Outdoor report: Famous creatures and fragrant flowers
A short drive east of Edmonton lies a national treasure, Elk Island National Park.
It was Canada’s first wildlife sanctuary, created in 1906 as a refuge for elk. 410 plains bison arrived the following year, part of an organized attempt to save the species from extinction. The project was a success - in more recent years the animals have been moved to other parts of the world to help strengthen bison conservation projects. The “Preservation of Plains Bison” at Elk Island is commemorated as a Canadian National Historic Event.
OUTDOOR REPORT: Call of the wilderness, Algonquin
The park is an amazing place to take the family year-round. The Elk Island Parkway runs north-south for 20 km through the park and can be a great way to see wildlife like plains and wood bison, moose, elk, deer and coyote. For many visitors getting stuck in a bison traffic jam is a park highlight! As with all large wildlife safety is key - stay inside your vehicle. After you pull over to the side Park staff suggest opening the windows so you can hear the animals’ soft grunting noises and breathe in their woolly smell. Close your eyes and you’ll almost feel like you’re part of the herd – a truly unique experience. Find out more about these famous creatures here.
Elk Island is the transition zone between aspen parkland and boreal forest, and a variety of habitats support many different species of mammals as well as birds. The park is known as a birders’ paradise with over 250 species recorded in the park. Wetlands around Astotin Lake are a prime spot for waterfowl and shorebirds so bring along your binoculars. Keep them handy for nights with clear skies, Elk Island is a great spot for star gazing. When conditions are right you can also spot the Northern Lights. The islands of Astotin Lake are popular with canoists and kayakers, regular visitors also come for the hiking and camping. Less than a one hour drive from Edmonton you’ll find many opportunities for outdoor adventure, solitude and family fun in all seasons, at Elk Island National Park. Check the weather forecast before you head out and the bug report here.
A beautiful park is a delight to all the senses and so are our gardens. Well-chosen and well-placed fragrant flowers can really enhance your enjoyment. I’m particularly fond of these two late spring/early summer bloomers, Peonies and Pinks. They’re planted near walkways and benches in my garden and a dwarf lilac bush is tucked up against the porch, which means lovely wafts of scent whenever you walk by or stop to sit a while.
When it comes to fragrant shrubs and perennials you want to plant them where you can enjoy them – near a deck, patio, walkway or window. Pinks grew in my Grandad Leonard’s garden in England and their sweet and spicy smell unlocks a flood of memories for me. The Dianthus family includes many varieties of the classic Carnations, the popular biennial ‘Sweet William’ as well as Pinks. Other fragrant perennials to consider include Phlox, Monarda/Bee Balm, Lily of the Valley, Honeysuckle, Nepeta/Catmint and Sweet Woodruff.
If you’re staying close to home this weekend here are a few reminders about what to do in the garden right now:
- Everything’s growing quickly now, including weeds. Weed properly and thoroughly now and you won’t have so many to deal with in July and August.
- Snip off dead blooms on spring bulbs (daffodils, tulips, etc) but leave the foliage to die back.
- Deadhead, snip or pinch off dead flower heads. Depending on the perennial this will encourage repeat blooms and new growth, and prevent self-seeding.
- Watch for signs of bugs and treat plants promptly before damage accelerates.
- Prune or cut back certain summer perennials by one third to one half, if desired
- Prune or cut back certain autumn perennials mid/late June (depending on your zone) for height control, once they reach 12-16”/30-40cm in height.
“To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.”