The Scarboro Garden Scene
Marjorie Harris and Thomas Hobbs, and in-door plants

These two writers are in the top tier of Canadian horticulturalists. When you see either of their names, take their advice seriously, although neither lives in the prairies. Marjorie Harris writes regularly in the Globe and Mail, but we need to know many, maybe most, of her readers live in the east, so check for plant hardiness. Except for our dry climate, the February 6th edition of the Globe and Mail this was of little consequence as the topic was indoor plants. Quoting Thomas Hobbs talking about terrariums, Marjorie Harris recommends using various species of Tillandsia (a type of bromeliad), as well as other plants such as Kalanchoe, often seen in hardware stores, and Zamiocalcus – often referred to as “ZZ”, and the more readily available orchids such as Phalaenopsis: many of these will die if overwatered, so be careful. In our climate drought tolerant plants do well, including Christmas and Easter Cactus for instance, but a few plants from last summer’s outside pots can survive: trailing (or “pendant”) Rosemary does quite well.
As our daylight is increasing, now is a good time to give your plants their annual check-up. If the plant has been doing well, the roots will have grown and may be encircling their root ball. One sign of this is that there is no space to absorb water and the plant seems to need frequent watering. To transplant, water, then pull out the root ball and gently ease the encircling roots away so that when you transplant into a pot about 1 cm wider, the roots can spread into the new compost or soil. If the new pot is far bigger than the previous one, there is the possibility that there will be too much water and poor health will result.
Buying cut flowers, I find that immature blooms on lilies provides longer lasting flowers – on lilies you have probably found that pollen can be a problem dropping from the blooms: just cut the pollen-bearing anthers off the stamens.

G.Wright, February 9th , 2016

Winter Colour in trees
We have a variety of grey coloured deciduous trees and shrubs in our winter, and these form a background to our landscape, but evergreens and other trees provide highlights in our yards and boulevards. Part of the planning process for the upcoming growing season could be to see how to add colour to our winter views. Bright coloured dogwood for instance can bring raise one’s spirits if certain varieties are chosen: the two often used are the red or scarlet stemmed dogwood, or the greenish-yellow dogwood: no matter which type you choose, the brightest colour comes from the young twigs, rather than the grey and scarred old stems – prune them off.
Tree bark similarly provides most colour from the younger branches. Older varieties bear the scars of life, but this appearance is not all bad news: the corrugations in the bark provide refuge for “bugs”, both good and bad, and therefore provide a smorgasbord for over-wintering birds. As an aside, I recently read that many birds that are fed at bird-feeders will survive even if their bird-feeding tables are without seeds … and I see that smaller birds flock to shelled black-oil sunflower seeds but eschew many of the mixed grains including red milo that is cheaper … probably only pigeons will eat milo. Another advantage of shelled sunflower is that there is no debris to cleanup in the spring.
In Calgary, trees with fabulously coloured bark include mountain ash, amur cherry, birch, and Japanese tree lilac. Unfortunately the first two suffer from winter sunscald often on the south or south-west side of their trunk. The lentil-shaped marks (usually horizontal, and very visible on white-barked birches) on tree bark are lenticels. Apart from being attractive decorations, more critically, they provide for gas exchange between the atmosphere and the inner tissue, essential to the health of the tree. They form by extrusions from the cork layer of the tree stem and these protrusions often grow larger with increasing circumference of the stem. Check out your neighbours’ trees!
G. Wright, January 17th, 2016