The Pinyon Pine has several advantages over other evergreen trees in a Colorado landscape. For one thing, its size doesn’t consume so much horizontal space. Compare the modest mature Pinyon at 10’-15’ in diameter with Austrian or Ponderosa at 25’-35’ diameter or Blue Spruce at 30’-40’ diameter. A few of these “average” sized evergreens look innocent when freshly planted, but who hasn’t seen them blocking sidewalks and doorways, tearing off gutters and shading solar collectors and windows in the winter? The Pinyon with its gently rounded top only gets 12’-20’ high, which suffices for many screening needs and still leaves the view. If it isn’t crowded, it stays branched to the ground with dense foliage of short, medium green to gray-green needles, two to a bundle. The cones are small 1 1/2”-2” long, brown to reddish-brown, which open to a rosette form and in the wild yield Pinyon “nuts”. These seeds are good-tasting and oily, with a piney flavor much appreciated by birds, animals and humans. They are also nutritious, being higher in protein and carbohydrates than pecans, but lower in fat. For some reason , these “nuts” are unlikely to develop in small urban plantings.
One of the most beautiful ornamental trees is the Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis. It is a native of the eastern and southern U.S. and has “naturalized” in older Boulder neighborhoods. It’s most distinctive feature is its reddish purple buds followed by intense purplish-pink pea-like flowers in late April before the leaves come out. This wondrous and heart-warming display is greatly appreciated so early in spring but cannot be counted on if winters are too harsh.
It is a smaller tree 20’-25’ high and wide with attractive bark and heart-shaped leaves which are shiny and purplish when young. Fall color is yellow. It is said to be hardy to zone 4 and we have many fine specimens in Boulder.
Shade trees 40’-60’ high and wide are great on the south and west sides of our houses and offices. They reduce temperatures and reduce cooling costs in the warm months, but they are not always appropriate. We don’t want dense shade where we grow most xeriscapes, rock gardens, herb gardens, most natives and many perennials. In addition, there is no need for big shade trees on the north side, and the morning sun is usually welcome on the east side of our houses and workplaces. And many plants prosper in morning sun and afternoon shade. It is also significant that a 20’ tree costs far less to have pruned than a 40’ tree. So it seems to me we should be growing small trees under 30’ tall on the east and north sides of our buildings.
Trees have it hard in Colorado. If it’s not the shallow and lean topsoil, it’s the low rainfall and low humidity, or it’s the heavy wet late spring or early fall snows, or like last November, it’s the dramatic temperature changes. After a warm and beautiful fall without a killing frost until November 11, we experienced a 77 degree drop in temperature between November 10 and November 12. This was one of the three largest temperature drops ever recorded in the Denver area, the other two were in December 2013 and January 2014.
Below is a list of many of the varieties of Penstemons that we usually have for sale at Harlequin’s Gardens. Penstemons are in general very well adapted to xeriscape gardens in Colorado. Many of them are regional natives and there are several that are native in Boulder County. In general, they like full sun and good drainage, however many can be grown in our clay soils if they are not overwatered. Some are 3′ tall, some are ground covers. Many are blue or purple, some are orange or red and there are a few whites. It is good to sow their own seeds in the fall to create sustaining populations. Try them; they are beautiful and fun AND nearly all LIKE hot and dry conditions, once established.
Many gardeners think of Spring as the height of the ornamental gardening
season. Sure, so many of our best-known flowering plants – Tulip,
Crocus, Daffodil, Primrose, Peony, Lilac, Forsythia, Oriental Poppy,
Basket of Gold, Bearded Iris, are at their showiest in spring. But as we
pass to the other side of the Summer Solstice, a whole new palette of
blooms arises, including many Natives, lots of Prairie-dwellers and
Steppe plants, and hardy plants from South of the Border, bringing bold
color and attracting more and different beneficial insects and
pollinators to the garden. Here’s a list of many of those flowers to
Trees do a lot for us humans, so we shouldn’t forget to give them some support. When I look at the treeless ten acre lot next to our nursery, or when I see an old photo of the CU campus with bare land around Old Main, I remember why we can’t take trees for granted in Colorado. Trees really have it hard here, but there are things we can do to help them survive and thrive.
Of all our plants, trees take the longest to develop and so it is not only heart-breaking, but a significant set-back to a landscape when a tree that is 10-20 years old is destroyed in a storm. Many of these disasters could be prevented with proper pruning early in a tree’s life. Besides preventing disasters, pruning trees properly when young will help them to develop more beautifully, make them stronger, less expensive to maintain as they get older and keep them healthier.
A young tree, like any young being, is vulnerable and needs some extra care. And trees are often a costly investment, both for the plant and for the planting. So since few arborists will come out for the fifteen minute job of pruning a young tree, and since few lawn crews are trained in proper pruning, it is good for home-owners to understand the basics of pruning in order to get their trees off to a good start.
Note: plants listed in bold are native to our region
Achillea filipendula ‘Moonshine’
Achillea millefolium ‘Cerise Queen’
The roots are the hidden support system of our giant plants, the trees. They anchor their woody trunks to the ground, store food and bring in water, nutrients and oxygen. In this article I will discuss what is going on down there. In the next issue I will discuss more practical applications of this understanding.
Far less is known about tree roots than about the trunk, branches and leaves. This is understandable since the roots are hidden from our view, and once you dig them up, they are no longer what they were. We are awed by the massive trees swaying over our houses and streets, but usually we give little thought to what is going on under the surface. However, when spring thawing is followed by powerful winds and we see an 80’ spruce toppled over with its roots in the air, which are only 9” deep; that gets us thinking.
What would we do without trees? What structures could we invent and construct that would hang over our houses and offices, providing shade and cooler temperatures? Such a structure would have to hold up under 80 mph winds and heavy wet snows, and would have to retract in the winter to let in light. Trees provide these values and much more, giving off oxygen, providing housing for birds, and protection for understory plants. Thus it is very important to take good care of our trees, and the most fundamental level of that care must be directed to the roots.
A New Model for the 21st Century
A newer science that is not tied to petroleum profits is emerging to challenge the industrial approach to agriculture and gardening. Of course, the enormously powerful and politically connected corporate giants like Monsanto, Bayer and Dupont will continue to make money, but after 60 years of dominance, the “Better Living Through Chemistry” model can no longer hide its fatal flaws. Mountains of evidence now point to the effects of chemical agriculture: poisoning the earth, driving global climate change, causing major health problems, killing pollinators and destroying the life of the soil. The good news is that a more long-range, wholistic view is starting to take its place. This new approach is being called Biological Agriculture and Gardening.
It has been suggested that this period of the 21st Century might well be called The Age of Biology, because the biggest challenges will be biological and the biggest breakthroughs will be in the realm of biology.
In this article, we will continue the discussion from the last issue on Biological Agriculture and Gardening, but this time going into specifics of biological thinking, biological discoveries and applications that improve plant and food success with biological solutions.
Xeriscape Vines For Sun
Campsis radicans / Trumpet Vine
Celastrus scandens / Bittersweet
Clematis ligusticifolia / Western Virgin’s Bower
Clematis tangutica / Golden Clematis
Humulus lupulus / Hops
Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ / Golden Hops
Humulus lupulus neomexicana / Native Hops
Parthenocissus quinquefolia / Virginia Creeper
Polygonum aubertii / Silver Lace Vine
Solanum dulcamarum / Nightshade
Wisteria floribunda / Japanese Wisteria
Wisteria macrostachya ‘Aunt Dee’ / Aunt Dee Wisteria
Low – Water Vines For Shade & Part – Shade
Akebia quinata / Japanese Akebia
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata / Porcelain Vine
Euonymus fortunei ‘Minima’
Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloratus’ / Purple Wintercreeper
Hedera helix / English Ivy
Parthenocissus quinquefolia / Virginia Creeper
Food safety is one of the most critical issues of our time. What we eat is directly related to our health, and health care has a direct impact on our personal and national economies. Major chemical companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Dow and Dupont have introduced 86,000 synthetic chemicals into our environment, food, drugs, cosmetics etc and most of them have never been tested for toxic effects on human health and the environment. Since the mid 1990s, some of these same companies have been filling our grocery stores and feed stores with genetically engineered food products which may be causing serious health problems but are being approved by our government without safety testing.
Most of us were taught that gardening is about control, about battling unruly, ravenous nature to succeed with our objectives. And a very complex and prosperous industry sprang up in the late 1940s to provide us with the power and weapons to meet those expectations. Petroleum products from World War II chemical weapons, defoliants and bombs were reformulated to solve our plant problems and feed the world. These chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides have now had 50-60 years to show that this aggressive, heartless and poisonous approach has failed. Foods with little nutritional value and a polluted world are inspiring a strong international movement toward sustainability.
Everybody seems to love columbines with their delicate, exquisite beauty, both elegant and elusive. The Rocky Mt. Columbine is the state flower of Colorado and yet we seldom, if ever, see front yards swaying with masses of their classic loveliness. What is the story or trick to growing these plants successfully in Colorado? Because of my own mixed success with columbines, I decided for this article, to add the experience of other gardeners to my personal views.
How can we deal with all the bugs and diseases without using toxic poisons, and how can our gardens really produce without high-powered chemical fertilizers? Many people wanting to garden sustainably are asking these questions. And it is not easy to find the answers, partly because the answers are not simple. I want to admit this up front, but don’t be scared off, because it’s not that hard to garden sustainably once you get the hang of it. However you must know that you can’t just exchange a slam-bam chemical approach for a slam-bam sustainable approach.
The key to minimal maintenance and a low input approach is Gardening Without Fear. The solution to gardening without fear is twofold: being empowered to garden successfully and being relaxed and tolerant. If we are fearful, we will react to every little problem, worry and criticize ourselves. Then we might seek an immediate solution like some poison.
We have been guided to believe that we need these petroleum products by companies that sell them. In fact, these products weaken the support systems of plants and make them more vulnerable to diseases, pests and drought. The truth is—we don’t need them.
Last month we raised the issue of invasive introduced plants and the idea of being responsible gardeners who respect our native habitat and make an effort to not release invasive plants into the wild. We began with obvious noxious weeds that are having strong negative impacts on our native populations of plants and animals. This month again I am profiling weeds which have been declared as noxious, but this time a question is beginning to arise about under what circumstances are some of the less aggressive weeds invasive? In other words, is it possible that we might find a middle way that guides us strictly with the truly harmful invasives and more leniently with the less aggressive and more useful weedy plants? These are questions I am asking myself and will be asking in future interviews. We also welcome your views on this issue.
In February 2000 President Clinton established the National Invasive Species Council. Agriculture secretary Dan Glickman, Commerce Secretary William Daley and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt were asked to work together on a plan to minimize the economic, ecological and human health impact of invasive plants and animals not native to the US. The executive order on Invasive Species directs federal agencies to prevent the introduction of invasive species, to control populations of such species in a cost-effective and environmentally sound manner, to monitor populations, restore native species, conduct research and promote public education on invasive species.
One of the hot subjects in horticulture these days is the issue of the invasiveness of introduced plants. Since they did not evolve here, they lack natural enemies, and whereas most are harmless, some have engulfed vast areas of wilderness, national forests, range and farm lands. This has led some people to campaign for “natives only” and others to attack the introduction of new plants as an ecological nightmare. In response to these attacks some in the plant industry have dismissed these fears as invalid over-reactions. As Colorado gardeners, most of us can be both excited by new plant introductions that are well-adapted to Colorado conditions, and feel very protective of our natural ecosystem and our native plants. In a series of articles, we hope to uncover some truths regarding these issues and to educate ourselves about how to work with this situation in a constructive manner.
The forgotton greenhouse gas and how it relates to growing plants
Nitrogen is one of the most essential nutrients for plants. Nitrogen is required for building amino acids, DNA and RNA, in stimulating growth, supporting health and is a critical ingredient in chlorophyll, the chemical needed for photosynthesis. In our gardens, when nitrogen is lacking, plants are small and yellow, and roots do not perform well. In Colorado, almost all our soils are deficient in nitrogen and organic matter. So we gardeners often add fertilizers and composts to our soils.
In general, shade trees are not very tolerant of drought. Some people have gotten the idea that since trees have big root systems, they are less vulnerable to dry conditions. Unfortunately this is not true. Truly xeric trees that are native to arid regions are usually small, more like big shrubs. Even in our semi-arid region, photos from a hundred years ago, show very open and unshaded areas where we now have our urban forests. Most shade trees come from forested areas with much more rainfall and deeper, richer soils. On top of that, our trees are often made to grow in very confined areas in heavily compacted soils. So even under normal circumstances, big trees have a hard life here in Colorado. Therefore, during a drought, we must take extra care to make sure they survive by deeply watering at least once a month. If you multiply the diameter of a tree in inches times 10, you will get the recommended gallons of water required per watering. This water should be applied, not next to the trunk, but in a wide band around the drip line. Your best chances of establishing a tree during water restrictions are to:
Local advice from our friend Elizabeth:
Hi All, I have been trying a new technique (at least for me) of starting peas in sections of guttering (which I got at Resource) in the greenhouse, growing them on until they are about 4 inches tall, and then transferring them to a trench in the garden. So far it seems to be working fairly well. The peas germinate really fast and grow quickly in the greenhouse. You could probably do it in a house too. I plug up the ends of the guttering with a piece of foam and duct tape. When I am ready to transfer them, I dig a trench, remove the foam and duct tape, spread the sides of the guttering away from the soil, and slide them out of the guttering into the trench. The sliding is the tricky part. I have found it takes two people to go well: one to guide and encourage the peas along, and one to lift and shake the guttering, as you have to get it to a fairly steep angle for the peas to slide. I’m using galvanized guttering, but plastic might work better as it would be smoother. So far they have adapted well to the outdoors, and we shall see how they grow on and produce. There’s lots of videos of this on the web. Thought this might be a good solution to slow germination in our really unpredictable springs.
It used to be that beauty was enough. If the lawn looked good and we had a few shrubs and a few flowers, we could relax, having done our duty to the neighborhood.
Now we have to be water-wise, save the bees and the Monarch Butterflies, and on top of that, we’ve got to have Biodiversity.
I think this is a good trend. Gardens are more than something to look at. They are a piece of Nature and the more diverse they are, the more like Nature they are.
The Canadians, like their English and French ancestors, have a great love of roses. However much of Canada is in zones 4, 3 and even zone 2. Therefore many of the hybrid tea and floribunda roses bred in modern times have not been tough enough for Canadian gardeners. So the Canadians set their own federal agriculture department to work on breeding roses that succeed in Canada. Not only do these roses do well north of our border, they are very successful in Colorado, even in our higher elevation environments. Our 10-20 below zero winters and dramatic temperature changes can kill or significantly injure more tender roses like the hybrid teas and floribundas. So gardeners in Colorado who don’t have time to remove large masses of dead canes, hill soil around the canes to protect them for winter, and who have less inclination to spray and fertilize frequently, find the Canadian-bred roses provide a rewarding and easy-care alternative.
In the last issue I discussed the easy broadleaf evergreens for Colorado and this time we will go into the difficult ones. Many people have killed or had poor success with rhododendrons, hollies, azaleas and daphnes etc. so it is good to understand these plants further. Unfortunately in my sunny, low-water gardens, I have had little experience with them so I went to two people who have plenty of experience, Don Zaun and Allan Taylor.
It is widely known that nitrogen is essential for plants. It is a major component of amino acids, DNA and chlorophyll. It is necessary for photosynthesis, the alchemical process of turning sunlight, carbon dioxide, minerals and water into oxygen and sugars that is the food that feeds life on earth. In Colorado, most of our soils are deficient in nitrogen.
But too much nitrogen can be a problem, especially high nitrogen chemical fertilizers. Bill McKibben, author of The Art of Balancing Soil Nutrients states, “Although all plant nutrients are critical, none seem to produce such quick and dramatic effect on plant growth as nitrogen does. It is because of this reason that nitrogen has been over-used and abused.” A 20%-30% nitrogen fertilizer can make a spring lawn turn bright green practically overnight, and can make plants in a greenhouse or garden grow and look mature really fast. So what’s the problem?
Flood recovery is not a problem most of us have had to deal with before so we can only try to solve the problems individually and make adjustments in the future.
The main problems seem to be:
1) Soil washed away-erosion
2) Soil dumped on top of plants, trees and existing soil
3) Plants washed away
4) Weed seeds deposited on the soil 5) manure and sewage and unknown contaminants deposited on the land
In the winter when the deciduous plants have dropped their leaves, the evergreens really stand out. If we go for a walk, especially in the older neighborhoods, what evergreens do we see? The greatest numbers are spruces, firs, pines and junipers. In general these conifers with their narrow needles or scales are adapted to our cold temperatures, strong winds and sunny winter days. But there are other woody evergreens to be seen in Colorado neighborhoods: the broad-leaf evergreens. In general their wide leaves transpire more and are more prone to desiccation in our drying conditions; however by choosing the right plants and siting them in their right places, we can enjoy these less popular but deeply satisfying winter-green shrubs and vines. In this article I will discuss the easy broad-leaf evergreens for Colorado and in the April issue we will talk about the difficult ones.
Many Colorado gardeners have been frustrated in their attempts to grow climbing roses. The main problem seems to be that the tall canes die back and though they may bloom, they look like shrubs, not climbers. We are green with envy of the European and Californian gardens with roses cascading over and festooning pillars, walls and bowers. Why can’t we achieve this? I think we can, but not without a very discriminating approach. First of all we must realize that our cold temperatures and especially the rapid cold-hot-cold changes, and our drying winter winds are death to all but the hardiest rose canes.
2018 Tomato Tasting Results:
This year’s Taste of Tomato was a blast! We love the new location at Growing Gardens’ https://www.harlequinsgardens.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/IMG_0725.jpgBarn, with its’ beautiful view of the Flatirons, easy access, and wonderful staff. The tasting featured 44 different varieties of tomatoes, with Aunt Ruby’s German Green winning the greatest number of votes. Participants brought in some wonderful new varieties this year, including Brad’s Atomic Grape, Thornburn’s Terracotta, and Indigo Cherry. Look for the most popular varieties from this year and previous years when you come to buy your organic tomato starts next spring at Harlequin’s Gardens. Every year we grow 80+ great varieties for all kinds of uses and growing conditions!
A huge thank-you to Growing Gardens for providing our new location, helping us publicize the event, and for bringing us some fabulous volunteers. Thank you also to the volunteers of Slow Food Boulder County and the CSU Extension Service. We couldn’t have done it without you!
|Votes||Tomato Variety||Votes||Tomato Variety|
|35||Sungold hybrid||38||Aunt Ruby’s German Green|
|25||Matt’s Wild Cerry||23||Berkeley Tie Dye|
|22||BHN 624||20||Malachite Box|
|20||Brad’s Atomic Grape||18||Black from Tula|
|14||Chocolate Cherry||18||Paul Robeson|
|10||Sweet 100||17||Cherokee Purple|
|10||Indigo Cherry||10||Black Krim|
|11||Yellow Pear||7||German Johnson|
|9||Chocolate Sprinkles||6||Super Fantastic hybrid|
|6||Fourth of July||5||Lucid Gem|
|5||Negro Azteca||3||Big Rainbow|
|4||Indigo Rose||3||White Beauty|
|Votes||Tomato Variety||Votes||Tomato Variety|
|21||Japanese Black Trifele/Black Truffle||7||Airyleaf|
|14||Thornburn’s Terracotta||6||Costoluto Genovese|
|13||Siberian Pink Honey|
|3||Lemon Yellow Plum|
A Tomato Celebration and Tasting
Savor the Flavors of Dozens of varieties of Home-Grown Tomatoes!
Learn about Tomato Growing and Care!
Find out which tomato varieties you want to grow in your own garden or buy from your local farmers!
On Saturday August 25th, from 10am-1pm come to the new, modern Growing Gardens Barn at 1630 Hawthorn Avenue, Boulder 80304
Here’s the lowdown:
If you bring 3 or more medium to large tomatoes (or 10+ small or cherry tomatoes) of one named variety, with its variety name on a card, to donate to the tasting you will get in FREE. You are encouraged to share more than the minimum, and enter more than one variety! NOTE: If the correct name for your tomatoes is unknown we cannot use them in our tasting.
If you have no tomatoes to bring, come anyway, for an entrance fee of $5.
Volunteers will be cutting tomatoes for your tasting. The samples will be grouped by type: Cherry, Beefsteak, Paste, and Slicing/Salad and will be labeled by name. In past years we’ve had from 65 to more than 100 different varieties to taste!
You will be able to vote for 6 of your favorite tomatoes. Voting results will be assembled and emailed to participants. Results will also be posted at www.HarlequinsGardens.com.
Valuable DOOR PRIZES will be awarded every half hour!
Two demonstrations of Tomato Seed-saving procedures will take place during the tasting, at 10:30 and 12 noon.
Master Gardeners and Harlequin’s Gardens staff will be on hand to answer your tomato questions.
This is always a lot of fun, and educational, too!
Please do not bring dogs.
Children are welcome with adult supervision.
Harlequin’s Gardens Nursery, Growing Gardens, & Slow Food Boulder
2017 TOMATO TASTING RESULTS
|23||Matt’s Wild Cherry|
|23||Green Doctors / Green Doctors Frosted, Grape|
|6||Jelly Bean Grape|
|6||Super Sweet 100 Cherry|
|4||Napa Chardonnay Cherry|
|3||Bumblebee Sunrise Cherry|
|3||Rebel Alliance Cherry|
|3||Sunshine Gold Cherry|
|3||Snow White Cherry|
|2||Purple Bumblebee Cherry|
|Indigo Cherry Drops|
|15||Berkeley Tie Dye|
|14||Stump of the World|
|8||Siberian Pink Honey|
|1||Black from Tula|
|14||Dwarf Purple Heart|
|10||Japanese Black Trifele/Black Truffle|
|4||Fourth of July|
2016 TOMATO TASTING RESULTS
|27||Isis Candy||Cherry||Open Pollinated|
|17||Black Truffle ( aka Japanese Black Trifele)||Salad||Heirloom|
|15||Chocolate Cherry||Cherry||Open Pollinated|
|14||Malakhitova Shkatulka (Malachite Box)||Beefsteak||Heirloom|
|14||Black from Tula||Salad||Heirloom|
|13||Matt's Wild Cherry||Currant||Heirloom|
|11||Lucid Gem||Salad||Open Pollinated|
|8||Tami G Grape||Cherry||Hybrid|
|7||Chocolate Chestnut||Salad||Open Pollinated|
|6||Pineapple Pig||Beefsteak||Open Pollinated|
|6||Jen's Christmas||Beefsteak||Open Pollinated|
|5||Chef's Choice Pink||Beefsteak||F1 Hybrid|
|4||Indigo Cherry Drops||Cherry||Hybrid|
|4||Super Sweet 100||Cherry||Hybrid|
|3||Brown Berry||Cherry||Open Pollinated|
|3||Black Cherry||Cherry||Open Pollinated|
|2||Cowlick Brandywine||Beefsteak||Open Pollinated|
|2||Beauty King||Beefsteak||Open Pollinated|
|2||Rose de Berne||Salad||Heirloom|
|Sprite Grape||Cherry||Open Pollinated|
|Tomato Berry||Cherry||F1 Hybrid|
|Golden King of Siberia||Beefsteak||Heirloom|
|2015 TOMATO TASTING RESULTS|
|Votes||Variety Name||Category||Seed Type|
|0||Hard Rock||Salad||Open Pollinated|
|1||Sweet Pea Currant||Cherry||Heirloom|
|2||Aunt Ruby’s German Green||Beefsteak||Heirloom|
|2||Fruity Cherry||Cherry||Open Pollinated|
|2||Pork Chop||Beefsteak||Open Pollinated|
|5||Black Cherry||Cherry||Open Pollinated|
|5||Costoluto Genovese||Salad, Paste||Heirloom|
|5||Green Doctors’ Frosted||Cherry||Open Pollinated|
|5||Vintage Wine||Beefsteak||Open Pollinated|
|6||Green Zebra||Salad||Open Pollinated|
|9||Chianti Rose||Beefsteak||Open Pollinated|
|10||Super Sweet 100||Cherry||Hybrid|
|11||Chocolate Cherry||Cherry||Open Pollinated|
|20||Japanese Black Triefle/Black Truffle||Salad||Heirloom|
|21||Black From Tula||Salad||Heirloom|
|21||Jen’s Christmas||Beefsteak||Open Pollinated|
|23||Matt’s Wild Cherry||Cherry||Heirloom|
Henry Kelsey (1984 Kordesii cross) is an Explorer Series rose from Ag. Canada that is hardy to Zone 3 and is considered by many to be the best red-flowered climber for cold climates. It is very vigorous and grows strongly even in lean soils. Whereas it can be grown as a low arching shrub to 4’, it excels as a short climber to 8’-10’ and looks especially good trained down a split-rail fence. The flowers are semi-double with prominent golden stamens, opening a luscious deep red and fading to a pinker medium red. The fragrance is light but pleasant and the clusters of flowers repeat from June until frost. Where I have grown it in a very low water area over the last five years it has performed well and has not died back on the trellis, but repeat flowering is intermittent rather than continuous. One of the truths of xeriscape is that not all plants that grow well on low water, flower as well. Sometimes just one or two deep waterings during bloom time will make a big difference in flower production.
You may have noticed that the word “sustainability” is cropping up frequently these days. What does this word mean?, and why is it suddenly so popular? The word “sustainability” naturally means: the ability to sustain or to endure through time. And why is this idea so relevant to gardening, farming, economics, foreign policy, trade agreements, water use and automobile and product design? I think it is because the world can no longer ignore the reality of our earth’s limits. We humans have been going through a long adolescent period and now it is getting harder and harder to ignore the necessity of growing up and taking responsibility for our actions, and for the entire earth’s children. We have been burning our candle at both ends, acting like there’s no tomorrow, assuming our resources would last forever, thinking there is place called “away” where we could throw the waste and poisons of our expedient solutions. We have put cheap products and fast profits ahead of real essential values.
Fortunately, there are many choices of drought-tolerant shrubs. And not only can they tolerate drier conditions, the fact that they are taller than most perennials and groundcovers helps them to compete better with weeds, giving them a greater survival potential in untamed, harsh or more industrial locations. In native ecosystems, it is often the shrubs that begin to pioneer a barren ground, and the shade and wind-protection they create, gives more favorable microclimates for other plants to germinate and find a home. There are many fine non-native shrubs for xeriscapes, but in this article, I am mostly going to describe some of my favorite native shrubs for drier conditions.
I used to be prejudiced against grasses because I associated grasses with the American monoculture of Kentucky Bluegrass that we all know as “the lawn”. But after testing many kinds of xeriscape plants for over 20 years I finally realized that most sustainable ecosystems have grasses mixed with the other plants. And I also came to appreciate that grasses are strongly self-replicating and that they can be more easily grown from seed than most perennials, so that installation and maintenance costs could be much less. I still think low-water shrubs and Colorado-adapted perennials have an essential place in a sustainable landscape, but I have been wondering how grasses could fit in. Of course Piet Oudolf and Kurt Bluemel have shown the potential for using grasses in a garden, but their examples look well watered and seem like they would be high maintenance. The prairie model so successful in Wisconsin and the Midwest focuses on tall-grass prairie that is out of place here, and so I have been wondering how grasses could be used in a Colorado-sustainable landscape.
MULCHING THE GARDEN
Benefits of Mulching:
1) prevents evaporation; holds moisture
2) reduces weeding; makes weeding easier
3) reduces fungal diseases; prevents splashing of spores onto bottom leaves
4) feeds the soil; as mulch decomposes, worms take nutrients into the soil
Applying a mulch around our plants can be one of the most effective ways to improve their health and success, especially during hot and dry conditions like we had in 2012. Mulches have many benefits, but it is important to know how to use them to avoid problems.
Mulch conserves water by reducing evaporation 10%-50%. Usually a 2”-4” deep layer is best, and the material needs to be open enough to admit rain and irrigation and dense enough to resist evaporation. It is a good idea to apply mulch after the soil has been deeply watered or soaked with a good rain. Then the mulch will hold the moisture. Beware of materials like unshredded leaves which can act like shingles, and dry compost or sawdust which are hydrophobic, meaning they are difficult to wet. These problems are worse on a slope where water can run off instead of penetrating.
The best chance of having delphiniums that don’t blow over is to plant them on the east side of the house or garage where they get good early day sun and where they are protected from the west wind. Next is to put in varieties that are not so tall and top-heavy. Here are a few varieties that fit that bill.
Normally when we think of fungi relating to plants, what comes to mind is infection and disease: powdery mildew, blackspot, slime flux and canker; Oh, NO!! However there is a growing awareness of the far more extensive benefits that fungi contribute to our world. Decomposing fungi are primary agents in the composting process which to us recyclers is the magic of turning garbage into gold. Not only do our plants love the rich humus and organic matter, but pesticides and herbicides are also broken down. Much of the body of soil itself is made up of fungi, especially loamy, well-aerated soil. And then there are the symbiotic fungi, the ones forming mutually beneficial relationships with plants. These associations of absorbing roots with fungal mycelium are known as mycorrhizae, from “mycor”- fungus and “rhiza”-root. Even though these beneficial relationships were discovered in 1885, it is not widely known today that 95 % of all plants on earth intermingle their roots with mycorrhizal fungi.
Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for all living things. Where does that nitrogen come from? It comes from the atmosphere, which is composed of 78% nitrogen; but that gas is quite inert, meaning it can’t combine with other elements until it is broken into a simpler form. This process takes a lot of energy to “fix” the nitrogen. There are three processes that can fix nitrogen: atmospheric, Haber Process and biological.
Atmospheric fixation occurs when the high temperature of lightning splits the nitrogen gas so it bonds with oxygen and moisture in the air to form nitrates that fall to the earth with rain. This natural fertilization benefits plants. Some people have asked, Is it my imagination that my grass looks greener after a thunderstorm? Maybe not; it could be due to the nitrogen as much as to the water.
GMO has become a dirty word and a symbol for Monsanto’s corporate control over our health. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the result of slamming DNA (genetic material) from one organism with the DNA of another, yielding altered characteristics. The bizarre results are discarded and the profitable ones, like being unaffected by the herbicide Roundup, are reproduced. Current approved GMO crops include Roundup Ready corn, soybeans, canola and this year, sweet corn. The advantage with these crops is that a farmer can have easy perfect weed control, by spraying the whole field with the herbicide Roundup, killing the weeds but not the crop.
There are many varieties of Dianthus that are successful here in Colorado. Since there are about 250 species and 30,000 registered names of Dianthus, this article is only going to cover a fraction of the subject. Most of the species dianthus come from the Mediterranean region, the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor. They grow mostly in sunny, dry, well-drained soils among rocks or with short grasses in meadows, and most are happy in a more alkaline environment. These are reasons why they are often well-adapted to our natural conditions. Many varieties are easy for us to grow, and they satisfy us in many ways because some 1) are very fragrant 2) are excellent cut flowers 3) are durable, evergreen ground covers 4) are good in borders, cottage gardens, rock gardens and xeriscape gardens.
Here’s a shrub that won’t grow over the living room windows, spread half-way across the driveway or send suckers up in the perennial border. It stays a compact 2’-3’ high and a little wider. It’s name comes from its spring leaf coloration which begins a russet or bronze-red mixed with yellow, changing to yellow-green and then green. The flowers are pinkish and bloom for a long time. Then again in the fall the spring leaf colors return to a golden copper-orange. This variety is very heat tolerant and has been successful in my xeriscape garden for 7-8 years. Occasional winter dieback has been slight and easily sheared off with hedge clippers. I also use the hedge clippers to remove the spent flowers after blooming.
In the last issue I mentioned that Dianthus in general like sunny and well-drained conditions, and that because they cross-pollinate freely, you can only be sure you are getting a named variety like ‘Pike’s Pink’ if it has been propagated by cuttings.It is also significant that the strong fragrance common to many of the Dianthus tribe is not only pleasing to us humans, it is very attracting to many butterflies.
Here are a few more varieties that do well in our area:
Do any of you have dirt under your fingernails? Good. You and all gardeners have direct experience with soil. Those of you who don’t get your hands in the dirt probably will, because soil and soil building is the next frontier. Why do I say that?
Because until recently our understanding of soil and our approach to soil fertility was steeped in ignorance and misunderstanding. We’ve been in the Dark Ages.
Does anybody know the meaning of a new paradigm? It does not mean coming up with a new idea; it means coming up with a new perspective, a new ground from which to begin our thinking. We are entering a new paradigm in relation to the earth.
This is a bad year for fireblight which is a bacterial disease which affects mostly apple, pear, crabapple, hawthorn and Mt. Ash. It is spread in the presence of moisture and enters the trees through wounds and open blossoms. Colorado is the worst state in the US for fireblight.
Because of our moist spring and extra wounding caused by hail, there is a lot of infection. Symptoms include black, hooked twig ends, brown or blackened leaves, dried up fruits and sunken cankers that can be a dull orange or black. Fireblight is a difficult disease to manage because there is no cure. Spraying chemicals is not recommended by CSU because they are not very effective, timing is critical and spraying must be repeated.
What is it? How bad is it? What do we do about it?
Emerald Ash Borer is an invasive beetle that found its way from China or eastern Asia to the US, stowing away in shipping crates. It was first identified in 2002 and has since spread to 22 states. In September 2013, Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) was discovered in the city of Boulder, which is the first known presence in Colorado. Since then a team has been stripping the bark from samplings of ash trees in Boulder to determine the extent of its spread. It is suspected that EAB has been in Boulder for three to four years.
Elderberry is a remarkable shrub or small tree of several species and many forms and colors of foliage, flowers and berries. It has been found in Stone Age and Bronze Age excavations, was one of the sacred trees of the Druids, and has been used as a medicinal herb by early Europeans, native Americans and modern herbalists. However it has not been popular in landscapes until recently when selections have been made for special leaf colors and textures. And now home-food and food-medicine gardeners want elderberries because scientific research has verified herbal lore that elderberries have major health benefits. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal pictured elderberry with seven other berries as “nutritional royalty.”