If you missed Hugh Skinner in Grande Prairie there are a couple other events happening in the Peace worth mentioning in advance…
The Greenehouse in Farmington is having its seasonal opening on the weekend. Here’s Linda’s e-letter below with all the particulars:
Plus 22 degrees on Sunday?! Do we believe it when we see it? I’m sure I am like everyone else – enough winter, already…
But the plants don’t wait for the weather. The greenhouse is FULL of lovely baskets and bedding plants, and this Saturday and Sunday is our formal opening and Yard Sale weekend! Come out (wear your boots – the yard is still a bit wet) and see what’s new. There are some new gardening giftware and yard décor items as well as the yard sale bargains. The strawberry baskets are blooming, and the Martha Washington pelargoniums are gorgeous – in time for Mother’s Day on May 12. Pick up your seed potatoes now before they are sold out. And check out the popular FREE table!
Many of the perennials are still frozen (what a surprise) and my shrub order of Haskap, Goji, etc will be arriving sometime around May 7th. I do have some 1 gallon Haskap and Cherries for sale that have been started in the greenhouse and are ready to be hardened off outside (maybe by the weekend?!) If you are waiting for the weather to actually BE spring, plan to come out again – I have some other annuals started that will be ready at the end of May.
One other new item, for the Duck Dynasty and Swamp People fans – I have ordered a display of baseball caps that should be here by Father’s Day! They apparently are new in Canada and VERY popular, so the orders have been delayed. I had hoped they would be here new, but…I will send out another newsletter when they arrive.
I will be back at the Dawson Creek Farmer’s Market starting Saturday, May 11, so come down if you aren’t able to get out to our Yard Sale weekend. Feel free to pass on my newsletter, bring a friend, or call if you have any questions – 250-843-7244. Directions again – Mile 11 ½ Alaska Hiway, turn right onto Road 233, and there are signs!
On Sunday Doris Brocke of Rhubarb to Roses (located on the old Hart Highway just a couple miles west of Dawson Creek) will be launching her new book The ABC Musical Garden at the Dawson Creek Public Library at 2 pm. It looks beautiful; a perfect gift for gardeners and their children. Or grandchildren!
Got to meet Hugh Skinner on his recent stop in Grande Prairie on April 20th. What a great opportunity to learn all kinds of things about perennials, shrubs and trees for small spaces! Hugh is a wealth of information and a great presenter. A big thank you to the Grande Prairie Garden Club for putting on the event and to Hugh for braving our most un-springlike weather to share his knowledge and passion for plants with gardeners in the Peace. The lunch was pretty fabulous too!
I came away with lots of new knowledge as well as numerous ticks on Hugh’s helpful handouts of must-have plant material for my wish list.
During the presentation I was delighted to spot my mystery plant from the Dawson Creek garden tour at the Plenert home…it’s a purple flowering raspberry!
Here are the specs…
Rubus odoratus Purple Flowering Raspberry
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 3 to 6 feet
Spread: 6 to 12 feet
Requires full sun to part shade, medium water, features showy fragrant flowers from June to August. Low maintenance. Attracts birds and butterflies. Apparently native to many parts of the east including Nova Scotia!
Mystery Solved! This lovely specimen is a purple flowering raspberry Rubus odoratus…now to find a source!
For the entire month of April the forecast kept predicting temperatures in the plus double digits…the only problem was it was always for the next week. What came instead was cold and snow and more taunting predictions for next week. The only time we actually hit double digits it was on the minus side. We are a pretty forgiving and optimistic bunch but enough is enough!
Yesterday it finally happened - plus 14! Yeah! However the wind was ferocious gusting to 72 km per hour. I spotted the cover to my cold frame that managed to stay in place all winter, tangled up in the raspberry bushes. The forecast is calling for snow, rain and temperatures as low as minus 8. Boo! Hiss! Let’s hope they’re wrong this time as well.
I blew around the garden, did a bit of pruning and snapped a few promising pictures. Here are a few of the things I saw in my Peace Country garden that said SPRING!
This is why I love bulbs and perennials! If there is a more exciting sight than the first spears of growth pushing their way through last fall’s leaves I haven’t seen it.
Taken only steps from our house a mosaic of moose leavings…to the compost pile it shall go!
In glowing shades of orange, pink and lemon a rhubarb hatches…goodbye snow hello spring!
Great Gobs of Gumbo sucking at my boots…gotta be spring!
When I open the laundry hamper I use for storing potatoes in our pantry I am greeted by white tentacles of potato sprouts waving about from the last layer of potatoes. Soon we will be out of potatoes altogether but no matter. It is almost planting time and in a few weeks we will be enjoying new potatoes fresh from the garden. Salivate, salivate.
We are down to our last jar of dried tomatoes but cracking the lid on those babies is an entirely different experience compared to the potatoes. It’s like lifting the lid to summertime. The aroma is heavenly and the taste is sublime. They’re Excalibur Dehydrator dried which doesn’t sound nearly as nice as saying sundried but they taste great just the same.
Last year I planted several types of tomatoes but still liked Cold Set the best both for taste, ripening outdoors in our Zone 3 garden (though some were plucked green just before frost and left to ripen in boxes on the kitchen counters) and overall productivity. I saved my own seed and this year’s Cold Set tomatoes are already a couple inches high.
The return of our Canadian geese are always a harbinger of spring. While waiting to pick up my son and daughter in law at our smalltown airport for Easter seven Canadian geese flew over the airstrip. Only the day before Darcy was removing the snowblade from the pickup (a sign of spring faith in of itself) when a pair of geese flew overhead. The runoff hasn’t started yet and snow still covers the fields, but the pussy willows are coming out and the days are getting longer. The sun is holding some real heat for the first time since fall. Oh, I can’t wait to get my hands into the soil!
With Zones on the left and minimum temperatures on the right the above graph gives you a good idea of what Garden Zone you live in based on the minimum temperature your area experiences during the year. If you want to get real precise, the lowside of Zones are referred to as “a” while the topsides are “b”. So if you experience -44 C temperatures you live in 2a; however if it only drops to -41 you are in Zone 2b. A minimum of -39 and you are now Zone 3a! Frost free days are also factored in. As northern gardeners are all too aware, minimum temperatures and number of frost free days (the Peace Country gets approximately 85 of those) vary wildly from year to year. Lately our unusually mild winters have been nudging us closer to Zone 3b despite being labelled as Zone 1b/2b by most experts.
It seems like such a little difference of degrees but it makes a big one to trees, shrubs and perennials. You can get by for a few mild years with plants suited for Zone 4 and then whammo! A record breaking cold snap hits and you lose them all.
Perennials that die down to the ground every fall and are slow to emerge always have a better chance of survival no matter what the zone. If I love something and it’s labelled Zone 4 or 5 but it dies back to the ground in the fall, I’ll try it anyway. To make it more interesting, a lot of the plant information is just plain wrong. We are happily growing many perennials experts thought would only survive in Zone 5 or even 6.
Microclimates can also be created by planting in pockets sheltered from prevailing winds by trees or buildings. A square bale of straw or hay set over the plant after the ground freezes in the fall (waiting for freeze-up prevents mice from setting up a winter home under the bale and possibly damaging the roots) can nudge you up a Zone and lessen the worry of losing your snow cover to a mid-winter chinook (such as the one we are experiencing now!).
Bottom line, if you love it and can afford to lose it, I say give it a try!
Does your own garden look more like this…
When we’re kids we can’t wait to grow up. It seems like we’re always straining forward, anxious to be a teenager, then desperate to turn 16 and get our driver’s license. We can’t wait to graduate from high school and get out on our own. But then we look back on those formative, growing years and wonder why we were in such a hurry. Why didn’t we slow down and enjoy it more?
The same can be said of making a garden. We can be so anxious to have a beautiful space; to have mature trees, fully formed shrubs and lush perennials that we don’t pause to appreciate the formative years. Many gardeners look back at the beginning when they had nothing but a blank slate of soil, a binder of grid paper and a fistful of seeds with fondness. No matter what age you are, when you start a new garden it’s like getting to be a kid again. Don’t be in a hurry for your garden to “grow up”. Gardening, like life, is about the journey not the destination.