Monday, August 31, 2009

More Northern Forest Berries

We went out to Freeman island on Lac La Ronge this past weekend, where I found yet another berry. This one was edible too! I believe this is the wild black currant (Ribes americanum). It has prickly stems, tasty black berries with red juice, no foul smell, and is about three feet (90 cm) tall. It was growing in a sunny area, with slight cover from evergreen trees. It was also in a very convenient spot right up next to our cabin (how's that for a great plant quality?).
Wild black currant:

Foliage of the wild black currant:

Right next to the wild black currants were some wild raspberries (Rubus idaeus var. strigosus). I think the good berries had already been eaten by the hungry bipeds (of the human variety).
Wild raspberries:

Altogether, I counted eight berries at the cabin site, the first five being edible: (1) Wild raspberry, (2) Wild black currant, (3) Saskatoon berries, (4) Lingonberries, (5) Wild blueberries, (6) Northern comandra, (7) Bunchberries, and (8) Bearberries. If we looked harder, we might have even found some highbush cranberries too. As far as I know, none of the non-edible berries on that list are particularly toxic or dangerous in small quantities. (Also, the non-edible ones don't taste very good.) There were several mushrooms growing out there too, but I'm not even going to begin to try to identify (or eat) those. That's a hobby too reckless for my tastes.

I posted pictures of the other northern berries last year:
Kona, the husky-malamute, enjoying life on the island:

She's usually not particularly fond of water but spent a fair bit of time wading in the water up to her knees this weekend. I didn't notice her eating any berries, but she did eat grass (and her dogfood). This is the first time we have ever let her run off-leash and she stayed close to us and the cabin the whole time. She was more than happy to escort us on trips to the outhouse. I think the dog may enjoy life at the cabin more than I do!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Northern Climate Ice Plants

Ice plants sound like something that should grow in our northern short-season garden, don't they? Actually, most of these plants are succulents associated with hot areas, yet I've had success with a few of them. The "ice" refers to the glistening appearance of salt crystals secreted by the leaves of these plants of largely African origin.
My alpine garden, with ice plant at center:

I have three types of iceplants, though the common name doesn't really distinguish between the great diversity of "ice plants". This year, I grew several Mesembryanthemum criniflorum from seed (bought from Thompson & Morgan). This was a bit difficult to do on my light shelf, because the plants are sprawling and limp and tend to rot if the foliage gets wet (when the plant sprawls into the drip-tray I keep under my pots). Outdoors though, they have a more upright and robust appearance.

These plants are naturalized along the California coast, and I have fond memories of running around barefoot on these when I was a kid. We loved the sensation; it was something like walking on tiny pickles. This plant won't survive the winter here, however. I wonder if I can keep some cuttings indoors though?
First flower of Mesembryanthemum- a bit deformed and squarish:

I was inspired to try these annual flowers after rooting some cuttings of an "ice plant" in Arizona last winter. I think one of the plants I saw in Arizona was actually Malephora crocea, the "Copper Ice Plant". It was very easy to root from cuttings and had beautiful flowers that opened when the sun was shining. My legacy in my parent's Arizona yard will be an expanse of ice plants, though I hear the rabbits are good at keeping them under control.

The two other (and perennial) plants are Delosperma nubigenum and Delosperma deleeuwiae. At first I was impressed with the dense mat of yellow flowers that D. nubigenum makes in June and July, though I'm even more happy with D. deleevwiae, because it spreads its purple blooms over the entire summer. Both have nice pebble-like succulent foliage that spreads to form a dense, shiny mat that looks good all year round.
Delosperma nubigeum in July of this year:

Delosperma deleeuwiae in late August:

I got the D. deleeuwiae from Wrightman's alpines, if you're looking to get one for yourself. D. nubigenum sails through our winters without any problems (its foliage just turns reddish), so I imagine that D. deleeuwiae might do the same.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More Tree Pests - Need Help

Having had success in identifying pests through the blog in the past, I am requesting help yet again. My neighbours alerted me to the problem of the willow trees in our area. The leaves are turning brown and show areas of skeletonization and holes eaten through them.
Browning of leaves on willow tree in La Ronge:

There are tiny black insects under many leaves (not even 1 mm long) as well as what looks like tiny black flecks of excrement.
Tiny black insects on willow leaves (click to see closer view):

Today, I spotted a yellow-headed larva (or caterpillar, but I suspect a larva) with a green body crawling along one of the leaves. Between Google and me, I think this may be a sawfly larva.
Larva vs. caterpillar on willow tree:

Also, there are many 5-7 mm web-like silken cocoons on the upper surfaces of the leaves. Many contain what looks like a black grain of rice. I assume something must have matured in these little cocoons and already moved on, since I don't find anything alive and moving inside of them. An Australian website describing their own problem with a willow sawfly shows a picture with a similar-looking cocoon.
Cocoons of willow tree pest:

There are several winged insects flying about the tree, but I'm not sure which is pest or friend. Besides, I'm better at photographing the slow-moving critters.

In a likely-unrelated matter, the tart cherry trees didn't produce any fruit this year. They did have blossoms in spring followed by green fruit, but then the fruit just seemed to disappear off all four trees. I have no idea what happened. There doesn't appear to be any disease plaguing the trees. In previous years, we had pear slugs (which are also sawflies), but those never showed up this year.
Tart cherry "Carmine Jewel" with no fruit:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gaudy Gladioli and Some Poison Blues

I tried growing some Gladioli this year, at least so I could say I have grown them at least once. I bought a new type, from the "Glamini" series. They are supposed to be a shorter variety that theoretically does not need to be staked (mine are leaning after a rain). This one was supposed to be a red and pink type called "Emily". I can't find my order summary, but the plant I have growing certainly doesn' t look like Emily, as it is a horrible peach color (it probably is the one called "Zoe"). This color might look good in some tropical display along with some complementary cannas, but looks terrible next to my Rudbeckia. Truly horrible. I think the mail order company made a mistake on their labeling.

I've got some nice blooms on my Aconitum napellus (monkshood) this year. I dug this plant out of my sister-in-law's yard, so that I could admire it and keep it away from children that might try eating it. This is a nice plant for late-summer blooms, though the dark blue doesn't stand out from a distance like bright whites and yellows do.

Aconitum contains toxic alkaloids that are cardiotoxins and neurotoxins. These are found in all parts of the plant. It is interesting that it is used in homeopathy and traditional Chinese medicine. Canadian actor Andre Noble apparently died in 2004 after accidentally ingesting the plant while camping in Newfoundland. Plant toxins will cause symptoms in the cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and gastrointestinal systems, though death is almost always because of cardiac ventricular arrythmias or asystole ("flatline", a ceasing of electrical activity in the heart).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Orange Fluffy Fruits: Saskatoon Berry Rust

I have been curious about these strange fruits on our Saskatoon berry bushes this year. Several fruits are covered in what looks like little orange tufts or horns. An orange powder transfers onto the surface of nearby fruit.

Searching the internet reveals that this is likely Saskatoon-Juniper rust. It is more likely with a delayed fruit in conditions with a cold wet spring. Well, everything is certainly late this year and the spring was definitely cold and wet. There is one juniper plant in the same raised bed, though from a distance, it looks okay. The information says that the juniper has galls in spring, which I may have not noticed. I could live without the juniper though, if that would help. For that matter, I don't even like the Saskatoon bushes.

Anyone have any recommendations? I hate to think that this problem will get worse next year, with fungus spores spreading far and wide.

Google Garden Tours

Here is an interesting use of technology: Google has a tricycle mounted with its all-seeing cameras, designed to record pedestrian-accessible areas for Google street view. The tricycle camera recorded images in the gardens of France's Chateau de Versailles last week and the images are to be posted by the end of the year. I noticed that people's faces and license plates are blurred out. Canada demanded the same before agreeing to allow Google's cameras into Canadian cities. No Canadian cities have had any street view pictures posted yet, but I hope they do soon. Saskatoon was unfortunately filmed in the early spring, when the city was covered in mud and slush and looking generally filthy.

I cruised around the Eiffel tower (on Google street view) this afternoon and noticed streets lined with trees covered in purple blooms. I assume Paris must have been photographed in springtime. This made me think about touring gardens with Google street view. Even if I don't get to all the great gardens of the world in my lifetime, I can take a peek at them them on the computer. At least I'm not burning plane fuel to get anywhere. Oh yes, and it's free.

View Larger Map

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Roses and Lilies - Late and Beautiful

Yes, it is possible to grow roses in our northern climate, though I only have two of them. Of course, they need to be particularly hardy rose types, like the Parkland and Explorer series. This very fragrant rugosa rose was in the yard when we moved here. It is a very large hardy shrub rose and it would be huge if I didn't prune it down every spring. I believe it is a "Hansa" rose, particularly after seeing this rose in Saskatchewan garden centers.

Probably "Hansa" hardy shrub rose:

When I first saw the foliage of this Geranium popping up from under the cedar shrub, I didn't know what it was. Now that it is flowering, I am wondering where it came from? I've never grown one of these! It's about 2 feet tall and is a lovely blue. I think I might keep it.
Unknown Geranium:

The Papaver rhoeas/Shirley poppies "Cedric Morris Mix" (from Thompson & Morgan) are so absolutely beautiful! This area of the raised bed was planted with foxgloves last year, so there are some seedlings growing under these poppies now, ready to flower next year along with these poppies. I'll be letting some of them go to seed for more color next year. I'm sure there will be lots of seed, so let me know if you want some! Beside them are the LA hybrid lilies, which are a bit late this year.

Shirley poppies:

This is the very pretty (but not fragrant) "Morden Blush" hardy rose. This winter I'll be covering it with something, since it really gets severe winter-kill in its exposed location in a raised bed. Of course, this doesn't stop it from flowering, but does probably reduce its size and make it flower much later than usual.
Morden Blush rose amid LA hybrid lilies:

Here is one of the last of the breadseed poppies. In a few weeks, we'll be collecting seed again.

I grew dahlias this year for the first time in my life. I realized that they like the locations that get the most water. These ones are "Tahiti Sunrise" and they did very well in a large container.

Saskatoon berries are hanging off the shrubs in our flower beds now. I have told RLM he needs to go out and pick them, or I'll let the birds have them all. I like to eat some fresh off the bush, but I'm not particularly fond of Saskatoon berry baked goods. Yes, you can kick me out of the province for saying that...

First daylily bloom of the year, "Double River Wye":

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Some New Plants and Other Stuff

I've got a few new plants blooming this year, which keeps things interesting and adds to the list of "plants that can grow here".

This odd blue-grey brush-like perennial flower is Eryngium alpinum, which was planted in 2007 and bloomed for the first time this year. It is almost 3 feet (90 cm) tall and fits in well in the middle of a raised bed.

While not a perennial, this little poppy in the alpine garden self-seeds and the two plants I started with last year left some lovely offspring that are blooming now in early August. This Papaver miyabeanum "Pacino" has a sulphur-colored flower and is known as the Japanese poppy.

Once again, I conclude that the Papaver rhoeas (corn poppies, Shirley poppies) give me a boost of garden-happiness. To keep some in a vase, I sealed the stems to prevent the latex from dripping out, a tip which I had read on the internet. I burned the bottom of the stem with the flame from a BBQ lighter for about 10 seconds. It worked better than I had imagined and the flowers looked great for about 3 days.
Papaver rhoeas as a cut flower:

Here is the view of the center raised bed from our house:

Center raised bed, with some lilies yet to bloom and Papaver rhoeas blooming on the right:

Monday, August 03, 2009

Digital Landscaping - The Seniors Center

Do you like those makeover television programs? I'll admit I like to see bad hair and sloppy clothes get transformed, or be amazed by houses that are fixed up and decorated. My virtual landscaping program allows me to do the same for gardens, by just plugging in a photo of an existing space. Actually, the full program allows 3D assembly of houses too, so you could do an exterior renovation of your house while you're at it.

We pass the new seniors' social center nearly every day, as it is just down our street. Hopefully, it is not going to experience the same disappointment as the town's welcome sign, which lingered on for a long time un-landscaped, (though I did offer some stunning and ridiculous ideas with digital landscaping, as posted on my blog). Currently, the building is a nice blue, but very plain. Maybe next year we'll get to see some landscaping to brighten things up. In the meantime, here are my ideas. I think I designed quite a reasonable and low-maintenance landscape. If anyone responsible for this building reads this post, please feel free to use any or all of my ideas!
Seniors Center before the makeover:

Seniors Center after the makeover:

RLM doesn't think that they will cover those posts with brick, seeing no foundation for such a structure. Too bad. Maybe they could build trellises on them and train climbing roses up them? Yeah right. Maybe that's not quite realistic for La Ronge, where the landscaping standards are set pretty low. Besides, someone would have to maintain this.

The plantings in front of the deck include spirea and mugo pines. In the little triangle at the left is a "Diabolo" ninebark.

Along the right side of the building are a dogwood shrub, a gold-foliage ninebark, three highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) shrubs, a bergenia, a dwarf balsam fir, and a mugo pine. In the center of the lawn is my one fanciful touch: a weeping Norway spruce. I just think that it is a really cool tree. At the right are two Lindens, which I think are a perfect tree, having nice leaves, bark, and shape.
A variety of shrub textures and colors:

Nice outdoor sitting area:

The pines and spruce are evergreen, while the dogwoods has pretty twig colors, so as to provide winter interest. The highbush cranberries provide food for the birds (and people, if so desired). Of course, all these plantings are hardy to our area.

If you have a space that could use a makeover, you can send a picture to me and I might post the results on the blog. I use Realtime Landscaping Pro 5, a PC program which is pretty simple to learn and use. It's an entertaining way to waste some time, at the very least!
Other digital landscaping projects on my blog can be found here: