Columbines In Spring

Spring sprang kind of quickly on me- with an attack on my columbines. I have to admit I didn't look closely enough in the beginning- attributed the mounting damage on the leaves to wind and sudden heat but by the time I really did examine the plants it was almost too late. Tiny little green caterpillar-like insects were chewing up the leaves- dozen of these things from what I could see and I knew that there must be far more that I couldn't see.
17 crawlers in this closeup
It was really discouraging because this had never happened before since moving to Merritt- with the exception of the aphids on the apple tree that we eventually took down. These were sawfly larvae and as far as hatches go there might have been several...it was bad.

So there I was, standing over the carnage, debating the wisdom of not using chemicals and an idea struck me. Thinking about how diatomaceous earth was a good control for ants I thought there must be something similarly natural that could take care of these creatures. (Diatomaceous earth is basically super finely ground up diatoms- ancient calcified sea creatures- that effectively becomes powderized glass that ants ingest and die from).
Leaves stripped and ongoing damage
I wondered if talcum powder would work and got some from the house and  blasted one plant with it as a test. I checked back in 5 minutes and after a moment saw a small caterpillar fall off. I came back 5 minutes later and saw a few more on the ground at the base of the columbine.

Made up my mind and blasted every plant with the remainder of the powder. At the end of the day there were easily hundreds of larvae on the ground...the ants came and took a few away but most of them I simply hosed off. I went to the dollar store the next day and bought more talc and blasted the columbines twice more. In the end I believe several thousand larvae had contributed to the excessive damage- this was just over a week ago and most of the plants have recovered and are beginning to flower but the damage still shows.
Talc to the rescue!
Talc is a fairly natural substance in that it's the softest mineral on earth and is ground up very finely and usually has some scent added. Obviously you don't want to breath it in so  apply it on a day when the wind isn't blowing. The fine powder gets into the spiracles (breathing parts) of the caterpillars and clogs them up and possibly poisons them as well. I was able to do this on a relatively cool overcast day so there weren't any other insects moving about in the garden for which I'm grateful.

Too bad, so sad


Gardening Experiments

Copyright: Heidi I. Koehler

*Note: a lot of links go to the Royal Horticultural Society website in the UK. A very old organization that probably focuses quite heavily on fancy varieties but I am trying to diversify links and not rely so heavily on Wikipedia.

A lot of experiment this year!
I bought a Stevia this year but it is not doing well- too cold at my place I think. I tried to propagate by leaf cuttings last year and it never worked so at least i want to grow one good plant. Here is a news article about Stevia.

Kelly sent me a whole bunch of seeds- a mix of annuals and perennials- even she's not sure about all of them!
I decided to attempt to germinate them in a more controlled way based in part with things I picked up from other gardeners on the internet.
I am using milk/water jugs with the tops cut away to do this...basically they are miniature hot houses. It's a little more work than having a cold frame but this way I know for sure what I am getting- labeling is done directly on the containers which for me is quite helpful.

 Here is the list of seeds from Kelly that I planted on May 5th:
1- Hand sized Blood Red Poppy (annual or perennial? don't know)
2- Purple Poppy (same question)
3- Pink Columbine (I actually have a lot of columbines but who knows what shade of pink this will be!)
4- Purple Stock (haven't a clue what this is)
5- Purple Mystery Flower (Kelly doesn't know what it is)
6- Yellow Woody Lupin (fragrant)
7- Hellebore
8- Yellow Locust (sounds interesting)
9- False Indigo
10- Purple Bachelor Button (I have lots of this- very easy to grow but I think the seed may not have been ripe)
11- Sunflower
12- Sweet Pea "April In Paris" (perennial perhaps?)

As well as Kelly's seeds I have a lot of perennials I collected mostly from Lou's place a few years ago and I am germinating them in ice creme buckets. Those seeds are 2 or 4 years old so who knows if any of them will come. They were planted on May 6th.
1- Flax...I called it "Dead Flax" because the colour was tan as opposed to black like the ones I am growing now produce. This has already germinated.
2-Larkspur Blue...a true larkspur. The first time I really became aware of how majestically beautiful these flowering plants are was when I saw them at Baillie House (Merritt, B.C.) my first summer here.  Lou had them as well as a white variety.
3- Larkspur White...it has to be said that Lou's garden is now devoid of most of the beautiful perennials that were planted by the original home owner. The garden was too much for him to maintain and various people came by to dig out the plants. I wish I had got some but at least they went to new homes.
REGARDING DELPHINIUMS: the seeds I have come from fairly tall perennial plants. There are many species of Delphs/Larkspurs
4- Fluffy White Thing...that's what I called it because I don't know what it was. Maybe Pearly Everlasting.
5- Mallow Hollyhock...I just call it that because Mallows and Hollyhocks are a massive botanical confusion. I think its actually Latavera. Hollyhocks grow very well in Merritt and can be found everywhere in every colour but the Mallow variety is only pink as far as I know. The flowers are also much smaller and more defined.
REGARDING HOLLYHOCKS AND MALLOWS: good luck identifying what seeds you may collect!
6- Red Columbine...just because I can. I have so many columbines right now it's not funny!
7- Echinacea...possibly from a local person or from Kamloops. I really want an Echinacea plant.
8- Thrift- possibly it's a different plant...I am not even sure if this is from Lou's, Baillie House or from my own plants. My seeds have got mixed up occasionally.

Seedlings And Volunteers

Copyright: Heidi I. Koehler

I tackled the 'Rockery' this year...made it smaller basically. I'm afraid I used it a lot for experiments with new seeds and cuttings that it got infested with stuff I didn't want- periwinkle and nettle primarily. I even allowed the bed to become overrun with pansies (not such a bad thing), desert blue bell (gorgeous flower but to much of a space hog), and a single cornflower which grew to a massive size. I am still pulling out cornflower seedlings.

This rockery is getting reduced to half it's size

The soil was too rich for Edelweiss which I did finally get going from seed in a container.
Tulips were pulled from the bed because they never flowered there and what I thought was a stunted columbine was actually the peony cutting I had practically given up on two years earlier and forgot was in there!

Alongside the rockery is also getting cleaned up of Rose Campion.  I like RC but it's a bit out of place where it was located. I potted up a lot of new start ups and will bring them to the plant swap at Baillie House at the end of the month where I will also be displaying my photography and art :)

Rose Campion
Lilly of the Valley is coming up and I accidentally pulled some out but will put them back in tomorrow in a more orderly way. It occurred to me after I had finished that I should just leave the rockery for the Lily of the Valley and the Grape Hyacinth that is stuck in another bed looking dismal. It's a shady location and whatever grows there needs to be tolerant of shade.
There are two columbines in the bed: a store bought "black" variety and I am not sure of the other. Eventually they must come out because they do best in full sun it seems. I have an abundance of columbines...I will probably market them or give them away...quite a few self seeded over the past 3 years and are at various stages of maturity.

Some of the Columbines that self seeded


Fruit Trees

 Copyright: Heidi I. Koehler

The apple tree was the first to flower as usual. I am still suspicious of this tree's potential to survive as the previous owners of the property were not particularly careful in how they planted trees and plants. There was actually plastic and possibly burlap around some of the plants we dug up...none of which had thrived up until the point of removal and of course the reason was that they couldn't establish their roots.
But regardless of how it rests in the ground the apple produces fruit.

 We purchased a peach tree last year with the optimism that comes from understanding that climate change or global warming isn't likely to abate for the foreseeable futures. The blossoms have thus survived the cold and even if we don't get any fruit this year we will have some shade from the tree!


The gooseberry was supposed to be transplanted this spring but we didn't get around to it and now it's too late- it's flowering nicely.


And then there are the raspberries. Many people have told me that their raspberries do poorly here but that has not been the case for me. What started out as two or three plants now strains out of the bed...I will transplant all of them to the border this spring. It will become a raspberry hedge! Raspberries seem to be native plants- I have seen them in several locations around here like Helmer Lake.

Plums do very well here. The 'sucker' I planted last year had plenty of root attached to it and has put out leaves. It's still small but holds charming promise.

Now the debate is how we will have to handle the various insects and infestations that come to plague fruit trees...stay tuned!


Spring Perennials in Merritt

Copyright: Heidi I. Koehler
The first week of May is almost over and usually planting starts in Merritt around this time. We are about 2 weeks behind the lower mainland and a week behind Spences Bridge is my guess.
Perennials are in bloom in my garden. The miniature iris's my friend Sally gave me almost 5 years ago finally have a permanent home in a flower bed and it's the first year they actually had a chance to shine. 

Likewise the tulips actually have stems instead of stubs to hold their flowers. I have to be honest and say that I shifted things around so much since starting the beds that the bulbs always had a rough go of it- I wasn't all that fond of tulips to begin with. But looking at them now I actually like them.


Apricot Bread

Apricot Bread

I'm still new to creative baking.
It's only been in the last few years that I've ventured beyond boxed cakes and shortbread cookies!
With more confidence I've become more adventurous and have added poppy seed roll, fruit roll and meringues to the Christmas standards list. I also figured out pies. A sweet little old lady on the internet showed me how to make lemon meringue pie and my first one was excellent! Now a few other things turn out consistently well like German Apple Cake, banana bread, assorted cookie recipes and even candy.
Anyway, I'm getting brave enough to make substitutions for things I don't like to go out to shop for. Right now I'm baking a bread from a recipe I found in an ancient 'Five Roses Flour' recipe book. It called for dried apricots and milk which I didn't have in the fridge so for the fruit I used chopped dates and for the dairy I used apricot sauce (and a little bit of water.)
I do this because I don't believe recipes should be followed exactly unless you are in some kind of competition. It's also an additional unnecessary expense. Dried fruit is dried fruit- nuts are nuts. Whatever kind I use will impart my own unique twist to the recipe.
Here's the original recipe with my own changes in brackets:


-2 cups Five Roses All-purpose Flour (Robin Hood I think is what I'm using- lol)
-3 teaspoons baking powder
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 cup sugar ( I used brown sugar)
-1/2 cup chopped nuts (not specified- I used walnuts)
-1 cup chopped dried apricots (I used chopped dates)
-2 eggs, well beaten
-1 cup milk (I used 1 cup of apricot sauce- which required the addition of half a cup of water to make the dough malleable)
-2 tablespoons vegetable oi
-The poppy seeds on top were my own addition

Stir four, baking powder and salt together. Add sugar, nuts and fruit- mix well.
Combine beaten eggs, milk/sauce and oil and add to flour mixture.
Mix until just blended and pour batter into greased (and floured) loaf pan and let stand for 10 minutes before putting into oven at 350 F for 50 - 60 minutes. (My dough was quite thick and I had to bake the bread for just over an hour due to this)

Apricot Style bread with Poppy Seed


Homey Stuff


I got involved with an online seed-swap via Facebook. Kelli J and myself sent each other some seeds from our gardens. I mailed her a large collection of mixed easy-grow annuals that are fool-proof in-you-face colour bombs for sure and she sent me an assortment of mostly perennials and a little Valerian plant. I'm sure the seeds will keep till spring but I'm not sure about the Valerian. Indoor plants and I don't stay friends for long.
Thanks Kelli!

Another project I did started earlier in the year- wall to wall bookshelves- which I expanded on because my photo albums really needed a sturdy rest. Since our basement is only 1/4 finished (a few walls and half rooms, I wasn't concerned about the look of my shelves- only that they could carry weight.
It's funny that it took me so many years to realize I should just build shelves- and for that matter- built them customized to the height of my larges books and sketch pads. This worked out very well on the first shelves and last week I finished the 'photography' shelf. It's essentially a storage for albums, shoe boxes and a particular set of plastic drawers that I've had for half my life. In other words, I'm pretty organized now. Today I was also inspired to make a shelf for my printer and scanner which I always struggled to find space for- my office is narrow. The result isn't 'pretty' but it's functional and will do just fine until we get serious about finishing the downstairs.
Basic Bookshelf :)