Black Walnut Tree Bears Fruit

walnut on treeUnlike many gardeners, I invite squirrels into my yard. I know there are plenty of gardeners out there who spend a lot of time and money to keep these furry fiends out of their vegetable gardens, but squirrels are a part of the scenery around here. And they’re just so darn entertaining.

I know that squirrels like to dig up freshly-planted spring bulbs, they take damaging bites from otherwise picture-perfect tomatoes and they feast on the birdseed I set out for my feathered friends.

But thanks to one industrious squirrel, I have a beautiful black walnut tree growing in the backyard.

It started when that forgetful squirrel planted a black walnut in a flowerpot about 15 years ago.

Research shows that squirrels forget where they bury the nuts the hide almost 75% of the time. That means about 25% of buried nuts have the potential to grow into trees. That’s what happened to my walnut tree.

How to Plant and Grow a Healthy Tree

poor tree plantingWhy would anyone intentionally kill a new tree?

That’s the thought that crossed my mind when I saw this little tree while walking through my neighborhood.

Obviously, these folks wanted to grow a tree. They invested money in buying a tree, they spent time digging a planting hole and they even took time to stake the thing.

Too bad they didn’t do some research on the best ways to plant it. I don’t hold much hope for this tree that has soil piled high up against its trunk with its little trunk flare buried deep.

I wish these people knew the average life expectancy of a landscape tree is less than 10 years because of where and how it’s planted.

That’s certainly a sad statistic for a plant that does so much for us.

If you’re going to invest the time and money to add a tree to your landscape, be sure to spend the extra effort it deserves in planning, planting and maintaining it to ensure a long, healthy life.

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.

Emerald Ash Borer will Ruin our Urban Forest

The Emerald Ash Borer, first discovered in Boulder in 2013, is considered the most destructive pest in North America.

Emerald Ash Borer size
The future looks bleak for ash trees in the South Platte drainage area of Colorado.

The tiny Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is such a destructive insect pest that it will most likely ruin the urban forest as it destroys unprotected ash trees in our area.

EAB has caused the death or decline of tens of millions of ash trees in 20 states. Now it’s in Colorado.

First discovered in Boulder in 2013, EAB most likely found its way to Colorado from the Midwest in a load of firewood. So far, Colorado is the farthest state west where the EAB has traveled, according to Dr. Whitney Cranshaw of Colorado State University.

“It’s a real tragedy because it will ruin an urban forest species in an extinction event,” he says.

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.

Get Your Garden Ready for Fall

The garden that was so lush and green just a few weeks ago is starting to fade fast. Now’s the time to plan (and plant) ahead. Here are some ways to help your landscape and garden get ready for fall:

Lawn care…core aerate, overseed and fertilize.

Trees and shrubs…prune broken branches and keep watering through winter.

Vegetable Garden…clean up garden debris, turn soil in the garden, plant cool-season crops (like kale, other leafy greens, radishes, carrots, beets, parsnips, broccoli, cabbage).

Flower Garden…clip back spent flowers and diseased or damaged foliage, add mulch, plant chrysanthemums, asters and cool-season ornamental grasses, plant perennials (like Oriental Poppies).

Think Spring!…plant spring blooming bulbs of different varieties, sizes, colors and bloom times (like crocus, daffodil, tulips, grape hyacinths, miniature iris, Dutch Iris and ornamental onions).

Think Summer!…plant garlic before the ground freezes and mulch. Keep soil moist in the spring and harvest garlic in July.

Bonsai Basics for Growing Miniature Trees

The new Bill Hosokawa Memorial Bonsai Pavilion and Tea Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens is now open. Here’s a little information about the ancient art of bonsai.

Despite their size, bonsai are not a species of dwarf tree, but the name of the art of growing trees in miniature. The Chinese originated bonsai over 2000 years ago, but it was the Japanese who popularized this method of cultivating a “tree in a pot.”

Although bonsai involves aspects of horticulture, this type of “gardening” is more like creating a sculpture instead of growing a tree. Each bonsai is grown in a specific style and shaped by careful pruning and wiring throughout the life of the tree. The goal is to reproduce the look of an aged tree on a miniature scale.

Early Blooms Good for Bees

The earliest blooming shrub in my yard is this cold-hardy Nanking cherry.

Last week I wrote about the Cherry Blossom festival in Washington being two weeks ahead of schedule because the trees are already in full bloom.

The same thing is happening in my backyard with a mini-version of the annual event.

The lovely white flowers on the Nanking cherry shrub burst open late last week, two weeks ahead of schedule.

In one way this early blooming is a good thing. I noticed quite a few honeybees enjoying this early-season source of food.  I also appreciate being able to look out my office window and see something so beautiful where empty branches stood just a week ago.

But it’s a worry, too. Is this a warning signal about a warming climate?

Glimpse of Cherry Blossom Beauty

Last April I was in Washington, D.C., and was fortunate to see one lone cherry tree in full bloom.

These famous trees that line the Tidal Basin typically bloom from March 26 to April 10.

I stopped by on April 11 and almost all the blossoms were off the trees because of a big windstorm the previous weekend.

I’m glad I had the chance to have my own mini cherry blossom festival.

This year the trees have already bloomed–a full two weeks ahead of schedule.

Shady Places Make for Creative Spaces

Last August I had the pleasure of touring one of the most delightful shade gardens I’ve seen. It gave me dozens of ideas for adding shade-loving plants to my landscape. Perhaps it will inspire you, too.

The towering trees that frame this stately Indianapolis property provide plenty of cooling shade in the summer…and offer plenty of gardening challenges. Instead of shunning the shade, the homeowners welcomed the opportunity to create a stunning landscape that didn’t take itself too seriously.

Gardeners know that planting in shade can be tricky because every shady spot is different. The key is to carefully match the plants to the site and to each other. This striking combination of chartreuse hostas and violet impatiens does just that.

The gardens featured more than just a nice selection of shade plants.  Marble statues, tall metal obelisks and other garden art added interest and even a touch of whimsy. I especially enjoyed the choice of ornamental grass to offset the stern expression on this planter’s face.

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