A Yellow Perennial Garden - Details - Front - Rear - Succulents

Site Plan | Plants | Sources | Failures | Bloom Times | Soils | Wildlife | Weather

spring 2006 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.

fall 2006 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.

front spring 2007 2007: More plants were introduced for trial. Repairs continued on the Prunus to nurse it back to health.

the meadow A meadow of native yellow-flowering plants was begun along the back fence.

summer 2008 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.)

summer 2009 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.

June 2010 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.

front August 2011 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.

east side August 2011 Limestone stepping stones were installed on the east side of the house and planting completed.

back center August 2011 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).

23 April 2012 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.

Amelanchier alnifolia 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 alnifolia 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 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.

2019: Marriage in March resulted in the appearance of non-yellow flowers, and a rodent-protected vegetable/fruit garden and storage shed being added to the back garden. Half the space in the protected garden is for hardy self-fertile berry shrubs and grape vines, the rest for herbs and annual veggies.

2020: First crops were obtained from several of the berry shrubs and one grape vine.

2021: The chokecherry reached the end of its life and was removed. The stump will be used for ivy in a decorative pot. The front garden was awarded a city-wide prize:

Site Plan

site plan   back plan

front plan

Perennial Plants (* experimental)

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
Chelidonium majus L.
Clematis tangutica (Maxim.)Korsh.
Chrysogonum virginianum L.
Coreopsis verticillata L. 'Moonbeam'
Coreopsis verticillata L. 'Zagreb'
Coreopsis 'Golden Sphere'
Corydalis lutea (L.)DC.
Crocus ancyrensis (Herb.)Maw
Crocus chrysanthus Herb.
Crocus 'Yellow Mammoth': 1765
Delosperma nubigenum
Digitalis grandiflora Mill.
Doronicum caucasicum M.Bieb.
Draba acaulis Boiss.
Draba aizoides L.
Draba bruniifolia 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
Erigeron aurantiacus 'Copper Elf'
Eriogonum umbellatum porteri (Small)S.Stokes
Erythronium americanum Ker.
Erysimum kotschyanum J.Gay
Euphorbia cornigera Boiss.
Euphorbia polychroma A.Kern.
Genista tinctoria 'Plena' L.
Helenium autumnale L.
Helianthemum nummularium (L.)Mill.
Helianthus strumosus L. &allies
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 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'
Saxifraga 'Meteor'
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 rugosa Mill. &allies
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
Self-maintaining Annuals
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.
Not Yellow
Amelanchier arborea (Michx.f.)Fernald
Anemone canadensis L.
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.

Local Plant Sources

Mail Order Sources

The Failures

Most people don't like to admit failures, but scientists like me know that hearing of failures can be every bit as important as hearing of successes.

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).

Helianthus tuberosus proved too invasive. It 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.

Blooming Times

As with all weeks on my site, these are natural weeks, starting 22 December.
                          Averages 2008-20
                         1         2         3         4
Crocus                        xxxxxx         |         |            
Narcissus 1Y-Y                   xxxxxx      |         |            
Epimedium x versicolor            xxxxx      |         |            
Uvularia grandiflora              xxx        |         |            
Anemone ranunculoides             xxx        |         |            
mini Narcissus                    xxxx       |         |            
Draba                             xxxx x     |         |            
Tulipa species                    xxxx       |         |            
Waldsteineria ternata             xxxxx      |         |            
Saxifraga 'Elizabeth Sinc         xxxx       |         |            
Saxifraga 'Boston Spa'            xxxxx      |         |            
Saxifraga 'F.L.Vek'               xxxxx      |         |            
Chelidonium majus                  xxxxxxxxxxx         |            
Doronicum caucasicum               xxxxxx    |         |            
Primula                            xxxxx     |         |            
Ranunculus repens                  xxxxx     |         |            
Caltha palustris                   xxx       |         |            
Narcissus 7Y-Y                     xxxxx     |         |            
Narcissus 'Sunnyside Up'           xx        |         |            
Potentilla neumanniana             xxxxx     |         |            
Ribes aureum                       xxxx      |         |            
Ranunculus ficaria                 xx        |         |            
Potentilla crantzii                xxxxxx xxxxxxxxx  x x x xx       
Corydalis lutea                    xxxxxxxxxx|         |            
Alyssum montanum                   |xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xx |  x         
Tulipa hybrids                     |xxxx     |         |            
Draba brunifolia olympia           |xxxxx    |         |            
Draba cuspidata                    |xxx      |         |            
Iris 'Summer Olympics'             | xxx     |         |            
Aurinia saxatilis                  | xxx     |         |            
Epimidium 'Amber Queen'            | xxx     |         |            
Aurinia saxatilus                  | xxxxxxxx|         |            
Draba mollissima                   | xx      |         |            
small Cruciferae                   |  xxxxxxxxxxx  x   |            
Chrysogonum virginianum            |  xxxxxxx|         |            
Ranunculus acris                   |  xxxxxxxxxxx x x  |            
Zizia aptera                       |  xxxx   |         |            
Erysimum kotschyanum               |  xxxx   |         |            
Draba 'Simon'                      |  xxxx   |         |            
Potentilla uniflora                |  xxx    |         |            
Iris suaveolens 'flavesce          |  xx     |         |            
Iris schachtii                     |  xxx    |         |            
Euphorbia cyparissias              |  xxxxx  |         |            
Aquilegia chrysantha               |   xxxxxxxx xx     |            
Medicago lupulina                  |   xxxxxxxxxxxxxx  |            
Sedum                              |   xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx        
Helianthemum nummularium           |   xxxxxxxxxx      |            
Eriogonum umbellatum               |   xxxx  |         |            
Verbascum X letitia                |   xxxxxxxxxxxx    |            
Ranunculus lingua                  |   xxxxxx|         |            
Hieracium canadense                |    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx       
Lotus corniculatus                 |    xxxxxxxxxxxxxx |            
Oenothera missouriensis            |    xxxxxxxx       |            
Potentilla argentea                |    xxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxx          
Baptisia 'Lemon Meringue'          |    xxx  |         |            
Iris pseudacoris                   |    xxx  |         |            
Ranunculus abortivus               |    xxxxxxxx xx    |            
Hymenoxys lapidicola               |    xxxx |         |            
Senecio pauperculus                |    xxxx |         |            
Baptisia 'Solar Flair'             |    xxxxxx         |            
Hieraceum canadense                |    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx       
Genista radiata                    |    xx   |         |            
Lysimachia nummularia              |     xxxxx         |            
Oenothera tetragona                |     xxxx|         |            
Oxalis stricta                     |     xxxxxxxxxxxxxx|x           
Potentilla recta                   |     xxxxxx        |            
Hemerocallis 'Stella d'Or          |     xxxxx         |xx          
Allium moly                        |     xx  |         |            
Delosperma nubigen                 |     xxx |         |            
Trollius asiaticus                 |     xxxxx         |            
Penstemon pinifolius               |     xx  |         |            
Sagina decumbens                   |     xxx |         |            
Coreopsis 'Zagreb'                 |      xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx           
Anthemis tinctoria                 |      xxxxxxxxxxxx |            
Lilium                             |      xxxxxxx      |            
Thermopsis montana                 |      xxx|         |            
Digitalis grandiflora              |      xxxxxxx      |            
Eremurus 'Moneymaker'              |      xxx|         |            
Hypericum coris                    |      xxxx         |            
Genista tinctoria                  |      xxxx         |            
Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'               |       xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx       
Hypericum perforatum               |       xxxxxxxx    |            
Lysimachia quadrifolia             |       xxxxxxx     |            
Trifolium agrarian                 |       xxxxxxxxxxx |x           
Verbascum chaixii                  |       xxxxxxxxxxxx|            
yellow Hemerocallis                |        xxxxxx     |            
Inula ensifolia                    |        xxxxxxxxxxxxxx          
Allium flavum v.minus              |        xx         |            
Saxifraga juniperifolia            |        x|         |            
Verbascum thapsus                  |        xxxxx xxxx |            
Ligularia                          |         xxxxxxxxxxxx           
Rudbeckia                          |         xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx      
Silphium perfoliatum               |         xxxxxxxxxxxx           
Ratibida pinnata                   |         xxxxxxxx  |            
Helichrysum plicatum               |         xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx      
Tanacetum vulgare                  |         xxxxxxxxxxx            
Erysimum hybrid                    |         xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx       
Sonchus oleraceus                  |         |xxxxxxxxxxx           
Solidago                           |         | xxxxxxxxxxxxxx       
Helianthus microcephalis           |         | xxxxxxxxxxxxx        
Geranium pratense                  |         | xxx     |            
Helenium autumnale                 |         |  xxxxxxxxxxx         
Helianthus strumosus               |         |  xxxxxxxx            
Rhodiola amabilis                  |         |  xxxx   |            
Clematis tangutica                 |         |     xxxxxxxxxx       
Linaria vulgaris                   |         |      x xxxx          
Achilea 'Moonshine'                |         |      x  |         xxx


soil settling The area used to be a motorcycle racetrack with a stone surface; it was covered over with 20 cm of so-so soil when the house was built. At first I thought the added soil was clay, it was so clumpy, water-retentive and hard to dig. But, when a soil texture check (at right) indicated it was loam, I got a lab test. Loam it is, but previous owners had grossly overused dolomitic limestone, high in water-clumping and phosphate-bonding magnesium. The problem has been corrected by lowering pH to leach out excess magnesium, and by the addition of calcium (bone meal) to counterbalance the remaining magnesium's effect on soil structure.

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)
area50 m2 Remediation: 4 kg bonemeal (4-10-0, 9 kg/bag) per year until available phosphorus reached an adequate level; 2 kg agricultural sulphur per year until pH reached 7.2 when 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.)

salts0.15 mS/cm low (good)
P30 ppmlow
K200 ppmadequate
Mg300 ppmhigh
organic 6.5%adequate

Soil materials growers use for cacti & succulents
Material Particle
size mm
pH + Water  *
Peat moss n/a 4.5 175% Fafard
Fir bark 5-25 4.9 140% Fafard 'western bark'
Qualisorb 1-5 5.3 120% calcined diatoms (silica)
Turface 2-7 5.4 75% MVP, calcined clay
Coffee grounds 0.1 5.7 290% fine grind
Laterite 2-4 6.5 12% Aquarium Pharmaceuticals
Topsoil n/a 6.6 250% Qualigrow
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
Cedar mulch n/a 6.8 550% Fafard
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
Tufa n/a 8.7 17%
Marble 3-7 10.0 0 Upper Canada Minerals size #1 white marble
+ equilibrium pH in distilled water
* oven dried dry weight; soaked for 1 hour, drained for 1 hour for wet weight

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.

After many experiments, I'm finding excellent success with 100% Turface, enlarging the bottom holes of pots to 1 cm (with a diamond hole-drill) and adding bottom pads/legs to the pots so the Turface is well ventilated through the hole. Once a week bottom soak until the Turface wets just to the surface then drain. I've typically 40% sun at a window and indoor humidity 50-60%.


These are the wild creatures who have found shelter, food or water here so far (not just flown overhead):

Birds (42)Other Animals (12)
American Crow
American Goldfinch
American Robin
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
Brown-headed Cowbird
Cedar Waxwing
Chipping Sparrow
Common Grackle
Common Redpoll
Common Starling
Dark-eyed Junco
Downy Woodpecker
Evening Grosbeak
Gray Catbird
Great Crested Flycatcher
Hairy Woodpecker
House Finch
House Sparrow
House Wren
Least Flycatcher
Mourning Dove
Northern Cardinal
Northern Oriole
Pileated Woodpecker
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Red-eyed Vireo
Red-winged Blackbird
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Dove
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Pine Siskin
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Song Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
White-breasted Nuthatch
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
American Toad
Cottontail Rabbit
Eastern Chipmunk
Eastern Raccoon
Grey Squirrel
Leopard Frog
Meadow Vole
Painted Turtle
Red Squirrel
Short-tailed Shrew
Striped Skunk

Insects (335)


The average last spring frost is 6 May, the earliest 11 April 1998, the latest 9 June 1980.
Average first fall frost is 8 October, the earliest 6 September 1888, the latest 27 October 2011.
source: Rolf Campbell

Ottawa temperature 1939- Ottawa humidity 1953-
Ottawa rainfall 1939- Ottawa snow cover 1955-
Ottawa insolation 1964-1987 Ottawa wind 2001-
Ottawa hours sun Ottawa cloud cover 1964-1987
Ottawa ground water recharge 1939- Ottawa surface soil moisture 1939-
Ottawa frost-free days 1890- Ottawa frost-free degree-days 5.6-30C 1890-
Ottawa mean temperature 1890- Ottawa evapotranspiration 1890-
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:
Precipitation at CDA/CDARCS is statistically equal to that at YOW with no significant trend.
Temperature at CDA/CDARCS is 0.16 K higher than at YOW as of 2011; this difference has been decreasing by 9.4±.3 mK per year since the 1970's.
Wind at YOW is higher than at CDARCS; gusts are 1.5x, average wind 1.2x; it's more exposed.
Snow on Ground at CDARCS is about 85% that at YOW on average.

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.

John Sankey
other notes on nature studies