There’s No Hats Like Snow Hats

While heavy snowfalls can cause all kinds of problems, they also cause all sorts of beauty. The snow piles up on objects from birdhouses to grasses creating a winter wonderland. I am always reading about creating “winter interest” in the garden. Gardeners around here joke that it is hard to create interest when their garden is buried under eight feet of snow, but of course the garden isn’t always buried in snow. Grasses left standing add movement all winter long, while shrubs such as dogwoods with their range of red, yellow and even purple hued bark look dramatic against the white winter canvas. Viburnums, mountain ash and other trees and shrubs that produce berries that look fantastic…well, until the birds gobble them up. But that too is part of the magic of a winter garden. Rose hips are another eye catching element as are garden clocks, birdbaths and other hardscape left outside year round.

And then there are what I call snow hats. The result of hours of steady snowfall that result in images such as the ones I found in my garden just a couple days ago…

Garden clocks and bird houses paired with snow add plenty of "winter interest"!

Garden clocks and bird houses paired with snow add plenty of “winter interest”!

bird baths make great snow hats

bird baths make great snow hats

The bird feeder sporting its own snow hat

The bird feeder sporting its own snow hat

Grasses not only provide movement in winter winds but they also drape themselves in snow like its the latest winter fashion

Grasses not only provide movement in winter winds but they also drape themselves in snow like its the latest winter fashion. Here a clump of flame grass sports a winter cape.

Rain Chains (for Karen…I like them too!)

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Our own roof is really steep and doesn’t even have eavestroughing; I catch rain by placing stock troughs along the house. It’s not a pretty look, but it works. Rain chains like the one pictured here (from a home on the 2013 Dawson Creek Garden Tour…more pictures to come!) are not only functional but gorgeous to boot.

One more picture…

This picture from Rick and Heather Hopkins garden failed to upload the first time but here it is now…a great example of how to disguise ugly culverts in a beautiful fashion!

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Makes it look like a welcoming cave instead of ho-hum culvert. I love this idea…

2013 North Peace Garden Tour 8 of 8 : )

And last, but certainly not least, were the gardens of Rick and Heather Hopkins. Over two decades of rock collecting gives this garden oodles of interest.

2013 North Peace Garden Tour 7 of 8 : )

This week the Dawson Creek school buses were cancelled twice due to cold and snow. The snow is tumbling down as I type. It is hard to believe all the beauty that awaits next spring is simmering beneath those frozen drifts of snow. A perfect day to grab a mug of your favourite herbal tea (from dried herbs gathered from your own garden of course!) and check out the last couple gardens on the North Peace Tour this summer.

The seventh garden belongs to Brenda and Dick Katerburg. Part of the blurb in the brochure reads “What do you do you do when you retire from the farm? Downsize.” The garden may be smaller than the one on the farm but it is big on beauty. Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge them for a better view…

Saskatoons and Moose Meat

My grandparents moved to the Peace Country in 1930 and settled on a quarter we affectionately call “the old place.” For those who don’t live out west a quarter refers to a quarter section and a section is a square of land measuring a mile on each side and containing 640 acres. A quarter section measures half a mile on each side and holds 160 acres. Out east (and correct me if I’m wrong) I believe they have concessions rather than quarters.

The old place sits a mere four miles from where I live today. I grew up listening to stories about those early homestead years. My grandmother relished the challenge and while she never downplayed the hardships, she managed to tell stories of those early years in a way that made me envious that I had missed it all. There were stories of work bees, community picnics, berry picking and dances along with waking up to icicles hanging from the ceiling and scraping through those first lean winters on a diet of  moose meat and Saskatoons.

Wild berries spill out of the bucket

Saskatoon berries are another western thing. In the east they are called Serviceberries. Whatever name they go by, the settlers did well to include the wild berries in their diet. Saskatoons fall into the elite Super-berry category. They pack more usable energy, protein, fibre, iron, Vitamin C, carbohydrates and potassium than almost any other berry including blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. They also provide calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and sulfur and have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral and astringent properties.  By eating Saskatoon berries those early pioneers of the Peace were unwittingly providing their families with a powerful vitamin supplement. The only downside is that Saskatoon pits contain cyanide compounds that when eaten in large amounts can cause stomach upsets or diarrhea. Cooking the berries destroys these compounds, so if you’re at all concerned reserve your Saskatoon berry consumption for jams and pies. You gotta do what you gotta do, right? But seriously, eating a reasonable amount of raw berries is going to do your body nothing but good. Everything in moderation.

It’s been over 80 years since my grandparents arrived by horse and wagon, but Saskatoon bushes (though dwindling in numbers) and moose still run wild in the Peace. While canned moose meat and Saskatoon jam paired well in my grandmother’s pantry, the two aren’t so compatible in the wild. In the old days a marauding moose was quickly dispatched and put up in a jar, but since we’re not hunters the moose find no such consequences in our yard. I once watched a cow moose hoover up an entire Saskatoon bush in less than a minute. A few years ago I planted some Saskatoon bushes in what I call “the orchard”. Surrounded by an eight foot high butt-ugly page wire fence, the 64 X 64 foot space keeps a variety of fruit trees and bushes safe from moose with the munchies. Now I can look forward to a crop of Saskatoon bushes and still enjoy watching the moose saunter through our yard.

Here are a few cultivars of Saskatoons you might like to try…

amelanchier - saskatoon berries

Smoky

Released in 1952 by the Beaverlodge Research Center, this is full flavoured fruit, exceptionally sweet, large habit, reaching 8 – 10 feet in height. Consistently good yields. The fruit is not as large as the other varieties but it is often preferred for jam and jelly making because of its flavour.

Northline

Another release from our own Beaverlodge Research Center, this is a large fruited variety with  excellent flavour, and grows to approximately 8 feet. It has a very upright  and uniform habit of growth, which makes for easy picking. It produces abundant fruit at a young age. It flowers at least a week later than Smoky which means it often escapes our infamous late spring frosts that can wipe out a berry crop.

Honeywood

This variety also flowers late but is shorter and less prone to suckering so more suitable for small home gardens. It packs a large flavourful fruit. Excellent choice.

Thiessen

If size is what matters this is the one! The Thiessen has huge berries that average 1/2 inch in diameter though the flavor isn’t quite as intense as it is in other varieties. The bush is big as well, growing around 14 feet high.

Do you pick Saskatoon berries? Any memories you’d like to share? What’s your favourite variety? As always, please feel free to comment below!

Late Plantings

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We’ve had a couple skiffs of snow and are on our way into winter. So what did I do yesterday? And, for that matter, the week before? Planted lily of the valley pips and bulbs respectively. Yeesh. Note to self…stop ordering stuff from out east no matter how rare the item or how tempting the discount. Last week my order of allium bulbs finally arrived. The instructions enclosed mentioned allowing a few weeks for the bulbs to root before the cold hit. I planted them a little deeper and mulched them up with composted manure and a heaping helping of shredded leaves. We’ll see. The lily of the valley pips were backordered and just arrived yesterday. Despite temperatures above zero every day it has dipping low enough at night that when I went to my dwindling pile of manure it was already starting to freeze up so it was difficult to get even a bucketful of manure out of it. Poor pips. As with the bulbs, I covered them with a heavy mulch and can only hope for the best.

I got some of the healthiest lily of the valley plants I have ever seen from Rhubarb to Roses this summer, but these three little pip squeaks have pink blooms instead of the usual white. I couldn’t resist adding them to my collection. I spotted them in the fall bulb catalogue put out by Veseys in Charlottetown PEI.

It’s a chance you take when you buy from a nursery in zone 5. Veseys tell you they will ship according to zone but they can only ship as fast as they lift their bulbs and they have to wait for fall to settle in to do that. THEIR fall, not yours. I’m just lucky this wasn’t last year when we got a foot of snow mid-October and it never left until May.

The good thing about plants…and bulbs and pips, is that they have an incredible built-in will to survive against all odds. All I can do now is cross my fingers, toes and hoes and hope everything comes up roses…or rather alliums and lily of the valleys come spring. And buy local.

Hoping for something like this come spring!