Friday, February 9, 2018

Best Trees For Calgary; Linden


          If you're looking for a beautiful, fragrant, mess free, shade tree, Linden is for you. Sometimes called Lime tree in England and Basswood in North America Linden is an attractive pyramidal shade tree easily grown in our climate. Linden is of the genus Tilia which means heart shaped referring to the leaves.


     There are a few varieties of Linden available in our area, mainly Dropmore, above, with its huge leaves and Little-Leaf varieties, Glenlevin and Corinthian. Also some varieties developed in Manitoba especially for our prairie climate Harvest Gold, Golden Cascade, and fast growing Norlin. Most of these trees grow to about 25' to 50' tall x 20'to40' wide although in Calgary I haven't seen them much over 25' tall. There are many of these trees in Saskatoon where they grow quite large and have naturalized a little too so we know it's not cold that slows them down!


     Lindens have a fragrant tiny flower in early summer described as somewhere between honey and lemon peel, followed by tiny nut like seeds accompanied by a ribbon shaped bract a little like a Maple wing which is another attractive feature through the summer. The fragrance is attractive to both humans and bees thus making this a very valuable tree in any landscape. It is widely stated that the flowers and sometimes leaves make a pleasant tea as all parts are edible. There were many uses for this tree in the past including lumber/ carving, Bast (from which we derive Basswood) a fiber derived from the bark used for fabric and also for honey. In Europe there are claims of Lindens as old as 1000 to 2000 years old so we know these are very long lived trees.


     I don't know why there weren't many Lindens in Calgary until recently, obviously they have been growing in Saskatoon for many years in a moderately similar climate. I recall seeing my first Linden in Calgary at the Prehistoric Park that was built in the 1980's growing happily amongst the recreated rockscapes. Years later my better trained eye for dendrology spotted this Little Leaf Linden variety, above, growing in Reader's Rock Garden, the biggest drawback is that we don't know the variety or year planted or where collected from, very interesting though.


     I spotted this row of Lindens in front of St. Mary's Cathedral in Calgary, they must be several decades old. Here you can see the typical straight trunk and pyramidal form excellent for streets and yards. These trees need little to no pruning are a great shade tree. Even though there are small seeds they are touted as being great for patios and decks and are very tidy and maintenance free. They should be planted in a site that is neither too wet or too dry, although this sounds "Goldilocks" I would say don't plant in a low spot or amend soil that has a lot of clay and as with most trees in Calgary water well when young.


     I'm glad the City is planting more Lindens around Calgary, the attractive leaves, fragrant flowers and beautiful shape add a lot to our landscape. Fall colour is yellow, given a long enough season of course, sometimes though the leaves do not change colour at all depending on the individual. The bare twigs are thick and dark making it attractive in the winter as well. These trees leaf out moderately early in our area and are listed as slow to moderate growth. I think they would be fine for a specimen tree in most yards and as we can see great for boulevards too. Undemanding and practically maintenance free make this one of my top recommendations.



Tuesday, September 5, 2017

August 2017 In Photos


August, this one like no other as the record breaking heat continues. Calgary could be no other way weather wise, completely capricious from the previous year which was cold and wet, this year has been unprecedented in heat and dryness. This month also had some personal challenges as my father passed away, there was not much time for garden enjoyment as planning a funeral and hosting family took most of my time. I hope to get back to more regular blogging as the summer winds down. It has been a memorable month! Above Annabelle Hydrangea bloomed nicely through the heat and drought.



My epiphytic cactus blooms every August in a mostly shaded location outside, this year was the best yet! I know, I post pics of this every year but I always find the giant blooms so amazing, this photo benefits from some interesting lighting.


I picked up this New Zealand Flax at half price, end of season sale, the tag calls it Rainbow Sunrise "Maori Sunrise" . Of course these are only hardy on the west coast of Canada, or maybe you've seen them in California too? I will try to overwinter this plant indoors and let you know how that goes. In warm climates these plants grow several feet tall so this may take several years, until then I will enjoy the vibrant colours at any size.


This Piri Piri Chili and a few other types of chilies I grew enjoyed the heat this year. Around here we are lucky to harvest chilies before frost. This one was pretty hot, very nice! I hope to write about the vegetable gardening I have undertaken this year very soon.


This pot of decorative Artemesias did very well with the heat too, the hanging bamboo does not seem to like so much intense heat however.


Shrimp Plant seemed quite at home with the heat and very regular watering, blooming almost constantly through the summer.


Cannas and Sweet Potato Vine were quite at home with the hot weather too, performing very well all summer.


I figured out if you are having an eclipse you can take a picture of the sun and while looking at he screen move your phone around a little until you get a second tiny image of the sun which will show the image of the sun backwards but you'll be able to see the progress of the eclipse. So, if you can zoom in to the tiny speck to the left of the sun in this photo you'll be able to see the eclipse at it's peak in my area. Being in South Western Canada we had 80% coverage so it did get eerily dark and chilly for a few moments there.


A view of the vegetable boxes in mid summer, there are many leafy greens we can't keep up to eating!


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Living Fossils in Calgary Update


 Last year I planted two living fossils in my Calgary garden as a trial experiment and have some good news! My article from July 2016 explains all you need to know about the two species, Ginko and Kentucky Coffee Tree, that have their histories firmly planted in prehistory.

Last fall gave us some freezing daytime temperatures in early October so the Ginkos were barely able to turn yellow before freezing and the Kentucky Coffee just dropped all its leaves when the cold hit. The winter gave us extreme cold, well into the minus 30's with plenty of snow, some of the coldest weather I can remember in decades. The bad news is the potted Ginko did not survive but the one in ground did as did the Kentucky Coffee, so we now know that these trees can survive some of our coldest winters.

Spring came on slowly but May got hot and back on track for our growing season, both these trees leaf out in late May when frost is no longer a danger ( most of the time) even the Kentucky Coffee which is supposed to be so late was only a week or two behind most trees in leafing out, they probably appear bare because the buds are extremely tiny.

The surviving Ginko is very slow on growth, like none at all, just leaves. The Ginko in the pot actually grew about 8 inches or so which makes me wonder if it's a difference in individuals or just a better location issue?


This Ginko receives about a half day of sun and also had very little, if any, winter kill, also no pests in the summer.

Kentucky Coffee Tree is also very slow growing, the one I have maybe grew a few millimetres  but seems to have come thru the winter quite easily! This tree also has zero pests and seems to love our hot summer this year.

So far there have been no problems growing these trees in Calgary, in our climate it's always worth trying something new.






July 2017 In Photos


     In true Calgary style this summer has been the extreme opposite of last summer. Where last year we set records for rainfall from June to August, this year is shaping up to be the hottest on record! It has rained only a few days since May and the temperatures have ranged from about 25 to 35 C ( 78 to 96F) since then as well. The meteorologists say that August is on track for above normal temperatures so it will likely be the hottest summer ever recorded. Above a mixed perennial bed of Iris, Chicago Apache Daylily, Snow in Summer and Red Sedum.


The hottest temperature ever recorded in Calgary is around 39 degrees, it has never hit 40C or 100F because of our high elevation but 35 C is about as hot as a summer day can get in these parts.


This Adelaide Hoodless Rose bloomed quite nicely through July.


We are trying some Goose Necked Gourds this year, I don't think we have a long enough growing season for Gourds but the white flowers are quite interesting.


I recently planted a Pardon Me Daylily for a hot corner, they are supposed to have the reddest flower of the daylilies which is probably true, certainly the darkest.


Another experiment, Picotee Morning Glory, even though I started these early they don't seem to grow much, not like a vine at all. This one bloomed at only a few inches tall, colour me confused! I'm used to morning glories growing 4 or 5 feet tall so I don't think I would recommend this variety, nice flower though!


One of my favourites, Cockscomb Celosia, are excelling in the hot temperatures this year.


This Canna was given to us by my sister in law in Ottawa, it comes out of winter storage no problem for many years now. The tropical foliage is always a summer delight.


The wild Saskatoon berries were very nice this year perhaps due to warm weather while flowering. These "blueberries of the Prairies" are very nice in pies or other desserts, I picked and froze a large bag for later.


The Goldenrod is early and plentiful this year. I always thought it fun that European gardeners really fell in love with this plant while here it grows wild in any field.


The new vegetable patch has already given us Kale, Snap Peas and Swiss Chard, later we are hoping for Zucchini, Beans and Corn.


This Dr.Ruppel Clematis grows and blooms happily amongst the thorns of Japanese Aralia.


Chameleon Plant Houttuynia grows slowly in a moist and partly shaded spot, it's borderline hardy here so I'll let you know how it goes.


Looking Glass Brunnera brightens this shady corner.






Saturday, June 17, 2017

Readers' Rock Garden Revisited


     Back in August when I wrote my first article on Readers' Rock Garden the season was coming to an end and it is not a very floriferous time. I was trying to time my spring visit with the blooming of the rare Iris collection but I seemed to be too early, however, the rest of the garden did not disappoint!


This blue Gentian excels in the rock garden environment and is just the most intense blue one can see in nature. Above is an unknown plant to me, although I have seen it in other locations, it looks like a type of peony like an ancestor of peonies we have today. It seems to do very well in Calgary so I'd love to know what it is.


A close up of the Gentian, these plants are native to mountainous regions of Europe so are quite at home at our high altitude.


After the restoration a few years ago we can see how this garden was intended to look. It really is something to behold and one can see how this garden rivaled gardens of the West Coast and became an attraction in Western Canada.


Another angle shows the Icelandic Poppies in bloom amongst the collection of sandstone blocks arranged by William Reader himself.


What is likely Siberian Iris graces the driveway up to the house.


From the top of the rock path looking down to the driveway is some Ostrich Fern and the yellow Globe Flower which I remember my Grandmother in her English accent calling it Trollius. I have always thought of this relative of Ranunculus as old fashioned, and like all the plants in this garden they are, having been replanted from the original plant lists from almost 100 years ago.


One of the largest masses of Forget-Me-Not I have probably seen, a display this large of the tiny flower takes it from cute to stupendous!




Some of the intriguing pathways, each area highlights a different collection yet is unified by its sheer lushness that is a complete juxtaposition to the Great Plains that the City is built on.


I noticed this unusual Green Ash, of course we have millions in the City, but this one has such a fine and lacy appearance and is also loaded with seeds. Perhaps a forgotten variety? In fact when you look at the garden plants as a whole everything is quite delicate and lacy, this makes me think of aesthetics and how they change over time.


Speaking of unusual trees I missed this Horse Chestnut back in August but when in bloom I  almost couldn't believe my eyes! These are not common or even really known to grow here at all but here we are. This is why this garden must be used as a resource for the the City and its horticulturalists. Why haven't we been planting Horse Chestnuts for the last 100 years? Like many trees in our region they do not grow to their maximum height so I don't see how they would be a problem like in warmer regions. This one although very old is only about 15 feet tall but still bears the massive flower clusters.


This Shooting Star was a favourite of William Reader, there are many throughout the garden. This is an example of some of the native species he collected.



Here are two Lilac types that I am not familiar with, they are probably no longer available in cultivation. The lilacs we have now are so much more robust, brighter, bigger, with more scented flowers. These old varieties are still really nice though both of these had delicate leaves and flowers and you can see how they were probably used for their genetics for the lilacs we grow today. The white lilac had very delicate flowers but an unusual scent a little like soap not in a good way.


Some of the perennial beds with a large decorative rhubarb. I'm glad I revisited again at this time of year, late spring, it is when these gardens are at their prime! For the full background see my article from August 2016.