Mid-April Blog & 20/20 Sale Announcement
Hello Gardening Friends!
I was planning to write this blog about 10 days ago, and I was going to say that the familiar emblems of spring, the daffodils and Forsythia, the Japanese flowering quince and violets were beginning to bloom. As it turned out, I had so much work to do that I didn’t have time to write, and now look! The good news is that I don’t think more than a few of the plants in our gardens were actually killed by the sudden and cruel dive to single digit temperatures. By the way, this has happened before: a low of 5 degrees Fahrenheit on April 10 1959, and a low of 2 degrees on April 12, 1997!
At our home garden, we had almost no snow cover to provide insulation. I will miss the fragrant blooms of my Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’ and several fragrant Viburnums, but there’s always next year. Interestingly, the small ‘rock garden’ Daphnes in my garden were unfazed by the cold. Maybe because they grow closer to the ground? There were some surprises like toasted hardy geraniums, but most perennials, bulbs, shrubs and trees took the deep freeze in stride. Bulbs are perhaps the most endangered group when this happens – frozen flowers are a disappointment, but not fatal. However, if the leaves turn to mush, they won’t be able to elongate, photosynthesize and replenish the bulb.
The emerging new leaves on some of our shrubs and trees were frozen, but they will recover. Temperatures in the single digits are not common in April when many plants have started to leaf out. So we don’t have a tried-and-true solution to help the plants whose new leaves were frozen. But here’s the approach we are going to take for our plants:
Strengthen the health of the plants so they can have the energy to make new leaves and grow and flower. (Plants will usually make new leaves with no help from humans, but they may be low in energy reserves after the record heat and drought of 2012.
1) Water when the soil is dry
2) Don’t keep the soil always wet. Plants need air as much as water.
3) Supply nutritional elements like micro-nutrients, calcium to build strong tissues and organic fertilizers with the major nutrients (NPK). Organic liquid products are faster-acting than dry materials. We will be using liquid kelp and fish products like Kelp, Grow, and Fish and Seaweed from Age Old Organics. And we may be more diligent than usual in scratching organic dry fertilizers into the top 2” of soil: Yum Yum Mix, Alpha One, or Dry Grow. But do not apply more than is recommended. The object is to build strength, not to force unsustainable growth.
When you are working in the garden, be careful not to step on the new emerging growth of peonies, false indigo, gas plant, balloon flower, and acanthus – these succulent and brittle shoots contain all the nascent leaves and flowers for this season, and are unlikely to be replaced if they are broken off. The new shoots of False Indigo (Baptisia) are dark purple, so they’re especially hard to see against the brown earth.
You may be wondering when it’s safe to prune your roses, and how to do it. While rose pruning is not particularly difficult, there are right and wrong ways to do it, and things to know that you wouldn’t necessarily intuit. Join us for our class ‘Fearless Pruning in the Rose Garden’ on Sunday April 21 to learn when, why and how to prune shrub roses and climbers. See https://www.harlequinsgardens.com/classes/ for the full description. Join us again on June 9 for ‘Eve’s Top 40 Fragrant Roses’, when I will have samples of as many of my favorite fragrant hardy roses as I can find, so you can see and smell them, and learn the details of these plants so you can choose which to include in your garden. Please register for classes well in advance whenever possible.
In the Vegetable Garden
Our great helper in the greenhouse (and many other areas!),Marilyn Kakudo, saved her vegetable starts last week, and contributes this lesson on the value of row-cover fabric in times like these:
a typical Colorado spring…
That is to say there’s no such thing as a typical spring here in Colorado whether you live on the plains, the Front Range, the mountains or the Western slope. I squeezed in a day of cleanup, prep and planting starts into my raised vegetable bed the last day of March after a few 60-70 degree days and above freezing nights. I’m sure I had not hardened those greenhouse starts sufficiently by then, but that’s when I had the time to do it and, what the heck, the weather sure was nice and spring-like, right? So in they went. I created a mini-hoop house for them using Loop Hoops and two layers of 1-oz. row cover. I like to use big paper fasteners to secure the row cover to the hoops and that makes it easy to take the cover off and on, or switch to just one layer depending on the weather.
Although you might worry about the plants freezing early in spring, another problem is too much of our bright sunshine. The mini-hoop house did a great job protecting the baby plants from direct sun and strong breezes, although a few leaves did burn. I was just feeling like they were in the clear when we got the prediction of blizzard conditions and single digit nights early this week. Major bummer! I mentally prepared myself to get another flat of starts, but we’d also see how much protection the row cover and some snow could give those cool weather vegetable plants. While we still had some warmth in the day, I pushed the hoops deeper into the soil so they’d be sturdier under the weight of snow, added another layer so there were now three layers of cover, secured them with the fasteners at the tops of the hoops and weighted the edges of the cover all around the raised bed with heavy rocks so it wouldn’t be torn off by the wind. Then we all hunkered down.
We didn’t get as much snow as forecast in Lafayette which would’ve provide added insulation. The low on the east side of our house dipped to 11° so it was even colder in the garden areas. I patiently waited for the snow to melt and temperature to get back to the 40’s and then uncovered the bed yesterday. I was amazed how well the row cover had protected the plants along with the stored warmth of the raised bed soil. There were frozen leaves on some plants on the borders, but all had survived! Hopefully we’ve had the last of severe spring freezes, and we can enjoy spring greens from our garden sooner than later. Happy growing and eating!
‘Graffiti’ Cauliflower ‘Seafoam’ Swiss Chard
Our greenhouse is bursting with seedlings, and the covered ramada in our sales area is bursting with strong vegetable starts – the ‘cool-season’ varieties, including many varieties of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, lettuce, mustards, Asian greens, Swiss chard, spinach, and more uncommon vegetables like Miner’s Lettuce and Celeriac.
Not familiar with celeriac? Here’s a link to our Veggie Descriptions page for Marilyn’s portrait of this wonderful European root vegetable: scroll down to the entry forCELERIAC at https://www.harlequinsgardens.com/plants/edibles/vegetables/ . You can also check out her entries for CHERVIL andANGELICA on our HERBS page. Marilyn is not only a smart and adventurous gardener but also a superb and highly trained chef; we are fortunate to have her back after several years of teaching at the Cooking School of the Rockies. She will be adding recipes to the Harlequin’s Gardens website and blogs, and you can follow her own blog at http://cookteachgrow.wordpress.com/
We have onion plants (Copra, Patterson, Red Zeppelin, Rossa Lunga di Tropea, Red Marble Cippolini, Red Bottle and Purplette, and Tokyo Long scallion). It’s good to get seeds or plants of bulbing onions into the ground as early as possible, as they are sensitive to day length, so the amount of growth before Summer Solstice will determine the bulb size (note that onions also do their best in rich soil and with regular watering). Another tip about onions and their kin: they do poorly when planted where Brassicas (cole crops) were grown the previous year.
Seed potatoes are here (Bintje, Purple Majesty, Mountain Rose). We are expecting our Asparagus crowns in about a week.
All of these can be planted soon after the deep-freeze predicted for this Wednesday and possibly Thursday nights. And remember: row cover fabric is a darned good thing to have around for just such occasions. We now carry the heavier, more insulating 1.5 oz. Row Cover fabric (called ‘Ensulate’), as well as the light .5 oz. ‘Seed Guard’. Ensulate is very sturdy and will hold up for several seasons of use. We recommend a double or triple layer to protect cool-season crops against these early-spring deep freezes. We also have Loop Hoops (see Marilyn’s photos above), great for supporting row cover over seedlings, recent transplants and short crops like lettuce.
If you haven’t already done so, Mid-April is a good time to set up your Solar Caps and warm the soil for a week or so, then begin planting your tomatoes and peppers in them for an early jump on the season. We have lots of Solar Caps and replacement bags in stock.
TOMATOES & PEPPERS
Our first tomato and pepper starts are ready for you! – more than a dozen varieties, and more coming toward the end of the week, with a veritable avalanche of them to follow soon after! These are for planting in greenhouses or in Solar Caps, where the soil has been pre-warmed (planting tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in cold soil will stunt or kill them!). Take a look at our annotated list for this year atwww.harlequinsgardens.com/plants/edibles/vegetablestarts.
A list of 2013 fruit trees, fruit bushes and vines is now posted on our website at https://www.harlequinsgardens.com/plants/edibles/fruits/ . Descriptions will follow as soon as we get a chance to write them. We have brought in limited quantities of some new and interesting varieties to try out in our area. If we’re out of something you wanted to try, let us know and we’ll order again for next year.
NEW ARRIVALS & FACEBOOK
We have new plant and product arrivals happening almost daily now. The best way to stay tuned to these details is to connect with us on Facebook, where we will be trying to announce new arrivals as frequently as possible.
Some of our new products include beautiful, hand-made local art and craft items, like clay planters by Boulder’s MaryLynn Schumacher (perfect for houseplants, herbs or succulents), lyrical metal garden sculptures by Charlotte & Ben Zink of Berthoud (a few photos below), and exuberantly colorful and practical Mexican oil-cloth tote bags and aprons made by Rodrigvitz Style in Longmont.
APRIL 20/20 SALE
SATURDAY, APRIL 20
Save 20% off Selected Plants, Soil Amendments & Products
on the 20th of EVERY MONTH through August 2013
This year we start off our series of 20/20 sales with a celebration of Earth Day (just 2 days early). As always, we encourage you to THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY, and one way we can help to preserve and restore the environmental health of our local piece of the planet is by including locally native wild plants in our gardens. So we are offering the following wildflower plants and seeds native to Boulder County and much of the Front Range, discounted 20% for one day, on Saturday April 20.
Ipomopsis aggregata (Scarlet Gilia, Scarlet Rocket):
Native to the eastern slope of the Rocky mountains, often seen around the Peak to Peak Highway. Showy spikes of intense red, narrow trumpet-shaped flowers in late summer are very attractive to hummingbirds. They are borne on a biennial plant that makes a small mound of finely-cut foliage the first year, then elongates to as much as 4’ tall and blooms in the mid-late summer of the second year. Self-sows to create a colony where happy, so plant several to start (for genetic diversity). Grows in well-drained soils in full sun with moderate to low water. Lovely with ornamental grasses, such as Blue Grama, Alkali Sacaton, Korean Feathergrass, or Karl Foerster’s Feather Reed Grass. Hardy to 9,000’ elevation.
Eriogonum umbellatum (Sulphur Flower, Sulphur Buckwheat)
This superb, compact, dry-land native plant is an important nectar source for many species of butterflies and bees. The dense, compact mats of leathery dark green leaves are evergreen, spreading to 1 to 2’ wide, and it blooms for a solid month. Thin flower stalks to 6-12” tall hold wide, dense umbels of tiny sulphur-yellow flowers that cover the plant, and turn an attractive rusty-red as they dry. It is one of the very few of our native plants that can be used as a groundcover in the garden, and grows easily in poor soils as long as they are well-drained. Deer do not pay it any mind, and it is hardy to 10,000’ elevation!
Liatris punctata (Dotted Gayfeather)
This great butterfly favorite is native right here at our nursery and all around us in the dry shortgrass prairies and foothills. The deep-rooted Liatris punctata is the most xeric species of Gayfeather, growing in unamended soils, including clay, with little or no supplemental water once established. Beautiful stiff spikes of purple-pink flowers bloom in late summer, along with Zinnia grandiflora, Aster laevis and Solidago. The compact plant grows to 12” to 18” tall, is very durable and long-lived. After blooming, the feathery seeds look lovely when backlit by the low afternoon sun, and will attract goldfinches and other songbirds. Hardy to Zone 4.
Ratibida columnifera (Mexican Hat, Prairie Coneflower)
This showy, drought-tolerant native is easy to establish and grow in full sun in low-fertility, well-drained soils with low to medium moisture. The flowers, held on slender stems 15”–24” tall, resemble small sombreros, with golden-yellow reflexed ‘petals’ (ray florets) and prominent, tall greenish-brown columnar centers. Mexican Hat is a heavy bloomer, blooming for 1 to 2 months in summer, and a mature plant can produce hundreds of flowers. It naturalizes readily by self-sowing, and looks great in large colonies. A wonderful plant for grassy meadows, xeriscapes and cottage gardens, attracting butterflies and songbirds. Mexican Hat is a lovely companion for Blanket Flower, Tufted Evening Primrose, Western Spiderwort and native grasses. Cold-hardy to Zone 4.
Monarda fistulosa v menthifolia (Wild Bergamot, Bee-Balm)
Mint-scented foliage and stunning, nectar-rich purple-pink flowers that are a magnet for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Leaves make a delicious tea. 2’ to 5’ tall. A very hardy perennial to zone 3, adaptable to many soils. Can endure periodic drought, but thrives with some moisture. A location with late afternoon shade is perfect. One of the showiest wildflowers in summer in the canyons near Boulder.
Gutierrezia sarothrae (Snakeweed, Broom Snakeweed)
Not commonly available in the nursery trade, Snakeweed is an attractive xeric perennial sub-shrub, from 8” to 30” tall, native from Western Canada to Central Mexico, occurring here in our foothills and plains. It often goes unnoticed until it blooms in late summer, crowned with a dome of clusters of rich yellow ¼” flowers in late summer, looking much like an earlier-blooming, smaller, more upright and greener Rabbitbrush. The flowers attract butterflies, bees and many other native pollinators, and the seeds attract songbirds. Snakeweed’s narrow green stems branch upwards from a woody base, and are clothed in short, linear, rich green leaves. It produces a long woody taproot which enables it to thrive in rocky plains, dry foothills, ridgetops and steep mountain slopes. Deer-resistant, xeric and cold-hardy, it will grow with very little supplemental water once established. Use with natives Salvia azurea (Pitcher Sage), Mentzelia decapetala and Fallugia paradoxa (Apache Plume), and non-native ‘Little Spire’ Russian Sage. Shear in spring to remove winter die-back. Western Native American tribes had a variety of uses for it: treating snakebites, colds, coughs, dizziness, headaches, insect bites, making brooms, and more. Hardy to 9,000’.
Gaillardia aristata (Blanket Flower/Firewheel)
This showy, easy, and hardy 1-2’ native perennial bears masses of large red daisies with fringed bright yellow tips and domed red-brown centers above fuzzy green foliage. It thrives in hot, sunny places in poor soil and blooms all summer with little water. Keep dead-headed for more flowers and a neater look. A favorite of bees and butterflies. Cold-hardy to 8,500’.
Calylophus serrulatus (Dwarf Sundrops, Plains Yellow Primrose)
Native to the short-grass prairies of the western Great Plains, this little known sub-shrub is dainty and cheerful, yet tough and long-blooming, forming a bushy mound to 15” tall and wide. It is a heavy bloomer from late spring through summer, with bright lemon-yellow flowers open in the morning and close in the afternoon, changing to orange or pink as they age. This drought-and heat-tolerant native likes a lean, well-drained soil, and should be sheared in late spring before new growth begins to keep it looking tidy and loaded with blooms. The serrated leaves turn so that their edges face the sun, an adaptation to hot conditions. A perfect companion to xeric blue and purple Penstemons, Western Spiderwort, and low-growing Catmints (Nepeta).
Tradescantia occidentalis (Western Spiderwort)
One of the most graceful and beautiful native wildflowers of our short-grass prairie and dry foothills. The lovely three-petaled blue-purple flowers are held in clusters emerging from boat-shaped bracts, and appear in succession in June and July atop 12” to 24” high grass-like foliage. Multiple flower-stems can be blooming on one pant simultaneously, making a striking display, as I witnessed this spring in Left Hand Canyon. Western Spiderwort is a very hardy member of a mostly tropical and subtropical family (including the houseplants known as ‘Wandering Jew’ and ‘Bridal Veil’). It is very drought-tolerant, highly deer-resistant, re-seeds a little but is not at all invasive, and supports native bee species. Spiderwort goes dormant in mid-late summer. Thrives in sun or part-shade in any well-drained soil; a low-care gem for the xeriscape border or meadow. Grow with Blanket Flower (Gaillardia aristata), Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera), and Fendler’s or Prairie Sundrops (Calylophus hartwegii and C. serrulatus). Cold-hardy to Zone 3.
Sedum lanceolatum (Native Lance-leaf Stonecrop)
Widely distributed in the west from Alaska to New Mexico, this native succulent grows in exposed, rocky mountainous habitats, from foothills to alpine tundra. The rich maroons and yellows of Yellow Stonecrop are easily spotted. The tiny, bulbous-looking, red-purple fleshy leaves turn green, and stems elongate and are topped by starry, bright yellow flowers, often tinged with red. This small creeping plant is not a ground-cover, but perfect among rocks in a wall. In xeriscapes, Sedum lanceolatum seems to do best with some afternoon shade.
ALSO ON SALE:
Native Wildflower Seed Mixes from Beauty Beyond Belief Seeds:
Rocky Mountain Native Wildflower mix
Prairie Native Wildflower mix
Yum Yum Mix:
An excellent fertilizer for natives and xeriscapes, this 2-1-1organic fertilizer formulated in New Mexico for alkaline, nutrient-poor Western soils like ours in Colorado. It is made from alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal, kelp meal, rock dust, greensand and soft rock phosphate. It feeds the plants and the beneficial microbes that feed the plants. Far more effective than its 2-1-1 formula implies, especially when used in conjunction with humate. Use by the handful when planting, top-dress established plantings, or incorporate 4 lbs. per 100 square feet when preparing new planting beds. Vegan: no animal ingredients.
Plants in 2.5” pots: 4 plants of each kind at sale price per customer
Plants in Quart pots: 2 plants of each kind at sale price per customer
Plants in 1-gallon pots: 1 plant of each kind at sale price per customer
Yum Yum Mix: 1 bag per customer
All advertised sale plants and products are discounted for one day only on April 20th while supplies last.
We’re looking forward to seeing you soon!