Monday, June 14, 2021

Bat Alert by Vicky Spelman

Courtesy: Pixabay

Bat Alert...

Have you been seeing any bats flying around in your area?  They are incredibly quick and you may have only the feeling of seeing something in the air.  Bats have started migrating to their summer roots in northern Colorado making sightings more common.

Colorado has 18 different bat species and they can be found in every habitat across the state – from the eastern plains, and high mountain forests to civilized areas.  Some live here year around while others are only passing through.  

Bats are important in our ecosystems by helping control insect populations – almost all in the United States thrive on an insect diet. A single bat can eat up to 1,200 mosquito-sized insects every hour, and each bat usually eats 6,000 to 8,000 insects each night. 

Bats are, also, important pollinators in tropical and desert climates and provide critical pollination for a variety of plants like peaches, cloves, bananas and agaves.

Courtesy OutThere News

Bats are the only flying mammals that are active mostly at night and occur on all continents except Antarctica (flying squirrels are only able to glide.)  

"Bats can carry rabies and should only be handled by a trained professional. If you find a dead bat or see multiple bats in one area, please report it to Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 303-291-7771.

The public is also asked not to disturb hibernating bats and to respect cave closures.

Migratory bats are protected by federal law. It is illegal to kill them.” – OutThere News, June 8, 2021

Sources used:  OutThere Colorado, June 8, 2021, Mother Earth News, USGS – Fort Collins Science Center, Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Should We Stop Using Peat in Our Gardens? by Nancy Shepard


PhotoPete Stuart (Shutterstock)

[Extracted from Washington Post article May 11, 2017 and LifeHacker June 7, 2021.] 

Virtually all of the peat moss sold in the United States comes from the vast sphagnum moss bogs of Canada. Often mixed with a mineral named perlite, it is highly valued by horticulturists for its ability to retain moisture and oxygen without becoming waterlogged or heavy. It is generally sterile and naturally suppresses a fungal disease that can afflict seedlings, making it a natural choice for seed starting. So why should we avoid using it?

Monday, June 7, 2021

Reasons Why Peonies Fail to Bloom by Cindy Haynes - Iowa State University

Courtesy Iowa State University

Peonies are staples in landscapes. They are easy-to-grow, long-lived, and reliable performers in the garden. However, when they do not bloom well, those of us in extension are often inundated with calls, emails, etc. There are several possible causes for failure to bloom.

If the buds do not appear (which is normally the case) some possible causes are:

1. Planted in too much shade. Peonies need at least 4-6 hours of direct sun to bloom well.

2. Recently divided or transplanted. Peonies that are moved or divided in late summer rarely bloom well, if at all, the following spring. Sometimes it will take 2 to 3 years for plants to re-establish well enough in their new location to bloom well again.

3. Planted too deeply. When planting, position peony buds 1 to 2 inches below the surface of the soil. Nobody knows how they know if it is 2 inches versus 4 inches, but they do! When a peony is planted too deeply, it may have beautiful foliage, but few (if any) flowers.

4. Fertilized too much. Peonies that receive excessive amounts of nitrogen rarely flower well regardless of site. Nitrogen promotes foliar growth at the expense of flowers.

5. Clumps too large? Some references state that large, old clumps may not bloom well. However, I have seen several large plants in the Midwest that seem to bloom beautifully year after year. I would imagine that a clump would have to be several decades old before it would fail to bloom. If a clump is considered too large or possibly too old, this is easily remedied by dividing the plant in late summer as a means of rejuvenation.

6. Plants are too young. If a clump can be too old - then the possibility exists that it can be too young as well. While most peonies that are sold are not typically grown from seed, there are some avid gardeners that successfully attempt this process. Plants grown from seed take about 4 to 5 years to mature and ultimately bloom.

7. Premature removal of foliage. Removal of the plant foliage in July or August will weaken the plant resulting in fewer flowers.

Courtesy Utah State Extension

If buds appear - but fail to open, some other possible causes include:

1. Late freeze. A hard freeze in May (much like the one we had last year) may damage or destroy the flower buds. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often.

2. Other extreme weather conditions. Extremely dry conditions in summer may weaken plants and result in fewer flowers the following season.

3. Fungal diseases. Botrytis blight or other fungal pathogens infrequently attack the flower buds, primarily when conditions are cool and wet. For prevention, the best practices are removing the dead buds in late spring and removing any diseased foliage at the end of the growing season.

4. Insect pests. Also on rare occasions, thrips or other insect pests can damage and distort flower buds and thus reduce flowering. Insecticides are usually ineffective since the damage is often done early in the season.

5. Undernourished. This is another rarity in most Iowa soils. Plants that are growing poorly (weak, spindly, yellowish or "off-color") are not vigorous enough to bloom (but may set buds.) Transplanting into a more favorable location and fertilizing lightly after establishment would be beneficial.

That's it. The most common reasons peonies fail to bloom are cultural (planting in too much shade and planting too deeply). Remember that peonies are tough and often survive for many years in "not so ideal" sites. However, if they fail to bloom one year - watch out - everyone notices!

Saturday, June 5, 2021

World Environment Day, June 5, 2021 - India Today

Courtesy: India Today, June 3, 2021

World Environment Day is the United Nations' day to encouraging worldwide awareness and action for protecting our environment.  Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop biodiversity collapse. Every year on 5 June, the world celebrates World Environment Day to bring positive changes.

This year’s theme for World Environment Day is 'Ecosystem Restoration'. Ecosystem restoration means preventing, halting, and reversing the damage caused by human activities and finally healing our nature. This World Environment Day will see the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

World Environment Day is hosted by different countries around the globe. It has a participation of over 143 countries annually. Pakistan will host World Environment Day 2021 in collaboration with the UN Environment Program. 

This is the first time in history that Pakistan will officially host this day. Pakistan will make some important announcements related to initiatives that it has taken to mitigate the effects of climate change, including the 10 Billion Trees Tsunami Program, Clean Green Pakistan, the Electric Vehicle Policy, National Parks, and Green jobs.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Ecosystem restoration means assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed in the past years, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact. Healthier ecosystems, with richer biodiversity, yield greater benefits, such as more fertile soils, bigger yields of timber and fish, and larger stores of greenhouse gases.

Restoration, healing and reconnecting in our natural world can take place in many ways. For example:

*      Planting seeds and nurturing the biodiversity in your gardens and yards

Actively planting more trees around you

Get together with your friends and neighbors for a clean-up activity in your area

Cleaning up your local beaches

Save and use less water

Recycle your e-waste properly

World Environment Day in India
Courtesy: Wikipedia

World Environment Day offers a global platform for inspiring positive change in the environment. It pushes individuals to think about the way they consume the ecosystem and gives them a chance to take action to build a greener future.

Article:  India Today, June 3, 2021

Thursday, June 3, 2021

New Plants for 2021 from Plant Select

Antirrhinum sempervirens ‘P020S’ — Drew’s Folly™ Hardy Snapdragon
[This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of Colorado Green, a landscape professionals publication, and contributed by James E. Klett, professor and extension horticulturist, Colorado State University, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture in Fort Collins.]

Plant Select, a collaborative effort between Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens and horticulturists around the world, announced three new introductions being promoted for 2021 and is giving additional promotion to other plants that they have previously introduced. Now entering its 24th year, Plant Select is a leading source of plants that thrive in the High Plains and intermountain region and is a non-profit organization. These plants provide gardeners and landscape professionals with smart, stunning and successful gardens using less water and fewer resources, ultimately having a more positive environmental impact. To find out where to buy these plants, see 

2021 New Introductions

Helichrysum trilineatum ‘P021S’ — SteppeSuns® Hokubetsi
Hokubetsi is the native Basotho name for Helichrysum trilineatum that grows high up in the Maloti mountain range of southern Africa. SteppeSuns® Hokubetsi is a selection that forms a rounded, dense, silver shrub with clusters of bright yellow strawflowers. Hokubetsi is adaptable, tolerating extremes in temperature, water, and soil types. Fuzzy stems and foliage protect this plant from intense solar radiation and insulate it through bitterly cold winters. Small silver leaves curl up or fall off during winter, leaving a soft ever-silver statement in the garden. It grows to about 3 feet in height and 4 feet in width. During the winter the small silver leaves curl up or fall off, leaving a soft ever-silver statement in the garden. 

Antirrhinum sempervirens ‘P020S’ — Drew’s Folly™ Hardy Snapdragon

DREW’S FOLLY™ Hardy Snapdragon (Antirrhinum sempervirens ‘P020S’) flowers so heavily that when in full bloom, its foliage is almost completely masked. Drew’s Folly is a natural for the rock garden or edge of a flagstone patio. This plant will thrive in a wide range of soil types, in dry conditions with occasional irrigation, with very little maintenance required. It grows to about 12 inches in height and 16 inches in width. 

Penstemon strictus ‘PWWG06S’ — Blanca Peak® Rocky Mountain Beardtongue

Blanca Peak® Rocky Mountain Beardtongue provides a 3 to 4 week-long eye-catching display of white tubular flowers in late spring. Light green foliage forms a low growing evergreen mat. Blanca Peak® is a long-lived perennial native to the higher elevations of AZ, CO, NM, UT, and WY. Thank you to David Salman for bringing this fantastic penstemon to the Plant Select program. It was Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms staff’s favorite in 2019! It grows to about 20-24 inches in height and 15-18 inches in width.

Past Introductions that Deserve More Planting

Acer tataricum ‘GarAnn’ PP15,023 — Hot Wings® Tatarian Maple

Acer tataricum ‘GarAnn’ PP15,023 — Hot Wings® Tatarian Maple

Acer tataricum ‘GarAnn’ PP15,023 — Hot Wings® Tatarian Maple

Enjoy the contrast of the scarlet red samaras against rich green foliage in midsummer on either a single planting or multi-planting of this small tree. Hot Wings® is adaptable to alkaline soil and will grow in full sun or part shade. A rounded upright growth habit with sturdy branching makes it less prone to storm damage. It grows to about 15 to 18 feet in height and width. Perfect as a single specimen or set in a large-scale shrub border.

Viburnum burejaeticum ‘P017S’ — Mini Man™ dwarf Manchurian Viburnum

Viburnum burejaeticum ‘P017S’ — Mini Man™ dwarf Manchurian Viburnum

This compact form of Manchurian viburnum has clusters of white flowers in spring followed by persistent red to blue-black fruit. Mini Man™ is native to Russia and northern China. It grows to about 4 to 6 feet in height and width. A cold hardy, low-water shrub with velvety green leaves that is adaptable to sun or filtered shade.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day and Poppies by Carol King

Photo by Tina Negus

The Memorial Day Organization tells us that Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.  Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No.11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields", Moina Michael conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Thus a tradition was born.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Planning for Spring: What Kind of Mulch Should I Use? by Donna Duffy


Gravel mulch at Kendrick Lake Gardens in Lakewood

[This blog was originally posted on March 18, 2014 and has been updated with new research-based information.]

The benefits of mulch are so well known that the question no longer is “Should I mulch?” but “What mulch is best for my landscape?” For die-hard gardeners, mulching is one garden task you can do any time of year – even in the winter.

A mulch is any material that provides protection and improves the soil when applied to the soil surface. Mulches can:

  • reduce surface evaporation
  • improve water penetration and air movement
  • control soil temperature fluctuations
  • protect shallow-rooted plants from freeze damage
  • improve soil structure and nutrient availability

Small wood chip mulch around roses

Your first decision will be deciding between organic and inorganic mulch. According to PlantTalk Colorado, the most common organic mulches in Colorado include wood chips, chunk bark, pole peelings, pine needles, lawn clippings and straw. Organic mulches gradually break down and add nutrients to the soil. Decomposition of fresh wood mulches can create nitrogen deficiencies, so you’ll need to be prepared to supplement the area with a fertilizer and replenish the mulch occasionally.

Gravel mulch at Kendrick Lake Gardens in Lakewood

Inorganic mulches are stone-based and include rock, cobblestone, pea gravel, lava rock and crushed rock. They store and radiate heat, so avoid putting large areas of unshaded rock next to your house.

Regardless which type of mulch you choose, resist the urge to install plastic sheeting or landscape fabric underneath the mulch. Air and moisture don't penetrate plastic or fabric, so plant roots won’t develop but weeds will still come through.  

The selection of a mulch depends on its intended use. If appearance is the main goal, inorganic or inert mulches may be the best choice. If the main objective is soil improvement, consider an organic mulch that gradually breaks down. If the area is used primarily for annual flowers, it often is more practical to use a temporary organic mulch, such as composted leaves or grass clippings that can be turned under each fall.

Mulches used to enhance appearance and control weeds may be applied at any time. Apply most mulches to a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Straw, dried leaves and similar materials can be applied to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Around woody plants, push the mulch away so it isn’t touching the woody bark.

Organic mulch from chipped Christmas trees

On the next visit in your garden, take a stroll through your landscape and consider where you can add mulch and take advantage of all its benefits.

Mulch can also be used for pathways

For more information about mulches see the following:

Mulches for Home Grounds:

Xeriscape mulches:

Organic mulches:

Garden Notes:

Monday, May 24, 2021

Do you Hori Hori? by Vicky Spelman

Courtesy: Garrett Wade Tools

Do you Hori Hori?  Sounds like a dance doesn't it, but it is a great garden tool.  

The Hori Hori (literal Japanese translation 'dig dig') is a versatile tool that does the work of several tools.  The pointed blade and beveled shape work as a garden spade while the serrated edge can be used as a garden knife for sod cutting, edging, dividing perennials, slashing, pruning, harvesting and sawing.  Perfect for weeding, transplanting, and cutting open fertilizer bags.  

Courtesy: GardenBeast

The blade is usually 7-8 inches long, small enough to carry around for a number of garden chores.  Some have a sheath to protect the edges and making them easy to attach to your gardening clothes.  Some of the Hori Hori have a ruler on one side, which would make it handy for planting bulbs.  

Got your Hori Hori ready?

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Plants for Hummingbirds by Nancy Shepard

Red Birds in a Tree Scrophularia macrantha
Photo: High Country Gardens

I had more hummingbirds visiting my garden last year than ever and I can’t help but think it was the two new perennials I put in: Red Birds in a Tree (Scrophularia macrantha) and Sunset hyssop (Agastache rupestris.)  The hummingbirds came in the spring and in the fall and rarely touched my bright red hummingbird feeder but instead went for these plants. Both of these plants have tubular flowers that hummingbirds love!

Monday, May 17, 2021

Clever Spring Gardening Ideas by Vicky Spelman

Muffin Tin used for Spacing

What about using a muffin tin for spacing your garden plants?  Might be a helpful idea for young gardeners.   

Photo via Two Women and a Hoe

Do you have any ornamental grasses to cut back for this year?  Here’s a clever idea... try bundling it with tape, bungee cords or something similar before shearing it.

Courtesy: The Spruce

Do you have an old wheel barrow around?  Upcycle it!  Try planting it for an unusual and fun container in the garden or yard.

Courtesy: ThriftyFun

What about upcycling your old garden boots or those old galoshes?  Could make a fun accent in the garden or yard.

As you're getting your Spring gardens and yard planted, keep a look-out for items in your garage or storage shed that would be useful or an accent in your planting.  

If you need some guidance on planting your Spring garden, CSU's Vegetable Planting Guide will help:

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Spring Drought 2021 by Nancy Shepard


With all the excess snow and rain we’ve had this spring, I was surprised to see this drought map recently released by the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. Only the upper right quadrant shows favorable conditions from all this spring precipitation. The Standard Precipitation Index (SPI) is a relatively new drought index based only on precipitation. It's an index based on the probability of precipitation for any time scale.

After seeing this I realized that my business-as-usual approach to planting spring annuals needed some tweaking. What are some of the alternatives for annuals that can take the heat?

Cleome ‘Senorita Rosalita’

Known as the Spider Flower, Cleome 'Senorita Rosalita' is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun but tolerates light shade. It does better with consistent watering during the growing season. Once established, it tolerates heat and drought. This cleome is a sterile plant that will not reseed in the garden. It is winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-10 and is grown as an annual in Zones 3-8.

PINK CRYSTALS® ruby grass Melinis nerviglumis
Photo: Plant Select

Melinis nerviglumis is an annual here and many gardeners consider the shimmering heads of bright ruby and silver flowers the most beautiful new contribution to bedding or the border. It sparkles like champagne bubbles. Tips from the pros: Plant larger plants as they will bloom earlier and provide longer bloom.

Silver Dollar Plant Plectranthus argentatus
Photo: Plant Select
The plush, silver, heavily textured leaves of Plectranthus argentatus make a trim mound through the summer months. Very easy and adaptable in a variety of sites and soils, it is considered a xeriscape plant. Excellent as an accent or massed, in containers, in annual plantings or borders. 

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Autumn Colors’

Gloriosa Daisy hybrids are short-lived perennials, sometimes treated as annuals. Often these will survive a few winters or at least self seed. This mid-sized strain produces large brown-eyed daisy flowers for months on end, in a range of bicolor shades from yellow through gold, orange and bronzy-red. An outstanding cut flower. Removing faded blossoms regularly will greatly increase the flowering time.

For a larger list of xeriscape perennials and annuals see:

Monday, May 10, 2021

Protecting your plants from wild weather this spring by CSU

Courtesy HGTV

Spring weather in Colorado can be temperamental, it can sometimes feel like we experience all of the seasons in a single day. Frosts and cold snaps of spring are one thing, but hail can be one of the greatest risks to our gardens. Hoop houses or high tunnels can both extend the growing season and offer protection from hail. Hoops can also provide structures to which tightly woven ‘hail cloth’ can be fastened for added protection; hail cloth can also be placed over tomato cages or other structures available in your garden.