Semiahmoo Library’s Green Wall

A couple of blocks from my home there’s a library that features North America’s largest and most diverse living wall. Designed by Green over Grey a Vancouver based company with projects across Canada and the USA, the wall was installed in 2010. With 2680 sqft of space and over 10,000 individual plants the “sky wall” is a living work of art.

From the Green over Grey website:   
 

The original design is difficult to discern now that it has grown in; I took a few pictures of it this week. It’s really something to behold, although I think our extremely hot and dry spring/summer to date has taken its toll on some of the plants. That being said I saw birds enjoying the wall, insects buzzing around the flowers, and even some ripe ready to pick blueberries too high to reach.

My photos this week:

 
  
    

 

Green over Grey has done projects at numerous airports including Edmonton International and Vancouver. They do both interior and exterior walls and have corporate and residential clients. Inspiring! 

Fifty Shades of Hydrangea 

Hydrangea are hugely popular here on the West Coast, and for good reason. They grow prolifically and produce an abundance of large colorful blooms that last for weeks. Almost every garden has at least one hydrangea and condos seem to rely on their easy-go-lucky personality as a landscaping staple.

What amazes me as I wander the streets of White Rock (which I do on a regular bases thanks to Lucy and her dog needs) is the multitude of colors of hydrangea. With over 600 cultivars, most of the hydrangea in this region are of the species Hydrangea macrophylla. I’ve seen both the Mophead type (with large flowering blooms) and the less common Lacecap style (with a central flatter area of subdued flowers)

  Although some of the diversity in color can be attributed to the different hybrids – there are all sorts of cultivars like Limelight (green), Maltisse (red) and Annabelle (white) – much of what makes the colors so variable are the soil conditions. Some hydrangea will vary in color depending on the pH of the soil, resulting in a range of hues from a light pink to a deep blue. The more aluminum in the soil the more blue the flowers. In order to absorb the aluminum the soil pH must be low or acid (5.2-5.5), so by lowering the pH you can shift the color of your hydrangea to the blue end of the spectrum. Even the same plant can produce a range of shades, as seen in some of the photos I captured this week.
Hydrangea can be grown in containers, so it could potentially be a balcony plant. In a container it’s much easier to toy with soil conditions in order to achieve that perfect shade of bluish-pink.
Enjoy the hydrangeas of White Rock:

   

                             

Raymond Evison Clematis

Raymond Evison is a English gardener and plant breeder who has worked in developing clematis cultivars for over 50 years. 

When I went to West Coast Gardens looking for a balcony-suitable climber I was directed to the “new” Evison clematis’. Apparently they flower in late spring and then again later in the late summer. Mine has been forming buds for the past few weeks and I’ve been excitedly waiting to see what the flowers will look like. Today I was rewarded.  I chose a pink double flower variety called “Empress”, simply because I thought the picture on its accompanying card was pretty. I’m definitely not disappointed.

This clematis has been joyfully growing on my balcony for about a month, climbing noticeably higher on a daily basis. It seems to love the east-facing space where it gets good strong morning sun and avoids the strongest heat of the day.
In the winter I’m directed to cut the upper 1/3 of the plant and leave it outdoors where (as long as it has moderate wind protection) it will be safe until it begins to grow again the following spring.
Here are some photos I’ve taken over the past week. Enjoy!
   

  

  

  

  

  

  

Time, Thyme and more Time

   

As a newcomer to the lower mainland (and new to BC for that matter) I’m a rookie when it comes to growing things in zone 8. I’ve nurtured plants in zone 3 for forty-plus years but I’ve never lived anywhere but the Canadian prairies*.

It’s a whole different ballgame, so to speak. Plants thrive here in the warmth and humidity. They get several more months to grow and produce, whether flowers, seeds, herbs or fruit. 

On the prairies timing is everything; you have to have your seeds in the dirt and under artificial light in March or you won’t have seedlings ready to plant out in May. If you transplant too early you can loose your tomatoes to frost, if you wait too long you may lose them in the fall before they’re at full production. It’s a risky business and every gardener has lost the gamble at one time or another.

Here in White Rock things are more flexible. The season is twice as long and that allows for some leeway in choosing what to plant and when safely expose it to the elements. Instead of choosing only seeds with a short “days to maturity” time, I can choose virtually any seeds. ANY SEEDS. 

It’s no wonder the local farms are already selling freshly harvested carrots, tomatoes and baby potatoes at the market. The variety of local produce already available is staggering: strawberries, raspberries, greens, peppers, garlic, basil to name a few. 

Even my own peppers and tomato plants are flowering on my balcony, something I’d be waiting another month or two to experience back in Edmonton. It’s a whole new adventure, and I think I’m going to be able to adjust just fine. <grin>

  
*Ok, I did live for four years in southwestern Ontario in my early twenties, but I’ve tried to wash those memories from my brain.

Gardening on a Smaller Scale

White rock balcony

White rock balcony

There is no way that you can compare gardening in a full size zone 3 yard and gardening on a balcony in zone 8. In Edmonton I had a 60 x 120 foot lot and I took advantage of most of the property for my hobby. By the time I sold my house I had seven composters, several raised beds for vegetables and I’d converted half the front lawn to garden. Much to my (late) mother’s chagrin I even grew corn in my front yard.
I had gogi berries, raspberries and haskap (honey berries). I ate Carmine Jewel cherries from my tree in the backyard while waiting for dozens of tomato plants to produce their yearly bounty of juicy plum tomatoes for canning. I’ve grown tomatillos for salsa verde, I’ve had a spaghetti squash plant produce so many squash that I had to take them to the food bank, and I’ve eaten carefully stored carrots and potatoes well in to January.

Those days are over but not forgotten.

A balcony can support all sorts of plants, including fruit and veggies. Breeding has produced a bounty of fauna that is satisfied with life in a container, although container living means much more attention to their care.

Container plants need a good quality soil that retains moisture. They need regular watering and fertilizing – everything they need will have to be provided at regular intervals. Two hot days in a row with a moderate wind and balcony plants can be baked in situ.

My balcony is east-facing so it gets a strong morning sun which abates at around 11 am and by 4 pm it becomes a cool place to sit and enjoy the sound of birds and a gentle breeze. So far all of my herbs and flowers are doing spectacularly and I’ve potted two tomatoes, a Hungarian pepper and a cucumber. I’ve got two different climbers – a black-eyed susan vine and a specially bred clematis which is going like crazy (I’ll blog about that another day).

So although I can’t garden on the same scale as I have in the past, I can still enjoy my hobby. And hopefully I can enjoy some fresh tomatoes in a couple of months.

The Roses of White Rock

So…I’ve not posted anything for a long time and it’s time to fess up. I’m not in Edmonton anymore, I’ve moved to White Rock, BC. 

It’s been a busy spring for gardeninggrrl, having sold my house packed up and moved all over the past three months. I stayed in four different homes while waiting to take occupancy of my condo on the west coast. I’m finally (more or less) settled and ready to post to the blog again. My apologies for the absence.

Now that I’m in zone 8 my posts will undoubtedly take a different course. I’ve never lived anywhere but zone 2/3 so this is an entirely new experience for me. 

I thought I’d start by sharing photos of some of the lovely roses I’ve seen while walking the streets of White Rock. Because roses grow much more readily here than they do on the prairies there are many more varieties on display. I don’t know much about roses, having only been exposed to the most hardy of specimens (thinking of John Cabot or the Morden series for example).

So for my first post of 2015, my first post from BC, here are some photos I took this morning.