Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fall's Gentian Blues

There were beautiful sunshine and clear skies today, showcasing the effects of last night's -5 degree celsius temperatures on the wilted annuals.
A lucky petunia that has not yet succumbed to frost:

Fall colors of the Siberian Dogwood, a shrub I picked for it's touted "winter attraction". The younger stems are a brilliant red, which if the snow is not too deep, you might be able to appreciate!

Lupinus polyphyllus "Gallery Yellow", another perennial that hasn't looked this good all summer:

Reblooming Campanula persicifolia:

My first blooms of Gentiana septemfida, the lovely blue crested gentian. This one was given to me by a local gardener friend. I see that Kate's (in Regina, SK) crested gentian bloomed in the end of August! Mine is a month late (and 518 km/322 mi north), though this is its first summer in my garden.

Kona is giddy about her new straw bedding. Her house may look over-stuffed now, but it is her bedding for the winter and all the frosty -45 degree celsius nights we are looking forward to! Of course, her fur will also have to keep her warm, since she pulled the rubber door off of her house last spring.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rhubarb: Tamarind of the Temperate World

Rhubarb is a wonderful plant, especially because it thrives even in harsh northern locations like here. If you live in Canada and can't grow rhubarb, I would say that you might have a problem!

Until a few years ago, I believed that everybody knew about rhubarb. Alas, this was untrue. We know two South African families that moved to La Ronge and got to discover rhubarb as a novel plant. We warned them about not eating the leaves, though this seemed to result in unnecessary paranoia. They wondered at the wisdom of eating only selective parts of "poisonous plants". The other family had a problem with young hoodlums grabbing the leaves off the rhubarb, playing with them, and littering the neighbourhood with them. That family ripped all the stalks and leaves off their plant, thinking they killed it. But no, the rhubarb lived on. It takes more than that to kill a rhubarb.

My rhubarb cookbook - with an introduction by the late
Canadian gardener, Lois Hole.

But back to my title. Have you tried tamarind? It is a sticky brown substance scraped out of pods of the tamarind plant and used to bring tang to such condiments as HP sauce and worcestershire sauce. I imagine the adventuresome British developed a fondness for this sour foodstuff while living in India. It is very very sour (like rhubarb) and needs sugar to sweeten it for candies or drinks, but can also be used to add a tart tang to savoury dishes. It is especially good with fish and I love tamarind chutney on East Indian dishes, especially samosas. The first time I tried tamarind chutney, I became nearly obsessed with finding out what this was and how I could make some myself! My tropical friends all knew about tamarind, of course, but I think it will take some more time and convince them about rhubarb.
Recipe for tamarind chutney:

2 Tbsp tamarind paste (can buy this from Asian grocery, or in
my case, off ebay)

5 Tbsp water

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

finely chopped cilantro leaves, to garnish
1. Place tamarind past in a large bowl. Gradually add the water, gently whisking with a fork to make a smooth, runny paste.

2. Add the chili powder and ginger to the mixture and blend. Add the salt and sugar and mix well.

3. Transfer the chutney to a serving dish, garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, and serve.

Note: It has a consistency thinner than most gravies and is quite spicy and tangy, but leaves you wanting more!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fall Garden Tour

Here is a fall tour our yard, for those that have noticed a lack of pictures that encompass the yard as a whole rather than through the macro lens. There was a bit of sunshine this morning before it started to rain.

Large raised bed on the right:

Raised beds, blue spruce, and crabapple. You can also see three of the four "Carmine Jewel" tart cherries, which I planted in 2005. The water is Lac La Ronge.

View from the road:

The shade beds, under the poplars that I hate (I hate the fluff and the suckers everywhere).

The first of my sunflowers!

The perennial border along the driveway.

Bank of sedum (unknown type), which flowers yellow in July and turns red in fall. The mountain ash tree to the right has been stripped clean of its orange berries by the hungry robins. I would like to do something more with this bank, but it is composed of mainly sand, boulders, and rubble. It is impossible to dig weeds out of here and most plants would require addition of real soil.

Daylily planted last week, labeled with a Permastake, my favourite plant marker:

Morden "Blush" rose never looked this good all summer!

Large raised bed with fall colors in the background. My raised beds contain mostly perennials.

Gardens Abroad

While I was not blogging this past week, I was enjoying gardens and garden centers while travelling in British Columbia. I am aware that this activity qualifies me as a garden nerd, yet I feel no shame.

I bought myself some narcissus and botanical tulip bulbs as well as some Fritillaria imperialis bulbs for a relative in Penticton with a nasty deer problem. These flowers (and the bulbs themselves!) are repulsive to any nose, including those of deer. The woman at the Kelowna garden center said that you should avoid planting these next to your door so that their fragrance does not overwhelm you. I hope that they are effective!
This green combo to the is my mom's potted canna with a cluster of green bell peppers! I can only imagine that the annuals that filled the base of the pot included a stray vegetable!

I had to stop to see this private garden in Trout Creek, a small community near Summerland, British Columbia (southern Okanagan, zone 6). There were hundreds of crocus-like flowers, planted in rows and clusters.

Lots and lots of Colchicum! Apparently, they are also growing saffron crocus, but the woman said that they bloom later, closer to November.

A violet-colored Waterlily Colchicum. The woman working in the garden said that these were Colchicum, a special interest of her husband. Of course, I have garden envy, as I cannot grow these fall-blooming beauties in my own cold zone!

Rotary park at Okanagan Lake beach in Penticton, British Columbia. The plaques surrounding this circle of flowers record the winners of the Ironman triathlon, which starts and ends at this location.

Broad tropical leaves of cannas fill the background, with bright pom-pom zinnias and purple salvia "Victoria" in the foreground.

I like looking at flowers in city parks, both for inspiration for my own garden, and to see what grows well in this particular climate. The southern Okanagan is hot and dry during the summer. This flower display uses cannas, zinnias, marigolds, salvia, cleome, ornamental peppers, and a few other plants.

Tall Plants: Bright red canna flowers on the right with the last blooms of pink and purple cleome at left. Zinnias occupy the foreground.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Headless Chicken of the North

Kona got her new chicken today, which replaces the chicken of her puppyhood (thanks Kandace). Unfortunately, her doggy friends had not been so gentle with the last rubber chicken and it developed a significant laceration of its neck (see the graphic photo below).

Kona has been observed spending hours gently licking and holding her rubber chicken. When it squeaks, she makes crying noises. Rubber chicken, rubber chicken, how I love thee...

Tragic rubber chicken injury:

Kona is beside herself with excitement:

Besides dog news, I got a few hundred bulbs in today. I even got a blister in my right palm while doing it! For all this work, I'm hoping more family members come for garden tours next May during bulb-o-rama.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mid-September Bouquet

Last blooms of unnamed rose bush, with orange berries of the mountain ash tree in the background. Dozens of robins fought for a space on that tree today, as they gorged themselves on the ripe berries.Isn't it great to have flowers post-frost! We had a frost that wilted the petunias 3 days ago, but the perennials are tough enough to handle such small challenges! Oh yes, we also had wet snow for two days this past week, though nothing accumulated.

I cut this bouquet from my perennial beds for a party at our house today. The complimentary colors really represent the color scheme in my perennial beds quite nicely. My arranging skills may lack something, but the flowers look pretty regardless! Notice all THREE colors of my pacific giant delphiniums! (Guests say "Nice flowers." Me --the shameless flower nerd-- says while pointing: "There we have Summer Skies, Blue Bird, and King Arthur.")Digitalis flower, the "glove of the fox":
Delosperma, purchased this summer from the garden center as a "rock garden perennial", but from what I read, this succulent might not be hardy. I have no idea whether it will be there next spring or not! Fresh new Muscari armenianum (ordinary grape hyacinths) it's not a spring photo! This plant multiplies by seedlings and bulblets, growing thick like turf where it is not divided regularly. Now is the time to plant these bulbs for their bright blue flowers next April/May!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Orchids in Action

While my dendrobiums grow, bloom, and multiply faster than I can keep up with, I have waited patiently for my large phalaenopsis (moth orchid) to bloom. My largest one (Phal. Brother Mirage "Brother") has many aerial roots and lots of dark green healthy foliage. It sits inside a bright window with sheer curtains shielding it from direct sunlight.

This long-awaited flower spike is very exciting!
I'm not certain how to best treat this orchid now, but I'm following the tricks I learned from my Dendrobium nobile: give them little water and no fertilizer until the flower buds are definitely set, and then water and use a high phosphorus orchid fertilizer. The Dendrobium nobile would turn its little buds into new plants (keikis) instead of flowers if watered/fertilizer too soon.
A phalaenopsis reblooming from a spent spike: this one was purchased for us as a gift and we watched it bloom from May till late August. As recommended, I cut it off just above the uppermost green node (watch that you don't confuse the nodes for the marks left on the spike from where the dead flowers fell off -- you want to cut below these). You can see the beginnings of a new flower spike growing from this node.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Houseplant Predator

You may be familiar with this persistent pest of houseplants. It roams my house, tearing leaves off the banana plant and digging around its roots. It laughs at attempts to physically remove it from the houseplant. Its persistence is remarkable.
Banana Tree - favourite target of "The Pink Pestilence"

Oh, but where is my gardener's optimism? Okay, well here are the cultivating tools that surreptitiously aerate the banana tree roots:

And here is the soil quality analyzer, which enthusiastically consumes a small sample of dirt while spreading the rest on the carpet. Somehow this soil quality analyzer has a malfunction when it comes to more appealing items such as "Country chicken casserole".

Warbler Rescue Operation

A thud on the living room window interrupted my lunch yesterday. A little yellow bird was twitching on the front deck, lying in a puddle in near-freezing weather. It looked stunned, but was still breathing, so I picked it up and put it on some straw in a bucket and kept it in the warm garage until this morning. He flew off into the bushes this morning, despite my concerns that the blow to the head might have caused blindness.

Little yellow bird, seems to look most like a orange crowned warbler:

Resident-lawnmower-man thought my concerns were ridiculous, and added sarcastically "Yeah, and maybe it has epilepsy too." "Or blind AND epileptic." Not that he didn't care for the bird. He was the one who suggested that I need to give it a water bowl in addition to the bird seed. His family has rehabilitated several birds on their farm and RLM himself was a childhood chicken-raising entrepreneur who used the profits to buy a cow! I recall my urban child self being more interested in clothes at the mall...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Self-Watering Garden

My vision for a self-watering indoor garden with capillary mats has been realized. I am going to wait a while longer to declare it a complete success. I have two shelves that are watering my plants from the bottom, rather than me needing to water the pots individually with a watering can. This is a benefit to the plants, which usually appreciate bottom-watering.

Self-watering indoor garden: arrows indicate flow of water.
There is a reservoir on each shelf, with a capillary mat "wick" from the reservoir (the green boxes) to the adjacent tray, and another wick between each tray. Each tray has a capillary mat lining its bottom, which conducts the water through the holes in the pots, where the potting mix sucks up water and delivers it to the plant roots. I had to wet all the fabric mats to start the capillary action, and the trays have stayed moist for the past week. I add several litres of water to each reservoir per day, so the water must be going somewhere!

Capillary mat between reservoir and tray:

My edible indoor garden. There are spicy purple greens, cilantro, basil, and watercress as well as romaine, butterhead, green leaf and red oakleaf lettuces. My "Micro Tom" and "Red Robin" miniature tomatoes were just sown today. I can't wait to see my tiny, genetically-freakish tomatoes.

Lastly, I sowed a large number of Primula denticulata (Drumstick primula) seeds and got only three plants. I have tried these seeds before and only produced one plant from my efforts. They take an exceptionally long time to germinate and seem to grow very slowly. I am hoping to have nice robust plants by spring. Primula denticulata and Primula auricula are hardy to zone 2, thus are good selections for our climate. Has anybody else had experience growing drumstick primulas from seed?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fungus and Flowers

There has been a nice amount of rain recently, leading to a few more mushrooms in the lawn, and no need to turn on the sprinklers. To sum up our watering needs, I hand water in June only to linger longer with the blooming bulbs, use the sprinkler generously during the baking heat of July, and only water the potted plants in August.
Annual salvia, still looking nice.

The large raised bed full of perennials. I made a spot for a new peony and have marked all the potential bulb locations with purple stakes. Hello bulbs, I am ready!

Smaller raised bed with perennials thinned, ready for new perennials and bulbs.

A fungus in the lawn -- looks like a cluster of dinner buns!

September month is bulb-planting month in the north! I am waiting from orders from Lilies in the Valley, Veseys, and a garden center in Campbell River, BC. Hopefully, all orders come before the ground freezes, which has been problem in the past with some mail-order companies.

Sedum "Brilliant", but no blooms yet!

"Blue Bird" Delphinium elatum -- reblooming.