August 2010

Last week was just so busy that I didn’t get a chance to post new pictures. The talk and tour of the garden went well and was sold out. Thanks to everyone who came!
The garden looked fantastic when I got back from vacation. The new mulch did just what it was supposed to do – amazing isn’t it? There were almost no weeds, except in the groundcovers that were not thoroughly weeded before I left! Last Tuesday two of our wonderful volunteers, Susan and Verna Mae, weeded the groundcovers as well. Now the next job is to tackle the rest of the Poa annua between the flagstones in the path.
Late in the summer, perennial gardens sometimes start to look tired; often there just isn’t much in bloom. If you need a little inspiration, here are some of my favourites blooming now.
I have mentioned Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’ before, but now it is absolutely covered in flowers. All of the heleniums, or sneezeweeds, are blooming now and add a lot of colour to the late summer garden. This picture also gives a little glimpse of the montane mulch we used.

Helenium 'Mardi Gras'


The three butterfly bushes, Buddleia davidii ‘Black Knight’ are flowering again this year. This plant appears to be marginally hardy here in Alberta, but obviously in a protected site it can survive. 

Buddleia davidii 'Black Knight'


My favourite sedum in the trials is Sedum ‘Autumn Charm’. The plants are dense, compact mounds with dark green and ivory/gold foliage. 

Sedum 'Autumn Charm'


False sunflower adds a pop of  bright yellow colour to the late summer garden. Many of them, however, can be just too large for small urban gardens. Heliopsis ‘Tuscan Sun’ is a dwarf form from Proven Winners that was planted last year inthe trials. It is about 65 cm tall this year and the flowers are just as bright and sunny as the larger varieties. 

Heliopsis 'Tuscan Sun'


 Bouteloua gracilis, also called mosquito grass or blue grama grass, is another one of our visitors’ favourites. It is a small fine-textured grass that is native to Alberta. The seeds heads look like eyelashes.  

Bouteloua gracilis


 Agastache ‘Golden Jubilee’ is  a graduate from 2008. The bright chartreuse foliage is a great contrast to the spikes of the purple flowers. A little warning though – this plant does self-seed, although we haven’t found it to be a huge problem. 

Agastache 'Golden Jubilee'


 The newest ligularia in the trials, Ligularia ‘Osiris Fantaisie’, is flowering for the first time. This is a dwarf ligularia with daisy-like flowers.  The leaves are dark green with dark purple undersides and dark purple stems. 

Ligularia 'Osiris Fantaisie'

Echinacea ‘Coconut Lime’ is looking like it may be a winner. Three plants were put in last year. They emerged early, grew vigorously this year and are now blooming prolifically. Several gardeners in Calgary report that this coneflower has done very well for them over the past few years. 

Echinacea 'Coconut Lime'

 The weather in Calgary is feeling rather autumnal lately. There is even a frost warning for tonight! Let’s hope for a warm and beautiful fall. We certainly haven’t had much warm weather all summer. 


I will be giving a talk and tour of the perennial trial garden at the Calgary Zoo on Thursday evening. Tickets are $20. There are still a few spots left.

Here is a link to the zoo’s website with ticket information:

I apologize for not posting in the past two weeks. I have been, and still am, on vacation. However, today I thought I would post a few pictures from the perennial trial garden at the Calgary Zoo just before I left at the end of July. 

East entrance to the perennial trial garden at the Calgary Zoo.


West end of the perennial trial garden at the Calgary Zoo.


The big news in the garden is that we have added mulch for the first time! Until now the protocol for the project has dictated that mulch would not be used. It was thought that most gardeners did not use mulch, and we try to replicate usual home gardening techniques. But attitudes have changed over the 12 years since the project began; most gardeners now use mulch of some kind. We should be promoting the use of mulch for many reasons, including weed deterrence and moisture retention. 

The mulch we used is called ‘montane mulch’, it is a very fine-textured bark mulch suitable for a perennial garden. It was spread about 3 cm (1.5 inches) thick. Because it is so fine-textured, it tends to shed water if it is spread much thicker.  As you can see in the picture below, it looks very much like soil. 

Veronica 'Royal Candles' and Knautia 'Mars Midget'

The garden should be in the peak of its glory right now. Here’s a small selection of what was in bloom before I left: 

Clematis 'Multi Blue'

Clematis ‘Multi Blue’ is a new clematis planted in 2009. It is a Zone 4 plant and belongs to pruning group B1, meaning it blooms mostly on old wood, with a second flush later in summer. I wasn’t overly optimistic about its performance in Alberta, but it has performed better than I expected. It died to the ground over the winter, but started blooming in mid-July on new wood. The flowers are large and quite an attractive blue-purple colour. 

Ligularia 'Little Rocket'

 Ligularia ‘Little Rocket’, despite its name, is only slightly smaller than L. ‘The Rocket’. 

Leucanthemum 'Broadway Lights'

The flowers of Leucanthemum ‘Broadway Lights’  open in a soft yellow which fades to cream and finally to white. You can see the yellow colour of the just-opening flowers in this picture. The mature flower is almost pure white. Only about half of these plants survived their first winter, however they make a beautiful and unusual annual or short-lived perennial. 

Helenium 'Mardi Gras'

 I love this helenium!  The plants are very compact and sturdy and it has a very long bloom-time, from July until fall. Plus, the colours are gorgeous. All nine plants survived the first winter in the garden. They appear to be quite drought-resistant as well as hardy. 

Filipendula ulmaria 'Variegata'

 Filipendula ulmaria ‘Variegata’  is a variegated meadowsweet grown mostly for the dark green and yellow foliage. However the flowers are quite pretty as well. 

Delphinium 'Green Twist'

 Delphinium ‘Green Twist’ is a real favourite with visitors to the garden. 

I will be back on August 23rd and will send out an update on what’s in bloom shortly after that. I can’t wait to see what has happened in the garden while I’ve been away!