Sustainable Landscaping

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.

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.

Planting Miniclover as a New Lawn Alternative

green cloverMiniclover could be the answer to questions on what works as a good bluegrass lawn alternative.

It’s worth a try.

The idea occurred to me when sent a small sample of Miniclover seeds (Trifolium repens) to members of the Garden Writers Association.

Miniclover is a perennial small-leaf clover that grows low to the ground.

Clover has few, if any, fertilizer needs, it uses less water than turfgrass, and there’s no required mowing.

If it grows thick enough there’s no need for pulling or killing weeds.

I asked Outsidepride for more free Miniclover seed to use for renovating a small backyard that needed help.

This yard, in southeastern Colorado, was in desperate need of something. A combination of drought, insect pests and neglect had turned the lush lawn into a weedy patch filled with my most-hated garden foe — crabgrass.

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.

New Gardening Ideas for 2015

What’s new in gardening this year? Here are some interesting ideas I saw at the ProGreen Expo last week. ProGreen is the premier Rocky Mountain regional green industry conference held annually in Denver.

Expanded shale soil amendment

Expanded shale is the new way to amend clay soil. When incorporated into soil, the expanded shale improves soil drainage, but it can also hold water during drought. The light-weight shale doesn’t break down like organic soil amendments so it should last for many years in the landscape or even in containers. Gardeners should be able to buy either in bulk or 40 pound bags from local nurseries or soil suppliers.

Ash tree treatment for Emerald Ash Borer

The dreaded Emerald Ash Borer has found its way into Colorado, and any gardener who has an ash tree should be concerned. The Expo had quite a few booths dedicated to either new tools for detecting EAB, treatments for trees, or general information about this destructive insect. One of the main concerns from gardeners is how to treat trees without harming beneficial insects and the environment. Some products, like TreeAzin from Canada, claim to be safer than other treatments.  Gardeners should wait until EAB is found within 15 miles of their ash trees before taking action.

How Northern Flickers Build Their Nest

A happy couple of Red-shafted Northern Flickers took just a week to create this impressive nest.

Flicker pairI was away in Gillette, Wyo., giving the keynote presentation at the Native Plants Speaker’s Series when I called home to check in.

John brought me up-to-date on what was happening at the homestead and before ending the call he said, “I have something to show you in the backyard when you get home.”

My imagination was set in motion, but I wasn’t prepared for what was about to unfold.

A pair of Red-shafted Northern Flickers was preparing a nest in our neighbor’s old cottonwood tree.

It was our incredible good fortune this happy couple decided to build the nest within direct eyesight of our office window.

Over the course of a week, we watched the pair share the construction duty. Each took turns pecking at the tree with long, curved bills and discarding the wood chips on the ground below.

Gardening Projects for Citizen Scientists

Attention, Gardeners! Science needs you to join the army of citizens advancing the body of scientific knowledge.

Lemon Queen Renee's SeedsCitizen scientists are the extra eyes researchers need to help look for nine-spotted ladybugs, note the first tulips in spring or keep watch for endangered arboreal toads. They partner with scientists to provide valuable data that helps answer real-world questions.

Volunteers can join any number of organized efforts to use their backyard living laboratories to observe plants, insects, birds or other animals and report their findings. Researchers say citizen scientist initiatives help identify signs of climate change, track migrating species and monitor the health of animals and the environment.

Whether you prefer to watch birds or bees, monitor blooming plants or count the spots on ladybugs, there’s a science project waiting for you.

For example, citizen scientists in Boulder are helping real scientists at the University of Colorado gather data on bees for a program called “The Bees’ Needs.”

Great Gobs of Gardening Books for 2013

New gardening books are published every year, but this crop is especially fruitful.

Baker Creek Vegan CookbookIf you need inspiration to help you add more vegetables to your family’s menu, look no farther than this new cookbook from the folks at the Baker Creek Seed Company. The cookbook, written by Jere and Emilee Gettle with Adeena Sussman, is a natural follow up to the Gettle’s first book called “The Heirloom Life Gardener.” If you didn’t grow up enjoying Grandma Nellie’s Garden Soup, don’t fret. Her recipe for homemade vegetable soup is included in the new collection of more than 125 recipes in “The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook” (2012, Hyperion).

Vertical Vegetable Gardening book1“Vertical Vegetable Gardening” is a Living Free Guide (2012, Alpha Books) that adds to the body of creative ideas for using every square inch of gardening space. Chris McLaughlin has gleaned ideas from gardeners across the country for the best ways to grow vegetables vertically.This user-friendly how-to guide is organized into four parts that make it easy to find information. While beginning gardeners may want to delve into The Basics: Soil and Seed, experienced gardeners might turn right to Vegetables and Fruit that Enjoy Growing Up.

Gardening in a Drought

What if we had a drought and the lawn didn’t notice?

Green Lawn BlogIt’s time to rethink how to use water in the landscape.

Because of the continuing drought, gardeners in the Denver metro area will have twice-a-week lawn watering restrictions starting April 1–no fooling.

Along with these restrictions will be higher water bills for using more water on other parts of the landscape, too.

I remember the summer of 2002 and how difficult it was to keep the garden going with limited irrigation. It was fortunate I had already removed a good deal of lawn the summer before, replacing with low-water perennial flowers, shrubs and bulbs.

I’ve dusted off some of the water conservation tactics I used the last time we had Stage 2 drought restrictions and plan to rely on them again this summer. Here are some of my top tips for gardening in a drought:

Lawn Watering

Has it Really Been 4 Years?

Happy Fourth Anniversary to!

Weird Veggie1 Carrie Fritz Love AppleIt was February 24, 2009, when I hit the “publish” button on my first gardening blog post.

I wrote a short post about the predicted drought conditions in the West, with the headline: Warmer, Drier Forecast is Daunting!

It seems like I could have written that headline yesterday, too.

Over the last four years I’ve written a lot about conserving water in our landscapes from planting water-wise flowers, trees and shrubs, to ways to use water more efficiently in the garden.

Those tips are even more relevant today.

Of the 449 posts I’ve written, I’ve been surprised by the one that’s been most popular: my simple recipe for Pickled Jalapeno Peppers. That one post continues to draw hundreds of gardeners looking for ways to use their home-grown jalapenos.

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