Edmonton Native Plant Society
native plant stewards
by Cherry Dodd on October 13th, 2011

Preparing a natural yard for winter involves a lot of doing nothing.
For instance, leave the seed heads and top growth on your perennials. The seed heads will feed the neighbourhood birds and the top growth will trap snow and also protect the tender new growth from frost.
For this reason don't rake up the leaves from your flowerbeds either. Fallen leaves trap moisture in the soil and act as mulch. Next season they will break down into valuable free organic fertilizer. I always add leaves in the fall to any bare spots that don't already have a thin layer. 
Also, make sure there are piles of leaves under any hedges, raspberry canes or shrubs. It's a great way to provide these plants with free fertilizer and, more importantly, provide a habitat for ladybugs who use these leaves to hibernate over winter. Ladybugs are so useful in getting rid of aphids and other invasive bugs that I try my best to give them good living conditions.

Other fall preparations
Give the whole garden a good soaking if we haven't had at least a couple of solid rainfalls by the end of the month. Plants can't go dormant properly when it is this dry.
If you have plants that haven't been planted yet, just bury the pots in the ground up to the rim, water them well and they will survive until spring.
If you have pots or flats where the seeds haven't yet germinated, don't give up on them yet. Bury them in the ground and see what happens next spring.
Now is a good time to collect seeds. If the stem of the seed head is a bit brown and dry the seeds are ready to be picked. Once they are gathered let them dry in paper bags for a month before you store them.

Posted on October 13th, 2011

by Gail Fennell
I watched 4 of these beautiful butterflies in my backyard on Monday. A friend was curious to know which butterfly was in the pics I took, and I was too, so I looked up the name - Nymphalis milberti - Milbert's tortoiseshell, and there seem to be several subspecies on this website, which has quite a bit of information about this particular butterfly:

There was a stinging nettle in my yard that grew to 6'. My friend Margaret’s comment when I mentioned wanting to pull it was "What about the caterpillars that only eat stinging nettle?" so the the stinging nettle stayed. Guess what these butterflies were eating when they were much younger? I didn't see any caterpillars but there must have been at least four! The caterpillar can be described as mostly black with white speckles and orange dots in a line down the back. Apparently there can be two generations in one season.
Thank you Margaret, for persuading me to live with a giant stinging nettle by a pathway - seeing those butterflies was well worth the stings.
The butterflies loved the native asters that were a rescue from where the 62 Ave. extension is going in. One of them even came to sit beside me on the paving stone for a while.
Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by how far we are from getting people outside of the nature groups to understand that we all have to take responsibility and just start where we can, but those 15 minutes with the butterflies made everything I've done this summer worthwhile.

Posted on July 7th, 2011

In reaction/response to Gerry Filipski’s Gardening column in the Tuesday, June 27th’s Edmonton Journal on mosquito control promoting the use of Doktor Doom Residual pesticide, Cherry Dodd and Judith Golub have written the following to express their opinions:

We'll be the first ones to admit that the mosquitoes have been horrendous this year. It reminds Cherry of the days before the 10 year drought when she had to put on a rain suit complete with hood to go out and pick her raspberries.
“I looked pretty funny standing in the hot sun in my rain suit, but it sure was mosquito-proof.”
But, bad as the mosquitoes are this year, we still don't understand why a garden "expert" would do a thing like that - why he would spray his whole yard, every tree and bush and plant with a deadly insecticide to kill mosquitoes, and of course, any other insect unlucky enough to be in the yard. Insecticides don't discriminate. They kill bees, butterflies, ladybugs, dragonflies, lacewings and all the other beneficial bugs that hang out in yards.

And why did Mr. Filipski think that, because he didn't spray the flowers, he wasn't killing bees. Didn't this man do any research at all?  Native bees are solitary and don't use hives, so at night they find a cozy spot to sleep in a plant or shrub - deadly behaviour for the bee if the plant has been poisoned. This particular insecticide, Permethrin, is so long lasting that it can still be active after 40 days. Since bees travel several km a day, just one poisoned habitat will affect a great number of bees.

Leaf-cutter bees cut out a section of leaf to roll up and insert in a hole to lay their eggs in. Dead leaf-cutter bees; dead larvae. Permethrin is extremely toxic to cats who may chew sprayed grass, or lie on it, then ingest the poison by cleaning their fur.
What about the effect on your kids and grandkids running around outside on a beautiful summer’s day, getting this chemical on their skin and breathing it in?
Also, the toxic insecticide sprayed all over the plants in his yard has now been washed into the sewer system and is making its way to the river. Doktor Doom Residual insecticide is lethal to fish, frogs and other water creatures. It's definitely not a good substance to send to the folks downstream either.

We are getting very tired of Gerry flogging Doktor Doom products in his column. Does he not realize the influence he has on, and the responsibility to, his loyal gardening public?
How many innocent gardeners rushed out to every greenhouse and hardware store looking for this product after his column was published?
If Mr. Filipski is on the Doktor Doom payroll, then the Journal should not be publishing his column. On the other hand, if the Journal pays him, then he should not be promoting Doktor Doom.

* the Greenland Garden Centre website specifically says " do not use Dr. Doom residual on plants"
* EPA website -  ‘...require applicators to wear double layers, chemical-resistant gloves, and PF10 respirator.’
* Permethrin is highly toxic to honeybees, fish, and aquatic invertebrates due to disruption of sodium channels.
* Cats exposed dermally to some permethrin products may experience hyperexcitability, depression, ataxia, vomiting, anorexia, tremors, or convulsions. Symptoms can begin within a few minutes or up to three days after the exposure. If symptoms are severe and untreated, they may result in death.
* Permethrin is a long lasting insecticide. Some studies have shown that permethrin is active after 40 weeks. 

Why risk using noxious chemical treatments to repel garden pests and insects when safer alternatives are at hand?

Here is an article on home remedies:

(This is the original article from the Edmonton Journal, Tuesday, June 27, 2011 that
concerned us:

Q: Do you have any suggestions for dealing with the mosquitoes this year? I can’t even manage to get out into my garden they are so bad!
A: I was born and raised in Edmonton and have never seen the mosquitoes this bad. My wife and I were out taking my son and daughter-in-law’s dog for a walk last week out in Spruce Grove and my wife counted 40 on my back alone. A friend was telling me how he saw a white van turn grey with mosquitoes at a red light near Beaumont.
Going outdoors has been a challenge to say the least, and gardening has been almost impossible. I will let you in on a tip that has worked for me in the past and I will be using again.
I know the mosquitoes rest under leaves so I sprayed the underside of shrubs, hedges and trees in my yard with Doktor Doom Residual insecticide. I have a hose bib on the shady side of my house and going in there to get the hose is like doing a D-Day invasion of mosquitoland. They all hide in the grass and wait in ambush so I sprayed the grass there as well.
The Doktor Doom is non-selective and will kill all insects so I always avoid spraying the product onto flowers to avoid harming bees. (Our emphasis). This application really works. The last time I did this I actually had a peaceful time working in the yard for a change. It lasted for a few days too.)

Posted on July 7th, 2011

We would all love to see hummingbirds in our yards but there is quite a science to attracting them.
This clear and informative article is the best one yet on the subject, and it tells you the real secret to making your yard inviting to these fascinating birds.


Some Edmonton area native plants that are thought to attract hummingbirds:

Fireweed, Epilobium angustifolium Bracted Honeysuckle, Lonicera involucrata (shrub)
Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia Red Osier Dogwood, Cornus stolonifera  (shrub)
Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus (shrub)
Giant Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum
Meadow Blazingstar, Liatris ligulistylis
Red Paintbrush, Castilleja miniata
Slender Blue Beardtongue, Penstemon procerus plus all the other Penstemons
Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa
Wood Lily, Lilium philadelphicum

Here are two more articles regarding hummingbirds and the syrup mixture and content that shed some light on all the theories out there ... so you decide for yourself ...
http://www.paghat.com/reddye.html  and  http://www.paghat.com/hummingbird.html

Do not add red dye of any kind to your sugar solution (the red plastic colouration of the feeder itself does the trick). It adds no nutrition and is quite possibly harmful to the birds.

Do not use a stronger water-sugar solution than 4:1 in your feeder - a concentrated solution can cause calcium deficiency.

by C. Dodd on March 4th, 2011

Early March is a good time to plant native seeds, because a lot of them need to be stratified before they will germinate. Stratification means  providing the seeds with a few weeks of the damp and cold conditions that enable them to geminate in the spring. 
An easy way to do this is let nature do the work. Plant your seeds in pots using a good potting soil, water them from the bottom, then take them outside and carefully bury the pots in the snow on the north side of the house.
Be sure to mark the spot with a flag on a stick so that the pots don't get accidentally shovelled aside.  The alternate freezing and thawing cycles do the work of breaking down the tough seed coat, so that after the snow melts in the spring, the seeds will begin to germinate.

Bruce Bashforth of Bedrock Seedbank likes to cover his pots in plastic, and bury them in an enclosed container to keep the moisture in. I prefer to put my pots in a shallow tray with no cover. Both methods work well, but it is important to bury the pots in the shadiest spot - the one where the snow melts last in your yard. Once the snow has gone, uncover your pots and make sure that they are not standing in water. The soil should be damp but not waterlogged for too long a period. The pots can stay in the shade until the seeds start to germinate. 
Be sure to check every day for moisture levels and signs of germination.

Different species germinate at different times. Some will be up in April; most will emerge some time in May, and a few stragglers won't show until June, just when you have given up on them! I find that some species won't germinate until after the first good spring rain. Some species will be stubborn and won't germinate at all, but if you bury the pots up to the rim in a sheltered spot in the garden, those plants might pop up the next year. Remember to mark them well and water them occasionally during dry weather.

Once the first seeds germinate, move the pot to an area where they can get some morning sun - not too much or the pots will dry out. I usually put mine in shallow trays so that I can water them from the bottom. The trays also prevent the pots from drying out too quickly.

Here's what you need to get planting:
- some large pots, 5 or 6 inches in diameter (12 to 15 cm) - this size gives the seedlings enough room. You can use cell pacs instead of pots if you prefer. Cell pacs are useful because you don't have to go through the hassle of transplanting the tiny seedlings, but they do dry out faster.
- good quality commercial seed starting mix - these are soil-less mixes that contain peat moss. I usually get mine at Apache Seeds, but any garden centre will have it. Make sure the mix is damp before you start. I use the mix because it contains very few weed seeds, and the tiny native seedlings will be easier to recognize when they emerge. This is also the reason that I use a separate pot for each species - it's easier to tell if the emerging seedlings really are the ones you planted if they all look alike.

Fill the pot to about half an inch from the top and gently press the mixture down flat. Sprinkle the seeds over the surface and try your best to space them evenly. This is not an easy thing to do. Remember that a little goes a long way! Don't crowd those seeds. The seedlings will be a lot easier to transplant if they are not packed together in a big clump. If you are worried about poor germination, just plant two pots instead of one. Seeds should be covered very lightly because a lot of species need light to germinate - except for large seeds, such as Alpine Hedysarum, when the general rule is to cover the seed with soil to twice the diameter of the seed.

When you are finished, label the pot with 2 labels (it's amazing how many labels go missing), water it from the bottom and let it sit for a while until the surface is nice and wet. Try to use melted snow water, or tap water that has been standing for a day or two so the chlorine has a chance to evaporate.

When the pots are ready, take them outside to the north side of your house and bury them under the snow. The snow will insulate them and will protect them from extreme temperature fluctuations. Bruce Bashforth of Bedrock Seed Bank taught me this method. Thank you Bruce!

Next month I will write about some of the native flowers and grasses that don't need to be stratified. These species can be planted in April and May.

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