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! 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Akebono - Lovely Tulips

Akebona double late tulip
The trees are green and the lake appears to be entirely thawed here in La Ronge.  The first of the tulips are in full bloom in my yard.  This lovely yellow tulip is a double late variety.  I planted this one from Botanus last fall.  I really like the fine red edge on the petals of this double-flowered tulip. Now I need to get out there and dig up the flowering dandelions in my flowerbeds!  
Akebono double late tulips (yellow).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Grass Growing Through my Bulbs

Have you ever had your grass grow right through your bulbs?  I found a few cases on the net, as some bulbs are quite soft and easily penetrated by aggressive roots.   

I was pulling grass out of the flower bed, where it intermingles (lurks?) with the early spring bulbs.  It is particularly maddening where it grows along with the grape hyacinths (Muscari), because the lawn grass leaves look similar to the grassy grape hyacinth leaves.  I dug out a handful of weeds and grape hyacinths and attempted to separate the two by examining the roots.
Attached roots of grass (right) and two muscari bulbs (center)
This was going well until I found a root that grew BOTH grape hyacinths AND grass.  What monster was this?  These poor young bulbs can't possibly thrive in this situation.
Muscari bulbs move along root like beads on a string
I guess this is a lesson on why to keep weeds (or any invasive/spreading plant) away from bulbs.  I've read that this is also true for lily bulbs. 
Muscari bulbs pulled off grass root
Note holes in the bulbs
Pulsatilla vulgaris
I plan to collect seeds from my collection of multiple shapes and colors of Pulsatilla vulgaris.  These are quite similar in appearance to Pulsatilla patens, which grows wild over many areas of northern Europe and North Americal  They are quite drought-tolerant once established.  They will drop seed and make new plants fairly often.  Mine grow well on a sunny, dry slope. 

It was a beautiful day today.  Float planes were out this past week and the thin layer of lake ice is looking like its time is short.  Ducks have paired off and are waddling around the marshes, while we are seeing the first of the flying insects. 
The raised bed is waiting for the rest of the perennials to appear
My three year old was probably trying to tell about the insects today when she said she saw "something in the air, but it wasn't even a vampire bat, it was just a little flying creature".  Rest assured that there are no vampire bats in La Ronge, but the blackflies and mosquitoes are comparable pests in my opinion.
Daffodils in the garden today

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Control of Powdery Mildew and Early Spring Blooms

La Ronge lake ice May 14
The John Deer heavy-duty wagon has been wheeling around the yard, moving the heavy pots, compost, and potting soil, and sometimes children.  It finally feels and even smells like spring, though it started to rain this evening.  However, that will help the newly planted seeds in the flower beds and vegetable garden.  The frogs are orchestrating a wall of sound from the nearby marshes and I heard the honk of a solitary duck this afternoon.  Soon, we will stock up on bug spray, the "perfume of northern gardeners", and the children will look like they were struck with a pox virus.
May 14: My first daffodils
 My first daffodils are growing in a raised bed with afternoon shade, so they were probably late compared to others in town.  These ones also seem to have stubby stems, but at least the wind and rain are unlikely to bother them!

Alpine garden - waiting for blooms

Pushkinia libanotica, a spring-blooming bulb

Eranthis hyemalis
 The Eranthis is probably the smallest plant in the yard.  Frankly, no one but me would notice them.  I took the super-close picture just to document its existence.  Each little flower and stem is about the size of the the very end of my little finger.
In the indoors garden, I finally discovered the magic potion for getting rid of powdery mildew problems!  Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that shows up as tiny black spots on leaves, followed by weakening and death of the plant if all the leaves become affected.  The best part is that it's nearly free.  I read about the milk and baking soda solution and was doubtful, but it worked.  I used 1 part milk (1/4 c. in my case) and 3 parts water (3/4 c.) with less than a teaspoon (around 4 mL) of baking soda.  I sprayed this on the leaves every few days and the solution seems to make all the unaffected leaves resistant to the mildew, but does not eradicate the existing mildew on the older leaves (which can be cut off).  I sprayed this solution when I noticed only 1 or 2 affected leaves on the plant and now the plants have many sets of new and unaffected leaves.  I kept the stuff in the refrigerator for the first few weeks, but will probably toss it and make some fresh stuff if I need it again.   

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Pasque Flowers and Indoor Peppers

New Mexico Joe Parker pepper in our house
 I am growing a New Mexico Joe Parker pepper indoors with success, if that can be measured by the peppers it is producing.  Of course, being an indoor plant, there are no bees to pollinate the flowers.  I pollinate them by hand with a kids' paintbrush.  All the un-pollinated flowers and their stems simply dry up and drop off, so you can have total control over how many peppers you want the plant to grow.  Potted peppers need a generous-sized pot.  Both tomatoes and peppers have large root systems.

Outdoors, I captured the growth of a Pulsatilla vulgaris on a sunny slope, where it started blooming recently.  The video started in the last week of April, with a day of snow at the beginning.  This video shows 13 days of growth, with a still shot taken every 10 minutes.  The plant "bows it head" every evening and stretches its flowers towards the sun. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Spring Clean Up

The spring clean up is nearly done. Shrubs are pruned and dead leaves are pulled out of flower beds.  The roses showed absolutely no winter-kill this year, likely because the snow cover was quite generous.  I pruned them only for shape and size.  The spring bulbs are up, and I inevitably squashed a few while tromping around out there.  Now that things are cleaned up and I can finally see the stepping stones, the rest of the bulb shoots should be safe!  I can see greens of the tulips, daffodils, species tulips, alliums, pushkinia and grape hyacinths.  The other early spring bulbs are blooming, with large flowered crocuses done already and scillla, chionodoxa, and the tiny spring irises blooming now.  I've found that the bulbs here all do best in the sunniest spots available.  Bulbs planted in shady areas never get around to blooming until it is too late in the season and seem to bloom very poorly, maybe because of the warm temperatures.
Chionodoxa is blooming in a sunny spot

Spring clean up around here seems to be best done in the first week of May, which is before anything produces much new growth.  I noticed some grubs and some little brown pellet-things in the crowns of the siberian irises.  I'm not sure of the significance of those, but the evidence will be in this year's growth.   
Alpine bed, with a healthy dwarf mugo pine
Iris danfordiae, a tiny yellow reticulated iris just starting to bloom
Scilla sibirica
Rhubarb just emerging from the ground
Kona, the northern doggy, lounging on the deck
Otherwise in the garden, I should be putting in annual seeds as soon as possible.  I see that the self-seeded annual corn poppies are already up.  I'll have to thin those out quite dramatically.  I also want to add a few other flowers to the mix, including some Nigella, bachelor's buttons, dwarf cosmos, and some sunflowers.  I also received some gladioli bulbs in the mail last week, but really don't know when to plant those.  I think I'll soon put them in a pot in the garage, for lack of any other ideas. 

Kona got a very early morning walk today, and thoroughly enjoyed sniffing all trees, bunches of grass, poles, and tires.  She ate a rabbit that entered her fenced yard last month, and I'm sure she's looking forward to more tasty wildlife this summer.  Huskies and malamutes (she is a cross) are breeds known for high prey drive, and are very distracted by potential food running across their path (i.e. biking with her can be precarious).  Despite this, she's pretty mellow, mostly ignores other barking dogs, and tolerates a very affectionate 3 year old.