Veronica Gentianoides


As with so many other plants bought in greenhouses, I didn’t think this veronica speedwell would last. I stuck it in the ground and expected one or two seasons of meagre blooms. Well, fifteen years later and it’s edging almost every flower bed around the house. The waxy, gem-like green foliage looks sculpted and neat well into the fall.  Veronica gentian flowers are tall and delicate, they sway in every breeze. It’s like watching a ballet dance when they bloom.

Veronica Gentianoides comes from the Caucasus area. It’s a little fussy as too much sun makes its foliage wither and it won’t bloom well without enough light. I suspect that it comes from sunny but boggy areas. I plant it in partial sun and water it on hot days. Other than that, it’s completely disease free and neither invasive nor so slow growing that it can’t be transplanted. It’s strange that I rarely if ever see it in Edmonton gardens. 



After a week of winter weather we have spring again. Temperatures went from -8c at night to +14 this afternoon. The irises are loving it. Of all the plants in the garden they have sprung up the most these last few days. Their bright chartreuse green tips brighten up the garden and my spirits. It’s amazing how seeing them come up from frozen ground says that no matter what’s wrong, no matter how much illness I see around me, nature forever renews itself.

This bearded iris is yellow and mahogany. Like the rest of the irises in my garden it’s virtually indestructible. I grow it in a very sunny location with almost no water as it’s under a balcony. It doesn’t mind a bit and blooms profusely. Irises like good drainage so perhaps dry soil doesn’t bother them. The Canadian Iris Society  recommends that exposed irises should be covered with mulch in particularly cold sites. Well, even in -40c my irises have all survived. Amazing!

The Irritable Squirrel


The house next door is abandoned. Its only inhabitant is a remarkably grumpy squirrel I call Mabel. She sits on our crab apple tree and makes hissing sounds. She tells us – in no uncertain terms – that this is her territory and we should get out now. The funny thing is that the absentee owner of “Mabel ‘s house”  has similar personality traits. She is a small old lady that appears once or twice a year and walks around her delapidated house with an expression of someone who is throughly irritated by everything she sees. I have never dared to approach either her or the squirrel.

Winter Garden – Again


One thing I love about gardening in Edmonton – and I am not being cynical here – is that when the spring finally comes it’s such a celebration. Today, March 21st we are expecting about five centimetres of snow. My husband and I have learned not to put away snow shovels until late April. That’s one of the reasons I only plant perennials in my garden. Knowing that they are alive under the snow is deeply reassuring.



This sedum has a funny story behind it. I went compost shopping in Home Depot and almost stepped on a pretty, broken off branch of a plant. It was laying in the aisle and only about three inches long. Fearing that the cashier would reprimand me for stealing plants, I got her permission to take it home. I stuck it in the soil between some rocks in the front walkway not expecting anything to come of it. Two years later, this plant is the brightest spot in the front of the house. It’s bright yellow in the summer and turns to an orange-red in the fall – so noticeable that neighbours have been asking me about transplanting shoots to their gardens. Of course, I am happy to oblige.

Sedums, otherwise known as stonecrops, have as many as six hundred species. They range from creeping plants to shrubs and are so varied that the only way to recognize them is by the thick, waxy leaves. They grow mainly in sunny places. I assume that the thick leaves are almost like cacti and act as water storage. Apparently many are edible and some were used like salad by the Haida nation.  

Pink Tulips?


We had some friends over for Easter last year and they brought us a  basket of spring bulbs with pretty pink tulips. As soon as they finished blooming I planted them in the partly frozen ground. It’s been almost exactly a year but low and behold they are coming up! I can’t wait to see if they bloom.

Mid March



Wow! It’s only March 13 and we set up lawn chairs and had dinner outside! It wasn’t just wishful thinking either; we were actually warm enough in the sun to stay out for an hour. Our house and garage are white and frame the back yard forming a micro climate. Perhaps I will try growing zone 5-6 plants there to see if they survive.

It surprises me how one house can have two different temperature patterns. The front of our house faces an open park and is exposed to strong winds. The back must be at least four or five degrees warmer on sunny days making it a completely different zone. 


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This emerald coloured bergenia is coming alive after a long winter. Its thick, waxy leaves actually “resurrect”. They can look completely dead and then just straighten up in the spring.  While raking leaves around this plant, I am reminded why the resurrection myth   appears in cultures scattered across the globe. We see it right under our feet every spring. I feel like Demeter peering into the earth waiting for her daughter to emerge from the underworld.

Bergenias come from the area between Afghanistan and China. They can grow in extreme temperature ranges in almost any light conditions. They form a slow-growing ground cover and are some of the earliest plants to bloom. I have never seen them get diseased and even slugs don’t seem to bother them much as long as you clean out all the dead foliage beneath them.




This year was one of the warmest on record (2015 lost but only by a fraction of a degree). That may be why I am seeing so many green plants emerging from under the snow. This periwinkle is untouched by the winter. It was here when we bought the house and, judging by the thick mat, it could have been here since 1945 when our house was built. The original owners were somehow connected to the landscaping services at the UofA and I keep finding interesting plants throughout the garden. Many are dwarfed and covered with vegetation but not this periwinkle, it’s getting ready to take over the front yard.

Periwinkle originates in the Mediterranean. That’s hard to believe as it’s one of the hardiest plants through the prairie winter. In fact, it’s a bit too hardy. When planted in any flowerbed it starts to take over and the underground stolons are impossible to eradicate.  One reason I am fond of it is that it grows in areas where no other plant survives. A friend has it growing in a deep window-well where it gets no light at all. It’s still blooms there with brilliant blue flowers.

Creeping Thyme


There is nothing very memorable about the way this creeping thyme ended up in my garden. I picked it up from Home Depot in a plastic six-pack and planted it between paving stones on the south side of the house. This thyme must have thought that it died and went to heaven as within one summer it covered the paving stones and is now edging out the sedum angelica. It even stays green all winter!

There are over 150 varieties of thyme available and some are hardy to zone 2. This fragrant ground-cover is as hardy as grass. My daughter has parties by the fire-pit through the summer and our thyme gets stepped on all the time but nothing damages it – not even hoards of university students. Once the warm weather comes it will become a blanket of lavender.