30 June 2010

Snow on the Mountain aka Goutweed

Be it ever so lovely in its ability to grow virtually anywhere, be careful when selecting its site!  Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria Variegatum) has many names:  Bishop's Weed, Goat's Foot, Snow on the Mountain.  It is a great plant for the cottage in a site where nothing will grow, ie under a spruce, or another such site if contained within a barrier but NOT for the generic flowerbed. 

Today I was at one of the Edmonton Light Rail Transit (LRT) stations and noticed the mistake of one who should have known better.  I assume a city employee was instructed to plant there!  I should hope it wasn't a rogue gardener!  At any rate it is growing everywhere, including in the junipers! 

Rather attractive in a pot in the store with light green and cream variegated leaves and creamy clusters of flowers held up above the foliage on thin long stems, the innocent gardener may be fooled.  It is enticing in its ability to grow in sun or shade, dry or moist conditions, regardless of the Ph.  But beware!  Goutweed has its purposes but I recommend strongly that you create a very deep border/barrier to prevent spread beyond the selected location.

I feel for the poor soul who is assigned the task of eliminating this "weed" from the LRT station grounds or for the gardener who was drawn in by its virtues.  Don't try to pull out this one!  Digging it out, using the "smother" method (wherein you cover completely with thick black plastic to cook it out or old carpet), or Roundup seem to be the only methods that have proven effective in eliminating this plant.  When digging, dig down, lift the runner roots completely, and remove.  If root is left, it will regrow.  Remove flowers as they will seed themselves too.

Fellow gardeners

photo by Anne M
Welcome visitors!  I love to see so many from around the world.  Isn't it amazing that love for gardening draws so many together?  Please feel free to comment, ask questions, or just say hello.  You can subscribe to this blog and/or follow it on your blog list, if you have a Google account, by adding a simple gadget to your own blog.

Looks like another glorious day here in central north Alberta (Edmonton).  We had a boisterous thunderstorm last evening and through the night.  Clouds still linger but the sun momentarily blinds me as it peeks through my living room window where I write and gaze at the front garden.  High of 20 Celsius forecasted today.  I really must get out and weed and cut the lawn!  Hope you have a wonderful day today!  Good gardening!

29 June 2010

July To Do List:

•Weed a little each day.  Deadhead spent blooms.

•Water:  A minimum of inch of water per week is required.  More will be required in hot weather or hot areas within the garden.

•Thin vegetables such as carrots and lettuce.  Compost green matter.

•Edge your lawn.

•Remove secondary branches that grow in the crook (leaf axils) of branches on tomatoes.

•Continue to tie up tall plants to stakes.  ie.  delphiniums

•Check for mildew, especially during cool humid weather.  If necessary, remove foliage from plants that have finished blooming.  (ie. pulmonariea, centaurea).  Spray as necessary to control mildew on non-food plants ie. bee balm (I tried for the first time a spray of baking soda and water mixed with good success when sprayed on plants at the first sign of powdery mildew)

•Trim new growth on hedges if desired to maintain height and width.

•Continue to fertilize, especially annuals.  If you are using slow-release fertilizer, this is not necessary, though in the greenhouse we do both a slow-release and a regular fertilizer application.  Once weekly should be adequate at half-strength.  Once a month until mid-August, fertilize your lawn.  In September you will fertilize with a winterizing formulation.

•Pinch back petunias and other annuals to keep compact.

•At the end of July, dig up, divide and replant overcrowded irises that are not blooming well.

•Photograph, record in your gardening journal.  Plan for changes for the next year.

•Remember to protect yourself in the sun with sunscreen, glasses and a wide brimmed hat.  Drink plenty water.

•Prune, if necessary, birch and maple, and evergreens.  No more than 1/3 overall.

•Trim topiaries as needed.

26 June 2010

A Gardener's Guide to Hydrangeas

A Gardener's Guide to Hydrangeas

This links to a visual feast of hydrangeas via slideshow. Thanks to Better Homes and Gardens enewsletter to which I subscribe.

25 June 2010

The Exotic Glory Lily

Here's a tropical vine to try.  Spotted at Kuhlmann's Market Gardens and Greenhouses a couple years ago, I could not resist taking a photo.  It is the most splendid tropical vine I have yet seen.  Originating from tropical Africa and Asia, the glory lily is the national flower of Zimbabwe.  The glory lily's botanical name is Gloriosa superba.  Hardy in zones 10-11, sometimes zone 9.  Otherwise it makes a stunning annual vine.

Climbing from eight to 12 feet, the glory lily is a vigorous vine perfectly suited for a trellis.  The flowers have yellow margins on red petals and look somewhat spidery with long stamens protruding.

Plant in full to part-sun in well-drained organic-rich soil.  Use a balanced slow-release fertilizer.  The tubers can be dug in the fall, stored much like a gladiola bulb and planted again in the spring.

Landscape Fabric Has its Uses

Last month was it.  The upright junipers rate of decline had increased and it was time to do something.  Out they came.  Once removed it was evident what the problem was.  Years ago, in an effort to save on weeding, we laid landscape fabric throughout the flower/shrub beds.  But I did not have the knowledge then that I do now. 

While this was fine at first, and still is in some beds, the junipers and most recently a burning bush, succumbed to overly wet soils.  We have had a lot of rain of late and the fabric holds in the moisture so much so that the roots are unable to access oxygen.  Root rot ensues and there you have it.  Extremely unhappy plants!  And unhappy plant owners too, I might add.

So, knowledge in hand, I must make some adjustments to the beds.  Move some plants.  And never, never, never use landscape fabric around junipers or anything that prefers a drier, well-drained soil.  Lesson learned.

22 June 2010

It Can Be Done - Growing in Zone 1a!!

Yes, it can be done!!  We are contemplating a move from zone 3b to Fort McMurray but when I discovered what I thought was a zone 2 hardiness zone is actually zone 1, I was dismayed.  No way was this gardener going to consider moving somewhere I can't garden!!!

Thank goodness I came upon this site for Dunvegan Gardens.  They have a nursery in Edmonton and Fort McMurray.  A plant search page is available for you to specify what you are seeking and it comes up with hardy plants that fit that criteria! 

Besides balsam fir, tamarack, aspen and poplar, there's a lot to choose from including amur maple, birch, caragana, and ash.  Peonies, raspberries, saskatoons, roses, hostas, blue boy clematis, yarrow, monkshood, campion to name a few. Suddenly it is not so barren!

So for those of you considering moving or already living in a plant hardiness zone of 1, there is a lot to choose from.  Another nice thing is the number of daylight hours is greater than most, gorgeous aurora borealis (northern lights), and low humidity so cold doesn't feel so cold compared to, say, Southern Ontario.

So, as far as moving goes, that is yet to be determined.  At least I am hopeful about growing there. Sigh, there goes that determining factor.

21 June 2010

Here Comes Summer.........

Today, June 21, 2010, dawns Summer Solstice.  The longest day of the year.  Here in Edmonton, Alberta Canada it is still relatively light out at 10:30 pm and morning breaks around 4 am.  The robins chirp their cheerful song, the song you hear only in the morning and evening it seems.  The irises are blooming and peonies nod beneath the weight of heavy scent-laden flowers.  Snowball bushes are blooming away and the lilacs are about finished here.  I sit by the pond. listening to the gentle fall of water as it cascades over the rocks and down the stream before softly falling to the pond.  Relaxing, enjoying the soft breeze as it rustles by.

I look forward to this day because it is the longest but sigh with regret because from here they get shorter.  C'est La Vie.  Welcome to summer!

18 June 2010

Pushing the Limits

We all know someone who likes to push the limits.  They like to see how far they can go without consequences.  However, I am not talking about people in this article.  I am talking about pushing zonal limits.  Did you know that in some cases, plants have not been tried beyond the zone listed on their tag?  Environment Canada began a study a few years back wherein they asked for volunteers throughout the country to try plants of their choice that were rated beyond their zone.  They were to record how the plant fared.  One goal in this was to determine if the zone map for Canada needed to be changed due to climatic changes.

I did not formally take part in this study but I have tried a few plants within my own garden rated a zone 4 and found them successful.  For example, barberry.  I have 3 Rose Glow Barberries (berberis), one Golden Nugget Barberry and another whose tag has long since disappeared but it is a dwarf yellow variety.  All those planted within my back yard do great with very little dieback.  The two Rose Glow Barberries in the front are a bit more exposed to the elements and had more dieback this past winter than the previous three years.  They are recovering quite nicely though.

Endless Summer Hydrangea is a zone 4.  It dies back to the ground for me every year despite mulching and burlapping.  Each year I hope for a long summer so it will have a chance to bloom.  Thank goodness it blooms on new wood as well as old.

Black Lace Elder (sambucus nigra) is another zone 4 in my garden.   It is in a very sheltered location close to the house but it dies back each year.  A quick grower, it regains its height and more in any given year.  Incidentally, this elder has never flowered for me.  Perhaps this is the year.

A neighbour grows a Crimson King Maple (acer platanoides Crimson) in his front yard.  It is fully exposed to all elements and does die back a bit after a bad winter but comes back in full glory.  It is a beautiful variation of maple with large crimson leaves which intensify in the fall.  A Norway Maple, it is absolutely stunning!!

I tried a Japanese Maple overwintered in the garden one year.  It is a zone 5 but no amount of mulch and burlap could save it its first winter.  Don't bother trying to overwinter it in your house.  Powdery mildew is a major obstacle here. 

I had customers who grew Cherry trees with great success.  I am not talking Evans Cherry or North Star (zone 2) which are both hardy here.  I mean a tree similar to the Bing Cherry with sweet fruit.  A lot of labour went into protecting one particular gentleman's tree.  He built a wooden raised bed.  Planted the cherry deep.  And in the fall he cut styrofoam sheets to fit in the bed around the trunk to insulate the roots.  I think he may have even mulched on top of that!  He swears it works!  Part of the key to success here too is watering well into the fall to create a proverbial block of ice around the roots.  This helps irrigate as the ground thaws and assists in protecting the plant from the upheaval of the soil during the freeze and thaw sessions every spring.

Many perennials can be grown successfully in a "lower" zone.  Here you have the advantage of the ease with which you can mulch a bed of perennials.  Water well into the fall too.  I have grown heucheras successfully for years in zone 3 that were rated zone 4.  This last winter I lost a few but have a few seedlings that self-sowed to replace them.  Try Palace Purple Heuchera (coral bell).  

Another is Astilbe.  I've grown Bridal Veil, a white one, rated zone 4, in the shade for at least eight years with success.

You might try the evergrowing variety of Echinacea such as Double Decker, Razzmataz, Harvest Moon or White Swan (all zone 4).  They don't like a heavy clay soil or wet feet.  Supply a well-drained soil and they will respond accordingly.  Especially important, be sure they are not planted where puddles form in the spring as snow melts.  Be courageous, and give a new plant a try.  You just never know.

Have you success stories in pushing zonal boundaries?  Let me know in "comments" please.  I'd love to hear about it!!

16 June 2010

Welcome Visitors!

I am excited to see I have a growing readership including Alaska and Saskatoon!  Welcome to my blog!  I encourage and enjoy your comments and questions.  Check back soon for an article about pushing the zonal boundaries and growing in colder climates.  Happy gardening friends!!!

Planting for Shade

The crazy rush in the greenhouse has come and gone with the May long weekend.  Now is a good time to check out the variety of plants available.  Shady areas sometimes are daunting to gardeners.  Sure we know what to plant in sun but what about the shade?  Dry shade, moist shade?  Dappled shade, dense shade. What grows where?  Below is a short but not exclusive list of suggested plants.

Evergreens (trees/shrubs):

 Alberta Spruce (picea glauca) seems to do extremely well in shade, particularly if the prescribed area is shady January through April.  This dwarf evergreen tends to burn (browning of foliage) if planted in an exposed area.  Somewhat moist soil, but not wet.  Well-drained.

Another you might consider is cedar (thuja occidentalis), both upright and global.  Somewhat moist soil but not wet.  Over the years, the foliage of the cedar may tend to become sparse when planted in shade.  Cedars tend to suffer from winter burn/sunscald like the Alberta Spruce.

Boxwood also grows well in shade. An evergreen, it should be planted in a sheltered location out of scorching sun and wind. An anti-desiccant spray is recommended. If you can find the Calgary boxwood, I highly recommend this variety to many others on the market.

Deciduous Shrubs:

 Dwarf European Cranberry (viburnum opulus), a small rounded deciduous bush with excellent fall colour. Grows about 2-3 feet high and wide.  Rarely flowers or fruits. 

Hydrangea - partial sun - full sun.  There are many varieties of hydrangea with varying size, shape and colour of blossom.  Hydrangeas like moisture and if planted in full sun, may wilt during hot spells.  Quite often, it is recommended to plant in a partial shade location, especially shady during the heat of the day.

Rhododendron and Azalea - both prefer partial shade to full sun.  They are shallow rooted, so be careful they don't sit in wet soil.  An anti-desiccant spray may be necessary in the fall for the rhododendron if it is in a particularly windy site.  See previous article about rhododendrons on this blog. 

Rhododendrons are evergreen meaning their leaves remain on the shrub.  They flower early spring (May).  During cold weather you will notice the leaves of the rhodendron tightly curl.  Not to worry, they unfurl as soon as temperatures are in the high single digits.  All parts of the rhododendron and azalea are poisonous.

Azaleas bloom early spring before they are fully leafed out.  Leaf shape is similar (as are growing needs) to rhododendron.  Incidentally both bear the Latin name rhododendron.


Hostas:  Blue Halcyon, Big Daddy, Sum and Substance are just a few varieties available.  There is a wide selection available from miniatures to large varieties with leaves as large as a child's head!  Blue varieties prefer full shade as they scorch easily.  Variegated varieties can withstand some sun if they get afternoon shade.  Varieties with thick leaves are more slug resistant.  Hostas prefer a dry shade.

AstilbeAstilbes grow best in a shady location.  Be careful the soil does not dry out between watering.  They prefer a woodland type setting, meaning a humus soil.  I mulch with wood shavings.  Astilbe are available in a range of colours including pink, red, white, and lavender.

Ferns:  There are many varieties of fern and all prefer a moist soil.  Try Ostrich Fern for height at the back of a shady bed.  Incidentally, the fiddlehead fern and ostrich fern are the same plant.  The fiddleheads (small, young curled frond - new growth before it opens up and grows) can be cooked and eaten.  Seek instructions on doing so before taking it on.  Another pretty one is the Japanese Painted Fern with silvery and burgundy foliage.  Lady Fern and Royal Fern are both hardy in zone 3.

Shooting Star.  A pretty plant with lavender or bright pink blossoms, it grows naturally in the wild.  Please do not cultivate from its natural habitat.  Purchase from a reputable nursery.  This perennial will "disappear" over the hot summer only to reappear next spring. Does not like to dry out.

Ligularia:  Often with large showy leaves ligularia is a nice show piece.  The flower shape depends on the variety, either elongated as in "The Rocket" or daisy shaped "Britt Marie".  Both like a moist soil and shade from the hot afternoon sun.  They can wilt easily.  I find the shadier, the better unless it is planted in a "wet" site.

Bleeding Heart:  Can and usually does die back through the heat of summer and reappears again the following spring.  This plant is poisonous to pets and children.  Can withstand some sun, preferably not hot afternoon sun, but grows equally well in shade.

Coral Bells (Heuchera):  Available with different leaf colour including green, purple, and marmalade (that is its name).  Grows best in shade.  Palace Purple will brown out in the sun, looking crispy.  Red flowers or pale pink, depending on the variety, grow at the ends of long spikes in summer.  Green-leaved varieties tend to be more hardy.

Primrose (Primula):  Grow well in partial shade or dappled shade.  May wilt in direct hot afternoon sun.  A low-growing plant, it is available in a large variety of colours: purple, orange, pink, yellow, white, red.  Very pretty at the front of a shady border.

Creeping Jenny - a low-growing creeping ground cover for sun or shade.  Often grown near ponds for a natural effect.  Creeping jenny is available with a yellow leaf or green.  Both have the same growth habit and are sometimes grown in containers as trailers.  (though they will not overwinter in a container).  Yellow flowers.


Impatiens:  available in many colours including pink, white, red.  Prefers shade. Cannot withstand frost.  A low-growing annual favored by many for its ability to create masses of colour when densely planted.

Begonias:  Either tuberous (you lift the tuber in the fall and store indoors over winter) or fibrous (annual - dies after frost).  Many colours available including yellow, orange, pink, white.  Trailing begonias are also available and look great in a planter or hanging pot in the shade garden.

Coleus:  The leafy coleus is grown for its foliage which varies with variety.  There are some stunning cultivars now from pink with green, burgundy and green, and more. Coleus will bloom but they maintain their shape better if you pinch out the less-attractive flowers as they appear.

Lobelia:  Often grown in planters, lobelia is either upright or trailing.  I love the trailing lobelia combined with red flowers whether they be begonias or geraniums or whatever.  They will grow best in shade.  There is also a perennial variety called Lobelia Cardinalis which is an upright variety with red blooms.  Prefers a shady site.  A stunning site is a shade bed planted with red begonias or impatiens and fronted with trailing lobelia.  The juxtaposition of colour is very dramatic.

Caladium:  With colourful foliage, the caladium is another possibility for the shade garden.  It is grown for its foliage and looks nice in a planter or directly planted in the ground.  Wonderful colour!


Some vines do well in shade but there aren't many.  Try the Henrii Clematis.  It has large white flowers and is stunning in the evening garden.  Or Nelly Moser Clematis with large pink flowers.  Its colour is best if protected from the afternoon sun.  Clematis must have a trellis or other object to climb.  Be sure to plant deep, an extra 6 inches to a foot deeper than what they were planted in the pot.  This helps prevent Clematis wilt, an unsightly disease which is evident with blackening foliage and stems and general lack of vigour.  Check with your local garden center for treatment if you suspect this disease exists.  Clematis come back year after year.

Morning Glory Vine (annual): Grow the annual Morning Glory Vine where it receives morning sun and afternoon shade.  Flowers open in the morning and close at night.  Stay away from the perennial morning glory vine.  It is highly invasive and almost impossible to be rid of.  In BC, particularly on the coast, the vine has been known to grow into the soffits of homes it is planted next to and cause damage.  Even here in Edmonton, I know a gardener who constantly battles to remove this "weed" from her property.

*This list does not contain all possibilities but rather is intended to give you a head start on ideas when you head to the nursery.  All listed are hardy to zone 3 with the exception of the annuals, of course, which can be grown seasonally in most zones.  Good shopping.

13 June 2010

Trees of City of Edmonton

Driving through the neighborhoods in Edmonton, I've noticed many trees that have been flagged by the city for replacement.  The last few years of drought have taken their toll on the elms, birch and chokecherries planted on boulevards and in parks and parking lots.  Many spruce show signs of water deprivation with reddish brown needles.  Evans cherries had a tough go of it this winter.  Many didn't make it through or suffered severe dieback.  The prevention - water!  So many times we had customers come to the greenhouse with samples and stories of drought ridden trees only to be told that watering would have made all the difference.  Rain is not sufficient most of the time.  We need to supplement, particularly during hot spells and in the fall to settle them in for winter.  Folks, water your gardens (trees, shrubs, perennials) in the fall until the time the ground freezes.  You want to create an ice block, upon freezing, that will slowly melt in the spring thaw and aid your tree with moisture that is badly needed.  This also helps prevent the freeze/thaw effect that our spring brings.

In Edmonton there is a fine collection of healthy American elm trees, one of the largest concentrations in the world unaffected by Dutch Elm Disease.  Other trees that have proven to be hardy here are:  Jack Pine, Lodgepole Pine, White Spruce, White Birch, Aspen, Mountain Ash, Amur Maple, Russian Olive, Green Ash, Basswood, Various Poplars and Willows, Flowering Crabapple, Mayday Tree and Manitoba Maple. An increase in popularity in Bur oak, Silver Maple, Hawthorn and Ohio Buckeye is becoming evident. Other species introduced include White Ash, Blue Spruce, Norway Maple, Red Oak, Sugar Maple, Common Horse-Chestnut, McIntosh Apple, and Evans Cherry. Three walnut species have survived in Edmonton including Butternut (with the best survival rate of the walnut species here), Manchurian walnut, and black walnut.  For a variety of hardy fruit trees and ornamentals available and hardy for zone 3, check with your local reputable garden center.  (source:  Wikipedia, June 2010 and greenhouse sales)  See also: http://www.edmonton.ca/environmental/conservation_landscaping/selection-list-of-common-tree.aspx

12 June 2010

Dratted Little Green Caterpiller!!!

Oh, my poor columbine!  When did that happen? 

I noticed today my columbine is looking rather poorly and straggly.  Upon closer examination I spotted the culprit!  A little green caterpillar.  I had no Sevin in the house, so I opted for a floral dust.  Hope that works.  It is great for Delphinium worm so it should deter if not kill the little worm!  How on earth can something so small create so much damage?  How did I overlook it?  In my defense, it has been raining for days.  The opportunity presented itself and voila!  At least the upper portion still has full leaves and the buds will bloom very soon.  I can't wait!  Like my mother, the columbine is one of my favorites!

05 June 2010

Moments Unspoiled in the Garden

This morning I did one of my favorite things.  I putzed around.  Meaning, I was up before everyone else, including my nosy neighbour (you have one too? Imagine that!).  I took advantage of the time to check on all the plants, to note the Snow in Summer is beginning to bloom along with the mountain ash.  The iris is about to bloom and the clematis has grown like a foot overnight!  I decided there's no time like the present to dig out the fertilizers and feed my garden.  So I did just that.  Pots fed with 20-20-20, clematis (clematis food), rose (slow release rose food), and a 20-20-20 on other flowering shrubs.  Tip:  don't feed clematis once it has begun flowering or the plant will bloom its heart out all at once.  You want it to bloom for an extended period, right? 

Alas, as I was watering my cedars, Miss Nosy came outside to see what I was up to.  Rats, almost escaped it!

03 June 2010

In the Spotlight

New to this blog is a page called "In the Spotlight".  This month's shrub in focus is the Mock Orange.  See the new page for information for this must-have shrub.  It has a fragrance you'll swoon over!

02 June 2010

Heralders of Spring

Written April 2010

This morning I took a few moments on my deck to take in the glories of spring.  Spring and summer are my favorite seasons.  I love to wake early, before the others in my household, and wander on my dew laden lawn, take in the sights and sounds, checking for signs of new growth breath in deeply the fresh air.  Ahhh.  There is nothing like it.  A glorious spring morning like today's makes one glad to be alive.  I think it is the whole idea of renewal that I like.  What was once buried in the winter wonderland comes to life again.  A little green bud here, blades of grass resurrecting once more, the sound of songbirds gracing the air. 

Yesterday I was happy to see one of my favorite heralders of spring, the buds of soon to open forsythia flowers.  It is one of the first plants to bloom, following crocus and spring snow drops.  A flush of bright yellow blossoms adorns this lovely shrub late April to early May.  The variety I grow is Northern Gold which is hardy to Zone 3.  Its flower buds are hardy to -34 C!  Introduced by Agriculture Canada, it grows to 2 m by 1.5 m. 

Remember, if you must prune spring flowering shrubs do so after they finish blooming.

Massive new Hole's garden complex not for green thumbs only

Massive new Hole's garden complex not for green thumbs only

Container gardening for the creative spirit

Container gardening for the creative spirit

New trio of dandelion killers are lawn friendly

New trio of dandelion killers are lawn friendly

Oilers colours join horticultural society’s contest lineup

Oilers colours join horticultural society’s contest lineup

Edmonton yards burst into bloom

Edmonton yards burst into bloom

01 June 2010

I Love Japanese Gardens!

There is nothing quite like a stroll through a Japanese Garden.  My first introduction to this style was in Lethridge at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden.  From the moment I set foot beyond the gate, I was in love!
http://www.nikkayuko.com/garden_glimpse.asp  is a link to a glimpse of the garden.  Take a moment to view this destination in Lethbridge, Alberta.

I was perusing You Tube and came across some lovely footage of Japanese Gardens.  I added a feature near the bottom of my blog so you too can enjoy the tranquility of this garden style.  Enjoy!!

Meditation music. Japanese garden.


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