Flower Garden Assessment – 2012 Winners & Losers

We’re enjoying beautiful weather in Calgary on this first day of autumn. But with leaves turning yellow, nights growing cooler and seed pods forming on a number of plants in the yard, it seems like the right time to do a quick assessment our 2012 flower garden. Rather than scribble out some notes on a scrap of paper that I’d most likely misplace between now and next spring, a blog post seems like a great way to keep track of things. And who knows? Maybe there’s a wanna-be gardener out there who will benefit in some small way…

Our 2010/11 whole home renovation project pretty much decimated all the flower beds. Although we saved the hedges and the trees, the flower gardens were pretty much empty this spring, although we planted a couple hundred bulbs last fall…

…which brings us to the first point of assessment. As a general rule, bulbs did NOT do well for us this year. We have jackrabbits in our yard all year long, a few squirrels in the neighborhood, and a small herd of deer that likes to hang out in our backyard over the winter. It’s quite likely that one (or more) of these critters ate the bulbs! In the spring, I saw rabbits eating tulips on more than one occasion.

Deer in the backyard - January 2012
Deer in the backyard – January 2012

As far as bulbs go, our “do not plant” list includes tulips (of any variety) and Blue Poppy anemones. Only one type of bulb did well this year – giant Allium. We really enjoyed watching them flower and the bees really enjoyed the nectar. And the big round flowers prompted several passersby to stop and ask what they were. I sure hope they come up again next year!

Giant Allium
Giant Allium

Favourite Flowers (not bulbs)

  • Arizona Sun Blanket Flower – These are a big favourite with the bees and wasp and they’ve been blooming for months now. The seed pods will add some interest over the winter months, unless the snow is deep enough to bury them.
  • Blanket Flower - Arizona Sun
    Blanket Flower – Arizona Sun
  • Hereocallis (aka Daylily) – We bought three kinds in pots from the nursery. The “Winds of Chance” varietal had the most flowers, followed by the “Royal Occasion” varietal. Although beautiful, only 2 out of 6 “Jolyene Nichole” plants got any flowers at all.
  • Jolyene Nichole Daylily
    Jolyene Nichole Daylily
  • Heuchera (aka Coral Bells) – We alternated Sugar Plum and Volcano varietals and the Sugar Plum thrived while the Volcano plants are the same size they were when we planted them in May.
  • Nasturtium (Jumbo Jewel Mix from seed) – This was one of the best planting bargains of the year, as one packet of seeds filled in a big blank spot under the spruce tree in the back yard and all around the sandstone boulder in the front yard. Plus, it looks like they will self-seed for next year and I’ve collect some seeds to plant elsewhere.
  • Purple Coneflower – We planted two batches – one from pots from the nursery and also a packet of seeds. The ones from the nursery have done really well and the bees love them. None of the seeds sprouted. I will try to collect some seeds to plant next year.
  • Purple Coneflower

  • Dwarf Fleece Flowers – These have really spread well and the blossoms look good even after they’re way past their peak. We’ve enjoyed new flowers for months. This is a real winner for the Calgary area.
  • Scarlet Flax – This was another bargain, with one packet of seeds filling in another big blank spot in the back yard. They should self-seed so that we’ll be able to enjoy them for years to come.
  • Veronica (aka Speedwell) – These plants grew really well after we transplanted them from the nursery pots. The bees love them, the blossoms keep growing taller and I’m hoping to harvest some seeds later in the fall.
  • Atomic Pink Speedwell
    Atomic Pink Speedwell with bee visitor
  • Sunflower – Our volunteer sunflower brings a smile to my face every day. I hope we’re able to harvest some of the seeds, as I’d like to interplant sunflowers with our hydrangeas (see below) next year and also replace the Joe Pye Weed (see way below) with sunflowers next year.
The bees, butterflies and other bugs love to stop by and visit this beautiful flower.

Frustrating Flowers

  • Annabelle Hydrangea – These are supposed to do well in partial shade and our climate zone, but they haven’t thrived. Of the 8 shrubs we planted, three currently look like they’re dead. A friend of ours said it took 3 years before her Annabelle Hydrangeas flowered, so we’ll leave them in over the winter and hope they do better next year.
  • Columbine – These do really well in our Canmore yard, but are not doing very well in Calgary. Perhaps they need a more acidic soil? We put in three plants that are just sitting there. Maybe they’ll flower next year. We also planted a packet of Columbine seeds that never came up.
  • Drumstick Thrift – These are doing quite well, but may need to be moved to another location. The wind seems to break the long stalks that support the round, white flowers.
  • Dwarf Blue Flax – Compared to the Scarlet Flax planted from seed, these plants from the nursery haven’t done nearly as well. I did manage to pick some seed pods today to share with Grammy GeoK. Perhaps they just need a little longer before they start to spread.
  • Lupine (hybrid) – Lots of leaves, not many flowers and they went to seed fairly fast. The good part about this is that they should be more prolific next year. The bad is that I was only able to collect a few seeds to share.

In addition to the bulbs mentioned earlier in this post, there are three more plants that I won’t bother with in the future:

  • Euphorbia (Tiny Tim) – After purchasing these from the nursery and planting them in the back yard, I learned that some provinces consider Euphorbia to be an invasive species. So I pulled them out and sent them to the landfill. Why do nurseries sell plants like this?
  • Joe Pye Weed – This was recommended by our landscape designer and I have no idea why! It’s scraggly and not suited to our windy location. I think the two that survived ’til now will be pulled out to make room for sunflowers.
  • Sweetpeas – Easy to grow and quite pretty, but very unsuited to our windy location. More than once, the few we planted from seed were torn off near the ground by a strong gust, and the plant had to start almost over again.

There are few mentions above about collecting seeds. So far I have envelopes with Cosmos, Lupine and Blue Flax. Nasturtium and Flemish Poppy seeds are drying in a wicker basket in the garage. I’m also hoping to collect seeds from the Blanket Flowers, Purple Coneflowers and Scarlet Flax – to share with Grammy GeoK and to plant in Canmore.

How did your flower garden grow this year? Any recommendations? What will you change when it comes time to plant again in the spring?

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