Pinus strobus “Dwarf Horsford” (Dwarf Horsford pine) became an eye-catcher.

Pinus strobus “Dwarf Horsford” (Dwarf Horsford pine) became an eye-catcher.

Despite lacklustre season, there’s always hope for next year

Ahhh, October; when cool, brisk air compliments the warm sunshine, making it easy to enjoy working in the yard.

Ahhh, October; when cool, brisk air compliments the warm sunshine, making it easy to enjoy working in the yard, even if it is only to put our gardens to bed. This year, however, it’s a little more difficult to empty the containers and remove the bedding plants now that they are finally looking full and beautiful after a season of lackluster performance.

Due to the long, cool and wet spring here in the Kootenays, many bedding plants (petunias in particular) died before the warm weather arrived. With the exception of my lovely Miss Kim lilac (syringa), most of my flowering shrubs and trees didn’t produce many blossoms and the containers were slow to establish. I’ve also heard numerous complaints from area gardeners about tomatoes not ripening and vegetables gardens not producing much.

Not only did we fight the weather, but a few more nasty pests established themselves in the area. The birch borer has continued to destroy our birches (once the top of a tree starts dying there’s not much can be done). The pine beetle marches on through the mountains and hasn’t affected too much in the Kootenays yet but the spruce bud worm has definitely arrived.

If some of the new growth on your spruces has turned brown, as it did with a couple of mine, that’s more than likely the problem. I am told the answer is to just clip out the dead area.

Regardless of the challenges though, I’m sure we all got great pleasure from our gardens and will continue to enjoy them for at least another month as beautiful autumn colours spread across the landscapes.

The standouts in my garden this year were the Japanese maples.  With their burgundy leaves, shapely form and gracefully arching branches they lend such a delicate texture to the landscape composition I couldn’t resist more when I visited the garden centre.

I added another ‘Crimson Queen’ and ‘Red Dragon’ Japanese cut-leaf maple (acer palmatum ‘dissectum’) to my collection.  While most are only hardy to zone 5, Rossland and Fruitvale residents can try them in protected areas (micro-climates). Pruning for shape should be done in mid-summer when the sap isn’t running. Other than that, they require very little maintenance.

My pines also added great texture and interest to the gardens beds with one in particular, the “Horsford” (pinus strobus) becoming quite an eye-catcher. A beautiful dwarf compact form of white pine it has soft, blue-green needles and a neat bun-shaped form. Hardy to zone 3, it only grows to about 3 ½ feet tall and wide and does quite nicely under heavy snow load.

No matter the ratio of success to failure in 2011, we needn’t worry. There’s another season just around the corner to give us hope and opportunity for another chance at the creation of a beautiful garden bed, perfect combination of colourful containers or the best vegetable crop ever.

Thanks for joining me this year. Have a healthy and happy winter and we’ll meet here again next spring!

Patty Siddall operates a local garden business and shares this space with business partners Margaret Devantier and Betty Drover. She can be contacted at 250-364-1005.