29 May 2016

The Eye of the Beholder

Around the greenhouse, end of May.

27 May 2016

A Deep-coloured, Dramatic Container

Plant list
  • Spike dracaena (Dracaena marginata)
  • ‘Salsa Purple’ salvia (Salvia splendens ‘Salsa Purple’)
  • ‘Limelight’ coleus (Solenostemon ‘Limelight’)
  • Black Velvet petunia (Petunia ‘Balpevac’)
  • Phantom petunia (Petunia ‘Balpephan’)
  • ‘Blackie’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Blackie’)
  • Aztec Magic Silver verbena (Verbena ‘Balazsilma’)

Putting it together

Step 1: Select a container with adequate drainage holes and cover with a piece of landscape fabric (available at garden centres) to prevent the soil from washing out of the bottom.

Step 2: Partly fill your container with an all-purpose potting mix that contains fertilizer.

Step 3: Start with the dracaena and salvia in the centre, flanked by coleus on either side, adjusting the soil height so the tops of the root balls are just
below the rim and firm down. Then add the petunias in the front and back of the container, filling in the sides beneath the coleus with sweet potato vines and trailing verbena. 

Step 4: Water well and place in a sunny location.

Planters, HomeSense; plants, Sheridan Nurseries, The Home Depot; watering can, Fresh Home & Garden.

17 May 2016

May, Spring and Robert Frost

May is here with apple blossoms, tulips and daffodils.  The lilacs have begun to bloom and even the peonies have opened their luscious buds to embrace the sun of spring.  My favourite season.  Robert Frost says it best in his poem Prayer in Spring which he opens with: "oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today..."

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day; 
And give us not to think so far away 
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here 
All simply in the springing of the year. 

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night; 
And make us happy in the happy bees, 
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees. 

And make us happy in the darting bird 
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill, 
And off a blossom in mid air stands still. 

For this is love and nothing else is love, 
The which it is reserved for God above 
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil. 
("A Prayer in Spring" was first published in 1915 in a collection of poetry titled A Boy's Will.)

15 May 2016

Climbing Hydrangea - Hydrangea anomala petiolaris

I'd love to give this gorgeous climber a try.  Hydrangeas are one of my absolute favourite plants so of course this climbing hydrangea is on my radar.

Climbing Hydrangea - Hydrangea anomala petiolaris: Fast growing vine once established with clusters of lace cap white blossoms in the summer. Deep green glossy foliage turns yellow in fall. Self clinging to brick or stone walls. An outstanding feature to any landscape. Height and width depends on how trained.

See the Bylands page for growing conditions and a photo.  http://www.bylands.com/plant/climbing-hydrangea-hydrangea-anomala-petiolaris#.Vzk8q8TnSbk.blogger

04 May 2016

Help for Fort McMurray Evacuees (Wildfire Forces Evacuation of City)

The incredibly devastating fire in Fort McMurray continues to burn as the entire city has been evacuated.  The city of Edmonton is expecting approximately 18,000 people to arrive and they are trickling in.  Those who flew out are beginning to arrive by bus from the airport and those who are driving are just arriving.  In Edmonton the official reception centre is Northlands which has made accommodations in two halls available for evacuees, equipped with beds, blankets, food, coffee, restrooms and showers.

The response from surrounding communities has been astounding with offers of help including accommodations for families and pets.  
There are a couple Facebook pages set up to offer assistance including accommodations, offers of pet boarding, land to park RVs, etc.  


“Canada is a country where we look out for our neighbours. Fort McMurray, difficult times, we’re going to unite around across the country,” Trudeau said Wednesday morning in Ottawa.

Fort McMurray Fire Update

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "Our thoughts are turning to our friends in Alberta...right across the country we have connections to Fort McMurray."   He offered total support saying that any help that is needed will be made available.

Across the country offers of help keep coming in from BC all the way to the maritimes.  I love this country!

As of this morning, this is the map of the affected area.


As of the last report I saw earlier this morning, the fire is moving east.  It is not believed at this time that more homes are in danger but this is said with an air of caution as the winds could shift as they did yesterday.  Firefighters continue to battle the blaze while reinforcements are on their way from surrounding communities and as far away as Ontario.

03 May 2016

Wildfire Forces Evacuation in Fort McMurray

Global News Edmonton

A wildfire that began Sunday afternoon has grown to ferocious proportions, forcing residents of Fort McMurray to evacuate.  Tuesday morning looked like a a calm start to the day with no visible smoke but the winds picked up early afternoon and it spread endangering several neighbourhoods, the hospital, and downtown.

MacDonald Island had been designated a refuge for evacuees but the latest report I saw at 7:35 pm indicated it too is now under an ordered mandatory evacuation.

**A Facebook page has been set up to help those who have been evacuated and may be headed to Edmonton and surrounding area.  If you can help or if you need assistance, please see:   https://m.facebook.com/groups/1616840568638530  (Fort McMurray evac relocation help group. )

The entire province of Alberta is dry due to below average snowfall over the winter and very little rain this spring.  These factors combined with the above average heat contribute to an early prime wildfire season, thus much of Alberta is under a fire ban.

Heat Wave in May

It is only May 3 and we are experiencing a heat wave.  Yesterday we surpassed the forecast of 28 C by one degree.  We broke a record.  Sometimes it's an accomplishment to break records, but this isn't one.  Our entire province is warmer than normal and we are in a drought too.  Wildfires have already become a problem, some very close to the city of Fort McMurray which required evacuations.  

It's been an early spring here and for much of western Canada.  While gardeners are chomping at the bit, there could still be a risk of frost.  If we don't get frost between now and June it'll be a record, I'm sure.  Is it too early to plant?  I see this all the time on the gardening Facebook pages.  Some crops can be planted now for sure:  potatoes, carrots, radishes, turnip....so basically root vegetables and those vegetables that like cool weather.  

The Schubert Chokecherry blossoms began opening yesterday and last evening you could smell the sweet fragrance wafting through the night air when I opened the front door.  If I could bottle one fragrance, that would be it!

I'm planning what I will put in planters and, like you, am excited for the growing season. However, I am REALLY looking forward to the cooler temperatures, short-lived though they appear to be.  Chow for now!

In the Kitchen with Pinterest: Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad

Good day all!  I'm back in the kitchen where I trialled a recipe from Pinterest I've been longing to try, Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad.  It's my first time "cooking" with fennel.  The fragrance is very much like liquorice but the flavour is very slight.  It's a nice light crunchy vegetable that lends itself very nicely to salads.  My grocery store didn't have the variety of oranges listed in the recipe so I used Cara and naval oranges.  I considered adding canned mandarin oranges but they were imported from overseas and I prefer to shop more North American or local (but oranges don't grow here).  I also couldn't find champagne vinegar so I used my white wine vinegar.  No mint leaves on hand either so this is really a good test to see if the recipe bears up well with substitutions and without an ingredient.  Consensus was, it does.  

The original recipe calls for an assortment of citrus and the author notes she used 3 naval oranges, 3 cara oranges, 2 mineola oranges, 3 mandarin oranges and 1 blood orange. 

Here are the ingredients:

assorted citrus
1/2 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
1/2 shallot, peeled and very thinly sliced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tbsp honey (I used liquid)
kosher salt (I used ground sea salt)
freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup mint leaves
reserved fennel fronds

For full recipe and directions see:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/53480314303511332/

I served the Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad 
with homemade potato salad, 
grilled peppers, asparagus and mushrooms 
and steak.

The big question is, would I make this again?  Yes.  Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad is a recipe I will return to and next time I'll make sure I have mint leaves on hand.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  Cheers!

02 May 2016

Flowers of Vancouver

Our son S, who lives in Vancouver, sends me photos from the city and surrounding areas on a regular basis.  Since my yard is just greening up, neighbours' trees are just beginning to bloom and the odd tulip has opened up, I really enjoy seeing the flowers.  Here's a collage of some of the most recent floral specimens he shared.  Cheers!

01 May 2016

Will Apple Maggot be the End of Apple Trees?

City of Edmonton
Native to North America, apple maggot Rhagoletis pomonella was first identified as a pest in the Edmonton Alberta region in 2005.  They affect mainly apple trees but have been known to be a problem with hawthorne, cherry, plum, peach, pear, wild rose hips, and cotoneaster.  

Missouri Botanical Garden

The apple maggot has a 500 metre range.  You can tell you may have apple maggot if you see black spots on your fruit, pitting or dimpling.  If you suspect apple maggot, you can verify their existence by cutting open an apple. Tunnelling through the white flesh indicates their presence.  If the fruit is picked early enough and sliced open, placing it immediately in an airtight jar for a day or so will draw the 6.5 to 8 mm maggot out and you will see a small white grub/maggot.  There is no discernible head nor legs.

There is a danger that apple maggot population is on the upwards trend.  So what can you do to prevent or treat the problem?  Apple maggot traps are a non-toxic method of prevention.  It's not 100% effective but it works very well.  The apple maggot trap is essentially a red ball coated with a sticky substance (pheromones) that you hang on your tree.  Some say it works best on the south side of your tree but if in doubt, hang a few, one or more on each side.  It works by drawing the fly to the fruit which they then stick to.  The traps may be cleaned in water and reused by applying tanglefoot as a coating.

At the puncture site on the fruit, the female fly lays her egg.  The maggot then hatches and eats its way through the fruit, creating a tunnel.  When the apples fall from the tree in late summer, early autumn, it is necessary to clean every last one up and dispose of them because at this time the maggot will emerge from the apple to overwinter in the soil around the tree.  Use a tarp or something similar under the apple tree to catch falling apples to interrupt the maggots burrowing in the ground to overwinter.   

The maggots then emerge again from the pupae stage in late June to early July as adult flies, easily distinguished from the house fly as their wings are striped in black and white.  Then after mating, the cycle begins again. 

Last year, at the end of May, apple maggot traps could not be found anywhere in the city.  Some greenhouses were able to get a second shipment in but in case not, substitute a fake apple coated with tanglefoot and hang in your apple tree.

I wish we could make a public service announcement so every homeowner with an apple tree would be made aware of the necessity of prevention and treatment. In the meantime, it is up to you, the apple growers, to spread the word with your neighbours.  The best way to control or even eliminate the problem is by interrupting the life cycle.  Remember, the fly has a 500 metre range, so if one neighbour doesn't take appropriate measures, the problem will continue.  

Not to be a bearer of doom and gloom but here it is:  the city of Edmonton pest control department predicts within five years, there will be no apple trees unaffected in our region.  We must all do our part.




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