Xeriscaping

How to Transform a Landscape into a Xeriscape

frontyard xeriscapeAbout 16 years ago, after months of house hunting, the realtor stopped in front of a little ranch-style house and I instantly knew I was home. This one definitely had curb appeal and it spoke to me.

The house was shaded by a large ash tree on one side of the yard and a small maple on the other. The lawn was lush and emerald green. In my excitement I failed to notice the yard had no sprinkler system.

I might as well confess, I’m a really lazy gardener, so I had no idea the amount of hose-dragging that lawn would need in order to stay green.

This is Colorado after all. Despite the amount of snow that falls in the mountains each winter, the state’s average annual precipitation is only 17 inches. That means we almost qualify as a desert. But with average precipitation, and a little irrigation, our lawns can be just as rich and thick as any to the east.

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.

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.

Dry Gardens Need Watering Rocks

Have you ever wished for a simple solution for keeping gardens watered? Then Watering Rocks is for you.

Gardeners are always on the lookout for innovative solutions for ongoing gardening problems.

One of my top gardening issues is finding ways to get water to the plants in the dry corners of the garden without installing an irrigation system or adding a water connection in these out-of-the-way spots.

A portable watering system would be a perfect solution. Something that looked good in the garden, but would be able to handle watering chores during hot, dry summers.

Watering Rocks Box

Watering Rocks to the rescue.

I saw some of the first Watering Rocks at an industry trade show several years ago. That’s when I met Jim Whitis, a fellow gardener and inventor of this clever way to keep plants watered slowly over time. I immediately saw the potential for a simple, portable irrigation system that could be customized to fit any dry spot in the garden.

Has it Really Been 4 Years?

Happy Fourth Anniversary to WesternGardeners.com!

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.

Look for Cheyenne Spirit Echinacea in 2013

A new colorful and durable echinacea will keep gardening interesting next year.

I really appreciate how All-America Selections has changed its process for announcing its winners. Instead of releasing all the new plants at once, the organization makes its plant announcement as soon as the selections are made.

Gardeners can then look forward to seeing these new plants in upcoming catalogs, mail order companies and websites…and watch for them at lawn and garden retail stores next spring.

‘Cheyenne Spirit’ is the perfect echinacea for gardens in our area. It’s a gorgeous, first-year flowering echinacea that captures the spirit of the North American plains.

According to the folks at AAS, this offering produces a mix of flower colors from rich purple, pink, red and orange tones to lighter yellows, creams and white. ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ doesn’t require a lot of water and offers a wide-range of uses. AAS recommends planting in a perennial border, in a mass landscape planting, in a butterfly garden or as a cut flower.

Biennial Hollyhock Finally Blooms

How long would you wait for a plant to flower?

I know some plants take years to bloom, so waiting just a few seasons for this old-fashioned hollyhock to show its colors seems like a short time in comparison. But it’s a big deal in my cottage garden.

I bought an envelope marked “hollyhock seeds” for 50 cents at the Xeriscape Conference in Albuquerque in early 2010. These seeds were packaged in a business-size envelope by a gardener in New Mexico and were on a table at the conference’s book sale.

I should have sowed those seeds in spring to give the leaves a head start on the heat of summer. But I got busy and the seeds had to wait until fall.

I’ve always thought hollyhocks make a cottage garden complete, so I planted the seeds along the white picket fence that separates my cottage garden from the butterfly garden.

Watering Rocks Solve Key Gardening Problem

My “Best Of” gardening selection at the 2012 ProGreen industry tradeshow is a new portable drip irrigation system called Watering Rocks.

There were a lot of new gardening products featured at ProGreen last week, but one of my favorites is a low-tech portable watering system called Watering Rocks.

Each Watering Rock is a self-contained drip irrigation system. Just place the rock in a part of the garden that’s difficult to water and fill the container with water.

Water will slowly seep from the rock into drip lines and adjustable drippers to water plants deeply. Watering Rocks are available in one-gallon, two-gallon and five-gallon sizes.

Gardeners fill the Watering Rocks by placing a hose in the holes at the top of the rock or they can connect an existing drip irrigation system for automatic filling. The amount of water can be adjusted to match plant needs.

Another handy feature is that liquid or soluble plant food can be added to the water for automatic fertilizing, too.

The Rose Monster Blooms Again

One of the toughest roses I’ve found that does consistently well in my Zone 5 backyard has turned into something we affectionately call The Rose Monster.

Something most people don’t know about me is that I grew up with a mom who had too many things going on inside the house to be worried about the landscape outside the house.

She didn’t plant flowers. We didn’t have a vegetable garden. There were no colorful containers overflowing with petunias. As long as the lawn got watered and mowed on a fairly regular basis, she was happy with her gardening efforts.

So it’s no surprise I was captivated by the one flowering plant in our yard—a beautiful climbing red rose. Every year that rose grew on its own. It wasn’t lovingly pruned and it certainly wasn’t babied with any special soils or rose fertilizers. It wasn’t protected from freezing temperatures with thick layers of mulch and there was no winter watering.

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