Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Painted Ladies a Plenty

Painted Lady on Oregano Bloom
It's hard to miss the plethora of painted lady butterflies congregating on our late blooming garden plants. They seem to be everywhere - call it a convention, a meeting of the minds or what it really is, their migration. They're headed south to warmer parts of the southwest and Mexico for the winter. Their numbers vary year to year, but this year they are numerous probably due to good spring rains in the southwest that helped grow their numbers. Each spring they migrate north to Colorado and other states for the summer to hang out, lay eggs, and feed on many blooming plants. Host plants include thistle, mallow and hollyhock. Nectar plants in the aster family and many other wildflowers are their favorites.

If you're missing out on the butterfly show in your backyard this fall, think about putting in both host (where they lay their eggs) and nectar plants. Here's a great plant list from Dr. Whitney Cranshaw at Colorado State University - Gardening for Insects

More information on Painted Ladies (and gents) - Painted Lady

Painted Ladies on the Agastache 'Heatwave.'


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Canada Getaway Part 1

Leaving town for a few days during the prime time harvest period isn't easy for any gardener, so try leaving for six days. Not sure what piled up more - the tomatoes or the summer squash! It was worth foregoing Harvest Joy for the getaway to lovely Canada. Here's why, and some highlights of the trip...

Travel is a brief change from normal routines and that usually brings a renewed perspective. Fill in the blank on your perspective, for me it was realizing that I need more time away from home to get out of the same ol' same ol' routine. I think I was living the GroundHog Day movie (you'll get the idea by watching the clip or the full movie).

The best part about leaving is completing all the little "must do" preparation chores before locking the door. My garden was in better shape before I left then how it will probably look at the end of October. The bindweed growing on the boulevard adjacent to the neighbor's bindweed garden was pulled and dully scolded not to return. I harvested the potatoes, processed basil for winter use and picked many tomatoes, peppers and summer squash for sharing and freezing. I knew the trip was planned last winter so I planted fewer vegetables this year - no eggplants, tomatillos, green beans or pumpkins. I miss them, but the local farmer's markets and grocery stores have plenty.
Harbor View of Victoria B.C.

Our first stop was Seattle so we could catch the early ferry to Victoria B.C. the next day. Yes, you guessed it, destination The Butchardt Gardens - on my bucket list for years having missed the opportunity to see it with my parents and family several years ago. One night in Seattle doesn't allow a lot of time to explore and since I'd been there before, didn't need to shop Pike Place Market or zoom up to the top of the Space Needle, although they are must dos when visiting. We power walked around downtown before enjoying a delicious salmon dinner overlooking the ocean - getting us in the mood for more ocean and views to follow.

Colorful Entry to the Empress Hotel in Victoria B.C.
In less than twenty-four hours after take off, it kicked in that I had no need to worry about the garden or what to fix for dinner - the "let go and embrace the now" perspective was happening. 

In the next five days we split our days between Victoria B.C. and Vancouver B.C. Both are different, yet similar cities. Victoria has a slower pace of life, less people and more quaint. We learned from some of the locals that their economy and housing market is booming so trying to find a place to buy or rent is difficult, same for Vancouver (only more expensive). 

Everywhere we walked in Victoria (near downtown) had a spectacular view of the harbor and all the new buildings going up (not so pretty in my book). The well placed hanging flower baskets were still at peak bloom while soaking up every bit of the early fall, warm sun. We totally lucked out on weather - every day was in the 60s-70s, no rain in both cities. 

Sunken Garden at Butchardt
The highlight of Victoria was Butchardt Gardens, pronounced like "butcher" (as in the person who sells meat), plus "ard." Many people say Boo Chard, which is just fine. In a nutshell, Butchardt is a private garden maintained by the family who started it back in the early 1900s. 

Jennie was the wife of Robert Pim Butchardt who came to the area to build a cement plant. Build he did, while Jennie planned how to use the deep, spent limestone pits surrounding their house for a garden. Let's just say she brought in a lot of soil to fill up the holes - not all the way to the top, which gives the fifty-five acre garden it's signature spectacular overlooking views of the sunken garden.

One Stretch of the Rose Garden
What makes this garden, which includes the distinct Rose, Japanese, Italian and Mediterranean garden plus water features, statues, ponds and a tasteful visitor center, are the blooming annuals that weave and blend it all together. You'd never know that seventy-five percent (over 900 varieties) of the gardens are annual plantings because they are so artfully positioned among and around the trees, shrubs and evergreen plantings. Many of these plants we know and use in our own gardens. They provide a handy guide of the plants growing there so plant description tags don't interfere with viewing enjoyment, a very nice touch.

Large plantings of common floss flower (Ageratum) pop in pleasing pinks and purples, near bright swaths of yellow and orange lantana. Gloriosa daisies were lit up in blooming prowess while roses put on their final fall display of scented single, double and very double blooms. From the fragrant heliotrope to the common, but colorful impatiens, it all works in melodic plant fashion at Butchardt Gardens.

To choose my favorite part of the garden would be difficult. In late summer to fall frost, the dahlias are in peak bloom. A spring visit would be just as impressive with crocus, daffodils and species tulips.

Take some time to click on the links to read more about The Butchard Gardens and view the videos below. Today, the garden is owned and operated by Robin-Lee Clarke, great granddaughter of Jennie Butchardt, what an impressive garden legacy to be part of. 

In Part II I'll write about our visit to Vancouver B.C.

Butchardt Italian Garden

Purple Heliotrope and White Dahlias

View of the Dining Room Restaurant, the family's original home
Internet videos of Butchardt Gardens:

Butchardt Gardens from Garden Time TV

A Year at the Gardens

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Fall Japanese Beetle 2017 Update - Are They Gone Yet?

September for gardeners can be bitter sweet knowing fall frosts and winter snows are weeks away instead of months. Others are joyful that the monotony of weekly lawn mowing or the constant hand flicking to a drowning end for Japanese beetles is over. I'm somewhere in between both emotions.

I am more than over the unwelcome visit by the hundreds of Japanese beetles that arrived in June and stayed for three months of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and Sunday brunches. They didn't send a thank you for the meals or bother to apologize for their destructive mess. Their numbers seem to be dwindling - many can be found dead on sidewalks or alleys. Bye bye beetles, please don't come back anytime soon, but that is false hope, they know it, we know it.

Their young are now hatched and dining on grass roots as we head in to pumpkin season. Is there anything that can still be done this month or this fall to kill the next generation of beetles? Yes, but you need to act right now.

First, the horticulture and entomology experts recommend treating the lawn for eggs and grubs from June through early August, almost as soon as adult beetles arrive to your garden. The reason - chemical granules generally have a four month control period, so grubs will be killed from egg laying to grub stage during the period adults are flying.

Internet Photo from Bayer Advanced
The list of summer grub control products to use can be found on the highlighted link below. 

However, if you missed that window you can act right now, there are two organic lawn grub controls that can be applied while soils are still warm this fall. These include Milky Spore and Beneficial Nematodes. Milky Spore takes a few years to establish and become effective. It is available in a powder formulation or granular (granules are much easier to use). Beneficial nematodes generally offer up to two years of control.  Read all application labels for storing, mixing and applying for both products.

Credible edu websites comment that these organic controls may not result in as much grub kill that chemical products offer. Still, give them a try or read more on your own. Call around to area garden centers to see if they carry either product (you can use both products in the same season if you choose) or try mail order. 

Chemical GRUB Controls - applied from June to mid-August

Milky Spore - apply now - a powder that needs to be applied where grubs are active (if you have dead patches in the fall and lots of previous adult beetles, this is a good indicator). It causes a bacterial disease in the grubs, reducing their chances to survive the winter.

Beneficial Nematodes - apply now known as predator nematodes that target lawn grubs, they are shipped to your house and must stored properly and applied according to package instructions. Click here for names of beneficial nematode products to try (page 8).  

FAQ on beneficial nematodes  

Mail Order Information on beneficial nematodes (again, call local garden centers to see if they carry).

Now that the metallic orange adult beetles have died off, try to enjoy the rest of the fall season. It goes without saying that our current weather conditions are very challenging to many people in the country. Fires out west are causing so much damage, smoke and concern. My heart is crying for my home state - Montana, where more than a million acres are burning. Texas, Florida have too much rain and the hurricane destruction is beyond imaginable. 

Internet Photo from Montana Public Radio

Monday, August 28, 2017

Harvest Joy

Late August in to September is the ultimate time to harvest or seek out fruits and vegetables are that ready, ripe, and delicious. Let's just call it what it is - harvest joy. Followed by eating joy. 

If you're not a home vegetable or fruit grower, look no further than your neighborhood farmer's markets, roadside stands or hurry up and subscribe to a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. Grocery stores are loaded with regional and locally grown produce. Warning - shopping the fresh produce aisle while you're hungry may be hazardous to your shirt when biting in to a Palisade peach!

How's your harvest coming along? Are you staying on top of the number of squash, peppers and tomatoes that are screaming at you to be plucked, eaten or shared? For helpful harvest and storage tips check out the handy chart below. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Did the Vikings Grow Tómatar?

Now that I have your attention, let me elaborate. Did Vikings grow tomatoes (which in the Icelandic language are called tómatar).The short answer is probably not. Iceland, known as the Land of Ice and Fire has a climate ranging from temperate to subarctic. Their July summer temperatures in the warmer southern part of the island averages between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. On really warm days it can get to up to 78 degrees. Winters are fairly mild - in the southern lowlands they average around 32 degrees.

Even without studying past Viking culture and diet, we assume correctly they fished. A lot. They also farmed grains for bread and used cattle for dairy products and sheep for wool. Vikings grew many types of vegetables, including onions, leeks, peas, beans, cabbage and turnips. They gathered wild greens, nettles, cress, lambs quarters and berries. Toss in some whaling and at the end of long week or celebration feast they enjoyed their spiced mead, otherwise known as honey-wine!

Photo from
But tomatoes they did not grow. Icelanders grow them today in greenhouses heated by geothermal power - it's a year round industry. I read about a restaurant located right in a greenhouse that serves very tasty tomato soup, tomato schnapps and unforgettable tomato ice cream. I'll be dreaming about tomato popsicles tonight.

Why does this it matter whether the Vikings grew tomatoes or not. Well, it doesn't really, I just like the Icelandic name for tomatoes - tómatar pronounced phonetically - TOE-ma-tar. Plus it is on my bucket list to travel there one day and hopefully take a tour of their incredible greenhouses and yes, have some "mouthwatering cheesecake with jam of green-tomato, cinnamon and lime" at Fridheimar Restaurant.   

If you've read this far, then you probably grow and like tomatoes too, so keep a look out for tomato events in late summer into September. One such event is not to be missed - the 2017 Taste of Tomato in Boulder on September 9 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Gateway Park Fun Center, located at 4800 North 28th Street. Presented by Harlequin's Gardens and the Boulder County Extension office, it's loads of fun to enter your own tomatoes or learn more about successfully growing them and saving seeds for next year's delicious crop. Read all the details at this link - 2017 Taste of Tomato.

Gotta run, I have some tomatoes to harvest and time to make a tomato pie.