Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Why my "weed" has thorns...

I don't know much about Cleome spinosa, other than I like a photo my Dad took last year of some plants growing in BC. I decided to grow it from seed this year. It took a while germinating, finally doing so after I put the pot out in the cool garage. A google image search shows these tall annuals with leaves that look like...I squint at the tiny photos...marijuana! Hmmm. And I am growing these in my basement under grow lights...but of course, the blooms give these plants away pretty quickly. Or, if you're a slow learner, the painful thorns, as this story illustrates -- I found this on the "garden banter" page:
...Cleome SPINOSA, [I] told the local cops who came up our driveway one night after a speeder who wound up in our driveway (dead end road) when he was eyeballing the four foot plants to go ahead and grab one and yank it up. As he wrapped his beefy hands around the central stalk, he let go of it and hollered good. Those little spines bite pretty well.....he then remarked that "marijuana ain't got spines!" I just smiled and said, yer right officer, those are my flowers............they just LOOK like pot!

Further googling found a webpage by underemployed goofs who can't spell or properly use English punctuation. They advised cleome as well as some other plants as good "smokescreen" plantings to disguise your less-than-legal garden activities. One even suggested stinging nettle as an especially good companion plant. So to all you concerned parents out there: when your beloved child comes home with red eyes, itchy rash, and the munchies...ask him about his new interest in recreational horticultural pharmaceuticals.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Garden Questions

I know there is a wealth of gardening information out there, and in the hopes that gardeners out there might pass by my little blog -- here are some of the questions I have been pondering:

Should I avoid planting near evergreen shrubs because their roots suck all the moisture/nutrients away from other plants? i.e. I noticed that the Siberian irises near a juniper looked smaller than the others (then again, these ones may get a bit more shade too). Also, the Polemonium next to a globe cedar looks puny compared to its lush compadres lounging around the raised beds.

How high of a structure do you need to grow pole beans? I stuck my steel obelisk (about four and a half feet tall) in the garden, but then jammed a rough piece of 7 foot lumber in there too just to be sure.

How do I deal with pear slugs? I noticed these on the sandcherries and tart cherries last summer but didn't know what they were till I read the Sherwood greenhouses blog about these little monsters. I sprayed them with insecticidal soap and maybe some permethrin last year, but they didn't look deterred by this effort.

What is a good replacement for a drift of catmint (Nepeta cataria, no particular variety)? The catmint looked really nice in front of some pink tulips for the first two years, but now looks a bit tired (after it spread its seed all over the raised bed). I was wondering about Veronica spicata. My criteria: blue/purple flowers, about 8 to 18 inches tall, flowers in June, hardy to zone 3, and does not become invasive. I especially hate the plants that spread quickly by their roots, like the ladybells I am still trying to eradicate from the yard. Also, I prefer plants that I can grow from seed because these are usually easier for me to obtain.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Wildflowers of May

Yesterday I wandered into the bush to see what is growing out in the wild. The only bloom I could find was the tiny Early Blue Violet (Viola adunca). I identified it using my handy reference: Saskatchewan Wayside Wildflowers by Linda Kershaw. The book also points out that the blossoms of this flower have a wonderful fragrance, but that your sense of smell is quickly dulled by a chemical in the scent called ionine. After a few moments, the wonderful scent disappears, only to reappear and then disappear again. How crafty! These flowers are found from Labrador to Alaska and south through the western U.S. I first saw them on a rock bank at the edge of Lac La Ronge, while I was out canoeing. My canoe adventures usually consist of slowly paddling around the margins of the lake looking for wild orchids, harebells, and corydalis. Other canoe club members apparently value speed...those people probably scare the birds...
Speaking of orchids, this is one of the Cypripediums I spotted out in the bush behind our yard. It will bloom in June, when I'll have to hazard the thick mosquitoes that inhabit the bog to get a picture (I think they even tried to steal my camera last summer).

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Shades of Muscari

I am still waiting under cool and cloudy skies for everything to bloom...so here are the muscari currently blooming in my yard. I took these pictures with my newly repaired Canon powershot S50 5.0 megapixel camera. The front lens cover (which doubles as the on/off switch) got stuck and stopped working around New Years. We had a manufacturer's warranty, but they refused to honor it, saying that the damage was caused by us dropping the camera (we knew we hadn't). It's easy enough for them to say we dropped it; how do we prove we didn't other than to point out the lack of scratches or obvious damage to the camera? Anyhow, with the bitter taste of warranty/insurance companies in our mouths, we had a local camera place repair the camera for a decent price and now I'm back to the Canon. I was using a 7.0 megapixel Nikon, but I kinda liked my old Canon better. It records the colors more accurately.

Back to the flowers...this is Muscari botryoides "Album"...less common thus MORE EXPENSIVE than the blue kind. It has multiplied a bit over the past year, maybe not to the degree the blue ones have.
I purchased this bulb two years ago simply because "I don't have one of those" (or at least, Resident-Lawnmower-Man says this is my usual shopping excuse). This is Muscari latifolium, the flat-leaf muscari. It doesn't really make me want to jump up and down.
Finally, Muscari armeniacum, the regular Armenian grape hyacinth. It is a lovely color, with its little clusters of blue with the tiny white rim on the bottom. It is very hardy. I grow it in full sun. The ones in part shade did not perform as well.
Well, we are supposed to have freezing temperatures (-2 Celsius) Friday night, so it will be another week before I consider putting the annuals out!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Still Waiting for the Tulips

I am STILL waiting for my large tulips to bloom. When they do, you know I will be posting photos. Of course, it will be 2-4 weeks later than all of the rest of Canada has its tulips. I shouldn't say my tulips aren't slow, they're just geographically challenged...having shed their coat of snow less than 2 months ago. In the meantime, I am enjoying the grape hyacinths and the indoor plants.

The dwarf banana is looking great. Maybe in another 2-3 yrs we'll have bananas! This Dendrobium blooms several times a year. This time it has 3 flower spikes and another new cane growing from the base. The orchids must love our house because aside from flowering, I have enough baby orchids being produced as keikeis that I have to give them away!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Propagation by Layering

I decided that we need more shrubs in the yard, yet I have no idea when I can travel to a garden center to get some (the nearest place selling shrubs is over 2 hrs away). A slow but cheap and easy method of propagating deciduous shrubs is called layering. I decided to do my first intentional layering of the Spirea "Goldflame". I like this shrub for its bright pinky-orange foliage in early spring and clusters of purple flowers in early summer. It is better to do layering in early spring, (our spring runs a bit later up here - i.e. my tulips have not bloomed) when the branches are young, green, and flexible.

GARDEN MEMORIES INTERLUDE...I remember discovering this phenomenon back when I was about 6 yrs old and puttering around in my mom's rock garden. I noticed that some plants grew new little plants when you covered their stems with dirt and left them for a little while. I don't think mom had any idea I was doing this. I think she thought I was absorbed in the little patch of beans I was supposedly growing in the empty lot beside the yard ("where the snakes and scorpions roamed"...or at least that's how the song should go in the Okanagan).

First, I selected a branch looking sufficiently young and close to the ground. I pulled off a few leaves close to the mother plant, then dug a hole under the branch. (I hope to get two plants here because I used a bifurcated branch.) I pinned the bare branches to the bottom of the hole with wire. I used 3mm bonsai wire but it was too malleable. Instead, I would recommend wire hangers cut into pieces or easier yet, rocks.
Then, to make sure my new plants don't come out of the ground at an angle, I poked a wooden chopstick into the ground and tied the plant to it with a velcro fastener. I love those velcro plant ties! The best part is that you can reuse them over and over. Lastly, I filled in the holes with dirt and said a prayer. Hopefully, these branches will make some roots and next spring, I'll cut the rooted shrublets from the mother shrub.

Weather Update

It looked rather cloudy this morning when I got up, but this weather forecast is downright gloomy! Rain would be nice for the plants, but snow and freezing rain? I guess my plants and I are staying indoors today. According to the Weather Network's longterm forecast, we should be getting nice warm weather again around June 1. I'll be looking forward to that.
Text Forecast from Environment Canada
La Ronge: Issued 8.29 AM CST Friday 18 May 2007
Snow ending near noon then clearing. Risk of freezing rain. Local snowfall amount 5 to 10 cm. Wind northeast 20 km/h becoming light this afternoon. High plus 4. UV index 3 or moderate.
Clear. Low minus 4.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bad, Bad Biting Bugs

Okay, let's be honest. The main thing I hate about Saskatchewan and the north is the bug cloud that descends on this place in the summer. Granted, bugs are common to the north across Canada, and that's why I will eventually move to a better place. And that won't be Winnipeg (I hear that mosquitoes are the provincial bird). Southern Saskatchewan has plenty of mosquitoes, but up here you have the thick-as-smoke blackflies and no-see-ums that taunt you and peer in your windows, shouting obscenities until you come outside and donate some blood. My trendy Canadian garden magazine ought to have an article on this. Instead, they have the chic urban Toronto couple with their black and white themed garden and matching poodles...hello???

No one denies that the bugs here are terrible. Local stores sell trinkets with a mosquito saying "Send more tourists, the last ones were delicious!" I fly frequently in small planes across the north for my job and we're told that if you are to survive a crash, it is still possible to die by insect bites, so be sure to bring repellent in your survival gear. Black flies are known to kill large game animals and livestock. This is disgusting. The picture above is of my swollen right eyelid after a black fly bite last summer. This was more dramatic-looking but less painful than the one in my ear canal.

This is another challenge of gardening in the north. How to handle it?
(1) Insect repellents - this year I am going to try out a "natural" option, a spray product called "Bite Me", containing various oils including lemon. It smells FABULOUS but I have yet to see if it works as well as the gold standard, DEET. If you live in a West Nile affected area, the benefits of DEET may outweigh its small risk. As of yet, West Nile hasn't made it this far north. I have used heaps of DEET sprays in the past, applying it to hands, ankles, neck, face, and lower back (because mosquitoes get you when you bend over) as well as all over my clothes.

(2) Proper clothing - NO shorts, NO spandex, NO tank tops. The idea is to cover as much skin as possible, which has the bonus of preventing any sunburns! I love my Tilley hat and heavy cotton pants with reinforced knees from the army surplus store. I wear one of those thin running/cycling jackets (you know, with the "tuxedo tail" to cover your backside) over a breathable shirt. I usually wear a hiking boot, but I have been thinking about finding a pair of Wellies.

The aim is to have loose-fitting clothing so that there is a space between the clothing and your skin, otherwise the mosquitoes easily bite you through your clothes. Last year, a new gardener to the north complained to me about all the mosquito bites on her backside. This is the problem with sweat pants or any stretchy clothing; the minute you bend over, the fabric is close to the skin and the bugs get a tender treat. Unfortunately, I prefer fitted gardening gloves and the mosquitoes easily bite through them, just like they bite through my socks. I cover these areas with repellent.

Now this is sexy clothing indeed:

(3) Environmental factors - gardening in the rain, a stiff wind, or the very hottest time of the day will avoid most biting bugs. This requires true gardening grit, and the neighbours will think you're insane.

(4) Start a bat or dragonfly farm - or at least, we are bat and dragonfly friendly. These friends eat enormous amounts of biting insects. I heard that there was a dragonfly breeding program in Manitoba last year. This sounds better than fogging whole towns with pesticides, although I can understand the frustration!

One last note -- if you have pets in the north, do NOT shave them in the summer. Remember, black flies can kill moose, and they certainly can make your sled dog miserable, especially if they have no hair to protect them. Our dog hides in her house on bad days.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dividing Perennials: A New Tool

Today I was out in the yard moving and dividing perennials. I bought several new tools in the winter, and had been eager to use them. So today, I dug up a Lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis), (not that it was huge and needed dividing, but I just really like this plant and wanted more of it):
After digging the whole plant up so I can see the rootball and crown of leaves, I used my new Giros perennial dividing knife to cut the whole thing in half, like a pork roast:

The Giros knife cuts through tough roots with ease. This seems a whole lot slicker than punching through plants with the blunt end of the spade or trying to pry them into pieces with your fingers. I also used the knife to to divide a huge clump of asters. In that case, I didn't dig up the whole plant. Instead, I just cut off a quarter of the plant and then dug that part up. It came out easily because the roots were separated from the rest of the plant.

And then there were two!

Monday, May 14, 2007

More Little Bulb Wonders

The lovely little blue grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) are blooming so nicely. I dug into these clumps last fall and snatched many bulbs away for other flower beds. You really can't even tell there are bunches missing! The dried flower heads look a bit unsightly late in the summer, but I leave them on the plants so that the seeds can spread around.
Another of my blooming botanical tulips is Tulipa tarda/Daystemon tarda. It has bright yellow and white flowers. The plant is alot shorter than the Tulipa turkestanica, which has mostly white flowers in cluster of five on each stem. I can't believe I have already received my first fall bulb catalog for the year! Anybody for bulb-shopping already???
These T. turkestanicas are looking even better in their second year, with the cloud of white blooms waving back and forth in the breeze. I think a field of these would be lovely. Again though, the dead foliage and seed heads are best disguised later in the season. Unfortunately I have these right at the front of the perennial border and I'll have to tuck annuals in around them!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

How Hardy are Garden Blog Readers?

If you hadn't noticed, I have a geographical web counter on the right column of this blog. It is supposed to track the IP addresses of blog visitors and then indicate them as red dots on the world map. Of course, it isn't totally accurate, but it's interesting nonetheless. Actually, I would expect the dot for visits from my town of La Ronge to show up a little further north. This makes me wonder if my SaskTel internet connection makes it appear like I'm further south than I really am? I'm no technological expert, so this remains a mystery to me.

Anyhow, I don't know many people in the USA (or at least, the ones I know personally probably would not read my garden blog). Therefore, I have been considering the pattern of readers from the US. Those from the so-called Midwest states (look like mid-eastern states on a map to me, but what do I know?) and the Mid-Atlantic states seem to visit the most.

  1. These people are the most avid gardeners.
  2. These people have better internet access than the rest of the Americans.
  3. These folks are reading blogs about gardening while those on the west coast and Florida are actually outside gardening.
  4. These people live in a generally cooler climate than the rest of the states (did you see that dot in Alaska?) and my blog is more applicable/interesting to them. See map of the USDA/USNA hardiness zones to compare:

  5. Some quirk in the workings of Google directs these people to my blog more often
  6. This simply reflects greater population density in these areas (see map).
  7. I also researched other thematic maps of the US to compare the blog's readership against such things as the 2004 elections results, influenza rates, racial origin, gasoline prices, etc. Complex analysis of map data (i.e. comparing maps with my analytical eyeball, in more of a right than left-brain sort of way) shows that these factors are related to the readership of my blog: Scandinavian heritage and the location of monarch butterflies in the month of May.

Well, that was enough time wasted in the name of science for one day. Sometimes, the long hot bath at the end of the day gives time for reflection on these deep issues...while you work on getting the dirt out from under your fingernails...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dead Things in the Garden

Gardening losses are tragic, but they are learning experiences...hopefully gardeners can share these experiences so we don't all have to learn by trial and error. Even more unfortunate however, is that these plant losses were almost expected. The plants just never got the snowcover they needed, not that we didn't have enough snow! Resident-lawnmower-man did some over-eager shovelling of the driveway this year and included the leading edge of the flowerbed in his snow removal. Thus, the unsightly winter burning and drying of the junipers and loss of several three-year old Heucheras (Coral Bells) painstakingly grown from seed. The University of Saskatchewan GardenLine site discusses browned evergreens, saying that cedars are particularly sensitive to winter injury. We wrap our cedar, hoping that the dead side (caused by the neglect of a previous owner) eventually grows in. In the meantime, I'm growing a Clematis macropetala up that side and it seemed to enjoy the winter wrapping! On the other hand, the snow mold on the lawn wasn't bad this year.

Kona says: "I made it through winter outside just fine! I even ripped the door off my doghouse to improve the view! Only wimpy dogs wear sweaters...I sleep in the snow."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Planting Rocks in my Rock Garden

I decided to do some rearranging of the rock garden this week based on design principles I've been reading about. Besides that, I'd always been dodgy about calling the sloped flower bed a "rock garden", mostly for the lack of rocks. Actually, my real dream would probably require large mechanical equipment and aim for some small recreation of the rock gardens at Kew, so I'll stick to what I can do with my hands and a spade for now.

Principles in rearranging my rock garden:

  • less "currant bun" effect, with rocks looking like they're just sitting ontop the dirt
    rocks should look like icebergs, meaning that nine-tenths of the rock is buried out of sight

  • blasted rock looks more like natural stony outcroppings than rounded fieldstone (which can be better used for Japanese styles)

  • align the rocks so any striations match directions

  • use local rocks (resident-lawnmower-man hauled blasted rock in from a construction site)

  • use similar-type stones, rather than a collection of novelty or multicolored stones
  • plantwise, I removed dead or raggy-looking plants then moved some narcissus into the bed from elsewhere in the yard

Okay, so the picture shows that the little rock garden probably violates half those design rules, but settling of the dirt and planting a few more rock garden plants should help it out. Another gardener gave me some alpine Arabis, Gentiana verna and Gentian septemfida today! Within 2 weeks, the phlox and muscari should be in full bloom and should make the bed look beautiful. Or maybe I'll be out there tomorrow adding more rocks...

Flowers blooming now: Scilla siberica, a hardy bulb that produces these deep blue flowers: Muscari armeniacum "Dark Eyes" (Grape Hyacinth) , which is different from the regular bulk-purchased grape hyacinths in that there are little white rims on the bottoms of each "grape". The planting of this new variety really wasn't worth it in my opinion:
This is how far my single-flowered peony has come this spring. Yeah, I know those of you in warmer climates are probably staking their peonies to prevent their blooms from flopping over...and I don't really want to hear about it! But if you're growing peonies north of my latitude, please do tell.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Shades of Pasque Flowers

While today is dark and stormy (okay, so it's a downright snowstorm), I am reflecting on yesterday's pictures of the lovely pulsatillas. It's Latin name is Pulsatilla vulgaris, also called Anemone pulsatilla, Pasque flower, or prairie crocus (although they're NOT crocuses). The purple ones grow wild in Saskatchewan. Their delicate finely cut foliage, fuzzy flower buds, rich flower colors, and feathery seed heads are all beautiful. I grow mine on a bank in full sun in rather poor soil. They would probably be bigger if the soil was more rich. Pulsatilla are quite drought tolerant when established. I have three different colors of these flowers, most of which I grew from seed:

Red Pulsatilla vulgaris

Dark Purple Pulsatilla vulgaris

Light purple Pulsatilla vulgaris

Of course, my collection is missing the white one and maybe there are others I don't know about. I really want to propagate more of the red one so that I wil have nice big clumps of it blooming in the spring. They are showy and quite visible from a distance. Their seed is "ephemeral" as the seed companies call it, expiring not long after ripe, so I'll plant the fresh seeds as soon as possible. Maybe I'll have a bunch of plants for fall planting. They may require cold stratification to germinate, so maybe we'll have seeds planted in the fridge again.

I've only ever purchased these seeds from Gardens North, a seed company with lots of native plant seeds. I get all tingly and starry-eyed just looking at their online catalogs...and I see they're having a 50% off sale all this month. No, they don't pay me to advertise, I just order their stuff frequently! I notice they don't have any pulsatilla at the moment though.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

First Botanical Tulips

Two of the botanical tulips (aka species tulips) are blooming now. I am still waiting for Tulipa tarda/daystemon. Last year, I never deadheaded these tulips, as recommended in a garden magazine I just read. I even let the seedheads dry and spread the seeds in the dirt. I did this mostly because I was impressed by the naturalizing power of these little tulips. Such a change from those fanciful but feeble Dutch inventions! This spring I saw a vertiable grass of little green spiky seedlings in those areas. You can the seedlings and blooming Tulipa turkestanica in this picture (below). At the left foreground is a little (and I do mean tiny) bunch of Crocus chrysanthus (Snow crocus) "Romance". They are a pale yellowish, but don't contribute much to the big picture, since you can't even see them over the rock wall edges of the raised bed!The other blooming botanical tulip is Tulipa pulchella Eastern Star (below). It is such a vibrant pink. I really wish I had a large patch of these. I shall have to spread seeds from these tulips around the rock garden. They need a season of cold to germinate, so there's no point in trying to grow these seeds indoors. Thankfully, squirrels don't seem to bother any of my bulbs. They live in our trees and screech at our dog, yet they haven't found the buried treasures in my garden.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Hot Pink Petunias and the Lettuce Finale

My basement flowers are starting to bloom, pushing the lettuce and herbs out of the way. The Aladdin Cherry petunias and Profusion Cherry zinnias look lovely. They're both a bright pink, sure to make a garish display in the barrel planters.

For those of you following the vermicomposting lettuce saga...we have reached the end of the experiment. For the last post, on day 23, see this previous entry. The romaine lettuce grown in the pot of worm casting compost is the picture of agricultural success, while the potting soil + fertilizer lettuce ended up pathetically small.

An unforeseen lettuce-challenging hurdle in this 60 day trial was my 2-week absence, during which time resident-lawnmower-man tended (that choice of verb may even be too generous) my plants. Despite my warnings about adequately watering the lettuce, I came back to a batch of tough and bitter lettuce, all except for the "worm" lettuce. Yes, the taste test today confirms that the worm lettuce is sweet and mild while the potting soil lettuce is not. Maybe the worm compost had better moisture-retentive properties, protecting it from stingy watering by a non-plantsperson. Moisture retention reportedly is one of the benefits of adding compost to your soil.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ice Chimes and Giant Coleus

The Lac La Ronge ice is quickly being replaced with rippling water now. Nobody's taking trips out to their cabins for a little while now, except perhaps that guy we see with one of those airboats that travels over ice and water as if he were in the northern version of the everglades. I hear he lives out there year-round. Impressive. We walked out on the pier across the street and I was really taken by the tinkling of the ice in the water. The lake ice is about a foot thick, and vertical shards of ice are continually "calving" off the leading edges . Millions of glassy ice sticks float around, glinting in the sunshine and banging against each other, making a sound like hundreds of bamboo wind chimes. Heavenly!
Meanwhile, down in the fertile grounds of the basement, my coleus grows bigger than most coleus I have ever seen before. Check out the photo -- these plants only have about 3 sets of true leaves! This is a Kong Rose coleus, I suppose the "Kong" series name denoting their size. These are supposed to get 18" tall. I'll probably be putting them in a whisky barrel planter under the poplar, so they are in shade.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Postal Plant Thrills

Besides my usual ebay packages yesterday, I was excited to get an order of bare root plants from Veseys. I ordered them back in the dark days of winter, when catalogs entice gardeners with discounts for early-ordering and taunt you with mouthwatering colorful pictures of exotic new breeds, making one feel like the victim of plant pornography. Then, by the time spring arrives and the plants show up at the local post office, I have forgotten what I ordered in the first place. By the way, the pictures in the post are from the Veseys site, and I can only hope that my plants will look as good!

I now need to find places to plant 4 roots of Eryngium alpinum (Blue Sea Holly, zone 4a), 2 roots of white "Jade" Echinacea (Coneflower, zone 3a), and 2 roots of dark pink "Little Business" Daylily (zone 3a). The "Jade" Echinacea is a new white version of the usual pink flower. I also have several of the traditional pink ones. Both the Erygium and novel Echinacea are going into the blue/yellow/white-themed raised bed (aka the Ikea garden).

Of course, there are a few pinks and purples thrown in there, but I have strictly avoided reds and oranges. Last year, a spectacular orange LA hybrid lily bloomed in that bed. Of course, it was by itself, a thing of beauty and robust health. However, it clashed with my vision for the yard and I dug it up and gave it to the neighbours.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Plant List: Hardy Perennials for the North

Here is an inventory of the perennials that do well in my yard, or that I have seen growing around town.

My garden conditions: zone 1b, a short season, acidic soil (no one lives far from a bog), brutal winter temperatures, with lots of snow from November to March (the lake thaws in May).

A few of the plants are generally known as hardy, but I've never tried them. Local gardeners are encouraged to give feedback here! I included my own photos where available.
(Z=minimum hardiness zone rating)

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) - hardy but spreads quickly. I removed mine.

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) – Very poisonous, Z4. I planted some in my yard in 2008. Still thriving in 2012. Very hardy and highly recommended. Blooms in late summer when other flowers are done.
Aconitum napellus

Goutweeed (Aegopodium) Z3 - although it is an attractive groundcover, it is very invasive, I avoid it.

Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) Z4, a favourite, beautiful chartreuse foliage, water beads collect on the leaves like beads of mercury, forms a nice neat dome-shaped plant. Mature plants died in severe winter of 2009, but self-seeds minimally if dead-headed and will replace losses.
Windflower (Anemone sylvestris) Z4 - seeds itself and spreads everywhere, I avoid it
Columbines (Aquilegia) Z3 -very easy to grow, does very well here, seeds itself a bit, I have several different kinds, grow in part shade to full sun, though foliage will get brown and ratty after blooming if grown in full sun (best to trim it down when it does this). There are some cutworms around here that like to chew off all the leaves, but these can be squished by hand.
--Aquilegia glandulosa (from another La Ronge garden) - a small blue-flowering plant-->

Rockcress (Arabis) Z3 - short mat with small flowers at the same time the tulips are blooming
--Arabis caucasica (white). Very hardy. Blooms here in May.  Short bloom time and looks drab the rest of the year.
--Arabis blepharophylla (pink flowers) --died in winter of 2007. Not hardy. 

Sea Thrift (Armeria pseudarmeria) Z4-looks like a small chives plant in flower, does okay in the rock garden. Marginally hardy in severe winters, however.  All dead by 2010.

Sage (Artemisia schmidtiana "Silvermound") Z4, flourishes, good dry-soil plant
Artemisia "Silvermound"

Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus/sylvester) Z3, prefers moist soil, looks like a large astilbe with cream-colored feathery flowers that bloom for two weeks, I started mine from seed 2 years ago, they flowered in 2007. Several plants show signs of rust and were thrown out, but the rest were okay until the severe winter of 2009 killed them.  Some seedlings appearing in 2012.
Asters (A. alpinus, A. dumosus) very floriferous and very hardy; the Alpine aster is short with large purple flowers, with a short bloom time in June. My fall aster (A. dumosus) blooms in early October. Frequent division keeps these looking good.
--Aster alpinus "Goliath" -->

Rockcress (Aubrieta deltoidea) Not particularly hardy here. Killed by most winters.Elephant Ears (Bergenia cordifolia) Z3 - excellent plant, evergreen, early flowering, highly recommended for sun or shade. Very hardy.
Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) Z3 - very attractive foliage, hardy perennial for part to full shade. Looks good alongside hostas. Small blue flowers look like those of forget-me-nots. Killed by severe winter of 2009.
--Brunnera macrophylla "Jack Frost"
Bellflowers (Campanula) Z3, very hardy bell-shaped flowers in blue, white, or purple.  Highly recommended low-growing plants, flower in late June and July.
--Campanula carpatica "Blue Clips"-->--Campanula carpatica "White Clips"
--Campanula percisifolia alba (white type)

Snow in Summer (Cerastium tomentosum) Z3 - very hardy, spreads moderately so cut it down after blooming, gray foliage, carpet of white flowers. Cut it back at its margins in spring to reduce spread.

Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium, Morden series) While the grocery store mums are certainly not suited to the prairies (are not bred to flower in our conditions), the Morden mums are excellent.

Chrysanthemum morifolium "Morden Fiesta"
Snakeroot (Actaea/Cimicifuga racemosa) Z3 - I have a nice deep reddish foliage specimen that does very well in my garden.  A tall and attractive perennial that blooms later in the summer.

Clematis (Clematis macropetala, Clematis mandshurica)
--Clematis mandshurica, white, very fragrant flowers, blooms in late summer;
Clematis mandschurica, a fragrant clematis that I grew from seed.
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) Z3 - good shade plant, mine grows so slowly despite reports that they are invasive elsewher.  Comes in white and pink. "Rosea" (pink) planted in 2008 and has spread a few feet by 2012.
Convallaria majalis "Rosea"
Threadleaf Coreopsis/Tickseed (Coreopsis verticillata "Moonbeam") Z4 - I have grown this plant over two winters in the sun. It appears late in the season, so be sure to label it or you will forget where it is!  Does not thrive here, but perhaps it does not like my yard.

Bunchberry (Cornus Canadensis) Z2 - grow wild everywhere here, no need to buy them!

Delphiniums (Delphinium species)- beautiful, reliably hardy. Self-seeds, so cut off dead flowers.  May need to stake them to protect them in summer storms.
--D. grandiflorum "Blue Elf"
--D. elatum "Summer skies" (light blue)-->
--D. elatum "King Arthur" (deep purple)
--D. elatum "Blue Bird" (deep blue)

Delphinium elatum
Pinks (Dianthus - nice little flowers, look good in the rock garden; killed off by severe winter of 2009, but seedlings will keep this plant going. Will plant again, as they survive all but the freakishly cold winters.  Highly recommended for mid to late summer blooms.
Dianthus deltoides "Arctic Fire"
Dianthus gratianopolitanus "Firewitch"
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra sp.) Z2 - does best in part shade, foliage dies down and looks ratty after blooming but can look better in deeper shade.  Various types with different foliage shapes and pink or white flowers.
Dicentra spectabilis "Alba"
Gas Plant (Dictamnus) Z2 - I haven't tried one yet. The picture is of one in a friend's garden.

Foxglove (Digitalis) - Lovely spires of flowers in pink, white, violet, yellow and apricot shades.  All spread seeds generously if the seedheads are not removed.  Only grandiflora is perennial, white the others are biennial (so you want to let them spread their seeds).  Digitalis mertonensis (the strawberry foxglove) is also very nice.
Digitalis grandiflora
Digitalis purpurea

Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum) -- from another La Ronge garden. Blooms in June.
Leopard's Bane (Doronicum orientale) - grown by another local gardener

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) Z2 - very pretty, hardy tall pink flower. Mature plants killed off in severe winter of 2009. Flowers in second year and thereafter.  Most kinds can be grown from seed.
Wild-type Echinacea

Echinacea purpurea "Ruby Star".
Globethistle (Echinops) Z3 - I've never tried this one, but it should grow here

Sea Holly (Eryngium alpinum) Planted in 2007, bloomed in 2009. Over 2 feet tall, unique steely-blue brushlike flowers. Eryngium variifolium never grew more than a few inches tall and never flowered, so I got rid of it.
Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca) Z3-small, non-spreading ornamental grass. Cut off the seed heads to prevent self-seeding.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria/vulgaris) Z3 - wintered well. I eventually found it a bit boring and weedy-looking so I got rid of it.

Gentians (Gentiana sp.) - Very pretty little plants with the most intriguing deep blue flowers. Very sought-after.
--Gentiana verna - blooms here in May
--Gentiana acaulis - large tubular flowers, blooms in June
Cranesbills/Hardy geraniums (Geranium cinereum, G. macrorrhizum, G. pratense "Black Beauty") - G. cinereum does okay, G. macrorrhizum is robust but not as attractive
Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) Z3- a mid-sized ornamental grass, non-spreading. After three years, the centers of mine rotted, but could be restored by dividing the grass and removing the rotten parts.

Daylily (Hemerocallis) Z3- do very well here. Almost all were killed in severe winter of 2009, but this is a rare occurence and I would still plant more.
Coralbells (Heuchera sanguinea splendens) Z3- suprisingly do well here, I have several different kinds with a variety of foliage colors including "Palace purple", "Velvet night", and "Firefly"; must have good snow cover. All killed off by the severe winter of 2009.

Plantain Lily (Hosta sp. ) Z3- several including H. sieboldiana "Elegans" they don't pop out of the ground till late May, but look nice when they do. Good for part shade. All killed off by the severe winter of 2009, but I replaced them, as they usually are quite hardy.
Hosta "Frances William"
Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica) - I have 2 varieties that do well in my yard, full sun and moderate moisture. Very winter hardy.
--Iris sibirica "Snow Queen" -->
--Iris sibirica blue variety -->English Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia "Munstead") - made it through 3 winters now. Grows from new growth from the base of the plant each spring, so pruning off the dead old growth in spring keeps it tidy looking. Looks quite terrible here in spring (vs. mild climates where they stay green), so don't plant it at the front of a highly visible area. Mature plants killed off in severe winter of 2009, but seedlings remain.

Bitterroot (Lewisia cotyledon) - once of the most beautiful small perennials in existence, in my opinion. It flowers for us in June and does well in very well-drained soil. Insert pebbles around the base of the plant to keep its leaves off the soil. Quite hardy, though freakish cold winter of 2009 killed all plants. They did self-seed though, which is handy, as I find them a bit hard to start from seed indoors. Seeds seem to need the cold and changing temperature of the outdoors to germinate.
Gayfeather (Liatris spicata) Z3 - a spiky purple wildflower that looks good in clusters, attracts butterflies. Most killed off in severe winter of 2009. They do self-seed a bit, so can leave a few offspring.

Perennial flax (Linum perenne) - delicate looking foliage with pale blue flowers on 10-12" tall plant. 

Lupines (Lupinus) Z4 -
--Lupinus polyphyllus "Gallery Yellow"; very attractive flowers. This is the only lupine that continues to do well for me.  Not a long-lived perennial here, and tends to die out randomly.Musk Mallow (Malva moschata) - pretty lavatera-like flowers, informal looking, bit gangly. Self-seeds moderately. Removed in 2008.

Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia) Z2- thrive here and multiply easily

Bergamot/Bee Balm (Mondarda didyma) Z3- a bit invasive but controllable, attracts butterflies. Center of old clump did not return in 2008, but had new growth at edges.  Short-lived perennial.
--large clump of M. didyma, started from seed;
Forget Me Not (Myosotis) - First planted in my yard in 2008, and now are reseeding around to make a gorgeous carpet of blue and pink in the spring. Biennial. Some killed in severe 2009 winter, but seedlings continued and will flower 2011.
Myosotis sylvatica "Victoria pink"
Catmint (Nepeta cataria) - nice spray of blue flowers just as the tulips are ending, self-seeds alot! Spent 2008 removing it. Still removing seedlings in 2009.

Poppies (Papaver orientale/Oriental poppy, Papaver nudicaule/Iceland poppy, Papaver miyabeanum, Papaver somniferum, Papaver rhoeas) Z3 - grow very well; P. somniferum and rhoeas aren't perennial, but reseed themselves reliably.

Beardtongue (Penstemon ovatus) Z3 - grows well, self-seeds a bit

Peonies (Paeonia) - still waiting for any flowers! Need full sun and moist soil.
--Peony "Lotus Queen" (single flowered, white), planted 2005.
--Peony "Bouchela" (pink), planted 2007. Removed 2008 because of rust.

Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) - one of the prettiest May/June flowers, short dense evergreen mat that is covered in flowers; comes in pink, pale blue, and white. Severe winter-kill in 2009, but still alive.
Phlox subulata
Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum) Z2 - pretty blue or white spring flowers, informal 3 ft tall plants; self seeds moderately so will have to pull a bunch of them

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum) Z4 - I don't have this, but I think it grows here

Primroses (Primula denticulata Z4, P. auricula Z2, P. cortusoides Z2, Primula x polyanthus Z4) - the polyanthus is supposed to be the least hardy of these, but I've had them for 2 winters in my yard; auricula has waxy thick leaves and is extremely hardy and not killed by any winter we've ever had.

Primula saxatilis

Primula auricula
Lungwort (Pulmonaria saccharata "Mrs. Moon") Z4- very lovely plant with delicate blue spring flowers, part shade. Self-seeds a bit, which is a welcome source for new plants. Killed in severe winter of 2009.
Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)- blooms at Easter, I have white, purple, red, and pink flowered plants. Very hardy. Self-seed a bit. Highly recommended.
Rhubarb (Rheum) If you can't grow rhubarb, you can't grow anything! This plant is very hardy and stays attractive all season long. Of course, it's great for pies too. Attacked by slugs in 2009, but will survive.
Rock Soapwort (Saponaria ocymoides) Z2- Flowered for one year then failed to bloom again. I wonder if it is hardy here. Bloomed nicely in 2009, but is rather unreliable.

Stonecrop (Sedum sp.) Z3-there are so many different kinds, we have a "wall" of the stuff as groundcover.

Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum)- there are many sizes and colors. These do well in some corner where not much else will grow.

Sempervivum in bloom
Silene - various species grown by another local gardener. I started silene saxifraga from seed in 2008. It only flowers for about 2 days and then look unimpressive the rest of the summer.

Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina) - fuzzy grey plant, moderate creeper, keep its edges in check, attracts bees. Self-seeds if not deadheaded. Some killed in severe winter, but came back anyhow.
Meadow Rue (Thalictrum sp) - I grow T. rochebrunianum and it does well, growing to about 7 feet tall and seeds itself around; elegant-looking plant with airy purple/pink cloud of tiny blooms at top. Looks neat growing among the tall delphiniums and at the back of the flower beds.

BULBS FOR THE NORTH [F] = Fall planting, [S] = spring planting

Ornamental Onions (Allium sp.) [F] - I am going to be experimenting with a few of the giant flowering types in 2008. "Purple sensation" came up the first year after planting, but not after that.

Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) [F] - tiny little early spring flowers; come in blue, white and pink; plant in clusters for effect
--Blue Chionodoxa

Crocuses (Crocus sp.) [F] - only the spring-blooming crocuses are hardy here.
--tiny snow crocuses, which come in several colors-->--large flowered crocuses -->

Daffodils and Narcissus - [F] Did not come up in quite shady areas. Random plantings did not come up at all even in sunny places, but several are doing fantastic in the raised bed with some late afternoon shade. Daffodils are a better value than tulips, since they will naturalize while tulips have to be replanted.
--Narcissus Poetaz "Geranium"
--Narcissus "Full House"
--Narcissus "Pacific Coast"
--Giant yellow trumpet daffodils-->

Fritillaries - [F] Fritillaria imperialis is NOT hardy here, but F. meleagris (Snake's head or checked lily) is hardy
--Fritillary meleagris (purple type) 2008-->

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) [F] - Took 3 years to bloom! I have heard you need to plant them as a blooming plant (not a bulb) to have them thrive.

Dwarf iris (Iris reticulata "Harmony") [F] - I have plenty of these and love them! They are the first to bloom of all my flowers (in mid-April) in a very sunny sloped rock garden.
--Iris reticulata "Harmony"-->

Lilies (Oriental, Asiatic, LA Hybrids) [S] - do very well, I prefer the LA hybrids such as "Fangio" or, Oriental Pot Lily Farolito was very fragrant; summer flowering
--LA Hybrid Lily "Courier"-cream colored
--LA Hybrid Lily "Auckland"-white
--LA Hybrid Lily "Fangio"-->--LA Hybrid Lily "Yellow Tycoon", extremely long bloom time-->--Hybrid Asiatic "Cote d'Azur"-pink, multiplies rapidly

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginia) [F] - grown by another local gardener

Grape Hyacinths (Muscari) [F] such a joyful spring flower, multiplies and naturalizes well
--Muscari latifolium (flat leaf muscari) - bloom is not as nice as the others

--Muscari armeniacum (blue)--> --Muscari botryoides "Album" (white)--> these multiply very slowly compared to the blueSiberian squill (Scilla siberica) [F] Z3 -spring flowering bulb, need a bunch of them to have any impact, small blue nodding flowers. Look more amazing every year.
--Scilla siberica --> Tulips, Botanical/Species [F] -These are naturalizing (return every year, spreading and multiplying) tulips that are tiny like crocuses, but come in bright colors and will outlive any of the larger showy tulips, which only last a few years. They either are wild-type or closely related to the wild-type tulips from Turkey.

--Tulipa tarda /Daystemon tarda--> --Tulipa turkestanica --> --Tulipa humulis/pulchella "Eastern Star"-->--Tulipa batalinii (in another La Ronge garden)-->
Tulips, Other [F] - I have had success with the large spectacular "Single Late", "Darwin Hybrid", and "Triumph" types; but I would never try ones labeled "Single Early/Double Early" in our climate, because the flowers could get deformed by late frosts. Gregii, Fosteriana, and Kaufmanii are probably good choices too, and they should return year after year.
--Double Late "Blue Diamond"-->

--Triumph "Negrita" (purple) and "Zurel" (white and purple) - the first large tulips to bloom
--Darwin hybrid Yellow tulip-->

--Single Late "Menton" - initially peach colored, then turn pink -->
--Single Late "Maureen" (white)
--Single Late "Skagit Valley"-->
--Single late "Florissa" (dark pink)-->
Lily-flowered tulip "Tres Chic"-->

This is not a comprehensive list of hardy plants by any means, but possibly informative to new northerners!