Saturday, May 30, 2015

Our New Grafted Apple Trees

After a one-day deluge last week, the plants (and weeds) are making great strides in this warm spring Summerland weather.  The tourists are roaming around our Bottleneck drive neighbourhood, with wine tour buses regularly passing our house (should I wave?).  I was too busy to photograph the irises as they bloomed in the last few weeks, but the cheddar pinks (Dianthus gratianapolitanus) are looking great in the perennial beds.  I appreciate their compact shape with a dense show of deep pink flowers over blue-green foliage.  I certainly would love to have more of these.
Cheddar pinks (Dianthus gratianapolitanus) - May blooms
In the realm of edibles, the new apple nursery is now established with 4800 trees.  I believe these are called bench grafts, with the tops (scions) collected from Ambrosia trees early this year and grafted onto specific rootstock by a nursery in Summerland.  They looked like twigs going into the ground, but in the last week, have produced some leaves.  They will eventually be dug up and and moved to their final locations next spring, where they will grow as a high-density orchard.
Newly planted grafted apples

The old-style orchard: Macintosh apples this week

One of our table grapes - planted this spring
 The vegetable garden has produced a tidal wave of spinach, leaving us searching online for spinach recipes and blanching and freezing some for future use.  There will be spanakopita and spinach salad for every meal!  I've even tried playing YouTube Popeye videos for subliminal messages to the children.  I think smaller, spaced out successive plantings would have been better, but the initial garden efforts were a bit enthusiastic.  Next year, we will try for more self-control.
Greens in the stock tank raised beds
So far, the stock tanks are working well as raised beds.  We still have to hand-water them from the top, as not every plant will have deep enough roots to reach down to the damp soil closer to the reservoir on the bottom. I have faith that the tomatoes will eventually reach down and tap into the available water though.  They have big root systems. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Vegetables Already!

We got a good rain overnight, which is the first significant rainfall we have had in months -- not really surprising in this semi-arid desert climate.  This will be good for BC's wildfires, though the lightning is still unwanted.
Spinach and other vegetables in the stock tank raised beds
The stock tank raised beds are offering up some great spinach at the moment.  The only quandary is finding recipes for spinach that children find appetizing.  We will have to do some internet searching or hand it out free to willing friends and neighbours.

I inter-planted the spinach with carrots so that the carrots will continue on when the spinach is done.  Of course, we planted "rainbow" colored carrots, as kids love the novelty of interesting colored vegetables.  I surely hope they EAT THEM too.

Tomato Time!
Corn starting to come up in the "Three Sisters" plot

I transplanted my tomatoes outside this weekend, filling another two stock tanks.  I am trying a variety of heirloom varieties, including Costoluto Genovese, Omar's Lebanese, Black plum, and Black cherry tomato.  I am also growing a hybrid cherry tomato called "Jelly Bean".  Besides its appealing name, it has good disease resistance and bears large clusters of oval-shaped fruits.  They grow very tall, so will be needing support systems.

Scallions and marigolds in raised bed
I was going to put all the tomatoes into the stock tanks, but Gardener-man appeared distressed when I mentioned driving tomato supports into the raised beds.  This is because there is a membrane separating the water reservoir on the bottom from the sand layer in the middle.  Also, all of my tomato plants are indeterminate (vs. determinate), which means that their vertical growth doesn't stop after reaching their genetically-determined height.  They will keep getting taller all season.  We will have to come up with a support system that is compatible with the stock tank raised beds.  However, "Jelly Bean" will go into the ground near the asparagus and have the benefit of underground drip-watering.

Meanwhile, in the Flower Beds...

Shaded border - Cunningham white rhododendron
My Blanc Double de Coubert shrub rose is blooming and already dropping petals!  I was not prepared to have roses so early, but having moved from Saskatchewan makes these events seem astounding.  The rhododendrons around town are looking great and my still-tiny rhodos with white and red blooms are looking good, though barely visible except up-close.  The small-statured Rhododendron "Baden Baden" is in the rock garden and has already finished blooming, while  red "Vulcan" is presently looking great.  The "Cunningham's White" had an intermediate blooming time and is pictured here in this post.  I had a little panic episode this spring when I saw that the closed buds were PINK, but was relieved to see the flowers are indeed white.

Allium "Purple Sensation"
 My Allium "Purple Sensation" is the first bloomer of my ornamental alliums.  It will be finished before A. giganteum "Globemaster" blooms (which I am really excited to see, because it was never hardy in Saskatchewan).     
Table at the Summerland Ornamental Garden Plant Sale, May 9

I thoroughly enjoyed the Summerland Ornamental Gardens plant sale last weekend.  I heard in advance that it was very popular and that one should get there early, which I did, despite a puking child.  However, getting there at the official opening time of 8 am doesn't get mean you get there before the crowds of people.  Gardeners must be early-rising and highly-competitive sorts, because I had to drive down to the far-away overflow parking spots.  I think the keen gardeners before me had lined up in the early morning.  Fortunately, I wasn't after the bedding plants.  I had my eye on some native perennials and a few other unusual plants, like Echium amoenum "Red Feathers", which is now planted in the "desert bed" with a variegated yucca.  Although I don't want to swell the crowds for next year's plant sale, I must say that the prices were quite good and the selection quite nice.  They even were prepared to take interact and credit card! 


Friday, May 8, 2015

Longleaf Phlox - Okanagan Wildflower

Phlox longifolia, Okanagan wildflower among grass and wild sage
I am only now appreciating the local wildflowers, after years of taking them for granted.  Now, I search native plant websites for online seed sales and scour the mountainsides for seedheads.  If you want to be truly water-wise, the plants that grow wild here in the dry Okanagan are a good bet.  They're beautiful too! 

While some may call them weeds, several of the wildflowers are still pretty closely related to the ones in our garden centers.  The phlox family contains several favourites, including the low-growing rock garden Moss/Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) and the late summer-blooming Garden/Fall Phlox (Phlox paniculata).  August in a great perennial garden is the time to appreciate Phlox paniculata.  I know I fell in love with them when I saw the lovely display at Linden Gardens in nearby Kaleden a few years ago. 

Phlox subulata from my Saskatchewan garden
The delicate sprays of the wild pale pink Longleaf phlox growing on the wild grass and sage-covered hills across the street are about 6-10" inches tall and have fine needle-thin leaves.  These thin leaves are a drought-resistance mechanism, featured commonly on many desert plants.  They have lax stems that lean over and look wind-blown.  The flowers are apparently sweetly-scented but the surrounding cacti make it difficult to check this out thoroughly.

A university of Michigan database includes a history of the use an infusion of this plant by Okanagan native peoples for anemia in children. 

If you want to try to grow the Longleaf Phlox from seed, it needs to be germinated at cool temperatures (7°C and in the dark, according to this research from the Native Plants Journal).  Maybe I need to get the cold storage room doing something other than storing canned fruit. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Season of Yellow Flowers

Certain colors dominant short periods of time in the perennial garden.  Right now, the wild Arrowleaf Balsamroot is flowering in the hills around us and they look so bright and beautiful.  Did you know they are the official flower of Kelowna?   
Arrowleaf Balsamroot in bloom, Summerland, BC
 Meanwhile, we have accumulated some composted manure in a square patch next to the stock tank raised beds and declared it a vegetable garden.  Sticks designate the places where I have planted corn and beans, the start of our traditional "Three Sisters Garden", a beneficial companion planting of traditional South American plants. 

Squash, cucumbers, and zucchini will fill the spaces between staggered stands of corn, which in turn will support bean plants.  The large leaves of the vine plants shades the soil, keeping it moist for the corn and beans.  We didn't make mounds for the corn, since we have a dry climate and the linked article above says that flat ground is better in dry areas.  We haven't had too much rain in April, so we will have to stay dedicated to the sprinkler for the germination period.
Stock tank raised beds - first one is growing spinach
The daffodils are at the end of their season and the Aurinia saxatilis is forming carpets of blooms.  Several neighbours have stunning slopes entirely covered in these yellow flowers.  They are very hardy, require full sun, and can live in poor soils.  They probably seed out a bit, as I see them naturalized in rocky informal settings where they probably were never intentionally planted.  I would like to spread them all over my yard, because they look great and are so easy!  Elsewhere in the yard, the new growth on the Euphorbia polychroma is a similar bright yellow and quite striking next to contrasting purple Heuchera foliage or bright blue or pink spring flowers.
Aurinia saxatilis in my perennial bed
Next in the garden season is...Irises!  Can't wait to see the show. 

I am hoping to go to the Summerland Ornamental Gardens spring plant sale this year.   They promise unusual plants and some interesting varieties of tomatoes, from what I can see on their Facebook page.  Besides being a great place to pick up uncommon plants not seen at garden centers, this is a fundraiser for one of my favourite gardens!  It should make for good Mother's Day shopping too!