Five Years in a New Garden and Climate

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Joan Galloway is sharing the most recent phase of her gardening life with us today.

I gardened for 30 years in British Columbia’s Pacific Northwest region near Vancouver. It is Zone 7b with rich acidic soil, lots of rain, and a huge variety of plants to choose from that will thrive. When we retired five years ago, we fulfilled a lifelong dream and bought a 2-acre piece of property and built a house on beautiful Sheridan Lake in the Cariboo area of north-central BC. It’s about 300 miles northeast of Vancouver and is at 3600 feet in elevation. It’s rolling country of grasslands, many lakes, an amazing population of wildflowers, and forests of quaking aspen, spruce, lodgepole pine, and Douglas fir. Gardening here is a totally different experience. It’s Zone 3b (winter temperatures to –40F); the soil is heavy, alkaline clay that bakes to cement in the hot dry summers; wildfires are a threat; and it is populated by voracious deer that have never read the lists of deer-resistant plants.

Needless to say, I have had to learn a totally different way of gardening. I have learned that some natives and the old tried-and-true varieties of garden plants fare the best. Fancy hybrids often struggle and eventually give up the ghost. Some natives become aggressive thugs when planted in amended soil with added moisture. Many supposedly hardy deciduous shrubs die to the ground every winter and then straggle back to only about 8 inches of pathetic life the following summer. Lilacs, supposedly toxic to deer, have been eaten down to sticks and are now protected by wire mesh. Peonies, featured on every list of deer-resistant plants, have had every flower bud bitten off in spring; by July all the leaves are gone, leaving only a few ragged stems. I finally took them out. I’ve learned that while many deer-resistant plants taste bad and so are left alone, their flower buds are still tasty and get delicately nipped off just as they are ready to open. I’ve also learned that fawns will try anything at least once.

Nevertheless, plants that do like the conditions here grow vigorously in the long hours of summer daylight, and my garden is slowly taking shape. Plants that thrive get divided and spread around to replace the casualties. I like lots of color and interesting color combinations. I love trying new or unusual plants. I try to have something blooming throughout the season, from spring bulbs that bloom before the snow is totally gone in late April to late summer flowers like asters, rudbeckia, and ornamental grasses that bloom until the snow flies again in October.

close up of garden bed with yellow and pink flowersThis bed borders the driveway. The golden elderberry (Sambucus racemosa ‘Lemony Lace’, Zones 3–7) has grown vigorously and stands out like a beacon against the dark background of spruce and Douglas fir. The Monarda ‘Gardenview Scarlet’ (Zones 4–9), beloved by hummingbirds, is mildew free in this dry, breezy climate, and its strong-smelling foliage keeps the deer away. Also seen are Achillea ‘Paprika’ (Zones 3–8), Potentilla ‘Lemon Meringue’ (Zones 2–6), emerging Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ (Zones 3–9), the foliage of Siberian iris (Iris siberica, Zones 3–8), and a dwarf mugo pine (Pinus mugo, Zones 2–7).

close up of plants with bright yellow foliage next to orange flowersAlso in that bed, Berberis thunbergii ‘Sunsation’ (Zones 4–8) echoes the elderberry. Seen with them is Asclepius tuberosa (Zones 5–9), Echinops ‘Veitch’s Blue’ (Zones 3–8), some fall asters, and one of this year’s newly planted experiments—Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Dark Mystery’ (Zones 5–9).

close up of purple geraniums with pink and yellow plants behindIn front of the house to the west, this bed slopes down from the deck to the lawn and waterfront beyond. Rozanne geranium (Geranium ‘Gerwat’, Zones 5–8) thrives here, as well as Achillea ‘New Vintage Red’ (Zones 3–8), Spiraea ‘Goldmound’ (Zones 3–8), Solidago canadensis (Zones 3–8, a noninvasive native), Kalimeris incisa ‘Alba’ (Zones 5–9), and the ferny foliage of Pulsatilla vulgaris (Zones 4–8).

close up of garden bed with pink and purple flowersTo the east in front, the Rozanne geranium and Solidago are repeated. Potentilla fruticosa ‘Pink Beauty’ blooms all summer and is accompanied by Sidalcea ‘Candy Girl’ (Zones 4–7), ‘Gold Cone’ juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Gold Cone’, Zones 2–6), Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’ (Zones 3–9), and Allium senescens (Zones 3–8). The wire mesh is protecting a newly planted dwarf blueberry, Vaccinium myrtillus ‘Top Hat’ (Zones 3–7).

close up of dark purple flowers with yellow flowers behindEchinops ‘Veitch’s Blue’ stands out against the Rudbeckia and the softer yellow of Potentilla ‘Lemon Meringue’.

close up of garden bed with pink orange and white plantsA combination of Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’, Achillea ‘Paprika’, Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ (Zones 3–8), and Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum, Zones 5–9) is backed by the foliage of Salix lantana ‘Stuartii’ (Zones 3–5), Centaurea montana (Zones 3–8, so far well-behaved), Amsonia hubrichtii (Zones 5–8), a purple-flowered Veronicastrum virginicum (Zones 3–8), and Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘El Dorado’ (Zones 3–9).

close up of bright yellow flowers with purple and pink flowers behindDespite its rather delicate-appearing lacy foliage, Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’ has never been munched, and it seems much hardier than ‘Moonbeam’. It is seen here with Perovskia ‘Little Spire’ (Zones 4–9), fading Shasta daisies, and ‘Pink Beauty’ again.

flower garden in front of a lakeMore bee balm stands in front of a weeping caragana (Caragana arborescens ‘Pendula’, Zones 2–7), with lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis, Zones 3–8) and Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’.

close up of Potentilla Pink Beauty flowersThe flowers of Potentilla ‘Pink Beauty’

close up of Potentilla Lemon Meringue flowersPotentilla ‘Lemon Meringue’ has lovely double flowers that are a much softer shade than that of most of the more strident yellow potentillas. Potentillas are much maligned as “gas station shrubs” at the coast, but they look lovely in the cariboo landscape, are carefree, and are completely deer-proof.

close up of purple Hoary skullcap flowersHoary skullcap (Scutellaria incana, Zones 4–9) is a tough prairie native that has a long season of bloom, and the deer have never touched it.

close up of small light green coniferPicea pungens ‘St. Mary’s Broom’ (Zones 2–7) is an adorable little puffball of a conifer that was propagated from a witch’s broom on a Colorado blue spruce.

close up of small bright green coniferLarix leptolepsis ‘Haverbeck’ (Zones 4–7) is a dwarf Japanese larch that will grow into a mound only 1 meter tall in 10 years and displays the same beautiful gold fall foliage of all deciduous larches.

hanging basket with pink flowers on a deckDeer find most annuals and vegetables irresistible, so my only annuals are these Calibrachoa in hanging baskets that are too high for deer to reach. I plant my veggies in raised Vegepods on my deck, which have mesh covers that can be lowered to keep garden raiders out at night. 

 

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