Friday, March 27, 2015

A Change for Penticton Garden Store

Penticton Art Knapps seems to be nearly completing its conversion to being a Gardenworks store.  I saw that the old sign was removed and the front roof was being painted this bright green yesterday.

Gardenworks previously only had locations in greater Vancouver and on Vancouver Island, so the new Penticton store will have the distinction of having the most hot and dry climate.  This is not the land of moss and ferns.

It may just be the time of year, but there is a very nice display of various seeds at the store right now.  I see a few different orchid plants too, with dendrobiums and a large cymbidium, along the ubiquitous Phaelenopsis orchids.  They carry West Coast Seeds, which is fortunate, as their website had a glitch and never worked for me. 

Our resident small people will be thrilled if the pond full of koi stays at the front door.  It is a brilliant marketing tool for parents whose children force them to visit the place on a regular basis.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Just Flowers, No Blizzards Here

The "Ruby Giant" snow crocuses are blooming today for the first weekend of spring!  While I saw the bulbs in Penticton blooming much ahead of us, our elevation just above the valley floor seemed to delay the blooms up here. 
Crocus tomassinianus "Ruby Giant"
 I notice that the crocuses in more shade are barely up and I suspect they will not do as well.  I will avoid planting them in those places in the future.  My daffodils have flower buds on them but are not open yet.  Today was a great day for weeding and spring cleanup.  I've trimmed the lavender and cut dead growth from most of the shrubs and perennials already.  I realized that it is time (or may beyond the time) to find some table grape vines to plant in the yard.  However, I see that several online sellers are already sold out of many varieties.  I will try some local nurseries and see what is available...and soon!
Crocus tomassinianus "Ruby Giant"
My large flowered crocuses are just starting to open now.  You can never have too many crocuses, and with enough time, these lovely little spring bulbs will multiply into bigger and better shows.  I can't imagine life in the eastern half of Canada at this point, dealing with shoveling cars out of snowbanks.  I so much appreciate my flowers here in BC!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tomatos already?

I passed through the Rona today and spotted 12" tomato plants on racks just inside the door.  Really?  The last frost date for this area is 8 weeks away. What on earth would you do with a half-grown tomato plant now unless you have a greenhouse or grow lights?  I guess these appeal to those people who really can't wait for summer to get going.

I'm going to wait another couple of weeks before starting my seed, because tomato plants grow fast and would need re-potting too many times if started too early.  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Seedlings for Spring

How is spring in your neighbourhood?  It is looking nice here, but we really need to be gifted with some moisture from the sky.  The forestry departments are already doing their "preventative burns" and the ground is dry.
Spring in the "rock garden"
Red Tailed Hawk in Summerland, BC
As of last weekend, it suddenly felt more like spring here.  The temperatures have risen into light-jacket-weather and the spring bulbs are starting to come up.  There is a population of 4 or 5 red tail hawks in our neighbourhood, which is probably beneficial to the orchards and terrifying to the mice.  They enjoy perching in the beetle-killed pine trees and soaring high in the sky above our house.

Seedlings in the sunroom
I have been planting seeds obtained from far and wide.  Many are drought-tolerant perennials, including several native plants that thrive in the hot and dry Okanagan summers.  I like the unique seeds of the Canadian company Gardens North, but have also purchased online from Germany and California and the local hardware stores. 

In the quest to attract butterflies and help "save the monarchs", I plan to grow a few varieties of milkweed.  I germinated and planted some orange-flowered Asclepias tuberosa last summer (haven't yet flowered), and have seedlings of Asclepia curassavica (the tropical milkweed) and  yellow-flowered Asclepias tuberosa growing in the sunroom.  The tropical milkweed likely will not survive the winter as a perennial, but will likely set seed an an annual, so the species may persist in our yard (and hopefully not take over).  The native Showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, is growing wild on scrubby slopes across the street from our house,
Plants in the sunroom
confirming its ease in colonizing our area.  Interestingly, Asclepias speciosa is also on the BC noxious weeds list, though this likely related to it being poisonous to grazing livestock.

My sunroom is getting filled with plants and the vegetables aren't even started yet!  I hold out hope that the hardy perennials can move outside in a few weeks and that will make room for MORE SEEDLINGS!  As you can see, I have supplemental LED grow lights (more on these on my LED page) that lengthen the day and provide some bloom-promoting red spectrum light to the orchids.  I am searching out new shapes and types of inexpensive LED grow lights and finding that
First crocus leaves

this field is quite new and mostly caters to the growers of "medicinal plants" that I am not particularly interested in.

The crocus leaves have been poking out of the ground for 5 days now.  I can't wait to see flowers!  I planted these bulbs last fall, the first bulbs in this newly-established landscaping.  The flowers will look sparse this year, but I will look forward to clusters of spring color in years to come.

Our pet dog, a husky-malamute cross, is enjoying the increased human outdoor activity.  She's following us around the yard and exchanging dog-greetings with the neighbor dogs.  We are fortunate that she doesn't have much interest in digging up our plants.  She only digs occasionally in wild areas, and likely only to follow a burrowing rodent.
Kona, the husky-malamute

Friday, March 6, 2015

More of the Stock Tank Raised Beds

While the spring flowers have been slow to appear here, the stock tanks continue to move along in preparation for spring seeding.

The first steps in this project can be found in an earlier post here:

Landscape fabric over rocks, drainage pipe
After the layer of river rock, the man-gardener covered the rock with a permeable landscape fabric to prevent the future sand layer from falling through into the rocks.  The vertical pipe at the end will be the inlet for water that will sit around the rocks and wick up to the plants (theoretically).   A perforated plastic pipe covered in a fine mesh of some sort (to keep out the sand) crosses the tank above the landscape fabric and sticks out a hole cut in the side of the tank.  The purpose of this pipe is to drain off any excess water, should it reach the level of the pipe. 
Drain pipe from middle layer of tank
After the drainage pipes were all installed, the layer of sand was added.  It appears there is only a few inches of sand (I didn't stay to watch the whole process).
Sand layer is added in stock tank
Next will be a layer of potting mix (no landscape fabric to separate potting mix and sand though).  We are waiting until the local suppliers have bulk amounts of potting mix available.  The spinach seeds are waiting! 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Growing a Clivia

We are still waiting for spring growth here, while watching the forsythia blooming just down the hill, on the valley bottom.  The altitude difference up on the bench seems to make a big difference.  In the meantime, we can enjoy the indoor blooms.

I bought this Clivia miniata "Belgian hybrid orange" in bud last spring and have successfully got it to re-bloom this year.  Clivia are native to South Africa, where they get sun and moisture in summer and stay dry and cool in winter.  To get blooms, it is recommended to try to simulate these conditions.  I kept it in the barn's sun-room from October to February, where the winter temperatures got down to 12 degrees C but the light was always indirectly bright (i.e. mostly cloudy days in winter).  I occasionally put insignificant sprinkles of water in the pot, but it never did look needy for moisture.  In late January, a flower stem appeared, so I watered it a bit more and gave fertilizer and then brought it into the house a few weeks ago (mid-February) to enjoy the opening of the flower buds.  I think the warming temperatures from solar heat in the sunroom may have been the trigger to start blooming again.  The daytime temperatures got up 33 degrees C inside the sunroom on cloudless days.

Clivia miniata in bloom

The ball of blooms on the Clivia is about 9 inches across.  It has no scent.  I think I will keep it indoors for a while now.  It gets indirect light near north-west windows.  Clivia don't like direct sunlight and will burn easily.  The sturdy strap-like leaves stay green year-round.