Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Caring for Hyacinth (or any spring bulbs) Indoors and Out


     I have been buying Hyacinth flowers for Valentines Day for the last 30 years. Way back in those days when I was a young art student I had read about the Greek Myth of Hyacinthus. There are many versions but it ends in a Hyacinth sprouting from the blood of said character. Thinking this was one of the most romantic and most gay thing I had heard of in antiquity I adopted it as a way to "reclaim gay history" which is how we talked in art school in those days!


     Here is a Baroque looking painting of the story, look it up if you like, it involves a love triangle, a discus, one jealous God and one more figure of Mythology sprouting into some kind of plant, there are many stories like this about flowers and trees from the Ancient Greeks.

     I usually buy a potted Hyacinth or a few, sometimes they come in 3's, right around this time of year from my local grocery store, look around, get a deal! You can usually tell the colour from the bud, if not the tag. My preference is purple or the Delft Blue variety, you can see the streaks of colour on most buds as they emerge from the leaves except for white which will appear light green.
Place in a bright or sunny window, it says not to but I've had no problems in full sun, and water regularly. The blooms will fill your house with the scent of spring for a week or so. 
After the flowers have faded leave the green stem and leaves to wither naturally, keep watering on a regular basis, once or twice a week, also fertilize once or twice a month for the next few months. By May place the whole plant outside to finish off its growth cycle, continue fertilizing and watering until around July, by this time they should be fading away completely. Leave in a dry place indoors or out until September. They must be kept dry during this rest period over the summer.


     Hopefully you will have marked a spot where you can plant Hyacinth bulbs back in April or May when you know where all the bulbs you have are planted? Don't make my mistake and drive a shovel into perfectly innocent bulbs in the fall because you are sure there is nothing there! Anyway, simply remove the bulbs from the dry soil and the dried leaves and plant 6 to 8 inches deep around late September. Next Spring you will have new Hyacinth to delight you for many years! You can also do this for any bulb you may buy during this time of year, Tulip, Daffodil, Crocus etc.



Tuesday, November 8, 2016

October in Photos

   
     October was a struggle between two weather patterns that brought us some pretty strange moments. It was not the usual warm days and frosty nights but rather a continuation of Pacific moisture that brought us fog and snow! In fact Thanksgiving was unprecedented for the cold weather, just a few degrees above freezing, the local meteorologists had to look several decades into the past to find one nearly as cold in the records. So I missed my very favourite time of year with leaf changing colour mostly because a lot of leaves will not change after prolonged cold, however, by the end of the month we were seeing temperatures quite above normal so I could get in a few hundred spring bulbs! This is likely the last of monthly round ups as our growing season has ended, from now until March it is pretty much winter. I do hope to write a few articles over the winter though so stay tuned! Until next spring enjoy October in photos!



I spotted these wild asparagus in my local park. apparently they do very well in our climate and can naturalize easily. I don't recall them turning such a brilliant yellow but with strange weather we often get strange results with plants. I thought these asparagus were quite something with their fine foliage!


This is either a Choke Cherry or Mayday or some such genus, either way I thought the orange was really outstanding.


This Hawthorn turned a deep shade of red like many kinds of trees in the apple family.


Even through the cold and snow these Mountain Ash maintained a good show through October, they are some of the last trees to lose their leaves and among the few that turn red.


The snow seemed to fall for days on end, however, the ground is still warm so most of it melts quite quickly and although it looks cold it's often not cold enough to damage plants too much, it's more of a weighing branches down issue.


Fog is a little unusual around these parts so when it goes on for a few days it starts to feel like we're back on the West Coast! It's interesting for a while but after many days of cloud and fog and snow it begins to weigh on the soul.




I'm glad I got these Ornamental Kale this year as it has turned out to actually be a very mild late fall and I still have them outside right now in the second week of November! I did move them inside the house during our snowy period though, they may have survived the temperatures but the snow may have been damaging in other ways. And who doesn't want half a dozen plants and planters in their living room for the holiday!?!?


I've had these Italian Asters for years and I've seen them shrug off -10C and heavy wet snow, blooming happily away well into November!










Wednesday, October 5, 2016

September in Photos


     As Marianne Faithfull sang, "The summer dying, September lives in flame." I find this month bittersweet, everything has grown to it's full potential and yet lives on borrowed time as the days grow shorter and colder, one never knows when we will get a frosty night! September was still shaped by our continuous strange weather pattern, a few very nice days followed by a few very rainy days. I often look forward to September to enjoy some warm and dry weather to enjoy the last few weeks in the garden, but it was not as nice as normal. Above some of the changing wild foliage around here, Manitoba maples, Saskatoon berries and wild roses put on a show.


Robert Kemp Canna 


Ricinus with its prickly seed pod.



Amur maple is one of the first to change in my yard.


A few of this years tomato crop.


A mix of poppies bursts into bloom.


Trembling Aspen turns a bright yellow before the long winter season.


Trembling Aspen and Spruce are two of the most common tree species in South Western Alberta.


Ornamental Kale is a must have for the fall season, these tough plants can last through October and part of November depending how cold it gets.


Peacock Kale has a finely cut leaf.


Manitoba Maple "Sensation" is a nice cultivar of the familiar wild species that turns many shades of red and orange and yellow.


The same Sensation Manitoba Maple from a different angle a few days later.


A Staghorn Sumac catches the last rays of September sun.


My Linda Campbell Rose bloomed for the third time this year, which has never happened before! It also has some canes as tall as the fence which is almost 6' or 2m.




Some of the landscape in my area, even these scrubby areas of wild trees and shrubs look nice in the fall.


Once in a while a corn cob from the decorative Japanese stripped corn grows to full maturity. They can be kept for fall decoration.



Friday, September 23, 2016

Spring Bulbs to Plant Now in Calgary


     With winter just around the corner it's maybe hard to believe that we aren't done with gardening just yet. Right about now, mid September, is the time to be planting spring bulbs. Although we have a short and unpredictable spring there are many spring bulbs that we can grow successfully in Calgary. I have tried many in my garden so here are my tips and tricks.

     Choose a location that is sunny and soil that is moderately fertile, you can add compost if you need. Remember that trees are bare in the early spring so sites are sunnier than when you are planting now. Most bulbs do well close to the foundation of your house, near a walkway or other such heat generating surface. All bulbs need their foliage to generate energy for next years flowers so plant other perennials near bulbs to mask the foliage as it withers thru the spring and summer. After planting bulbs water and fertilize well, cover with a mulch of leaves, sometimes wire mesh is required to keep leaves from blowing away and squirrels out.

Daffodils,
     
     Have you ever seen daffodils growing in a place like Victoria BC? Growing wild on grassy slopes all over the city. Surprise! Daffodils do not grow like that in Calgary. But with some effort they do OK in certain sites. I have found daffodils do best near a house or heated building in a south facing location. Daffodils like to be completely dry thru the summer but consistently moist thru the fall until freeze up so you can see the challenge we have growing them here. I mulch daffodil bulbs heavily in the fall to retain moisture and protect from the very coldest of winter weather. My daffodils have grown for about a decade but seem to need replanting soon as they are losing vigor. There have been many years when daffodils close to my house were ready to bloom in April and I had to pick them all before a return to -10C or more weather was set to hit for one last winter hurrah. The flowers will not usually survive such temperatures but the plants will be OK, just think of it as nature forcing you to really enjoy your efforts with indoor flowers! The most common variety of daffodil is King Alfred or a derivation they do the best in Calgary. You can experiment with other varieties like the one pictured above, this one did all right for a few years and then expired.

Tulips,

     Tulips are descended from a species that grows in mountainous regions of  Turkey so fortunately it is one of a few things that actually likes growing in our climate! Over the past 400 or so years since tulips were brought to Europe there have been many innovations in their shapes, colours, blooming time and any other aesthetic quality there can be, these are called divisions and there are 14. Don't worry you don't need to memorize the tulip divisions but do look for bloom time usually labeled early, mid spring and late. Early for us is usually around early April, mid spring around May and late is often June, so you can have tulips for many months if you plan well! Tulips grow easily in Calgary, just plant in a moderately sunny location in good soil and you will be rewarded in the spring. Many tulips, however, do not come back in following years so don't think of them as a perennial. Although some tulips bloom again for a few years it is best to replant every year or two. There are so many kinds of tulips though who doesn't want to experiment with as many as possible!?



These Kaufmanii tulips are the earliest blooming in my garden, some years the first week of April! They also naturalize quite well, that is to say they spread and grow into a bigger patch every year.


Tulip Tarda, also known as a Species Tulip is the ancestor of all tulips, they like a hot and dry location and need zero care. Unfortunately they are only a few inches tall and are barely noticable, I would suggest planting several for any kind of impact.


Parrot tulips bloom very late in Calgary, sometimes late June, but are very interesting and rewarding to grow. Mine rebloomed in the garden for quite a few years.


This was a tulip named "Calgary" I thought it would be funny to have. There is a whole series of tulips named for Canadian cities. I wasn't really impressed with this variety, short and moderately late on bloom time although the flowers lasted for several weeks.


I think this one came in a package called "Mysterious Mix" or some such thing so I don't know the exact variety, it was quite nice though.


So many of us want a true black flower and grow the old variety "Queen of the Night" it is a very nice Darwin type tulip but a very late bloomer in Calgary.


This is either a double or peony type tulip, quite unusual and wonderful to behold!

Hyacinth,


These are among my favourite of flowers in the world, the scent is heavenly. Hyacinths are not very hardy in Calgary so must be grown close to a house, mulched well and covered with plenty of snow all winter. They will not grow well in the open. Hyacinths are very early to bloom though and pretty cold tolerant too, I've never had a problem of them coming into bloom and freezing later for example. Hyacinths come in a few colours from purple to hot pink to white and everything in between, they are also beloved by bees in the very early spring when not much else is blooming.


Grape Hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum,


Grape Hyacinth is extremely easy to grow, naturalizes easily and blooms reliably. Although fairly short the masses of blooms make up for that. These bulbs bloom around early May and last for several weeks. They are best planted in informal groups en masse, plant 100 or so throughout your yard for a good show. These bulbs multiply easily and also self seed so you will have these for many years! One of the best for our area.


Crocus,


Crocus are also very rewarding and easy to grow in our climate. They usually bloom anywhere from March to early April depending on the weather. They are, of course, extremely short so plant a lot! I have had these for many years so I don't even remember the variety, there are many varieties and they all seem to do quite well. You can plant crocus close to your house for the earliest blooms and the further they are planted away the later they will bloom so you can have crocus for quite a few weeks in the spring.


Crocuses come in a variety of colours, yellow, white, purple, and pink which are the true 'fall blooming' crocus.


Here the variety 'Flower Record' catches the late spring sun.

Chionodoxa,


The latin name means Glory of the Snow which is often it's common name too. These tiny but extremely resilient flowers grow easily in Calgary. They are adapted to high mountainous regions and can bloom thru early spring snowfalls quite happily. Plant a lot because they are very tiny however the little blooms are like tiny blue lights in the garden. Chionodoxa naturalizes easily and self seeds so once planted rewards you for many years.


Siberian Squill, Scilla,




Another of the very tiny but very tough early bulbs. Like Chinodoxa these bulbs grow easily for us in Calgary and naturalize as well. They are available in a few colours from blue-purple to white and pinkish. Plant at least 100 to begin with and over the years you will have many  blooming in the very early spring.

Allium,


Alliums are related to onions and garlic and also do extremely well in Calgary! There are several varieties of Allium ranging in colour from pink, purple, white, and yellow as well as  varying in height and bloom time. You can start with only a few and if left to seed like the picture above form a large clump. This variety is "Purple Sensation", I've had it for many years and never worry about where it wants to seed, after a few years the tiny chive like plants grow large enough to bloom in the familiar purple flower head. The leaves of most Alliums wither and turn yellow quite quickly in the late spring so plant with something that can take it's place, the  spent flower head seed pods last indefinitely and you can leave them through the winter if you like.


This Allium is called Ivory Queen and is only a few inches tall however it has a large flower and interesting large strappy leaves, it also self seeds easily.

Fritillaria,


I've tried a few Fritillaries in Calgary, imperialis, michailovskyi and this one, meleagris which seems to be the most reliable. These bulbs seem to thrive in poor soil and need no care. This variety blooms fairly early. late April, May and also self seeds easily. The down side is that I can no longer grow this due to Red Lily Beetle, this invasive and very destructive introduced beetle has decimated my Fritillaries over the last few years. Now, there is an experimental parasitic wasp being introduced into Alberta to control this terrible beetle so hopefully in the near future we can grow this and other lilies again in our region! If we can get Red Lily Beetle under control I would highly recommend this Frittilary for Calgary.