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.













Thursday, June 15, 2017

Communities That Garden; Silver Springs Botanical Garden


     Back in May we took a trip to the Silver Springs Botanical Garden in North West Calgary. The unveiling of 1000 red and white tulips, planted for Canada's 150th, was taking place although the weather had been so hot the tulips were a little past their prime. I had never been here as it is a fair drive from my part of the city but it is well worth it. The gardens are 100% volunteer started in 2007 after the planting of a Birth Place Forest (there's a few around the city planted in honour of babies born that year) and carved out of a grassy strip/sound barrier from two major freeways. It is quite amazing as there are many grass strip/ sound barrier walls in almost any major city but none look quite like this! There are 12 distinct areas in the 1,347 sq metres like the shade garden, fruit garden, low H20, Old Post garden, Oval garden and Shakespeare garden. I have learned that this is the only Shakespeare garden west of Ontario, named for plants mentioned by the Bard.


The Wall garden runs quite a distance and has a South West exposure which is very beneficial to many plants in a setting like this with the sound barrier providing shelter and residual heat for the plants.


Here a cherry tree comes into bloom as perennials begin to grow.


Here some perennials and vines in the Old Post garden so named for a post left over from an old ranch.


The Rose Bowl, not looking like much this early in the season however the planting of Concorde Barberry was flourishing, I am not familiar with this variety but it apparently does very well here and has a beautiful compact habit with very dark foliage.




Some shots from around the Half Moon garden and Shakespeare garden.


Fruit garden at the peak of spring bloom, mainly apples but also some pears and various berries.


All along the edge of the grass strip which is also an off leash area are various garden beds, well maintained and cared for.


The Labyrinth is another highlight, made from nine thousand bricks and interplanted with decorative thyme, this seemed very popular with kids and parents tracing the entire path!


Here the bricks and thyme form the labyrinth pattern.


Just north of the Labyrinth is a curly que planting of columnar aspens, in the centre a brick circle. It's a nice effect and best use of columnar aspens I have seen yet!



One of the volunteers was out promoting a new feature for the garden, QR codes, if you have this app on your phone you can simply scan the code and a list of plants will pop up like here in the Lo H2O garden (plants that need little water, if you don't get it). Then you can identify and read about all of the plants in this garden, instead of looking for a tag. I love the idea and find this is a very useful resource.

     This garden is well worth the field trip, I should go again at prime bloom season. There is a website for more information and directions although I found it quite easily and have never been there before. I don't know whats in the water up there but I wish more communities cared and took the time for projects like this! This garden is an example for communities all over the country and is a valuable resource for gardeners in this area!