Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like...

Winter! We’re welcoming the first day of winter with a fresh snowfall. We’ve been fortunate to get a series of small snowstorms this past month, and the promise of more to come. The moisture is so welcome, and the snowy scene is perfect for a laid-back holiday.

On this first day of winter I’d like to wish you and yours the happiest of holidays; peace and joy!

Take care and I’ll see you back here in the new year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New Resource

As winter approaches we can turn inward to enjoy our interior foliage plants, such as this cool begonia, and also spend some time doing a little research and planning for the more active gardening months to come.

A few weeks ago, when my soil scientist brother-in-law was here visiting, he showed me a great resource for accessing NRCS soil surveys. The Web Soil Survey site is fairly user friendly, although it takes a while to get the hang of how to ask for the information you want. And there is a LOT of information! You can learn the percentages of clay, sand and silt as well as organic matter in your soil. You can find out the pH, etc., etc. The best part is that you can select the specific reports that you want to keep, put them in a “shopping cart” (there is no charge, this is just a new way to disseminate existing information) and have them sent to you via e-mail as a PDF document. The site also has great definitions---explanations if you will---of various aspects/components of soils.

The bad news is that not all addresses you may query have an associated soil survey---they aren’t in the data base yet. Also, the data is only as good as the information created in the original soil survey. For example, my soil here is sandy. My personal expert soil scientist confirmed that while squirming around in the house’s crawl space (a plumbing horror story for another time!). But the survey for my address includes my location in the broader swath of the survey area. Classification: Nunn Series. This is a clay soil type and certainly fits the characteristics of my friend’s house just six blocks to the south, but doesn’t apply to me.

Conclusions? Check it out, play around. Just know that for the most accurate information about a specific site you’re better off running a soil test through your local land grant university. Go here to access soil testing information from Colorado State University.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

One Week Ago

That’s me, seated at the news desk of Denver’s Channel 7 TV with Steve Saunders and Dale Cedars. I was there as a representative of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado to talk about what can be done in the winter landscape. Our emphasis was on working with a landscape professional (like me!) right now to plan and/or schedule your outdoor projects for the upcoming spring. Most landscape businesses are at their slowest right now, so it’s much easier for consumers to get prompt, attentive service.

We also talked about some of the activities that, weather permitting, you can do in your garden right now:

1. Demolition! Out with the old to make way for the new. A great way to burn some calories on a brisk winter day.

2. Hardscape installation. Some non-plant elements of the landscape can be built in all but the worst weather. Think decks, arbors, fences, retaining walls, paver patios, and the like.

3. Mulching. Once the ground is frozen you can spread a nice layer (2-3” deep) of organic mulch or evergreen boughs to protect perennials, in particular, from the freeze-thaw cycle so typical of our crazy temperature swings.

4. Pruning. Before the buds break dormancy is the time to prune most of your woody plants. This is absolutely the best time of year for any radical pruning such as renewal or rejuvenation techniques.

5. Clean, sharpen and oil your hand tools. Sand the wooden handles lightly before applying a nice coat of mineral oil (have the tool and oil at room temperature!).

6. Run and play! Enjoy a whole new season in your garden!

Monday, December 03, 2007

More Color

A few weeks ago my husband attended a workshop in using soft pastels that was taught by Arvada artist Jan Myers, whose work he has long admired. One of his fellow students mentioned a local resource for soft pastels; one of only four locations in the entire US where they are made.

Last week, houseguests in tow, we visited Terry Ludwig Pastels in Littleton, Colorado. Terry himself graciously gave us a tour of his small operation where about two dozen raw pigments from all over the world are combined to create hundreds of beautiful hues. All of the production is done by hand, and the finished pastels are sold via the internet or there at the studio. Sticks may be purchased individually, or in color sets designed by Terry and other artists.

The photo above is a set that my sister created for herself---it gives you just a hint of the rich depth of color of these soft, buttery sticks.