Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Best Fall Colour in Calgary

Somehow it is the middle of October and we are quickly reaching an end to the growing season! Since we have had such a relatively warm fall with not a lot of frost, or any really!, the shrubs and trees have really put on a show this year! I have been busily snapping pics of my favourites all over my neighbourhood, so enjoy!

 While driving I spotted this tree from a block away and thought what on earth is that!? It's an Ohio Buckeye. Usually they are more in the Orange range in the fall so this took me by surprise. It must be one of the biggest I've ever seen in Calgary, what a beauty!
These were growing near a soccer field, it is some kind of Poplar x hybrid, forgive me I don't know every kind of poplar cross! They seem to turn about the brightest shade of yellow possible, set against a brilliant blue sky and beside a beautiful pine is quite striking!

These Ash trees, which I am guessing are a cultivar of the common Green Ash we have almost everywhere, is likely the variety Autumn Purple. Since it was invented in 1956 my only question is why didn't we plant them 60 years ago?
They seem to grow just the same as Green Ash so I hope in the future they will planted everywhere since we really lack red colour in the fall in this city!
Mountain Ash, a common but beautiful tree for Calgary. Just remember there are two types, American Mountain Ash seen above, is a relatively small rounded tree with large panicles of red berries, large leaves and a plethora of fall colour.

European Mountain Ash is a much larger tree, growing to 30 feet high or more. The leaves and berries are smaller and the fall colour is really variable compared to American Mountain Ash. This one in my neighbourhood is a favourite of mine, lots of orange-red colour in the fall, the one on my property is quite different though, it mostly turns orange-yellow in the fall, if it turns at all, sometimes the leaves are still green until a very hard frost! There are cultivars of this variety which have a smaller more unified form and more reliable colour. The berries of all varieties remain through the winter to be food for Cedar Waxwings and drop all over your patio the rest of the year!
Engleman Ivy, a cousin of Virginia Creeper, grows well in Calgary and I've only put it in here because it is very rare to see it's fall colour. What a shame we often have early frosts that make the leaves drop before it's full fall display. So, given a warm enough season, every few years we will get lucky. I don't think I've ever seen this shade of red in nature very often!

Cutleaf Sumac, a much smaller cultivar of Staghorn and/or Smooth Sumacs, is another shrub we hope the weather holds out for because of it's brilliant show. Also available is the cultivar Tiger Eyes, which is the Staghorn (fuzzy branched) version of this, it has golden summer foliage and bright Orange-Red fall colour.

Of course Staghorn Sumac is in here! Even if the weather gets fairly frosty these guys will turn red, purple, orange.
Yeah I have a Japanese Aralia! It does OK in a very sheltered spot close to the house and well mulched in the fall, it is curiously spiney on the stalks and the leaves. It is rare for it to turn a colour in the fall around here but really quite something!
Pagoda Dogwood, like the native dogwoods turns all shades of Orange and Red, perhaps a little darker though, always a nice show.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Late Bloomers, for the Prairies

Who doesn't love the old cliche, "better late than never!"? These late bloomers are perfectly hardy and reliable for our northern fall gardens. Even through frost and snow, to a reasonable degree, these plants will extend colour in the garden through October.
Autumn Joy Sedum, pictured above, is easy to grow and widely available. They are from a large family of succulent type plants that range from ground covers to this upright large perennial. The flowers begin greenish in August and gradually turn from pink to burgundy as the nights get longer and colder, leave standing over winter for winter interest and cut down in the spring before new growth in April. As these are succulents they are suited to hot, dry, sunny locations but I seem to have no problem growing in a little dappled shade too. All the Sedums can be propagated, quite easily from stem cuttings in the spring and early summer, simply snip off a sizable piece remove the bottom leaves and bury the stem in the ground, keep moist and viola, new plant. The ground covers easily root from any piece of stem too! A great companion and contrast to the greenish leaves of Autumn Joy is of course the deep red-burgundy version sometimes sold as Stonecrop, Black, also widely available, is pretty much the same plant but cultivated in this colour, below.

Turtlehead, Chelone obliqua, is another late bloomer, given a long enough fall that is not too frosty these plants will bloom from around late August until the first very hard frost. I hear they are available in Pink and White but I was only ever able to find Pink, so I will forgive the colour as the flower heads really do look like little turtle heads! I grow this large perennial in part shade as it likes to be moist, it seems to require no special care, is easily divided in the spring and is not bothered by pests, I recently found out deer won't eat them either. They make a good cut flower, like if cold weather is looming, and many nectar loving insects also love them!

Although Turtlehead is native to Eastern North America it seems to thrive in Calgary too. As you can see in the bottom photo this plant grows to about 3 feet high and blooms beside the changing fall leaves!

Fall Asters, well there are many many kinds! Here is a general idea of what they look like. I grow the purple Italian variety, that I got from an old neighbour, in the picture above, but they are available in a variety of heights and colours from white to yelow, red to purple and pink and everything in between. When you purchase Asters just make sure they are the perennial kind suited to our climate, there are a few developed in Canada in Morden and many others such as Italian and Professor Kippenburg that are very hardy too. Asters like sunny sites in warm areas, I give them no special care and they reward with blooms from September thru October! The Italian Aster I have sometimes blooms well into November, shirking off snowfalls and -10C weather like it was nothing. One often sees the more tender Asters for sale at grocery stores or where ever, they are fine and lovely but remember that they do not like frosty nights, the blooms will get damaged in too cold of weather, they are more suited to the West Coast or more Southern areas.

Cimicifuga, or if thats too hard, Bugbane, Snakeroot, Brunette
I remember some controversy about the scientific name of this plant but it is still being listed as Cimicifuga so lets just leave it at that! I don't really grow it for the flowers as it usually gets frozen before it can, but when it does I suppose it's quite interesting. This plant is mostly grown in our area as a shade tolerant and moisture loving foliage perennial. This is a tidy and not overly large perennial, given a warm enough season it begins blooming in September in my yard.

Annuals, there are a variety of annuals that can stand a little cold weather and shorter days. Sunflowers certainly seem familiar as a fall flower and seem to love every last moment of the fading summer sun. Others like Sweet Peas, Marigold, Snapdragons and Petunias can take a light frost and bloom for weeks after, just keep watering! I remember cutting sweet peas well into October one year!
When we are looking at months of the upcoming winter it's nice to hang on these late bloomers as the last vestige of our short warm seasons.