Deer Gardener says: it’s time for new colours in the yard

  • Oct. 5, 2009 2:00 p.m.

Wonderful fall flowers are blessing the yards just now. With the leaves turning their dying hues one can’t help but to be impressed. Our driveway has a maple that sheds huge leaves wherever the wind blows. I love it.The calendula have come on strong, with shorter stems and more flowers. These annuals self-seed and are carefree, making a wondrous cover for areas of spring bulbs where you don’t want to dig lest you damage the bulbs. I planted some fresh seed last spring to have new colours, it seems the yellow calendula won the battle of seed pollination, all the natural re-gen are the same.I was nice to my California poppy and pansies in August, with a generous feeding and dead-heading. Now I have a re-birth of both plants. They are exquisite.My deer have nibbled the purple asters to the ground, so purple won’t be in my Thanksgiving bouquet this year. Michaelmas daisies were named this because they bloom around the Feast of St. Michael (Sept. 29). Now we know! They come in many colours apparently, including pink and white. It would be nice to have other colours besides mauve and purple. Anyone out there have these different colours to share?I really cleaned up the rhubarb in August and mulched it with compost. Now it’s putting out new leaves. No, no, no, that’s just wrong! I was obviously premature in removing the dying leaves. Now what? Since rhubarb is the plant that rewards us in the spring with healthy fruit and is virtually trouble-free to grow, it deserves some attention here. This is the time to ask a friend for three crowns, with three buds each (ideally) for a good start. Dig a trench 60 cm deep and wide per crown, then dig copious amounts of manure and seaweed into the soil. Mix in a basic garden fertilizer and some lime as rhubarb likes a ph of about 6. Refill the improved soil to about 15 cm below ground level, placing the crowns in so the tops of the rhubarb are just below the surface. You can plant rhubarb anytime from first frost to February. Pick sparingly the second year, mulching with compost every fall. You will be rewarded for years and years, for planting rhubarb properly. Watch established rhubarb beds for crown rot, which occurs in soggy shady soil. Divide rhubarb when it begins to send up some tiny shoots.I was asked if spring bulbs can be planted now. The best plan is to wait until there has been a good frost. If you plant them too soon the bulbs not only establish roots, but they send up shoots which cannot succeed. Bulbs should be planted deeper here than recommended, in well drained soil. I am always surprised how they seem to end up so near the surface after a couple of years. I recommend November for planting new bulbs. If you can plan ahead enough, prepare the bulb location by digging the soil, and sprinkling basic fertilizer and a handful each of lime and wood ashes into it. The lime needs time to raise the ph allowing the fertilizers to work properly. When planting in November it is cold out; the less time outside the better.It’s a good idea to take up any black plastic used to mulch under bushes allowing the soil to aerate for a month or so, and applying compost and fall fertilizer as needed.Rhododendron dislike the root areas disturbed by digging, but try to loosen the top couple of inches with a fork, they appreciate that. I like dumping wheel barrows full of weeds under the large shrubs just before replacing the plastic, creating a compost as the weeds die down. Be sure the shrubs can get enough water if you use plastic to mulch.I have planted the colchicum I ordered from botanus.com in Calgary. They came curly-sprouted, but have shot upright now, fortunately. I have three different kinds, come and see.My neighbour gave me some autumn crocus that are finished already. Since she has a dreadful weed in her yard that came with some plants from Prince Rupert, she carefully washed the roots of the bulbs for me. How kind! Even so, I planted them in a pot so I can watch for the ‘gout weed’. She fights with this invasive weed at least three times a year, who needs it?