Giant fleeceflower (persicaria polymorpha) is hardy enough to be grown throughout the city. Donna Balzer / For CREB®Now

The sunny south

Gardening is easier in the southwest, where the climate is mellow

Are you a north-side person in Calgary or a south-side holdout? I have lived all over the city and surrounding areas, including Airdrie, Riverbend, Ramsay, Valley Ridge, Rideau Park and Spruce Cliff, and I make it to many more communities around the city during my travels for work.

During all this moving, there is one thing that I’ve noticed. If you are a gardener, life in the south is simpler: less wind, less frost, less killer hail and more heat, as elevations drop and the climate gradually mellows. In the southwest, the climate is softer and the garden living is easy.

But maybe I’m jaded. I left Airdrie in a hurry right after hail killed my wild orchids. Yes, the orchids I had carefully collected with permits when the highway was widened north of the city were pummeled into the ground during five minutes of golf-ball sized hail. Thankfully, the kids were OK on their walk home from school that day, although that wasn’t my first thought. My plants were gone and I knew I would never get them back again.

I didn’t stick around – we sold our home and moved as far south as we could. At that time, that was the new development of Riverbend in southeast Calgary. The weather had nothing to do with my next two moves to Ramsay and Spruce Cliff – that was a marriage thing, and when it was over, even the best weather couldn’t save the day.

All this moving, and my chosen career as a landscape consultant, has allowed me to visit most of the different neighbourhoods in Calgary, and I was in the southwest on a garden call when I first saw the magnificent perennial giant fleeceflower (persicaria polymorpha). It took my breath away with its two-metre height and pure white blooms. It is an amazing sight to see in our city of hesitant growth.

If you are a gardener, life in the south is simpler: less wind, less frost, less killer hail and more heat, as elevations drop and the climate gradually mellows. In the southwest, the climate is softer and the garden living is easy.

This flower is now the Calgary Horticulture Society’s 2017 perennial plant of the year. This means it should be easier to find at garden stores than ever before, but when I first saw this beauty, it was so new I didn’t even know what it was and I certainly didn’t think it would grow anywhere except the protected south side of the city.

So imagine my surprise when I was up in the Foothills Estates area of the northwest community of Collingwood a few years ago and there it was again, larger than life and definitely hardier than an orchid. I am glad to announce that while I personally prefer gardening in southwest Calgary, this extraordinary plant seems to be well suited to both the north and south sides of the river.

While conditions might be a bit more favourable in the south, you don’t have to move there for this magnificent plant. It would probably survive hail in Airdrie or frost in Bearspaw – it’s hardier than me and stronger than my now-extinct orchids.

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