Flora Borealis - January, 1989

Excerpts from the SPS Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 1 - edited by Ted Christensen

We are into the new year, the second year in the life of our fledgling SPS, in good shape. We're even legitimate, with a brand-new Constitution fine tuned at the November meeting. I enjoyed Duff's comment about that meeting: "Where except in Canada could you have such a meeting, working on a constitution and bylaws for over two hours, and enjoying it!". Copies, results of those labours, will be going out soon.

January also means that it is time to renew your SPS membership. We'll have new membership forms at the next meeting, and they'll also be mailed out with the Constitution. Hopefully, our membership will continue to grow. It isn't so much that there is any virtue in sheer size, it's more that growth is an indication that we are meeting the perceived needs of the gardeners. Those of us who are doing the chores for the Society can never be too sure if the way we are going is the way the bulk of the members want to go. If we're neglecting your area of interest, in the programs or in print, let us know.


Pests: Any creature that eats green vegetables without being compelled to.

Summary of the Minutes of the Annual General Meeting - November 14, 1988 - Forestry Farm

(I am paraphrasing what was reported here, to save space and tediousness)

Approximately 35 members attended the AGM, chaired by Sara Williams. The minutes of the founding meeting, May 1988, were adopted as printed. The proposed Constitution was considered in detail, amended and adopted. It will be sent out separately. Membership fees were set at $7.00 for single and $10.00 for family membership.

The following people were elected by acclamation:

President - Sara Williams

Treasurer - Duff Spafford

Secretary - Ted Christensen

Directors - Margaret Driver, Brenda Korchinski, Allan Daku, Grant Wood, Eleanor Wenger, Gary Irvine.

Hardy: A plant is said to be hardy if it remains alive in a nursery long enough to be sold.

ROCK GARDENS - by Sara Williams

The ideal rock garden is more often than not described in terms of a "natural outcrop", but in our part of the world, where the retreating glaciers dumped rocks so randomly, such natural outcrops are few and far between, and difficult to duplicate. Not many of us have the time and energy to drive 200 miles to the Canadian Shield, hire a front-end loader, and bring back an integral part of the earth's crust. Yet with adequate site and soil, rock gardening on the prairiess can still be immensely satisfying, to both the gardener and the plants.

Viewing is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting a site for a rock garden. The majority of rock garden plants are small and best appreciated when close by. Their beauty will be lost if viewed across 40 feet of lawn. So choose a site for your rock garden where you'll enjoy color and scent the most - close to a patio, deck, or entrance way. Avoid placing it at a great distance from where you spend your outdoor time.

Sunlight and drainage are also critical. Many of the flowers we think of a belonging in a rock garden originated on alpine slopes and mountain tops - in good sunlight and with excellent drainage. These plants will fare poorly in shade, soggy soil, or overly rich soil. Think of their origins, and try to duplicate these conditions as much as possible. Avoid killing them with kindness by over-watering (especially on heavy soils) or over-fertilization.

Soil used should provide excellent drainage. If your garden is a heavy clay you may have to amend it considerably to make it suitable. The ideal soil would consist of two parts good loam, one part coarse sand, and one part peat moss. It is important that the sand be coarse rather than fine. The addition of a fine sand to heavy clay can result in a product similar to concrete. If the soil is particularly heavy, you may consider a 15 cm (six inch) gravel base for drainage.

Stones can be gathered from the neighboring countryside. Rough, irregularly shaped rocks, rather flattened, and having one surface at leat a foot across are preferred to rounded boulders. Begin by removing existing topsoil, grass, roots, and weeds. Save the topsoil and recombine it with the coarse sand and peat moss as mentioned above, and put in the gravel base if needed.

Keep in mind the reason for raising the level of the rock garden is two-fold. The first is to improve drainage. This is for the plant's benefit. You are, in effect, building a mini-mountain. The second reason is to improve viewing. This is for the gardener's benefit. Height and width can vary, but heights greater than a meter or less (two to three feet) involve an enormous amount of earth moving. For ease of maintenance and accessibility, widths should be limited to about two meters (six feet).

A natural slope or bank is an ideal location. An artificial slope is the next best thing. If convenient to viewing and the site, slant the rock garden slightly to give it a northern exposure. This will prevent the soil from thawing in very early spring which would encourage early growth and possible cold damage.

The function of the rocks is three-fold. They hold the soil in place, provide a landscape setting which resembles the native habitat of the plants, and provide access to the rockery so that the gardener can weed, plant, water and perform other maintenance chores.

Begin construction with the largest rocks placed around the base of the perimeter. Fill in crevices with small rocks. The primary function of these rocks will be to hold soil. If the height of the rockery demands a second row, place the rocks of that row so that they straddle those of the first row and are set back from it. Basically, the foundation of the rockery resembles a dry stone wall. Set the rocks so that the main surface slopes inward and the longer edge is exposed at the front. Avoid ridgidly straight lines when using rock. Try to keep the appearance informal and natural. Up to two-thirds of each rock can be buried.

If working with a steep slope, it will be necessary to make several terraces to hold back the soil. Terraces can be leveled off every two or three feet in width. Place some rocks within the rockery so that they form a backdrop for plants set in front of them. Place other rocks so trailing plants can cascade over them. Finally, utilize rocks as stepping stones. Sited with care, the will provide access for the gardener.

If all this rockwork doesn't suit either your yard or your taste, alpine plants can be made to feel at home in urban gardens without ever going near a rock. The important elements are good light and good drainage. Any raised bed can supply these. Construction can be of brick, wood or railroad ties (as long as they are reasonably leached of preservatives).

TREES ACCORDING TO HOWE - by Yvonne Herbison

At the December 6th meeting Dr. Gord Howe, Director of the PFRA Nursery at Indian Head, gave a slide talk about trees useful or potentially useful in the Saskatchewan landscape. He intentionally avoided discussing common species, but chose instead to acquaint us with some species rarely seen here. Many are of known hardiness while others are worth trying. Dr. Howe also restricted the discussion primarily to deciduous tree species as the evening was not long enough to include conifers and shrubs. Below are listed a few noteworthy species which generated interest in those present and a few of the characteristics of each.

American Basswood, (Tilia americana): This tree will reach a height of 18 feet in Saskatchewan. It maintains a nice pyrimidal form and is distinctive due to its very large leaves; up to three times the size of those of the Littleleaf Linden, (Tilia cordata).

Bur Oak, (Quercus macrocarpa): The Bur Oak is perfectly hardy for this region. Its distinctive leaf shape, corked bark, gnarled branches, and fall colour make this tree worth growing. It grows vigourously and easily from seed, then slows down. It is taprooted which makes transplanting difficult.

Amur Maple, (Acer ginnala): This small tree, or large multi-stemmed shrub, will reach a height of 12 feet. It has a good fall colour and its red winged fruit persists into winter. It is drought resistant and propagates easily from seed.

Siberian Larch, (Larix siberica): This is a very fast-growing deciduous conifer. In the fall its abundant needles turn a beautiful golden colour before they drop. The rosebud shaped cones are very ornamental.

Hackberry, (Celtis occidentalis): The Hackberry is native to Manitoba. Its multi-stemmed form requires judicious pruning to reduce branching. It can reach a height of 25 feet, bears orange-red-purple fruit, and is similar to an elm in appearance. It needs a lot of water and will tip-kill when young.

Ussurian Pear, (Pyrus ussuriensis): This pear will reach a height of 20 to 30 feet, is very attractive when flowering, has good fall colour, and may produce some small fruit. It must be pruned to preserve a tree form and is occasionally troubled with fireblight. It is drought tolerant and does well in sandy soil.

Japanese Elm, (Ulmus japonica): This medium-sized tree is resistant to Dutch Elm disease. In form it resembles an American Elm, it matures to the size of a Manchurian Elm, and only produces seed once in five to ten years. It is drought tolerant without the aggressive root system of these other elms.

Japanese Tree Lilac, (Syringa amurensis japonica): This tree reaches to 20 feet and judicious pruning can prevent multi-stemmed growth. It blooms in late June with extremely fragrant flowers. Also, it does not sucker.

Tower Poplar, (Populus 'Tower'); This tall columnar poplar is both adequately hardy and useful for landscaping. It propagates easily from root or softwood cuttings. As it is both shallow rooted and lacks a strong fibrous root system it is difficult to transplant. There can be suckering and blowdown problems.

Manchurian Walnut, (Juglans manchurica): This tree can produce edible walnuts. Its leaves are quite "tropical" looking, each leaf consisting of 11 to 19 leaflets and measuring up to 15 inches long. The Black Walnug, (Juglans nigra), is equally interesting but less hardy.

Ohio Buckeye, (Aesculus glabra): This tree will reach 30 feet and needs careful pruning to maintain good form. Leaves consist of five to seven leaflets, three to four inches long, radiating from a central point. Initially fast growing, it slows with age.

Sea Buckthorn, (Hippophae rhamnoides): This is a small tree or large shrub reaching to 18 feet. Individuals are either male or female, so no seed is produced unless both sexes are present. It is drought tolerant and will sucker if the roots are disturbed, so don't cultivate under it. The female plant can produce brigh orange fruit which remains on the tree into winter.