Saturday, July 31, 2010

CBC Phone-In - Updates

On CBC radio in Alberta yesterday Catherine was having trouble with her clematis. Parts of the plant were wilting and then browning - or browning and then wilting- I am not too sure. I immediately declared she had trouble with a bacterial wilt. Ooops!

The wilt of clematis is caused by a fungus so I am self-correcting here for all to read. If there is a single stem wilting on a clematis that becomes a few brown wilted leaves or a whole stem of wilted leaves you may in fact have fungal wilt caused by Phoma clematidina. Cutting through a node just below the damage you can see if the stem is blackened and filled with fungus. This is causing the wilting and all damaged material must be cut off (I did tell Catherine to cut off the damage).

If the cut reveals the plant is not black, there is a chance Catherine's clematis was simply wind whipped by all the crazy Alberta weather we've had lately. In that case, the cure is the same: remove the damaged portion anyway.

For further details about this and other organisms causing rot in clematis check out the excellent paper out of England on the same subject:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sungold Tomatoes are ripe!

My favorite tomatoes come from Renee's Seed each spring like clockwork. I start the seed, transplant it, water and fertilize it and by late July or early August I am rewarded with hundreds of juicy jewels, far sweeter than Sweet 100 or Sweet Million. These amazingly sweet Sungold cherry tomatoes are an orange fruited cherry tomato on long trusses. They tested 11 on the Brix scale and are best served with a bit of sea salt and a basil leaf.

Amazing and worth the wait!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Permaculture - Learn Something New This Summer

Verge Permaculture in Calgary is offering courses - specifically the intensive 72 hour course - at Gull Lake starting Aug. 8, 2010. If you can take the time to go learn something new I suggest this would be a fun activity!

It could even be life changing. Check out details at

"Permaculturists are extreme generalists. Gardeners are extreme specialists" - Quote from Adrian Buckley, Calgary Permaculturist.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Art in the Garden

Just read in the Herald that Katharine Ylitalo (formerly of Edwards garden Center) is now working at the Banff Center on The Banff Butterfly Garden at the Walter Phillips Gallery. On Aug 7 the gallery will present Art in the Garden with Katharine from 1-2 Pm followed by a garden tour and drawing session. If you are in Banff or area consider signing up and going. Sorry I don't have any further details but those should be available from the Banff Center.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cardoons - A New vegetable for me!

According to Wikipedia, acclaimed chef Mario Batali calls the cardoon one of his favorite vegetables and says they have a "very sexy flavor". Of course this is not why I tried them this spring. But it might be why I keep growing them.

Like most "white bread" gardeners I hardly ever try a new vegetable. I know and grow my favorites and that is enough. In fact this one is so unusual you can't even buy it in the stores or markets in our cold zone 3 climate. I tried it because Ed and Mariann at E & M Woodland Gardens near Innisfail started growing them from seed for their Italian neighbors. Ed Wassenaar convinced me it would be a dramatic addition to my pots and that it might reach heights of 2 meters in a season. In warmer climates (Zone 7?) this plant overwinters easily and sometimes becomes a weed, but In Calgary this exotic Italian plant will not winter so I put this Artichoke relative in a big pot for its showy leaves thinking they would cause a drive-by sensation.

I only have one plant in one pot but neighbours and friends walking by all comment. Finally, one woman who has a winter home in Spain, stopped to tell me I should be making Cardoon risotto or soup with my plant. A single leaf stalk is similar to a giant celery stalk. Pick 1 or 2 stalks and strip off the leaflets along the petiole edges. Remove the woody veins before chopping and parboiling the leaf stalk and finally add it to any number of dishes. A search of the internet shows this is not just a pretty plant, it is a virtual wonder. It's amazing I never cooked it before. Tastes a lot like an artichoke without the warm climate needed to get the artichoke flowers. Wow, the longer I garden the more I learn.

Fast fact: Cardoon is Cynara cardunculus while artichoke is Cynara scolymus so they are closely related. They are in the daisy family but don't look that way until they bloom and look like giant thistles.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Oriental Poppies are Pretty

Yes it is Oriental Poppy time again and they are beautiful! Trouble is once they bloom they are done, finished, caput.

Remember to cut back or deadhead the blooms if you want to keep the plant as strong as possible. This means cutting off the dead flower head and the stem it is on. If you leave the stem, the little pointer sticks up in the air looking miserable and the plant has to decide what to do with it. Sometimes it is wise to leave a pod or two to mature and go to seed so that you have young plants coming next year. You will know the seeds are ripe when you tip over the pod and can shake out the black seeds.

Do not immediately cut back all the leaves because the plant needs to wind down. If the leaves brown, cut them off as they discolor and eventually you may have to cut them all back.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Diseae at Reader Rock Garden

Just noticed the Hosta virus has hit Calgary - saw it a few years ago when touring Hosta growers in Holland and now there are hostas showing signs of disease in Calgary's Reader Rock Garden. Look at photos of normal (top) and disease (leaves smaller, speckled and veined, below) Hostas pictured. This problem has been in Eastern Canada for several years so had to eventually come here too! Sadly there is nothing to be done- perhaps removing and destroying infected plants?

Plant Annuals in July?

Okay- last night I planted annuals in my front yard. Yes it was raining and yes it is late by most people's standards but I was away earlier and then it hailed and I could go on and on. This is just a public service message really to say why not fill in a space where an oriental poppy pooped out or the hail nailed a favorite plant?

Surprisingly, there are still annuals to be had and with our weather finally turning nice (for today anyway) it is a good idea to plant and reap the rewards of late summer bloom. Meanwhile I have to say my new Terra Nova perennials are coming along nicely. More on that later!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Join Me at the Eleanor Luxton House in Banff

It is a rare thing that a garden continues and sometimes even improves long after the owners have passed. Thanks to the foundation set up by Eleanor Luxton in Banff Alberta, her historical family home is not just humming along, it is happily being weeded and planted and loved as if Eleanor or her parents still lived there!

If you are going to be in Banff or want an excuse to come out to visit this weekend, join me as we open the garden to the public. Eleanor's house is at 206 Beaver Street. The event is Sunday, July 18 from 2-4 PM. I will be on hand to answer garden questions of all kinds and to show off some of the work the foundation has been up to. Meet the gardener Lance Woolaver and the hard working "Friends" who have planted and weeded on behalf of the foundation for the first time this season.

Remember Banff is a cooler climate than most of Alberta so plants long gone in your own garden will be peaking here now. I look forward to meeting you so don't be shy - come over and introduce yourself.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Front Door Wow- First Impressions

Check out my Calgary Herald article July 9 when I look at ways to add more wow to the front yard! Here is another bonus photo taken last week in Croatia... this front door is in Ston- just north of Dubrovnik.