Flowery Friday: ‘Paquito’ sunflower.

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My poor bed at the community garden is toast, thoroughly fried by the prolonged heat we’ve had this summer.  Really, there’s not much left to salvage now, just a few surprisingly decent shallots and straggling zucchini (and perhaps some potatoes if I ever get time to dig around and check).  Even the sunflowers decided they had enough of the sun, but before they threw in the towel, they yielded a few not-so-shabby blooms.

These are ‘Paquito’, a dwarf branching cultivar, and this was my first year growing them. (Those of you who are members of the Alberta Gardening group on Facebook will have already seen this pic, but it’s a sunflower, and therefore, it’s impossible to groan about the repeat).

What is your favourite bloom in your garden right now?  (If you can’t narrow it down to just one, give me a list!).  Hope your weekend is wonderful!   

Flowery Friday: Senator Patrick Burns Garden.

A little red and white for Canada Day!  I came across these blooms last week while at the Senator Patrick Burns garden here in Calgary.  The garden is adjacent to Riley Park, which boasts some pretty lovely formal mixed perennial/annual beds this year, despite the drought.

And early best wishes to those celebrating Independence Day in the States!  Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Warm thoughts: spring stirrings.

I headed out to Nose Hill and Whispering Woods shortly after sunrise this morning and spent a couple of sun-filled hours meandering on the trails…I am so thankful I had the forethought to put my ice cleats on my boots or I would have had to turn back right at the gate to the Hill.  Even with the extra grip, I was still skidding all over the place.  (Who needs to go out to the mountains for an ice walk experience when there are such excellent opportunities at home?).   😉

Yesterday was humid and cold and so the trees were all caked in frost, but as I walked I could feel the warm air currents slip down into the valleys, and the sunlight quickly burned off the ice.  The aspen were so strongly scented they made me think of spring thaw.   And that’s a very pleasant thought, indeed….

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Frost…no frost…. 

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Very green aspens in Whispering Woods

IMG_0789Thistles may be annoying, but boy, do they have winter interest! 

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Saskatchewan snapshot: Sunset.

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Photographed 11 July 2014.

The field featured is almost in Alberta – it’s actually in Saskatchewan, at a place called Alsask (fitting, if lacking originality).  I initially thought that Alsask was like Lloydminster and Cypress Hills, and was partly in Alberta and partly in Saskatchewan, but apparently, only the former village’s cemetery is in Alberta.  Alsask was the site of a military base between 1959 and 1987 but it no longer even holds status as a village; rather, it is considered a “special service area” incorporated within the nearby town of Milton.  I rather wish we had stopped to explore; according to Wikipedia, most of the original buildings are gone, but one of the military radar domes and an indoor swimming pool (used in the summer to this day!) are still there.

Forest fires were burning throughout Alberta and the Northwest Territories at the time, so the smoky air lent an eerie glow to the sun.   I just loved the way that power lines looked against the sky; there’s something vaguely alien about the landscape to me, it’s a bit like something out of a science fiction novel.

Speaking of novels, what is currently on your reading list?  Anything that stands out for you – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, whatever?  I’m dividing my time between several excellent cookbooks (including Karen Solomon’s Asian Pickles, and Small Adventures in Cooking by James Ramsden) and Kimberly Elkins’ debut novel, a fictionalized account of the life of Laura Bridgman called What is Visible?.  (I’m barely into it but it’s captivating so far). 

 

Alberta snapshot: Canola fields and sky.

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Photographed 7 July 2014, near Hanna, Alberta.

Even though canola fields in bloom are a common sight on the Prairies at this time of year, there’s no way I could ever grow tired of those brilliant swaths of yellow. I once had a summer job at the museum in Fort St. John, British Columbia, where I learned to work the till in the gift shop. With our location on the Alaska Highway, we were a popular spot for tourists to drop in for maps and other information, and I remember that the postcard I sold the most copies of featured a canola field under a stormy grey sky. “What are those beautiful yellow flowers?” was the third most popular question, behind “Do bears eat people?” and “Where is the washroom?”     🙂

Is canola or rapeseed a common agricultural crop where you live?

What is canola?

Willow catkins.

I have to run to catch up with spring, it seems…it’s all flying by in a blur!  I noticed our neighbour’s flowering plum is starting to bloom, even while a few doors down, there is a forsythia going strong.  The dandelions are threatening to take over the lawn (which makes me wonder why the rabbits choose to eat my liatris instead), and there are a million wild crocuses (Anemone patens)  up on Nose Hill flowering in sync with the golden (buffalo) bean.  The larches and the chokecherries and the aspens just leafed out these past couple of days – everything is that crazy young, glossy green, so bright it’s hard to comprehend.

I found these willow catkins this morning while walking on Nose Hill – what an amazing texture and colour!  You can really see the pollen on a couple of these images.

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What are you enjoying most about spring (or autumn, if you live in the southern hemisphere)? 

 

It’s about time.

I know snow and rain is in the forecast for the weekend, but today, it’s spring here in Calgary!  The sun is dazzling and warm and the earth is finally thawing out.  There’s even some green grass in places….

I’ve been on crocus watch for awhile now – while the horticultural crocuses in my garden have been up and blooming for a couple of weeks now, I haven’t spotted hide nor hair of a wild one.  I went up to Nose Hill this morning, thinking that today was the day for sure.  I went to my favourite trails, the places I knew they were growing…and I found one where there used to be hundreds.  It may be too early yet, and perhaps they’ll be covering the hillsides next week or the week after, but I was overjoyed to see this one!

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It froze hard this morning, and I loved the way the mounds of grass looked on the lower slopes where the sun hadn’t warmed them.

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That’s part of the downtown skyline in the morning haze.  And here I was telling my parents last weekend that we don’t have smog – my brother is right, we actually do….

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As you can see, there’s a sizeable snowpack still up in the mountains…and it’s got everyone just a bit worried about the potential for another massive flood like we had last year. On the right hand side of the photo, you can see the ski jumps of Canada Olympic Park, constructed for use during the 1988 Winter Olympics and now used as a public ski hill as well as a place to train athletes.  In the summer, COP is a haven for mountain bikers and zipline enthusiasts, and there’s even a luge track you can try out.  (Not me – I’m too chicken!).  The mini golf course there is much more my speed, LOL.

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I came across several browses for deer and some others I suspect were from porcupines.  It was really a lean winter for wildlife – we didn’t get the Chinooks we usually do and so the heavy snow cover lingered all season.  Apparently that’s part of the reason so many homeowners are complaining about the vole damage to their lawns – the rodents were able to hunker down and feed and nest there all winter, when normally they would be exposed.  (Click here for some tips to repair vole damaged turf).

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On my way out of the park, I was happy to see these two ducks swimming on the catchwater basin.  I was starting to think that little pond would never thaw out.

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And then when I got home…there was a bee on my one of my muscari flowers, which just began opening this morning.  I definitely need to put in more early spring flowers for the pollinators.

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What a wonderful start to the day!  I hope the sun is shining wherever you are!