Blue Castle Garden: Year 7

In 2011, I went crazy testing plants, bulbs and seeds. Encouraged by earlier success at growing seedlings, and with extra funds from overtime at work, I tried anything that struck my fancy. 

Spring bulbs were forced to bloom indoors and a number of amaryllis were tested. The surprising loss of the front yard Russian Olive tree was a huge setback that taught a painful, but important lesson. 


Forced Spring Bulbs

Discovering it was possible to trick spring bulbs to bloom in the middle of winter, I stuffed my fridge with pots. They required a 3-4 month chilling period in moist soil before being pulled out to flower. 

Tulips, daffodils, bulb irises and hyacinths were tested with mixed results. I brought many to work for my coworkers to enjoy. 

Only enough room left for milk and butter.

Pink Impression tulips were beautiful, but floppy, when forced.

Queensland fringed tulips blooming indoors in March.

Couleur Cardinal tulips and Ice Follies daffodils.

Prinses Irene tulips.

Grew Amaryllis at Work

At the same time, I also tested a number of double and single flowering amaryllis in a wide variety of colors. My workplace was filled with flowers for weeks on end.

Exposure amaryllis.

Exposure amaryllis (left) and Charmeur amaryllis (right).

Charisma amaryllis. 

Tested New Seeds

In late winter I ambitiously started over 1000 seedlings. Not having enough room for them, I purchased a second light stand. Even then, it required rotating two separate batches of plants every 12 hours. 

Ideally, seedlings need 16 hours of light to grow properly.

The new light stand with too many plants.

Hardening off seedlings on the deck. 

Planted Dozens of Spring Bulbs

The prior fall, I planted a large number of spring bulbs. After the tulips, hyacinths, ornamental onions and daffodils bloomed, I found tulips had the greatest impact in my garden. 

Of all the colors, red tulips were my favorite. 

Split-Corona Assorted daffodils. 

Darwin Hybrid Mix tulips. 

World’s Favorite tulips (left). American Dream tulips backed by Red Impression tulips (right).

The tulip display extended into the back yard. 

Two-toned Shirley tulips mixed with solid purple Negrita tulips.

Rococo tulips.

Tried Hollyhocks in the Back Alley

Inspired by a local garden, I wanted to line my back alley fence with hollyhocks. Unfortunately the heat in this west facing area fried the plants before they could bloom. 

Nothing thrived in the alley until I discovered cosmos in Year 16.

Attained an English Style Cottage Garden

After many years of throwing in every plant that caught my eye, I finally felt I had created an English Cottage Garden. Every corner was filled with flowering plants in an array of colors. 

Delphinium and Yarrow are typical plants in an English Cottage Garden.

Bleeding Heart draping over the flagstone pathway (left) and Delphiniums glowing in the morning sun (right).

Climbing roses on the back gate arbor complimented the flowering delphiniums.

White blooming Snow-In-Summer and delicate pink Rock Soapwort.


Lost 5 Year Old Russian Olive Tree

After 100km/hr (62 miles/hr) winds toppled the tree the previous summer, it was carefully replanted and firmly staked. Despite special care it didn’t pull through the winter. 

Russian Olives are known for slowly leafing out in spring, but not this slow. 

Upon removing it, we discovered why the roots hadn’t anchored the tree. 

Despite loosening the outer roots before planting, the inner roots had already formed a thick, twisted lump.

The replacement Russian Olive started as a small bush with well spread out roots. 


Plant Foliage Matters

As important as flowers are, plant foliage must also be considered. Unattractive leaves can mar otherwise beautiful flowerbeds and create additional maintenance work. 

Purple Sensation ornamental onion leaves turning yellow too soon.

Discovered New and Unusual Plants

By testing a wide selection of seeds, bulbs and plants available from online seed companies and local garden centers, I discovered many new favorites. 

Giant Silver Mullein is a standout with its large, fuzzy, felt-like leaves.

World’s Favorite (left) and Golden Oxford tulips (right) glowed in the front yard.

Vanilla marigolds with long-lasting, butter yellow flowers became a standard in my garden.

Hoar Frost Can Have an Otherworldly Beauty

Leaving for work, I glanced back and noticed this surreal effect on my front gate arbor, caused by hoar frost. Canada’s cold weather can be magical.  

Moments like these must be enjoyed before they disappear in the morning sun.


While totally excessive, this year gave me a broad understanding of both annual and perennial plants which served me well in years to come. I observed both positive and negative aspects that books didn’t adequately cover.

A downside of growing so many plants is too little time to enjoy or appreciate them. I rarely took photos of all the bulbs I forced or all the seeds I grew. More is not necessarily better.

This post is part of the Blue Castle Garden Timeline series. 

About Jolene

I’m an avid gardener whose mission is to bring more beauty into the world. I believe that with the right information anyone can create their own lovely, small garden paradise.

When I’m not gardening you can find me exploring the Canadian Rockies. Learn more…

Jolene Rempel on Cirque Peak, Banff National Park.

About Jolene

I’m an avid gardener whose mission is to bring more beauty into the world. I believe that with the right information anyone can create their own lovely, small garden paradise.

When I’m not gardening you can find me exploring the Canadian Rockies. Learn more…


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