Monday, August 30, 2010

Coleus Kaleidoscope

My attitude towards coleus has made a complete turnaround. I used to think they were garish, loud, and just plain tacky. Now I think they're bold, brilliant, and a great source of color inspiration. Deep down, you know you you do too...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Afternoon Garden Club 8.27.2010

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:  
Earlier this week my friends and cohorts of the Garden Designers Roundtable discussed "inviting nature into the garden".  What things have you done in your landscape to encourage visits from birds, butterflies, and other wildlife? Please share your stories with us here!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Design . . . FAIL!

Two years ago, the narrow planting strip between my patio and koi pond was a colorful mass of annual 'Wave' petunias.  In fact, it was just a bit too colorful! I felt it detracted from the more subtle, pastel colors of the waterlily flowers. I was ready to plant something perennial; something with winter color and structure, as well.  I thought I'd found the perfect plant with this low growing, gray-blue succulent, Sedum D. var Glanduliferum. NOT!

After almost two growing seasons, I'm ready to relocate these plants (to the compost pile!) and try something new. This is a hot spot, with poor soil that must be hand watered by a sometimes inattentive gardener (that would be me).  Turkish veronica, Veronica liwanensis, to the rescue!

This xeric, evergreen groundcover, native to the Pontiac Mountains in northeastern Turkey, will be covered with cobalt blue flowers in April and May.  The fine texture of the foliage will offer a nice contrast to that of the pond's waterlilies.

As any true gardener, I am ever hopeful.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Afternoon Garden Club 8.20.2010

Western sand cherry, Prunus besseyi
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:
Are you a forager? There are a number of native plants that have edible, ripening berries at this time of year including chokecherry, currant and buffaloberry.  (Although edible is a relative term---most of these fruits need a big infusion of sugar to make them palatable to modern Americans.)  One of my favorites, pictured above, is western sand cherry. The ripe fruits are about 1/2" in diameter and are lustrous black in color. These native shrubs, and the dwarf cultivar 'Pawnee Buttes', are widely used in xeric landscape plantings, so you may not have to look far to find them.  

What do you forage for (Pssssst--no need to share your secret gathering spot!), and how do you prepare it?

For a good article on what NOT to eat, read this article on toxic weeds from Horticulture magazine.

Monday, August 16, 2010

August is a Great Month to . . .

. . . divide and transplant iris!

If your iris plants had few or no flowers last spring then either the roots (rhizomes) have become overcrowded, the planting area is too shady, or both, as in this example:


 Mid-July through August is the ideal time here on Colorado's Front Range to work on your iris beds.  Use a garden fork or small hand tool to gently lift the rhizomes from the ground.

  With your hands or a small, sharp knife, remove any soft, rotted portions of the rhizome.  Reduce the rhizome into 4"-8" pieces, making sure to include one or two leaf "fans" for each piece.

Before replanting your iris, make sure their new home is:
  • In full sun
  • Weed free
  • Has well draining soil (spade in 2" of well-aged compost)
Set the rhizomes in a shallow depression and just cover them with soil. (A slightly exposed rhizome is better than a buried one.)  Trim the foliage back, leaving the leaves about 6"-8" long.

As gardening tasks go, this is pretty light work. And, man, is it worth it!

Many thanks to Sandra West of TLC Garden Services for letting me photograph her during a busy day on her job site! For more inspiration and information visit Iris 4-U.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wordy Wednesday

Anemone hupehensis
"That's really what art should do, I think. Make suggestions, not absolutes.  Dealing in absolutes is propaganda. You have to leave people with enough room to make their own legitimate judgments." - -  G. Willow Wilson, author.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Buddleia Buffet

Chow time! Come and get it! Soup's on at the all-you-can-eat Buddleia Buffet!  Butterfly bush really does attract the butterflies - and all manner of nectar loving insects - and my 20 year old Buddleia davidii 'Dark Knight' always provides a great show.

Yesterday afternoon I was thrilled to see dozens of these little Peck's Skipper butterflies flitting around. Their golden color was a beautiful contrast to the purple blossoms and made them easier to see, despite their small (less than 1") size.

I was standing in the garden trying to identify these little guys with my ancient Golden Nature Guide to Butterflies and Moths, when one of them landed right on "their" page of my open book!  Ah, life in the garden.

This West Coast Lady is considerably larger. There were several of them feeding on the shrub, too.

And of course, loads of giant bumblebees bumbling around. 

 A Monarch fluttered past, but didn't settle in to dine (hence no photo). They're not unheard of here, but I don't see them very often, so that was a real treat.

Consider adding a butterfly bush to your garden. They need full sun and moderately moist to dry soil. Several different colors are available, and a number of dwarf varieties, too.  For great mid-summer color, fragrance, and butterflies galore, think Buddleia!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Friday Afternoon Garden Club 8.6.2010

Purslane between flagstones --- what a pain!
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:

Weeds love August! What weeds are you dealing with in your garden these days?  Perennial bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is my biggest, ongoing challenge, but this time of year I have plenty of annual purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and ridgeseed spruge (Euphorbia glyptosperma) to get after, too. My ornamental plantings are fairly dense, and my soil is mulched, so pulling the weeds by hand is usually the best method for me.  I'll attack that purslane (above) with my trusty hori-hori knife.
What is your peskiest weed problem? How do you manage it? Have you ever completely eradicated a weed from your garden successfully?  What was your technique?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010






That seems to be my life these days. Our bumper crop of apricots is finally ripe, and will not go to waste.  We've been using a dehydrator  for  some batches, and prepping others for freezing by cooking them briefly in a light syrup of dark brown sugar and brandy.  Here's my recipe if you'd like to give it a try:

4 cups of halved, pitted apricots*
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons cheap brandy

Combine in a non-stick sauce pan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.   Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer 5-10 minutes, until apricots are tender.
Allow fruit and syrup to cool to room temperature then pack in  containers (I use plastic bags rated for freezer use) and freeze.
Alternatively, you can remove the apricots from the syrup with a slotted spoon and continue to cook down the syrup to a thicker consistency. Serve apricots and syrup over ice cream, pancakes, pork loin, etc. Enjoy!

* For best color, toss apricots - as you pit them - into a mixture of 2 quarts of water and 2 Tablespoons of "Fruit Fresh" (dextrose, ascorbic acid, citric acid).  Lemon juice and water would probably do the same thing...

Next up?  Apricot fruit leather!