Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Amazing Alliums and Some Non-onions

Of all the large-bloomed alliums I planted this year, these are the only ones blooming so far. The other alliums are either not hardy or just tardy.
Allium "Purple Sensation":

Next is a more humble relative of the showy alliums: good old chives. This is one of those plants that can rival the weeds for their hardiness. Clumps of chives that I have heaved into the bushes have continued to grow where they landed. There are a few clumps randomly growing among the groundcover and in my flowerbeds; I don't bother removing them. Perhaps this is because they are difficult to eradicate, but I also don't mind the purple flowers in June. I remove the spent flowers before they go to seed though, to reduce their reproductive proclivity.

Sloped rock garden, with the fluffy seed heads of Pulsatilla vulgaris:

Raised beds, with tulips coming towards the end of their season:

This is a new columbine for my garden, Aquilegia flabellata nana alba. It is about 12" tall with whitish-grey flowers held above the foliage. It is also known as the Japanese Fan Columbine. I started several plants from seed last year.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Accidental Garden Additions

Last fall's bulb plantings included some bulbs that sneaked into their packages as illegal aliens, riding along with some ordinary tulips and Chionodoxa. I also know that squirrels didn't add these bulbs, unless the squirrels went to a garden center and came back with some lovely parrot tulips (I have never purchased parrot tulips). These showy tulips don't blend well with their surroundings, so they were snipped and put in a vase to be admired inside the house!
Parrot tulips growing among my Giant Beauty tulips:

The second non-invited garden bloom is this six-petaled white flower growing amid a clump of chionodoxa. From some internet searching, I suspect this is Ornithogalum umbellatum, the Star of Bethlehem.

I can't figure out where it came from, since neither Botanus nor Veseys have this bulb in their fall catalogs (my usual sources of bulbs). Also, we are in zone 1b and O. umbellatum is variously listed as being hardy to zone 4-9, and possibly zone 3 if heavily mulched. This plant is growing in my sloped rock garden in full sun. During the winter, the only protection it would have received would be the dead dry leaves of perennials and snow. Besides the unlikely climate, this plant only survived because I've had less time to weed the flowerbeds this year.

Are there any other cold climate gardeners out there with Star of Bethlehem in their gardens? How unusual is this anyhow?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wild plants and Mystery Flower

Every once in a while, I like to post on the plants that grow wild, outside the confines of our northern yard. It gives me an opportunity to learn more about the local plants, which include several edible berries and some beautiful flowers. I completely forgot about the wild orchids until I was talking about these with my in-laws yesterday. Every year, I go check on the wild ladyslippers (Cypripedium acaule) growing in the forest behind our house. These usually bloom in early June, but are late this year. I took the dog and found clumps of them in full bloom under the evergreen trees, secure among the moss on enormous slabs of granite -- their preferred conditions.
Pink ladyslippers:

Growing alongside the orchids are the lowbush wild blueberries. They are currently blooming. The delicate little white and pink bells complement the foliage, which is still showing red leaves on some of the plants.
Blueberry blooms:

The bunchberry plants (a dogwood, Cornus canadensis) form an attractive carpet in some areas of the forest floor:

Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum) is a shrub that grows all over the north. I've never made tea from it myself, but I hear that it has been done. Kona was thrilled to be out on this nature walk, but her unbounded enthusiasm made photography difficult while holding the leash. The vet commented that she gained a bit too much weight over this last winter. Considering it was one of the coldest winters in many years (and she lives outdoors all winter), I defend her weight gain as a compensatory measure. Is it bad of me to rationalize this? Oh well, we'll both be walking this summer.
White blooms of Labrador tea and Kona, the husky-malamute:

Finally, I spotted this plant growing in a partly shaded, disturbed area of the forest behind our house. There was only one plant and I've never seen this plant anywhere else in the forests around here. It has multiple light pink, downwards facing flowers that dangle at the end of reddish stems. The leaves are dark green and glossy. Does anyone know what it is? I would love to know. (You can click on each photo to get a larger image.)
Mystery flower:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Delicate Blooms

The forecast calls for cooler weather and a steady light rain for the next few days. This is good for gardeners and their gardens, but not so good for campers. I don't plan on doing any camping anytime soon, so this is fine for me. Actually, it's also good for pulling out dandelions, since the wet soil makes it easier to get that strong taproot out with my Jekyll weeder.

Here are the rose-like blooms of the double-flowered Primula auricula "Shalford's double". The dark color of the bloom and small stature of the plant require that you get close to the ground to appreciate it.

This short, blue-flowered columbine is Aquilegia glandulosa, a perennial of Chinese origin. It must be a fabulous addition to my garden as it is listed as "rare" on several plant websites. Now I like this plant even more! It was gifted to me last year by another gardener.

The flowering crabapple tree has put on its party clothes this week:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More Mid-June Tulips

I see that my so-called "May-flowering tulips" are nicely blooming now in mid-June. They have been opening quickly over the last few days, with lots of sun and heat over extremely long days. Our frosts of the last two weeks have been replaced by cries for air-conditioning.

Two unwelcome new arrivals in the area include forest fires and carpenter ants. The forest fires are an annual summer reality here, though the giant ants all over the yard (also reported by many other people in town) are a bit of an anomaly. I wonder what they are doing? I've heard that a few people are having their cabins invaded (and eaten) by these little beasties.

According to the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department website, these our our current daylight numbers:
    Begin civil twilight      03:22             
Sunrise 04:21
Sun transit 13:02
Sunset 21:44
End civil twilight 22:42
Here is a little tour of some of my tulips as of this morning:
Lily-flowered tulip "Claudia" looks so elegant:

I attempted to solve the problem of unsightly ground at the bottom of my tulip pictures by planting an "underlayer" of shorter flowers around the tulips. I started these blue and pink-flowered forget-me-nots last year, and I'm sure they will seed themselves and spread around my raised beds from now on! They are planted in front of "Florissa" single late dark pink tulips.

I was inspired to do this after seeing the amazing display at Butchart gardens in Victoria, BC last spring. They often underplanted their tulips with forget-me-nots or pansies.
Here is "Jackpot" Triumph tulip, planted 2008:

Blue forget-me-nots, white double late tulip "Mount Tacoma", "Claudia" lily-flowered tulip, and others:

These Primula saxatilis are very easy to grow. I got these seed from another local gardener. They were started last year and are currently putting on a nice show with various shades of pale violet flowers. They get afternoon shade and an average amount of water. They also apparently seed themselves, though mine have yet to do that.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Starting Tulip Season in the North

Yes, it is June 13 and tulip season has begun! Wow, better late than never. Resident- lawnmower-man spent a great deal of time mowing the large lawn this afternoon, so I can take pictures again without fearing the unsightly grass. Of course, if he would just let me replace the lawn with a mass of shrubs, perennials, trees, and a fortune in bark mulch, we'd not have this problem of mowing. Alas, that will never happen, says he.
Lily-flowered "Claudia" tulip, planted fall 2008:

Tulips: at the back is purple Triumph tulip "Negrita" (planted 2007), yellow and white "Calgary Flame" and in the foreground, "Blue Diamond" Double Late (planted 2007 and also smaller this year).

This next picture demonstrates why you cannot grow fancy modern tulips year after year without replacing them. This purple and white "Zurel" Triumph tulip was planted in 2007 and this year only one of the plants has produced a flower (which is puny and unimpressive).

The rest of the Triumph tulips that are 2+ years old are also showing miniaturized flowers. I'll be digging these up and replacing them with new bulbs this fall. Generally, I would say that the Single Late tulips seem to last a few years longer than the Triumph tulips.
Two colors of Pulsatilla vulgaris in the sloped rock garden:

Yet another experiment on zone-stretching: Anemone blanda "Blue Star" made it through the winter! I planted this bulb last fall in the center raised bed. It is labelled as zone 4 or 5 on plant websites, though it seems to be hardy here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Spring Bulbs Blooming for Summer

The daffodil is a usual floral sign of spring, though we only started to enjoy ours in the past week (...of summer, I should point out). The bulk yellow trumpet daffodils in the large raised bed at the side of yard are doing well. However, I also planted a large number of them in the raised bed in the center of the yard and none of those came up. I can only guess that the center raised bed was more exposed and had less snowcover. The drumstick alliums didn't come up there either.
Perennials in large raised bed:

Large raised bed, looking less barren than it did a few weeks ago:

The sloped rock garden is full of color with the pink Phlox subulata, blue grape hyacinths, pulsatillas of various shades, blue siberian squill, and other little plants.

We usually enjoy this stage of the rock garden in May! I am hoping RLM mows the lawn soon, because the abundant dandelions need their heads chopped off before going to seed. Besides, I hate taking pictures when the lawn looks so blemished with weeds.

Drumstick primula (Primula denticulata):

These hardy perennial primulas require continuous moist soil and shade, and I think mine dry out too often for their liking. I wouldn't say it's the best primula for this area, when compared with the auriculas.

Gentiana verna
, the spring gentian. The brilliant blue color of this flower is attention-grabbing, even though it is a small plant. I would just love to see a whole drift of these flowers.

Monday, June 01, 2009

More Gardens of Saskatoon

I took up William's recommendation from the comments section of my last post and went to the Patterson Gardens this morning. This Saskatoon, SK garden contains many varieties of trees and shrubs and best of all, everything is labelled with common and botanical names! These gardens are the antidote to show gardens, which tend to have large quantities of unlabelled plants without any interesting variety.
Golden Currant blooms:
Although only a few trees are leafed out or blooming now, I am resolved to revisit this garden later in the summer sometime. I would love to see all the colors of the potentillas and see what the Kentucky Wisteria looks like. I'd never have thought of Wisteria as a vine for the prairies! I also notice that a grape vine was planted there last year.
Some flowering crabapple trees at Patterson Gardens:

Carmine Jewel Tart Cherry Tree, which is the same variety I grow in my yard at home! Mine is pruned to a single stem, whereas this one has been allowed to grow into more of a vase shape.

It was rather cool outside today, so I also ventured across the river to the Conservatory at Saskatoon's Mendel Art Gallery. It always tropically-warm inside this glass building. It houses a number of large tropical plants with an ever-changing display of potted flowers, including orchids. There was only one ladyslipper orchid there today, but the display of potted pelargoniums (geraniums) was colorful.
I got married in this conservatory, so it's always fun to revisit the memories here as well.