Sunday, March 30, 2008

Brilliant Sunshine on my Snow

We may not be able to play in the dirt yet, but the brilliant sun is bringing people outside to walk around outside today. Here are some pictures of the yard this morning. Not one inch of lawn is showing. For the recent commenter that thought my lawn in mid-April 2007 looked poorly-maintained, this is because of the snow and snow mold. If you were completely covered in snow for 6 months of the year, you might look poorly too, come springtime!
Spirea shrub in the foreground, looking across the yard to the frozen lake:

Burlap-wrapped cedar shrub:

The road in front of our house. It was hard getting around town with the truck today, since the Subaru was out of town with RLM. I find that these near-zero temperatures create difficult snow and ice conditions. It's actually easier to drive in -20 or -30 C.

You can compare the yard with the same view from this time last year. The photo from March 29, 2007 is posted in the left column of the blog. Conclusion: we haven't had as much melting as last year at this time.

Spicy globe basil in the basement under lights:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Flying Raccoons of Northern Canada

We woke this morning to see some vermin in our garbage and more snow atop our cars. It snowed all night, these enormous, taunting flakes of sardonic snow. The giant black flying vermin were successfully pulling large bags out of the plastic garbage bin. The bin does have a lid, but obviously, the lid does not keep these clever animals out. There is garbage scattered around our front yard and road. I can't imagine the ravens found much stuff to eat (since we compost most everything), unless soiled baby diapers are a tastry treat around here.

I call them flying raccoons because they are crafty creatures that are adept at getting into your stuff. Being this far north, we actually don't have raccoons or skunks. In fact, we don't have rabies up here either, which is just another great reason to move to Canada's north, don't you think? My father was bitten by a rabid bat in southern BC, which clearly is another reason NOT to live in the sunny Okanagan amid vineyards and cherry orchards. I think the snow is making me not only blind but possibly also insane.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Speedy Impatiens

I grew impatiens (Super Elfin Mix) from seed this year, for the first time in my life. Definitely easy for beginners. Now, some of the plants have flower buds.

Super Elfin Mix is a great variety of impatien. I bought some as bedding plants last year and grew them in a large container in the shade. They don't need any pinching or special treatment, though they do seem to need well-draining soil, as some of the seedlings in pure peat got "wet feet" then wilted and died. I've potted them into bigger pots, using potting mix to which I've added an extra bag of perlite.

African Daisies: These Osteospermum sinuata "African Sun" (Dimorphotheca aurantiaca) are flourishing. I find it curious that Thompson & Morgan sells these seed to Canada and the US as Osteospermum sinuata and to Europe as Dimorphotheca aurantiaca (AND with the same picture). I read on another garden blog about these plants being renamed, with Dimorphotheca being the most recent designation -- and something T&M should fix for us keen North Americans.

A hybrid "Sweet Gold" cherry tomato: I go to sleep with visions of these tomatoes in a large container, surrounded by a lush collection of herbs. Stay tuned to see if dreams really do come true...

I found these at Dutch Growers in Saskatoon: clear orchid pots, which are ideal for monitoring root growth.

One of my orchids doesn't flower very often (Dendrobium nobile), but will vegetatively propagate itself at a rate that makes me give orchids away like unwanted zucchinis. If I underwatered and neglected this orchid more (at the appropriate time of year), it would probably flower more often for me. At any rate, I needed some proper pots for all the baby plants, so these are great.

Rosemary as a basement-grown herb. It grows well indoors and tasted fabulous on roast chicken and potatoes yesterday.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Fingernail Disease of Gardeners

It is a tragic and sad affliction: A gardener without dirt under the fingernails. Note the classic signs below:The indoor gardening is just not quite enough. Oh to have the need for a nail brush again! For the moment, the hands are staving off frostbite with Thinsulate.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Ice Queen Reigns Here

Spring has not yet arrived in our local Narnia, as we sit under more falling snow with temperatures down to -23 C (-9.4 F) tonight. I'm determined not to plug in the car's block heater anymore though. Doing that would be admitting defeat. Is anyone else in the garden world still plugging in their car?

Yet again, the driveway is covered in snow:

In the absence of live flowers in my yard, I'm going to be keeping up with the proverbial Joneses in the rest of Canada with this display:

I bought these silk flowers at a craft store on my last trip out of town. I just need a few robins flying around the living room to complete the spring effect.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Plants and Power Outages

Unlike the unlucky folks in the eastern half of our country, we received no awful storms up here this week. We did get a long power outage though. Furthermore, we're not even sure why. Either I'm not sufficiently connected to the gossip chain, or the media just ignores the northerners (I firmly believe this last point).

This last Tuesday, we had 8.5 hours of no electricity during the workday. This meant we also had no running water, as the town's water pumps were also not functioning. Imagine your workplace with no flushing toilets. The staff could not tolerate lack of coffee, however, and that essential appliance was plugged into a generator-run outlet (with water from the emergency supplies). They realized the error of their ways sometime later when full bladders met full toilets. We called the power company at 1:00 pm and the recording went something like this: "We're not sure what is causing this power outage. If you have any tips, please call us." Being (not) so reassured, I built a large fire in the fireplace at home and felt toasty warm until power was restored at 3 pm, when I could surf garden blogs yet again!

Osteospermum "Passion Mix": I just pinched the top off the largest one. I didn't do this the last time I grew these and they ended up sparse and gangly.

Fortunately, the weather wasn't severe during the power outage. There were even a few days above freezing this week, and a small patch of sloped flower bed was revealed. I'm hoping for green tips of plants poking out in a few weeks.

Yet another columbine (Aquilegia). I collect them like I collect shoes, only this obsession doesn't go noticed by RLM (and no teasing and harassment ensues).

No, this is not oak-leaf lettuce. This is my solitary Gerbera daisy, grown from seed because I heard that growing them was a challenge. Ha! Just watch me grow them in subarctic Canada!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Vivid Dreams of Horticultural Exotica

I just recalled a colorful dream I had last night. You know how it goes: these fleeting creations of the brain flit around and sometimes come back to us, often to our amusement.

In my dream, I was standing amid one of my raised beds, noticing that several of my fall-planted bulbs were in bloom. And what blooms! Not only did the (borderline hardy) giant alliums come up, but there were freesias too! Yes, though I didn't remember planting them in the fall (and seriously, I didn't plant any), I had blooming freesias. I rationalized that they were probably some bonus gift from some mail order company. Wow. Even in my dream, I knew freesias had something like a zone 8 or 9 hardiness rating. I leaned in to smell them, and didn't smell much. Oh well, how much can you ask from a tropical flower growing in subarctic conditions?

My basement seedling extravaganza. Alas, no freesias.

Yes, it's still winter here

Others gardeners may have crocuses in bloom, but we heard our roof creaking and metal railings banging all night, with temperatures below -32 C. We took the dog out for some sledding on the lake this weekend, though.

Here is the landscape of the front yard, with the snow that drifted around in the weekend's harsh winds. Note the banana plants in the foreground - they're doing great.

Therefore, I am fiddling with dirt and seeds in the basement, where it is warm and the growing seedlings bring excitement and enthusiasm.

Lobelia seedlings are so tiny, you can hardly see them (but there ARE there):

Osteospermum "African Sun" seedlings are the biggest seedlings at the moment:

Impatiens and strawberry seedlings grow at vastly different rates in this tray. It's easy for the peat-based mix to dry out quickly in these little pots.