Friday, December 28, 2012

Mystery Vegetable/Fruit Identification Please!

Mystery Plant
I add compost from our kitchen vegetable/fruit scraps to some of my potted houseplants.  This glossy-leaved plant started growing from the compost-rich potting mix in the last month.  I am not sure what it is.  I did have some citrus trees growing there ealier and tried to repot them, but wasn't successful.  Does anyone know what this plant is?  It has to be growing from the remains of something we ate this year! 

It has been fairly cold for the past few weeks, and though we have some bright sun today, it still is -26 C out there.  Everything is sparkling today!  Inside, we're still working on the leftovers from the Christmas feast.  I hope everyone out there is keeping warm!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Winter Evenings

Echeveria under lights
 There are not that many thoughts of the plants outdoors this time of year.  The snow makes it more difficult to get around and has covered the traces of summer's green things.  I have some growing indoors, including succulents, herbs, orchids, and a lonely Spanish lavender.  We had a great orzo pasta salad with fresh basil this week that made that pot of basement-grown basil very worthwhile.  I planted a few more basil and cilantro seeds today for the benefit of future winter foods. 

Parsley, cilantro, basil and peppers under light
 I have some pepper plants started, though they will outgrow the little plastic dome at full size.  They will push up into my lights and I will have to pollinate them with a paintbrush.  We will have to appreciate them in a special meal too. 
Snowy yard and frozen lake this evening

Snowmobilers have been out on the lake ice for a few weeks now, thought they are likely the bravest (stupidest?) ones.  However, the temperatures of -20C and below this past week probably did add thickness to the lake ice.  Soon we'll be having ice fishing contests and then the sled dog races will be upon us.  Our dog has focused squarely on barking until she gets inside to watch television with us and eats the kids snacks when they are not paying attention.  Her winter coat will be growing in soon.
My reblooming orchid - A Bletilla or hybrid?

Otherwise in blogger land, the great Google has told me that I ran out of storage space for the blog and its pictures.  Thus, I will have to pay for more.  I don't want to stop blogging for now, so I'll pay them the few dollars to keep posting with photos...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Flowers and Last of the Squash

Short season variety of butternut squash
 My green bell peppers ripened to their intended deep chocolate color indoors after they were picked last week.  I hope my freshly picked butternut squash get a bit more "buttery" colored indoors too.  The vines look mostly dead, so I thought it would be a good time to bring them in.  I started the vines 6 weeks before putting them outdoors in spring. Squash-type vegetables would never ripen in time to sprout from the ground and ripen in our short season.  I've already stored away the pumpkins as purees in the freezer.  Mmmm.
The colors are great this year and I love the late-flowering perennials, like this geranium "Rozanne".  What a beautiful contrast!  I've yet to plant the tulips, which arrived in the mail two days ago. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Enjoy the Colors

The pumpkins are picked, the butternut squash is lingering a few days longer, and the leaves are brilliant.  While we have a lot of evergreens in the forest, there are many deciduous trees with brilliant fall color here.  The viburnums and dogwoods have deep red leaves while the poplars and birch show bright yellows. 

We picked a respectable amount of bell peppers from our two potted plants on the deck this last week.  I didn't want to see them get caught in frost and they weren't changing color in the cool weather, so they all were harvested. 

Rose Hips on the Hansa rose

Fall colors

There should still be some bulbs in the mail on their way to my yard.  I'm not doing much out in the yard these days, however.  I should be out photographing the great colors though.  I keep checking the aurora forecast, as we had some great auroras around this time last year, but the night sky has remained fairly quiet recently.
View of the neighbours' floatplane and sailboats.
My yellow nasturtiums are one of the few potted plants that stay looking great until fall.  That's why I planted them.  These ones sit out at the end of the driveway.  That fact the flowers are edible is a bonus!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Seeds, bulbs, and rhizomes

Pansy seed pods
My first Botanus mail order arrived and was planted this week.  I ordered two novelty bearded iris "Final Episode" (yellow and purple flowers) rhizomes and they were promptly planted in the center raised bed. I hope they do well there.  They prefer to have some sandy soil and stay on the dry side in the summer.  I have only one other variety of bearded iris, and it has multiplied handily.  It is a plain but sturdy blue flower of unknown name. 
First fall mail order arrives: Bearded iris rhizomes to be planted
I decided to let the alpine currant grow freely this year, choosing not to prune it in the spring.  I decided that it may take up more space in the raised bed, covering ground I otherwise would have to weed and cultivate.  However, there were several lily plants growing under the currant this summer, and those were moved to better locations. 
Cosmos mix in the raised bed

My project in the center raised bed with a succession of annuals has worked well.  July saw a lovely mass of Papaver rhoeas, an annual poppy.  These faded in August and I pulled them in September.  Now, the cosmos are blooming their bright mix of colors.  These are tall cosmos, so they started pushing above the poppies in late August.  However, they are easy victims to wind storms, as the shorter supportive poppies are now gone.  I've pushed a bunch of bamboo stakes into the ground and tied them up.  It's worth the two months of lovely color!  The poppy seeds were volunteers from the flowers of last year (you could directly sow these in April) and the cosmos were directly sown in early May.  Cosmos are one of the few annuals that looks great right up until frost.  I think I may try some shorter ones next year, and focus on planting them around the edges of the raised bed.  For the center, I might try growing some of the late flowering Phlox paniculata.  It grows reasonably tall and flowers in September. 

Ornamental kale

I hope my ornamental kale grows its showy pink centers before the grasshoppers eat it all! 

Monday, September 03, 2012

Getting that Autumn Feeling

It has been a rainy weekend, but that's okay, since we had some nice weather in the last half of August.  I've put in a couple of bulb orders, though there won't be a huge bulb-planting extravaganza as in previous years.  I've decided to try a few more Oriental lilies, as they bloom later and will thus extend the lily season into August.  Looking at the garden now, I wish I had more Echinacea for their late season color.  I prefer Ruby Star and Magnus for their size and bloom shape (I hate the droopy-petal flowers on some of the other pink varieties).

Presently, I have only a few perennials blooming, including the Morden Chrysanthemum, Echinacea, Potentilla, Scabiosa, Gentiana septemfida, Geranium Rozanne, Monarda and the roses.  
Morden Chrysanthemum
 Our fruits/vegetables have had a challenging time this year, being victim to the raids of the squirrels.  Our dog keeps the ones in the back yard under control (she has eaten a few), but there are two squirrels in the front yard that have stolen all our tomatoes from the potted plants on the front deck, leaving the green tomatoes half-eaten and sitting like trophies on top our chain link fence in the back yard.  They even crawled under the carefully-placed netting to steal the strawberries!  I have lost patience and RLM has been out with his pellet gun, though I think it is getting rather late in the season to save many of the tomatoes.   
Several pumpkins are ripening.  This is a small pie pumpkin variety called "Field Trip".

Alpine garden - with few blooms this time of year.

Morden "Centennial" Rose

Gentiana septemfida, a beautiful blue-flowering late season perennial.

Monarda x hybrida "Bergamo", which I grew from seed this year.
 Among the indoor plants, one of my Phalaenopsis orchids has rebloomed.  It did have three spikes, but I accidentally broke one off, leaving only these two stems full of flowers.  I had been keeping this plant under fluorescent lights in the basement for the past year, where it grew abundant leaves and looked far too happy and coddled, so I brought it upstairs and put it by the window.  It responded by blooming.  Orchid blooms last for months too, so keeping a Phalaenopsis after blooming is definitely worthwhile. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

Lily Perfume and Other Lovely Blooms

Tall delicate flowers of Thalictrum rochebrunianum (Giant meadow rue).
 How are your gardens growing?  It is that time of year that we do seem to spend less time in the yard, and the yard isn't doing as much as it was in spring.  Of course, this leaves time for other summer activities. 

Thalictrum seeds itself around generously and I pull out seedlings all around the flower beds, but I leave a few to grow these 6-8 foot delicate towers topped in tiny pink and yellow flowers. The flowers are hard to photograph, hardly appearing more significant than spider webs. 

Oriental lily "Acapulco", planted in fall 2010
 The Oriental lilies seem to be the last lilies to flower in my garden.  They are just getting into their prime today and smell amazing.  Orientals are known for their amazing fragrance.  I would plant some more of these just to have more end-of-summer-color, if I could remember where the empty spots are (the remains of tulips are now disappearing and I can't keep up with my own signage).  I buy my lilies by mail order and plant them in fall.  I prefer to buy only the types of lilies with upwards facing flowers, which includes the LA Hybrids and the Orientals, but not the Martagon lilies and some others. 
Hardy geranium "Rozanne".

 I think the bees, frogs, spiders, and ants enjoy my yard a whole lot.  We see many insects here and they seem to thrive, except for those 300 or so dead ants I just dumped out of the new hummingbird feeder.  That made me decide that there is indeed a purpose for those ant moats they sell to keep ants from hummingbird feeders!  

The hardy geraniums are known to spread seed a fair bit, but Rozanne does not make seeds and has very attractive flowers on a nice compact rounded plant, making it one of the most recommended hardy geraniums.
Large raised bed with Oriental lilies; Lac La Ronge in the background.

Annual poppy Papaver rhoeas
After a losing battle with the squirrels last year, I started my "Tiffany" sunflowers indoors this spring and planted them out as 4 week old plants.  This was more successful and we are getting a few of these bright flowers for August.  I was planning for blooms in fall, but their headstart may have accelerated their blooming season.  "Tiffany" is another sterile flower that doesn't make seeds -- much to the kids' dismay --but this feature ensures that the squirrels won't ravage the blooms either.   

"Heavenly blue" morning glory, an annual vine.
The yard, just before mowing today.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

More War on Foul Insects: Mosquito Repellants

In my quest to find new ways to wage battle with the biting insects, I have been researching the new clip-on products, including the new Off! Clip-on.  I know I am not the only one who hates mosquitoes, because the mosquito repellant pages on my blog are among the most popular!

I found this research out of the University of Florida, on the Entomological Society of America website.  It looked at four clip-on devices, evaluating the repellent effect against the disease carrying mosquito Aedes albopictus.  The clip-on devices included the Off! Clip-On (contains pyrethroid agent metofluthrin), ThermaCell Mosquito Repellent (contains pyrethroid agent allethrin), and the natural products Lentek Bite Shield (contains geraniol) and BugButton Mosquito Eliminator (geraniol, lemon oil, citronella oil).  Interestingly, the pyrethroid containing products reduced trap capture by 41.7% to 77% while the natural repellents and placebo worked about equally.  Clearly the natural oils are not of much benefit against this mosquito (though they probably smell nice), and this is consistent with previous research on other mosquito species.
Orb-weaving spider spotted on the dock at Jim's Camp at Nistowiak Falls.  This is one of the largest spiders I have seen in northern Saskatchewan.  I put my finger in the picture to show size and I think it was making irritated gestures towards me with its front legs.
Pyrethroids are synthetic compounds similar to the natural pyrethrin, which is produced by Chrysanthemums.  The most familar one is permethrin, the agent applied to bed nets in malaria endemic areas.  They are toxic to bees and aquatic organisms, so should be used with caution and not released into bodies of water.  They are not applied to human skin, like DEET, and should not be directly inhaled.  However, pyrethroids are not toxic in low levels to humans and other vertebrates, excepting cats, because of an enzyme they lack.  Unfortunately though, even bed bugs have figured out how to be impervious to this insecticide. 

The clip on products are battery operated and run a little fan that distributes the insecticide around you like a cloud.  You would need to keep yourself stocked with batteries and refills of the insecticide to keep it going.  I've read anecdotes that it is not effective in extremely heavy mosquito areas, such as next to bogs and ponds.  Also, if you are moving around, you may leave your protective cloud behind you and may need to stay put for a few minutes to regain your "protective cloud".  Perhaps standing in one place and weeding may be useful, but putting it on the kids as they run through the forest may be futile.   

Also, the other issue is the effectiveness of these pyrethroid emanators against no-see-ums and blackflies.  Thein lies the itch.  I did try the device in the yard this past week.  We do have a high-mosquito level in our area and I did still get two bites.  I think it did manage to repel some mosquitoes though.  It does make a quiet sound, like someone running the vacuum cleaner three doors down the street, but is not bothersome.  I think I would like to use this device while sitting outside reading a book or eating, where the protective cloud could build up and have better repellant activity.  Anyone else using this?  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cherries in the North

I harvested the tart cherries this week and have a litre of pitted ones in the freezer already.  I used the Norpro cherry stoner, which worked fairly well.  I may have left in a pit or two, but considering the tart cherries are a bit smaller than the sweet ones and may not fit the same in the tool, I think I've done well.
Carmine Jewel tart cherries
These are the Carmine Jewel cherries, a variety well-suited to growth in the north.  These trees are about six years old and had a fair bit of fruit for their dwarf size.  There were no pests bothering the leaves or the fruit this year.  In previous years, pear slugs (not actually a slug, but the larvae of a fly), did some damage to the leaves.

Carmine Jewel tart cherries
We decided to pick them this week after seeing the robins rustling around in the trees, thinking they'd found a generous supply of food close to home.  The robins can have the domestic Saskatoon berries.  I don't like those anyhow.

Cherry tree before the cherries ripened
If you've never had tart cherries, don't let the name put you off.  If you let them ripen to a deep red, they are sweet.   I think that their main advantage over the sweet cherries is that they are superior to sweet cherries in baking and many other cooked items.  I personally love them made up as a sauce on grilled pork.  Absolutely amazing.

Of course, it is great that they just survive at all up here.  The pretty little round trees are also quite attractive.  Several more varieties of tart cherries have been introduced since these ones were created, and I'd even try growing these in warmer climates when we should move away from the north.  Hopefully we'd still find them pest-free.  I've heard that the sweet cherries in the Okanagan, British Columbia, often end up pest-ridden (usually full of worms) if not sprayed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lollipop Lilies and Edible Flowers

"Lollipop" Asiatic lilies blooming now

"Double Delight Cream" Nasturtiums
 The pots full of annuals are really looking full and nice by this time of year.  The petunias, zinnias, nasturtiums, and marigolds are looking vigourous, and probably helped by the weekly liquid fertilizer.  The nasturtium flowers are edible, if you like the spicy peppery flavour.  The "Lollipop" lilies look good enough to eat, but are not too desirable for eating.

While Nasturtiums can be direct seeded in the ground, they reach bedding plant size much faster if started earlier indoors.  My direct-seeded ones are still inconspicuously tiny.  On the other hand, my volunteer Eschscholzia have already flowered and set seed.  The direct seeded cosmos have not flowered yet, though.
Papaver rhoeas annual poppies started blooming last week
I have a few Papaver somniferum annual poppies, though most of them were crowded out by the other plants this year and failed to grow to full size.  They bloom for a short period and then have large seed heads.  You can collect the seeds for baking, or leave them to make more blooms for next year.  Personally, I think a large patch of Papaver rhoeas is quite attractive.

It is just starting to rain this evening, which should help to reduce the forest fire smoke that has filled our skies and noses for the past week.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Summer Morning with the Birds

Raven: The ubiquitous northern bird.
The weather is sunny, the skies are smoky, and the sun is having a storm this weekend.  This should mean that I could get northern light pictures if I went out at 2 am with a bunch of camera gear.  We'll see if that happens or not.

However, I am glad that it is getting a few degrees cooler.  I guess the seven months of winter doesn't prepare me well for the two really hot weeks we get in the summer.  No, I shouldn't complain.

Looking north to Lac La Ronge and Nut Point Provincial Park.
 We are told that smoke from fires in northern Alberta are making our skies hazy.  Yesterday at the airport, the two water bombers took off together right before my plane.  As of yesterday, the fire report stated that there were 30 wildfires in the La Ronge fire control area, which is a large chunk of land including La Ronge and north to Wollaston Lake.  

Heron visiting the docks this morning.
In the yard, the current major bloomers are the delphiniums, roses, and Sweet Williams.  I have one solitary blooming lupine and wish I had more.  I went out in spring and pushed lupine seeds into the beds and I do see some small plants scattered around, but they won't bloom until next year.  The hybrid lilies and annual poppies are just starting.  The sad part of this is that the bulk of the flowers are going to be soon done for the year!  I did start some ornamental flowering kale and sunflowers indoors in May and planted them out this past week in hopes of having more fall excitement in the flower bed.  I've never planted kale before, but have enjoyed seeing them in other people's yards, so I hope they turn out well here in my yard.
First spotted morning glory flower this year.
The annual poppies have seeded themselves in the same spot for a few years now.  It is not hard to keep them coming back, however, you do need to thin them.  I ripped up poppies all spring to save them from coming up thick as a lawn.  If you don't do this, they will end up all spindly and never produce any significant flowers.  They are easy, but it does take that bit of effort to make them look their best.  I interplanted with direct-seeded Cosmos, which should bloom a while later.
The annual poppies are starting to bloom in the raised bed.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Hot Weather, Loud Colors

The weather is warm, the humidity is 40%, and the colours in the garden are getting more garish in their summer abdunance.  The hot pink rose and several varieties of dianthus color the flower beds as the spires of delphiniums rise with their aspirations of impending bloom.
Large raised bed with pink Sweet Williams in foreground.
White Campanula persicifolia against
blue Delphiniums
It is swimming weather in La Ronge, where we don't have any public swimming pools, but do have the lake.  If you don't mind the sand in your toes, some weeds in the water, and possibly the occasional leech, it does feel pretty good.  Oh yes, and the swimmer's itch parasite lives in a few bays, though that is a pretty common irritant in bodies of water around North America.  It also can be prevented by towelling off and changing clothes immediately after getting out of the water.

Speaking of pests, resident-lawnmower-man found our strawberry thief.  He watched the squirrel sneak under the carefully placed mesh to get his strawberries and then sneak out again.  Some weighty rocks will now be placed on the loose edges of the mesh.  What a pest!  If our dog was loose, I think we could get rid of that strawberry thief, but alas, we keep the dog contained in a fence.

Sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus),  a biennial flower that self-propagates very happily.
Large raised bed getting full with perennials.  The Siberian irises have just finished.
As far as insect garden pests go, there are some worms in the lettuce and the whole yard is festooned with the little pockets of white spittle bug deposits.  If you see wads of "spittle" on your plants, you will find a spittle bug inside.  They don't seem too destructive and can be washed off with a stream of water.  Otherwise, I sprayed insecticidal soap on the spittle mass that accumulated on the new rose's cluster of new buds.  
Sloped little rock garden full of thyme and Dianthus deltoides, both in bloom.  A few yellow perennial foxgloves have popped up here and there.

A solitary perennial Geranium flower amid Dianthus deltoides.

I love the little mounds of blue and white Campanula carpatica.  They get covered in blooms.  The burgundy shrub is a Japanese barberry and the silver spikes are Lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina).
The edibles are growing well, with the pumpkins and other vines finally taking off and looking happy.  I don't see any developing fruit on the pumpkins yet, though.  The herbs are going to good use in the cooking.  Tomorrow will be Mexican food night, so the cilantro will be savoured.  Violas are edible too, so this planting below is entirely edible.  I put a rosemary in the center, and violas are interplanted with parsley and cilantro, sown from seed in this pot.