Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chocolate, Caramel or Toffee?



I must have had Halloween treats on my mind when looking at my northern red oak (Quercus rubra) yesterday. The foliage color is not the typical brilliant orangey-red that I associate with this species. They are distinctive around town this time of year---their huge, colorful crowns can be seen from blocks away. Why are the leaves on my tree brown? I have no idea. They always go from green to yellowish, then straight to brown---no stopping for red!

There are several oaks that do well in our region. Two of the best (for their drought hardiness and adaptability to heavy clay soils) are the bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) and swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor). In Denver’s older parks you can see good examples of the broad, rounded English oak (Quercus robur). Our native scrub oak (Quercus gambelii) doesn’t always adapt well to urban settings. These oaks are all fairly slow growing, but have nice strong branches that hold up well to heavy wet snows. Most of them are huge trees that need lots of space to grow to their full potential.

So what’s your favorite---chocolate, caramel or toffee? Have a fun Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Autumn Gourds


Here is a sampling of the gourds that were used Saturday as table d├ęcor at the party my daughter and son-in-law hosted to celebrate their recent marriage. It was a beautiful Colorado fall day and friends and family (four generations!) from across the country were there to congratulate the young couple.

Anyway, to my horticultural embarrassment, I could not remember the difference between a squash and a gourd! Webster’s dictionary (my Dad’s collegiate edition from 1951 is on my desk---the fastest “search engine” in the world for concise information!) quickly set me straight: a gourd is any plant in the genus Cucurbita including melon, squash and pumpkin, and also the hard shelled bottle gourd, Lagenaria vulgaris. I’ve always loved gourds for their huge variety of odd forms, textures, and colors. To me, gourds are Autumn!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Wet October Day


Finally, we are getting a long, soaking rain! It will do wonders for our plants as we head into winter. The moisture intensifies the beautiful foliage colors of the Autumn Purple ash (Fraxinus Americana ‘Autumn Purple’) and the prairie grasses beyond it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Harvest Time

Glorious Grapes! This year the grapes seem sweeter than ever before!


Jim harvested a big batch and cooked them down to juice. (Note the last of the tomatoes sitting on the counter to ripen. Salsa, anyone?)



Most of the juice will go into smoothies, although some grape syrup may be in the works too. Our favorite neighbor, Nigel, got the leftover skins and seeds. Mmmmm….

Friday, October 05, 2007

Prime Time for Grasses


This is a recent view of my meadow garden. The grasses are in full bloom/seed now and at their peak. It’s kind of a mish-mash of tall grasses and short grasses, many native to our area. Here you can see the reddish little bluestem (Schizachrium scoparium), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and Indian grass (Sorgastrum nutans). These tall prairie grasses are underplanted with very low buffalo grass (Buchloe dachtiloides). There are also a number of perennials and species tulips planted with the grasses to add color and interest in the spring and summer, but this is definitely the time of year when I like this garden the most!

Monday, October 01, 2007

We've Got Babies!


These big beauties are our pet koi. Several of them have been with us since they were only about 4” long, some 15 years! Many of them are now in the 20”-24” range, and we love to watch them slowly cruise around the pond. As the water temperatures cool they will stop feeding and slowly go into hibernation mode. They’ll spend the winter resting near the bottom of the pond, where the water is the warmest. We’ve already stopped giving them any supplemental feed and they’re now on a strictly vegetarian diet.

As the water plants also start their decline into dormancy we have more open water surface area---the better to view our fish and their babies! We don’t get them every year; I think all the big guys cannibalize them. At this point I’ve spotted about 5 little 1 ½ inchers darting around. Right now they all look very different---reds, oranges, blacks, spotted. It will be great fun to watch them grow and develop their mature coloration!