|Above, four shots taken just this week around our home in Parksville, B.C. The first shows the view across the Strait of Georgia to the mountains (in the sun) on the mainland, the second is the road in front of our property with the Douglas fir hedge almost buried, the third one is a view across the large pond in the street-side garden where, other than a bench, there is little that is recognizable, particularly if you look at the fourth shot taken just three months earlier from a slightly different angle! Author photos. Below, two of the older chrysanthemum-flowered dahlias, ‘Andries Wonder’ and ‘Akita’. |
Both photos courtesy Garden News newspaper in the U.K.
I read a bad piece of advice in a mailing this past week. It came from the Dig This stores out here on Vancouver Island. Writing in the chain’s December bulletin, Virginia Parkhurst, owner of the Broadmead location in Victoria said the following: “Snow is a great insulator, so don’t pull the snow away from the base of plants. Don’t know snow off bushes or trees while it is still cold, or you may risk breaking the branches. However, if you notice snow weighing down a tree when it warms up and the snow begins to get very wet, you should gently brush it off to prevent breakage or bent limbs.”
Now, assuming that the word “know” she used should have been “knock” that one statement contains at least one major error.
The absolute best and only time to knock snow off plants--especially broadleaf evergreens such as rhododendrons and other evergreens or deciduous trees/shrubs--is within a few hours of the snow falling. Removing it quickly means it will fall off easily, whereas if it is left for days, it will take on more moisture, harden up, and often be impossible to remove without breaking the needles/leaves.
Now, how to remove it--what you should not do is to take a broom and sweep the snow off! Please! The sharpness of the corns of any broom, whether a real corn type, or one that is artificial, often will severely damage the needles or broad leaves of the plants. I once saw this happen in a major way on the Korean box plantings of a roadside ‘plant billboard’ in the Toronto area.
The only safe way of removing snow from any such plants is to use a broom handle or other sturdy pole and to use same to shake the plants’ branches so the snow falls off on its own once the shaking begins. This is very important. With all the snow we have on Vancouver Island this year you can depend that such important destinations as The Butchart Gardens and Milner Gardens and Woodland will have used the pole/shaking technique to remove snow as soon after it fell as possible. In other years I know garden managers and their staffs have been up working at shaking snow off rhododendrons and other similar plants as late as 3 AM!
One additional short comment on the Dig This bulletin. The same issue has a short item on feeding the birds by Christiane Kamerman, co-owner of the store in Nanaimo. It contains excellent advice, viz: “Anna’s hummingbirds (Calypte anna) live here all year long and they especially appreciate hummingbird feeders when it’s cold and snow covers everything. Bring your feeder in overnight to warm it up and prevent freezing, or better yet, have a second feeder and rotate them periodically during the day to keep the nectar from freezing solid. While, it's cold, increase the sugar in your nectar mixture to 3 parts water to 1 part sugar.”
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The most interesting gardening news that I saw this past week, in fact the most interesting in some time, came from the U.K. weekly Garden News newspaper, and came via good friends Peter Keeping and Sheila Cule keen gardeners just east of Toronto. While they were in the U.K. this past summer they picked up several copies of gardening publications including the August 19th edition of the aforementioned Garden News. It contained a short article by dahlia exhibitor, Dave Bates in which he describes a relatively rare type of dahlias, which very much portray the traits of chrysanthemums rather than dahlias. Here is what Dave Bates said: “Dahlias are amazing plants with a diverse gene pool that allows them to disguise themselves as other types of flower. These include waterlilies, peonies and anemones, but there is another that has only been achieved on a few occasions--a chrysanthemum-flowered dahlia.
“In the 1950s the Dutch raiser Andries produced an orange-flowered dahlia of previously unknown form, naming it ‘Andries Wonder’. The long petals rolled inwards and the overall form of the bloom resembled a chrysanthemum. There were no others published for over 30 years so the assumption is no more appeared.
“Then in the 1980s, a Japanese raiser, Konishi, produced another one of this form and named it after a picturesque town in northern Japan, Akita. The flowers were very imposing, around 20 cm (8 in.) on plants around 100 cm (3 ft. 6 in.) tall. The leaf formation was also distinct, being more rounded than normal serrated dahlia foliage. The flowers have dark red petals with a yellow reverse and blends that make it particularly attractive.
“I once saw some of these blooms at a dahlia show arranged in a basket and heard comments from visitors enquiring why chrysanthemums were included in the dahlia show. They were amazed when they were told that in fact the blooms were chrysanthemum-flowered dahlias!
Also in the 1980s, an earlier example appeared named ‘Akita-No-Hikari’ with finer petals than ‘Akita’ and darker colours. Both varieties are grown exclusively in the USA while I have only seen ‘Akita’ in the UK. Last year I visited some Dutch dahlia nurseries and was pleased to find blooms of ‘Akita’ in one of them. I then spotted some similar blooms in different colours and assumed they were sports. One was all yellow and another was blends of red and yellow while a third named ‘Vancouver’ was more of a mauve and white sport.
“This means there are interesting times ahead for British growers who want to extend their collection, although I am not able to advise which nurseries will stock these varieties in 2009. Currently, Abacus Nurseries of Drumeau Road, Skewen, Neath SA10 6NW (tel: 01792 817994) and the National Collection, Varfell Farm, Longrock, Penzance, Cornwall TR93 0WG (tel: 01736 711271) stocks them as well as several garden centres including them in their plastic bag range.”
Over to you, dahlia growers!