Plants

How to Attract Wild Birds to your Garden

baby birdFor the second year in a row, a pair of flycatchers built their nest at the top of a column on the porch outside the front window.

That means the birdie show is in full view from the comfort of the living room. We’ve watched as the couple slowly built the nest, one thin stick at a time, and then feathered it with fluff.

As soon as the female took up permanent residence tucked inside the nest, we knew she was keeping tiny eggs warm. A lot of feeding action in the last two weeks meant the eggs had hatched and there were some hungry baby birds in there.

On Sunday I watched as the parents both stood on the edge of the nest looking down inside, just like two proud human parents looking into a baby’s bassinet.

And yesterday we saw the first two tiny heads peek up over the edge of the nest!

Celebrate National Rose Month with Old Garden Roses

white rose with beeI always knew June was the month for roses in my own garden. That’s when my favorite roses put on a fragrant show around the patio and throughout the garden.

It turns out, June is National Rose Month everywhere else, too.

If you want to go all in to celebrate roses this month there are two things you need to do:

1. Plant more roses.

2. Visit the grounds of Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery.

I know it might not sound like the place to hold a celebration, but the cemetery is the second oldest cemetery in Denver and home to at least 300 old garden roses of almost 60 different varieties. The fact that the majority of these old roses are over 100 years old is a testament to their hardiness.

In addition to their long and rich history, old roses have many benefits over some of the modern hybrid roses found in gardens today. Like the settlers that brought them here, these roses are hardy and used to difficult growing conditions.

Add a Tropical Planter to any Patio Garden

Tropical planterMy dry Colorado garden is thousands of miles away from Hawaii’s sandy shores, but I can still enjoy the tropics in my own patio garden.

All I need is a large tropical-looking container, a few tropical plants and some Tiki torches to create the perfect mood.

For this tropical planter I chose a Tropicanna Canna Lily because I fell for its oversized multi-colored leaves and the large, jungle-like tangerine-orange flowers that shoot up from the center.

Canna Lilies that grow in containers reach about 4’ tall. If I lived in any of the warmer Zones, the lily could spend the winter outside. But in my Zone 5, tropical plants like these need to be removed from the container and stored in a cool, dry place over winter.

As a complement to the large lily leaves, I planted mounds of brilliant orange-red Begonias. These plants filled in along the container edges as a nice contrast to the brilliant lime green container I chose for the arrangement.

How to Help your Garden After a Hailstorm

Hail damageGardeners in my neck of the woods might be wondering what to do about their gardens after yesterday’s powerful thunderstorms dropped large amounts of hail along Colorado’s Front Range.

Reports of ping-pong sized hailstones made me cringe thinking of the damage those rockets of ice can do to a budding garden.

Despite the damage to landscapes, there’s a silver lining in those thunderclouds. Unlike an end-of-summer squall that pummels tomatoes into sauce, this storm hit early in the season, so there’s still time for trees to push new leaves, perennials to bounce back and annuals to get replanted.

Being a native Colorado gardener, I’ve learned that the secret to gardening here is to bend, not break after storm damage.

After this latest garden beat down, gardeners can take heart that plants will bounce back in just a few weeks.

Plants will rebound more quickly if you have a healthy garden. Trees, shrubs and perennials that are healthy tend to recover faster from this kind of early-season damage.

Xeriscape Garden Finally in Full Bloom

xeriscape gardenHave you heard the old gardening saying about perennial plants?

“The first season they sleep, the second season they creep and the third season they leap.”

That saying sure proves true with the xeriscape garden I’ve planted in my backyard. This is the third year for most of the plants and they certainly have taken the leap. Of course, having rain nearly every day in May certainly helped.

I’ve been adding plants each season over the last few years — some ordered through mail order catalogs, some purchased as “gardener-grown” at plant sales, some free plants to test and many others that are volunteers that sprung up from seeds on their own.

One of the best choices I made for the garden was to plant in unamended slightly sandy soil and to use rock mulch. Xeric plants prefer a well-draining soil to keep roots on the dry side.

June Blogathon Means 30 Days of Gardening Tips

pink rosesThirty blog posts in 30 days? That’s what the June Blogathon is all about.

Once again, I’ve taken on the challenge of writing 30 different gardening blog posts for the annual writer’s challenge.

Starting today, I’ve committed to posting something new on my WesternGardeners.com blog every day specifically to help all kinds of gardeners.

I’ve created a blogging calendar and have a lot of ground I’d like to cover.

In addition to some of my favorite hardy plants (like the gorgeous John Cabot climbing rose pictured here), I plan on blogging about…

  • New plants and gardening products I’m testing in my garden this season
  • Easy ideas for gardening in small spaces, like balconies and patios
  • How-to’s for saving money and water in the garden
  • Gardening book reviews
  • Vegetable gardening tips
  • Tips for planting healthy trees
  • Recipes for using fresh, garden-grown fruits and vegetables
  • Updates about the annual Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit Contest

Start the Gardening Season with the New Edition of The Colorado Gardener’s Companion

Colo Gardener's Comp 2nd Ed Final Cover 72ppi blog The second edition of my first book is ready in time for gardening season!

I worked over the winter months to fill this new edition with more of everything to help Colorado gardeners grow great gardens starting now.

The Denver Post newspaper calls the new edition of my gardening book an “an essential manual” for gardeners.

What’s new in edition two?

The new edition features a colorful cover image of one of my flowerbeds from last summer.

That image, taken by John Pendleton, shows off some of the annuals and perennials that grow in one of the hottest, driest parts of my backyard.

In addition to a new look, there’s more of everything else, too! Since the first edition was published in 2007, a lot has changed in the wonderful world of gardening.

So I updated all of the information, included new technologies, expanded plant lists, added new resources and included about nine more inspiring gardens to visit.

Sweet Seeds to Love for Vegetable Gardening


ValentinesAre you looking for a sweet treat to give your favorite gardener on Valentine’s Day?

It’s easy to put together a lovely gift made of vegetable and herb seeds that either have a sweet-sounding name, have a sweet taste—or both.

Valentine mesclun is an assortment of colorful lettuce that can be planted before the last frost. This mix will make an attractive and delicious salad with seven red lettuces, like Red Oak Leaf, Red Salad Bowl, Rouge d’Hiver and Ruben’s Red. (Botanical Interests)

Oregon Sugar Pod peas are another sweet addition to the cool-season garden. Plant these organic seeds as soon as the soil can be worked  and you’ll be enjoying these tender snow peas in about 60 days. (BBB Seeds)

A sweet melon called Hearts of Gold is fragrant and delicious. These cantaloupes prefer warm weather so they can be planted a few weeks after the last spring frost. This is an early-season cultivar that matures in about 75 days. (Lake Valley)


Results of My Grafted Tomato Trials

The results of my grafted tomato trials last summer may help you decide if you want to plant grafted varieties in your garden this year.

Grafted tomatoes 2013When I planted my tomato garden early last June, I wasn’t sure what kind of tomato season it would be. The winter and early spring lacked any measurable precipitation and the cool night-time temperatures delayed planting by several weeks.

It seemed like perfect timing to conduct a side-by-side trial of grafted and ungrafted tomatoes.

Harris Seeds invited me to participate in another round of home garden trials and the company sent three varieties of tomato plants to grow in my garden. There were grafted and ungrafted San Marzano, Pink Brandywine and Cherokee Purple.

Summary of Results

The San Marzano grafted tomato plant produced more tomatoes than the ungrafted plant.

The Pink Brandywine ungrafted tomato produced more than the grafted plant.

Miniature Roses for Patios and Small Gardens

The samples of miniature roses from Greenheart Farms in Arroyo Grande, Calif., are as beautiful as they are easy to grow.

Every spring for the last several years I’ve received a big box of miniature roses from the generous folks at Greenheart Farms in California.

It’s always a treat to open the box and see rows of small roses just waiting to be planted in my small-space flower beds and patio pots.

The roses are hardy to Zone 5 because they’re all grown on their own roots, instead of being grafted.

This year I received roses from Greenheart’s Veranda Collection that included Brilliant Veranda, Lavender Veranda and a red-coral rose called Chica Veranda.

The roses in this collection are compact floribunda roses that have offered a nice long season of flowers.

Roses from Greenheart4

Of the Veranda Collection, the Lavender Veranda miniature rose is my favorite. The color isn’t typical of miniature roses and it looks especially nice against its glossy green foliage.

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