Last Fall was very dry, the Winter harsh, and the Spring non-existent. Although the snow cover this Spring was good, it came on late (no snow cover until mid- December) and from 13 December through 9 January every night-time temperature was between -10 and -35 C. The rest of the Winter and Spring experienced repeated bouts of extreme cold with -30 as late as 10 March, the last killing frost (-4) on 22 May (three weeks after the usual last frost date), and the last light frost on 9 June.
The harsh weather is no doubt responsible for the devastation of last Fall’s bulb blow-out (~380 new bulbs went in). Although the established and new crocus, squills, chionodoxa, muscari, and species tulips did well, and quite a few of the new hybrid tulips and daffodils survived and put on quite a display, many were frost blasted and there’s been no sign of others. No sign either of the new Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), Checkered Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris), spendy Lilac Wonder Dog’s Tooth Violet (Erythronium denscanis 'Lilac Wonder') , Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica), or Grecian Windflowers (Anemone blanda). Not much surprise with the last two – Zone 4-5 plants that have failed before - but the others were all Zone 3, well mulched, watered in, and should have survived (well, maybe not the Lilac Wonder – a bit floppy when they arrived and that is not a good sign with lily bulbs).
The few Alberta native bulbs that I have (Western Wood Lily Lilium philadelphicum, Nodding Onion Allium cernuum) don’t show themselves until late spring. They are just now in bud. None of the bulbous MIAs are ‘native’, so perhaps they just aren’t well adapted to this life. But the established ‘alien’ bulbs seemed to come through pretty well and without them, the HBG would have been pretty bleak this April and May.
The perennials were pretty badly winter whacked too, with 18 no-shows and 3 more that put up a leaf or two, but are on their last roots. Below I’ve divided them into North American Native or ‘Alien’ listed them with the year they went in and their putative USDA Zone rating. There is no obvious pattern by origin: mortality is about equally divided between exotic and North American natives, including 3 plants native to Alberta (a wild bergamot and two sunflowers).
R.I.P. North American Natives Winter 2008-9:
Doppleganger Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea ‘Doppleganger’ 2005 Zone 3
Purple Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum 2008 Zone 3
Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa 2003 Zone 3 (AB native)
Garden View Scarlet Bergamot, Monarda didyma ‘Garden View Scarlet’ 2005 Zone 3
Maxmillian Sunflower Helianthus maxmillianii x 2 2004 Zone 3 (AB native)
Sunset Strain' Bitteroot, Lewisia cotyledon 'Sunset Strain' 2008 Zone 4
Purple Leaf Coral Bell, Heuchera americana 'Purple Palace Select' 2005 Zone 4
Chocolate Mint Foamflower, Tiarella 'Mint Chocolate' 2006 Zone 3
Iron Butterfly Foamflower, Tiarella 'Iron Butterfly' 2007 Zone 3
Ruby Spice Summersweet, Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice' 2007 Zone 4
‘Aliens’ lost this winter:
Fernleaf Yarrow, Achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’ 2005 Zone 2
Giant Yarrow, Achillea grandiflora (or maybe Tanacetum macrophyllum) 2005 Zone ?
Monkshood, Aconitum napellus clump 2004 Zone 2
Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’ x 2 2004 Zone 2
Bronze Garden Mum, Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Morden Delight' x 2 2006 Zone 3
Siberian Bugloss 'Jack Frost', Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' 2008 Zone 3
Siberian Bugloss 'Spring Yellow', Brunnera macrophylla 'Spring Yellow' 2008 Zone 3
Chinese Lanterns, Physalis alkekengi franchetii 2008 Zone 2b