Book review: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.

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Hope Jahren – Lab Girl (2016, Vintage Canada)

Geo/paleobiologist Hope Jahren’s memoir Lab Girl is a passionate, inspiring exploration of life – her life as a scientist, her life as a woman, the lives of the plants she studies.  Alternately humorous, heartbreaking, reflective, and poetic, Lab Girl is beautifully written and illuminating. Jahren takes the reader through her cold Scandinavian upbringing in Minnesota and her refuge in studying science, to her struggle to obtain her own laboratory and gain acceptance from her colleagues.  She chronicles her deep friendship with her unconventional lab partner, Bill, who accompanies her on all of her journeys (even when they end in car crashes or bold moves across the country); their witty, hilariously off-kilter banter is a perfect foil to the serious revelations of the book. Framed by lyrical passages about plants and the lessons they can teach us, Lab Girl is filled with wonder and insight.

Flowery (foliage) Friday.

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Leafy fun with the scanner on my printer….

The leaves haven’t all fallen from the trees yet, but I’m not sure we have much more autumn left in store here on the Prairies – we’re headed straight into winter, it seems! Plenty of snow in some parts already and, as I write this, the white stuff is accumulating on the ground here in Calgary.

Early wishes to everyone in Canada for a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

Living art.

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Beautiful or slightly unnerving?  What’s your take on this lounging lady?  (She was a work-in-progress at the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton, Alberta, in summer 2014).

Personally, I am absolutely enamoured with her hair….

Happy Hallowe’en!  

Fairy Gardening Books – Giveaway Winners!

Drumroll, please…it’s time to announce the winners of my Fairy Gardening Books Giveaway! 

Without further ado…

Fairy Gardening 101 goes to Alys of Gardening Nirvana!

AND

Laurie from Notes from the Hinterland has won Fairy Gardening!

Congratulations to you both!  I hope you enjoy the books!  Thank you to everyone for entering!

Alys and Laurie, please let me know your mailing address via the “Contact Me” form on my blog (in the drop down menu below “About Me”), and I’ll get your books out to you in the next couple of days.

Have a wonderful week, everyone!  Happy gardening!

August 3, 2015 Begoniaresize

Not so happy Monday.

Ugh…what a start to the week.  I received a call early this morning that the community garden I belong to had been severely vandalized overnight.  Of course I had to head off to work, so I wasn’t able to get down and assess the damage as soon as I would have liked, but it’s just as well…it was pretty upsetting.  If a neighbour in one of the nearby houses hadn’t chased off the culprits, who knows how much worse it could have been?

The door to the shed had been forced off its hinges and everything inside scattered about (nothing was stolen, though, fortunately). A kind donor had given us several glass light fixture covers for use as cloches and all but one of them were smashed, which meant broken glass everywhere.  Our brand new arbour was badly damaged, but at least it’s repairable.  One of the apple trees had its leader cut off.  The worst thing was the damage to the individual beds – some gardeners had cabbages, Brussels sprouts, and onions yanked out.  Other plants – tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peas, raspberries – were topped.  Trellises and tomato cages and garden ornaments were pulled out and broken.  And for what?  So some bored young adults could get a good laugh?

I just spent the last hour delivering the bad news to our members and letting those whose beds were most affected know the extent of the damage.  Not fun.

IMG_1546My smashed potato plants….

Of course, community gardens are public spaces and this kind of thing can happen, but we’ve been lucky so far (the garden is six years old). I really hope this is just an isolated incident.

The garden that I tend at the apartment is also in a public space and I’ve seen a lot over the years – hens and chicks and begonias stolen, plants chopped down to the quick with weed whackers or sprayed with herbicides, used syringes in the junipers (seriously!).  But you’re hearing more and more about trees and perennials being dug up out of private residential gardens – back yards, even. I personally know a lady who had her entire lily collection carefully excavated from a bed in her front yard in the middle of the night.  And I know when I worked in the garden centre, people were constantly trying to stuff geraniums and other plants into their handbags.

Of course, there are other far more serious things in the world to worry about, but it does make me sad to see this kind of thing happening.  Fortunately, I think many of the damaged plants in the garden will make a speedy recovery, especially as we’re finally getting some much-needed rain.

Have you ever had any of your plants deliberately damaged or stolen?  

Giveaway Winner Announcement – Shawna Coronado’s book Grow a Living Wall!

Drum roll please….

The winner of a copy of Shawna Coronado‘s new book Grow a Living Wall is Boomdee!  Congratulations!  Boomdee, please let me know your mailing address (you can e-mail me directly using the form on my ‘Contact’ page) and I will get the book out to you this week!  I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you to everyone for participating in the giveaway – it was so great to read all of your comments and ideas for living walls.  (And thank you once again to the publishers – Cool Springs Press/Quarto Publishing Group USA, Quayside Publishing Group – for the books!).

Have a wonderful week!

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A tropical-themed living wall in Calgary’s Devonian Gardens

Disease to watch (out for): Black knot fungus.

I know I posted this only six months ago, but I’m seeing a ton of this in Calgary right now…sadly, the Schuberts and the gorgeous mayday on the property where we live are now showing signs of affliction. Get those pruners ready, everyone!

What on earth is THAT?!?

My first instinct was to recoil and shrink to the middle of the path so I wouldn’t risk contamination.

No, not really, but way back in September I had my first sighting of black knot fungus (Apiosporina morbosa) in a park in northwest Calgary.   You can see why I was a bit alarmed!  Black knot is a rather nasty affliction of plum, cherry, peach, and apricot trees, including the stand of maydays and chokecherries I was gawking at.

Black knot fungus definitely isn’t pretty.  It takes a little while to get to the stage I was examining – over a year, in fact.   Spread by wind and rain, fungal spores infect the bark of Prunus species in early summer and linger there until the following spring, when they cause the bark to swell into a green knot.  The fungus releases more spores as the tree leafs out and blossoms, and the knots slowly blacken as summer moves into autumn.  Afflicted trees can die if left untreated, as the knots slowly strangle the branches, restricting the movement of nutrients and water to the tree.

Apparently, the best treatment for black knot fungus isn’t chemically-based.  Pruning is the most effective option, and should be undertaken over a period of several years to ensure that the fungus is completely eradicated.   For some tips on how to cut away black knot fungus, check out this fact sheet offered by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.  The trees I saw were heavily infested, but hopefully pruning will save them!

Have you ever had a problem with black knot fungus?  Did you successfully combat it?