Mystery Plum

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We bought our house three summers ago from an elderly lady who lived here since the 40’s. She told us that one of her greatest joys was a plum bush. Every year she picked a bucket of red plums and made jam. I didn’t find any despite much searching. Finally, I noticed five sticks with a few plum-like leaves barely surviving among thick bushes in an abandoned house next door. It took me much of last summer – and a cool new saw – to cut the thicket around these “sticks”. They began to thrive! Now I am waiting anxiously to see if they begin to bloom and produce the mystery plums.

This plum bush may be prunus americana or prunus nigra (Canadian plum). Both are native to North America and grow even in Saskatchewan. Plum bushes have sharp thorns so are easy to identify. 

Border Primrose


It’s only the end of February and this yellow primrose is already emerging from the snow. As most of my plants, it didn’t come from a greenhouse. After years of trial and error, I found that the best way to get plants in our climate is to ask neighbours and friends. The Edmonton Horticultural Society is another great source; they put on two plant sales a year in a parking lot. This little orphan primrose was one of the last plants left at the end of the day. Nobody wanted it so I got it for free. Needless to say it has been thriving.

Primula pubescens is extremely hardy. According to some sources it grows in zones 2 – 9. Mine was planted on the north side of the house with no direct sunlight and so far seems to be thriving. It is the first green plant in the early spring/late winter garden. 

Leopard’s Bane


Leopard’s bane amazes me as it stays green through the winter. It’s one of the first plants to bloom in the spring. It grows while the snow melts around it. When we moved into our house a few years ago, I found some dwarfed, barely surviving plants growing under thick bushes in an abandoned house next door.  When transplanted, this survivor leopard’s bane took off like wildfire. Three years later it surrounds my entire house in a sea of yellow in the spring.

The word “bane” comes from Old English and means “deadly”, or “causing death”. This  poisonous plant came from Eurasia and has been used in herbal medicine for centuries.It’s an extremely hardy, insect resistant plant that can actually be planted on the north side of the house. Even with occasional dappled sunlight it blooms profusely when other flowers are still starting to grow. It looks amazing when planted with purple irises that bloom at the same time.

The End of February


The tiny bit of green poking through the leaves is a pink primrose. A man named Raymond Pierzchajlo gave it to us about fifteen years ago. Since then it has been spreading throughout my garden and neighbourhood friends’ gardens. It’s almost indestructible and blooms profusely even in the worst clay soil. This plant is as resilient as the man who gave it to me. Mr Pierzchajlo was prisoner No. 12623 in Auschwitz. He is one of the most cheerful and kind people we have ever met.

My primrose is probably primula vulgaris, or the “common primrose” originally found growing in western and southern Europe. It has been used as a sedative and as an antispasmodic among other uses. (For me just looking at it is sedative enough.) It needs light to bloom profusely but not too much hot sun in the summer as it withers.

Winter Garden


It’s not always winter in Edmonton; although by the end of February it sure feels like it. Our growing season is exhilarating when it finally arrives. For gardeners like myself, the thought that perennial plants are always alive under the snow is a constant source of joy and comfort.

Most gardeners cut down perennial plants for the winter. I  love the look of uncut plants. They make the garden seem like a still life. Not only that, my theory is that  dead leaves create shelters for the plants. With snow on top they become little yurts that protect the live roots.