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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gardening on Montana's Hi-Line

I think I inherited my love of gardening and plants from my mother, although my father probably had a hand in that a well as he has always farmed. Some of my earliest memories as a child are of "working" in the garden with my mom.

Since she's moved to Cut Bank, Montana, a very small town in the northwest section of Montana, it has gotten really hard. Not just because she turned 80 this year, but because the land is hard.

Cut Bank falls in what is known as Montana's "Hi-Line." Varying stories exist which explain this, one of which is that the major road in this area was raised so that snow and mud wouldn't be such a problem. Somehow, I don't think so, but mom said that they used to get more snow in the Great Falls area where she grew up than they do now.


The Hi-Line falls in the high plains--an area of extremes, Extreme wind, extreme cold, and very little rain. In gardening terms, Mom gardens in zone 3, but she says that planting for zone 2 is more trustworthy. Zone 3 is roughly -30 to -45 F. The winds are cold, dry and incessant. As my niece put it, "It's all about the wind."

Still, Mom tries to garden. These calendula are bright and cheery as well as drought tolerant. I love the fact that they are commonly called "pot marigolds."

Mom has a little sheltered plot near the house and here she puts in some annuals, one of my favorite is the common annual lobelia. The cobalt blue of the flowers is one of my favorite colors. She combines them with white petunias.



Not long after my parents moved to Montana, I visited and put in some raised beds as I thought it would be easier for mom to garden in and the soil would warm more quickly, allowing her to plant a few more things.

I gathered the limestone slabs which cover some of my brother's fields and threw them in the truck to bring back. Several loads later, I had these beds. I brought in well composted manure from the old barnyard and mixed it with the native soil which tends to clay.
These beds have worked out quite well for mom. They are sheltered from the wind by a windrow of carageena and a plywood "fence."

Ok...so the little sign is a little hokey....but I think it fits my mom to a "T".





3 comments:

Sunita said...

Nice!Love the lobelias (never seen them before so not so much of the "common", if you please!). That raised bed must've been a lot of work. What a nice daughterly thing to do!

Michigoose said...

Thanks, Sunita. With all of your tropicals in deep and vibrant colors, sometimes I think that our plants are just not worthy for you to look at!

We usually just refer to this as the blue annual lobelia. It comes in a variety of cultivars, one of mine being "Crystal Palace" which has bronzy foliage in addition to this intense cobalt color. Others are white and lighter blue. After much looking, I finally found the Latin name, Lobelia erinus.

The raised bed wasn't so much work. At least at the time. Now, I would be hard pressed to do it.

Shady Character said...

It sounds challenging but I'm glad you and your mom were able to coax some color from the ground.