Thursday, January 31, 2008

Seedlings and Exotic Cuttings

Here's a new garden challenge for me: growing a curry leaf tree. I know almost nothing about this tree, but was given cuttings by a colleague who hoped I could get them to grow with hopes of having a fresh source of leaves for cooking. This plant is a native of India and can be grown from seed or cuttings.

So far, the cuttings look healthy enough, especially considering that they travelled a great distance to get to northern Saskatchewan (lets just say that border services of several countries were duped and should not be reading this). I dipped them in rooting hormone and put them in a slurry of vermiculite and water. I've sprayed the tops with fungicide (No Damp solution). They are under bright lights in a humidity dome. If anyone has some tips, let me know.

Strawberry "Pikan" seedlings - the pink flowers and medium sized fruits sounded appealing:

Osteospermum sinuata "African Sun" germinated fast and furiously:

"Red Robin" dwarf tomato made an abundant-looking cluster of fruits:

A touch of local culture: a birch bark basket made by a local elderly Aboriginal woman who gave this to resident-lawnmower-man. I believe the lace-type parts are made out of spruce roots, which are dyed different colors. This is quite a pretty little basket.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cold, Not Me!

This is the only family member that goes outside without decent footwear and a parka in -30 degree C weather (in fact, she appears comfortable and enjoys the sunshine). She is an 82 pound Siberian husky-Alaskan malamute cross. It is a wonderful cross-breed if you have a yard and climate suitable for such a dog. Not many other domestic animals actually prefer winter like these dogs do.

Cold Enough Already

Impressively, the weather network is reporting our temperature as -42 Celsius today as of 9:00 this morning. I took this picture at sunrise, a few minutes before 9:00 am today:
Mom and dad in BC will probably point out that they are "suffering" at the current temperatures of -9 degrees there. Oh the pity I will have. The car is dodgy these days, refusing to start when it's most inconvenient. I have to try shutting the car door many times because the seals are frozen and the door won't shut. When the car does start, the ride is rough because the tires all have a flat spot where they were frozen to the ground. Besides, the suspension is also frozen.

The dog still sleeps outside in her doghouse, but we let her in to visit us during the day. Of course, she is a fluffy sled-dog type animal and can tolerate the cold very well. The dog-sled races are coming up soon and we've seen some teams training by the side of the highway. It will be fun to see them race, though I hope it will warm up from these frigid temperatures for the big race day.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Life's Motto

For my birthday, my mother got me this nice plaque on a stake, which I have planted in with a potted tree in our house. Amen. Otherwise, I'd be taking pictures of clean floors and washed dishes, and no one would read a blog like that.

The Hotspot of Saskatchewan

Wow! This morning's weather report indicated that La Ronge was the "hot spot" of the province, at -7 degrees Celsius. We should feel all warm and cozy at that kind of temperature. I should be outside enjoying the balmy air, but instead I am wrapped in a wool sweater, sitting at the computer, and making excuses to stay inside. Perhaps I'll do something active and invigorating, like bake cookies...

In the meanwhile, my amaryllis (part of the office Christmas gift exchange) is blooming beautifully. As much as I may put a lot of time into my plants, I really don't have the interest nor space to keep amaryllis over the rest of the year and I'd rather just get a new one each year, if I do get one at all.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Keeping warm inside with the plants

We've braved a week of bone-breaking cold and the car only failed to start once! I left it unplugged for just 20 minutes at -34 Celsius and it punished me for being so cruel. The coldest it got (not factoring in the windchill) was -34 Celsius. That's enough to persuade me to buy some heavy boots at the local trading post this week. My toes will thank me.

Resident-lawnmower-man shovels snow off the decks:

You have to live somewhere cold to understand why the Cree name for January is "Moon of the Tree Exploding Month". I haven't seen the trees explode myself, but I wouldn't doubt it if someone told me they saw an exploding tree in this severe cold. My own descriptive name for this month might be "Moon of the nostrils freezing together".

Here is my phalenopsis Brother Mirage "Brother" orchid in (almost) full bloom:
Seedlings in humidity dome:

I have limited myself to a few perennials for now, including Euphorbia myrsinites, whose seed packet made it sound like only sorcerers and advanced horticulturalists could make this seed germinate. It sounded like a good challenge for January, when I am over-eager to plant things. Strangely, they germinated easily in warm conditions. I also am growing some Gentiana acaulis and Arabis blepharophylla Spring Charm.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The January Seed Itch

Have you got it too? Do you have a burning desire to sow seeds in potting mix and then revel in the exhilaration of small green things sprouting? Do you want to assemble a colorful mix of pansies in a shiny new ceramic pot? I'm trying to restrain myself, but the January Seed Itch has definitely taken hold.

The peppers, tomatoes, herbs, lemongrass and orchid shelf of the indoor basement-garden:

I just finished putting away the Christmas decorations and I resolve to replace them with something symbolic of an impending spring. Yes, I'm inviting spring to my home with centerpieces and pastel ribbons. I'll be searching out the Michael's craft store for a replacement for the silk poinsettia arrangement. RLM will find that pretty thrilling, I'm sure.

If you are looking for a wide variety of herbs, the Richters Seed Catalogue is pretty spectacular. It contains everything from Ephedra sinica (with small print reminding us that sale of purified ephedrine is illegal, but growing Ephedra is NOT) to our local native plant, the "ratroot" (Acorus calamus) which is touted for treatment of "flatulent colic" and fleas. I counted no less than 31 different mint varieties sold as seed or plants. This includes "Mojito Mint", apparently liberated from Cuba in 2006 by Toronto's "mojito enthusiast" Catherine Nasmith. Did anyone tell Fidel about this? Should the American public be drinking communist mint? Hmmm.

Here is an amaryllis plant given to me by a colleague at the office. Thanks, Jeff!
I've started a few annuals and perennial seeds in pots and enclosed them in ziploc baggies. I spray the planted pots with some "no damp" solution, to prevent the seedlings from rotting and dying.

If I am lucky, I won't end up with pots that look like this -- a fabulous example of lush moss with no seedlings to be found:

I hope you have luck in seed-starting. Just remember to avoid starting fast-growing or large plants too soon. I say that from frequent and apparently fruitless past personal "learning experiences".

Friday, January 04, 2008


Here is a beautiful morning sunrise, which now occurs between 9:00 and 9:30. Thank-goodness the sunrise is getting earlier each day.
In contrast to much of southern Saskatchewan, La Ronge is not in the middle of flat prairie. We do not have road networks that resemble graph paper when mapped. The terrain is too rocky and irregular for any of that neat and tidy north-and-south stuff. Thus, our house sits at an irregular angle, looking out onto the lake over our neighbour's house. Using Google Earth and the location of the sunrise, I'd say we face southeast. Who needs a compass? Well, we do have a GPS. You never know when you might get lost in your own garden.