Prairie gardening tip: What to plant in place of a tree infected with fire blight.

A few weeks ago, I was sent a question about fire blight – a gardener had a seriously infected hawthorn tree cut down in her yard and the arborist left the chips on the ground. She wanted to know if she should remove the chips or keep them; her second query was what types of trees she should plant in the hawthorn’s place. Fire blight is caused by a bacterium called Erwinia amylovora. It is spread by insects, birds, wind, and water, so it is likely to have traveled from another infected plant nearby.

My recommendation was to remove the chips and dispose of them at a landfill. As for the trees, fire blight affects members of the rose family, so I advised her to avoid those, or at the very least, look for cultivars within those genera that are fire blight resistant. Trees that are susceptible to fire blight include:

Apples

Crabapples

Pears

Mountain ash

Hawthorns

Saskatoons (serviceberries)

Plums

There are a few shrubs to avoid as well, including roses, spirea, and cotoneaster. Raspberries can also get fire blight but it is a different strain than the other plants mentioned can contract. By knowing which plants to avoid, better choices can be made about the new selection.

Janet Melrose and I have written more about fire blight – including how to ID and attempt to control and prevent it – in our book The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases.

Do you grow any members of the rose family? Have you ever had an issue with fire blight?

Flowery Friday: roses.

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I was out for a walk this morning and was delighted to find that, despite some pretty heavy frosts of late, these roses were still blooming merrily away in a public square in the Calgary neighbourhood where I work.  I’m afraid I don’t know what cultivar of roses these are – they are standards, which ordinarily I’m not entirely fond of, although they do suit the slightly formal garden beds at this particular site. These roses are a new addition this year to this beautifully-maintained spot and I hope they will survive our madcap winters to come.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!  Do you have any plans (gardening or otherwise)?  It’s currently storming like crazy here and snow is anticipated for tomorrow…I’ll be indoors with a few good books (at work!).  😉

Flowery Friday: ‘Hazeldean’ rose.

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Ah…spring in Calgary!  I have no idea what coat I should wear when I go outside – in a five minute walk, it might pour rain or pelt icy snow or be so pleasantly warm you wonder why you put the coat on in the first place.  I love this crazy season!

The garden was partly buried in snow earlier this week and is now gloriously muddy, so I’m admiring from afar the progress of my slowly emerging perennials (all that fresh green!) and the blooms of tiny crocuses, squill, chionodoxa, snowdrops, and muscari.  Isn’t it amazing that the soil is still so cold and yet all this fantastic STUFF is going on?  Even if you’ve been gardening in northern climes for many years, sometimes you just have to pause a moment to take in the absolute wonder of it.  And how here, in the face of such marvels, I can’t even choose suitable outerwear.  😉

In lieu of photos of spring-flowering bulbs, I want to show off another rose I found while touring Patterson Garden Arboretum in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan last July.  I love this photo because it’s a teaser…I still have yet to see the open flowers of Rosa ‘Hazeldean’.  (If you’re curious, here’s a link to some images and a write-up of the breeding history of this hardy yellow beauty).

Have a wonderful weekend…and may you always have the right coat for the weather!  🙂

Flowery Friday: ‘Louis Riel’ rose.

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Rosa ‘Louis Riel’ – a real gem found at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) in July of last year. Love the blue-green foliage and the pure white single flowers!  I’m not quite sure what the tag-along insect is on the uppermost bloom.

From Patterson Garden, University of Saskatchewan.

My hubby and I spent a few days earlier this month in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, so I could attend some workshops during the University of Saskatchewan’s annual Hort Week.  I had such an amazing time and met so many nice people, plus I learned a lot about plant diseases, insect pests and controls, and Prairie-hardy trees and shrubs.   Over the next few posts, I’ll share some pics from the trip – this was our first time to Saskatoon and I was impressed with the beauty of this city on the South Saskatchewan River.

One of the stops we made was to tour the University’s Patterson Garden, a public arboretum.  We actually went there over two evenings because (a) it has so many trees and shrubs to explore and (b) the mosquitoes chased us out the first night!  The mozzies were INSANE while we were there – I’m not one of those people who are typically bothered by them, but I was practically eaten alive this trip.   One of the participants in the insect pests workshop worked for the City of Saskatoon and he said that according to tests they had done, the mosquito population hadn’t yet reached a record peak, but it was close.

Here is more information about Patterson Garden, from the U of S’s website:

The University’s Arboretum was established in 1966 and contains one of the most diverse collections of trees, shrubs, and vines in the Prairie Provinces. Species from northern regions of the world as well as historic cultivars developed by pioneer plant breeders are on display. All specimens are labeled with common and scientific names. An invaluable reference for horticulture and botany, the picturesque site is also used for photography, field trips, and strolls.

The Arboretum is located in zone 2b of the hardiness zones of Canada, experiencing a sunny continental climate with cold snowy winters and hot summers. Despite climatic extremes many woody plants thrive here, responding to well-defined seasons and long hours of summer sunshine.

Patterson Garden Arboretum is a garden attraction of Canada’s Garden Route. It is nearby to the campus area and is open to the public throughout the year, free of charge, from sunrise to sunset.

We came across this beautiful rose with fading flowers near the end of the second evening – it is not a named cultivar, at least not according to the plate, which read:  Rosa 73846001 (J5 Rose).   Most of the plants had their planting dates marked on the plates, but not this one, so I’m not sure how old it is.

Gorgeous!

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I hope you have a wonderful weekend!  What plans do you have (gardening or otherwise)?

Show and tell: Rose edition.

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Thursday morning found me up on Nose Hill again, where I discovered a large pocket of white wild roses.  Our two wild rose species, Rosa acicularis and Rosa woodsii, usually flower in various shades of pink, and I was delighted to come across white ones that were not simply pink blooms washed out by age or sunlight or drought.   Very pretty!

Other than a miniature rose with gorgeous pink blooms that my former landlady “lent” me about a decade ago, I don’t grow any roses at our apartment complex.  Fortunately, the mini hangs on from year to year with my minimal care – although it was touch and go this spring.  For awhile there, I actually feared it had finally been done in by the weather, but it surprised me with its perseverance.  Good thing, too, because my former landlady still lives in my building and she regularly checks on the plant (which was a gift from her granddaughter).   It’s just starting to put on flower buds now, much later than usual…but I’m just so relieved it’s still alive.  Here’s a photo from 2006, when it was fairly new to the garden. (I’m surprised to find that I don’t have any recent pics of it – I will rectify that once it blooms.  Of course, it’s not a whole lot larger now than it was back then!).

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Okay, it’s your turn to brag about your roses…let’s hear about the ones that are performing best in your garden this year, the ones that you love most, the ones you’re dreaming about!  Please feel free to put up a link to your blog in the comments if you want others to check out any posts you’ve made about your roses – I know I’d certainly be delighted to see them!  

Robin’s pincushion.

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At first glance, I thought it was some sort of strange fluffy pod, presumably left here by cute furry space aliens.

Of course, I have a very vivid imagination.

To my great disappointment, it’s a mossy rose gall.  And the funniest thing about it is that I didn’t even know a rose was growing there.  I’ve literally* walked by this particular spot on my way to work nearly every day for five years…surely you’d think I’d notice the five-and-a-half foot tall rose bush.  In my defense, it’s jammed in with a whole bunch of other grasses and shrubs, seeds randomly blown in years ago and taken hold in the midst of a dense planting of junipers that the landscapers put in nearly three decades earlier.  No one has ever pruned or removed any of the odd plantings because you can’t access them – the junipers have made an impenetrable thicket around them.   I certainly didn’t notice that the rose had bloomed this summer, but it’s chockfull of hips right now, flashes of brilliant red that catch my eye every time now that I know they’re there.   There’s a lesson here about being more observant, I can tell….

Anyway, because my knowledge is a little fuzzy (groan!) about mossy rose galls, I did some reading.  If there are any rosarians out there who can offer some more insight, please chime in – I’d love to hear from you!  Mossy rose galls are caused by a tiny wasp called Diplolepis rosae (or Diplolepis spinosa), which lay their eggs in the leaf buds of the rose in the spring.  The plant reacts to the invasion by producing a gall, which grows all summer and eventually ends up as winter protection for the wasp larvae (clever wasps, using their host like that).  The following year, up to 40 adult wasps can emerge from a single gall.  I found contradictory reports on how the galls affect the health of the rose – some say the rose is not harmed at all, while others say that the galls draw nutrients away from the rose and that if there are enough galls, the rose will die.  The only way to get rid of the galls is to prune them off in autumn, and this article points out that they can be placed in cut flower arrangements for extra interest.  (With the larvae still inside?  I’m not terribly keen on that.  Granted, the writer did make a mention that the larvae are often parasitized by other insects…but isn’t that just swapping one bug for another?  I’m not sure I want that particular kind of decoration in the house).   Mossy rose galls are most often found on wild roses (such as Rosa acicularis, which I believe is the specimen I found), and frequently rugosas.  The wasps that create them don’t go after plants other than roses.

The most interesting part of all of this is that another name for mossy rose gall is “Robin’s pincushion.”  Isn’t that an absolutely lovely term to describe a winter housing complex for tiny slimy wasp-babies?

*You may have read that the word “literally” has been officially granted an additional definition, which contradicts the old one but supposedly has validity because of the rampant abuse – I mean, informal usage – of the true meaning over the years.   I’d like to say that I’m literally giddy about how the English language is evolving, but I know I’ve literally misused the word a million times over the years.   😉

Have your roses ever literally (I can’t help myself) been plagued with mossy rose galls or crown galls?

UPDATE (as of September 19, 2013) – There is a great article on Wikipedia about mossy rose galls – it’s well worth checking it out to find out more information about the wasps that cause them.  There are also some very interesting medicinal uses (a cure for baldness, anyone?) and historical tidbits listed…plus, some excellent photos.  Please link here.

Lilac flower jelly. (Or rose or peony or fireweed or…).

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Well, the late lilacs are pretty much finished blooming here, and I’m just getting around to posting my recipe for lilac flower jelly, which I made…oh…nearly a month ago. Oops! Somehow things got away from me, and now the lilac blossoms are summer memories. There is a consolation, however: if you want to substitute another edible flower such as roses or peonies or fireweed for the lilacs, you can – the same amount of petals and preparation techniques apply. Have fun with it, and please let me know how your flower jellies turn out! 🙂

Lilac Flower Jelly

3 cups lilac flower petals

2 1/4 cups water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 package liquid pectin

Follow standard canning procedure and sterilize 4 half-pint jars, lids, and rings.

Remove lilac flower petals from stems and wash thoroughly.  Lay petals between a layer of unbleached paper towels and gently dry.  Place petals in large pot and crush with a pestle or the back of a wooden spoon.  Add water to pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat.  Strain the petals from the liquid using a fine mesh sieve.  The water won’t be a very attractive colour at this point – don’t panic!  Put the petals aside to compost later.  Place the liquid back into the pot and add lemon juice.  Stir, and notice that the colour of the liquid will appear much more appealing.

Add the sugar and stir.  Bring the contents of the pot to a boil.  Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add pectin and bring to a boil again.  Boil hard another minute, and keep stirring all the while.

Remove from heat.  Using a spoon, skim off the top of the jelly to remove any bubbles and foam.  Pour the jelly into sterilized jars and cover.

Process jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes, adjusting for altitude.

Have you ever made or eaten edible flower jellies?  Which ones are your favourites?