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.