Thursday, September 05, 2013

Wrapping up the Garden

The garden is changing its wardrobe to the fall colors as we enjoy the last days of warm weather.  I think today is actually THE last day, according to the weather report.  I felt it was probably safe to pack away the summer clothes inside as well, to make room for the warmer items.

The ever-present screeching squirrel seems to have done a number on the flower bed closest to the house.  There appears to be an arm-sized tunnel dug under the bean plant.  I guess screaming at us from under the stairs at our front door wasn't good enough. 

Driveway perennial bed.  The Hansa rose is reblooming!
I have faithfully dead-headed the perennials, hoping to squeeze a few late blooms out of the delphiniums (or at least reduce the volunteer seedlings).  Other than the squirrel, we have had few pests this year, including insects.  The bunny, while thankfully eating the dandelions, did however much away at the peas and beans in the vegetable garden.  Oh well, we still had some to eat for ourselves.  I can put up with that. 

 Among the perennials in the large raised bed, I randomly planted a variety of sunflower seeds this spring.  The ones on the sunniest end are now blooming and I hope to see a few more.  I planted pollen-free sunflowers, which are probably desired by people who want them as mess-free cutflowers, but I mostly just want them to look good outside.  I love the combination of the coneflowers (Echinacea) with the sunflowers.  They bloom at the same time and the deep pink looks great against the golden sunflowers.  The garden-Pinterest of my brain is going to lock this in as an idea to replicate in the future, with even more sunflowers and more Echinacea.  The cosmos would also look great in front of the tall sunflowers. 
Geese honking over our yard, heading south for the winter.

 I pulled out all the Papaver rhoeas, the bright pink annual poppies growing in the center raised bed.  They were going brown and had already spread their seed.  With them removed, we can now see the few self-seeded cosmos that were fighting their away up amid the poppies.  Cosmos are a wonderful late season annual.  They are also as easy as throwing a few seeds in the dirt in spring.  If you have a small flower bed, the short ones would look best. 
Pink cosmos with the lilies in the center raised bed.
 The perennials have limited activity at the moment.  I see a few blooms starting on the Morden mum and Aster dumosus, but these are pretty small or overgrown with other plants (over-exuberant spirea), so their contribution is mostly invisible!   
Foreground: alpine bed.  Background: The large raised bed filled with perennials.
Otherwise, I have been organizing and cleaning up the gardening tools and supplies.  Not just for the winter, but because we are soon moving on from our yard and home.  I have had fun with all the plants that thrived or failed here, learning a lot about them.  I have ideas on new things I would like to try (branching out into red or orange flowers, which have excluded from this yard) and dreaming about the garden challenges we will meet in our eventual new property, which is in hardiness zone 6 of southern British Columbia!  I'm imagining a focus on xeriscaping will be the new challenge, while we enjoy an orchard and perhaps some grapevines.  I have enjoyed all the feedback on this garden and will continue on gardening with enthusiasm, though I am really looking forward to throwing out the insect repellent as a necessary gardening tool.   

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Passing on the Garden Gene

While traveling last month, I was sure to take the offspring to some gardens in BC.  I was very happy to hear their life plans for the next while: to have a playhouse with surrounding gardens containing "lavender, beans, and daisies".  The daisies are not my doing, but the beans and lavender are well-influenced.  I smiled quietly.   
Scarlet runner bean is making its way up the deck posts.
I am hoping the scarlet runner bean will impress us with height and some edible beans by the end of the season.  This was a two-for-one deal, pretty red flowers AND an edible product.  The gladioli in the blue pot show no signs of buds yet.  Hmmm.   We picked and pitted some of the Carmine Jewel cherries today and made cherries jubilee sundae for dessert today.  It was more than amazing.  The deep red juice and overwhelmingly sweet and tangy cherries paired with vanilla ice cream was worth the calories.  The cherries were a little smaller this year, but then again, I haven't fertilized or done anything to promote these trees' growth other than letting the rain fall on them and hoped for sunshine.  Perhaps some fruit tree fertilizer would be useful? 
Three of the Carmine Jewel cherries and the Furry Nibbler of our dandelions (and vegetable garden).
Clematis mandshurica among the other perennials
 I had a group of seedlings of an unknown plant growing in a flowerbed.  A perennial geranium was there last year, but it failed to show up in 2013.  Oh well.  In its place were many attractive seedlings, but they were not geraniums!  They didn't look like any of the common weeds, so I left them.  It seems they are seedlings of my white, fragrant, summer-blooming Clematis mandshurica.  I grew my original ones from seed, and now I have more.  Maybe I'll dig them up and share around.  As you can tell from the name, these Clematis originate in Mongolia, and I see that an extract of the plant is also used as a medicinal supplement for arthritis.  It grows 1.5- 2 meters tall, clinging only after it reaches about a meter in height.  The flowers and scent are lovely. 
Salpiglossis"Royale Purple Bicolor"
I like to try new annuals every year, just to see how they grow and learn more about them.  Salpiglossus had an attractive photo in the seed catalog and I bought the mix.  The yellow ones are bright, yet rather flat in color like a plain petunia, and not anywhere as intriguing as the purple/gold ones pictured here.  These flowers grow 24 inches tall, which is a bit gangly for most pots, but mine are living among some other flowers in a half-barrel and don't look too out of place.  They would not work in a small or narrow pot. 

I was hoping they would be amazing after the effort in germinating them.  Definitely a bit fiddly.  Like violas, they only germinate in darkness.  I had them in pots under black plastic.  However, the instant they germinate, they need to be under bright lights, or they stretch out to pale weak stems that don't seem to root well.  This means you have to be vigilant to watch for sprouting every day and move the germinated seeds immediately to the lights.  Looking at the color varieties, I would like to try some more the bicolors.            

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Bold and Beautiful Flowers

Hummingbird moth drinks from a delphinium
 My lilies are blooming now, while the towering delphiniums are bowing under the weight of their bright columnar flowers.  I have a hard time even walking through the big flower bed right now though, as the mosquitoes around here are absolutely terrible.  A generous drenching in bug spray doesn't seem to do anything.
 The center raised bed is looking colorful with its annual poppies.  Somewhere among those, there should be some dahlias, but I've completely lost them among all those pink flowers.  Perhaps they will rise above them in the coming weeks.

 I like the squat and sturdy asters in this seed mix I got from Veseys, called the "Pot and Patio Aster Mix", which came with some whites and purples too, but somehow this pot ended up with only the pinks.  I put a few other plants in other pots, and those are the ones that turned up in other colors!  They stay short enough to look nice in the half barrels.  I pinch off the dead flowers and hope to have bright colors till fall.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Should You Do This to A Tree?

I have been meaning to post for a while now, though I have been out of town.  That is my excuse, but photos of the July garden shall be taken soon!

However, in my wanderings about Canada, I spotted these trees on the waterfront promenade in Penticton, BC.  They had some new walkways created along Lakeshore drive on Okanagan Lake and they replaced some trampled and hopeless lawn with a rubberized surface similar to the stuff you see at oval running tracks. 

I'm not sure what the tree thinks about this. I guess time will tell.  The rubberized surface is supposed to be permeable and allow water and air through. 

Has anyone seen this in their area?  I assume most of these types of rubberized surfaces around trees are quite new, so we don't know the long-term impacts.  I wonder if the city staff will eventually cut out some rubber around the tree to allow new growth and prevent stem girdling?  Who knows.  Otherwise, I learned a lot about xeriscaping in the Okanagan.  Penticton has a great xeriscape demonstration garden, with the plants names and water requirements all indicated on signs. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Palette of Annuals

While the perennials are quietly doing their things, I have a few annuals in containers and flower beds that are beginning to really show their shape and color.  I grow all my own annuals, selecting seed from various companies, trying a few new things each year.  I try to match the plant to the growing condition, whether heat, shade, or drought.

La Ronge is experiencing some heat now, which is great if you're out enjoying the lakes.  However, with the last two weeks of rain, the humidity is rather oppressive in the house and yard.  These are the days for salads and slow cookers, while the oven stays off.  Of course, the mosquitoes are now horrid, which is my usual beef with the north.  I pity our poor dog, whom I saw swat and then eat a horsefly this morning.  She had to catch and chew it a few times before finally killing it.  I'd imagine her quick response is due to memory of past inflictions of those chewing insects and their painful bites.    
Heliotrope "Dwarf Marine"
 Heliotrope is growing in a barrel in part shade of wild pincherry trees.  The pictured plant is still quite small.  I didn't have success with them in previous years, but was willing to try again with the marketer's promises of a lovely vanilla scent.  I don't smell much from my plants, but maybe I just need more of them.  These grow as dense little bushy plants, 12-18 inches tall.  They attract butterflies.
Nemesia "KLM"
 Nemesia strumosa "KLM" is named after the Dutch airway with planes of similar color scheme.  Wouldn't you also love Petunia "Westjet" or Zinnia "Air Canada"?  I digress. Anyhow, this is a delicate looking flower that adds fine foliage and little snapdragon shaped blue and white flowers.  It looks great in a pot in combination with other larger-leafed annuals.  It was easy to grow.
Aster "Pot and Patio Mix" from Veseys
 Veseys offered these compact asters as a mix of colors, though only my pinks have started to bloom so far.  Asters, like zinnias, are good for heat and sun.  These look like sturdy plants, and stay compact without need for pinching. 
I believe my Nasturtium is "Milkmaid", from seeds I planted in the kids pots after the seeds in the craft kit they used failed to germinate.  To spare any heartache, I surreptitiously stuck some nasturtium seed in the pots.  Nasturtiums grow quickly and are large, two qualities kids like.  I have one nasturtium in a black pot on either side of the garage.  There are some Nicotianas and asters in the pots as well.  However, I really like how the nasturtiums have produced the lush circular leaves that are trailing over the edge.  These are my new favourites for the front pots, and they haven't even started blooming yet! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Two Shade Perennials

A little weekend post here.  Not much is happening in the garden right now.  The solitary lilac shrub has been blooming its heart out for the last two weeks and the scent is pretty powerful.  The swallowtail butterflies and hummingbird moths have had their fill.  It was not uncommon to see six to eight butterflies on the bush at one time. 

In the shadier areas, these two perennials are blooming for late June: Jacob's ladder and yellow archangel.  They both get a little morning sun, but otherwise live in shade.  Both have average soil moisture requirements and honestly, I rarely water the yellow archangel.  It survives pretty much on rain alone.  The white spotted leaves are quite attractive.  It apparently can be invasive, but it certainly is not invasive in our climate.  The Jacob's ladder can quickly make many new plants by dropping seeds, but this can be avoided if you cut the flowers off when they are done.   

Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum)

Yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon)
 Jacob's ladder also comes in other varieties.  I have a white one.  Others varieties are more compact or have variegated leaves.  I like the ferny foliage.  It is a nice green filler later in the season after the flowers are done. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Forest Tent Caterpillars

My youngest garden-helper interrupted my phone conversation this afternoon by bringing me a fuzzy caterpillar held in a bath toy.  Shortly thereafter, another appeared to fall from the sky at my feet and another was found on the sidewalk at the side of the house.  If they were that easy to find, I assume the forest is laden with them.  With the benefit of a quick Google search, I found that these are Forest Tent Caterpillars.

Saskatchewan media reported a few weeks ago that Saskatchewan is in for a large infestation of these crawlies, especially in northern Saskatchewan.  The problem is that they can rapidly defoliate deciduous trees.  (Although, if they could effectively kill the poplars that pop up everywhere in my yard, I'd be forever grateful...)  From what I read, it is not likely that these will threaten any of the landscape trees/plants in my yard. 

We are keeping a few of them in the kids little plastic critter-box for now.  They sound rather like nuisance critters, and besides the adult form is not very attractive.  That is to say, if this was the caterpillar of a luna moth or swallowtail, I'd be having a bit more love for them.  Yes, looks matter.  So I'm shallow.

From the looks of the bite marks in the leaves we put in the critter box, these ones like aspen leaves.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Between-Tulips-and-Lilies Season

Tiger Swallowtail butterflies on the chives
We are in that no-plants-land of time where neither lilies not tulips are blooming.  Well, a few straggler tulips are trying, but are hardly to be seen.  Everything is a lovely green though, as we've had rain most of the last week.  The folks canoeing on the Churchill River will not have enjoyed the recent weather.  I spent last weekend working, so no pleasant weather was wasted.  How's that for a positive spin on things?

 Also, the lawn finally got mowed and edges trimmed.  It even appears the dandelions are gone -- for a brief moment.  They will raise their bright heads again soon.  I've divided several perennials and hope they're enjoying their new homes.  The kids have eaten a crop of baby spinach leaves and were terribly excited about it.  That was pretty great to see.  All kids should get to grow things.
Peony buds
You can see the picture of my peony buds covered with ants.  Note that I do not do anything to deter the ants.  They don't do any damage, they are just eating the sticky sap that oozes from the buds.  I leave them alone and everybody is happy.  Spraying them runs the risk of killing bees, and I'm spreading the word about being nice to bees this year.  Save the bees, grow some flowers!
Alpine bed full of tiny white Erigeron flowers (they are closed here, as this was early morning)
 I got my first Erigeron plant from Wrightman alpines a few years ago, and now they've taken over the alpine bed.  This is a good thing, as they are pretty and hopefully mask the weeds (mostly horsetails).  I've been looking at Jelitto seeds catalog and they have a wonderful variety of them.  I just love the yellow Erigeron below, with its short mat of leaves nearly covered in flowers.  I'm definitely going to buy more kinds of these in my future and add them to rock gardens.
A yellow variety of Erigeron

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Flowers, Fires, and Rain

It's back to forest fire season in the north.  There has been a fire burning north of town for the last few weeks and I can see and smell the smoky haze when flying out of La Ronge.  We finally got some rain today, which breaks a long dry spell.  A house fire yesterday in Potatoe Lake, south of La Ronge, happened during maximum fire risk, and the dry trees and grass probably did not help.  The water bombers are busy. 
Irises and a bee
Now that our transformer is fixed on our street, we have power again today!  Yay, the computer is working again!  I heard a large crack of thunder though, so I wouldn't be surprised if we lost power again soon.  The barbeque may see some more use in the near future.

Bergenia flowers with a Golden Crab Spider (white and pink spider)
I really need to do some weeding, but am beheading the yellow dandelion tops in the flower beds until I can get in to do some real digging.  The columbines (Aquilegia) are starting in one flower bed, and the tulips are looking finished.  It seems early for tulips to be done already, since I usually have some stragglers nearly lasting until July.
Primula -but I lost the name
"Carmine Jewel" tart cherry tree in blossom
Dryas octopetala - very attractive rock garden flower
Scarlet runner beans - to grow up our deck posts this year
As you can see in the photos, the dandelions are thriving.  The seeds blow all around, and not just from our yard, so this is really inevitable.  Truly, I hate the invasive horsetail weeds that spread around my flower beds even more than the dandelions in the lawn.  I can't even hope to get the horsetail roots out (I suspect it's not even possible).  Garden tasks to do now: clip the dead flower heads off the tulips and daffodils to prevent them wasting their energy on making seeds. 

Are you growing any herbs yet?  If you have a spare pot, throw in some parsley, basil, or cilantro seeds!  Fresh herbs in summer cooking tastes amazing!  My herbs in the patio pot are just coming up.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Return on Work in the Garden

Things are now starting to look green all over, a welcome reward for the spring clean up and the past few falls of bulb-planting.  Only the last 2 years of tulip plantings are producing any significant blooms, which is really not surprising.
My new favorite: Akebono double late tulip (yellow)
Today, I dug up some tulips that were planted 3 years ago and which had divided themselves into multiple tiny bulbs, none of which produced a decent bloom.  I immediately filled the space with columbines (Aquilegia) that I found in odd places after doing some intensive dandelion weeding.  There was nearly a dandelion hedgerow forming at the back of the long raised bed.  I was quite proud of my work after all this.  I also found a thumb-sized brown larval creature and many earthworms that my little assistant gardener took on a tour of the yard before naming and eventually replacing them in the flower bed.
Grape hyacinths with daffodils and pink tulips
Primula auricula - completely hardy and dramatically showy blooms
 It is interesting to see what has ceased to appear each year.  My saxifraga in the alpine garden have entirely disappeared.  I think they got too wet, because the one I transplanted to the dusty dry sunny sloping flower bed is still alive.  I resolved to be more careful that no one waters this flower bed with the sprinkler, as the alpine plants do really thrive on the minimum of care (really, just weeding alone).   

Primula scotica - a petite plant that has reproduced nicely in the shade
Perennials really are an economical plant, living long and producing extras for transplantation far and wide.  I mostly try to avoid multiplication of the delphiniums, however, there are enough growing in the back of the large raised bed to move around and create quite a wall of these towering flowers.  If I get time before these get much larger, I will remove more of the under-acheiving old tulips and give their real estate to the delphiniums.

I am happy to see that the sunflower seeds planted recently have produced some little sprouts.  As of yet, no squirrel has found them.  I planted them randomly throughout the large raised bed (below). 
The long raised bed - site of today's dandelion massacre
Rainbow seen from the air over northern SK yesterday
This rainbow was spotted from the small plane I was in yesterday, just after passing through a dark cloud.  While it was sunny and bright on take off in the far north and on landing in La Ronge, we passed through rain and some  turbulence in between.  We were able to see the entire arc of the rainbow from the air - though the cellphone camera and the plexiglass windows don't really do it justice.

Erigeron compositus blooming in alpine garden

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Organic Dandelion Control

I peeked out the window this morning to see a pleasant sight -- someone was taking care of the dandelion crop in the lawn!  He was brown and furry and had large ears.  He seemed to have a preference for the dandelions and was nibbling off the flower heads.  Nature is wonderful!  Now, I don't worry much about rabbits ruining my landscape, as we haven't ever had a problem with them.  I am hoping this one is smart enough to avoid crawling under the backyard fence and encountering the our rodent-exterminator dog. 
Dandelion-nibbling rabbit
The tiny white daisy-like flowers of Erigeron compositus are filling the alpine bed around the tiny rock-garden iris, Iris sauveolens v. Rubromarginata.  The plant has grown a lot since last year and produced many blooms.  The finished flowers look rather scruffy (I probably should pluck them off), but it is unique, with the grown plant only 10 cm tall.  Someday, I would like to have some different colors of this same type of Iris.       
Iris sauveolens "Rubromarginata"
Tulips and daffodils this morning

Goodbye rabbit - return again!
Otherwise, the lake ice is finally melted, La Ronge is into yard sale season, and the black flies are not yet upon us.  Enjoy the outdoors now!