Monday, September 24, 2007

The Humidity Factor

On my previous post I had a comment from Pam/Digging, an avid gardener in Austin, Texas, about humidity as a factor in plant selection. How right you are Pam! Folks in our area often crave plants that really need a higher humidity level than we have. Things like Japanese maple, true holly (Ilex), or Rhododendron. Sure, they’re sold at some of the local nurseries usually with the recommendation to plant them in a “protected” location. That’s a euphemism for “needs more humidity than we have here so keep it out of the wind and sun and give it lots of water.” And yes, I’ve seen these plants growing successfully in some gardens---usually those in very well established neighborhoods that have a lot of trees and shrubs to create a cooler, more humid microclimate. But most of us need to focus on the macroclimate and select plants based on those realities first.

Another note on humidity: if you are planning to add any broadleaf evergreens---even the well adapted types--- such as Mahonia, Euonymus, Arctostaphylos, etc to your landscape, you might consider waiting until spring. Our dry, windy winters are really tough on newly planted evergreens. Another option is to plan to treat them with an anti- desiccant, such as Wilt-Proof, and provide regular waterings through the winter.

I took this photo yesterday; I was surprised to see this Datura in bloom, as I hadn’t even noticed that it had sprung up!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sometimes it's All About the Seeds

This feather-duster seed head is the star attribute of Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa), a native shrub of the southwest uplands. This shrub is great in sunny, xeric landscapes as a background plant or screen; although it has a fine texture, it is quite dense, and gets about 5’x5’ in size. Most people either love it or hate it---I’m in the former camp.

Today’s Denver Post had a great article about the National Seed Storage Laboratory on the CSU campus in Fort Collins. From time to time I read thoughtful blog postings like this one that stress the need for seed diversity and conservation. The Post article explains how that can- and is- being done on an international level.

Are you a seed saver?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


This is how soil is made; Plants and other forces of nature breaking down rocks into tiny particles. Several Palace Purple coralbells (Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’) were planted at the base of this rock about 15 years ago. Within just a few years we noticed a seedling peeking out from this crack. Each year this “seedling” gets just a bit bigger and, in fact, we now have another sprout on top of the boulder! Interestingly, there have never been any seeds germinate in the soil around the mother plant…

I’ve been thinking a lot about soils lately; because that is the chapter I’m working on for my book right now. It’s a huge, complex topic that I need to distill and simplify in a concise and logical way. So tell me, what is the best advise regarding soil that you’ve been given? Any real “a-ha!!” moments?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Meet. . . Solidago!

Solidago, also know as goldenrod, is a reliable late summer bloomer with vibrant yellow flowers. There are a number of varieties available on the market today varying in height from 2’-6’ tall. My favorite, by far, is the ‘Fireworks’ cultivar of Solidago rugosa. The flower form, indeed, looks like an exploding firecracker! It has a delicate texture that is a great contrast to the more stalwart asters, sunflowers, and plumbago that are also in bloom now. Most Solidago prefer a compost enriched soil, moderate moisture, and full sun.

My Fireworks goldenrod is shown here with an ornamental sage.

Monday, September 10, 2007


This has been an amazing year for fruit production! Everywhere I look I see tree boughs bent with the weight of beautiful plums, apples, pears and peaches.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bedding Plants

The idea of using annuals to fill an entire planting bed is alive and well in the Denver parks system. As you drive along city boulevards or stroll through almost any city park you’ll see massive displays of color in beautiful (and free!) public gardens. The city has its own greenhouses and plans and grows thousands of flowers, grasses and beautiful foliage plants (coleus, kale, abutilon, etc) each spring. Most often they do a great job of combining plants that will have an impact on a massive scale. I enjoy visiting Washington Park, in particular, to check out the gardens. A lot of attention obviously goes into selecting “the best” plant combinations, but they don’t always work; I learn a lot from critiquing both.

Wherever you live, I hope you can take advantage of these last few weeks of summer and visit your local public gardens.

Here are some views of Washington Park from September 1, 2007.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Welcome Tim!

Our lovely daughter, Erin, was recently married! Our new son-in-law, Tim, was Erin’s traveling companion on her trip to Chengdu, China, earlier this year. They survived an assortment of (NOW funny) challenges and adventures during their journey to the other side of the world. It seemed a good omen, so now they’ve embarked on a life-long journey of another sort. Tim’s love of creative writing, traditional Chinese medicine, and RPGs will bring “hybrid vigor” (as we plant people say) to our gardening, visual arts, college football loving clan. Yea!