Wildflower consolation.

This is what our local news station posted on its Facebook page last night:

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Seriously…frost warning?  I really don’t think I can handle this…and I know my garden DEFINITELY isn’t ready!

While we weren’t quite in the frost zone here in Calgary, we’re currently sitting at a (balmy!) 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) this morning and I know I’m going to need to wear my jacket to work.  And maybe my mittens, LOL!  I’m a tad worried about my zucchini plants, as our community garden has some nasty frost pockets.  Last year, in early September, a not-quite-frost came through and blasted all of the squash plants to blackened mush.  I’m right in the middle of Zucchinipalooza and it would be sad to see it end so soon.  (Speaking of which, does anyone have any favourite zucchini recipes to share?  I’m having such fun trying out new ones!).  🙂

Despite (because of?) the vagaries of our weather, the wildflowers are still blooming merrily away.  I recently took a walk up to my favourite neighbourhood haunts, Nose Hill and Whispering Woods, to enjoy the sights:

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Wild Bergamot – Monarda fistulosa

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Prairie Coneflower – Ratibida columnifera 

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Fireweed – Chamerion angustifolium  Sigh…this just reminds me that I didn’t get around to making fireweed jelly again this year.  It WILL happen in 2014! 

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Northern Crane’s-Bill – Geranium bicknellii

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Smooth Blue Aster – Symphyotrichum laeve

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What wildflowers are blooming in your part of the world?  Which ones are your favourites?

Flowery Prose links up – round one.

 

I haven’t done one of these posts since (gasp!) December, and there are so many interesting plant stories I want to share with you! I hope you enjoy this batch!

  • Frost weed (Verbesina virginica) doesn’t grow here in Alberta, so finding this post about it was something “new and cool” for me.  Are you familiar with this plant?
  • It’s time to sow your seeds (perhaps it’s even too late in many regions!).  If you live in Canada and want to source out companies that sell organic heirloom or rare seeds, check out this comprehensive list.
  • Have you heard about the devastation of Impatiens walleriana by downy mildew?   Find out what is going on and pursue the “grow or give up (and for what?)” debate here.  Will you risk planting Impatiens this year?
  • Some of you will be pruning your roses already…others will be digging out from the 10 cm (5 cm, actually – it just FEELS like more) of snow we received yesterday on top of the 20 cm we had four days ago.  (I’m not bitter at all, really!).  😉  Here’s a quick guide to getting your roses in tip-top shape.
  • If this is the year you plan to espalier your apple trees, then take a look at this handy post.
  • I really loved this entry I came across about the Floating Gardens of Inle Lake, in Burma (Myanmar).   Has anyone travelled there and seen these?
  • I don’t know if any of you have to deal with armadillos as a pest in your garden, but this article really freaked me out.  I’m glad I only have to tangle with rabbits and squirrels.  If armadillos are a problem where you live, do you take the measures this writer recommends?

It’s almost the weekend…yay!  How are you planning to spend it?

Ha Ling Peak and roseroot.

In early July, my hubby and I hiked up the south face of Ha Ling Peak, a popular trek in Canmore, Alberta (located about 105 km west of Calgary).  You can climb the peak on the north side, but we’re hardly that intrepid!  🙂  As it was, the elevation gain of 700 m was plenty enough for an utter lazy bones like me to tackle, and the multiple stops for water and to catch my breath afforded me the chance to do some wildflower hunting.  Near the summit, growing in the gravelly scree and heavy rocks at almost 2,407 m, we spotted this gem, Sedum rosea (aka Tolmachevia integrifolia):

According to the resource Wildflowers of the Canadian Rockies by George W. Scotter and Halle Flygare (reprint 2000, Alpine Book Peddlers, Canmore), this perennial is commonly called roseroot – not to be confused with Rhodiola rosea, another roseroot of northern climes that is purported to have all sorts of medicinal benefits.  (Of course, it just so happens the two plants are very closely related, and Sedum rosea is/was also known as Rhodiola integrifolia.  Having fun yet?)    Another common name for Sedum rosea is king’s crown – but it isn’t the same plant as the lovely tropical Justica carnea, which has the same moniker.  Ugh!  Plant names!

Although the plants we saw possessed only clusters of bright red flowers, the male flowers can be either yellow or red, while the females are always red.  Both male and female flowers may be present in each cluster.  The plants are small, befitting their alpine setting – the ones we saw were no taller than 10 cm.  The succulent leaves are apparently tasty in salads when young, although given that Scott and Flygare list the plant as “rare,” I wouldn’t want to dine on them.  (I’m not certain if the plant is rare only in this part of the world, as a site I found out of the States designates them “common”).

And, yes, we did make it to the top of Ha Ling Peak – here are a couple of shots of the incredible view:

Flowery blurbs, volume 12.

I’ve been gardening “by the minute” lately…that is, cramming five or ten minutes’ worth of work in before the next bout of rainy, windy, or otherwise highly changeable weather.  Ah, glorious Spring!  Yesterday I managed to get one flowerbed edged and weeded before the thunder and lightning started (thankfully, the storm lasted about five minutes, total, and no hail came out of it).  If you’re having to do the same thing with your gardening work, here are a few little Flowery Blurbs to chow down on while you’re waiting for the sun to come out again….

When I was working in a garden centre, some of the most frequently-asked questions concerned tomatoes.  Actually, it was ONE gigantic question:  how do you grow tomatoes in Calgary?  It really is trickier than most other places – if you’re from here you know what I’m talking about.  We have a short growing season, really cool summer nighttime temperatures, and we’re always looking over the horizon for snow, so a vine-ripened tomato that was grown in a Calgary garden is like a shiny nugget of pure gold.  (Okay, so I exaggerate.  But only slightly).  While I should have posted this article up a few months ago when gardeners were starting their tomato seedlings indoors, the information about hardening off and recommended hardy selections is still very useable, and you can always hang onto these excellent tips for next year.  Check out Stacey McDougall’s post about Growing Resilient Tomatoes from Seed on Big Sky Permaculture’s website.

Are you growing fruit trees or shrubs in your garden?  Do you know how to prune them in order to maximize fruit production?  This article from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development is a short primer on the reasons why pruning fruiting plants properly will give them that extra oomph! factor.

I love the article, From the Shrubbery, by Noel Kingsbury in Gardening Gone Wild – not only does it have a great title (I’m a Monty Python fan and the word “shrubbery” always gets me giggling, what can I say?), but the premise is fascinating.  Kingsbury argues that shrubs more than deserve a status update, and should no longer languish behind perennials for garden dominance.  Of course, he insists, proper management is key – shrubs only work if you culture them properly.  Do you agree with what he suggests?

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m interested in vermicomposting, even if I don’t find the worms themselves very appealing.  (By the way, my red wigglers are doing spectacularly; I harvested enough castings to nearly fill a 4 litre ice cream pail about a month ago and worked them into my perennial beds during spring prep).  Although vermiponics has absolutely nothing to do with composting, it does involve worms.  Check out this article that takes the science of aquaponics to a new wriggly level, and removes the fish from the equation.  (Perfect for someone who wants an aquaponics system but can’t keep it up year-round due to the cold weather!).   What do you think of vermiponics – or aquaponics, for that matter?  Would you attempt these systems? 

Finally, from the files of They’re Seriously Serious (I Think):  if the sight of a lawn full of dandelions doesn’t make you hurl curses or gnash your teeth, and you actually have feelings of love and kinship for the sunny yellow flowers, then check out Dandetown‘s Facebook page.  If you’re a creative soul, they’ve got a call for submissions of “your favourite dandelion stories, photos, song lyrics, and recipes.”

On that note, I’m heading out to check on those plants I bought on Sunday and still haven’t put in the ground….  🙂

Related articles

Spring stirrings (a miscellany).

Ah, spring!  Have I mentioned how much I love this time of year?  There are so many reasons to celebrate!

Glories of the snow  

Anemones 

Pea shoots on my windowsill 

African violet 

Unblanched popcorn shoots 

Another African violet 

Larch flowers 

Prairie crocuses

What plants are you enjoying most this spring?

Happy crocus day.

What a difference a year makes!  Last year,  I was posting about my first crocus sighting of the year on May 12th, and here we sit, in mid-April, and my favourite Prairie haunt, Nose Hill, is covered in the purple beauties.  Feast your eyes on SPRING!

The horticultural crocuses in my flowerbeds have been blooming for nearly three weeks now.  These are a variety called ‘Easter Egg,’ and I’ve had them for so long that the junipers have clamboured over and around them.  Time to lift the corms this year and move them.   I also have a handful of dark purple snow crocuses, but either the hares or a really bored and troubled garden gnome did them in before I had a chance to get any good photographs of them in bloom.

Are you growing crocuses in your garden this year? 

Flowery blurbs, volume 6.

 

No show-snow (Photo credit - Rob Normandeau)

Last night, I had what should have been a lovely dream:  I went outside into my flowerbeds and all of my spring-flowering bulbs were up and growing like crazy.  That would be super – in April or May.  But it’s the first week of February, and I’m actually very fearful that it’s going to happen – high winds and unseasonably warm temperatures have completely eliminated what little snowcover we had, and the beds have been exposed for most of the winter.  I swear when I walked outside yesterday afternoon I could smell the earthy scent of spring thaw – even though our local version of a “groundhog,” a Richardson’s ground squirrel named Balzac Billy,  declared that we were up for another 6 weeks of winter.  (You can see Balzac Billy in all of his…um…ground squirrelly splendour here).  Oh well, I shouldn’t complain, really.  We’ll get our “winter” in March, guaranteed, with a ton of snow and cold, and then everyone can laugh at me and say “I told you so.” 

In the meantime, while I fret about my plants, you can peruse some Flowery Blurbs:

This is gonna be one popular poplar

Watch for a new poplar to be the “it” tree in a nursery near you (well, if you live in Canada, that is):  the hybrid AC Sundancer is the recent creation of the Agroforestry Development Centre (part of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), and it comes with big promises!  AC Sundancer is everything traditional poplars aren’t:  relatively slow-growing (so it doesn’t shoot up and then die in a few decades), compact in size, disease resistant, lacking seeds, and – this is the best part – possessing a controlled root system.  No more cracked foundations and split sewer lines, no more poplar stigma!  Check out the bulletin here

And the winner is….

For the past few years, the Calgary Horticultural Society has taken to declaring its own “Perennial Plant of the Year.”  I like the idea of selecting a zone 3 hardy plant because quite often the Perennial Plant of the Year chosen by the Perennial Plant Association isn’t appropriate for our particular climate.  (See my previous post, Flowery Blurbs, Volume One, for information about the 2012 PPA PPOTY.  It’s actually a zone 3 plant this year!).  The CHS has announced that this year’s chosen one is Helenium autumnale ‘Mardi Gras’ (sneezeweed or Helen’s flower), a cheerful and hardy member of the Asteraceae family.  See a photo of the summer beauty here

Vertical farming viewpoint

Although this article was written in 2010, I just happened across it the other day, and I thought it offered another interesting perspective on the viability of vertical farms.  See the write-up in The Economist here

Streaming plant ID

Finally, if you want to spend an hour and a half on a basic botany lesson, you may want to check out Olds College instructor Annelise Doolaege’s talk on UStream.  She also discusses plant keys and how to use them in the field, and gives a brief photo tour of wildflowers found in central and southern Alberta, including the Rocky Mountains.  Doolaege’s talk is the first in a series to be offered over the next few months, as a teaser for the college’s annual Hort Week festivities.   Find the link to the lecture here.