Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Down on the Farm

Here are some more pictures of RLM's family farm from last weekend. The sunflowers are volunteers that were left to grow near the vegetable patch, with a joyful effect! Here are some red peony-flowered poppies (Papaver somniferum) growing among the carrots. These beauties spread themselves freely all over the property, looking like roses growing atop a lettuce plant. The flower border, including Stella d'Oro daylily, shasta daisies, snapdragons (Antirrhinum), Parkland roses and some yet-to-bloom coneflowers. Just like us, the in-laws have been having ridiculously hot temperatures in the southeastern corner of Saskatchewan. They have many plants in pots that require regular watering and fretting, making me wonder -- are plants really any less work than having a dog?

Bonsai Baobab Tree

See the 2009 update on my baobab here on my blog.

Taking a break from the stifling outdoors, here is an indoor project of mine:
I started this baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) from seed 3 years ago. I bought the huge seed from a mail order company and germinated it in warm conditions after soaking the seed. While baobabs have large leaves (which generally detract from the bonsai form), baobab bonsais are said to be attractive for their leafless form in the winter, when their large trunk and multiple branches look like a tree with its roots in the air.

I am working to increase branching by pruning this little tree. I rooted one of the larger cuttings last summer and I will try to make it into a bonsai as well. I grow it in a sunny window during the spring and summer. When the leaves start to yellow and fall off in autumn, I put it in the basement with no light or water for several months. Every year I wonder if it is dead (it spent about 5 months lying horizontally under the pool table during the winter a couple of years ago). Then to my amazement, it suddenly starts sprouting leaves and then I put it back upstairs in the sun. This one just started growing leaves ago a few weeks ago. It is a bit late this year because I pruned it too late last summer and it proceeded to make new growth rather than lose its leaves in October!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My Friend the Dragonfly

While some people say they dislike or are scared of dragonflies, I must profess my admiration for these insects. I caught this one sitting still on the lamb's ears. It was eating a blackfly. Hallelujah! What a fabulous insect! I'd really like to see a larger population of dragonflies, ones that become obese from gorging themselves on nasty biting insects.
You can see a bit of the finger-lickin' good blackfly if you look closely:For some reason, the mosquitoes, blackfly and dragonfly numbers are way down this year. This is a phenomenon everybody in town has noticed and also seems to be affecting the far north, according to my friend in Yellowknife. There are local theories about late frosts and whatnot, but we really have no idea why this is.

Mutant Lily

I don't know what is going on with this LA hybrid lily, as it does not follow the usual 3 sepals and 3 petals with 6 stamens pattern that defines lilies. I noticed one bloom with 4 sepals/petals and another on the same stem with only 3.

Take a look at this bloom with four petals/sepals. Also notice the 5 stamens, one of which is fused at the bottom:
The underside of the flower makes it appear that a petal and sepal fused, with this green ridge along the midline of the petal/sepal:
This appears to be a normal version of the odd flower. Notice the distinct 3 sepals and 3 petals with 6 stamens!Did the lilies find some radioactive compost or what???

The Rest of the Lilies

July is rapidly coming to a close and there are only a few more blooms waiting to show their stuff: a couple of new daylilies, purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), some Asters, Liatris spicata, and the blanketflowers (Gaillardia grandiflora).
Pictured: LA Hybrid Lily "Courier" - a cream colored lily that towers above the rest in this raised bed.

All of the lilies are now open, and I am considering which ones will need division next spring. If no one volunteers, I will foist some lilies upon my co-workers in the spring and beg them to take them home, like abandoned puppies.
The deep pink lily is LA Hybrid Lily "Fangio". I favour this lily over my darker red-wine colored Asiatics. The LA Hybrids have wider petals/sepals with more cup-shaped flowers than the Asiatics.
The clear yellow flower is LA Hybrid Lily "Yellow Tycoon". It is different from many lilies because of the lack of dark spots in the center of the flower.
It's a pity that the lily season is relatively short. They are so bold and beautiful with their large, bright blooms and they make such amazing cut flowers!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Regal Lily Blooms in the Garden

I have some lovely lilies blooming right now. I am now pretty sure that this wine red lily is an Asiatic Lily "America". All the other lilies in that bed are LA hybrids, which I prefer.
The LA hybrids are taller and have larger flowers. They are actually a cross between longiflorum and asiatic lilies, having the upright-facing flowers of the asiatics and trumpet shape of the longiflorums. The Texas A&M university horticulture website says that these are hardy to USDA zone 5, but my lilies are living in a raised bed in a zone 3-ish yard (we are in zone 1b with a good microclimate). Obviously, these lilies are very hardy.
LA hybrid Lily "Courier" -first bloom
"Courier" Lily among pink Malva moschata. These perennials, along with a columbine, potentilla, and catmint are planted over and around tulips, effectively disguising the dead foliage.

"Lemon Pixie" is another shorter lily, or "pot lily" variety. A friend's dog ate all the blooms off this one couple of years ago. His act was obvious from the telltale pollen all over his nose. He was fine, demonstrating that this lily must not be toxic to dogs! I also have this lily in a barrel planter, where it has overwintered two winters and seems to thrive. This defies all hardiness rules!

Asiatic Lily "Lemon Pixie"

More Poppy Pictures

My current infactuation with poppies will be reflected in the subsequent photo-affair I am having with them! Here are some more pictures of this year's favourite annual: Papaver Somniferum.
A purple poppy with a deep purple central cross:
Group of deep purple poppies:
Seed heads of the pink and mauve poppies, in front of lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina):
Pink and mauve poppy:
Poppy seed heads in front of the blue annual cornflowers.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Solitary Double Daylily

This is the only daylily blooming in my yard right now: Hemerocallis "Double River Wye". It is mid-season blooming, semi-double, with lemon yellow flowers.
Being double-flowered, it doesn't look as neat and tidy as those other daylilies that I see all over garden blogs this time of year. It looks more like the daylily that was out frolicking all night with its questionable friends, mindless of its smudged makeup and crazy hair.

The Skies of La Ronge This Week

Altogether, it has been a hot and humid week. Temperatures have been 26-30 C (79-86 F) with humidity of 75% to 99%, which makes it feel much warmer, of course. Today there are a few clouds, but because it didn't cool off much last night, the house feels terribly warm. We have no air conditioning and no duct system in the house, so no way of putting in central air conditioning either! Ahhhh! I suppose if we did have air conditioning, the orchids might wonder where their tropical conditions went!
Also this week we've had quite a few days with smoke in the air from forest fires. There are 16 forest fires (according to the SK Environment website) burning in the province right now, and I hear that fires in Manitoba are sending smoke our way as well. This is a far better situation than last year at this time, when large numbers of people were evacuated because of the fire and smoke situation.
Finally, I was suprised to hear the awesome roar of jets 2 days ago but couldn't get outside fast enough to hear what was making the noise. It sounded like the fighter jets that would occasionally fly over my hometown at airshows. Resident-lawnmower-man came home that day and said he saw the Snowbirds (Canadian Forces Air Demonstration Squadron based out of Moosejaw, Saskatchewan) at the airport just as his plane was taking off. I checked their schedule online and it seems that they were at an airshow in The Pas, Manitoba (east of us) the day before and are in Fort McMurray, Alberta (west of us) today. I guess they were just stopping halfway for gas, a bathroom break, and sandwiches...

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Bird, a Rose, and a Lily

While I was watering the garden, I heard some cheeping in the lilac bush and saw two baby birds. They still had a little bit of downy fluff attached to them and didn't look entirely ready to fly away. I ran to get the camera and when I returned, there was only one baby bird. Maybe the other one returned to a nest deep in the lilac bush or maybe it flew away. I'd never heard or seen birds in this shrub before today!
Baby bird in the lilac bush
Parkland Series Hardy Rose: "Morden Blush" and "Cote d' Azur" Asiatic Lilies.
I believe this is Asiatic Lily "America". I get confused between this one and the LA Hybrid Lily "Fangio", which is quite similar in color. I did some google searching though, and found that Fangio is more pink than dark red like this one!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Random Blooms of the Garden

Here is Hybrid Asiatic Lily "Cote d'Azur". It is a shorter lily (about 50 cm) and is a very pretty shade of cherry pink. I've had this variety for three years, and its divisions occupy many places in my flower garden.

I was hoping that I had some purple poppies on the way, and here is the first one! This is Papaver somniferum, an annual poppy with no particular variety name.
Here is a perennial that always looks good in its peak flowering season: Campanula carpatica "Blue Clips", the Carpathian bluebell. I also have "White Clips". They stay compact, get smothered in flowers, and can be easily divided in the spring to make more of them. Deadheading them is a bit tedious, but does result in more flowers. They can be started from seed, but I mainly just get more from division.

A view through the Delphiniums (D. x elatum "Summer skies"), which are at full bloom.

The Case of the Disappearing Aquilegias

As I did my usual prowl through the garden this morning, I came upon something shocking! The two red-and-yellow-flowered aquilegias (columbines) in my semi-shade bed had no leaves. I am quite sure they were fully clothed in leaves yesterday.I looked closer and saw the centimeter-long green wormish culprits inching their way up and down the bare stems. I tried taking pictures of them, but couldn't quite get focused on the little things.

The baffling part is that they didn't eat any of the blooms or the neighbouring aquilegia (which flowers purple, though it finished blooming a while ago). I sprayed some permethrin on the plant and cut off the majority of the remaining branches. If the plants don't grow some leaves again by winter, they probably won't survive. I can't believe it. Just as I get all the colors in that bed to match, some pest strips an innocent flower of its leaves!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pretty Pink Poppies

I am quite excited about my annual poppies this year. My Iceland poppies kicked the dust this year and I plucked out an oriental poppy last year because it dared flaunt its peachy colors in my pink and purple color scheme. The color clash was nauseating.

Last winter, I picked up two packets of Papaver somniferum seeds that were supposed to be deep purple and light purple. They were open-pollinated according to the packet, which explains why my purple poppies started blooming pink! They have a light purple cross at the center, and the pink color looks great against the glaucous foliage. The blooms are smaller than those of most oriental poppies, but the plants are quite tall and the flowers show easily from the back of the border.

I have several more plants left to bloom, so hopefully I'll still get some purple ones. I'm thinking of spreading the seeds around at the end of this year, so that I'll have enough to make some poppyseed baked-goods next year.

Resident-lawnmower-man's family has a red peony-flowered version of these breadseed poppies on their farm and the kids remember eating the seeds right out of the dried seedpods, savouring their nutty taste. They always remembered to save a few however, making sure to spread seeds around for the next year. Their mother recalls her amazement as the poppies would mysteriously take over new flower beds, not aware of her little seed-spreaders.

This is one of the easiest attractive flowers I have grown, considering that I just threw the seeds on the ground as soon as the snow melted. Poppies apparently thrive in poor conditions and I'm hoping they can scare off the dandelions that currently live in some of the marginal areas.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Guess the Mystery Fruit

This is the developing fruit ("fruit" in the botanical sense) of a common native tree in our yard. We didn't even realize what kind of tree this was until someone walking by the yard informed us one day. Then we realized that the fruits of this tree might be desirable to us, but we haven't been very lucky because of some stiff competition from the animal world. Anyone care to guess?

Otherwise, the first of my oriental lilies, daylilies, and poppies all had their first flower today! It's like Christmas day for a gardener! I'll take pictures the next time it isn't rainy and overcast.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Let's Talk Annuals

For a change of pace, here are some of the annuals I am growing this year!
Barrel planters: I started my "Aladdin Cherry"petunias, "Profusion cherry"zinnias, "Serena"Angelonia (purple and white), and "Violet Queen" cleome from seed for these barrel planters. The Angelonia seed are a novel item, as you could only purchase vegetatively propagated plants until now.
Here are more "Aladdin Cherry" petunias, some ten week stocks (Matthiola incana) - very fragrant, Salvia splendens "Salsa Light Purple", "Serena Purple" Angelonia, and some ornamental sweet potato vines (the vines are the only thing I didn't grow from seed). As you can see, I chose really bright snappy colors, ones that scream "Look at me! Enjoy me! I won't be around forever!"
Pots on my front deck

However, I want to buy some new dark brown pots to match the trim of the house. Hopefully, we'll get to civilization before Wally*mart sells out.

Some sources say this miniature black-eyed susan is an annual and others say it is a perennial. Regardless, it is kinda cute.

A lonely Ruckbeckia hirta "Toto"
Here's my canna "Stuttgart" surrounded by annual flowers. I grew this one in my bedroom all winter and put it out this spring. It really is a bit silly trying to grow one of these big-leafed tropical beauties here, but I'm doing it anyways. Actually, it doesn't look half bad for all that tropical appeal it gives my "subarctic" yard.

Canna "Stuttgart" and annual flowers

Speaking of the tropics, here is Musa acuminata "Dwarf cavendish", a banana plant. The main difference between this one and my indoor ones is the wind-torn leaves on the outdoor plant, which makes it look more like an authentic banana. For a good time, I could pot up a dozen of these on my upstairs deck, sit out there sipping lemonade and think about the only thing that makes this better than a tropical country: the mosquites don't carry malaria. (That's the only thing positive I can say about the mosquitoes). I'll bring the banana back inside in September

Musa acuminata "Dwarf cavendish" (Banana)
Volunteer (annual) blue cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) and a blue Siberian iris in the perennial bed.

This is a new annual for me: Lantana. It does well in hot, dry conditions in poor soils. Immediately I thought of it for my hanging baskets! It flowers all summer and would be perennial if I lived in Florida. This one is "Bandana pink". Flowers initially are yellow and age to pink.

Lantana Bandana series Pink

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Garden Glories in the Morning

The garden called me from my bed this morning at 6:45 am. Yes, on a weekend. Garden photography is generally better this time of day and I needed to catch some photos of things that are shaded by the afternoon. I was rewarded by my first morning glory bloom! I have never grown these before and the seeds had been sitting in the basement for a few years before I finally decided to plant them. They are one of these seeds you are supposed to either soak or chip (cut a hole in the seed coat - I use an exacto knife). I did both and had very successful germination! I am growing the vines up some support columns for a deck and a rain downspout.
Ipomoea purpurea "Star of Yelta" (Morning glory)

My delphiniums are coming into full bloom. I am impressed that they haven't fallen over despite a tremendous rainstorm two nights ago.

Delphinium x elatum "Summer Skies"
Malva moschata: first blooms 4 days ago. I started this plant from seed 2 years ago. The plants got so big I removed all but this one. It grows about 3 feet (90 cm) tall and 3 feet (90 cm) wide. It's one of those informal "cottage garden" type plants and self seeds a bit.

The "Rock Garden"

I like how the creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) has filled in the blank spots and now has delicate purple blooms. The creeping thyme grows so easily that I wouldn't feel badly if I decided to rip it out and plant something else in its place. I works well as a "filler".