia "Munstead") which grows in the perennial border next to the driveway (loaded with snow in winter) and in the rockgarden on a slope (no special protection). This is apparently a dwarf strain and the hardiest of English lavenders. Its foliage and flowers smell lovely and I wish I had huge patch of it. Veseys calls it zone 4, others call it zone 5. Essentially, this is a ground-breaking triumph...or maybe it's just global warming.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

July's Colors

The large and bold flowers are the theme of the month. Four-foot pale blue delphiniums bloom around the yard, though I'd like to add some deeper blue and purple ones for next year. (They are started in the basement already).

The containers on the deck are growing well. I started the Petunias, Lobelia, Nicotiana, and Osteospermum from seed. All were quite easy to grow under lights.

Pictured: The large-leafed plants are Nicotiana sylvestris. People visiting the house want to know the name of this giant flower-- "Tobacco", I say..."the ornamental flowering kind". As much as I was enticed by the promise of sweet-smelling flowers, the overwhelming tobacco smell of the leaves doesn't allow you to enjoy any flower scent.

Pictured: Bright blue Delphinium grandiflorum "Blue Elf" and pink Malva Moschata. I am wondering why I put these in the rock garden, because they are both almost 3 feet tall and require staking. Hmmm. Resident-lawnmower-man says they look fine, but I think this situation may keep me up at night...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Lettuce Lamentations

I made an interesting observation in the vegetable patch the other day. Apparently, the bugs have selective tastes for leafy greens described as "gourmet". At first, I thought all my lettuce was doomed and that I would either have to rely on store-bought lettuce or install high-tech lettuce-protectors.

Pictured: At left is bug-eaten Green Oakleaf or Arugula; at right is Paris Island Cos Lettuce looking perfect!

Now that the lettuce has grown, I wish I was a little more careful in not mixing the seed between the rows. I planted Arugula (technically a type of mustard), Green Oakleaf Lettuce, and Paris Island Cos Lettuce. All were from Richter's Herbs in Ontario. I now see that the Paris Island Cos Lettuce is doing well but one or both of the Oakleaf/Arugula are looking like moth-eaten socks.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Not just perennials

I confess that I am growing ANNUALS up here. Yes, I am not a perennial purist. However, I do know one of these types, who wanted to know if I grew perennials or annuals before taking up a gardening friendship.

Pictured: Yellow pot liles "Lemon Pixie", white zinnias, Snapdragons, and Pink Lilies "Farolito".

Sometimes I even feel bad for growing annuals, yet I justify this act by emphasizing that almost nothing else will grow in containers left out over winter! Those pampered gardeners in Toronto and Vancouver can flaunt their Tiarellas, Tulips, and English Ivys flowing from ornamental containers. Unfortunately, the rule for plants in containers is that they must be hardy to a climate two zones less than your present zone. That is, if you live in Zone 6, the plants in containers must be hardy to zone 4. This might work in warmer places, but technically, it would leave us in negative numbers.

Remarkably though, the snow cover does wonders here and I actually have some yellow pot lilies ("Lemon Pixie") that made it through the winter in whiskey barrels. I intended to leave them there, thinking they would die and compost away. I was quite suprised to see them back this year, especially since our dog's brother ATE all the flowers off those lilies last year. I since found out that lilies are very poisonous to animals, but he was fine except for the yellow pollen "mustache" that gave him away!

The doggie picture is our fine friend in all her sleek summertime glory, without the heavy undercoat. She looks much smaller in the summer! The wild blueberries are growing in her backyard habitat though I don't think she has been eating any of them.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Smoke on the Water

The sky has not been clear for days, with thick smoke hanging over the town over the past 2 days. The nearest fire is about 15 km away and the smoke changes with the wind direction. I'm trying to conserve water, so the plants are getting watered less this week.

Pictured at left: One of the neighbour's floatplanes on Lac La Ronge (across the street from our house). This picture was taken around 6 pm July 6, with smoke making the sky rather dark and visibility poor.

Pictured: Cream colored Longiform x Asiatic Hybrid Lily "Courier", one of the first liles in the stone-wall raised bed.

I did plant a few more lilies 2 weeks ago and I just saw some little shoots are already poking through the soil.

Pictured: Pink flowers of Fireweed, a common plant almost everywhere! It is more common in disturbed landscapes, including those where fires have burned the landscape. This one was growing near the docks across the street.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Roadside Wildflowers

Part of being a garden-nerd is loving the flowers that grow outside my yard, including those in the ditch along the highway. Last month the showy pink ladyslipper orchids decorated the ditch along the highway running south of town.

Today, I stopped for the orange Wood Lilies (Saskatchewan's provincial flower) and the Common Red Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata).

I'm not sure why they were named "red" because they definitely are pink. The only other point of interest on the roads are the RVs with boats in tow. I'm not sure where they're planning to go, considering the evacuation of some of the provincial parks due to fire. The Nut Point provincial campground 1 km from our house is still okay (we're still here!).

Smokey the Garden Bear

dThe before and after pictures: We got crushed rock and spread it over the driveway last weekend. Much improved I say, because it makes my plants along the driveway look even better!

The Sask Environment website lists 26 new fires in the La Ronge Fire Center area today and the smoke is quite heavy. It has caused the moon to be an eerie shade of orange.
It sounds like the fires are just north of town but not threatening the town of La Ronge directly. Regardless, the resident-lawnmower-man decided not to go plant shopping with me at the nearest garden center (2hrs 20 min away) in Prince Albert.
[Incidentally, would you believe Superstore is selling apricots for $2.48 per lb!! Another excellent reason to move to B.C.]
I'm believing that lawnmower-man planned to heroically guard the garden with a hose in case of disaster (or maybe he just wanted to be home with the ice cream).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Flower Color Clash

Can flowers or plants clash? This is the garden question of the week. Of course they can, I say, and the situation should be remedied as soon as possible! Mr. Resident Lawnmower-Person disagrees. He is of the opinion that any combination of plants looks good together and flowers blend by the mere commonality of their "flowerness" (not his exact words). Of course, this same man requires consultation on which pants and shirts look okay together...

So tonight I set about moving plants all over the yard in a need to restore color harmony. One particular color combination was polluting the garden aesthetic: Blue/purple-flowered Jacob's ladder and the Purple-leaf rose (Rosa glauca). How could I have left these two together for so long? I retch at the ugliness. I searched the net and found this pearl:

(1) Purple-foliage plants combine well with blue-grey foliage plants.
Plan: Remove Jacob's ladder. Will add an Artemisia schmidtiana "Silvermound" (from division of existing plants) in front of rose next spring. Divided a few Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantia) and placed next to rose. Move a bunch of silver/purple leafed Coral Bells (Heuchera) to between rose and blue oat grass (blue-grey).

To illustrate my point: Center photo = bad combo, Side photos = show better options to combine with the rose (seen in center photo).

Other garden pearls from my yard: NEVER plant tansy. It is an invasive weed that even several applications of Round-up can't destroy. Any bit of root grows a new plant. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a close second in that regard.

Monday, June 26, 2006

First Lilies

My first blooming lily is this Oriental Pot Lily 'Farolito', a fabulous pink lily. I got it as one of Botanus' bonus gifts with an order this spring. The blooms are amazing and I will have to keep this one around for a great show in the raised bed next year.

In the background are the yellow flowers of the "wall of sedum" that divides driveway and lawn.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Red Ants and Herb Signage

Pictured: Filipendula hexapetala/vulgaris (Dropwort), a 2 ft perennial wildflower with fine fern-like foliage and delicate puff of flowers on thin stem. Started last year from seed.

The poplar has blown its fluff all over the lawn like a shedding polar bear. I'm starting to cut spent blooms off the columbines and Polemonium.

The tiny herb garden/raised bed is growing well in part shade. Next year I'll probably grow lettuce there. I've just read that lettuce does well in that kind of lighting. The stoneware signs from Gardenscape add a little artistic detail. I have four more signs in the back herb bed, marking basil, thyme, dill and oregano.

If anyone knows how to eradicate red ants from the yard, please let us know. Two old whiskey barrell planters and one corner of the house are infested with them. I'm thinking they like old or rotting wood -- and the flesh at the back of my knee. I could post that photo as well but I'll save you the grief.

Pictured: Dianthus deltoides "Flashing Lights" (dark pink) and "Arctic Fire" (white/pink) in the rock garden. I can easily divide these and have moved bits of them around the yard.