Archives > June 2018

Canadian Classic: Hollyhocks

Posted by Wallish on Jun 28 2018

Because hollyhocks have graced country and cottage gardens across this country for so long, one would think that hollyhocks are native to Canada.  Interestingly, though, they are not.  Hollyhocks actually originate from southern Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia.  Hollyhocks have the Latin name, Alcea. These tall, stately flowers can be from 3-10 feet tall.  They add structure and vintage charm to any garden showing off their single or double peony-like blooms.  Let’s talk a bit about the details on who hollyhocks are and how to grow them.

Are hollyhocks annuals or perennials?

  • Hollyhocks are a little challenging to classify. Most correctly, they are biennials.  Biennials are plants that grow from seed and in their first year of growth, have green leafy growth.  During this first year they are establishing a good root system and fortifying themselves to live through the coming winter.  The leafy growth dies back and it regrows from the ground the following spring.  Biennials then bloom and produce seed in their second year.  Most hollyhocks self-sow.
  • The seed overwinters and freezes in a necessary process called vernalization. Having had their cold period, the seeds germinate the next spring, the plant produces green leafy growth and the cycle repeats.
  • The way to get blossoms every year is to plant Hollyhocks 2 years in a row, and then you will get a succession of flowering while some plants are blooming and others are just having green growth.
  • The thing that makes it difficult to categorize Hollyhocks is that some Hollyhocks actually perennial over for a time and some bloom in their first year of growth. When clumps of Hollyhocks bloom year after year, it gives the illusion that the Hollyhocks are perennial.

What zone are they?

  • Check tags for zone ratings on the perennials or perennial seeds you purchase. Some Hollyhocks are tender zone 5 flowers, but there are a lot of options in the zone 3 category.
  • As a general guideline, single trumpet shaped flowers are more hardy that the double flowered varieties, but there are doubles that live in our area too.

How to care for Hollyhocks?

Hollyhocks are quite easy to grow – they have few diseases and are bothered by few pests.  They are a great addition to a garden because they attract bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.  Bees love their pollen.  They are occasionally bothered by a disease called Rust, but pick varieties that are resistant to rust.

Exposure:

  • Hollyhocks love full sun – 6 or more hours a day, so plant them on the east, south, or west of your home.

Flowering:

  • Hollyhocks have a long bloom cycle – they bloom for 4 weeks or longer.
  • They bloom from the bottom of the stalk upward.
  • Bloom colors are in almost every colour of the rainbow except for blue.
  • Single blossom varieties have blooms that look like trumpets.
  • Double blossoms look like old fashioned wedding car flowers.

Soil requirements:

  • Hollyhocks thrive in good quality, rich, well draining soil.

Watering requirements:

  • Water newly transplanted clumps as they are dry to keep them from wilting.
  • Use mulch to decrease water evaporation and to control weeds. The Magic of Mulch?
  • Fertilize new transplants weekly or biweekly for a month or two.

Staking

  • Depending on the variety, hollyhocks generally grow from 6 to 10 feet tall and clumps can be 3 to 5 feet wide. There are dwarf varieties but they tend to be a little more tender than the taller varieties.
  • Because of their height, they can lean over and the wind could blow them over – to offset this, stake them with a large, sturdy tomato cage. The leaves can poke through the cage and eventually you don’t even see it as the leaves weave through the wire once they hollyhock gets established.

Hollyhocks are a great plant when you are looking for a flower with impressive dimensions.  They are hardy and easy to grow in our Edmonton area.  Come by and check out the varieties we have grown in our perennial department.  If you have any questions, feel free to email us via our website or call us at 780-904-3514.  We love to talk plants.

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Stressing Out: Geranium Bud Death

Posted by Wallish on Jun 26 2018

Geraniums (aka Pelargoniums) are colorful, hardy, easy to grow, and well adapted to our Edmonton area climate; but at times they can be puzzling, especially in early spring when they start to abort their buds.  Let’s take a look at the causes of bud death and some things that can be done to remedy it.

Geraniums drop their buds due to stress.  If the plant is sensing that its life is in danger, it will focus its energy on preserving its own life rather than reproducing, so it sloughs its buds.  The buds get dry and turn brown. What kinds of things cause the stress?

Transplant shock

  • this is the most common stressor – when plants are taken from the greenhouse environment of controlled temperatures with regular watering and fertilization to outdoors, they need to adjust to their new surroundings
  • cool outdoor temperatures in the adjustment from the greenhouse
  • water them well after transplanting, we never recommend using root booster because we feel it is generally too strong for newly developing roots
  • avoid overwatering, keep them moderately moist
  • be patient, new bud growth should appear in about 2-3 weeks
  • fertilize weekly with a balanced fertilizer like 20-20-20 or ‘Nature’s Best’

Overwatering/high humidity

  • watering too frequently – avoid watering on a schedule, it is preferable that they are watered as they begin to get dry
  • soil that is too heavy & retaining moisture will result in an overwatered / over-wet scenario – change out the soil to a professional mix, avoid potting soil that is fertilizer-infused
  • too rainy – it’s just difficult to control the weather….

Inconsistent watering

  • occurs with high heat temperatures – again, avoid watering on a schedule –  keep geraniums moderately moist and check them regularly – not too wet, &  not too dry
  • fertilize weekly with a balanced fertilizer like 20-20-20 or ‘Nature’s Best’

Too shady

  • geraniums like to be in part to full sun, or in an east, south, or west exposure
  • geraniums like to have a minimum of 6 hours of sunshine, 8 is even better

Is it a Honey Bee or a Wasp… How Can You Tell?

Posted by Wallish on Jun 21 2018

Did you know that the 3rd week of June is International Pollinator Week? Pollinator week started about 10 years ago in the United States and has since grown to into an international event. Pollinators aren’t just limited to bees and wasps but include flies, beetles, lady bugs, and a host of other bugs and insects. Wasps are some of the smallest insects in the world and they have a role in biological insect control programs. Not all wasps sting, actually, but the ones most of us are familiar with do.

Since we gardeners have been known to spend HUGE quantities of time outdoors in our gardens, which attract honey bees and wasps, it’s a good thing to know the difference between the two. It’s good to know who you are dealing with because pest control, nest elimination and wound treatment differ a little.

Let’s turn the camera lens onto honey bees and wasps & focus on their similarities & differences.

Let’s Compare Bees & Wasps

Honey Bees Wasps
both are from the Hymenoptera order of insects
Photo
Environmental Contribution plant pollination
  • predators of crop eating insects
  • used in pest biological control programs because of their ability to parasitize
  • food for other species (birds)
  • inadvertent pollinators
Color
  • completely black or
  • black or brown with orange or yellow stripes
  • brightly colored with black & yellow patterns

 

Body hairy body & legs smooth & shiny
Legs flat & wide round & waxy
Length 2.54 cm < 1-2.5 cm
 
Abdomen & Thorax
  • round & chubby
  • cylindrical, elongated shape
  • narrow waists
Number of Wings
  • 2 sets for a total of 4 wings
Colony
  • >75,000 members
  • very social
  • live in geometric wax hives
  • produce wax
  • <10,000 members
  • less social than bees
  • live in paper-like nests made from wood pulp in trees or in the ground
  • do not produce wax
Hibernate
  • no – cluster together to generate heat & stay alive on food resources stored in the hive
  • yes – the queens hibernate over the winter
  • do not reuse old nests
Honey Producer
  • produce honey
  • do not produce honey
Habitat
  • flowers, trees, shrubs
  • verandas, attics, walls
Feeding Habits
  • vegetarian: pollen, sip on nectar & produce honey
  • drink water – tend to hang out near pools & water fountains in the summer

 

  • scavengers / predators
  • omnivores
  • all prey on or parasitize pest insects (caterpillars, flies, spiders)
  • sometimes feed on nectar
  • are attracted to human food, especially sweet drinks & fruit
Sting Provocation Neither bees or wasps sting for the fun of it – they sting when they feel threatened and use stinging as self defense or to defend their colony
Sting
  • when threatened

 

  • naturally more aggressive, more easily provoked – releases pheromones in response to threat (to itself or it’s nest) that alerts other wasps who then swarm & join in defense
  • may sting multiple times
Stinger
  • sharp & pointed & barbed
  • usually stays in the skin & continues to inject venom
  • rips from bee’s thorax – this damage causes the bee’s death
  • smooth & unbarbed
  • easily slips out of the skin enabling the wasp to sting multiple times
Intensity of Sting
  • honey bee: more intense with a barb & venom sac attached
  • intense due to multiple stings
Wound Treatment regarding stinger
  • look for stinger – wipe over it with a piece of gauze or a straight edge to remove
  • do not pinch / squeeze it with tweezers – this could cause more venom to be injected
  • wash area with soap & water
  • apply ice to reduce swelling
  • contact proper medical resources for more information
  • look for stinger – wipe over it with a piece of gauze or a straight edge to remove
  • wash area with soap & water
  • apply ice to reduce swelling
  • contact proper medical resources for more information
Preventing colonization in your home
  • eliminate food sources for them (ie. food lying around)
  • seal cracks & openings for them to come into walls, etc

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Growing a Pollinator Garden

Posted by Wallish on Jun 19 2018

Much has been in the news about creating garden environments that provide pollinators, especially bees, with plant accessibility.  Pollinators are not just bees and wasps, but include flies, moths, bats, hummingbirds, butterflies, and beetles. Their role in horticulture is critical for many reasons.  Why not plant your own pollinator garden?

Here are some things about pollinators:

  • Color preferences: Pollinators prefer bright colors: purples, yellows, whites
  • Pollinators love fragrant, single blooms
  • Gardens with varying blooming times give extended opportunities for pollinators to stick around. Perennials are a great way to make this happen because most of them have a season of bloom: spring, summer, and fall.
  • Be sure that your garden is pesticide free – pesticides kill pollinators, plain and simple. The internet is full of ideas that use home remedies to help with warding off garden pests that don’t interfere with pollinators.
  • Including a water feature in your garden creates an inviting environment for pollinators.
  • Deadhead old blooms so there are always fresh flowers available.

The chart below lists favorite annuals and perennials for pollinators.

Pollinator Chart
Annuals Perennials
Spring Bloomers: Summer Bloomers: Fall Bloomers:
Fragrant Herbs:

Basil, Catnip, Marjoram,  Mint, Oregano, Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme

Allium

Anemone
(Pasque Flower)

Coreopsis
(Tickseed)

Delphinium

Echinacea
(Cone Flower)

Iris

Hellebore

Phlox subulata

Primula

Creeping Thyme

Agastache
(Giant Hyssop)Asclepias
(Butterfly Weed)

Alcea
(Hollyhock)

Eupatorium
(Joe Pye Weed)

Gaillardia

Globe Thistle

Heliopsis
(False Sunflower)

Heuchera
(Coral Bells)

Leucanthemum
(Shasta Daisy)

Lily

Monarda
(Bee Balm)

Papaver

Salvia

 

 

Aster

Liatris
(Purple Gay Feather)

Tall Fall Blooming Sedum

Solidago
(Goldenrod)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               

Annuals:

Alyssum                 Asters

Calendula             Cleome

Cosmos

Evening Scented Stocks

Geranium            Gladiola

Lantana             Marigolds

Mirabilis
(4 O’Clocks)

Nasturtium          Nemesia

Phlox               Rudbeckia

Stocks              Sunflower

Verbena                  Zinnia

Veggies:

Cucumber, Pumpkin, Tomatoes

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Maintaining with Mulch

Posted by Wallish on Jun 14 2018

Mulch really IS magical! Mulch technically is a top dressing for soil. For this conversation, we will define mulch as shredded wood or bark chips or leaves; or a mix thereof. It truly is the golden ticket to simpler gardening. With a mulched garden you water less and weed less and still can have a beautifully maintained yard. With a little muscle power on the front end, you can reduce your gardening work load significantly.

Mulch can be placed in flower gardens, vegetable gardens, and even containers. In all of these applications, mulch keeps roots cooler and reduces water consumption because the water evaporates less.

Listen to how your life can be simplified by using this modus operandi in your garden.

For more information on mulch, click on this link to view our blog on The Magic of Mulch / Gardening Tips on our website. If you have more questions about types of mulch or on techniques, reach out to us via email via our website, or feel free to call us at 780-467-3091. We are always happy to support you in your quest of gardening.

Tags: mulch

Crazy for Cucumbers

Posted by Wallish on Jun 12 2018

Like tomatoes, there are few foods out there that taste better than a fresh garden grown cucumber.  Cucumbers require some finesse to grow because they are a tender crop (they don’t like the cold) and they have some idiosyncrasies that we gardeners need to iron out:

  • Cucumbers like it warm
    • have no frost tolerance whatsoever
    • temperatures below 10C have a negative impact on their growth and fruit quality
  • Because of their intolerance of cold, start cucumbers indoors, 2-4 weeks ahead of when you would like to plant them outside.
    • for us in the Edmonton area, a good target date for planting cucumbers outdoors is the 1st or 2nd week of June but still keep an eye on overnight temperatures. If it is looking under 10C, cover them.
    • get them started indoors in the first 2 weeks of May
  • Grow cucumbers in high quality, well-draining soil – cucumbers have a high demand for water, they like to be moist but they become despondent if their feet are sitting wet & soggy
  • If cucumbers are too wet (and cold) they become more susceptible disease & insect pressures
  • Fertilizer requirements for cucumbers:
    • cucumbers have lower requirements for nitrogen (N), and higher for phosphorous (P) and potassium (K)
    • fertilizer numbers are in the order of N-P-K so look for fertilizers that have a sequence something like this: 5-7-6
    • for more information on unwinding the fertilizer numbers, click this link Unwinding the Fertilizer Numbers
    • soil types have an effect on fertilizer needs
      • well-draining soils will need more applications because fertilizer leaches out with the draining water
      • heavy soils that drain less tend to build up fertilizer salts.  Cucumbers burn when the salt level gets high
    • compost adds organic matter to heavy soils and helps them to drain better
    • consider using mulch – mulch keeps roots cool and helps the soil retain moisture
    • consider using a slow release fertilizer and apply once a month
    • soluble fertilizers work well, apply them weekly
  • Training the cucumber stalks up a trellis affords easy access for maintenance and picking; and keeps leaves dry and off the ground.

Maybe contemplate growing a juicy, tasty cucumber this year!  We carry cucumber seeds and started plants in our sales greenhouse alongside our other vegetables.  June is a perfect time of year to plant cucumbers because the day lengths are long, the light intensity is high, and the risk of frost is significantly reduced.

Got questions?  Please call us at 780-467-3091 or email us via our website we’d be happy to dialog with you!

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On the Rocks – A Blog about Rock Gardens & Alpine Perennials

Posted by Wallish on Jun 7 2018

There was a day when I mocked my good friend Allison about her alpine rock garden…and then I discovered that I had a rock garden in the yard of our new home, but it was covered with quack grass. I cleaned it up, got rid of the weeds, and now it is one of my favorite gardens in my yard, and I even made it BIGGER! My rock garden makes me smile. It is the first to show signs of life and the first to show off its shades of pink and purple while the other gardens are just waking up. It is low maintenance and starts blooming long before I have a chance to give it any attention. Here are the reasons why rock gardens and alpine perennials work SO well together.

Why Alpines?

  • Alpine plants have their roots – excuse the pun – in mountain meadow landscapes.
  • Alpines are able to grow and thrive in harsh conditions, which mountainsides offer: cold & windy & very short growing seasons.
  • To have enough time to reproduce, they emerge from dormancy very early in the spring and they bloom quickly so they can produce seeds.
  • Alpines have shorter heights, with average size ranging from 2” to 10” tall.
  • They are really zone hardy for our area, many are zone 2, so that works well for our zone 3/ 4 climate here in Edmonton.

Because alpines bloom early, consider adding some shorter perennials that aren’t specifically alpines like short perennial geraniums, that bloom little later in the summer and dot some continuously blooming annuals to pull color through all season long. Some great shorter annuals for this type of garden include:

  • alyssum
  • fibrous begonias for shady gardens
  • gazanias
  • livingstone daisies
  • lobelia for shady gardens
  • short petunias
  • marigolds
  • million bells (calibroachoa)
  • pansies
  • violas

Here is a chart of perennial plants that do well in rock gardens – we need to keep in mind that rock gardens tend to be a little drier. Not all the plants listed in this chart are genuine alpines but they do well in rock gardens and their heights are shorter.

Give these tough little a guys a chance when you are looking to fill a small spot in your garden – we have a section set out just for alpines & rock garden flowers on our perennial department. Because we love alpine perennials and rock gardens, we like to build a unique collection and we would be happy to walk you through it and show you how these would work in your garden.

Got questions? Fire us a quick email or call us on the phone at 780-467-3091.

Rock Garden Flowers

Full Sun
6 or more hours of sunshine
Part Sun
4-6 hours of sunshine
Shade
< 4 hours of sunshine
Alpine Plants (2-10” tall)
  • ajuga
  • alpine daisy
  • alpine eryngium
  • antennaria pussy toes
  • armeria
  • bergenia
  • campanula
  • cerastium
  • dianthus
  • Dicentra
  • dwarf chelone
  • dwarf heuchera
  • dwarf iris
  • dwarf lilies
  • dwarf veronica
  • dwarf yarrow
  • echium – red feathers
  • gypso repens
  • leontopodium
  • lewisia
  • ornamental thyme
  • primula
  • pulsatilla
  • saxifrage
  • sedum
  • sempervivum
  • shasta daisies
  • short daylilies
  • short grasses
  • tradescantia
  • vinca
  • viola
  • ajuga
  • antennaria pussy toes
  • bergenia
  • Dicentra
  • dodecatheon
  • dwarf chelone
  • dwarf chelone
  • dwarf heuchera
  • dwarf heuchera
  • leontopodium
  • primula
  • vinca
  • vinca
  • viola
  • ajuga
  • alpine columbine / aquilegia
  • bergenia
  • Dicentra
  • dwarf heuchera
  • dwarf heuchera
  • dwarf hostas
  • leontopodium
  • primula
  • vinca
  • vinca
  • viola

Caring for Your hanging Basket or Container

Posted by Wallish on Jun 5 2018

EEEKK! Hanging Basket Care can be overwhelming! In this short video we want to show you that caring for your hanging baskets is simple and easy. We cover a quick system for tending your hanging baskets using the word CARE.

 

Listen in, enjoy; and if you would like more information regarding the general care of hanging baskets or for specific kinds of hanging baskets, click on the links below:

As always, we are happy to answer your questions either via our website at or on the phone – yes, we still personally answer the phone – at 780-467-3091.

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