September 29, 2009
Does the City of Calgary use its own WaterWise Gardening and Planting advice along its bike paths, walking trails and public green spaces within the city? This question arose at the City’s booth at the 2009 EcoLiving Fair held at the Mount Royal University campus, September 26 & 27, 2009. There are lots of native plants in the “Special Protection Natural Areas” around the city but not in these other spaces that now seem to have the ubiquitous Canadian coast-to-coast urban plants. Calgary has such a unique setting and ecosystem with stunning visual potential for planned urban local/native/wild flowers.
Apparently it has been a hard sell for local suppliers such as ALCLA Native Plant Restoration Inc competing against petunias.
WaterWise workshop leaders encourage Calgary gardeners to go ditch-diving for native wild plants. But our ditches have pretty slim picking. The incredibly hardy and year-round attractive and useful Kinnikinnick, aka Bearberry or Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is not easy to find in Calgary in city parks let alone ditches (although robust 3.5″ plugs in ‘deep root trainers’ are available at Bow Point Nursery).
Why is there not more sweetgrass Hierachloe odorata planted ?
Plants that are abundant on the lands of the Tsuu T’ina Nation for example could easily be grown anywhere in Calgary with less cost and maintenance than the urban selections we now have. If the city set the example by changing the aesthetic perhaps private corporations and business owners would include more low-maintenance but high-impact native plant varieties. We would also be encouraging local entrepreneurs who have already begun to shift.
Familiarity with native plants could be much enhanced by having more of them in urban parks-perhaps even labelled as hardy native plants-in urban areas and eventually gardeners would surely be attracted to these healthy alternatives.
There are several local small businesses that market native wild plants while slowly educating the public to a shift in aesthetics towards water-wise planting. Bow Point Nursery, has its own glossary of native plants. Bow Point Nursery is also a reliable place to get Sheep’s Fescue seed and extraordinary lawn grass substitute that can be over-seeded with great results in three years. Laureen Rama was at the EcoLiving Fair with huge bins of Sheep’s Fescue seed and very practical hints. For more info on her services visit Eco-yards. The ALCLA Native Plant Restoration Inc. includes this long list of native plants they have available.
1. Dorothy Harvie Gardens at the Calgary Zoo use ‘deep root trainers’. Root trainer cell packs for seedlings encourage deep root growth, reducing the risk of stress when planted.
2. Westgro Horticultural Supplies Inc., 1557 Hastings Crescent SE, Calgary, AB T2G 4C8, Canada and Professional Gardener Co Ltd
915 23 Avenue Se, Calgary, AB T2G 1P1 -Telephone : 403-263-4200 both have ‘deep root trainers.’
3. Arctostaphylos uva-ursi – Kinnikinnick – Low mat forming evergreen groundcover. Dark green, leathery leaves, turn red in full sun. Small red berries. Full sun or shade. (Bow Point Nursery glossary).
4. Calgary and Area Native Plant Nurseries and Services: Bow Point Nursery, Springbank, 403-686-4434, www.bowpointnursery.com, for native trees and shrubs, and low-maintenance grass seed. Also for composted soil, compost, wood chip mulch, wooden rounds; ALCLA Native Plant Restoration, 3208 Bearspaw Drive, NW, Calgary, AB, 403-282-6515, www.alclanativeplants.com for native perennial flowers and native grass seed mixes; Wild About Flowers, Turner Valley, 403-933-3903, www.wildaboutflowers.ca for native perennial flowers and native grass mixes; Laureen Rama’s Eco-yards.
5. Calgary-based author and gardener, Donna Balzer’s list of water-wise plant recommendations for Calgary gardens which includes many native plants available on the City of Calgary’s website.
December 15, 2008
Convergence, ocean.flynn. Late morning December sunshine cut long blue shadows of spruce trees stretching diagonally across the snow-covered field. A single set of footsteps led to the #1 bus stop along Memorial Drive. On Sunday everything seemed to be slower paced except for fast flowing river currents snaking through the city carrying with it ice floes and newly formed crystals. As the temperature plummets to about -20°C, the relatively warmer river water converges with cold air and great banks of freezing fog rise up, enveloping the river’s escarpments in shrouds. Emerging from thick curtains of mist, hardy joggers, undaunted by temperatures of -29°C ( -39 C with humidity and NW winds), appeared as dark silhouettes each creating a small cloud of vapour that disappeared with them along the Bow River trail.
Inside the kitchen, the south eastern light bathed the kitchen in a golden glow and it seemed almost indecent to be enjoying fresh coffee and pancakes as a comfortable witness. Despite appearances of an inner glow it took awhile for the house to heat up from an invigorating 15°C.
Crystals of frost along the edges of the ice-painted windows revealed intricate patterns, millions of colours.
“Ice fog is composed of minute ice particles. It occurs in very low temperatures under clear, calm conditions in the polar latitudes and may produce a halo around the sun or moon. Freezing fog is used to describe the phenomena when fog is present and the air temperature is below 0°C. It is reported as “FZFG” in an observation and on the METAR (The Weather Channel.”
See also Sub Sun
April 20, 2008
“Just like spring time in Alberta Warm sunny days endless skies of blue Then without a warning Another winter storm comes raging through . . . ” http://www.lyrics007.com
The living room is exploding with tomato, thyme, parsley, chive, pansies, geranium, wheat plants, etc waiting for May 24th. As the snow falls I think of composters, rainbarrels, herb gardens . . .
Earth Day April 2009
The Calgary Horticulture Society is hosted an even 2009 at the Spruce Meadows, Calgary, AB with an entrance fee of $10. “This annual event brings together over 7,000 gardening and outdoor living enthusiasts for a trade fair complete with vendors, speakers from across Canada, and experts from the gardening community. From its start in the Hillhurst Community Centre with a few hundred guests, the Show has grown considerably each year.” Experts will be available to answer questions. They also host a Plant Share event on Saturday, May ?, 2009 from 9 a.m. to 12 Noon (Hours may be reduced if weather is poor) on the grassy field west of the Society office at 208 – 50 Ave. S.W.
The Calgary Earth Day events will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m, Saturday, April 25, 2009 at the TELUS World of Science, (701 11 Street SW). The event will be hosted by environmental groups from Calgary and across Alberta, and will feature fun and educational environmentally-themed games for the whole family. While the workshops and green activities are free with regular admission to the World of Science. These local environmental groups, businesses and projects will present their green projects:REAP, City of Calgary Waste and Recycling Services, Alberta Conservation Team, Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta, Claudia’s Choices, Community Natural Foods, Students from Tanbridge Academy, Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation, Scouts Canada A .pdf list of Earth Day Celebration Workshops and Activities in Calgary 2009.
In contrast to the grey skies and high moisture of Vancouver Island’s unique ecosystem, Calgary’s sunny blue skies and dry summers provide different gardening challenges. I’ve become very interested by xeriscape gardening principles which include choosing low-maintenance and drought-resistant plants like stonecrops, sage, goldenrod, yucca and shrub roses. See Calgary Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
With so many green areas in Calgary has a lot of wildlife such as the wooded areas of Fish Creek Provincial Park along Fish Creek, Sandy Beach Park, Weaselhead, Griffith Woods Natural Areas, Bowness Park, Edworthy Park and along the shores of the Bow and Elbow riversbut they ares along the Bow River., Calgary has a lot of wildlife in the city including huge Snowshoe Hares with voracious appetites. Various gardeners have suggested cayenne pepper. I’ve also been told to try orange peels .
Ground cover, such as rocks, wood chips (cedar chips) conserves moisture in the soil and protects it against effects of weathering while reducing the growth of weeds.
Mulching “is one of the best ways to conserve water. It also reduces erosion and discourages weeds. Spread grass clippings or other mulch materials around the base of plants and shrubs. Applying organic matter (such as ground bark, animal manure, softwood sawdust, peat moss, leaves and wood or vegetable products) to soil increases its ability to hold water, and improves nutrient content.”
Geotextiles . . .
Landmaster, a weed control fabric is sold in rolls (3′ x 50′) that last five years. The fabric lets water and air through to the vegetable and/or floral plants but prevents weeds from growing. Weeds should be cleared from the planting area before laying the fabric which can be fit around existing plants or cut with X-shapes to place new plants through fabric. The fabric should be covered with 3″ – 4″ of mulch. Large or medium bark nuggets are recommended since weeds may grow through finer mulch.
Low-maintenance alpine plants suit rock gardens.
Lawns are high maintenance and thirsty.
The Clean Calgary Association: Environmental Education, Products and Services, are having a Rain Barrel Sale in partnership with the City of Calgary on
Rain Barrel Description:
The rain barrels are 45-gallon, food-grade plastic barrels fitted with two taps and a screened hole for a downspout.
Rainbarrels, composters and many other environmentally friendly products are available all year round at
809 4th Avenue SW
tel: 230-1443 ext 222
Wed, Fri, Sat 10-4 pm
Use large recycled containers from restaurants, usually used for bulk supplies of tomato paste, etc.
“Composting helps reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by reducing the number of trips trucks must make to the landfill as well as the amount of methane released by our landfills (See here for more info).”
“Nourish your lawn and garden with a thin layer of well-decomposed compost and rely less on chemical fertilizers.You can make your own compost for free. Compost helps the soil hold moisture so plants need less water, and provides a slow-release source of nutrients for plants.”
The “two types of earthworm best suited to worm composting are the redworms: Eisenia foetida (commonly known as red wiggler, brandling, or manure worm) and Lumbricus rubellus They are often found in aged manure and compost heaps. Dew-worms (large size worms found in soil and compost) are not likely to survive.” For detailed information on worm composting visit this site.
Xeriscape gardening principles include choosing low-maintenance and drought-resistant plants like stonecrops, sage, goldenrod, yucca and shrub roses See Calgary Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
“Choose labour-saving plants such as those that are drought tolerant and pest resistant. There will be less need to control pests, which eliminates the need for pesticides that might affect your health, harm other living things and find their way into local streams. And you will use less water.”
Plant waterwise plants. “By reducing lawn area or by incorporating drought-tolerant plants that need less water, gardeners can help conserve water during hot, dry summer months. Small leaves, fat leaves, grey leaves, and fuzzy leaves are all indicators of drought-hardy plants.” See here for more info.
“Natural yard care (or “ecoscaping”) is about working with nature to create a yard that is attractive and easy to maintain with a minimum of resources. Consider transforming a high-maintenance lawn into an inviting, drought-tolerant landscape that will become an inspiration for the neighbourhood and an important part of its biodiversity.”
Middle ground gardening
“Types of grasses in most Calgary lawns are actually cold season varieties which is why they require so much water and maintenance.” Gerald Vander Pyl for the Calgary Herald.
“Leave grass clippings on the lawn after you mow instead of raking and bagging them. This is also known as “grasscycling.”You save time, and the nutrients in the clippings provide organic matter and from 15 to 40 per cent of your lawn’s nitrogen needs.”
Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is valued for its unusual foliage. Flowers can be cut to remain fresh for as long as eight weeks. Popular varieties of the kalanchoe are the “Calypso,” “Bonanza,” and “Garnet.” Kalanchoe is both a house-plant and gardening favorite since it requires very little care in order to thrive. Kalanchoe plants are attractive in a basket with ivy and curly willows.
Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
Common Name: kalanchoe
Zone: 10 to 12
Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
Native Range: Madagascar
Height: 0.5 to 1.5 feet
Spread: 0.5 to 1.5 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Color: Scarlet, pink, salmon or yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Birds along the Bow River in Calgary in April: Bald Eagle, Northern Flicker, White-throated Sparrow, Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee, Rock Pigeon, Mallard, Canada Goose, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Franklin’s Gull (small, black-headed) is very common in the prairies.
Birds in Fish Creek park . . .
An expert gardener suggested that a very small, inexpensive (?) container could be installed with minimal change to a garden even on a rental property or where ownership is temporary. (It can be dug up when you leave if the next owner does not like it). Koy are relatively inexpensive (easy to replace), quite hardy and work hard to keep ponds clean of insects. Her neighbourhood cats don’t bother them. Water plants are expensive but even one adds to the pond’s appeal.
Potentially Problematic Plants
Avoid introducing plants described as “seeds freely.” List of Calgary “weeds.”
January 15, 2008
|Calgary is the world’s cleanest city and the Bow River is clean enough for fly fishers. Algal ecologists are closely monitoring a bumper crop of Didymosphenia geminata bloom, an algae that thrives on dams and clean water.|
Folksonomy: algal ecologist, bumper-crop blooming, jet-set fly fishers, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, rock snot, NB, Quebec, East Coast, New Zealand, headwater rivers of South Saskatchewan River basin, Bow River, Red Deer River,
Didymosphenia geminata (aka Didymo, rock snot) is a single-celled algae called a diatom which is attracted to pristine clear water, an unusual characteristic for algae. When it blooms it covers river bottom rocks with a shag carpet that can completely inundate kilometres of river bottom. Trout like clean waters and their habitat can be destroyed by this invasive Didymosphenia geminata bloom. It has been noticed in the Bow River near Calgary. See Kirkwood, Andrea E.
Kirkwood, Andrea E. email@example.com; Shea, T.; Jackson, L. J.; McCauley, E. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive
TERA Environmental Consultants, Suite 1100, 815-8th Avenue S.W., Calgary, AB T2P 3P2
2002 “[A]nglers and provincial scientists noticed blooms on lower reaches of the Bow River near Calgary, and the Oldman River below the Oldman Dam (Kirkwood, Shea, Jackson, McCauley 2007 ).”
2004 a “large-scale periphyton study in Red Deer and Bow rivers to investigate natural and anthropolical driven transitions in Alberta rivers” [. . .] The Bow River sub-basin is 26,240 km squared, whereas the Red Deer River sub-basin is 47,831 squared. The SSRB is located in the transition between the Rocky Mountains of western Alberta and the eastern Great Plains. Source water for these rivers originates along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains and is a mixture (depending on the time of year) of rain water, glacial and snowmelt water, and groundwater. Though the Bow and Red rivers share similar edaphic and land-use characteristics, they differ with respect to urban footprints, sewage-agricultural inputs, and flow regulation-diversion by dams and hydroelectric utilties. The Bow River has five dams and one substantial weir that regulates and stabilizes flows, while the Red Deer River has only one dam (Kirkwood, Shea, Jackson, McCauley 2007).”
2005 “95% of the freshwater users of the South Island of New Zealand knew about didymo, yet it is hardly recognized within the general populace of North America and Europe (Special Session on Didymosphenia geminata ).”
2006 Special Session on Didymosphenia geminata. Western Division American Fisheries Society Meeting. May 15-16, 2006 Bozeman, Montana. REVISED Post meeting update. Over 60 scientists and aquatic managers from across the US, western Canada, New Zealand, England, and Iceland gathered to exchange information and discuss new findings at the special symposium in Bozeman. The symposium offered the opportunity for people to meet, develop ideas and collaborations, and to express concerns about the impacts of didymo. Donors included Federation of Fly Fishers, US Environmental Protection Agency, the Trout and Salmon Foundation, the Black Hills Fly Fishers, and the Overmountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
2007 Kirkwood et al noted the relationship between dams and Didymosphenia geminata bloom.
Webliography and Bibliography
2006. Special Session on Didymosphenia geminata. Western Division American Fisheries Society Meeting. May 15-16, 2006 Bozeman, Montana.
Brooymans, Hanneke, 2008. “‘Rock snot’ threatens rivers.” Calgary Herald. January 14. B2.
Kirkwood, Andrea E.; Shea, T.; Jackson, L. J.; McCauley, E. 2007. “Didymosphenia geminate in two Alberta headwater rivers: an emerging invasive species that challenges conventional views on algal bloom development.” Vol. 64. pp.1703-1709. http://restigouche.org/reports/Didymo_CJFAS.pdf
Kirkwood, Andrea. 2008. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.
Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2008. “Dams, Didymo and jetset flyfishers: Didymosphenia geminata algae.”