2005: Moving in date was just before the ground was frozen solid. Some crocus bulbs were
quickly added to the front lawn and narcissus to the back. A few weeks later, a weak fork of the
Prunus virginiana in the front snapped off in an ice storm, leaving a gaping wound and seriously
weakening a second fork. The second fork was shortened by 1/3 to reduce stress on it. The tree
lost almost half its leaf area.
2006: Tree roots from the back third of the front lawn were cut off and dug out, which
helped a bit to balance the damaged Prunus top with its roots, and experiments with plants started.
A "free plants" sign and the offer of all the non-yellow flowers that appeared made friends with
neighbouring gardeners and resulted in many plants in exchange. The frantic blast of water sprouts
from the wounded tree were kept under control. A small preformed pond, several berry shrubs, and
bird feeders were added to the rear yard to attract birds and small mammals. A
compost bin was built.
2007: More plants were introduced for trial. Repairs continued on the Prunus to nurse it
back to health.
A meadow of native yellow-flowering plants was begun along the back fence.
2008: I and the plants were settled in enough that the front garden was expanded to fill
the middle third using material that had proven successful during the first two years. A low rock
curb that matched the new interlock driveway was installed to give shape to it. A new garden was
begun in a rear shady corner, and a roof-watered
bog garden built under the cedar trees at the back with the help of
son Arthur. A sprinkler system was added for use during Ottawa's usual extended summer drought.
(It may be early or late, but we almost always get one.)
2009: Conversion of the back fence meadow to a garden was
begun. Deep digging was the order of the day to get rid of Convolvulus arvensis roots that the
previous owner had allowed to become endemic throughout the back yard. Part of a concrete patio
was converted to an alpine garden, and another garden added on
the east side of the house. The Syringa tree at the front lost
half its branches over the winter, didn't produce any new shoots to replace lost branches, and
dropped its leaves early.
2010: Early spring, a Magnolia 'Yellow Bird' was installed in the front garden to replace
the failed Syringa. During the summer, the rotting railway tie wall at the back was dug out and
replaced by interlocked stone, non-toxic and permanent. The back fence was repaired with help from
son Michael. After a lifetime of doing my own composting, I switched
to the city's green bin program, making more space for flowers of course. Finally, the
fence garden was structurally complete. Late fall, emboldened by
the frequency with which I received compliments from neighbours while working in the garden, the
remaining grass in the front (back of the sidewalk) was replaced by sedum, crocus and narcissi.
2011: The Magnolia 'Yellow Bird' died over the winter, and was replaced by a M.'Sunburst'.
A height extension and vines were added to the top of the fence of the back
shade garden for more privacy, the rear concrete patio was
replaced with natural slate stone, and an Aquilegia garden
built in the long-wasted area to the left of the
rear stairs. Despite one of the cloudiest summers I can remember, percent
sun contours were measured throughout the gardens. There were many more insect infestations
this year than usual, in particular of Monostegia abdominalis larvae in the front garden.
Limestone stepping stones were installed on the east side of
the house and planting completed.
The last of the rear grass was replaced by a bulb garden and
extended patio. In the front all that remains in grass is the salt-saturated patch between sidewalk
and street, and I'm trying to establish Lotus corniculatus even there (despite the conditions being
perfect for Plantago major).
2012: 45 days after the first crocus was in bloom, the hyacinths were covered in wet snow.
They survived, so they'd belong here if they had stayed yellow. Unfortunately they got whiter each
year, so I gave them away. (3 week gaps between the last and 2nd-to-last spring frost
are common here; in 1957, the gap was over 4 weeks.) The weather upset Narcissus though,
only 10% of them bloomed. That was followed by a hot 26 June-22 July with no rain
whatsoever. (1995 was worse, and 1944 much worse; it too is part of weather here.) An
insect survey was done in the back gardens. The growth in numbers
of ichneumon wasps and other caterpillar and aphid predators was sufficient that the problem
insects of last year were nearly absent this year. Hemerocallis 'Stella d'Oro' was divided and
spread along the west side of the house.
2013: A dozen different alpine plants were added to the gravel garden for trial, and
experimental hexagonal hypertufa pots cast to show them off. The
rear shade garden was disrupted by the addition of a new basement window. Half of the Sedum
hybridum in the geophyte garden was replaced by Ranunculus repens cuttings. Due to poorer bloom
than the Forsythia 'Northern Gold', the F.'Ottawa' was donated to another gardener.
2014: The winter was harsh (-37C) and a dozen plants were lost. The magnolia was
removed after its infestation of scale proved impossible to handle. The first winter's survivors
of hexagonal pots and a second year's production were installed and the surviving alpines planted
in them, also some new ones. Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Vetchii' was added to the west wall as
an experiment. The chokecherry showed clear signs of black knot fungus (Apiosporina morbosa),
which means that a replacement must be planned for.
2015: The frost penetration was much deeper than usual, freezing hundreds of pipes
throughout Ottawa, almost wiping out local ground nesting bees and small Hymenoptera, and almost
killing the Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Robusta'. An Amelanchier canadensis was added to
the front to become a replacement for the chokecherry.
2016: The winter wiped out all the Aquilegia so it had to come up from seed, and set back
the Lilium, but other plants
thrived to compensate. The Forsythia 'Northern Gold' was donated to another gardener since it
grew too large and untidy for the site; a few Hemerocallis were donated to our first
neighbourhood Free Plant Exchange to focus on the happiest ones. The alpine pots were completed
along with trial acrylic tents for alpines that easily rot under snow, and experiments started
there with hardy cacti.
2017: Something, probably a cottontail, ate the bottom half-meter of every one of the Parthenocissus over the winter. With TLC they're all recovering, but herbivore guards are going
to be needed from now on.
2018: This was a terrible winter for losses: half the alpines, several Lilium, the Eremurus... But worst of all, every scrap of the Parthenocissus above ground was killed, and my
treasured 'Robusta' lost totally. The Clematis tangutica was removed when the fences it was on
Achillea tomentosa Pursh non L.
Allium moly L.
Alyssum montanum L.
Anemone ranunculoides L.
Anthemis tinctoria L.
Aquilegia chrysantha A.Gray
Aurinia saxatilis (L.)Desv.
Baptisia 'Solar Flare': Ault 2009
Caltha palustris L.
Chelidonium majus L.
Chrysanthemum 'Yellow Quill': U.Minnesota 2001
Chrysogonum virginianum L.
Coreopsis verticillata L. 'Moonbeam'
Coreopsis verticillata L. 'Zagreb'
Corydalis lutea (L.)DC.
Crocus ancyrensis (Herb.)Maw
Crocus chrysanthus Herb.
Crocus 'Yellow Mammoth': 1765
Digitalis grandiflora Mill.
Doronicum caucasicum M.Bieb.
Draba acaulis Boiss.
Draba aizoides L.
Draba brunifolia olympia Stev.
Draba compacta Schott Kotschy
Draba cuspidata M.Bieb.
Draba 'Judy': Judy Wall 2012
Draba mollissima Steven
Draba rigida Willd.
Draba 'Simon': Wrightman 2012
Echinacea 'Balsomemy': Darwin Perennials 2014
Epimedium 'Amber Queen': White 2010
Epimedium ×versicolor Morren
Eremurus 'Moneymaker': Ruiter
Erigeron aurantiacus 'Copper Elf'
Eriogonum umbellatum porteri (Small)S.Stokes
Erythronium americanum Ker.
Erysimum kotschyanum J.Gay
Genista tinctoria 'Plena' L.
Helenium autumnale L.
Helianthemum nummularium (L.)Mill.
Helianthus microcephalus 'Lemon Queen' Torr.&A.Gray
Hemerocallis 'Andrew Christian': Harris-Benz 1990
Hemerocallis 'Omomuki': Stamile 1991
Hemerocallis 'Pudgie': Winniford-E 1978
Hemerocallis 'Siloam Amazing Grace': Henry-P. 1989
Hemerocallis 'Stella d'Oro': Jablonski 1989
Hemerocallis 'Winning Ways': Wild 1963
Hieracium canadense Michx.
Hymenoxys lapidicola Welsh&Neese
Hypericum coris L.
Hypericum perforatum L.
Inula ensifolia L.
Iris pseudacorus L.
Iris 'Summer Olympics': R.G.Smith 1976
Iris suaveolens flavescens Boiss.
Ligularia 'Little Rocket': Fransen 2002
Ligularia dentata (A.Gray)H.Hara
Ligularia przewalskii (Maxim.)Diels
Ligularia stenocephala (Maxim.)Matsum.&Koidz.
Lilium 'Citronella': Oregon Bulb Farms 1958
Lilium 'Tiny Bee': Johan Mak
Lilium 'Pixie Yellow': Oregon Bulb Farms
Lilium 'Pearl Melanie': R.Griesbach
Lilium 'Yellow Power': Lily Company
Linaria vulgaris Hill
Lotus corniculatus L.
Lysimachia nummularia L.
Lysimachia quadrifolia L.
Narcissus 'Baby Moon' 7Y-Y: Gerritsen 1958
Narcissus 'Blazing Starlet' 11aY-YYO: Gerritsen 2009
Narcissus 'Dutch Master' 1Y-Y: 1948
Narcissus 'February Gold' 6Y-Y: de Graaff 1923
Narcissus 'Hawera' 5Y-Y: Thomson pre-1928
Narcissus 'Little Gem' 1Y-Y: Gerritsen 1959
Narcissus 'Quail' 7Y-Y: Mitsch 1974
Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' 1Y-Y: Rijnveld 1956
Narcissus 'Rip Van Winkle' 4G-Y: pre-1884
Narcissus 'Sunny Side Up' 11aW-Y: Gerritsen-van Lierop 2006
Narcissus 'Yellow Cheerfulness' 4Y-Y: Eggink 1937
Oenothera missouriensis Sims
Oenothera tetragona (multiple authorities)
Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Robusta' (Siebold&Zucc.)Planch
Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Vetchii' (Siebold&Zucc.)Planch
Potentilla crantzii (Crantz)Beck ex Fritsch.
Potentilla neumanniana Rchb.
Potentilla recta L.
Primula algida Adams
Primula elatior (L.)Hill
Primula polyantha P.Mill.
Primula veris L.
Ranunculus acris L.
Ranunculus ficaria L.
Ranunculus lingua L.
Ranunculus repens L.
Ratibida pinnata (Vent.)Barnhart
Ribes aureum Pursh
Rudbeckia fulgida Aiton
Rudbeckia hirta L.
Rudbeckia nitida Nutt.
Saxifraga 'Elizabeth Sinclair'
Sedum acre L.
Sedum floriferum Praeger
Sedum hybridum L.
Sedum kamtschaticum Fisch.&C.A.Mey.
Sedum rupestre L.
Senecio pauperculus Michx.
Silphium perfoliatum L.
Solidago caesia L.
Solidago canadensis L.
Solidago multiradiata Aiton
Solidago rigida L.
Solidago rugosa Mill.
Solidago sphacelata Raf.
Tanacetum vulgare L.
Thermopsis montana Nutt.
* Trillium luteum (Muhl.)Harb.
Tulipa dasystemon Regel
Tulipa 'Jaap Groot': J.Rustenburg 1999
Tulipa 'Roi du Midi': Scheepers
Tulipa urumiensis Stapf
Tulipa 'Yokohama': 1961
Tulipa turkestanica (Regel)Regel
Uvularia grandiflora Smith
Verbascum chaixii Vill.
* Viola pensylvanica Michaux.
Vitaliana primuliflora cinerea Bertol.
Waldsteinia ternata (Stephan)Fritsch.
Zizia aptera (A.Gray)Fernald
Barbarea vulgaris W.T.Aiton
Brassica kaber (DC.)L.C.Wheeler
Brassica nigra (L.)W.D.J.Koch
Erysimum cheiranthoides L.
Medicago lupulina L.
Oxalis stricta L.
Potentilla argentea L.
Ranunculus abortivus L.
Taraxacum officinale G.H.Weber ex Wiggers
Trifolium agrarium L.
Amelanchier arborea (Michx.f.)Fernald
Arisaema triphyllum (L.)Schott
Dryopteris spinulosa (O.F.Müll.)Watt
Maianthemum canadense Desf.
Marchantia polymorpha L.
Onoclea sensibilis L.
Osmunda cinnamomea L.
Polytrichum juniperinicum Hedw.
Prunus virginiana L.
Thuja occidentalis L.
Trientis borealis Raf.
Every nursery wants "well drained rich loam" for their plants! However, Googling the botanic name with "soil", "prefer" and "native habitat" increasingly gets a lot of useful information on the growing preferences and requirements of plants.
Here are the plants that seem to have failed for me primarily due to root rot or unhappiness with the soil. Many were donated by neighbours who have sandy loam with no excess magnesium: Alcea rugosa, Clintonia borealis (the bog), Cypripedium parviflorum (may have been crown rot), Erysimum cheiri, Lupinus 'Gallery Yellow', Stylophorum diphyllum, three Trollius species, Tussilago farfara.
Rain water is normally acidic due to carbon dioxide dissolved from the atmosphere (Ottawa rain averages pH 5.6) and plant leaves are adapted to such water. Our tap water, although almost as pure as rain water (typically 50 ppm dissolved solids), has its pH raised above 9 with sodium carbonate to reduce corrosion of lead water pipes in apartment buildings and 100-year-old iron city water mains. Plant leaves are not adapted to such alkalinity, and some have severe problems with it. Some of the plants above may have been fatally damaged during times when sprinklers were needed, before I understood this factor.
These probably failed to survive due to marginal hardiness, but the soil or water may have played a part as well: Alcea rosea, Campsis radicans 'Flava', Corydalis 'Canary Feathers', Eremurus bungei, Gazania linearis, Roscoea ×beesiana, Sisyrinchium californicum, Sternbergia lutea.
These survived at least one winter but were too short-lived here to be useful: Aquilegia ×caerulea 'Sunshine', Coreopsis lanceolata, Doronicum plantagineum, Doronicum orientale, Eranthis hyemalis, Erythronium 'Pagoda', Fritillaria pallidiflora, Gaillardia ×grandiflora, Hypericum olympicum, Iris danfordiae, Ligularia ×hessei, Lilium 'Fata Morgana', Linum flavum, Narcissus bulbocodium, Primula vulgaris and several allies, all Rudbeckia hirta selections, Sagina subulata, Trollius yunnanensis, Tulipa batalinii, Viola cornuta, V.pensylvanica, V.'Patiola', V. ×sorbet.
These were removed due to intractable parasite problems: Magnolia 'Sunburst' with magnolia scale (Neolecanium cornuparvum), Heliopsis helianthoides with red aphids (Uroleucon obscuricaudatus).
Euphorbia cyparissias and Helianthus tuberosus proved too invasive. The Helianthus has great blooms, but it flopped over in the low light of the east side, the only contained bed available; a trial with a 60 l pot in sun resulted in a pot so full of roots that the plants were too stunted to bloom. Rudbeckia laciniata and Centaurea macrocephala were too tall and had too few and small flowers to be worth the space. Geum 'Lady Stratheden' and Echinacia paradoxa had stems far too weak for their blooms. Hyacinth 'City of Haarlem' and 'Yellow Queen' started off yellow but after several years were coming up white instead.
Averages 2008-18 1 2 3 4 0123456789012345678901234567890123456 Crocus xxxxxx| | | Narcissus 1Y-Y xxxxxx | | Epimedium x versicolor xxxxx | | Uvularia grandiflora xxx | | Anemone ranunculoides xxx | | mini Narcissus xxxx | | Narcissus 'Sunnyside Up' xxx | | Draba xxxx x | | Tulipa turkestanica xxx | | Waldsteineria ternata xxxxx | | Saxifraga 'Elizabeth Sinc xxxx | | Saxifraga 'Boston Spa' xxxxx | | Chelidonium majus xxxxxxxxxxx | Doronicum caucasicum xxxxx | | Primula xxxxx | | Ranunculus repens xxxxx | | Taraxacum officinale xxxxx | | Tulipa dasystemon xx | | Caltha palustris xxx | | Tulipa 'Yokohama' xxxx | | Narcissus 7Y-Y xxxx | | Potentilla neumanniana xxxxx | | Ribes aureum xxxx | | Tulipa urumiensis xxx | | Tulipa 'Jaap Groot' xxx | | Ranunculus ficaria xx | | Potentilla crantzii xxxxxx xxxxxxxxx x x x xx Alyssum montanum |xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxx Aurinia saxatilis |xxxxx | | Tulipa 'Roi du Midi' |xxxx | | Epimidium 'Amber Queen' |xxxx xx | small Cruciferae | xxxxxxxxxxxx x | Iris 'Summer Olympics' | xxx | | Chrysogonum virginianum | xxxxxxx| | Ranunculus acris | xxxxxxxxxxx xxx | Zizia aptera | xxxx | | Erysimum kotschyanum | xxxx x | Aquilegia chrysantha | xxxxxxxx xxxx | Medicago lupulina | xxxxxxxxxxxxxx | Sedum | xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Helianthemum nummularium | xxxxxxxxxx | Digitalis grandiflora | xxxxx | | Eriogonum umbellatum | xxxx | | Hieracium canadense | xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Lotus corniculatus | xxxxxxxxxxxxxx | Oenothera missouriensis | xxxxxxxx | Oxalis stricta | xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Potentilla argentea | xxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxx Baptisia 'Lemon Meringue' | xxx | | Iris pseudacoris | xx | | Ranunculus abortivus | xxxxxxxx xx | Allium moly | xxx | | Senecio pauperculus | xxxx | | Lysimachia nummularia | xxxxx | Oenothera tetragona | xxxx| | Potentilla recta | xxxxxxx | Lilium | xxxxxxx | Hemerocallis 'Stella d'Or | xxxxx |xx Hymenoxys lapidicola | xxx | | Delosperma nubigen | xx | | Coreopsis 'Zagreb' | xxxxxxxxxxxx x Anthemis tinctoria | xxxxxxxxxxxx | Thermopsis montana | xxx| | Eremurus 'Moneymaker' | xxx| | Hypericum coris | xxxx | Genista tinctoria | xxx| xxxxxx Chrysanthemum 'Yellow Qui | xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' | xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Hypericum perforatum | xxxxxxxxx | Lysimachia quadrifolia | xxxxxx | Inula ensifolia | xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Trifolium agrarian | xxxxxxxxxxx |x yellow Hemerocallis | xxxxxx | Ligularia | xxxxxxxxxxxx Rudbeckia | xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Silphium perfoliatum | xxxxxxxxxxxxx Ratibida pinnata | xxxxxxxxxx| Solidago | |xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Helianthus microcephalis | | xxxxxxxxxxxxx Helenium autumnale | | xxxxxxxxxxx Sonchus oleraceus | | xxxxxxxx xx x Linaria vulgaris | | xxxxxx Achilea 'Moonshine' | | x | xxx
Soil management is zero tillage except for weeding and transplanting. Plant materials, including tree leaves, flower petals etc., are left in place except as required to avoid disease. Natural processes (including our non-native earthworms, which are plentiful) are relied on to transport organic matter, phosphorus and sulphur throughout the growing layer.
|Front Garden before treatment (2006)|
Remediation: 4 kg bonemeal (4-10-0, 9 kg/bag) per year until available phosphorus
reaches an adequate level; 2 kg agricultural sulphur per year until pH reaches 7.2 so that
phosphorus is fully available.
Maintenance: 2 kg bonemeal per year. Sulphur will be used as required to keep pH below 7.2 Bonemeal provides calcium (22%) to improve soil structure. (Local labs don't test for it.)
|salts||0.15 mS/cm||low (good)|
|Back Gardens after 1 year sulphur treatment (2007)|
The sulphur is doing its work both to lower pH and in making the magnesium mobile as a salt, but the phosphorus isn't available yet. Remediation: 5 kg bonemeal per year until available phosphorus reaches an adequate level.
Maintenance: 2 kg bonemeal per year. Sulphur will be used as required to keep pH below 7.2
|salts||0.50 mS/cm||moderately high|
|K||110 ppm||a bit low|
Soil materials growers use for cacti & succulents
|pH +||Water *|
|Fir bark||5-25||4.9||140%||Fafard 'western bark'|
|Qualisorb||1-5||5.3||120%||calcined diatoms (silica)|
|Turface||1-7||5.4||75%||MVP, calcined clay|
|Coffee grounds||0.1||5.7||290%||fine grind|
|Vermiculite||5||6.7||320%||Perlite Canada Holiday, expanded mica, decomposes outdoors into thin plates 1-2mm in size with little absorption capacity, floats to the top when watering, asbestos free in Canada since 1995|
|Mix||n/a||6.9||100%||Fafard Cactus&Succulent Plant Potting Mix: peat moss, black earth, sand, Perlite, lime, fertilizer|
|Perlite||3-10||7.6||190%||Fafard, pumice/silica glass, looks like styrofoam, floats to the top when watering|
|Chicken grit||5||7.8||10%||Pestell Minerals, decomposes outdoors into powder, turkey grit same material 10mm size|
|Sand||0.1-0.4||8.0||25%||Bomix construction grade|
|Marble||3-7||10.0||0||Upper Canada Minerals size #1 white marble|
One top Ottawa grower uses 50% potting soil, 40% Turface, 10% coarse sand; another 50% Qualisorb, 50% topsoil; both mixes have high water retention. On the web: Hubert Conlon (Cornell Cooperative Extension): 1 part garden soil, 1 part sand and 1 part peat moss; Donna Kuroda (National Capital Cactus and Succulent Society): 1 part potting soil, 1 part perlite; World of Succulents: 2 parts topsoil, 2 parts peat moss, 1 part coarse sand, 1 part perlite or crushed charcoal, 2 oz limestone & 2 oz bonemeal per 15 l of mix. Most on the web agree that soil should fall apart after you wet it and give it a squeeze, or that water should drain through pot in 15 s; most also agree that slightly acidic pH is best, but that some lime is needed. A few growers even treat succulents as epiphytes and pot in zero-soil zero-peat-moss bark mixes, but they are a small minority. The gap between local growers and the more southern growers with sites on the web is remarkable; I plan a few comparison experiments.
|Birds (42)||Other Animals (12)|
Great Crested Flycatcher
Urbanization did not reach the location of these measurements (CDA, 5 km NNW) until the
1930's; it didn't reach the YOW station (4 km south) until the 1970's. My detailed analysis
of the data from these two sites, combined with maps showing the extent of urban growth and energy
consumption data, indicates that roughly 60% of the CDA temperature increase since 1930 is due to
heat island effects from the growing city of Ottawa. The
purely statistical continent-wide analysis done by NASA, 56%, is
in surprisingly good agreement.
Mid-December 2011, the YOW station (1939-2011) was transferred to
NavCanada. The only Environment Canada station here is now
CDARCS (2001-), an automated unmanned system at the north end of the Central Experimental Farm.
Study of YOW, CDARCS and CDA records during their overlaps suggests:
The solar insolation data was obtained at the National Research Council of Canada when I was there.
A temperature recorder was installed in my garden for 2012; its hourly reading average was equal to CDARCS within statistical margins. The CDARCS temperature recorder is often taken off line; comparison with my garden recorder shows that the CDARCS reading immediately prior to being taken off line is usually anomalous and should be rejected. Incredibly, the station is maintained from Toronto and North Bay, so errors accumulate until a technician travels from one of those locations to fix it. There are technicians right next door at AgCanada who have been running their CDA station since 1890, with greater reliability than CDARCS, but Environment Canada refuses to use them.
other notes on nature studies