Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Primula acaulis Germination

It's the last post of the year and I have some new seedlings! I am excited to see that my recently-sown Primula acaulis "Danova Rose-Lavender Shades" seeds have germinated.  I actually want to grow the more hardy Primula auricula, but have failed at that many times.  

I simply sowed these on the surface of the seed-starting mix in a small pot and placed the pot in a humidity dome for a few weeks. The dome sits on a heating mat, which provides bottom heat that some plants like.  Apparently these seeds like the heat too.
I spotted 4 seedlings among the mossy-perlite particles.  Hopefully I can raise these to be healthy little plants.  Although Primula acaulis is listed often as hardy to zone 4 or 5, I am going to try them out here in zone 1b.  Of course, we get a great deal of snow, which provides some winter protection.  Who knows what will happen?

Unfortunately, the snow doesn't keep our cars warm.  This is an issue in our house as RLM has decided against the remote-start feature on our next vehicle.  Maybe -33 degrees Celsius is NOT cold enough for him?  At least our chosen vehicle will have heated seats -- much like my seedlings have been enjoying for years!  

Monday, December 22, 2008

Yule Log Spectacular!

I am pleased to say the yule log was a success, looking very logg-ish and festive. Here it is in all its chocolaty-goodness, surrounded by the little meringue mushrooms. I found the recipe and idea online at on the joy of baking website.

Since this is a garden blog, you should know that I would not post about a simple chocolate cake or non-fungus shaped meringues. I have standards, you know...

I dream of become one of those people who expertly creates pansies or roses out of royal icing. In fact, I have purchased all the needed supplies for becoming a sugar-florist, with the 50-piece Wilton cake-decorating set, icing gel colors, and other paraphernalia. However, I can't justify eating so much cake and sugar on a regular basis. As a kid, I even hated icing. A nice chocolate sponge cake with icing sugar sprinkled on top is provides an ideal amount of sweetness, in my opinion. This I can justify - and my family members thought it was pretty nice too. Do any of you have remarkable icing floral skills?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Still Cold

Upon waking this morning, I heard CBC radio announce the temperature here in La Ronge was -39 degrees C. "But there is no wind", they said. Yes, it's only a still cold.

I made these meringue mushrooms last night. If all goes well, they will decorate the yule log we will eat on Friday night at a family gathering. I am quite impressed at my first attempt at sweet edible fungus made of egg whites.

With temperatures this low, my flight up north was cancelled today. The extreme cold is "hard on the planes", according to the explanation I heard recently. This might explain the experience my dear resident-lawnmower-man had this past week on his chartered plane. Upon landing on a dirt airstrip, there was a strange shudder and a rapid deceleration as the nose of the plane lurched towards the ground. The front tire had burst. Anyone who has a vehicle in cold conditions knows the effect of the cold on usually pliable tires. They get that flat spot on the frozen bottom, making your first kilometer rather bumpy. Anyhow, the pilot and RLM were all okay and the plane got fixed later that day. Ah, the cold. But it's only a still cold.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Orchids for Christmas

The weather has turned cold outside, so we're staying indoors with the orchids. I took a chilly trip by small plane to the northern village of Southend this past week. It was -42 degrees C there and the heaters in the plane were not working on the trip there or back! The brand new Sorel boots didn't even keep my feet warm. Next time, the outfit will see the addition of snowpants and three pairs of wool socks. My head was toasty, however. I've found that multiple hats/hoods over the ipod earbuds enhance the audio quality in a loud plane, resulting in a less-than-attractive appearance. But who cares? This is the north, where high fashion means having a fancy snowmobiling suit.

A yellow phalaenopsis has been blooming for a couple months now:

It has a second spike coming up at the left, so we'll have flowers for several more months.

Dendrobium nobile "Angel Smile" is blooming again, with its lilac-scented white blooms lightly edged in pink.

I have many of these orchids to give away, as this plant often produces little plant-lets along its stems and I pot most of them up to grow into bigger plants. Does anyone want to trade?

How many of you are giving live plants/bulbs for Christmas? I love the idea of giving amaryllis or other bulbs for forcing in the winter. Even if the person is a non-gardener, the colors will be appreciated. Also, there is no clutter left over because when they are done flowering, you can just toss it in the compost. I've decided against giving narcissus though, since I think they stink. My alternative favourite: food gifts.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Winter White Frosty Coating

We've been sitting in a fair bit of snow for a few weeks now. I was suprised to see that Saskatoon had little snow when I was there last week. I guess the north is just lucky with all this white stuff.

I've been indoors eyeballing those discount offers on plants and roots for spring. I tell myself that if I wait till closer to spring, the discounts will be even greater. But my own reasonable inner voice is probably going to be silenced in favor of compulsive online plant purchases. I've decided that a quick and dirty solution to planting up the big barrel planters is to fill them with dahlias, grown from tubers shipped in spring. That minimizes the need to grow a large quantity of annuals under the basement lights (or just makes room for other ones).

Otherwise, I haven't done any more traveling, other than what is required for work. Here's my 7,000 ft knitting project.

Simply a scarf, yes, but who can say they knitted at 7,000 feet these days?

I was the only passenger on the charter plane, so without having any tendencies to self-harm, I can say my knitting needles posed no danger to other passengers. Oh yes, and I think I had at least 100mL of liquids in my juice box. I am SUCH a rebel.

Kona the snow-loving dog is now in her element.
This may not be her most scenic perspective, but I took the picture to show the lovely afternoon and the guy coming down the street on a snowmobile. I think he might have been walking his dog, as he went up and down the street, looking behind him to ensure a black dog was still chasing him. Soon the neighbours will be landing their ski-planes on the lake ice again.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Back with my Indoor Garden

I have neglected to post for a while now, which was duly noted by some readers! The outdoor world is cold and snowy, so what is a gardener to do other than travel to some warmer and milder location? Yes, I abandoned my northern garden to go browsing though Vancouver's lush green gardens at the end of October.
Fushia in bloom at the Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver:

It was like reliving September in my garden. The mums looked marvelous, the Japanese maples wore crimson leaves, and the only thing coming from the sky was occasional rain.
Quarry garden at the Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver:

Bonsai trees at the Buddhist temple in Richmond, BC.

On a very exciting note, I picked up two new orchids. Both are tropical ladyslippers and fairly hard to find: Paphiopedilum bellatulum and Paph. charlesworthii. I was excited to get these labeled species orchids from a kind lady selling them at Vancouver's Granville Island Public Market. If you ever visit Vancouver, you must spend at least half a day at Granville Island (hardly an island, but definitely a shopping/arts/crafts/food paradise). As it turns out, this lady travels to the Saskatoon garden show each spring and sells bare root orchids at a booth. I think I bought one of her orchids in Saskatoon two years ago! It's definitely a small world. Unfortunately, the spotted orchid's leaves show some damage now, likely from cold sometime on the last day of travel. Hopefully it survives.

My basement orchid collection contains this nice group of Dendrobium nobile "Angel Smile". They keep multiplying like the stray dogs on our street and I hope some caring, plant-friendly folks will volunteer to take some off my hands.

We visited the two grizzly bears kept in a natural habitat near the top of Grouse Mountain. They were oblivious to the onlookers. One was busy digging a cave while the other looked on with seeming amusement.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's Snowing!

We're not alone in waking up to snow on the ground today. More snow is falling as I make this post, and the morning weather report indicated that most of the province is getting snow today.

I hope everybody has their bulbs in by now! Soon we'll be stomping around in moon boots and scraping our car windshields...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Movin' On Indoors

The indoor plants should be receiving a little more attention now, since their outdoor counterparts are starting to wilt and wither. On a completely different note from hardy perennials, here are a few of the houseplants doing interesting things today. I started a few peppers indoors in the spring, knowing that our season is not nearly long enough to grow them outside.

This is Ancho "San Luis", which I hope to use in some interesting southwestern cooking when I start feeling creative in a spicy-food-sort-of-way:

Here are two un-named phalaenopsis orchids. The white is having its second bloom since I got it on Mother's day this year.

The yellow one is having it's third bloom in 17 months and appears to have another flower spike growing from its base. I don't know how I got so lucky, but our prairie sun does make the orchids thrive here (that's indoors, of course)!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Big Bulb Planting Day

I think that bulb-planting week should be a provincial, if not national, holiday. I would even be willing to have it as an unpaid holiday. Just so long as I could always get the first week of October off of work to plant tulips and daffodils, I would be pleased. Instead, I crammed most of my bulb planting into this morning. At least the weather was beautiful. In the end, I concluded that I should have planted more bulbs, though I suppose there is some limit to the money I would spend on those papery little imports.

Raised bed in fall colors extravaganza:

This year's order from Botanus was large enough that they threw in a free DVD entitled "Passion - a documentary on the Dutch Bulb Sector". That sounds like one to watch on a romantic evening by the fireplace with RLM! I started watching it this afternoon, but the musical soundtrack was too emotionally intense for both the dog and the littlest gardener, so I had to turn it off.

Scabiosa caucasica "House's Hybrids": a purple bloom from the mix.
This flower is always reliable for giving me nice October flowers.

Here is my new planting of Muscari armeniacum, the common blue grape hyacinth. I've read that planting them as "rivers" gives a nice effect. My river is narrow, but meanders gracefully through part of the raised bed.

Otherwise, I've planted various types of tulips including Single Lates, Double Lates, Fosteriana, Giant Beauty, Lily-flowered, and Triumph tulips. I'm also trying Allium atropurpureum this year, to add to A. "Gladiator" and A. Purple Sensation which did well this summer. I also planted a total of 100 yellow daffodils around the raised beds and I look forward to seeing those next spring. I boldly planted Anemone blanda, with the knowledge that it may well not survive the winter here. I'm living on the edge...the edge of my hardiness zone.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Siberian Perennials - How Cold Can You Go?

If you're looking for a hardy plant, it makes sense to look in a cold climate. Our hardy perennials are often wild flowers or cultivars of plants that come from cold locations. I decided to compile a list of perennials whose names include "siberian" or "siberica/sibirica" or some location in or near Siberia. Surely if it can grow in Siberia, it could grow here in my cold climate garden in zone 1b.

Now for a brief geography review.

So on with my list of perennials and shrubs hardy in a land described as mostly taiga and tundra:
  • Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica)- I have several of these and they look fabulous
  • Siberian tea (Bergenia crassifolia)- I only have the related B. cordifolia
  • Honeyberries (Lonicera kamchatika) - a berry with blue fruit borne in June
  • Achillea sibirica ssp. camtschatica - a yarrow I found on the Jelitto seeds website.
  • Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica) - a darling little spring-flowering bulb that I enjoy in my yard, however one academic article states that it is actually only grows in the area south of Siberia. Zone 2.
  • Siberian dogwood (Cornus alba sibirica) - I have a few of these beauties
  • Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) - from western Siberia. I have one of these lovely shade plants ("Jack Frost", zone 3) with elegant foliage.
  • Siberian Miner's lettuce (Claytonia sibirica) - listed as hardy to zone 4.
  • Siberian Primrose (Primula siberica) - listed as hardy to zone 1, so I MUST find one of these. Grows in Alaska as well.
  • Siberian columbine (Aquilegia glandulosa) - I was given one of these this summer! Listed as hardy to zone 3.
  • Siberian columbine (Aquilegia sibirica) - listed as hardy to zone 3.
  • Siberian foxglove (Digitalis sibirica) - not really hardy nor attractive according to the pictures I found.
  • Siberian Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum sibiricum) - hardy to zone 3.
  • Siberian Globeflower (Trollius ircuticus) - named after Irkutsk, one of Siberia's largest cities, a rare perennial listed as hardy to zone 3.
  • Siberian Bellflower (Campanula sibirica) - a small bellflower listed as hardy to zone 4.
  • Siberian Lily (Lilium pumilum) - an orange lily hardy to zone 3.
  • Draba sibirica - a tiny alpine plant with yellow flowers, I may need to find one for my new alpine garden.
  • Nepeta sibirica - a catmint listed as hardy to zone 4.
  • "Dahurica" - several perennials use this name, including Gentiana dahurica, Actaea dahurica, Mentha dahurica, Campanula glomerulata dahurica
  • "Tataricum" - meaning "of the Tatar mountains of Russia", which includes plants such as Ixiolirion tataricum and Goniolion tataricum (German statice).
To find further cold-hardy plants, I also searched for plants with "borealis", "boreale" and "arcticus" in their names, implying a northern plant.
  • This includes Phlox borealis, Primula borealis (zone 2), Achillea borealis (zone 3), Draba borealis, and Polemonium boreale (zone 3).
  • Also, Lupinus arcticus (zone 4) - I tried this plant once and killed it.
Wow, there are so many northern cold-weather perennials to try!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Aerial View of Fall

I got these pictures during a flight by tiny plane to the small community of Stanley Mission today. I didn't get any decent aerial photos of our yard, however, but I'm still learning how to use my new camera!
Islands in Lac La Ronge:

Stanley Mission historic church, the oldest standing building in Saskatchewan. I thought the cemetery was really striking in this picture (click on picture to see larger image). This is an old Anglican church built in the 1800s. It is still used on special occasions.

On a garden note, I planted some of my bulbs including Scilla siberica, Chionodoxa, Allium drumstick, Allium roseum, and Dreamland Single late tulips. It's getting cold enough to make my cheeks rosy, so I hope the rest of the mail order bulbs come soon!

Frost on the Flowers

I went out early this morning to see the state of the frosty flowers. The grass had a silvery coat of frost and the flowers had sparkly crusts of ice.
Rose "Morden Blush"

The wild pincherry trees produce brilliant colors in the fall.

The fall asters are just starting. This is Aster dumosus "Alert".

No, my fall bulbs are not planted yet. The small order from Veseys came yesterday in the mail but the big order from Botanus is still in the mail somewhere!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Waiting for The Bulbs

We've been checking the post office box for little cards saying we have a package, hoping for the fall bulbs to arrive. Alas, nothing yet. Checking the blog from years past shows I've planted fall bulbs in the first week of October. I guess I have some time yet. The fall colors have really come out in the last few days, though I hope the leaves don't fall too soon!

A brief rainstorm last night produced this beautiful rainbow over Lac La Ronge.

Kona sits in anticipation for bulb-planting season (if only she knew what a bulb was...)

The perennial Geraniums are reblooming now:

The crabapple leaves in their fall colors:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Alpine Garden

My new alpine garden is nearly finished, providing me with more space to wield my spade and toss my compost. Resident-lawnmower-man did some heavy lifting to get this project together. This garden is entirely different than my other flower beds, aiming to have only small alpine perennials displayed amid rocks that try to emulate a mountain-like landscape. I've been starting a few plants from seed and will be adding more next year.

May, 2008: A hose outlines the borders of the alpine garden.

June 2008: Sod is dug up and a trench is made.

August 2008: RLM hauls in large rocks with the neighbour's bobcat.

More rocks were obtained from a local blast site. These are all granite.

September: RLM is a neat and tidy guy and demanded a dry-stack rock wall around the bed. I really didn't need to have a rock wall, but I think RLM's psychological well-being depended on it. So imagine this is a mountain landscape surrounded by a low rock wall.

Rock wall is nearly done and huge rocks are placed.

Rocks are dug in and I planted a few dwarf evergreens and some perennials.

Scabiosa japonica "Pink Diamonds", which I grew from seed:

The alpine garden at noon today. There is a small bit of the rock wall yet to be built, but that can be finished next spring. I demanded we get the plants in this week so that they have a chance to prepare themselves for winter.

I've planted some bearberry shrubs, dwarf balsam fir, dwarf mugo pine, nest spruce, assorted Sempervivum, low sedums, tiny Scabiosa, Delosperma, alpine Dianthus, tiny perennial poppies, and a few other things in there. I have researched several books on alpine gardens, which contain a wide assortment of adorable little plants. Our zone 1b climate makes this a challenging project, however. I will have lots of fun planting more perennials in it next year. Maybe I'll even join an alpine garden club...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gardening for Happiness and Friends

As the season moves towards cooler weather and tasks that only true gardeners find enjoyable (planting bulbs, cleaning up dead flowerheads), I am feeling more reflective upon my horticultural philosophy.

Carol from May Dreams Gardens got me thinking with her story about her niece's new plant and horticulture university course. Gardening should never be practiced alone, as one can learn so much from trading stories and plants with others. I just realized that I look forward to social functions as an opportunity to find willing recipients for my perennial divisions and to discuss their vegetable gardens. Is that normal? I don't know, but you can learn something about a person by the expression on their face when you offer them free composting worms. Personally, I would be excited, but I only know two people in town who have had composting worms. One of them has since moved out of town after failing to get the entire high school into vermicomposting. Well, I don't think that's why he moved, but I'm sure the disappointment was a small element.

I need to find a "Born to Garden" shirt for the assistant gardener and over-eager eater of green strawberries:

I can't imagine the day when I am bored by plants. Resident-lawnmower-man may jest that I have made purchases just because "I don't have one of those", but I'll admit it's true. I have a perennial order coming soon, including a few new plants I'll have to find room for. I have shifted from a design esthetic that valued repetition to more of a "one of everything" goal, which is of course, un-obtainable (making it that much more exciting). This is why I enjoy touring small gardens, because I will always learn about something new.

Resident-lawnmower-man works feverishly to finish my new alpine bed:

A co-worker recently bought a new house and I think I've been quite clear that I am always ready to deliver perennials to his house. In fact, I'd probably even plant them. Unfortunately, I think he's aspiring to one of those "low maintenance" yards involving a small patch of lawn and some shrubbery. As a busy person with a family and stressful job, I love my "high maintenance" yard, though I don't see the maintenance part as anything but positive and enjoyable. It's therapeutic, in fact. Those "low maintenance" people just don't know what they're missing. Secretly, I may find their hobbies rather inferior to mine (who needs to fish or cruise about the lake on a sailboat anyhow?).

Wow, that was a long and personal post. That's what you get for blogging while listening to Josh Groban and Coldplay.