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Season Ending Already
by Donna Balzer
by Donna Balzer


If you somehow missed her on the award winning garden show Bugs & Blooms (now in re-runs on HGTV and around the world), you can catch her in the summer answering listener questions on CBC. Failing that, open the Calgary Herald and you’ll find her on-going gardening column. There’s also a good chance you’ll see her work in either “Garden Life Magazine” or “Canadian Gardening”

Donna’s work has also been recognized through several awards. Her first book “Gardening for Goofs is a Canadian best seller and her second book “The Prairie Rock Garden” received the Carlton R. Worth award for writing. In 2003 Donna received “The Distinguished Agrologist Award” from her peers in Agrology. HGTV’s hit internationally broadcast gardening show “Bugs & Blooms” won Donna and her Co-Host Todd Reichardt the Garden Globe Award for best talent in electronic media in 2002.

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August 26, 2012

Anyone thinking of fall clean up is way ahead of himself because this is the time for garden planting – or at least planning to plant.

Gardeners are tired at the end of our short but active season but once they go away for a break or holiday they come back with lots of new energy and ideas in September. I am not very fussy about fall planting because I hate to see plants given less than a fighting chance of survival. There are some plants that are available almost exclusively in fall and are definitely best planted in the next month or two so I do make concessions for those plants. “Fall” in Alberta is a period in time that officially starts this weekend or as soon as a little piece of earth is cleared out for planting of new things. Here are the five things I fall plant:

Peonies – Absolutely the hardiest plant for full sun through to part shade that was ever created for our climate. While garden centres offer pink or white or red – the mail order sources offer a dreamer’s range of tones and styles. I particularly like Nymph and Festiva Maxima Peonies from Estate Perennials in Stony Plain, Alberta and Akashigata or Coral Faye from Parkland Perennials in Bruderheim, Alberta. These sources are local – in that they are from Alberta- and I trust everything they offer and know it is hardy in our climate. Peonies are picky about planting depth so make sure the pink eyes are only covered by a couple centimeters of soil, not a couple of inches.

Daylilies- Another mail-order jewel that comes in a variety of shades and sizes. The dry little roots I received in the mail last year from Estate Perennials didn’t seem to have a lick of vitality but I planted them anyways and come spring they sprouted quickly and have already started blooming – in their first year from a division. I have started to like dwarf daylilies used as a border in the garden- or at least I am trying out that look in part of my front garden so strollers can let me know if this works for them. I have also found that regardless of what it says in catalogues these plants like a dry site so don’t mistakenly put them right by a spray nozzle or in a damp area – especially not a damp area with bark mulch.

Real Lilies- The big box stores offer these imports but usually in mixes or very cautious colour combinations. The biggest selection is by mail order in Canada and I have had good luck with lily bulbs ordered and delivered even into latest fall. Asiatic Lily bulbs are very hardy and reliable when planted in our cold soil in the fall but so are the Martagons and many of the species lilies. True lilies always bloom the first year so plant them in their final location immediately instead of in a holding bed for later placement. Try Estate Perennials, Parkland Perennials or Lilynook Lilies out of Manitoba for the hardiest choices and plan to space the lilies about a stretched hand (or twenty centimeters) apart and a good shovel depth deep. All my beds are previously prepared so I don’t need to prep the soil in any way before planting lilies but if you do have clay-like soil be warned these do not like to sit right on a clay base where water may collect.

Iris- If your Siberian Iris have been developing the look of a donut – with a ring of foliage surrounding a hollow center – and if they have noticeably slowed down in blooming then it may be time to split and divide them before winter. With their graceful foliage and true blue, purple, white or pink flowers who wouldn’t love a Siberian Iris in spring? A wide variety of this graceful hardy plant is available by mail order but I was offered a dwarf soft pink variety from a friend. I can’t help it - I love soft pink and dark pink and all pink really which doesn’t really match my red and orange garden persona.

Fall Bulbs- Most people know about tulips and crocus, muscari and squill. Daffodils are considered picky plants better left to the professionals. Gardeners sometimes still try daffodils although I discourage this in zone 3 gardens unless they are planted early in the fall – before the end of September- and the bulbs are well mulched with a black peat layer or finely composted bark so that they can root in well even if winter comes early. If you are up for a challenge and love the little jonquils – a fancy name for petite daffodils – try the mini daffodil collection from Vesey’s.

And what about bulbs in the vegetable garden? Garlic is best fall planted and may not even survive if planted in the spring. Gardeners often use their own garlic to “reseed” or plant again in fall – choosing their largest bulbs from among the ones they harvest to gradually select a hardy one for their site. If you don’t have any yet buy some from the farmer’s market and get it in the ground in September.

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