- convert carbon dioxide into oxygen
- improve air quality
- control climate
- control soil erosion
- support wildlife
Did you know that the first Thursday in May is Arbor Day in Calgary? Today is the day we celebrate trees. Trees play an important role in our environment. Specifically, trees:
To add some vertical interest to your garden, clematis is my favorite choice. Growing up a trellis, covering a fence, twisting up some tree trunks, or even as a ground cover, clematis offer vigorous growth with the addition of colorful flowers. There are actually 3 types of clematis based upon their growth characteristics:
type A - blooms on old wood in the spring
type B - can bloom on both old and new wood
type C - blooms on new wood later in the summer
Since our winters are so long, I do appreciate plants that can provide flowers in the spring. There are two type A species of clematis, C. alpina and C. macropetala that are suitable choices for Calgary gardens. In addition, these clematis are more shade tolerant than type B and C clematis. Since they bloom on old wood, they should not be pruned like most perennials. Instead, only remove any dead branches as required. A very low maintenance plant!
Here is a plant trials bulletin from The Royal Horticultural Society that provides details on the various cultivars of C. alpina and C. macropetala.
RHS Plant Trials Bulletin - C. alpina and C. macropetala
As we approach the end of October, winter is on it's way. Some of you may have added tender bulbs to your garden such as gladiolus, dahlias, and canna lilies to name a few. As these plants will not survive a Calgary winter, they must be properly cleaned and stored to be planted again in the spring. This gives you the opportunity to multiply your garden stock by harvesting offsets and enjoy your favorite flowers year after year.
GardenGate Magazine has a comprehensive article on this topic:
Many gardens have areas of shade. Don't consider these areas to be wasted parts of the yard to be filled with gravel. There are many lovely ideas to brighten up these darker areas of the landscape. Here is an inspiring article from Better Homes and Gardens complete with gorgeous pictures! Contact me to help you implement these exciting plans.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Last September we were in Ireland celebrating our wedding anniversary. Even though it was getting late in the season for flowers, dahlias were still in bloom and looking lovely. I've never planted dahlias before as they need to be lifted from the ground in the fall here and stored over winter to be replanted in the spring. It seemed like too much work for me but now I think it may be worth it. Fall gardens in Calgary can start to look lackluster, and who doesn't want colorful blooms all the way up to frost?
This morning I went shopping and bought a couple of dahlias - Thomas Edison and Lavender Perfection. I'm going to grow them in large pots as I've run out of room in the garden and it will make it easier to lift in the fall. I'll start them off in the house near a sunny window and will move the pots outside when there are no more frosts. If we have any surprise snow storms in August or nasty hail storms throughout the summer, I can always bring them inside and protect them until fair weather returns.
Here's a photo I took of dahlias at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin.
Now that we've enjoyed a few warm days, one starts dreaming of spring and gardening of course. I always look forward to perusing plant catalogs to see if there are any new and exciting varieties available as well as heirloom favorites. This is eye candy for me!
Follow this link to the 2017 Perennial Guide from Van Noort Bulb Company Ltd. for a comprehensive catalog of perennials, shrubs, vines, and summer flowering bulbs. Remember that Calgary is zone 3/4 as there are some plants listed in the catalog that are not winter hardy here.
Ask me about designing and installing a garden customized for your landscape. Spring is just around the corner.
As my back yard has many trees, certain sections of lawn do not receive enough sunlight to thrive. Over time the lawn has become pale, grass blades have thinned, and the area has become overgrown with weeds. I didn't feel like turning the patch into a shade garden, but wanted to have some sort of "lawn". After some experimentation, I have succeeded in finding a ground cover that grows happily in this space - Dutch White Clover.
My first attempt for this area was to add dense shade tolerant grass seed. The product is marketed as able to grow in areas of dense shade with as little as 3 hours of sunlight per day. As you can see in my photo, there is some dappled sunlight in the area so I thought this would be a suitable choice. Results were disappointing so I moved onto Plan B.
My second attempt involved planting sheep's fescue grass seed. Sheep's fescue grass is a fantastic choice for lawns for several reasons:
My third attempt was to add Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) seeds to the existing lawn. I sprinkled it all around the grass and watered daily for about two weeks. Look at the results! A deep green lawn with flowers that have overgrown the existing grass and is absolutely low maintenance. It can be mowed but I choose not to mow it. I leave the flowers for the pollinators to enjoy. I do provide water when required and that's really it.
Dutch White Clover is a legume which is a group of plants that have the ability to utilize atmospheric nitrogen and convert it into a usable form through a process called nitrogen fixation. Therefore, the addition of nitrogen fertilizer is not required as the plant produces it's own. It has a build in food factory.
It's always interesting to experiment with your garden as some ideas don't always work out, and some are better than expected. I consider my white clover lawn a success and encourage others to consider this groundcover as a lawn alternative, especially in areas too shady to support the growth of other plants.
Have you ever considered adding native plants to your garden? They are excellent choices as they have naturally survived and thrived in our climate as well as providing a food source for native fauna.
Better Homes & Gardens have compiled 15 native plants for our region, and with the exception of Idaho Fescue (zone 5), they are great choices for Calgary gardens.
Pruning is used to prevent or correct problems with a plant. Plants should be selected based upon many factors, one of which is mature size. Why select a shrub that will grow to be 6' tall and continually prune it to keep it at 3' tall? This is poor planning.
As most trees and shrubs develop next season's flower bud during the summer, pruning at this time will remove the flower buds. One client of mine has a large lilac against their house which has not bloomed. Their previous gardener had been pruning at the incorrect time and had removed all the flower buds!
For spring blooming trees and shrubs, pruning should be done immediately after flowering. This allows next season's blooms to form. Some examples include lilac, Nanking cherry, forsythia, and roses that bloom once per season.
Some trees are considered "bleeders" and will leak sap when pruned when not actively growing. They must be pruned during summer and early fall. Some examples include Birch and Maple trees.
Conifers usually don't require pruning except to produce denser growth or shorter stature. These are best pruned before the end of July. Pruning after this time can produce a dwarfing effect and also remove next season's buds.
If your plant has dead or diseased areas, these should be removed at any time. You do not want to allow any infections to spread throughout the plant. For diseased tissue, ensure removal of an additional six inches of healthy wood. Clean your pruning tools between cuts with an anti-bacterial product such as Lysol, and do NOT apply any wound dressings.
Did you ever imagine that you could grow an orchid - in Calgary - in the garden - and it will survive the winter? I am here to tell you that YES you can.
I first saw these beauties at the Reader Rock Garden. The large yellow lady slipper orchid is actually native to all provinces in Canada. This perennial terrestrial orchid is most commonly found in moist forests across the region. This plant prefers a semi-shaded site that is cool and not exposed to hot mid-day sun. Conditions suitable for ferns are suitable for hardy orchids. An organic mulch will assist the plant in maintaining moisture and keeping the roots cool.
Here's a photo taken at Weaselhead Park in Calgary:
Another orchid, the showy lady's slipper or Queen's lady's slipper is my favorite. This variety is found in nature in Saskatchewan and eastward in Canada. Each stem can have 3 flowers and the plant approaches 1 m tall! The purple-pink lip of the flowers are gorgeous against the crisp white petals. What a beauty.
Here's my own personal Queen's lady's slipper orchid. I plan on adding additional plants to my garden next year.