From 7b to zone 2

kirstenwardMarch 7, 2013

Hello all! I have been absent from the Garden Web for a couple of years, now. I used to live in zone 7b, on Vancouver Island, where I had many David Austin roses. A couple of years ago, I moved to northern Alberta, where I have been renting, so gardening has been on hiatus. However, I am getting married and moving even FARTHER north, to Fort McMurray (zone 2, I believe!), where we are in the process of buying a house. I will be there at the end of June. I don't even know what gardening in zone 2 looks like!!! Any words of advice or encouragement would be so very appreciated!!

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Been there, done that.

That drastic a change in growing zones can be discouraging, but it can be done. You just have less choices that will inspire you, coming from where you've been.

I would suggest you do a fair amount of reading in the next while, and become familiar with what works in Fort McMurray.

Are you buying a house with an established yard, or new?

A word of warning, the stores will sell things that you're familiar with, but they won't necessarily survive your winters. Do your homework if you're not prepared to learn by trial and error and spend some money that will end up wasted.

Once we know here if you're starting from scratch or buying an established property, we can help you out more :)

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 12:01PM
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Thank you, nutsaboutflowers. :) I will be heading up the first week of April to go house shopping, so I don't know yet! However, we are looking at fairly new houses, so it's safe to assume that there won't be much in the way of established landscaping.

Do you have any suggestions of good books I might track down for far north gardening? I have a huge collection of gardening books, but most of them are dedicated to roses or the Pacific Northwest.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 12:26PM
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When I moved from zone 6 (Okanagan) to zone 3 it was certainly a learning curve. I joined the local garden club and they had a list of plants that would grow well here which helped. I've occasionally pushed the zone thing and bought zone 4 plants, some of which are doing well altho I don't like to waste too much money doing that.

Keep in mind that if you can create a protected garden area by landscaping you can improve the chances of plants surviving. Such things as hedges, trees, and solid fences can deflect the wind and stone/brick/concrete walls and patios will retain heat. Also creating really good soil by amending will keep plants healthier and able to withstand stress.

I have 4 of Lois Hole's books which are available in many garden centers and certainly at Hole's Nursery "now located in the Enjoy Centre" in St. Albert Alberta and if you are ever down that way it's worth visiting. I've only been to their old location but the new one looks amazing.

Had a quick look at their site and see "the books are now co-authored by Jim and Lois Hole." I think Jim must be the late Lois Hole's son.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 3:30PM
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Zone envy is hard to overcome I came from Kamloops to Zone 2b. Far North Gardening has been very helpful when choosing fruit trees etc..... I planted a cherry last year not the same as okanagan cherries but still cherries. Congrats on your upcoming wedding. Happy House hunting.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 4:29PM
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There's a couple of websites that I have found particularly helpful.

It has a plant guide that shows you the zones the plants will survive in, how big they get, characteristics, problems, pictures, etc.

It's from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

If you read through a lot of the Far North Gardening Forum, you'll find almost as much information as you'll ever need on so many plants, shrubs, trees, etc., that your head will spin :) In the beginning you may find yourself looking up a plant on fine gardening, every time you read a post on this forum, LOL!
Keep in mind that there will be things you can grow there, but you'll need to treat them as annuals, not perennials like you used to.

Are you a bulb fan? Tulips, etc.? Even when you plant them 2 inches deeper than the instructions, depending on your soil type, they may only come up for one year. I've learned to treat tulips as annuals for the most part, particularly since I've got clay soil. I'm not sure what FM has.

People and greenhouses will probably tell you to plant Schubert Chokecherries. It seems everybody is planting them. Please do your homework on them. I hate mine. And, they will get black knot. Pretty much guaranteed. I wish I'd never let mine grow. There as so many nicer trees out there.

Oh, another thing. If you buy in a new area, I wouldn't necessarily plant what everybody else is planting. I don't really want to sound like I'm bashing the landscaping companies, but honestly, some of the things you see being planted, you know will be gone by the next year :(

There are some of your possible favourites from VI that you 'll have to give up for sure. You won't get the evergreen rhodos or the blue hydrangeas. There won't be daffodil fields, but you can grow them in a sheltered spot. Possibly only for a year though.

I have managed to find some beautiful primula/primroses that are doing beautifully in my zone. I don't recall their name right now and the tags are covered in 4 feet of snow. They won't, however, come up at the end of February. You'll have to wait until almost the end of May.

Are you a vegetable gardener? For the most part you'll be able to grow pretty much everything you did before, depending on your choices.

Definitely join a garden club as luckygal suggested or meet a fellow neighbour who gardens.

Whew! What a long post, and I'm sure there's more. You can tell it's been a long cold winter here.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 4:36PM
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First the bad news...Ft. Mac. is actually in zone 1a. The good news is that winter snow cover is reliable and remains all winter, giving protection to perrenials so that you should be able to squeeze an extra zone or two out of those. Here's a link that might be useful... they give zone ratings for their perennials. McMurray Divisions

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 5:51PM
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shillanorth Z4 AB

I lived for 34+ years in the NWT, mostly Yellowknife and there are several old fashioned tried and true perennials that grew and flourished in my gardens. Some you might like to think about are bleeding hearts, delphiniums, oriental poppies, asiatic lilies, clustered bellflowers, shasta daisies, pinks, peonies next to the house, cranes bill, ostrich ferns, columbine. May Day and mountain ash trees did well, false spirea(too weedy for my tastes) Froebeli spirea and Hansa rose is a really good one. Hope this gives you something to look forward to.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 8:52PM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

Hi & welcome! The others have pretty much covered it but also check out the gallery attached our forum, we have done years of week-by-week photo threads that would be quick for you to zip through. Feel free to ask questions.

Very generally, daylilies and dwarf bearded irises have been very reliable in my yard and offer a big selection.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 10:12PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Wow,...Vancouver Island and this, ..hope cold doesn't bother you. The summers are nice!
You've got pretty good answers from others.
All I want to say, when hunting for a home, old or new, make sure you have it inspected. I would have it done by at least 2 inspectors. We hear so many horror stories from up there, shoddy workmanship and not following code.

Other then that, Fort McMurray is not that bad, just very busy now. If you like the outdoor you'll love it. There is allot of spruce or mixed forest, [not as huge as the island]. Been up there a couple of times visiting my daughter, she has a home for about 4 years now and likes it, maybe for the money? As a engineer it cant' be that bad. Good place to make money quick!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 11:57PM
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Walk around the neighbourhoods and see what grows well out there and talk to the people' They shud have a pretty good idea .

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 2:34PM
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momof4ont(2a/ NE Ont)

We moved from southwestern Ontario to northeastern Ontario (2a) 5 years ago. The first two summers were kind of like culture shock- things grew, but not like I was used to. We were hit by late spring frosts and early fall frosts. The 89 day growing season we were supposed to get ended up more like 70.

My best suggestions- buy the shortest season varieties you can find for everything. Heritage Harvest Seeds (Manitoba) is really good about growing times in their catalogue.
I'd also recommend joining the far north seed exchange

Plan on a greenhouse, starting more delicate annuals indoors, and repotting annuals a few times to get them up to size.

If you're growing veggies- plan on double the garden size you had previously to get the same yield.

Adjust your diet. I'm still working on getting apple trees to survive and produce (don't buy anything from the big box stores), but I finally got us off the apple a day we were used to when we lived down south (too expensive to buy through the winter). Now I take full advantage of blueberry and raspberry season, and bake with fruit through the winter.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 5:47PM
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