August 19, 2011
One of the better plants for attracting pollinators and nectaring insects is the Blazingstar or Gayfeather, Liatris spicata. Even grasshoppers seem to like ‘em.
A native alternative for Alberta gardens would be the Dotted Blazingstar, Liatris punctata.
June 19, 2011
Of all the plants that grow in our garden, it is the humble and unpretentious Bigroot Geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) that is the most appreciated. Working quietly in the background, it serves as our most dependable and adaptable groundcover. From full sun to full shade, in soil dry to moist, this plant thrives and slowly spreads in all zones from 2 to 9. It begins blooming in the beginning of June and it will continue through to mid-July. The leaves are attractive and fragrant when touched, and as a buggy bonus, the flowers appeal to bumblebees. There are a few varieties available, from the showy magenta pink, ’Bevan’s Variety’; through pale pink ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’ to the blushing white ‘Alba’. The bigroot geranium can find a place in most gardens as a groundcover around the base of shrubs and larger perennials. They are particularly good around roses and other leggy shrubs. There is even a variety with variegated leaves, Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Variegatum’, that tends to be a bit more fussy in its requirements (it does best in richer soil and keep it out of full sun), but it can begin to revert, so attention must be paid to pinch-out new all-green growth†.
In the back garden.
A generous groundcover...
Geranium macrorrhizum, the Bigroot or Cranesbill geranium–a garden stalwart that is an essential perennial in our landscape.
† not a quality desirable in the low-maintenance garden.
June 17, 2011
This is probably the most common german iris seen in the Edmonton area, a purple-violet with white.
Someone once called the more over-bred and frilled german irises “…a flower designed by a cow.”, but this one is still within the bounds of decency. All the more so before it opens fully, while the raindrops are still glistening on the petals, and the beard is still modestly tucked away.
I opted not to make this image soft, hazy and romantic. Sharp and crisp rules when it comes to bearded irises. I’ll save the glow for the more elegant Siberian iris…
May 23, 2011
Spring has been good at the home garden. The Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica) and marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) have done their bit for the year, and the daffodils are fading. Golden Spurge (Euphorbia polychoroma) and Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) are now the highlight of the gardens. Globeflower (Trollius sp.) are brightening the pond border, filling in where the marsh marigolds have left off. In dappled shade the hosta spears are beginning to open, but in the full shade of our back garden spruce, the spear-tips are just starting to show. Our humble group of trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum), now reduced to two, have a single flower developing. Lording over all, the apple tree is in full bloom, making the east-facing patio a particularly pleasurable place to sit in the early morning light.
My major chores this year are on two fronts: complete renovation of the kitchen garden, and a reworking of the front west-facing garden.
IN 1994 our kitchen garden was first developed with raised beds–beds retained with scaffolding planks that I had scavenged. Over the years these have slowly begun to rot, and slumping soil and has forced me to tear the beds apart and to begin afresh. I am abandoning the concept of retained raised beds and going back to the simpler unrestrained Chinese (or French?) style of kitchen garden. After years of amending the soil and composting turf we now actually have an excess of soil, and I am using this soil, amended with our compost, to refresh areas of the front garden.
So what needs to be ‘refreshed’ in front garden? We have no lawn there–it is composed of two large beds on either side of the walk way to our house. They are mixed beds, with a blend of trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials. Over the years, walking through the beds to do garden clean-up and to plant new specimens has led to compacted soil. Not only that, but my Shasta daisies were behaving more like weeds than the upright citizens of the garden they are meant to be. Frustrated with their smell, and their tatty appearance after bloom, have decided to rid the garden of them completely. I also had to remove one large specimen of golden knapweed (Centaurea macrocephala), which is now listed as a noxious weed. The gaps left by these plants, and the areas that have been compacted, can now be refreshed by spading them over and mixing in the soil/compost mix from the kitchen garden. Once they are replanted, I will add mulch and we will be ready for the season ahead.
May 13, 2011
The final results of the Alberta Perennial Trials have been posted at Agriculture and Rural Development, Alberta. These are the results for the years 2008 to 2010, and it marks the official end to the program.
I have not had a chance to look through these yet–let me know if anything unusual is in the mix!
Click here for a copy of Alberta Perennial Trial Garden Evaluation 2008-2010 – Introduction (893 kb)