Monday, May 31, 2010

Iris, Iris, Everywhere!

Iris germanica

Big, bold, showy blooms in colors galore! To me, bearded iris symbolize the beginning of the summer flower season. "This is what you've been waiting for!" they shout.

Iris germanica love full sun and are quite drought tolerant. They do require dividing every few years, but their shallow root systems make this an easy task.

Great companion plants include penstemons, salvias, sedums, and veronicas.
I don't have a very big collection of iris in my own garden, so I thoroughly enjoy seeing all the wonderful varieties on display when I'm out walking, biking, or visiting clients' neighborhoods throughout the city. I've posted about a couple of commercial iris gardens in the area, Longs Gardens, in Boulder, and Iris4u in Denver. They're always a treat to visit, and now is prime viewing time. Go! Get inspired and add some new iris to your garden this year. I plan to!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Afternoon Garden Club 5.28.2010

Tradescantia occidentalis

It’s FAC time in The Art Garden! Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair. You didn’t really want to work this afternoon anyway, did you? Leave a comment to join the garden party.
Today’s topic:

The Memorial Day weekend here in the US is the official kick-off for summer. How will you be celebrating this holiday? a. a special garden project b. relaxing and admiring all the hard work you put in this spring c. entertaining friends and family in your yard d. all of the above

My answer is "d" -- I'll be doing a bit of everything this weekend, but my number one project is to haul all of my teak furniture onto the lawn and give it a good scrubbing. Patio living is finally here!

Best wishes for a fun and happy holiday!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Garden Designers Roundtable: Containers

How do I love thee…?

Container gardening is righteously popular because it is adaptable to almost any size of space, microclimate, and plant material. I love using container gardens in my own yard because they’re so versatile. They are the one thing in my garden that I get to experiment with and change every year. I also love the pots themselves. The variety of colors, sizes, textures, and finishes are amazing and, I’ll admit, a bit addictive to collect.

Today I’d like to show you a few ideas how flower pots – containers made specifically for plants – can be put to work in your landscape for gardening and much more.

Let me count the ways…!

Pots as the focal point:

Set as an accent amongst lush garden foliage and filled with plants for vertical oomph!
Enchanted Gardens Tour, 2009

A series of pots to guide the eye through the garden:

Pots set the color and style standard here:

A bold color statement echoed by silver plant foliage:
design by Carol Olivera

Here, pots are the focal point and the garden!

Even when empty, the positive/negative spaces and light/shadow effects created by pots can be intriguing:

Pots for security or traffic control:

These large, heavy containers are a beautiful and welcoming entry garden to this commercial building. They also serve as bollards:
Notice how the color of the containers matches a color band on the building? The flowers and foliage follow the cool color theme with just a hint of yellow-green to jazz it up.

Pots that simulate a natural growing environment:

Containers made of mock tufa are ideal for succulents and other rock garden plants. They mimic the natural stone (tufa) tubs and troughs that were had carved.
Timberline Gardens, Arvada, CO

Denver Botanic Gardens has an extensive collection of trough gardens to showcase some of their extensive alpine plant collection.

Denver Botanic Gardens

Pots as water features:

As reflecting pools:

Or simple fountains:

Pots as furniture:

Top a container with a slab of stone and, voila!, the perfect garden end table (or stool, or table, or plinth, etc!)

Pots for storage:

The drainage hole in the bottom of this container makes outdoor storage more practical.

Pots for vermiculture:

Yep, three of these giant nursery pots are where my worms live. Worm castings are my "compost" of choice. Garden waste and kitchen scraps get rotated through the containers before being sieved and spread throughout the gardens. My worms survive year-round in these large pots (they get afternoon shade in the summer).

Tips for successful container gardens in our region:

1. Use large containers, at least 18” in diameter. Larger soil volumes mean more stable soil temperatures and moisture levels for happier root systems.

2. Use glazed or ceramic pots for improved moisture retention.

Echter's Garden Center, Arvada, CO

3. Go with a soil-less potting mix formulated specifically for outdoor containers. (Good drainage is critical.)

Plant choices can be overwhelming - but exciting!

Timberline Garden Center

4. For each pot, select plants that have the same cultural requirements and match them to the environment where the pot will be located.

5. Use this classic plant combo, it works!

One or two tall, showy plants (thrillers)

A few trailing plants (spillers)

A few mounding plants (fillers)

6. Choose plants with a color theme in mind and a variety of foliage types.

Warm colors at Echter's

7. Ignore the spacing recommendations on the plant labels and set the root balls close together.

8. Use a slow release fertilizer or plan to fertilize your container gardens weekly.

Cool colors at Echter's

9. Plan to water your pots daily, especially if they are in full sun, exposed to the wind, or hanging.

Have fun, and enjoy the creative opportunities that playing with containers and plants can offer!

Please join my fellow members of the Garden Designers Roundtable who are also writing on the topic of containers today:

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Jenny Petersen: J Petersen Garden Design : Austin TX

Laura Livengood Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio “G” : Boston, MA

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Enchanted Gardens Tour and Free Tickets!

Saturday, June 12th from 9am-4pm

The Conflict Center

4140 Tejon St, Denver, Colorado

This is one of my favorite garden tours in the Denver area because it showcases fun, funky, intriguing, and very personal landscapes. Most of the featured gardens are the result of the homeowners' own creativity and passion for gardening. There are no cookie-cutter, production style landscapes here, no sir!

From the tour sponsor:

This year’s tour is the 10th Anniversary event and will feature over 20 spectacular NW Denver gardens. Some special features include low-water gardens, kid-friendly gardens, and “urban farms.” Bring your bike and participate in a bike tour of selected gardens, starting at 10am. If you do not have a bike, there will be some available to borrow at The Conflict Center – these will be loaned on a first come, first served basis. Also check out the huge silent auction, which will take place during the event, at The Conflict Center. All proceeds benefit The Conflict Center’s school programs, which strive to reduce violence in schools by teaching strategies to effectively manage conflict and anger. Tickets are $15.00 for adults, children under 12 are free.

After Party from 4-7pm with food, drinks, and entertainment at 23rd Ave Sculpture Studio (free with garden tour ticket!)

For more information on The Conflict Center, click here.

Win Free Tickets

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Enchanted Gardens Tour, The Conflict Center has given me three pairs of tickets to give away to my blog readers. If you would like to win a pair of tickets for the tour (a $30 value!) simply leave a comment on this post by midnight, May 31st, 2010. A random drawing will be held on June 1st, and the winners announced here. Thanks for participating, and good luck!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Afternoon Garden Club 5.21.2010

It’s FAC time in The Art Garden! Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair. You didn’t really want to work this afternoon anyway, did you? Leave a comment to join the garden party.
Today’s topic:

I have just started planting my summer container gardens. I have a collection of pots on my shady front porch, and another series on the sunny edge of my back patio. What are your favorite kinds of containers to use; ceramic, terracotta, plastic, other? How many pots do you generally fill with seasonal plantings? What are your go-to, all time favorite plants for pots?

On Tuesday, May 25th, the Garden Designers Roundtable (including me!) will be blogging about containers. I hope you'll tune in!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Can you identify this flowering tree? I took the photo east of Washington Park, Denver, this past Friday, May 14th, after one of my landscape spies (OK, my husband) tipped me off. I've been working as a horticulturist in the Denver area for almost 30 years now, and I have NEVER seen this plant in bloom (I know I would not recognize it without its flowers).

To the casual observer driving down the street it might look like just another flowering crab apple, of which there are oh-so-many.

But, no! The large, distinctive, four-petal display - in an almost flat formation - is a dead giveaway. This, my Front Range friends, is a flowering dogwood, Cornus florida. Ubiquitous in other areas of the US, but quite the horticultural oddity around here!

I would love to interview the homeowner and find out just how often it flowers, how old it is, what the fertilizing regime is, etc. Protection from the late afternoon sun and plenty of water from the adjacent lawn were no doubt important factors in this plant's survival.

A lovely cloud of flowers sans foliage; dreamy!

If anyone else in Colorado has been successful growing Cornus florida please share your experience with us here!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Afternoon Garden Club

It’s FAC time in The Art Garden! Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair. You didn’t really want to work this afternoon anyway, did you? Leave a comment to join the garden party.

Today’s topic:

What's in a name? Evergreen candytuft, Iberis sempervirens, is featured in today's photo. Evergreen, yes. But candytuft? Where did that name come from, and why? Do you have a favorite plant name? Which is the oddest? Which is the most fun to say? Which is the most descriptive?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wordless (almost) Wednesday

Above: This is what my apricot tree looked like a few weeks ago. Oh, beautiful blossoms!

Above: This is what my apricot tree looked like two days ago. Oh, the excitement of growing fruit!

Above: This is what my apricot tree looks like today. #@$!!&*^%% snow!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Afternoon Garden Club

It’s FAC time in The Art Garden! Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair. You didn’t really want to work this afternoon anyway, did you? Leave a comment to join the garden party.

Today’s topic:

Do you mow your own lawn? What kind of mower do you use? How long does it take to do? What would you like to change about your turf regimen?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Green Goddess

Looking for a focal point for your garden? Something whimsical, yet powerful? Look no further than these lovely metal ladies created by Lafayette, Colorado, artist Arabella Tattershall.

And I say ladies, because the talented Arabella manages to capture the essence of the feminine form while showing us only the external dressing. These are no mere mannequins!

These outdoor sculptures are extremely well crafted; the artist manages to make her stiff, hard, metal medium look supple and alive.

I like the contrast of the custom-cut detailed foliage with the industrial mesh, rods, barbed wire, etc.
I discovered Arabella and her green goddesses (my term, not hers!) during the East Boulder County Artists Studio Tour last weekend. The tour continues this Saturday and Sunday, May 8-9, from noon to 5:00 PM. Go here for more information.

Arabella creates a wide array of sculpture suitable for outdoor use including birdbaths, birdfeeders, fence and wall decor, etc. She also welcomes commissions.
Contact Arabella Tattershall at

Photos courtesy Arabella Tattershall, photography by Dave Rosenberg.

This was not a paid endorsement.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Monday in May

The tulips are still in full bloom, though I need to ditch the red and yellow ones---they re too harsh with all the pinks and peaches that are blooming now in the majority of the garden.

All of the flowering crab apples around town are spectacular this year. So full of blooms and fragrance and humming bees that they make my head swim.

Visits to the garden centers have been inspiring, exciting, and very tempting, but I'm not ready to plant my pots up with annuals just yet. I've been burned by late frosts enough times that I plan to wait it out for a few more weeks. Ditto my favorite warm season veggies.

I'm anxiously awaiting the lilac blossoms. Lots of full buds now on the 'Living fence" hedge that separates the back of our property from that of our neighbor, Ivy. (I love that name!)

Less wind, please!