Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Quick Study In Potted Tree Care

     Back when I lived on the West Coast I had a brief foray into bonsai. The climate of everywhere else in Canada is not conducive to bonsai but I did learn a few things about growing trees in pots. I've been growing this lemon tree for around 15 years, from seed, it is now as tall as me and wider than the average doorway. Of course this is an indoor plant in the winter as growing trees and shrubs in our zone in a pot is an entirely different challenge and article! 
     Like all pot grown plants there comes a time when the roots fill the entire space, pot bound in other terms. When the weather is warm enough and the plant begins growing actively follow these easy steps about every 5 years or so.

Trim any wayward or lanky branches back into a more compact shape. Water well and remove root ball onto a tarp or some such dirt catching surface.

Take a saw or large serrated knife and remove 2 to 3 inches of the thick root ball from all sides.

Place plant back in the pot, fill in the sides with fresh soil. Water well to make sure there are no air pockets. Also a great time to fertilize with a well balanced fertilizer or whatever your plant requires. You do not need the supervision of a Border Collie but it can't hurt!

Do this every 5 years or so, whenever you think your tree might be too pot bound and you can grow indoor/outdoor trees for many years.

June 2018 In Photos

     June is usually a pleasant month but this year was outstanding! Well above average temperatures interrupted occasionally by heavy rain ensured a wonderful start to the growing season.

If you thought there was a lot of fluff from the many poplar species this year you are correct! Last years hot and dry weather apparently stressed the trees and this year they responded by sending out extra seeds. Turns out this fluff is also extremely flammable as the news reported a fire started by careless smoking meeting poplar cotton, who knew?

The Pagoda Dogwood flowered very nicely this year, a favourite of bees.

For some reason this Chestnut I brought from Victoria B.C. over 15 years ago decided to put on a growth spurt and is now over 2 feet tall! Most years it dies to the ground or gets eaten by rabbits, I can't believe it even still grows!

Got this Lungwort or Pulmonaria from a neighbour last fall so it's new for me, the bi coloured flowers are interesting as well as the splotched leaves, I did supply extra water in the hot weather as it got pretty wilted.

Amur Cork, Phelodendron amurense, bloomed profusely but without an opposite sex tree it will not produce any seeds or berries.

Early in June I was surprised to find my Yucca Glauca sending up a flower spike, in only a few weeks the blooms started. The large flowers are thick and waxy however they only last a day before wilting away. I've had these plants for about 10 years and this is the first time blooming.

This white Martagon Lily blooms faithfully every time this year, the delightful blooms lasting a few weeks before fading into obscurity for the rest of the year.

This years vegetable patch, from front, Lettuce and Kale, Peas, Beets and Chard (what I'm calling the Beet Box) and finally Zucchini and Rapini, the Rapini will be gone by July allowing room for the squashes.

Lady Slipper Orchid blooms for many weeks and then just like June is gone before you notice.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Some Incredible Sights

     While out and about on cool days I often come across beautiful gardens and incredible plants, here are a few of my favourites. Above a hillside garden filled with evergreens and perennials, I don't know if I've ever seen so many high grafted and bonsai'd evergreens in one place. This garden should be the cover of a magazine, truly one of the best in Calgary!

Here a pair of two unusual trees in our area both around 20 feet tall or more, on the left a walnut and on the right a silver maple doing very well.

The walnut from above.

Above what appears to be Honey Locust has grown to a height of about 15 feet. I've never seen one growing in Calgary at all so was very surprised.

Another rarity in our zone, Fir, I've never seen a Fir exactly like this before and after looking at the literature is most likely Blue Fir as most other varieties are zone 5 or higher. In a city where a majority of our trees are spruce Fir is such a nice soft contrast, they should be planted much more!

What looks like a Nest Spruce that is very old, I was impressed by the size of this one and wonder if it was planted 50 or more years ago? Truly the largest of this variety I have ever seen.

I remember Korean Maple from my Garden Store days, no one could ever tell me for sure if they really grew here though. Years later I spotted this one growing quite happily which answers my question. In a zone where Japanese Maples do not grow this is as close as we can get, beautiful specimen trees that should definitely be planted more!

I found this quite amusing, it is the Calgary Emergency Centre in the Centre Street Park, and they have used Egyptian Onions (sometimes Walking Onions) in a public mass planting. I thought I was the only proponent of this plant in the world so was quite pleased to see this. Why not? These plants spread willingly, need zero care, have zero pests and are interesting year round.

     There are many beautiful and amazing gardens all over this city, I love being able to see as many as possible in our short season. These gardens are also useful resources to see how plants grow and what can be grown, these pictures bolster my theory that many plants should be tried as you never know what can take root here!

Friday, June 8, 2018

What's Killing My Hedge\ Alternate Hedging Plants

     You have probably noticed, or have, Cotoneaster hedges that have large dead patches or are dead altogether. It is the work of the oyster shell scale insect. The tell tale sign are the small raised squiggly blisters that are all over the branches, below.

     These tiny insects live under their hard scale most of the year so are difficult to control. In late May and early June the eggs hatch and the insect becomes a "crawler" this is when Insecticidal Soap can be used on the plants. Insecticidal Soap is the least toxic option for the environment and for humans and washes off with rain or water, follow the package directions. The only other option is to cut the hedge down, if not too damaged, and it will grow back up again from the roots. The other bad news is that I have noticed this pest on Dogwood, Apple, and Crab apple in our area, the literature lists 130 trees and shrubs that are vulnerable so stay on guard and inspect regularly! If caught early plants can be rescued but if left alone can completely kill specimens.

     This got me thinking about other shrubs we could use as hedging, there is always danger in monoculture that a disease or pest could wipe out one species, it's important to have biological diversity in our environment so we aren't left devastated later on. Below are some candidates for hedging that I gathered just from walking my neighbourhood, I haven't necessarily seen these as hedges but they are worth a try.

Barberry, were banned on the prairies since the early 1900's for giving a disease to wheat, in the early 2000's this problem was overcome and Barberry is welcome once again. This plant was once called Postmans Hedge because it would block even the postman from crossing your lawn because of the numerous thorns. There are several varieties available Rose Glow is probably the tallest. These plants are drought tolerant and have attractive red/burgundy leaves. I think they have great potential as hedge material except watch out for the very prickly stems, they really hurt!

Honeysuckle, the variety I'm thinking of is Lonicera tatarica, which may be hard to find as it's pretty old fashioned now. These shrubs grow wild in my local dog park and were used extensively in my mid century neighbourhood. They take easily to hard pruning and don't grow continually through the season like many shrubs. Honeysuckle blooms in pink, white, and yellow and has thin skinned red berries. They can grow almost 20 feet tall but could be controlled into a hedge very easily, also very hardy hailing from Siberia, drought tolerant and early to leaf out in the spring.

Mock Orange, Philadelphus, Blizzard is the taller variety, up to 7 feet. With it's small leaves and compact growth habit this would be perfect for a hedge with the bonus of orange smelling white flowers. Hardy drought tolerant, easy to grow, a longtime prairie favourite.

Saskatoon, these berry bushes grow wild almost everywhere there is a ravine in Calgary. Also available as nursery stock. The compact habit would easily lend itself to hedging just make sure you get the height you want. The bonuses would be completely hardy, spring flowers, summer berries and attractive fall colour.

Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus, also grows wild in our area and has attractive leaves and white berries in the fall, also available in retail, these shrubs grow about 3 feet tall. These plants sucker easily and can fill in a small area quickly. The only real drawback is the berries turn black after freezing weather. I think they would make a low and informal hedge.

Upright Juniper, probably the best candidates for hedging would be the varieties, Medora, Moonglow and Wichita Blue which can all grow over 20 feet tall. I would think with light trimming these shrubs would make a dense and evergreen barrier. Hardy and drought tolerant Juniper is easily grown in Calgary. The only drawback for making a hedge would be the cost, individual junipers usually sell for over $100.

False Spirea, Sorbaria sorbifolia, is an attractive plant that grows to about 6 feet tall and wide, these plants also have a large white feathery flower head resembling astilbe. These plants spread aggressively and this should be considered wisely. I have seen this as a sort of informal hedge across the prairies and would be great for a large area or space that is bordered by cement.

Dwarf Korean Lilacs, many lilacs are available and many would make excellent hedges, however, as hedging goes I would pick this variety. They can be purchased quite small and will quickly grow into a compact mound. A few close together like the ones above would easily make a dense hedge that also blooms profusely in the spring. I would think a very light trim would be all that's needed to form these into a nice hedge. These plants excel in our area and are very undemanding.

Gooseberry, grows easily, has a pretty leaf and bonus berries! This one down my street grows into a large open shrub but I'll bet if you pruned it it would grow into a nice dense shrub. Alpine Current a close relative is also available and can make a nice hedge in our climate.

Burning Bush, Euonymus elatus, Winged Burning Bush, is a very attractive shrub that turns brilliant red in the fall thus the name. They take easily to trimming and pruning and can grow at least 10 feet tall. These shrubs should be planted in full sun for best fall colour. The only drawback in our area is that Jackrabbits love to eat these shrubs when young and will need winter protection.

Siberian Elm, Ulmus pumila, used as hedge material in Eastern Canada takes extremely well to hard pruning and clipping. This tree may not be available for sale as it is considered invasive. Unchecked this will grow into a large tree, over 50 feet, very quickly. The one I have was a volunteer that I have bonsai'd into 3 balls over only 10 or so years, it is now over 10 feet tall. Drawbacks are it must be trimmed several times a year and leafminer leave the leaves exhausted looking in the summer. Pluses are extremely fast growth about 5' a year, this would make a tall hedge quickly, the trimmed plants get very dense and if you make a mistake will quickly grow back. With all the trimming I have never had this plant bear seeds . Being native to semi-arid regions of Asia this tree became popular as a shelter belt tree across the prairies and is still a common sight, there are many wild specimens around the city.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

May 2018 In Photos

     May turned out fabulous after April looked and felt like the middle of winter, in fact according to CTV  Calgary this was the second warmest May ever recorded, really? what was the first? And the only time since the 1920's there have been two consecutive Mays in a row with no snow! It seemed like the temperature was around 25 to 30C for weeks on end causing everything to burst forth at once. I'm going to say that this is one of the very few Mays, including last year, that Lilacs were blooming on or very near the May long weekend, most years Lilac blooming times can hold off until June.

Here Lilac and Crabapple bloom consecutively, a rare but insanely beautiful thing!

Early May is often a time I put out some houseplants like this Lemon I have been growing for about 15 years. It's a good idea to wash off the dust of winter with the hose, your plants will thank you. Lemon trees are fairly tough as plants go so can withstand cool spring nights, I usually prune this tree back into a nice ball shape at this time of year.

I like when these native Diamond Willows bloom in the spring it reminds me of something exotic.

May in Calgary means May Day Trees, for me it isn't spring until I catch the fragrance of these in the air everywhere.

Buffalo Beans seem to be the second wildflower after Prairie Crocus in the spring, this year seems to be very kind to this plant as there are thousands in my local field.

The blooms of Saskatoon promise us delicious berries later on.

I always love when the tiny leaves of oak appear in the spring. I always remember an old piece of folklore from Native Americans that says when the leaves of the Oak are as big as a mouses ear there is no danger of frost.

I walk past this tree everyday and barely notice it so I thought I would take a pic when it's in it's glory, for a week or two it's the most beautiful tree around!

Closeup of above, also smells gorgeous!

Somehow this butterfly let me get very close. It's always nice when butterflies return in the spring yet we don't think of them like migratory birds but that is what they are doing. Many species of butterfly migrate over the spring to our area as full grown to mate and lay eggs and start the cycle of life all over again. I am glad and a little surprised sometimes the planet is still wild and healthy enough for this to continue!

There are still many Honesuckle bushes in my neighbourhood, popular in the mid-century I rarely see these plants available anymore which is a shame because they are amazing for a couple of weeks in bloom and the rest of the time need little care or attention.

This years weather was really throwing off the early planting schedule but everything seems off to a great start in the vegetable patch.

Of course I am a big fan of VanGogh so I love Iris. For some reason they do not photograph in the colour they appear in life but become more purple in photos.