Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Bulb Weekend!!

My fall order of bulbs/corms/roots arrived today in the mail from Botanus, a mail order company from British Columbia. The post office staff were nice enough to bring the heavy box around to the loading dock, seeing that I probably wouldn't be able to haul it off to my car. That's right, I purchased only a "few" bulbs (though I believe I was not setting any records this year).
One of my favourite perennials: Bergenia's fall colors are starting to show:

I purchased quite a few daffodils, though I've had little success with them since the spring of 2009. I'm hoping the sheer bulk of them will produce at least a few blooms nice months (doesn't that seem like forever?) from now. My order also included some garlic for the herb/vegetable plot, as I found it an excellent deterrent for aphids this year.
Aster dumosus "Alert", a fall-blooming aster:

I am pacing myself with the bulb planting, having planted the minor bulbs today, avoiding the inevitable blistering of the palms thus far. My dear garden friend offered me the use of her electric bulb auger, but I rather enjoyed expending a few calories only to enjoy my supper even more. I used the small handheld bulb planter today, and will probably use the long-handled foot-driven one over the weekend.
Crocuses, Narcissi, Puschkinia, Tulips, and Iris danfordiae go into the flowerbed adjacent the driveway:

A dwarf columbine is reblooming for fall:

I need to take some more cuttings of plants I want to save, and a few lucky others get to move right on into the house. The short-lived herbs (parsley, cilantro) aren't worth bringing in, but I have already got seedlings for new plants started indoors under lights.
The rosemary was brought in for the winter, as it is a long-lived woody herb:

Otherwise, the composting worms got hauled out in the sunlight as I dug the composted product out of the bottom of the plastic bin. The flowerbeds are going to love this. I didn't bother with sorting through the finished compost to save all the worms, since few worms live at the bottom anyhow. They were mostly near the top, where most of the food was located. I have two of these worm bins and they almost have the capacity to hold most of our kitchen's compostable waste over the winter. Excess waste goes to the big pile outside, but I don't use that pile for compost in the garden, as we also throw our weeds in there. I do however get the occasional tomato, pepper, or squash growing out of this worm-compost material.
Worm bin and black composted organic material for the flower beds:

The outer bin collects the compost tea that seeps out of the moist material inside. It's a great liquid fertilizer and I threw most of it around my big rose bush. I highly recommend worm-composting and freely give my worms away to any interested gardener (not that you have to be a gardener, but really, who else would raise a colony of worms in their house?).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Perennials and Shrubs

Don't you love shopping for new things in the garden? Even if there aren't some glaring bare spots, it's always great to learn about new plants and just try out new things to keep the variety of plants interesting. In northern zones, the challenge is to find shrubs and perennials that will survive the winter. I was pretty pretty cautious in this year's new additions.

Among the annuals, this is a double-flowered morning glory, which only started blooming two weeks ago:

I had RLM pick up some Viburnum in Saskatoon in the past month, based on previous successes with our existing compact Viburnum trilobum, the highbush cranberry. It forms a nice dense ball of foliage and when it is mature, grows red berries in fall. The berries aren't great for eating, but birds feed on the berries in winter and the red clusters are attractive. I highly recommend this shrub. The fact that Viburnum trilobum is a native shrub in this area should also be a good clue that it is well-adjusted and happy here.
Compact variety of Viburnum trilobum (large shrubs on the left), with a pink-flowered Potentilla at center foreground:

Potentilla are common little shrubs, though the newer colors (pink, apricot, white) are nice and they bloom over a long period of time in the later half of summer. They are low-maintenance, with only minimal trimming needed in spring.

I have high hopes for newly planted Viburnum dentatum "Northern Burgundy":

I also got a Viburnum dentatum "Blue Muffin", which should fill out the back of the raised bed.

I bought my first ever Cimifuga recently, adding the hardy Cimifuga simplex "Brunette" to the large raised bed. It is tiny and hasn't quite developed its full color and the cluster of white flower spikes, but I will wait for that. In the meanwhile, I need to get rid of some of Siberian iris, which is blocking the view of this lovely perennial. However, digging those monster iris clumps out is too much like work!
Cimifuga simplex "Brunette":

My young Cimifuga simplex "Brunette":

I've posted photos of this new mum before, but it so lovely that I will post it again.
The "Morden Fiesta" Chrysanthemum:

As any cold-climate gardener may be aware, many great plants have come out of Morden, Manitoba's agricultural research station. The Morden mums come in a few colors and are said to be hardy to zone 4. We'll see if they survive the winter here. I'm believing they will. (June 2012 Update: One of the three survived, though the two that didn't make it were planted right up against a rock wall and likely had their roots frozen solid.  I am certain that they do well planted in regular ground conditions).

Prompting another garden job, I grew weary of the drooping branches of the mountain ash, looking far too shaggy as it brushed against the perennials below.
Scraggly mountain ash tree:

We pruned the lower branches, which looks far better. It would look even nicer if we cut off some of the protruding upper branches too, but those tools are buried too far away in the shed and I'll leave it for another year. Here's a tip for anyone wanting to plant this tree -- it would be great over a lawn, but any soil or mulch underneath will end up growing hundreds of ash trees from all the fallen berries. It's a nuisance growing over the flower bed.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Fixing Invasion of the Groundcover

I just love strawberry plants. The runners and the new little plants they make seem like such great bonuses! I would love to have a huge patch of them! Mine all lived through the winter this past year, thanks to the snow that insulated them. I'm pinning down a few runners from each plant to make new ones, though I will probably end up moving the new plants to new locations this fall or next spring.
Strawberry plant - day neutral type:

This next photo shows one of the year's most frustrating garden problems. We have a nice bank covered in a creeping sedum. It was invaded with a grass, which spread rapidly underground, moving rapidly over broad areas. Pulling it out by hand became futile and we finally resorted to glyphosate (Roundup), which RLM applied with a hockey stick to the tips of the grasses. This resulted in death to the grass and spared the sedum. I think I will now transplant little islands of sedum back into the dead grass patches, without pulling the dead grass out (which would leave loose soil ready to grow more weeds). Hopefully this will fill in next year.
Bank of sedum:

If Roundup ever becomes unavailable, I think I would need one of those garden-blowtorches, which would seem to be the other option for non-selective killing of a patch of noxious plants. It seems a bit ridiculous, but sometimes a spreading weed can make you lose your patience!
Double-flowered pink morning glory - very showy:

I am trying out a new direct-seeded annual each year, learning about their growth habits and successes in our climate. This next pink flower is a mauve-colored California poppy (which is technically not a poppy), which I direct seeded in some drier soil in a very sunny location. It is doing well. Next year, cosmos and zinnias!
California poppy:

Otherwise in the garden, I broke our only lawn sprinkler. I am contemplating a trip to the city, but the only highway south apparently has a bridge out-of-order due to a crack in a girder. This is a bit of a problem...we shall see.