Sunday, June 29, 2008

Update on Bonsai Baobab

There must be a shortage of web articles on baobab trees trained as bonsais, because my blog comes up just behind the South African Bonsai Society on a google search on "bonsai baobab". Quite funny that I'm here in northern Canada, a fair distance away from South Africa!

Here's my little baobab, having just started this year's growth a few weeks ago. It is a deciduous tree and it is critically important that it receive no water during the dormant season. That starts in the fall when the leaves start to yellow and fall off. Don't think your tree is dying when that happens, because that is normal. I think it's dead every winter and then it starts growing again every spring. I never cease to be amazed. At some point in October or November, I put the tree in the basement and completely neglect it. It's fine to put it on a shelf (does not need any light) and let it sit in dry dormancy for the winter; when you see green shoots in the spring, bring it back to a sunny place and water it regularly. One winter, it was stored under the pool table in the basement while we did renovations!

I started this tree from seed 4 years ago. Germination is not hard. You should soak the seed for 24 hours before sowing it, to help germination.

I cut the main stem last year to promote new growth, which worked very well. It triggered new shoots from the stem below the cut and around the circumference of the cut itself. I sealed the cut with Japanese cut paste, which can be purchased from bonsai dealers. I don't know what my plan is for future shaping of my tree, but I will figure that out as I go. It will probably be with me for many years!

Please leave a comment (and link, if you have one) if you have a baobab bonsai. There's not too many of them out there and I'd like to see what other ones look like.

For updates on the baobab, see July 9/09.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Season between Tulips and Delphiniums

The flower beds are not as colorful as they were at the height of tulip season, but they look a lot more full and lush now. The slow-to-start perennials, such as lavender and blanketflowers (Gaillardia) have now leafed-out.
Allium "Gladiator" in raised bed (with shorter Allium "Purple Sensation" just behind them):

Delosperma nubigenum in the rock garden. These are the first blooms I have seen from this suprisingly hardy little succulent. I fully recommend this plant. It looks fantastic from the time the snow melts right up until the snow falls on it again.

This photos was taken yesterday at lunch time, just before a huge thunderstorm rolled in and our power went out (again).

The rock garden is looking well-grown now. The blue fescues and pulsatillas are going to seed right now, making things look a bit messy near the bottom.

For my mother: A picture of my rhubarb. Mom's always asking if my rhubarb is the "red kind". It looks reddish at the bases anyhow. How much redder does rhubarb gets?

My very rustic barrels of rambling flowers. There's nothing fancy about these driveway adornments. The Dimorphotheca African sun (orange) open up only in sunshine and are quite happy-looking in this picture.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

De-Fluffing the Deck

Do you like the white accumulation on our deck? No, it's not snow. It's not from a tree either. This is why malamutes should not be allowed in your house. We can get this amount of fluff from dearest Kona (actually a malamute-husky cross) every two days for the month of June. Like all huskies or malamutes, she has a double coat, with black and grey guard hairs and an undercoat of soft white fur. The poor dog is panting in the summer temperatures now, wishing for those days of snow and ice!
She doesn't particularly enjoy the brushing, but the end result will be appreciated by both dog and people.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Flowers on The Longest Day of the Year

What a perfect day for gardening! The longest day of the year brought us lots of sun and heat. I found the official sunrise and sunset times for our location using our latitude and longitude on a website, though I notice that I mixed up our location on the header for my blog! I changed that today, horrified at this error. Just for curiosity, I used Google earth to see if 105N lat and 55W long exists and no, of course it does not, since the top of the earth is 90 degrees north latitude.

Blooming hens and chickens (Sempervivum), unknown variety. I'd be happy if this great little succulent just made fat little leaves, so this floral show is just an added bonus.

Okay, back to sunrise and sunset. Sunrise here was at 4:14 am and sunset was at 9:42 pm, for a daylength of 17 hrs and 42 min. There's a lot of gardening one can do between those hours. For comparison, New York city had sunrise at 5:19 and sunset at 8:27 for a day length of 15 hrs, 17 min. I'm sure Quu, my garden blog friend in northern Finland, enjoyed a nice long day as well.

My favourite perennial, Alchemilla mollis (Lady's mantle) with morning dew collected at the leaf margins, making the plant sparkle like it had a jeweled cloak.

Here's an Alchemilla mollis at the front of the large raised bed. All of my lady's mantles are enormous this year. I never knew they got so big, but they all seem to be nearly 3 ft (1 meter) across this year. I'll have to divide them all next spring!

Double flowered Aquilegias (right) are in bloom in full sun, while the Alliums are looking great behind that group of fading pink tulips. Catmint (foreground) is at its prime now, taunting me with its impending seed heads, which I will pre-emptively decapitate to prevent any further spread of this attractive weed/perennial.

I actually have vegetables growing!
I've been interested in growing a "fairy garden" (essentially a miniature garden at fairy-proportions). I could call this mini-garden my fairy's vegetable aisle. I joked with RLM that my veggie garden could feed 1/8 of a person. He felt that was an over-exaggeration and that the 1/8 of a person would need to supplement with dandelions and wildberries and the occasional wild animal. Yeah, I'm no farmer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Buying Orchids When You Live in the Sticks

Besides the outdoor garden, I like to keep a variety of houseplants. Presently, more than half of these are orchids. Contrary to popular opinion, orchids are not hard to keep. However, buying a variety of orchids is hard to do when the nearest center with an orchid club and decent nurseries is a 4 and 1/2 hour drive away.

A Phalaenopsis getting ready to bloom again. I just propped up this flower spike with a bamboo stick, though I really wish I had more stylish supports for my orchids.

Thus, here are your options in rural Canada:
  • Drive far, far away to a real nursery that sells a variety of orchids, which are actually labelled with their proper names. Carefully transport them along with your bulk food and toilet paper purchases back to your house, preferably not in the back of your pickup truck.
  • Buy at the nearest Wal*mart or grocery store, where you may find a small but nice Phalaenopsis (and nothing else). In case you need orchid potting medium, Wal*mart now sells that too, which saves me another 2 hour drive.
  • Buy orchids on eBay and have them shipped to your rural post office. This is my chosen method and seems to be inexpensive too! I buy only from Canadian sellers, to save the hassles of phytosanitary certificates and delays due to inspections at the border.
Dendrobium nobile "Angel Smile" in foreground:

I suppose this is free advertising, though I don't even know these people, but I just bought a really nice Dendrobium pattaya from eBay seller "Macrovulgaris in the Greenhouse", who is in Surrey, BC. It came in great condition and is definitely flowering-size, as it has some stubs of old flower stems on the tops of its canes. I've bought a few other orchids on ebay and have generally been happy, though NEVER try to buy one in winter time. I had some orchids come looking like wilted yellow compost matter, after some glitch resulting in a November arrival.

These orchids are getting natural light,
while the immature and small non-flowering plants stay under lights in the basement:

Just remember not to buy solely based on the allure of attractive flowers. Read up on orchids and find out their light, humidity, and temperature requirements. I can really only grow orchids indoors, so I only grow ones that do well in indoor environmental conditions. The common moth orchid, Phalaenopsis, is probably ubiquitous in stores because it does well in ordinary house conditions. Otherwise, I have Paphiopedlium "Magic McNavy", and several types of Dendrobiums.

Phalaenopsis, name unknown:

I've never had a Phalaenopsis that didn't rebloom, though one took 2 years to do so. If you are patient and give the orchid good conditions, it will reward you with several months of blooms. I have one that has been blooming continuously since last November! I anticipate more blooms into August.

Alliums for the North

I am happy to see that my first experiment with large-flowered alliums has been a success! The garden catalogs list these particular bulbs as hardy to zones 4 to 9, but again, we are saved by heavy snow-cover (we are zone 1b).

Here is Allium "Purple Sensation", which is shorter and deeper purple than Allium "Gladiator" (which is not in full bloom yet).

Here is the list of ornamental Alliums in the Botanus (from BC) catalog. I put the ones I would consider growing here in boldface:
  • Allium "Purple Sensation" (A. aflatunense) -- 32", zone 4-9
  • Allium Fireworks Mix -- 18", zone 4-9, yellow, purple, and white flowers
  • Allium "Globemaster" -- 32", zone 6-10, not likely to be hardy
  • Allium atropurpureum -- dark wine-red, 24", zone 4-10
  • Allium azureum -- 24", light purple, zone 4-10
  • Allium bulgaricum -- zone 6-10, not likely to be hardy
  • Allium cristophii -- 36", zone 5-8, probably not hardy
  • Allium giganteum -- 40", zone 6-10, not likely to be hardy
  • Allium "Hair" -- too weird for my tastes
  • Allium karataviense "Ivory Queen" - 4", white flowers on broad leaves, zone 5-9, probably not hardy
  • Allium moly luteum -- 10", zone 3-9, yellow flowers, naturalizing (spreads)
  • Allium "Mount Everest" -- 32", zone 4-9, large white ball-shaped flowers
  • Allium neapolitanum -- 10", zone 6-10, not likely to be hardy
  • Allium ostrowskianum -- 10", pink flowers, zone 4-9
  • Allium schubertii -- 16", zone 4-10, unique purple flowers
  • Allium sphaerocephalon -- 24", zone 4-10, small egg-shaped deep wine-red flowers, naturalizing (spreads)
"Skagit Valley" Tulip, the latest-blooming tulip in my yard:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I've got Subarctic Cherries!

Who says you can't grow cherries in subarctic Canada? My "Carmine Jewel" tart cherries (the cherry PR people think "tart" sounds better than "sour") finally bloomed for the first time since they were planted.

We planted four of these trees three years ago and trained them to grow a single main stem with a nice ball of branches on top. This tree gets the most sun and it has the most blooms on it. I hope it will be pollinated by the other cherry-related trees in the yard. I want some nice cherries to eat this summer!

The many forest fires in northern Saskatchewan are still burning and we've had several days of poor visibility in town due to moderate smoke in the air. There's no danger for our town, but bush camps and cabins are at risk of fires. Here's one of the water-bomber planes that flies frequently over our house. Its base is at the La Ronge airport.

Tulips. Yes, we still have them!

A nice clump of wild orchids in the forest behind our property.

This blue flower is Clematis macropetala, a hardy clematis I started from seed. It is growing up a cedar shrub which had a dead spot on one side. The clematis quite likes this location, since its roots are shaded by the shrub.

Close-up of the Clematis macropetala "Markham's Blue". I think that most of the fancy clematis types are not hardy here. I don't prune this clematis at all, but I may need to soon, just prevent it from getting too large. It's begun to reach its tentacles beyond the cedar, leaving vines waving about in the air.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wild Orchids and Friends

The wild lady slipper orchids (Cypripedium acaule) are blooming right now. If you live in town, get out in the boreal forest and take a look!

The "Blue Diamond" Double Late Tulips have gotten more beautiful with age. I guess they only start to look good once they fully open.

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) is now blooming in its shady bed:

A visit to BB's garden resulted in these pretty pictures of plants I don't have but would like, such as this Gentiana acaulis:

Happily, a seedling from this Aquilegia glandulosa got in my car and came home with me!

Dodacatheon pulchellum is also in bloom in my friend's garden. All the plants in her yard are not coddled or protected from winter in any way, so this plant must be quite hardy.

"Tres Chic" Lily flowered tulips, BB's favourite large-flowered tulip type.

A beautiful Lewisia cotyledon at BB's yard. Oh so beautiful and mouthwatering!

Kona got a great walk yesterday. Sniffing the grass, marking the grass, and generally running amok brought tongue-dangling joy to the big girl! Poor girl couldn't catch a muskrat if dinner depended on it though...

Monday, June 09, 2008

More Smoke and Flowers

"Spritz, spritz, spritz, spritz, spritz, spritz, [pause for painful inhalation] cough-cough, hack-hack, gagggg". That's the sound of this gardener preparing to head outdoors -- the outdoors where DEET protects the thin pink human skin barrier from the wildlife who would suck away our bodily juices. Actually, the bugs aren't so bad today but that's probably because it is so dry that the fire people refer to the fire conditions as "explosive".

Here's my photo of the "Zbar" fire northwest of La Ronge, taken this afternoon. It is currently 13, 253 hectares, making it the largest wildfire in the province. The prevailing winds seem to be moving all the smoke due west, which at least spares our town the smell of roasting trees. The fire is in the center of the horizon with all the smoke blowing leftwards.

The crabapple is in bloom. That poor tree. I pruned it last year into a lopsided tree of ugliness. In my defence, the lopped off branches were diseased, broken, or crossing other branches. Ideally, I'd like to rip out the tree and replace it. The previous owners never pruned the tree, so it's really beyond fixing at this point.

Progress is being made on my new alpine garden. Thanks go to resident-lawnmower-man for doing all the sweaty work here. I just wander out in the evenings and mention things about "fulfilling my vision" and "making it look like the Swiss alps landed on my lawn".

The Medusa-like seed head of Pulsatilla vulgaris:

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Day Without Rain, Again

It was a beautiful, sunny hot day again today. You could still see the garden at 10:00 pm, as it was still somewhat light outside. I love that I can garden until the late news comes on TV. Someday, we'll have to get some rain up here though. I heard on the news that one of the far northern communities in this province (Uranium City) was evacuated because of fires. Besides fires, rain would keep down the horrendous amounts of dust blowing off the dirt road that goes past our house.
The double flowered tulip "Blue Diamond" finally stay open all day:

In the next few days I'll be getting pictures of the wild orchids that grow behind our property. Cypripedium acaulis, the pink lady slipper, grows wild on granite slabs in filtered light all around the La Ronge area.
Wavy lines of the rock wall containing my collection of perennials:

More pictures of the "cup-shaped flowers", as a passerby called them today. What are they teaching in schools these days anyhow? Ha! Maybe I need to make my flower labels bigger just for educational value.

I dug up some tulips that stopped blooming this year, with plans to replace them in fall. I wonder if there's some trick to doing this, as it's easy to miss a bulb, especially when digging among other established plants and shrub roots!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Even More Tulips and Rock Wall Pictures

The blooming of the tulips makes a colorful show in our yard for the first two weeks of June. I love it. I only wish I could go perennial shopping to fill in spots where some other plants died over the winter. Unfortunately, RLM doesn't think that the 580 km round trip for a few plants is really justified and I have to agree. Reluctantly, of course. Instead, I'm getting my perennials for free! Yeah, I'm digging up my own plants and dividing them. It's a little boring, but effective.

Here are some gratuitous pictures of dry-stack rock walls and tulips for your enjoyment!

Both of the raised beds amid a lawn that needs some rehab:

The larger raised bed, looking towards the road:

Alchemilla mollis in the foreground and Negrita (purple) and Zurel (white/purple) Triumph tulips in the back:

Single late tulip "Menton" in front of "Negrita" tulips.

Some of the larger perennials are starting to grow too tall in front of the tulips!

The white blooms of wild pincherries make a cloud in the background.