Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fast Forward To Late Spring

It was winter all the way until we drove down the hill, south of Cache Creek, then it was if we had gone directly from winter into late spring.
There were native, white flowered saskatoon berry shrubs (Amelanchier alnifolia), and yellow daisy like flowering plants (Balsamorhiza sagittata) growing in the hedgerows on the side of the highway.

Saskatoon berries are hardy into zone 2. Domestic varieties with bigger berries are available but transplanting native species into your garden, like I did when I lived on the farm, is easy and cheaper. I have happy memories of picking saskatoon berries with my young family. Saskatoon berries taste great made into jam or added to pancakes and cakes.

Balsamorhiza sagittata has similar flowers to the many species of Arnica, native to northern BC.
Although unlike Arnica Balsamorhiza sagittata grows in dry sandy soil and its leaves are bigger, silvery coloured on the underside and covered in fine hairs.

Every yard, along the highway, seemed to have a yellow Forsythia, growing like a beacon of sunshine  in their garden. I love these shrubs. I finally got one for my garden, now I live in zone 3, it's the outside limit Forsythia will survive.

Most Wineries in the Okanagan don't open until 10:00 AM or even as late as 11:00 AM. To kill time we went for a hike in the hills behind the town of Oliver.
Other hikers, animals and cyclists had carved out a twisting maze of steep trails that wound up and over the hilly back country.
I was ecstatic when I discovered the first patch of cactus, (Opuntia fragilis). However, it wasn't long until the fleshy pads detached themselves from the plants embedding their long spines into our shoes, the hems of our pants and our ankles. It was a painful moment until we managed to pull them off. I collected some of the bigger pads, wrapping them in a handkerchief, to bring home for my garden succulent collection.

I already have an Opuntia fragilis plant, I purchased from a nursery, if only I had known it was so easy to get it from the wild, growing in my garden. It's hardy into zone 2.
I'm looking forward to seeing its yellow flowers, like the ones on these plants. I didn't know it flowered either.

At first glance I thought this familiar looking plant was a lily, something like Erythronium revolutum. After coming home and looking it up I realized its leaves were wrong and so was the habitat where it was growing. Eventually the knowledge in my brain sifted to the surface and in a lightbulb moment I thought of the shooting star (Dodecatheon) that I used to grow in my zone 2 garden on the farm.

Further research confirmed it was indeed Dodecatheon pulchellum.

Amazingly the grape vines had not yet started to grow.

First flower in my garden April 24 2014 It was depressing to come home to my still mostly snow filled garden.

Except, there was this lone, beautiful, tiny snow crocus blooming on a south facing slope where the snow had melted.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Signs Of Spring

Over the years I've taken note of the places where the snow melts first in my garden. In these spots I've planted early bulbs. They start growing under the snow. By the time it melts their pale shoots, like the ones in the photo, are out of the ground. I suspect they will be flowering in a few days.

Edible plants for areas where the snow is first to melt are chives, sorrel and rhubarb. I can't wait to eat my first spring chive and sorrel salad or rhubarb crumble.

Meanwhile I'm starting to think that this year it might be June before all the snow melts away, the ground dries and I can start planting the earliest seeds. The earliest seeds to plant are cold weather crops like beets, kale, collards, peas, rutabagas, fava beans, potatoes, spinach, chard, fennel, chinese greens, turnips, cauliflower and broccoli.

Now that the growing season is almost here I'm getting excited.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nothing Grows During The Brown Season so start your seedlings indoors

Tomato seedlings Nowadays, I start tomatoes, hot peppers and annual flowers indoors under lights. I have no need for the pots and pots of perennial herbs, vegetables and flowers I used to start from seed. By their very nature I have all I need.

I start my plants from seed because its fun; its satisfying to know I nurtured my plants through their entire lifecycle. I get to choose exactly the species or cultivar I want. Many types of flowers, herbs and vegetables are not available in nurseries as seedlings. As a bonus, growing plants from seed is cheaper and I can have more of them for a fraction of the price.

Start looking for seeds to grow by checking out my list of catalogues on the Resources page above.

Read my posts under the Seeds label in the column on the left of this page for advice on how to start perennial and annual seeds indoors.

Are you growing any plants from seed this year? let me know in the comments.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Glimpse Of Spring- tender plants and the Urban Heat Island Effect

Last week I was in Vancouver it rained everyday but the temperature did not drop below zero and there was no snow.

In addition to soaking up liquid sunshine I spent my mornings editing almost finished pages of my book and approving gallery proofs. I spent the afternoons visiting the art gallery with my mother, tasting chocolate and walking around my favourite neigbourhoods. I'm sure I walked at least 10k everyday.

Most of the spring flowers that filled the Vancouver garden beds are the same ones we have up here albeit not until June.

This Magnolia was beautiful. The Hardiest Magnolias are rated for zone 4, M. stellata and M. x loebneri 'Merrill'. The flower buds are very sensitive and liable to frost damage You may have success by growing them in a protected spot especially if you live in town. Cities and towns are warmer than rural areas because of the urban heat island effect. I have no idea what species this Magnolia is. I'm assuming it is a much more tender variety.

Jasminum officinale, like the lovely vine below I found growing over someones garden gate, is not hardy in zone 2 or 3. I've considered growing it as a houseplant but moving to a warmer climate might be a better idea.

It's still going down below zero at night and we still have mountains of snow clogging up the landscape around our house...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Haworthia Needs A Sunshade

Haworthia Unlike most succulents Haworthia species prefer to grow in semi shaded areas. This means they adapt readily to the mostly shaded conditions inside your house.

For me it mean't I didn't have to find a place for my new plant on my already crowded south facing windowsill.

I picked this plant up at the Montreal Botanical Garden last November. It was growing in a 1 inch (2.5cm) pot. I re-potted it right away into this 4 inch (10cm) pot and already it is looking bigger.

I always buy smaller plants, apart from being cheaper, I get to have the fun of watching them grow bigger.

The plant I have is either Haworthia attenuata, or Haworthia fasciata. Both of them have spiky leaves that grow in a rosette and white stripes that give them the common name zebra plant.

Haworthia cymbiformis
A couple of years ago, while visiting the greenhouse at the University of Northern British Columbia, I got a handful of rosettes of this unidentified plant. Later I found it was called Haworthia cymbiformis.

Haworthia species like more water than other succulents. I discovered this only a few months ago when I was attempting to identify this plant. Already it looks greener and has almost doubled in size since I took it off the sunny windowsill and started watering it more often.

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