30 August 2010

I'm in Love: Pink Diamond Hydrangea

Hydrangea paniculata 'Pink Diamond'

As the panicle flower of the Pink Diamond Hydrangea matures, it takes on hues of pink and dusty rose.  I expect that will happen here the end of August or beginning of September.  Here's a photo of mature blooms taken last year.
This photo was taken during the late evening.  When I first saw this hydrangea come into the greenhouse, I was in love.  There's a romantic essence to hydrangeas, especially paniculatas and lace-capped.  Though, I'm sure, many will say the mopheads rival my favorites for romanticism.

24 August 2010

Spotlight on Ohio Buckeye

photo by Barry V.

Aesculus glabra - Ohio Buckeye
Average Height - 20-40 feet (some specimens have grown up to 48 feet)
Average Canopy Width - 25-30 feet wide (oval to rounded and dense)
Leaf - Palmate compound leaflet of typically 5 leaves (rarely 7)
Flowers - light yellow/green-yellow upright panicles in the spring
Fruit - nuts encased in a 1-2 inch prickly husk - not edible (squirrels like them)
Fall Colour - yellow-orange sometimes red (Autumn Splendor Buckeye has red-purple fall foliage)
Bark - Grey furrowed
Root - forms a tap root
Growth rate - develops tap root its first year.  Following years significant growth is noted.  May be considered a medium/fast grower (up to a foot/year) but not so fast as a poplar.

The Ohio Buckeye makes an attractive shade tree, preferring a soil Ph of 5.0 - 7.5.  The tree prefers a moist loam and is subject to leaf scorch if it dries out. Not drought resistant.  In its natural habitat it is an understory tree growing along river banks and creek beds.

It has no major insect problems but may be susceptible to powdery mildew and leaf scorch. 

It is not widely known as a speciman tree in our area though it is gaining popularity.  As it is medium size at maturity it readily fits into most urban landscapes and offers beautiful fall colour.  If you have no room for a maple but still want impact in the fall, select an Ohio Buckeye.

Hardy to zone 3.

photo by Barry V.


Photo by Barry V.

Many thanks to Barry for the photos of his Ohio Buckeye

23 August 2010

Alberta Invasive Plants Council


Check the above link for a list of noxious and prohibited noxious weeds for our province. 

Himalayan Balsam

this plant was seen growing in someone's yard with more small plants nearby

Himalayan balsam:

  • grows in moist conditions and is commonly found along river banks, stream beds and creeks
  • stems are red in colour
  • leaves are dark green and lance shaped with jagged edges
  • flowers are shaped somewhat like a snapdragon and vary in colour from pink to purple and sometimes white
  • flowers summer through fall from June to October
  • can grow up to 2 metres high and sometimes 3 metres high (though rarely)
  • Himalayan Balsam is an annual
  • each plant produces between 700-800 seeds
  • seed pods are explosive and can throw seeds over 6 metres away from the original plant.

In the city of Edmonton, Himalayan Balsam is listed as an invasive weed.  Growing it on private property is prohibited.  Though, I don't believe that it is yet common knowledge.  (Case in point, the above photo)  So, I am doing my part in getting the word out.

Species/ Impatiens glandulifera
Common Names/ Policeman’s Helmet, Indian Balsam
Sometimes known as Himalayan Impatiens


Garlic mustard weed on the loose

Garlic mustard weed on the loose

22 August 2010

In the Spotlight - Bee Balm

Bee Balm or Bergamot (Monarda didyma), is a perennial and member of the mint family. Bee Balm blossoms from late July to late August in red, purple, white or varying shades of pink.

Native to North America, bee balm is a hardy highly scented plant. Even the leaves are scented. Bee Balm's scientific name is owed to Nicolas Monardes, a Spanish physician and botanist who chronicled American flora in the 16th century. The name Bergamot is derived from the bergamot orange to which it smells similar.

Fast growing, Bee Balm grows in clump form and is best suited to full sun to part shade locations with moist well-drained soil. Its average size at maturity is 2-3 feet high and wide, depending on the variety.

True to its name, Bee Balm attracts bees as well as hummingbirds and butterflies. The clump should be divided every three years to keep its spread under control. Prune back in the fall and feed with an all-purpose fertilizer (if desired) in the spring such as 20-20-20.

Like most plants, under adverse conditions like cool humid days, warm days and cool nights, Bee Balm can be susceptible to powdery mildew. Plant where it gets good air circulation. Treat with a sulphur spray, spraying the foliage well but being careful not to overdo it as the sulphur also kills beneficial bacteria in the soil. Remove badly mildewed leaves and destroy them.

Hardiness Zones: 4,5,6,7,8,9 (zone 3 - may need to mulch in the fall)

In the Spotlight - Mock Orange

Galahad Mock Orange


If only a picture could capture the fragrance of a Mock Orange in bloom! The flowers are similar to that of an orange or lemon tree and the fragrance like an orange or, as one of my children said, cotton candy. In our area, the mock orange blooms June/July. It is lovely to sit out in the yard on a warm summer evening and catch a whiff of fragrance of mock orange in the night. The white blossoms glow in the twilight, reflecting whatever light is nearby. Truly one shrub I do not want to be without.

There are several varieties of Philadelphus (mock orange) hardy for our area, zone 3. Waterton, Minnesota Snowflake, Galahad, Golden, Miniature Snowflake, to name a few. I purchased Galahad about 3-4 years ago and wish I had more.

Though unimpressive the remainder of the season, when in bloom it draws compliments from everyone! The Galahad grows about 4 feet tall and wide. I don't fertilize, though one could give it a dose with rose fertilizer early spring. Prune only after it has completed flowering, and directly afterwards not late summer or fall and definitely not early spring or it will not bloom!

The fragrance varies by variety, so shop for them while they are in bloom. The flowers range by variety from single, like the Galahad, to semi-double to fully double from an inch to 2 inches across on some varieties.

Galahad Mock Orange


Mock orange may be grown as a specimen plant, a focus in the border; as a foundation shrub; or grow a grouping as a hedge. It tends to grow somewhat vase-shaped, but clipping can encourage the plant to fill out and become dense.


This plant does well in full sun or even part sun and shade. Some have had luck growing it in a rather shady location. Avoid planting near a reflective surface or white siding or fence where the sun will reflect onto the foliage and flowers and fade them quickly. The mock orange prefers a well-drained soil, but isn't too particular about the type of soil. However, a sandy loam type soil that is well-drained would be ideal. The mock orange is an easy care plant. Not demanding too much attention, except to exclaim over its beauty and fragrance!


Prune only after flowering. After its second year in your garden, you may desire to remove some of the older branches which no longer produce blooms. Remember the rule of thumb, never more than 1/3 of the overall plant should be pruned in a year.

21 August 2010

Picture This Photo Contest

Every time I walk by this yard which backs onto the local ravine, I have to pause.  I peruse the landscape, taking in the path, the shrubs and perennials.  The path meanders through the shrubbery to a bird bath, or another turn takes you to a bench and yet another brings you to a fire pit.  I marvel at the twists and turns and the beauty of this well-kept haven.  So, this is the photo I have chosen to enter in August's Picture This Photo Contest "On the Road Again".

The contest is here should anyone like to join us:

Spotlight - Amur Maple

The tree in this photo is an amur maple shrub trained to tree form

Acer Ginnala - Amur Maple
Can be found in shrub or tree form
Shrub size - 10-15 feet.  Fast grower.  Hardy zone 3.  Deciduous. White scented flowers in the spring followed by samaras (winged seed pods).  Fall colour - Red sometimes yellow/orange depending on the year.  I have noted a warm long fall intensifies the colour.  The shrub can be trained to tree form making a smaller tree.

Tree size - 15-20 feet tall and 15-28 feet wide.  Deciduous.  White scented flowers in the spring followed by samaras.  Tolerates dry soil.  Prefers a well-drained site.  Growth rate is considered slow.  Forms a dense rounded canopy and makes an excellent shade tree.  Fall colour - scarlet red

Amur Maples are an excellent specimen in the urban landscape offering shade and outstanding fall colour.  Often multi-stemmed, the amur maple makes an excellent climbing tree too. 

Along 97 Street in Edmonton, one can see multiple plantings of this tree in the Griesbach area.  Often families will stop by in the fall to take family photos in front of these trees.

Amur maple during the fall (photo taken along 97 street, Edmonton)

20 August 2010

BC Forest Fires Affect Albertans

Seclusion Bay, BC
Firefighters have been fighting forest fires in the interior of British Columbia for some time now and as of Thursday, our province has experienced a deterioration of air quality due to thick smoke.  People within the affected regions of BC, including some of the Okanagan area, have been evacuated. 

Here, in Edmonton, individuals with respiratory problems have been advised to stay indoors with windows closed.  The remaining population has been told to avoid strenuous exercise outdoors during these conditions.  Even Southern Alberta is beginning to feel the affects of the smoke.  I was told as of today, Coaldale and Lethbridge can see the heavy veil of smoke hanging in the air.  Hopefully the air mass will improve this weekend.

Plum Good

Two varieties of plums pictured above and below.  One is a Pembina and the other is unknown.
Photos by Anne M.

We can grow some delicious plums here in Alberta.  One problem we sometimes encounter here in the prairies is the tendency toward chlorosis.  Our soil is very alkaline, making it difficult for some trees to access the iron necessary.  Gardeners may  apply chelated iron to supplement their trees.  Maples can have the same problem.  I've even seen it in roses and peonies!

Plums that are hardy here include:  Brookred, Pembina, Opata, Brookgold, Ptitsen #5

Wild plums, though very difficult to find, like prunus nigrus (Canada Plum) which grows in the states and in some areas of Alberta and Saskatechewan near rivers, and prunus americana (American Plum), are the most successful pollinators of hybrid plums according to the University of Saskatchewan where they've been growing wild plums from seed.  Wild plums tend to flower a bit later and it has been suggested for them to be effective pollinators for early flowering hybrids, the grower should train lower branches to grow near the ground where they will be "fooled" into blooming earlier.  It is essential that pollinators bloom the same time as the chosen hybrid plum. 

Cultivars of prunus salicina, commonly known as the Asian or Japanese plum, bloom early and are good pollinators for eachother.  Sour cherries will not improve pollination of hybrid plums though both are in the prunus family.  Most sour cherries, ie. Nanking, Evans, are self-pollinating.  Sandcherries are good pollinators for cherry-plums like Opata. 

For more information on research on plums for the prairies see this document:

18 August 2010

Independant Garden Centers

I regularly read a blog "Garden Rant - Uprooting the Gardening World" because they are different, controversial, and in the know.  They are gardeners and writers and regularly address items all of us are curious about or have issue with.  They recently did a survey about Independant Garden Centers and I include here a link with the results of the same.  I think every Independant Garden Center should seriously read this survey and I implore them to ask themselves "Am I meeting my customers' needs?"  Check the link below:

Do you have something to rant about?  Comment here!

17 August 2010

First Place Front Yards in Bloom

Photo by Bruce Edwards, Edmonton Journal

For more information on the selection process and the winning front yard check this link to an article in the Edmonton Journal.


2010 Edmonton In Bloom Award Winners

Front Yards in Bloom is a community program recognizing front yards that make Edmonton beautiful.  This year`s winners were awarded by category Thursday, August 12 at City Hall.  The categories are:  Best Edible Front Yard, Best Natural Front Yard, and Best Yard.

Here are photos of the winner, 2nd place, third place and honourable mention in Best Yard category.

First Place - Best Yard

Second Place - Best Yard

Third Place - Best Yard

Honourable Mention

Honourable Mention (my favorite)

Honourable Mention

Best Edible Front Yard

Best Natural Front Yard

2010 Edmonton in Bloom Award Winners (Commercial Categories)

Naturescape recognition: Brightview Elementary School

Tidiness (Litter): HSBC Bank Canada

Tidiness (Graffiti): J. Percy Page High School & Mill Woods Little League

The Wonderful World of Blogging

I love this world of blogging which allows you to "meet" fellow writers and enthusiasts from all over.  Today I had a lovely message from Nancy Bond who welcomed me to the blogging community: 

"Hello from Nova Scotia, and welcome to Blotanical. I've chosen your lovely blog to feature in my sidebar for the coming week or so -- I hope it brings you lots of new readers. And I look forward to exploring your blog further. :)"

Nancy is a writer, photographer and gardener among other things and has produced a lovely and creative blog.  Visit her at:


16 August 2010

Alberta Perennial Trials


I just received my newsletter from Alberta Perennial Trials and thought you might want to have a look at what's in bloom in the trial gardens.  Please link back to me as your referral.  Enjoy the sun, folks.

13 August 2010

Attracting Birds to Your Garden

When I worked at the garden center we'd often have customers asking what they can do to attract birds to their yard.  I've noticed an increase in visitors in my own garden over the past few years, in part due to growth of trees and in part due to water features I've added (or have been added thanks to my children).  Of course, setting out feeders, birdhouses and bird baths will draw them too.  There are three basics to keep in mind when wanting to attract birds.  They are food, shelter and water.

Think about the kind of bird you want to attract.  If you like cedar waxwings, plant mountain ash trees.  They are known to come by in winter in flocks, descend upon the mountain ash and devour the berries.  I saw this happen in my own yard just a couple years ago.  It is quite a site!  The following spring we had a pair that seemed to stick around and would visit the pond and trees.
Cedar waxwing in European Mountain Ash tree

If you want to attract chickadees, or sparrows or most other birds, plant trees.  Trees with strong limbs will encourage nesting behaviour.  Although, two years in a row, we had a pair of robins who nested in the supports for our deck.  Sadly a raven discovered the nest and such an upset that was.  The pair moved on to what is hopefully a more secure site.

If you want to attract hummingbirds select flowering plants with tubular shaped blossoms.  One year I had a large hanging petunia planter on our front porch and as I sat there in the cool of the afternoon shade, a hummingbird visited the petunias.  I sat very still, incredibly surprised that they like petunias!  Other flowers to attract hummingbirds include:  azalea and rhododendron, hollyhock, bee balm, fuschia, red columbine, butterfly bush and trumpet vine.  If you have had success attracting hummingbirds with other plants, please comment and let me know.  We do know hummingbirds are attracted to red, thus hummingbird feeders are red or the liquid in the feeder is red.

For more ideas on planting for hummingbirds check this site: 

Blue jays like spruce trees; robins, cedar waxwings and bluebirds like cedars; chickadees and robins like white pine and crab apple; grosbeak and purple finch like maples.  More reason to plant trees in the garden.  Got to love it!   

"If you build it (or plant it), they will come"

For more information and a recipe for syrup for a hummingbird feeder, check my previous post for an excellent article by Canadian Living.

Attract birds and butterflies to your garden - Green Living - Life - Canadian Living

Attract birds and butterflies to your garden - Green Living - Life - Canadian Living

12 August 2010


Above left and right - Dalmation Toadflax

Left and below - Yellow Toadflax; Right - Butter and Egg Toadflax

Linaria vulgaris Mill., yellow toadflax, linaire vulgaire

A spreading perennial, toadflax has become a nuisance in the coulees of Lethbridge.  So much so that volunteers are in the coulees manually pulling them out.  Toadflax spreads by seeds and underground roots.  The pretty yellow, yellow with orange throat or white with yellow flowers grow on stems 6 inches to 2 feet (15 cm. to 6 dm.) high.  They grow in grasslands, cultivated fields, gardens, roadsides, and waste places and I've admired their blooms here in the nearby ravine.  They were introduced from Europe and Asia.
The bad news is this pretty little plant is a weed that is choking out desirable vegetation that local wildlife in the Lethbridge area depend on for food.  On that note, it has been decided not to use herbicides because of their effect on wildlife thus volunteers are manually removing them.  This plant can release 500,000 seeds per plant!  Talk about fertile!

10 August 2010

Colour in My Garden

I seem to have a definite lack of colour in the garden this time of year.  Sure I have some colourful foliage in the barberries

Rose Glow Barberry

and the Summer Wine Ninebark

and there's the clematis
Nelly Moser Clematis

Jackmanii Clematis

and this little rush in the pond.

The Pink Diamond Hydrangea blossoms are still white, but gorgeous and the Endless Summer Hydrangea shows no signs of flowering at all!  Perhaps I need to fertilize that more through the growing season so it will mature faster.  Our season has been too short and rainy this year.  Too bad too, because other than some clematis, there's virtually no colour in that bed.  Note to self, I need to mix things up in the east bed!


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