31 July 2016

In the Spotlight: Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea (hydrangea paniculata vanilla strawberry) - A Huge Hit in the Garden Centre

Last fall, when this gorgeous hydrangea's colours deepened to dark pink, fading to white at the top of the elongated blooms, everyone was clambering about this hydrangea!  Check your local nursery for this must-have beauty!

Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea (hydrangea paniculata vanilla strawberry)

This hydrangea begins blooming in early July with clusters of lime coloured elongated blooms.  Once this beauty has begun blooming, it will continue to do so until September, producing new blooms during that period.  As the flower matures, it takes on shades of pink, deepening in time to a rich dark pink, fading to white at the top of the panicle, the pink eventually spreading to the entire cluster of flowers.  The flower colour remains for about four weeks before fading.

In ideal conditions, Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea can reach proportions of 6-7 feet in height and  5 feet in width.  It is hardy in Canada zones 3-8 (USDA zones 4-9).  Morning and late afternoon sun are ideal exposures for this plant.  Partial shade is also acceptable.

Moist soil with good drainage is required.  It can tolerate clay, sandy or loamy soil.  Ph may alter the flower colour, though I've not seen it done. 

The only pruning that may be required is the removal of dead blossoms.  Easily maintained, this showy specimen is a lovely addition to the garden.

30 July 2016

In the Spotlight: Annabelle Hydrangea (hydrangea aborescens Annabelle)

This is the beginning of my mini-series on hydrangeas for zones 3-8. *typically. Many people don't believe you can successfully grow hydrangeas on the prairies so I am compiling a feature on hydrangeas for those who want to but never knew they could.

the bloom is larger than my husband's head!
Annabelle Hydrangea (smooth hydrangea) - native to the eastern United States 
Height:  3 - 4 feet tallWidth:  3 - 4 feet tall
Hardiness:  zones 3-8 Canada
Blooming Time: late June to September.  You may leave the flowers in place to dry as they will persist through the winter, adding interest in the garden.  As you can see from the photo above, the flowers can be 10-12 inches across.
Sun requirement:  full sun, part-sun, light shade
Tolerates: rabbit, erosion, clay soil, shallow rocky soil
Intolerant of drought.
Maintenance:  low

Annabelle hydrangeas bloom on new wood.  In Alberta, Canada it is recommended to prune Annabelle Hydrangeas hard within a few inches above the soil in spring (late March early April, weather permitting).  

Annabelles make nice cut flowers
Annabelles are large abundantly flowering hydrangeas.  The ball-shaped cluster of flowers opens slightly chartreuse in colour, quickly whitening to a bright white, then brown to a light tan as they age.  The foliage consists of big rounded sharply toothed leaves with pointed ends.  The leaves turn yellow in the fall.  The bark is green.  This hydrangea is a quick grower, achieving heights of 4-5 feet once established.  Mine is about 4 years old and stands about 4 feet tall, maybe slightly more.

The bush is loose in habit, rounded in shape.  Stems come from the root or branch off from pruned site.  No apparent bugs nor disease issues.  The only complaint I have is that they tend to bow down under the weight of those ginormous blooms.  This always seems to happen after a particularly windy time or period of heavy rainfall.  I did get some supports this year but after the fact and found it difficult to prop them up.  Maybe I should just rig some soft rope around them for support?   Do give them ample room to spread out.  Six feet per plant may seem generous until they begin bowing on you.

They require moist, well-drained soil.  I like to enrich my soil before planting with a bit of compost and peat moss.  Mulching will retain moisture and will help provide some insulation during the winter.  Annabelles are not fussy about soil ph and, no, you cannot alter the colour of these blooms through manipulating the ph.  

Annabelle hydrangeas have a long life-span of up to 20 years.  

26 July 2016

Front Yards in Bloom 2016

Front Yards in Bloom (Edmonton)  nominations are in and the first step in judging is complete. This year I was happy to be able to offer some assistance in placing placards and performing some preliminary judging. It's an extraordinary experience to go out in the communities and see the beautiful flowering yards.  The first two photos are of a yard that I thought was especially well designed and taken care of.  The use of colour and textures, the layout, the ground to treetop use of plant material, proportion and scale are just some of the criteria upon which this yard was graded. Overall, it is a lovely landscape with an arched gateway into what looks to be a promising back garden.

In another nominated yard the homeowner was out tending to her front bed. There was a raised bed  of large proportion full of colourful annuals near the front door.  She was minding another area nearby when I approached.  She was thrilled to be nominated and as I explained the nomination, she said "but they haven't seen the back garden."  She was proud of her back yard and it is obvious she puts a lot of love and care into maintaining her yard.  She definitely contributes to the beauty of her community.  Though several of the roads are being torn up in the city's own efforts of maintenance and beautification, the homeowners in this area prove a certain pride and awareness of the beauty a garden brings into the world.  I wish I could have nominated many more.

In another yard, the extensive use of large full blooming hanging planters is eye-catching from the road.  As you go up the front walk there is a water feature hidden from street view and more lush plantings.  Statuary complements the yard well.

This garden above is one I nominated for colour, use of boulders that totally complement the style of the house, and statuary that is in keeping with the overall feel.  Note the use of different hard surfaces too.  It caught my eye as we drove by.

Though this property doesn't have a front garden per se, the planters are colourful, complement the style and welcome the eye.  I love the railing planters on the upper balcony.  Seeing these have made me reconsider using bacopa in planters again as I have decided upon a red and white theme for all my planters for next year.  (It will be Canada's 150th birthday, afterall.)  With all the new trailing plants now available to gardeners, bacopa seems to have lost favour but this homeowner proves that it is still in vogue to use this white flowering trailer. This home garden was not amongst those nominated but certainly deserves a nod.

I wish I'd taken more photos of the home gardens that were nominated as there were many attractive landscapes in this area.  This front step of another not on the list of nominees caught my eye of course for the pair of horse statuary on the front steps.  The planters are beautiful too, of course.

As a volunteer with Front Yards in Bloom, I also placed signs and did preliminary judging on some public spaces.  Those that proceeded to the final round of judging in Public Spaces category included a church and rectory garden and a community hall garden.  Also close in the category was a lovely garden at a hospice and shelter.  The garden is behind a wall and not particularly visible from the road which prevented it from being seen in a neighbourhood that is a bit derelict.  Beautifully kept perennials offer brightness and cheer in what can be a dark and dreary world for those in need of the hospice's services.  Though it didn't receive high marks in a few of the categories because it lacks visibility, it certainly contributes to the beauty of this neighbourhood.  No photos were taken of this site to protect the privacy of those in the vicinity.

The following photos are of two of the public spaces nominated for Front Yards in Bloom.  The first four belong to a school in the inner city area.  They have a natural garden within a fenced and locked area, pretty colourful planters and a lovely designed front garden.  Significant effort and pride of place is evident.  Being summer and school being out, the natural garden could use some tending, where it lost points, but I want to give kudos for the program and the participants who made this stately old school with magnificent architecture even more appealing to the beholder through their gardening.  Two signs were placed, one by the front door and another at one of the gardens, to indicate that their efforts have contributed to the beautification of the neighbourhood.

The community hall in the Parkdale/Evansdale area (seen above)  received top marks for contribution to the beauty of the neighbourhood.  From the boulevard to the treetops, this garden is colourful and unique among its peers.  It is well-kept and colourful, just like the paintings on the exterior wall by the main entrance.  It feels like a big welcome to all in the community.

The Front Yards in Bloom program is a city-wide initiative to acknowledge those who make a positive contribution to their community through their gardens.  This is the second year I have been fortunate to participate in the program.  While it is fun to meander through neighbourhoods to see the gardens, it was a real eye-opener to see the gardens in the public spaces and to realize the extent a simple concept such as public gardens can contribute to the sense of a neighbourhood. I haven't covered all of the nominated in this post but suffice it to say all of the gardens regardless of size and budget contribute to the health and beauty of our city.  It is a sharp contrast in the inner city and yet I know there are those who take gentle pleasures in minding the flowers.  We need beauty in all places and these public spaces, some in the most humble of circumstance, justify their desirability.

#CityofEdmonton #yeg #FrontYardsinBloom #gardensinpublicspaces

Landscape Vignettes into Cohesive Design by Volunteer Gardener (Tennessee)

While this video was filmed on location in Tennessee, there are design insights that we can adapt to our own landscape, plus it is a gorgeous garden to tour.

Living Works of Art: Bonsai

25 July 2016

Miniature Japanese Inspired Garden

While browsing my saved channels on Youtube, I came across this tutorial for a miniature Japanese inspired garden.  Since fairy gardens are all the rage right now for both indoors and out (my miniature hobbit garden is growing well where it sits on my front porch in the eastern sun), this video will definitely appeal to those crafty readers out there who are eager to take on a new challenge.  Isn't that a cute lantern? The waterfall and bamboo water features are very clever.  I got some really good ideas from this.   Give this one a try!

Provincial Emblem - the Alberta Rose

Alberta wild rose growing in a ravine in Edmonton, Alberta.

Rosa acicularis, the Alberta Rose or Prickly Rose is the provincial floral emblem for Alberta.  It was adopted as such by the province in 1930.  It can be found throughout the province growing in the wild. 

The Alberta rose is a thorny shrub reaching heights of up to 5 feet.  It blooms with small bright pink individual (not clustered) fragrant flowers May through August.  If the shrub is not dead-headed, rose hips develop late summer to early autumn and are an excellent source of vitamin C.  Rose hips are often used in the making of jelly, syrup, and jam.  

24 July 2016

Friends of the Library Garden Tour - Site #9 Rock Garden Extraordinnaire

This garden was a previous tour favourite so thanks to popular demand it joined the tour again this year.  When you see what this husband and wife team did with the help of a backhoe, you'll be amazed!  Each quartz and granite boulder, including some petrified wood pieces, were sourced and placed by the couple.  The sculptures were found during their travels in the states and Mexico (I think he said).  The dinosaur garden is incredible!

Alpine plants, ground covers and trailing evergreens trail over the edges of the boulders and crevices while water features including waterfalls and ponds are nestled within.  This property made my jaw drop!  It is intrinsic in minute details with rare plants and unique metal pieces of garden art.  The art often is placed to tell a mini story.  As you stroll the grass pathways or take the rock walkways, another scene unfolds before you.  There are a few garden scenes within this landscape.  I took so many photos here but don't worry.  I have not included all of them.  Just enough to give you a taste of what a rockery could be.

This was the last garden we had a chance to visit, leaving four that we were not able to get to.  We left the rock garden just before 5.  It was a long day and totally worth it.  We'd had rain, cloudy weather and sunshine.  Fortunately we were prepared and determined to persevere regardless.  I'm so glad we did!

Sadly, this may be the last year for the Friends of the Library Garden Tour as those who have been behind the scenes have indicated.  I'm glad M and A got to come along for the finale.  Maybe next year we'll have to do the Edmonton Horticulture Society garden tour.  The 2016 tour tickets sold out a few days ago and the event ran yesterday and today.  Excellent weather this weekend for garden enthusiasts!  

23 July 2016

Friends of the Library Garden Tour Site #8 - Another estate garden

Just over 4 acres, this property really began it's development in the last 4 1/2 years and is a work in progress.  A long pond with waterfall and a creek, shrub and perennial beds, and a fairy garden maintained by their 7 year old daughter are the features of this estate garden.  We didn't explore other areas of the yard as new sod was just laid the day before so we checked out the water feature and surrounding area.  Not seen are a birdhouse collection and vegetable garden.

Many new ponds suffer from algae bloom.

We found the Loch Ness monster!



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