Poplar presents.

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At least something is lapping up this wet weather! In perfect timing with the aftermath of the flood, the poplar trees been flinging out millions of seeds (already gift-wrapped in tufts of cotton) like furry parachutes stuffed full of candy and toys. I don’t know if I simply have never noticed before, but the seed clusters seem larger and more profuse than in previous years. I believe the ones my hubby photographed are from balsam poplars, found growing along the riverbanks near the now inaccessible Edworthy Park. We took a trip over there yesterday to survey how much the river levels have dropped since Friday.

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Are you a fan of poplar trees? I suspect many people have rather strong feelings about them…. 🙂

And…just a wee garden update…

My community garden plot isn’t underwater – we are not located in any of the floodzones.  I did expect some bedraggled, sodden plants (you should see my flowerbeds – eesh!), and that’s what I found this morning when I finally got a chance to head over there.  I walked around and grey-white mould is speckling the surface of the soil in every plot owner’s bed, but hopefully a little bit of sunshine will help dispel it.  I removed the floating row covers from mine to allow for more air circulation, and now I’m just crossing my fingers for the best.  But there’s just no point worrying about the garden when you think about what everyone around us has lost.

Snapshots: Colour and texture.

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I remember years ago when I first started working in a garden centre, my boss at the time firmly instructed me “not to order any of that flax!”    His rant was that it was a “junky plant,” and there will definitely be others who agree, I’m sure.  But I love it.  Yes, it reseeds itself freely…and lest you think my garden is a haven for aggressively spreading plants (I just did a post about alpine strawberries, after all!), I just yank them if they go astray.  They’re easier than carrots to pull out.  Plus, if you give them a haircut a couple of times a summer, you’ll likely coax another spell of blooms…and at the very least, keep a few seeds from forming.  I can’t get enough of that stellar blue…and how the feathery stems move in a breeze.

Immature larch cone - 7 June 2013

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know I’m a little bit obsessed with larch trees.  (See my posts here and here…and here).  This year, I missed the flowering of the larch trees that grow outside of the soccer field near our apartment, but I managed to capture these adorable fuzzy immature cones late last week.

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More young cones, these ones on a very attractive pine tree that I cannot ID.  (If anyone can assist, please give me a shout-out!).  My hubby played in a lacrosse tournament this past weekend and during a walk near the arena while on a break, we came across a high school that had the most beautiful landscaping…there were even some large yucca near the front doors.  These pine trees framed the south and east sides of the building.

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A gorgeous Spiraea in the same schoolyard.

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Lamium maculatum ‘Pink Pewter’, in my flowerbed.  You’re definitely wondering now…what is it with me and these spreading plants?  Well, this one is in a hot, dry, full sun location…it won’t go too far.  I’m surprised it’s gotten as large as it has with all my neglect.  Those leaves are stunning, aren’t they?

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One of the not-so green greens I’m growing in my veggie plot in the community garden…this absolutely gorgeous one is ‘Red Frills’ mustard.  I harvested a bunch of them as microgreens the other day – wow, what incredible flavour!  They pack a punch, that’s for sure.  Highly recommended.

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While on a walk in Bowmont Natural Area in northwest Calgary last week, my hubby and I came across this mourning cloak butterfly posing on a fencepost.  He’s looking a little rough around the edges…but that’s texture, too!  🙂

Photo #7 – R. Normandeau

What are your favourite textures and colours in the garden and in nature at the moment?

Larch trees in Canada: Guest post on Tree Canada.

My tiny obsession with larch trees continues…I’ve just done a guest post for Tree Canada about my favourite deciduous-conifer!  To read it, click here.  You never know when a little “larch tree trivia” might come in handy!  (It’s particularly useful to cover those awkward lulls in conversation at upcoming holiday parties….  Hmmm.  There may be a reason why I never get invited to attend anything).  😉

While you’re there, take a gander at Tree Canada’s excellent website and blog and read up on a ton of great info about trees (of course!), as well as all the fantastic projects they’re involved in.

What is your favourite type of tree?

Pest to watch (out for): Satin moth.

Adult satin moth

There are more “new” bugs to bug us here in Calgary!  On the weekend, I saw a satin moth for the first time – well, actually, I saw hundreds of them.  These pretty pure white creatures have swept in and are now hanging around outdoor light fixtures everywhere…and posing a threat to many of our trees.

According to the book Garden Bugs of Alberta by Ken Fry, Doug Macaulay and Don Williamson, satin moths (Leucoma salicis) came into North America from Europe in the 1920s, but here in Alberta, they’ve so far tended to stay in the north:  sightings of satin moths began in the Edmonton area a decade or so ago.   The big problem with satin moths is that the adult females will lay hundreds of eggs on host plants and once the larvae show up, they begin to eat.  And eat and eat.  Plus, the little guys hibernate for winter and then wake up and eat some more in early spring.  FUN!  This means that we’re going to have some serious defoliation issues during the tail end of this summer…continuing into next spring.

If only small groups of plants are affected, the book’s authors recommend hand-picking the larvae off of individual plants and disposing of them, which isn’t always an easy thing to do.  (If you can remove these critters at the egg stage, that’s best).  Satin moth larvae have a dietary preference for poplar and willow trees (they may go for alder and Prunus species as well), so the height and spread of the tree could be an issue – it may not be possible to access or control the pests by hand.   We’re going to have to look to birds and beneficial insects to be our allies in getting rid of the larvae…so we’ll need to do everything we can to encourage these helpers to our yards and gardens.  Another thing we can do is to try to keep our trees and plants as stress-free as possible, which means maintaining a consistent watering and feeding schedule, keeping the root zone weed-free, and so on.

Have you ever had satin moths in your yard and garden?  Did they do a great deal of damage?  How did you control them?

 Related posts:

Satin Moths are Here!…and It’s Not a Good Thing (Nora Bryan – Garden Buzz, Calgary Herald)