Tuesday, 23 December 2014

HGC Gives to Grow

The Club's tradition of giving continues this year with funds collected at the Christmas Dinner Social earmarked for a local charity / non-profit.  But which one?
Last year, the funds went to the CBC Turkey Drive for Edmonton's Food Bank.

This year, we agreed to focus on gardening and agricultural initiatives.

The following groups immediately came to mind:

Can you think of others that would be a good fit?

The collection continues until we make a choice.

Happy holidays!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Thanks for Autumn Crocuses

Gold, red, orange, brown are are the colours of autumn.  But magical hints of purple were in Margaret's yard -- a crocus was blooming! 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CrocusCrocus zonatus (C.kotschyanus) is dormant in summer and blooms in the fall.  Margaret showed me its entry in Lois Hole's Favourite Bulbs as we waited. 

The tightly twisted lilac petals slowly unfurled as it soaked up the sun revealing bright orange anthers. 

And then, what luck!  A bee dove straight into the flower.  It was a little too fast for me to capture on camera, but it certainly was a nice sight. 

May you all enjoy this beautiful day and have some lovely moments like this to share.  Happy Thanksgiving! 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Give Bad Bugs the Boot

or How I Learned to love my Fairy Ring! 

Lorraine Taylor, Horticulturalist and Conservation Coordinator with the County of La Ste.Anne, talked to us about smart approaches to dealing with pests -- how to avoid, how to combat, and how to manage expectations. The latter being: While there are many pests, they can be insufferable or tolerable. 

As she clicked through a slide presentation of photos that showed pests and pest damage, she spoke of "smart ways to figuring out the problem".  The primary problem.  Her example was moss growing in the grass.  Before piling on chemicals to try and get rid of the moss, she suggested going deeper, considering is it too shady, the wrong pH, or the soil too compact for grass to happily grow?  To "step back and look at the big picture" and to ask questions. Finally then deciding if the damage warrants control. 

She gave a special thanks to Doug Macaulay, answered our questions and shared some stories.  She reminded us the richness and perils of internet searches (the most exotic may show up in searches, your bug is likely something more common). 

As for Edmonton next year, she predicts we'll likely see more: 
- Forest Tent Caterpillars
- Aphids 
- Apple Maggots

Unfortunately, we ran out of time to see all the specimens she brought for us.  But she did leave us with some principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and a list of resources. 

Thank you, Lorraine Taylor! 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Community League Day - Saturday in the Park

Highlands community groups gathered this Saturday at Highlands Park to talk sustainability while building the community at Community League Day.

The Highlands Garden Club's lovely booth showcased photos from past years as well as gardening resources, the fairy garden (below), and free plants. It received many compliments.

As community members visited the booth and asked about gardening tips, Club members, ever the gardeners, worked to beautify the park's planters. Remainders from the Street Festival plant sale were planted in (some as "experiments") and generously watered.

The Club's efforts were greatly appreciated - gaining some attention from our local politicians.

Finally, as the day came to an end, ballots were drawn for the fairy garden.  The project was inspired by a recent workshop and put together by Margaret, Deb and Audrey as part of the Club's 25th anniversary.  It was won by our friendly neighbour Sukh Panghali!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Highlands Street Festival 2014

Bright and early, members gathered, unloading trucks beds and car trunks of potted greenery, for the Highlands Street Festival.

The Highlands Garden Club booth was a plant sale of perennials donated from members' gardens.

(Left: Paradise in a parking lot.)

Tables and the tent were set in place, and then plants were madly priced and moved into their best light.

(Right: All set up, in a shared tent with the Highlands Historical Society.)

For the next five hours, members sold plants and answered various gardening questions -- all the while enjoying some popcorn and the festival's music entertainment.

Even though it was rainy and unseasonally chilly for most of the day, there was decent traffic and some sales.  Two people signed up for membership - look forward to seeing them at future meetings and events!

(Above: Our neighbour vendor, an artist, and his plant sale find.)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Walk in the Park

A clear Saturday morning - perfect for a field trip to the St. Albert Botanic Park

Lori had suggested the location and raved about the botanical garden's year-round beauty.

Even before leaving the car park, we saw a taste of its summer bounty: the dahlias were in bloom! A long bed with over 40 varieties edged the parking lot.  Marie commented on the work that's needed to take care of them -- their tubers need to be dug up to overwinter. 

We followed the path past a waterfall into a blooming rose garden (right) with a water fountain at its centre.

Next door, meringues of hydrangeas in the hydrangeas beds. 

And next door to that, past the gate, was the most enviable cottage garden.

We snapped photos of happy bees and butterflies amongst the flowers, noting interesting shapes and colours.  The time for peonies and delphiniums had passed, but the monarda (bee balm), sea holly, monkshoodJoe-Pye weed and many others were in full form. 

We revelled (left) before moving on. 

Deeper into the Park were the Xeriscape Garden, Lily Bed, and Daylily Bed (below).

A volunteer was combing the Lily Bed for scarlet lily beetles.  Unfortunately they've caused quite a bit of damage.  Her tip was to check under lily leaves with fresh holes.  She used a little container of soapy water to catch and drown them.  But the beetles have a trick to evade capture: Dropping to the ground onto their backs, where their dark bellies blend into the dirt. 

The Park continued with shrubs and trees, with a whole area dedicated to lilacs. 

The volunteers for the Park do an amazing job deadheading, removing pests, and taking care of all the plants. We can see why someone would want to have their wedding there (the Rose Garden was booked for the afternoon).

Lori was right.  We'll definitely have to return at different times.  Imagine all the varieties of lilies (a large collection of mortagons), peonies, and lilacs in bloom! 

See more photos of the Park here.

After this nice long walk, it was back to The Tea Place in Edmonton for lunch.  Who knew so many of us liked bubble tea?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Ardrossan Rocks

A magazine feature from a few years ago, was the inspiration for the road trip to Ardrossan.  We were in search of a rock garden.

Ardrossan wasn't far away, but with properties not on the grid system and seeming not addressed, we relied on the owners' directions: Turn at the white fence... the road will curve right... Until our caravan was properly lost.  But could it be that house peeking through those trees?

Yes!  Who could have guessed just passed those trees would be a garden oasis with waterfalls, whimsical and great sculptures, and most of all, incredible rocks!

It was hard to capture the scale of this private garden -- and at every turn there was something delightful. (See more photos here.)

The owners' gave us a tour and welcomed our questions, even revealing the sources for many of their rocks and sculptures. But before the Club could plan a trip to local rock quarries (or down south to Arizona and Mexico), we were told it would be harder now to attempt to recreate the same.  Quarries have closed, others have changed their pricing, and petrified wood is just no longer available (by government regulation).

Now most of us wouldn't have the space or grand vision to create the same, but I think we all left this garden thinking how we'd want to add some rock stars to ours.

The field trip continued with lunch at Katie's Crossing.  The old rail train turned restaurant featured a small menu of burgers, fish and chips, and baked beans.  Some of our members, though, decided to start with dessert (ice cream) first.

We then made a short stop at UnBoutiqued.  The clothing store definitely had some interesting items, but outside there was a flower bed that needed weeding...

Find Johanne's write-up "A Rock Garden that will Amaze You" here.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Buzz at YEG

The City of Edmonton has started an Urban Beekeeping pilot project!

Special permission is being granted to a select number to keep beehives in their backyard. 

Interested in helping out our buzzing friends and ensuring we all have plenty of pollinators? Check out the details and apply at the City of Edmonton's webpage.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Sweet or Sour Soil?

Blueberry leaves yellowing?  Hydrangea blooms not returning true to colour?  One possible reason for such woes might be soil pH.

Plants have different ideal conditions for growth and different ranges of comfort.

The Old Farmer's Almanac and West Virginia University lists over a hundred plants each indicating their optimal growth pH and is a probably a good place to start to see if your troubled plant likes sweet (alkaline / basic) or sour (acidic) soil.

Audrey shared as last night's meeting that she performed a simple pH test on her soil with vinegar and baking soda.  About Money "Frugal Living Expert" Erin Huffstetler outlines a similar test here, step-by-step.

While this DIY is nowhere as accurate or precise as a home kit or sending samples away to a lab, it may help eliminate one possible problem and/or point you in the right direction.

Now, how to adjust soil pH?  That's another story!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Weeding and Wine - July's Meeting

Lori, Janice, Audrey, Debbie, Erica, Lana, Laurel, Gisele, and Johanne weeded away in the community hall garden yesterday, as the sky threatened rain.  
Our massive clean out of bags and buckets of weeds filled Debbie's truck!

The bees seemed indifferent to all our hardwork.  But we basked in after-weeding glow, knowing our  garden had a bit more order and some room to breathe. 
The meeting continued at the gazebo with treats and wine.  We shared some gardening tips and continued to plan for our late summer event.  Stay tuned! 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Pest Alert: Scarlet Lily Beetle

The Scarlet Lily Beetle has reared its black head (on bright red body) in Edmonton.

At last night's meeting, Margaret brought this to our attention and shared a pamphlet on this voracious pest. 

It's here in Edmonton, but hasn't been listed on The City of Edmonton's Pest Management - Insect Identification & Advice site.  The City of Calgary, however, has identified it as a common insect pest that is high risk. 

Photos from the City of Calgary's site show it at different stage of its life cycle:

Adult lily beetle on lily flower.
Lily beetle larvae on underside of leaf.
Lily beetle eggs on underside of leaf.

Wikipedia indicates there are no natural predators or parasites for the Scarlet Lily Beetle in North America.  Until pesticides that are also safe for bees and other insects are developed, crushing the beetle (at all stages) or hand-picking and drowning the adults are perhaps the best choice for population control. 

Stay vigilante and may your lilies bloom bright!

For more information and links to other resources visit The City of Calgary's "red lily beetle" site, Lily Leaf Beetle Tracker and Alberta Regional Lily Society