Sunday, May 28, 2017

Long-awaiting Blooming of the Tree Peony

After planting my clearance sale tree peony in 2014, I finally get my first blooms now in 2017.  These are spectacular large blooms!  The plant was labeled as "Lilac", with no other details.  Mine has very large blooms and seems to support these well on the plant, better than with herbaceous peonies.   
 I am so excited about this plant that I recently went online and found a Canadian source for an Itoh peony, which is a cross between the herbaceous and tree peony.  I would have tried to get another tree peony, but either they are just terribly hard to find, or just not sold again till fall.  Also, there is not much familiarity with these lovely plants. 

Of course, this is not a "tree", but a woody stemmed deciduous shrub.  A family member looked at me strangely when I said I had this blooming "tree" in my little rock garden.  No worries, no actual tree here.  I would like to see it get bigger and have even more blooms in coming years.  I understand that these plants can easily outlive me.  I would be nice to have some enduring beautiful things in my garden!  I am sold on peonies. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

May Flowers! Wet Spring for BC

May 5: Light pink blossoms of our solitary peach tree, with King Edward Flowering Currant behind

Apparently we have been breaking some records out here, with the wettest spring ever recorded for the Okanagan.  We have had 139 mm of precipitation for 2017 as of May 15.  There is hand-wringing over the over-abundant snowpack still in the mountains and our creeks are running high.  There is no fear for our property though, as we sit on a hillside, with a base of mostly sand under us.  This is a great year for garden procrastination, as the cool weather has been unsuitable for early planting of tender plants. 

Crevice plantings: Sempervivum rosettes, colorful varieties of sedum, and Elfin Thyme (lower left)
 I have dug out a few plants that didn't make it through the unusually cold winter.  One climbing rose was killed down to ground level and is now returning with only a few new shoots from below the mulch.  My Rhododenrons "Cunningham White" were just partly under the eave of the house and likely had little snow cover.  They had a large amount of winterkill.  Only a few bottom branches were spared.  As ugly as it will look, I will have to cover those for winter from now on. 
Fritillary imperialis, blooming May 10
 I must have bought this single Fritillary as an impulse buy at the fall display in the garden store.  It does look a little lonely by itself.  On the other hand, it is difficult to plant things in this particular area of the yard, as the soil is pure sand and has to be amended every time I plant (after removing the 12 inches of bark mulch!).  Fritillary plants are also tricky to locate in the fall, since they go dormant and their leaves dry up and disappear by the time for bulb planting.  I'll have to go out there and put up a marker so I can add some friends for it in fall. 
Bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabilis
 We are getting to the end of Daffodil and Narcissus season.  I got up at a crazy early hour today and took pictures of this Narcissus Jetfire.  It is now a new favourite, adored along with my "Geranium" Poetaz narcissus.  This picture doesn't show it well, but the trumpet is a darker orange.  It is blooming later than most of my other similar flowers, which maybe is because this is its first year?  Regardless, it is extending my narcissus season and I think it looks very nice.  
Narcissus "Jetfire" blooming May 19
 The most well-established bed in the rock garden is full of color now, with the deep pink Aubrieta and the chartreuse Euphorbia as highlights.  Frittilaria meleagris came and went so quietly and its foliage will disappear soon for the summer.  I think this bed never looks so good as it does in May.  All the blue flowers are nearly gone by now, with the early spring Muscari (grape hyacinth), Chionodoxa and Scilla all done.  However, those blue flowered early spring bulbs are great at self-seeding and multiplying to bigger bunches each year and I love how they do that. 
Rock garden full of color

White Iberis "Snowcone" in front of a purple Aubrieta

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Passionflower Project

Passiflora caerulea (Blue passionflower)
I put my blue passionflower plant outside April 28 this week, for the first time in its life.  I started it from seed early in 2016, after many previous failed attempts to germinate passionflower seeds over the years.  The difference this time was that the seed obtained was fairly fresh, according to the company I got it from.  Also, there were instructions to soak the seed for a day, but I forgot them and accidentally soaked them for about 4 days before planting them.  Apparently, this worked!  I gave away a dozen seedlings and kept 2 for myself.  I have another in my heated greenhouse.   Temperatures are down to around 5 degrees C at nights recently.  I might want to take this plant inside on the cooler nights.  I've never grown one before so I don't know how it will do.  I'm hoping for some pretty flowers if all goes well.  I bought the trellis this week and stuffed that poor vine into it.  I think it survived the trauma so far.
April 28 in the perennial bed of the yard's landscaping
 The perennial beds still look rather empty, with many flowers not yet making an appearance above ground.  I have lost some plants in the yard, due to the unusually cold winter.  Most that didn't make it were near the house and therefore not protected by snowcover. 
Pulsatilla, Aubrieta, and Arabis (white blooms) flowering in the rock garden
We dug up the two mislabeled table grapes yesterday, replacing them with the seedless Himrod and Vanessa grapes.  It took 2 years to figure out that the previous ones planted were NOT seedless and that the nursery had labelled them erroneously.  Hopefully second time is the charm.  Now we just need the dog to refrain from chewing on the vines. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Slow Spring

Spring is certainly taking its time in southern BC this year.  The cherry blossoms are finally appearing in Vancouver this week and today I saw a forsythia in bloom down the road. 

The apple trees in the orchard have not yet produced any leaves.  Peach trees that were in bloom this time last year have not yet leafed out.  I heard cherry producers saying that this late cool spring weather could be a positive thing for them.  I suppose the late start may mean less chance of frost damage to the buds.

I don't have many flowers to post, with only some scilla, crocuses and Iris reticulata in bloom so far.  In fact, I have a picture of the same white Iris reticulata blooming last year a full four weeks earlier! 
Iris reticulata, looks like "Eye Catcher"

 Things are looking a bit grim for the a few of the shrubs.  The unseasonably cold winter may have killed my only remaining rhododendrons.  The leaves are cripsy and curled.  Some herbs that usually make it through the winter are also gone. 
Some crocuses and dwarf Iris in my rock garden, April 14
I'd imagine even the garden stores are noticing the lack of early gardening enthusiasm.  I've picked up a few bright spring flowers for the containers, but haven't done much in the vegetable garden yet.  Dear husband planted 10 baby apple trees in it this year though.  I wasn't impressed.  Apparently, they are extras that will serve as replacements for trees in the orchard that don't manage to thrive this year.  Several hundred newly planted grafted trees didn't make it through last summer and were replaced this spring.  I don't want more trees to die, but I really want my valuable veggie garden space back!

I'm going to try to be at the Summerland Gardens annual spring plant sale May  6 & 7.  There are many good deals on plants there, and I enjoyed finding some unusual and native plants there last year.  Just remember to get there early!   

Friday, November 11, 2016

Lingering Colors of November; Orchids in Sunroom

We are celebrating a lovely snow-free fall thus far.  The garden is cleaned up, though the marigolds still glow from the raised beds.  Tiny blades of fall-planted garlic are poking through the soil where the dog hasn't disturbed them with bone-burying activities.  Some of the cool-weather-loving flowers like violas and primulas are having a fall revival.  It is nice to see their colors as a preview of spring.

Lewisia (below) is one of my favourite small perennials for rock gardens.  I tried growing it in the bark-mulched covered garden beds, but it did poorly there.  Lewisia requires VERY good drainage.  The bark mulch makes it too soggy for its liking. This one lives in sandy soil amid boulders surrounding the playhouse.  It occasionally gets some hose spray or a tip of a watering can once a week in summer.  Really, it is very hardy.  I think if it were really water-starved, it would go more dormant in the heat of summer and revive in the fall, like this one has done.  If they are happy, they will seed themselves around a little.  I did grow a few of mine from seed this year, but germination requires periods with pots in the refrigerator. 

Lewisia cotyledon.  This was planted this spring and has been blooming much of the growing season.
I have been gradually filling in the crevices between rocks with various colors of Sempervivum (partly to displace the dreaded black widow spiders). These are great little succulents, extremely hardy, and creep slowly to occupy their places.  I see that the local garden places sold flats of them which you could plant as a block, though I think most people would separate them out and spread them around.  A bright ceramic pot full of these and the non-hardy (but larger and more dramatic) Echeveria looks stunning.  My mother copied me in making some succulent pots of her own this summer, filled with these pretty little rosettes. 
Sempervivum (hens and chicks) put on their best colors in the cool weather of fall
One of the irises has been reblooming in October and November.  Great!
 This lovely yellow daisy-type flower belongs to a very drought-tolerant plant I put near the road this spring.  It survives only onrain, and lives in gravelly soil.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what it is.  I have googled some of the local xeriscape databases, but still have no idea.  If anyone can help me out, I would be grateful.  

Unknown drought hardy plant
My favourite garden hangout at present is inside with the indoor collection.  On the left shelf are the orchids with the pinky LED grow lights.  On the right are various perennials, succulents, and cuttings of garden pelargoniums and stonecrops.  The two big hanging grassy plants are Cymbidiums (orchids).  I keep this room at 12-25 degrees C.  The Dendrobium nobile (orchids) are starting their little flower buds, triggered by the change in temperature.  I don't fertilize them now and I water them less in the fall. 

Flower spike starting on Cymbidium

This empty tray is seeded with spinach.  I might want a snack while I'm out there.
 What is your garden happy place? 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fall in my Summerland Garden

We have arrived in mid-October and not been covered in snow like our friends in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  Reminder to friends - the Okanagan is good place to escape in the fall!  And we have wine tours! 

I have successfully got all my bulbs in the ground, including garlic and various flowers.  I even planted some hyacinths and tulips in big pots for the first time.  I hope it is a successful project.  If not, I do buy some of those potted daffodils and hyacinths at the garden store in the spring and tuck them into my planters.  After they are finished blooming, I usually remove them and plant them in the landscaping.  I think the bulbs like to dry out a bit in the summer and the planters are probably too damp for them with all the season's watering.  I planted all my garlic in one of the horse-trough planters where I can control the watering, selectively letting it dry out near harvest time.  I'm hoping that can reduce the amount of rotten garlic heads.     

There are still some plants blooming, including the annuals like pelargonium (geraniums to the North Americans) and my favourite tropical milkweed (hardy in zone 9 and above, but not here).  Tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is started from seed indoors in the spring and and starts blooming later than the perennial mildweed (Asclepias tuberosa) but then blooms till hard frost.  I love it.  As of yet, I haven't drawn clouds of butterflies to the yard, but they are supposed to like this flower. 
Asclepias curassavica (tropical milkweed) blooming in September

Caryopteris (Blue Mist Spirea) blooming in September
 Of course, the Echinacea and Rudbeckias put on the fall show in September.  As of October, most of the blooms are done.   
Echinacea "Cheyenne Spirit" in September

Coreopsis in September (still blooming in October), with purple Agastache behind
 I have several hydrangea, including two "Limelight".  Limelights' flowers start pale green and fade to this antique pink in September.  This one gets afternoon shade and looks bigger and healthier than the one that gets more afternoon sun.  I think the part shade condition is more suited to hydrangeas in the Okanagan. 
 Unbelievably, this ice plant is blooming today, October 16!  It hasn't looked this good in a long time.  It is part of the variety of succulent plantings around the kids playhouse.  There isn't a watering system in this area, so drought hardy plants that like well-drained sandy soils are selected for this area.  I have some Erigeron glauca (like tiny daisies), blue fescue and blue hair grass, hens and chicks, low sedums, lavender, various Penstemon, and the odd wild asparagus that was there before we came long.  
Delospermum (Ice plant) in October
Playhouse with developing landscaping, June 2016
Oreo, the guardian of the garden
 The vegetable garden is down to unpicked pumpkins and butternut squash.  We have been creative about making loaves, soups, scones, and pies using these great veggies and I really need to go and pick the rest.  This just means I have to do something with them...meanwhile, I am busy doing other things. 

I took this picture of harvested wine grapes at our neighbour's place, before they got hauled away.  So beautiful to see.  Our own apples were harvested several weeks ago.  We had an early apple harvest here in the Okanagan, as most of the crops were ahead of schedule. 

Summerland grapes, harvested October 14
From here on in, the indoor plants will be the focus of my attention.  The orchid collection gets to cool off and hopefully that will trigger blooms soon.  I cut my amaryllis greens off and am letting those pots dry out in the garage.  So how is your garden?  Snowed out? 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

June Blooms and Fruits

 The weekend is nice after what seemed to be weeks of rain.  At least we didn't have to drag out the hoses to water anything!  This weekend is full of activities in the area - Elvis Festival, Car Show, Summerland Garden Tours, and Pancake breakfast at Summerland Sweets this morning.  
Perennials and a big blue oat grass at sunset.

Orange milkweed and some lilies in bud.
Rock garden area, with clematis going to seed

The vegetables are just getting going in the ground and raised beds (horse troughs in the above picture).  It is a bit of a pain to water right now, since the new puppy eats hoses!  We have to hide them away in boxes or buildings and haul them out as needed.

I've seen a few tiger swallowtail butterflies around (no monarchs) and I have admired the hummingbirds at the feeder and the flowers.  I've identified the ones here as calliope hummingbirds.  They are very small and the male is identified by a nice purple bib below his neck.  At some point, I hope to get a nice photo. 
Blooming hens and chicks (Sempervivum) in the rock crevices

Sunflowers are just starting here, though we always associate those with fall.  I have planted some "mammoth" sunflowers in the vegetable garden and they are rapidly growing like Jack's beanstalk, up towards the sky.  There are no flowers on those yet.
McIntosh Apples getting pink!

We picked up some local grown raspberries and I canned some jam.  Yum!  Our jostaberries are on their second year and we got some berries this year.  I'm planning on combining with some other berries to make a syrup.  Jostaberries are a complex cross between black currents and gooseberries and the plants are thornless.  They taste like grapes.