What do you see on your garden walks? 2013

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Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

I didn't really mean to suggest that it is due to poor care that dwarf Alberta spruce tend not to do well, but more that it seems to be poorly suited to surviving in our conditions generally (usually becoming fatally dessicated over the winter, if they last that long)... a bit of a mystery as Picea glauca var. albertiana is said to have been collected from nature in Alberta.  This site claims that all plants of it are derived from "a natural dwarf specimen that was collected at Lake Laggan, Alberta, in 1904. That specimen was brought to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and has been the source of all subsequent specimens and cultivars".
http://www.floridata.com/ref/p/pice_gla.cfm

Stuart was thinking about this a while back too... One wonders about the location of the mysterious "Lake Laggan".  Does it refer to Lake Louise in Banff National Park?
http://www.lakelouisestation.com/history.php
The name "Laggan" lives on in the name of this bakery cafe at Lake Louise townsite:  
http://laggans.ca/

Given how poorly the modern descendants of the plant do here generally, Stuart figures the original plant (or population if there is or was one) must indeed have been dwarf - maybe dwarf enough to stay completely covered by snow for most of the year?  Failing that, it  must have been located in some very mild, BC-like micro-oasis... but where?

Anyway, something of a mystery... Can anyone shed any light on this?

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

A few more things melting out of the snow... visible now but that may be short-lived if the predicted storm due to start tomorrow night comes to pass.

All looking pretty much as they did last fall, here's Marrubium globosum (bottom) and a little Acantholimon kotschyi ssp. laxispicatum (top); Anthemis creticum ssp. leucanthemoides; Lupinus excubitus var. austromontanus (and of the mysterious gray things that I failed to label on the map!):
   

Astragalus loanus still looking OK, and Lupinus breweri appearing lifelike:
 

It's amazing how fast some plants get going as it warms up - there appears to be a new leaf on this Centaurea epirota (and some old battered ones from last year):

Lupinus wyethii:

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Peden
Title: Member
Joined: 2012-01-04

Lori, Interesting you note no "Lake Laggan" the reputed home of the Dwarf Alberta Spruce. I think there must be a huge difference in climate where you are versus the windward/seaward side of the Rockies which would be cloudier and moister, conditions the little spruce seems to require. So nice to see things emerging from snow. It's still "March"  :( here; cold with flurries or sprinkles but mostly just gray. If you get sun and warmth you will notice Eritrichium howardii beginning growth if you look very closely. Miracle!

Michael Peden
Lake Champlain Valley, zone 4b
Four and a half months frost free
Snow cover not guaranteed

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Bundraba! wrote:

Lori, Interesting you note no "Lake Laggan" the reputed home of the Dwarf Alberta Spruce. I think there must be a huge difference in climate where you are versus the windward/seaward side of the Rockies which would be cloudier and moister, conditions the little spruce seems to require. So nice to see things emerging from snow. It's still "March"  :( here; cold with flurries or sprinkles but mostly just gray. If you get sun and warmth you will notice Eritrichium howardii beginning growth if you look very closely. Miracle!

Yes, it seems the only "Lake Laggan" must have been what is now called Lake Louise, and you've defined the mystery exactly... Given the climate difference between the east and west sides of the continental divide, where in the drier, east-side rain shadow would one find a little pocket of conditions where this fussy little thing (or even a population?) could have existed naturally?

I'll keep an eye out for the Eritrichium howardii!  Is it actually herbaceous then?

Thanks for the info on Silene caryophylloides ssp. echinus, Mark.  It's interesting to hear the history of its introduction.

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Peden
Title: Member
Joined: 2012-01-04

I'll add to the emerging from snow theme. Yes, I've taken my winter withered hide out into the cold and clammy to search for signs of life on the garden. Not all is in hideous estate and primary to the inclusion of cheeriness into my rather brief garden walk is the note that the Snowdrops are pushing above ground where the snow has melted. Below is a photographic sampling, with my ramblings, of just a few of the plants that are showing now. There should be later, an account of conditions that some of the more controversial things here find themselves in upon winter's passing:

Lewisia tweedyi appears to have survived at the south drip of a conifer (ground level aspect). It was exposed to winter low of -12F and arid sunshine. It now sits in a cold mire along with everything else in the garden. It could well be a case of "just doesn't LOOK dead yet" but I don't think so.

Acantholimon hohenackeri on a well drained version of mire (south face of The Rock)

The white form of Penstemon caespitosus as above and like the Lewisia must yet face even hotter(April) sun than befell it in January and iffy precipitation.

I stuck the camera right down into this old Moltkia petraea. Like Satureja, Lavender... I like to leave all old growth on over winter to help keep sun off of buds lower in the bush. Ideally new growth will overtake the old in summer, but judicious clipping is OK in spring. Looks OK but I can't say if this is alive or not.

Packera from Red Mountain, Montana seems completely unfazed; tough little Rocky Mountain steppe plant. Wonderful; tough is here!

Echinocereus triglochidiatus in hairless form, has winter shrink capacity, is also unfazed. I note that my Agaves (also hairless, glaucus, hardy succulents) do not seem to posses sensible shrinkability but the ones I planted out, now seem to display a good deal of shrinking. Better late than never or just plain dead? Time will tell.

Kabschias grow any time the ground is not frozen and there is moisture: Aetheonema oppositifolia will bloom real early but I think I should have fed this one (?); not many buds showing: and Y'all've seen this Areneria/Eriogonum; not much change.
   

Finally, these Yucca harrimanii/nana really could be the walking dead. It wouldn't be the first time I'd be hoping for any regeneration from the buried roots come summer. The well known preservative effects of refrigeration must yet come to light!

The other plant is Aethionema grandiflora an excellent rock garden get-around hardy enough to reseed it's self and thus be glorious for many years.

Michael Peden
Lake Champlain Valley, zone 4b
Four and a half months frost free
Snow cover not guaranteed

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Things are looking great there, Michael.  The eriogonum is fantastic!

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Bundraba! wrote:

Ugh!!!

Yes, of course, I should be more respectful of March  :-\

Or February? This didn't happen in one day?

Picea glauca var albertiana 'Conica' is widely grown here but some branches oftens revert back to normal form. That make me assume it can't be from a stable population of dwarfs but from a sport. Or the plants grown here are not the same as you are talking about!

I have had one in my garden for more than 25 years. It is still less than 2m high. I've never experienced any sun burning though, not even this winter that have damaged other plants.

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Lori and Michael, I wish my plants looked as good as yours after the winter!

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

cohan
cohan's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2011-02-03

Lori- interesting about the missing/uncertain original site for the collection-- I think it's very easy to find habitats in Alberta that a dwarf spruce could be sheltered in over winter- depending how dwarf! Does  it seem unlikely that it could have been a dwarf population ? Surely it would have been seen again? More likely one individual sport, and then even more reasonable that  it could find a sheltered and/or snowy spot. More of a mystery is why a sport of P glauca would be so fussy?
That makes me think of things like the firs (forgetting which sp just now) which grow in foothills, mountains and some river valleys in Alberta, but are not supposed to be terribly well suited to other areas,I read of them being killed above the fence line in chinook zone yards!  and Douglas fir which grows in just a couple of montane zone sites, not sure if anyone is growing those or not...
Important for those outside of Alberta to remember that many woody plants in general have a harder time of it (so I've read!) in the chinook belt- south/western Alberta in particular, where there is unpredictable  snow cover, and more freeze/thaw than other parts of the province. Lori is in the heart of that zone, I'm on the edge of it- we get much more of the moderating Pacific air than does, say, Edmonton, but our snow cover is more secure than Calgary's- and no doubt other issues of importance to woody plants. The natural vegetation around Calgary is grassland except for low or sheltered areas, river valleys etc, and in my area the natural vegetation is boreal forest, so there must be some important distinctions!
That said, I have no idea whether anyone is successfully growing dwarf Alberta Spruce around here- I'll be watching for them now :)

west central alberta, canada; just under 1000m; record temps:min -45C/-49F;max 34C/93F; http://picasaweb.google.ca/cactuscactus  http://urbanehillbillycanada.blogspot.com/

Peden
Title: Member
Joined: 2012-01-04

cohan wrote:

That makes me think of things like the firs (forgetting which sp just now) which grow in foothills, mountains and some river valleys in Alberta, but are not supposed to be terribly well suited to other areas,I read of them being killed above the fence line in chinook zone yards!  and Douglas fir which grows in just a couple of montane zone sites, not sure if anyone is growing those or not...

It's good question. I've planted Douglas Fir here, one of them sourced from Cathey Peak overlooking Alamogordo, New Mexico a stones throw from the Mexican border. I know of one quite large specimen (or knew of; haven't visited it in a while) so they are planted here (Christmas trees too) but I don't know to what degree or from what geographic area they hail or if they are "good" plants. So far the New Mexican plant seems to be taking OK. Another thing I planted and watch closely is Thuja plicata sourced from northern Idaho. this one has burned in the past but in recent years seems to be getting along better almost like it's adapted. I would think our climate quite foreign to both of these specimens so I watch them with interest.

Michael Peden
Lake Champlain Valley, zone 4b
Four and a half months frost free
Snow cover not guaranteed

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