Garden Experience Certificate

posted Mar 9, 2018, 2:30 PM by Bernadette Vangool   [ updated Mar 9, 2018, 2:36 PM ]

Sometime last year we entered our summer activities as a destination for people who wanted to experience gardening activities to celebrate Canada 150. The Canadian Garden Council and the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association recognized us with their Certificate.

Milkweed for Monarchs

posted Feb 14, 2018, 11:03 AM by Bernadette Vangool   [ updated Feb 14, 2018, 11:04 AM ]

I was recently asked about a milkweed article by Sara Williams and so by popular demand here it is.

If you’re worried about the survival of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) in your part of the world, why not add some prairie or swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) to your flower borders? The butterfly milkweed (Asclepias speciosis) is given much wider publicity in books and garden magazines; however it doesn’t survive in Zone 2b of the prairies whereas the swamp milkweed will!

The monarch butterfly is one of the best known but most threatened of the butterfly species in North America; in Canada, it is a Species of Special Concern ( The monarchs that migrate from Eastern Canada and the Prairies in late summer/early fall travel more than 4000 km to their wintering grounds in Mexico. It is estimated that about 90% of these lovely black, orange and white butterflies have disappeared in the last 10 years. Loss of habitat due to urban sprawl, logging and agriculture in all parts of its migratory route – perhaps most importantly in its overwintering habitat in Mexico – is the major cause of its decline.

In Canada, the female monarch deposits her eggs exclusively on the lower leaf surface of milkweeds. The larvae hatch three to five days later with food in easy reach: i.e. the milkweed leaves on which they hatched. Over a period of a few weeks they shed their skin four times, increasing in size each time. After pupating as a chrysalis for a further 2 weeks, it emerges as an adult butterfly at which stage it can feed on the nectar of a number of different flowers other than milkweed (including annuals such as alyssum, marigold and zinnia). Over a season, up to 2 – 3 generations are produced in Canada. The final generation that emerges at the end of the summer feed on nectar to build up their energy for the big migration. As native milkweed species disappear from once marginal land, so does the food source of the monarch butterfly larvae. And so their numbers decline. Your planting of milkweed will help provide a more continuous source of food along the lengthy migration path of the monarch butterfly.

For a plant with the common name of swamp milkweed, this perennial is exceedingly drought-tolerant and vigorous in the driest of situations. They will spread (by rhizomes) if conditions are to their liking. If that happens and it’s not to your liking, plant them in the back lane.

Native from Nova Scotia to southeastern Saskatchewan, its genus name is from the Greek asklepios, the god of medicine, referring to its ancient medicinal properties, while incarnata means flesh pink and describes the flowers.

The showy white or pink flowers are born on 60 to 90- cm (2-3 ft.) stems in early summer above 8-15 cm (3-6 in.) alternate leaves. Several cultivars are available. ‘Carmine Rose’ has rose-pink flowers. ‘Cinderella’ is a dusty rose-pink. ‘Milkmaid’ and ‘Ice Ballet’ both have white flowers. ‘Soulmate’ has white flowers with rose pink bracts.

Start seeds about six weeks prior planting outdoors. Use a well-drained potting media, covering seeds with about 3 mm of the media. Place under timed lights or in a sunny window. Germination should take place within two weeks. Transplant seedlings into biodegradable pots. Give them time to establish themselves before planting outdoors in full sun.

Swamp milkweed is a good border plant or in a bog garden and they make excellent cut flowers.

Sara Williams is the author of the newly expanded and revised Creating the Prairie Xeriscape; Gardening, Naturally: A chemical-free handbook for the Prairies; and the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo: A Photographic History. Sara is also a founding member of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society, and continues to be actively involved in perennial gardening.

Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens

posted Jan 12, 2018, 6:41 PM by Bernadette Vangool   [ updated Jan 12, 2018, 6:45 PM ]

Our cold climate has long posed a challenge for gardeners interested in fruit. Now renowned horticultural author Sara Williams and co-author Dr. Bob Bors, Director of the Fruit Program at the University of Saskatchewan, have put their expertise together in one book: Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens.

   Bob Bors has been a professor  in the Plant Science
   Department at the University of Saskatchewan since 1999.
   He teaches classes on Fruit Science, Plant Propagation,
   Greenhouse management, Biotechnology and Introduction
   to Horticulture.

   Bob will be our guest at our upcoming meeting on
   Wednesday, January 24 at 7:30 pm
  Emmanuel Anglican church basement
  607 Dufferin Ave at 12th Street.
  Come Join us for an informative evening and get your 
   copy of this wonderful book. ($40.00)  

   This meeting is free and open to the public.

Our calendar year runs from January 1 to December 31st. If you did not renew in December, you will have a chance to renew your membership at the meeting. $10.00 per year or $27.00 if you also get the Gardener magazine.


The Prairie Garden (2017)

posted Dec 1, 2016, 10:59 AM by Bernadette Vangool   [ updated Feb 8, 2017, 11:17 AM ]

The 2017 Prairie Garden will be available for your reading pleasure in March 2017.

Get it at your favorite garden stores or at McNally Robinson. If it is not available at a store near you, you can order it directly from The Prairie Garden at, but you will need to pay shipping and handling.

The focus of this years Prairie Garden is Herbs & Spices. The guest editor is Dave Hanson, a Winnipeg based gardening educator and founder/co-manager of Sage Garden Greenhouses. Dave's focus is on helping gardeners succeed with an all-organic approach and - of course - enjoy the incredible diversity of herbs and other exciting plants that can thrive in prairie gardens.

Two Gardens, East & West:

posted Nov 7, 2016, 8:49 PM by Bernadette Vangool   [ updated Nov 15, 2016, 9:58 AM ]

Our meeting on November 23, Victoria's Lesser-Known Gardens with Sara Williams is coming up on November 23, 2016. There has been a slight change in the program and Sara has submitted this new title.

Two Gardens, East and West: Les Quatre Vents, Quebec and the Abkhazi Garden, Victoria. Common ground of a Princess and a Venture Capitalist 

Les Quatre-Vents, or the gardens of the Four Winds were created by Francis Cabot an investment banker by trade, who toward the end of his life became an avid gardener. He served as the chairman of the New York Botanical Gardens and as advisor to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Ontario. But his passion was given full reign on his private property, near La Malbaie in the Charlevoix region of Quebec. The Gardens are open to the public only four days
a year so few people get to actually visit them in person.

The Abkhazi Garden, a heritage garden in Victoria, BC was created
over fifty years ago by Prince and Princess Abkhazi. This garden changes with the seasons and is open from March through October. Sara has visited both these treasurers and will walk us through some of their more memorable vistas.

Emmanuel Anglican Church Basement
607 Dufferin @ 12th Street
Wednesday, November 23 at 7:30 pm

All are welcome, No charge.

Cultivating Nature's Palette

posted Oct 5, 2016, 9:19 PM by Bernadette Vangool   [ updated Oct 5, 2016, 9:19 PM ]

October 26th is our first meeting of the fall. I know it's election day, but we picked our date way before the City did. So go out and vote early and then come and join us for this informative evening.

Cultivating Nature's Palette - with native prairie perennials

Join author, botanist and environmental horticulturist, June Flanagan, as she shares her passion for cultivating our native perennial wildflowers and grasses. June will demonstrate her simple strategies for successful germination and establishment of native plants, along with inspiring photos and plenty of tips for growing and combining them with your favourite garden perennials.

June Flanagan holds an M.Sc. in plant science and a B.Sc. in environmental horticulture. She is the author of five regional books, including Native Plants for Prairie Gardens and Edible Plants for Prairie Gardens. Her most recent release was a collaborative effort with University of Lethbridge botanists to produce an updated edition of Common Coulee Plants of Southern Alberta, fully illustrated with her colour photographs. (A link to a free download courtesy of University of Lethbridge is available on her web site at

Wednesday, October 26, 2016, at 7:30pm - Emmanuel Anglican Church -
607 Dufferin @ 12th Street.

Urban Agriculture in Your Neighbourhood

posted Aug 13, 2016, 12:07 PM by Bernadette Vangool   [ updated Aug 13, 2016, 12:09 PM ]

I just received a poster about public meetings being held as part of a research project on urban agriculture through the U of S College of Nursing.
I realize some of the meeting dates have already passed, but perhaps you may attend one of a Ward close to your location.
If you missed your meeting and want to have input on this project please contact Wanda Martin by email at or call 306-966-5429.
Attached is an information poster as well as a pdf of the ward map of Saskatoon

The Lily Beetle has Arrived

posted May 29, 2016, 9:29 PM by Bernadette Vangool   [ updated May 29, 2016, 9:49 PM ]

The Lily beetle has been sighted in Saskatoon in the College Park area. Following is an article that was published in Bridges.

The Lily Beetle - Be Prepared, by Sara Williams

Canadian prairie gardeners can be proud of the many early plant breeders who developed hardy, drought-tolerant, disease-resistant Asiatic lily hybrids in a vast array of colours and heights that we enjoy today. I'd much rather write about these lilies that the lily beetle (lilioceris lilii). But if left uncontrolled, the lily beetle could destroy both our garden lilies and fritillarias.

The beetle first arrived in eastern Canada in the 1940's and has been slowly making its way west. Until very recently, Saskatchewan had escaped its onslaught. But it was sighted in several communities in 2015 including Saskatoon, Tisdale and Leask.

It is unmistakable: bright red, with a black head, large black eyes, long black antennas, 8-10 mm long, and oval in shape. When in distress, it can "squeak" to warn of predators (or gardeners). Adult beetles overwinter in the soil or under leaf litter, often near the plants they feed on. They emerge in late April or early May and soon settle down to feed and mate.

Females lay 2 to 16 reddish-orange eggs on the underside of lily leaves in an irregular line. These hatch within 8-10 days. Newly hatched larvae are black, while older stages are yellowish-white with a black head. The
lily beetle larvae deposit their feces on their back (this is called a "fecal shield
a protection
against the heat of the sun and to disguise themselves from predators. The larvae feed for about three weeks and can devour entire lily plants. Once mature, they enter the soil, change to an orange colour, pupate and emerge as adults after three weeks. At this point they feed on lilies until cold weather sets in, when they head back underground to overwinter.

The lily beetle has no natural enemies in North America. In Europe, a parasitoid wasp, Tetrastichus setifer. controls them. this wasp has been released in eastern Canada where it is beginning to control the lily beetle. More recently, it has been released in Alberta in Olds, St. Albert and Calgary.

For lily-loving gardeners, the best control of the lily beetle is a non-chemical approach as broad-spectrum insecticides kill both the beetle and its predators. Be observant: as soon as your lilies emerge in spring, check them regularly for signs of beetle, eggs and larvae. The most effective means to control beetles is to handpick (or squish eggs and larvae). If you're already feeling squeamish, wear gloves, carry a pail of soapy water to drop the beetles into, or bribe a less sensitive 10-year old. Insecticidal soap is an effective larvacide.

Don't accidentally import lily beetles. Un-pot potted lilies over newspaper and check the media carefully for eggs, larvae or adults. A much safe bet is to plant washed bulbs from a reputable source. Before planting, soak the bulbs for a few minutes in a 10% bleach solution to kill any critters hiding in the scales.

Historically, Easter lilies have been one of the sources of lily beetles in western Canada. While fine in the home, do not plant them in the garden. Besides, the beetles are much more likely to overwinter than the Easter lilies.

If you sight the lily beetle, its eggs or larvae, please report the sighting to

The Canadian Prairie Lily Society is an excellent source of information as well as lily bulbs. Their 50th Annual Lily Show will be held July 22, 23 and the fall bulb sale on September 30 and October 1 - both events at Lawson Heights Mall in Saskatoon.

Honeywood Nursery in Parkside, Saskatchewan, where Bert Porter bred so many heritage Asiatic lilies, is now a non-profit heritage site. With lilies, day lilies, other perennials, and rhubarb for sale, Honeywood is open daily from May 21 to September 18. See their website for special events in 2016.

Plant Exchange and Garden Tours

posted Apr 28, 2016, 6:57 PM by Bernadette Vangool   [ updated Jun 3, 2016, 2:09 PM ]

The plant exchange is fast approaching and we will be sending out reminders to everyone in the next couple of weeks. To make it a very spring-like and fun event, we are asking participants to wear their gardening hats, or Easter bonnets. This is a members only event so remember to bring your membership card. (memberships are also available at the door)

The Date of the plant exchange is Tuesday, May 31, 2016, with the plant sale starting at 6.30 pm and the plant exchange at 7 pm. Remember to label your plants, and to note if they are for sunny or shady locations, this makes it easier for less experienced gardeners to pick up their choices.

We are in the process of planning our June Garden Tour and would like to see some new to us gardens. With the early spring, it looks like it is going to be a great year for gardening. We urge you to have a look at your garden, and seriously consider to get it ready for the June Garden Tour. If you are interested please email Heather Brenneman, ( who is co-ordinating this event with your contact information. This can be a real time saver for the committee, who otherwise will have to phone our entire membership list to get gardens secured for the tour.

The July tour also still has some openings, so if you think your garden will show better in full summer, again you can let Heather know.


posted Mar 24, 2016, 12:46 PM by Bernadette Vangool   [ updated Mar 25, 2016, 10:23 AM ]

Well...., we had a great turn out for our information meeting about Irises. Brian Porter had a great number of pictures of all kinds of irises. I am sure everyone learned a little (or a lot), and left the meeting eager for spring and their gardens, and the prospect of some new irises to try. Because we had a stellar turnout I am posting the handout here for those of you who missed picking one up.

Thank you Brian, for the informative talk about irises.

For those looking at the handout here is the key.
MDB - Miniature Dwarf Bearded
SDB - Standard Dwarf Bearded
IB - Intermediate Bearded
MTB - Miniature Tall Bearded
BB - Border Bearded
TB - Tall Bearded

If you missed the presentation, the Canadian Iris Society has a website with tips on how to grow irises, and the different growing conditions preferred by bearded iris and Siberian iris.

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