Thursday, June 30, 2011

Out with the Old

I hate globe cedars (Thuja occidentalis). Thus, ours finally was removed from the yard when RLM decided that the half-dead shrub was beyond redemption. We had to wrap that tree in burlap every winter and it still had terrible brown winter kill on it. Even the clematis growing up its side didn't improve its appearance. In the end, the mass of brown had to go.

Now what to do with the stump? Either he gets some machinery in do dig it up, or I plant things around it to disguise it.
A lonely "Mount Hood" white daffodil that is blooming in today's rain:

On the other hand, the background shrubs in this photo are doing fairly well and are attractive with their clusters of white blooms that look like those of a white hydrangea. These are a compact variety of highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum):

The dome-shaped perennial in the center foreground (with some pink flowers) is Geranium macrorrhizum, a good creeping groundcover with a pine-like scent.
Asters in the center raised bed:

This poor pumpkin suffered cold damage when I brought it outside, but has recovered enough to grow and produce some flowers. As of yet, it is only producing male flowers. Later in the season, it should produce female ones from which we can get some pumpkins. I am trying to grow them in large pots, letting them trail down onto the ground. Hopefully this works!

Lastly, the cotton seed-carrying fluff of the poplar trees has created the appearance of snow blowing past our window with every summer breeze. I shudder thinking of all the seedlings we are going to have to deal with. The cotton is particularly heavy this year; I have never recalled it being this thick before.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Aquilegias All Over

The blooms shifted from tulips to Aquilegias while I was away from the province this past few weeks. I've tried several types of Aquilegias and now have a bit of variety, as far as columbines go. There are tall plants and short plants, upwards/outwards/downwards-facing flowers, long or short "spurs" on the base of the flower, double-layer flowers, and one ones with unique colors or shapes of foliage. Of course, there are many different color combinations of the flowers themselves.
Japanese Fan columbine (Aquilegia flabellata nana alba), with its slightly eery whitish-grey flowers:

A blue "Songbird" series Aquilegias, one of the showiest in my opinion:

Aquilegia "Blackcurrant Ice", a dwarf form that is less than 10 inches tall and has unique coloring:

I fell for "Blackcurrant Ice" after some catalog called it rare and highly desirable. That's probably not true, but went out and I got myself one right away. It looks a lot like this one in Thompson & Morgan's seed catalog. My original "Blackcurrant Ice" and an Aquilegia glandulosa (blue flower) plants died two years ago, but I knew they set seed and I left all the seedlings to make an Aquilegia groundcover:

Aquilegia glandulosa is also called the Siberian columbine. It is another dwarf and has outwards to downwards-facing flowers.
Aquilegia glandulosa:

Aquilegia do set seed and multiply rather easily, so I deadhead mine promptly if I don't want any more in some flower beds. Like most perennials, they only bloom in their second year, so plant some now to enjoy flowers next year. The are very easy to grow.
White "Clementine" series columbine, named as such because of their clematis-like flowers:

Pink "Clementine" columbine:

Unknown type columbine, with downwards-facing flowers:

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Transplanting Day, A Procrastination

Gardening was a welcome diversion from the monotony of studying today. Thus, there were some productive bursts of gardening between the flipping of pages. I am excited to see that I will have my first peony blooms soon. I've had peony plants for about four years now, without blooms. I managed to kill one (planted in a bad spot) but finally my remaining peony has buds. Peonies aren't particularly hard to grow, and are quite hardy to this province. Someday, I will dedicate more of my gardening space to peonies.
My peony is now visited by red ants, thought they don't harm the plant:

Primula saxatilis, a nicely naturalizing primula in a partly-shady part of the raised bed:

I let this primula go to seed and spread its progeny around. In large groups, it makes a nice show with its shades of lilac flowers.
The alpine garden at midday:
I keep meaning to take some pictures when the lighting is really nice, like in the early morning. This raised bed (below) is in full shade by evening, so morning pictures would be best. However, that will require getting up at 4:30 am. Sunrise this morning was as 4:23 am. At this time of year, the broken window shades in the bedroom window are pretty noticeable, with a full three hours of bright sunlight before it's time to get up. At least that's better than going to work in the morning in the dark and then going to home for supper in the dark, during winter.
This raised bed has taller shrubs (dogwood, highbush cranberry, Saskatoons) and delphiniums at the back of it, against the gravel lane. The Saskatoon berry bushes have white blooms right now:

There are still some open spots in this bed, where plants died out in 2009. Thankfully, with a yard this big, there are plenty of perennials to be divided and perennial seedlings left over to fill in the gaps. I spent some time moving tall perennials to the back and short ones to the front. I try to create complementary textures too, like a balance of fine leaves with broad ones, or tall grassy foliage (irises) with low and broad plants (hostas, Alchemilla). I'm sure my garden could make room for some new plants, though. I'm looking for some tall, part-shade loving perennials with moderate water requirements. Ah, that will require studying some other books...another diversion.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Tiny Vegetable Plot

My tiny vegetable garden is having some successes, and some failures too. My yard is mostly perennial flowers and shrubs and lawn, with only this tiny raised bed dedicated to edibles. I do have tomatoes and some vines in pots elsewhere, though it's clear that I am no vegetable farmer. My green onions look great, though these are actually last years onions. They overwintered and continue to grow this spring. I now leave a few plants in the ground in the fall and have never failed to have a nice bunch of green onions in the spring:

The tiny vegetable garden, in which my green beans STILL have not come up. I'm beginning to suspect my seeds were too old. Spinach is looking great, though:

This seems to be an eye-burningly-bright picture, but it illustrates my (edible) rhubarb as an ornamental feature of my raised flower bed. It actually gets more light here than my previous rhubarb locations and seems to be growing well with its large helping of cow manure this spring. I'm hoping for some nice red rhubarb stalks for summer eating.

Double late tulip "Angelique" is just starting to bloom:

This peony-like flower looks beautiful and like any "late" tulip, does very well in our climate. I buy mine from Botanus, because I like how they clearly label all the tulip varieties so that I can know exactly what I am buying. No, I don't get paid to advertise for them, but I get so annoyed at the companies that sell "beautiful pink tulips", without telling you what type of tulip they are (tall, short, naturalizing, early season, late season, etc.). The late varieties will not get damaged by spring frosts and therefore seem to do well here.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Name That Mushroom!

I was digging out some large and lush dandelions growing from below the thinning layer of bark mulch yesterday -- when I saw a pattern among the bark that drew my eye:

I have no experience with mushrooms, but this looks like a morel to me. However, it also looks like the false morel, Verpa bohemica. Northern Saskatchewan is a popular hunting ground for wild mushrooms, including pine mushrooms, morels, and chanterelles. The Saskatchewan government Agriculture website states that there are two mushrooms that look like morels, but are NOT morels, so I'll be careful and not eat them.
Lewisia cotyledon "Regenbogen" (Rainbow) in the alpine/rock garden:

Pulsatilla vulgaris has gone to seed, leaving these pretty fuzzy seedheads:

While in Saskatoon this past week, I browsed through Garden Architecture & Design. It is a very pretty place in summer, with plants artfully arranged among garden furniture, pots, and statuary. I brought home this little friend, which matches the rustic look of our yard. RLM (resident-lawnmower-man) saw it and shook his head, muttering something about silly gardeners.

The junior gardeners love my choice of statuary, so RLM will have to live with it. I enjoy browsing nice garden places as if they were spa experiences. However, instead of coming out with manicured nails and massaged hands, I add to the garden's beauty.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Too Much Color

My drive back from a quick trip to Saskatoon this week was accompanied by the audiobook version of Michael Pollan's "Second Nature: A Gardener's Education". After some chapters on the author's early experiences in gardening and the clash of culture vs. nature, there was a chapter on the history of roses (not a complete history by any means, but a few tidbits of interest). As I drove into Prince Albert, I found my car steering towards John's Garden Center, where hardy roses are likely to be found. Not much later, I walked out with "Prairie Celebration", a sub-zero Parkland hardy rose out of Morden, Manitoba. It is a shockingly bright pink, but at the time I felt less interested in pale pastels. I'm not sure it blends with the existing colors, as it is quite a showy color. Thinking about it more, I wonder if I should have bought three, and made a nice cluster of hot pink roses?
New rose "Prairie Celebration" is the hot pink flower on the right:

Blue Forget-Me-Not which now is naturalized in masses in my flower beds:

Pink Forget-Me-Not to complement the blue:

As a rule, roses for La Ronge (zone 1b) need to be one of the Parkland (Morden) roses or an Explorer rose (named after Canadian explorers, eg. John Cabot, William Baffin, etc.). For some reason, John's also had a significant number of hybrid tea roses, but I turned up my nose at those more tender roses and moved on to the hardy ones. "Prairie Celebration" is one of the newer Parkland roses, introduced in 2003. I read online that there is also a new one this year called "Prairie Snowdrift", which is white. That one wasn't available at my local garden center.
My pink Lily of the Valley spreads very slowly in my shady patch under an ash tree

I assume that its bad reputation for spreading aggressively probably comes from milder climate zones. I have waited years for this bunch to become more than a few lonely leaves. It is a great idea for planting under deciduous trees.
My first daffodils of the year: