Lanterns at Illuminasia.

A whole bunch of new animals have arrived at the Calgary Zoo!

Well, they’re not exactly alive, and they’re made of nylon and mylar and stuffed with lights.  But they’re pretty cool!

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These are just a few of the 366 hand-crafted light sculptures featured at the Illuminasia Lantern and Garden Festival, a showcase of culture and talent from Japan, China, and India.  My hubby and I went down on a balmy Thursday evening a couple of weeks ago and spent a few hours wandering around gawking at the lights.  Apparently, each lantern takes a minimum of 10 hours to make.  The detail is quite astonishing. Some of the sculptures, such as the moose I photographed, can slowly move their heads as well.

If you live in Calgary and area, there’s still time to check the lanterns out – the installation lasts until November 1 (Thursdays through Sundays only).  It’s well worth the visit – they’re absolutely amazing, and fun to photograph!

Garden update.

The weather’s giving me a bit of a chuckle…we seem to have completely skipped ahead from a miserable Sprinter to a blazing heat wave, with temperatures in the high twenties (around 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and wildfire alerts.  I stopped by the garden centre yesterday to pick up some soil and the place was absolutely hopping, cash registers (and store managers) singing.  This is certainly not your typical early May in Calgary.

We’ll take it, however – that sun feels oh-so-good!   🙂

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Scilla siberica festooned with highly decorative dead leaf mulch. (Someone ought to have taken an “After” shot, methinks).  😉

While the squill, chionodioxa, puschkiniamuscari and daffodils in my flowerbeds are looking a tad wilted, despite my supplemental irrigation, most of my perennials are in speed-burst growth mode, completely hopped up on sunshine like the rest of us (though at least the plants haven’t also developed the heat-induced addiction I have for pineapple-mango smoothies).  I’ve never before had to haul out the watering can this early in the season!

I managed to get out on the weekend and do some maintenance in one of the beds – mostly just trimming back the stalks I had left up over winter, and scraping leaves out from beneath the junipers – and it looks like nearly everything emerged from our plodding winter unscathed.  I may have lost a couple of  Salvia x superba (unknown cv), and the donkey tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) that is usually blooming by now is a crispy husk.  The loss of the spurge doesn’t break my heart in the slightest – I always found it a junky plant, lolling all over the place.  I don’t know why I thought it would somehow stop being so floppy when that’s the whole point of the thing.  It only really made me happy when its acid-yellow flowers showed up earlier than nearly everything else in the bed.  If I replace it with another spurge, it will definitely be the far tidier Euphorbia polychroma or perhaps Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow,’ which I admired at the Calgary Zoo last summer.

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‘Donkey Tail’ spurge in a happier time

Fireglow spurge Euphorbia griffithii Fireglow

‘Fireglow’ spurge – should I or shouldn’t I?

In the next couple of days, I’ll finish the clean-up tasks and work some compost into the flowerbeds, but I will wait a little bit longer to do any planting.  I don’t have the luxury that some gardeners have of covering their plants or hauling their containers into the garage if the temperature suddenly plummets, and right now we have the pleasant problem that it’s just a bit too hot to plant anything out.   Instead, I’ll head out to my raised vegetable beds in the community garden and do the prep work needed there.  I’ve doubled my rental space this year because I’m slightly crazy endlessly enthusiastic, and I’m still planning to construct the mini hoop house that I was contemplating way back in frozen February.

I’m absolutely ELATED to be finally doing some work in the garden!  What gardening tasks are currently top priorities on your list?

Garden tour: Dorothy Harvie Gardens, Calgary.

A couple of weekends ago, my husband and I spent a few hours at the Calgary Zoo.  There were several reasons for going at that time.  For one, the weather was AMAZING, a hot, sunny break from the seemingly unending rain we received during the month of June.  For another, three tiger cubs had recently been born to mama Katja and papa Baikal – and, in my books, there’s not a whole lot cuter than a baby cat, domestic or otherwise.  And, best of all, there was the attraction of touring the Dorothy Harvie Gardens while in full splendour.

Philanthropist and prominent businessman Eric Harvie (1892-1975) and his wife Dorothy (1895-1988) are well-known in Calgary – their names are permanently connected to several city institutions, such as the Glenbow Museum and the Calgary Zoo, as well as the Centre for the Arts in nearby Banff.  Eric Harvie came into his multi-million dollar fortune in 1947, when oil was struck on land he owned.  The Harvie’s generously gave of their wealth, and citizens and visitors alike are still enjoying the benefits.

In the early ’80s, Dorothy Harvie donated the money required to construct the gardens that bear her name.  They opened in 1985, with the plant collection growing and changing ever since.  Presently, there are over 4,000 species and cultivars thriving over six acres of land.  The gardens were designed to showcase plants that work in Calgary (if you’re from this area or regularly read my blog, you’ll understand – and sympathize with! – how tricky gardening is here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains).  Every plant is carefully labelled and catalogued:  the gardens are a teaching tool in addition to being spectacularly beautiful!

Here’s a little photo-tour for you:

Itoh peony ‘Singing in the Rain’

 ‘Morden Centennial’ rose (Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)

‘Strawberries and Cream’ nasturtiums 

European ginger (Asarum europaeum) 

Asiatic lily 

‘Arctic Beauty’ kiwi (no fruit yet!)

‘Fireglow’ spurge (Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’) 

Alkanet (Anchusa azurea ‘Feltham Pride Strain’)

What a way to use succulents!  Isn’t this fantastic?

Disappointingly, the baby tigers were in naptime mode when we visited, and would not come out of their hiding-space with their mother no matter how fervently I wished and paced outside their cage.  I had to make do with this video the Zoo has placed on YouTube.

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For more information about the history of the Dorothy Harvie Gardens, check out this article in Alberta Views.

The gardens are not the only botanical attraction at the Zoo – the recently-renovated Conservatory houses a massive collection of tropical plants, and touring the butterfly garden is a thrilling way to interact with these amazing insects.  I particularly love going to the Conservatory when the weather is foul outside – you can’t help but feel warm and happy inside the glass walls, surrounded by beautiful plants!

(Photo credit: R. Normandeau)

Related posts:  Trochu treasure.  (Flowery Prose)

Mr. Pegg’s botanical legacy.  (Flowery Prose)