Thursday, September 2, 2021

Fall Bulb Planting

September- the days are shorter and nights are cooler. Now is the time to shop for and plant bulbs for spring colour in your garden. 

When shopping, look for bulbs that are plump and firm.  Avoid bulbs that appear soft, mushy or are moldy.  Plant the bulbs in a well-drained, full-sun (at least 6 hours of sunlight) location. This can be under a deciduous tree as bulbs will bloom before your tree develops leaves. Dig your holes 2-3 times deeper than the height of the bulb (or follow package directions). A 3-inch tall bulb should be planted 6-9 inches deep. Add compost to your holes to add nutrition for the bulbs. Plant the pointed end of the bulb facing upwards, or if you don’t see a pointed end, look for roots and place that end downwards. Cover with soil and water to remove air pockets and help the roots establish. Mulching with compost or wood chips will give some winter protection. The roots will form in the fall and then in the spring your bulbs will appear!

These are some of my favourites:

Scilla siberica (Squill) – a word of caution – these are vigorous self-seeders so deadhead after blooming!

Fritillaria meleagris  (Snake's Head Fritillary)

Tulipa tarda – a species of tulip that only grows 4 inches tall

Tulipa 'Don Quixote' with Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)

-Nancy Hanson, SHS President

Monday, August 16, 2021

Cultivating Resilience Video Series - Summer 2021

The Saskatoon Horticultural Society's Cultivating Resilience Video Series aired on Facebook and YouTube from August 3-13, 2021. All of the videos (as well as last summer's Virtual Passport Tour) will remain available on our YouTube page indefinitely, as a convenient playlist if you'd like to watch them all in order!

This series was made possible by funding from the Saskatoon Horticultural Society and a City of Saskatoon Environmental Grant. All videos were filmed and edited by Don Selby of DMS Photography.

If you'd like to view the videos as more of a list, or bookmark them, we've created this blog post for you. It also includes some links to the partners and participants who helped us out as well as a bit of behind-the-scenes info!

Day 1: Gardening for Beauty

We were pleased to kick off this year's video series by featuring Sharon's beautiful River Heights garden in Saskatoon. Sharon shares her expertise on peonies and other perennials and taking inspiration from international garden tours. Sharon is a longtime member of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society.

Day 2: Gardening for Future Generations

Gardening is a practice that can contribute to a healthy, beautiful community for us today as well as for future generations. In 2018, local spoken word poet and visual artist Kevin Wesaquate led a project in which 250 misaskwatomina plants (saskatoon berry) were planted in Riversdale. The key to building a healthier future is fostering mutual respect for the land. The misaskwatomina project is a symbol of reconciliation for generations to come. With this project, Wesaquate hopes to share the practice of misaskwatomina berry picking. In this video, Kevin explains the project and performs his spoken word poem called "Misaskwatomina".

You can read more about the misaskwatomina project here. If you'd like to visit the site, it is located along the riverbank between the Victoria Park Boat House and the water treatment plant. In the video, Kevin performed his poem at the Riversdale/King George Community Garden - we didn't plan for it but it turned out to be the perfect location!

Day 3: Gardening for Native Species

Our third video highlights how native species can be used right in your own yard. Chet Neufeld, executive director of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, shares his garden with us and teaches us about specific native plants that grow in his yard, how he captures and uses rainwater, and ways to nurture pollinators and birds.

Chet also provided some additional photos and information about his yard in the comments on the original Facebook post.

The SHS sells bee hotels similar to the ones featured in the video - if you are interested in purchasing one for your yard, check out the Merchandise page on our website.

Day 4: Gardening for the Urban Landscape

Have you ever admired the flower pots in many of the public spaces in Saskatoon? Large flower pots can be seen downtown, on Broadway, in Sutherland and Riversdale, and on medians on major roads every year. Heather from the City of Saskatoon explains how they design, plant, and maintain all 750 of their flower pots.

This video was filmed on Broadway Ave. Visit for more information on this program!

Day 5: Gardening for Students

During the COVID-19 pandemic, university students who live on campus (many of whom are newcomers to Canada) have been largely unable to access typical student social supports. Kensi, coordinator of the McEown Park Community Garden at the University of Saskatchewan, describes how the garden fosters community and encourages students and newcomers to live sustainably.

Day 6: Gardening for Naturalization

Saskatoon is fortunate to have parks that have been designed with naturalization in mind. Moira, from the City of Saskatoon, describes the work that the City's parks department is doing to re-introduce native grasses and wildflowers back into our parks. She also introduces us to the demonstration garden at the Nutrien Wonderhub and describes her vision for this space.

Day 7: Gardening for Biodiversity Conservation

Did you know that Meewasin is the largest urban conservation zone in Canada? Beaver Creek, just south of Saskatoon, is a conservation area that Meewasin manages. Erica and Kelton describe the horticulture and resource management work that is done to encourage native species and manage invasive species, and highlight specific species that can be found at the Beaver Creek site.

Day 8: Gardening for Joy

This super-sized video is going to fill your heart with joy! Join the staff and Elders at Sherbrooke Community Centre, a long-term care facility in Saskatoon, as they discuss how gardening has been a bright light during the pandemic, providing fulfillment, inspiration, and purpose in the community. Sherbrooke is looking for help with some of their garden spaces - if you would like to volunteer, go to the "Get Involved" page of Sherbrooke's website to sign up.

Day 9: Gardening for Tradition

Wanuskewin Heritage Park is a living reminder of our sacred relationship with the land and the First Nations people. Some archaeological digs at Wanuskewin date back thousands of years making them older than the Egyptian pyramids; these sites provide clues to the daily existence of the early peoples. Honey takes us on a tour of the valley at Wanuskewin and tells us about the traditional uses of some of the plants found along the trails.

The information provided in this video is for informational purposes only. Please consult your health care provider before beginning any herbal treatments.

Day 10: Gardening for Mindfulness

For our final video of the Cultivating Resilience series, we invite you to come along with us on a mindfulness meditation walk at the Robin Smith Meditation Garden at Forestry Farm Park. This garden is maintained by volunteers from the Saskatchewan Perennial Society. Thank you for joining us for another great year of virtual garden tours in Saskatoon! The audio track for this video is available for download on the SHS website.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

DIY Ollas for Water Conservation

What is an olla?
An olla (pronounced oh-yah) is an efficient system for irrigation that has been in use in desert regions for thousands of years. It is thought that they originated in Northern Africa, and were brought to America by the conquistadors. Traditionally they are an oval shape with a long neck and made from low-fired clay. It is used to provide water for roots, decreasing excessive evaporation and water runoff.

How do they work?  
An olla is buried in the ground with only the top opening visible and then filled with water.  The water is then distributed to the soil due to capillary action created by soil surface tension. As plant roots use water, the water will be released from the olla into the surrounding soil. When the soil is dry, water will be released faster and when the soil is wet, the water will remain in the olla.   

Why would you use them?  
Use them to promote deep watering which promotes dense root growth, and to promote even watering which prevents cracks in tomatoes and melons. Ollas allow the surface soil to remain dry while providing water to plant roots which may decrease weed growth. Ollas work best for plants that have fibrous root systems such as squash, melon, tomatoes, and chili peppers but can also be used to provide even watering for young trees, vines, and bushes. 

When would you not use them?  
Ollas are not recommended for use with grains or legumes. Ollas are not recommended for use in clay-based soils as the water will not distribute evenly.  

Types of Ollas 
There are several types, a hand-built clay pot such as the above picture, olla bottles (cylindrical shape), olla drip ball irrigation systems or DIY terracotta pots. 

How to Make Your Own Olla from Terracotta Pots 
This project will only take a few minutes of your time.  You will need the following:  
  • 2 terracotta pots   
  • Something to cover the hole on the bottom pot (I used a piece of shale) 
  • Something to cover the top of the pot (I used a cork from an empty bottle) 
  • Silicone (exterior grade)   
Step 1: Cover your work surface with newspaper or cardboard 

Step 2: Use the silicone to attach a flat object to cover the hole 

Step 3: For extra assurance, I filled the bottom of the hole with silicone 

Step 4: Place a bead of silicone around the top of the pot 

Step 5: Place second pot on top

Step 6: Let silicone cure 24-48 hours

Test your olla for leaks by filling with water.  If there are leaks, let dry and add more silicone.  

Now you are ready to use your olla in the garden or in a large pot!   
Tips for Using Ollas 
  • A saucer can be placed below the olla to encourage water to seep outwards rather than downwards.  
  • The olla needs to be buried into the ground BUT you should leave 3- 5 cm (1-2 inches) above ground to prevent dirt or mulch from entering the opening. 
  • Space small ollas 60-90 cm (2-3 feet) apart, and large ollas (2 gallon capacity) 90-120 cm  (3-4 feet) apart.  
  • Use a stick to check the water level in the olla and add water as necessary.  

I used the ollas in my tomato patch. To experiment, I planted some tomatoes with ollas and some without. The ollas provided moisture at ground level and the plants that were near the olla were a little larger than the plants without ollas!


This article, written by SHS President Nancy Hanson, originally appeared in the May 2020 SHS Newsletter, with an update in the March 2021 newsletter. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Lavender and Hardy Look-Alikes

LAVENDER. You love it, I love it, we long to grow it as a perennial in Saskatchewan, but like our long-standing hope of someday getting an IKEA, it’s probably never going to happen.

The type of lavender we’ve been seeing more of at the garden centres and even grocery stores lately is French (AKA Spanish or topped) lavender (Lavandula stoechas), with its pineapple-like flower heads shown in the below photo. It’s gorgeous and sells for shockingly cheap at places like Costco, but it’s only hardy to USDA Zone 7 at the lowest. You can try to bring it in over the winter but attempts to overwinter lavender as a house plant are not generally associated with success due to its high sun requirements, so best to enjoy it for the summer and say au revoir as you sacrifice it to the compost bin after the fall frost. Or, strip off the leaves and flowers to dry for tea all winter long.

(French lavender flower head - By fir0002flagstaffotos [at] gmail.comCanon 20D + Sigma 150mm f/2.8 - Own work, GFDL 1.2,

If you’ve heard of folks successfully treating lavender as a perennial in Saskatoon it is most likely a cultivar called Munstead. This is a type of English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) that local greenhouses will often categorize as a perennial. It is hardy to Zone 4, and Saskatoon is a dubious Zone 3. Personally I once had it come back after a mild winter, but it was not a strong plant and did not survive the following winter. I’ve yet to meet anyone who successfully overwinters their lavender year after year in our climate, but if you want to try – find the warmest and most sheltered microclimate in your yard and give it a good mulch in the fall. Or, move to Maple Creek.

(A photo of non-blooming Munstead in the small pot next to some French lavender.)

What’s a lavender lover to do in Saskatoon? Especially if one longs for that look of a stunning lavender field or hedge. It’s not particularly environmentally-friendly or cost-effective to internationally import several dozen lavender plants to make an annual hedge year after year, but there are some passable hardy look-alikes to try.

My favourite plant for the lavender look is Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), which is actually not Russian nor sage. To my eye, this is the one that looks most similar to lavender, at least from a distance, with its spires of lavender-coloured flowers. As a bonus it is beloved by pollinators and smells wonderful.

(Russian sage in Italy - By Lord Koxinga - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Other lavender-ish look-alikes that you've probably seen around the city are some hardy species of ornamental sage (Salvia) and speedwell (Veronica). Most of the common cultivars are a darker purple or pink, so not quite similar in colour to lavender, but will still get you that look of purple/blue/pink spikes of flowers and will appear lavender-ish to the untrained eye.

If you see landscaping in the Saskatoon area that looks like a lovely Mediterranean field of lavender, it’s almost guaranteed to be one of those three plants and not actually lavender being used.

All that said - prove me wrong, SHS members! Have you had success overwintering lavender in your garden? Please comment and let us know how you did it!

-Robyn Reist, SHS Blog Editor

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Upcoming Workshop: Grow to Glow with Kim West

We are excited to be offering our first virtual workshop of 2021 - Glow to Grow with Kim West!

The workshop will happen over Zoom on June 5 from 3-5PM. It is FREE for members, and $10 for non-members. 

Kim West is a Master Gardener who has spent countless hours in her garden, finding it to be a place of deep joy, connection, and healing.  Her love of the seasons, plants and nature is interwoven with her broader interests in writing and storytelling through art and poetry and wellness through nutrition, qi gong, forest walks, and mindfulness.  Kim has been a university teacher and researcher for 20 years and is passionate about creating and sharing educational initiatives that interweave the pleasures of gardening with nutrition, the culinary arts, and mindfulness practices.  She often can be found in her garden, meditating, doing qi gong, reading, or harvesting flowers, herbs, and vegetables for delicious meals and wholesome skin care remedies.  Kim holds a PhD and BSc Hons. in Earth Sciences from Carleton University and the University of Saskatchewan, respectively.   She is a culinary nutrition expert and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) facilitator and is undergoing training to become a certified qi gong instructor.

We hope you will join us on June 5! If you are interested in registering, please email If you are not an SHS member, we encourage you to purchase a $15 membership as it is only an additional $5 above the workshop registration fee, which will pay for itself quickly if you take advantage of our business partner benefits

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Welcome to the blog!

Welcome everyone! The Saskatoon Horticultural Society's Board of Directors recently decided to phase out our quarterly newsletter and replace it with a blog. There are many advantages to this format, including easier viewing on mobile devices, easier sharing on social media, and the ability to post more frequently. 

Submissions to the blog will function similarly to the newsletter - please send submissions to If you are concerned about having your name published on the internet, we are more than happy to remove your name and simply credit the article to "SHS member" or whatever pen name you'd like to use! Our current newsletter editor, Robyn Reist, is now the blog editor.

We hope you will enjoy reading the blog!