Win Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs

Do you love trees? Adore shrubs? If so, you could win Michael A. Dirr’s new book, Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs (a $79.95 value).

All you have to do is leave a comment with Timber Press, the book’s publisher, before Friday, December 2, 2011, at 4:00 p.m. Pacific time.

The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. A winner will be selected at random from all entries and announced by Timber Press on Friday.

After reading the introduction to Michael Dirr’s new Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs, I just have one thing to say: I want this guy as a neighbor.

I’d get the rare opportunity to watch a genius at the work of “garden-making” and see how some of his new tree and shrub introductions perform in the landscape.

Arbor Day Tree Planting Made Easy

Would you like to get to the root of how to plant trees for Arbor Day? Here’s tree planting information from “The Colorado Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Gardening in the Centennial State.”

Pity the poor trees in our semi-arid region. Intense, high-altitude sunlight, extreme fluctuations in temperature, lean soil, and drying winds create a most inhospitable environment. Because trees have such a difficult time growing in Colorado, every day should be Arbor Day here.

Did you know the average life expectancy of a landscape tree is less than ten years because of where and how it’s planted?

Most often trees are planted too deeply. Other times they receive too much or too little water while getting established. Many times they’re left to fend for themselves.

The Last of the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC

I’m curious…how do the cherry trees know the National Cherry Blossom Festival ended yesterday?

The Japanese cherry trees ended their annual spectacular show yesterday in Washington, DC.

I was lucky to be in the neighborhood today, so I dropped in. There was one last tree in full flower. I spent many minutes enjoying the view during a quick stop near the Jefferson Memorial.

I can imagine how beautiful this line of cherry trees must have been a few days ago when all were blooming.

The city of Tokyo gave the trees to the city of Washington in 1912 and they’re planted along the Tidal Basin.

I’ve heard about the Cherry Blossom Festival for years and had hoped the blossoms would hang in there at least one extra day.

But when they’re scheduled to bloom from March 26 to April 10, I guess they really mean it.

Golden Eagle Likes My Backyard Habitat

It was a cold, gray day in my suburban Denver neighborhood yesterday until I spotted this immature Golden Eagle landing in a nearby tree. I was absolutely thrilled to be able to watch this big, beautiful bird for several minutes before it left its perch and soared away.

Apparently it likes my backyard habitat, certified by the National Wildlife Federation, because it was back again today. This time it perched in a tree closer to my house and directly above the bird and squirrel feeders. Mourning Doves landed close by, but the squirrels stayed snug in their nesting box until the eagle flew away.

I’ve seen some other interesting birds in my yard in the past including an American Kestrel, a Great Horned Owl, and a hawk that flew away before I could identify it. But this  is my first eagle and I hope it stays around long enough for me to get a closer look.

Arbor Day Foundation Planting is Good Idea

These evergreens, provided by the Arbor Day Foundation, were planted as seedlings during the summer of 2000.

When I moved into my suburban Denver home in 1999, the backyard didn’t have much to offer. The yard was covered in beautiful bluegrass and there was one tall poplar tree growing against the fence where it provided shade for my neighbor, but not for me.

That’s why I jumped at the offer by the Arbor Day Foundation for free evergreen seedlings. The Arbor Day Foundation is a non-profit conservation and education organization dedicated to planting trees. Started in the early 1970s, the foundation has a million members that have helped plant millions of trees.

I created a tree nursery in a special area of the yard, planted the seedlings and waited patiently for them to turn into lovely trees.

It was after a snowstorm just last week when I noticed how tall and beautiful my evergreens are. Birds can land on their now stout branches as they fly through the yard.

Bare Trees Provide View for Spring Planting

Winter is the best time to help you really see where to focus your spring planting efforts.

Several years ago, I had the chance to talk with Suzy Bales about her book called “The Garden in Winter.” She said the best time to plan for winter color is during the spring.

The opposite holds true, too.

Because the leaves are off the trees and shrubs during winter, it makes it easy to see the “bones” of a landscape. With no greenery or flowers to distract the eye, the yard can be seen more objectively.

Taking a close look now will help you get ready for spring planting.

You can follow some of Suzy’s  advice for finding areas of the yard to add a spot of winter color. Just take a look outside any of your windows and really observe the view.

  • Are there any bare areas that need filling with a flowering shrub?

Beautiful End to Fall Gardening Season

Thank you, Mother Nature, for such a beautiful end to this gardening season.

Just last week, I was looking out my living room window admiring the spectacular scenery in the front yard.

The leaves on the silver maple had turned a gorgeous golden, the sky was its brightest Colorado blue, and the rays of the noon sun peeked between the branches.

I stood there wondering why I hadn’t appreciated this beautiful sight in past autumns.

Then it dawned on me. Seldom does this tree get to put on such a dazzling show. By early November the weather typically has turned colder much earlier and October freezes cause the maple’s leaves to suddenly turn brown before they fall.

In 2009, the temperature dropped into the teens the first weekend in October and some of my trees lost all their green leaves in one day. The leaves remaining on the other trees turned a crispy brown and fell later that week.

This Gardener Digs Pistols for Shovels

The shovels featured in the work, Palas por Pistolas by Pedro Reyes of Mexico City, were used to plant trees on the grounds of one Denver elementary school during The Nature of Things art exhibit in July. The 20 shovels lying in a row on the floor meant there were 20 fewer weapons on the streets of one city in Mexico.

July was a busy month around here, but John and I managed to block out an entire day to take in several Biennial of the Americas events during the month-long celebration in downtown Denver. We’re so glad we did.

The Nature of Things was the title of the contemporary art exhibit at the reopened and partially-renovated McNichols Building. The exhibit featured artists from North, South and Central America who expressed themes of innovation, sustainability, community and the arts through their work. Many dealt with issues of social change.

Gardening is Just Peachy in Colorado

Happy Colorado Day to my hardy gardening friends who start planning their gardens in January, plant in May and keep their fingers crossed all summer hoping there’s something delicious to harvest at the end of the season.

Harvesting fruit from trees along Colorado’s Front Range is hit or miss.

We’re often hit with a late spring freeze that guarantees we’ll miss our fresh peaches, apricots and other stone fruits.

If the flowers do survive and set fruit, there’s the ever present threat of a hailstorm wiping out the crop in minutes flat.

But this year was a good one for Colorado peaches, at least the ones grown in a Pueblo backyard on a little Prunus persica ‘Saturn’ flat top peach tree.

John and I purchased and planted the tree as a 2009 Mother’s Day present for his mom, Shirley. It’s been so much fun watching that little tree grow over the last year and then surprise us all with a bountiful crop of rosy-red, juicy peaches.

The Urban Forest is an Environmental Tool

Trees aren’t the first things you think of when you think about New Mexico, but Albuquerque’s urban forest is a important environmental tool.

Nick Kuhn, city forester, was one of the speakers at the New Mexico Xeriscape and Water Conservation Conference in Albuquerque last month. I guess it never occurred to me that cities in the southwest would need foresters, but by the time Nick finished his talk, I was a believer.

Nick explained that even the southwest needs an urban forest and street trees are valuable “solar-powered environmental tools.” Each tree is a natural resource for economic, social and environmental benefits.

However, in the city of Albuquerque many residents have stopped thinking of trees as an important part of the ecosystem equation. With water at a premium, and a big push to conserve it, many think that a treeless yard saves water. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

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