Friday, December 14, 2018

Front Range Garden Class Resources 2019

Winter Raised Beds
A new garden year means a fresh start, a clean palette to dream, design and do. Resolve to sign up for classes or workshops to get the brain energized and filled with the right stuff. Happy New Garden Year 2019 - let's enjoy it together!

Denver and the Front Range is very fortunate in having many free or low cost outlets for garden classes and seminars.

Below is a list with links for ones that I know of right now. PLEASE check back often, there will be many more events added to this list.

The first group - seminars, workshops and conferences charge fees unless otherwise noted. Be sure to click on each title for more sign up information and deadlines, even the free events generally require signing up.

Public and botanic gardens also charge for classes. Garden center classes are often free so check their websites for more information. 
Also consider attending or joining a plant society, group or club. You will meet other friendly people. Most meet monthly, have low cost dues and offer educational seminars, garden tours and trips, plant sales and judged shows through the year. 

Check out what's offered in your community if you're not in the Denver area.  

Again, please check back often for updates.


Beekeeping Classes at Hudson Gardens start in January, Littleton
Landscaping for Pollinators FREE January 22, Loveland 

Fairy Garden Workshop January 30, Georgetown

Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference, February 16, Denver
Battling the Japanese Beetle February 23, April 2, April 27, June 11, August 10, Denver 

Master Composter Training Through Denver Urban Gardens, begins in March, Denver

Denver Rose Society SymROSEium March 9, Denver 

High Plains Landscape Workshop March 9, Fort Collins

CSU Extension Certified Gardener Program flexible year round online training 
Community Forester Program Denver

Native Plant Master Program in 2019

Cottage Food Safety Training - Front Range dates and locations starting in 2019

Sustainability Skills Workshop: Basics of Colorado Gardening April 12, Boulder

FREE Rose Pruning Workshop and Demonstration April 27, Golden

Denver Urban Gardens Learn to Compost Workshops beginning in May, Denver

Tour the "Heritage Rose Garden" at Fairmount Cemetery, June 2, Denver 

AREA GARDEN CENTERS: too numerous to mention, please call area stores or check their websites or Facebook for their 2019 classes. 

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens Vail
Butterfly Pavilion Westminster
Chester M. Alter Arboretum University of Denver
Cheyenne Botanic Gardens Cheyenne, WY
Denver Botanic Gardens
Durango Botanical Society 
Growing Gardens Boulder 
Montrose Botanic Gardens
Plains Conservation Center Aurora 
Pikes Peak Urban Gardens Colorado Springs
The Arboretum at Regis University Denver
The Gardens on Spring Creek Ft. Collins   
The Hudson Gardens Littleton
Western Colorado Botanical Gardens Grand Junction


American Conifer Society Western Region

Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society
Colorado Beekeepers
Colorado Dahlia Society
Colorado Federation of Garden Clubs
Colorado Mycological Society
Colorado Native Plant Society
Colorado Water Garden Society

Community Forester Program Denver
Denver Field Ornithologists
Denver Orchid Society
Denver Rose Society
Front Range Organic Gardeners

Gloxinia Gesneriad Growers
Greater Denver Urban Homesteading Group
Ikebana Denver Chapter

Mile High Bee Club
Mile High Daylily Society
Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society
Rocky Mountain Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society 
Rocky Mountain Koi Club
Rocky Mountain Unit of The Herb Society of America

The American Iris Society
Tropical Plant Society of Denver

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Yule Log Lore

The holiday season is full of traditions old and new, some are made up like Festivus, and it's just around the corner (12-23). Recently I heard a description of the 'Yule Log' and found it curiously interesting and thought others may want to know more too. Since it involves a log from a tree that makes it totally garden relevant. 
Photo from

You may be thinking of the culinary yule log or Buche de Noel, the traditional French dessert that actually mimics the look and symbolism of the yule log. If so, check out The Denver Post's delicious recipe which was recently posted online. 

My Dad's sister, Aunt Betty used to make and hand deliver to our family her version of a Norwegian yule pastry. It was more like a large circular braided cinnamon roll called julekake, a wonderful sweet treat on Christmas morning.

Yule or Yuletide originally was a winter solstice pagan celebration started way back when. That's roughly the medieval time or middle ages period from the fifth to fifteenth century or more familiarly known as the the fall of the Roman empire to the Renaissance. In those times, lives for Europeans were truly dark, bleak and fearful with sickness and cold weather. Gortex and Bic lighters hadn't been invented. They hoped for better health, sun, and longer days. Too bad they couldn't move to Florida. 

What better way to bring light into the world or your dark home then by burning a log? If you're thinking they should have been burning logs well before the solstice, then I'm with you.

The ritual of burning a log (oak was first choice) for the whole Yule season (twelve days starting with the December 21 solstice) symbolized longer days and getting away from that whole dark and evil vibe. The rule was the oak log should come from your own property, second would be a neighbor's yard, never purchased from the 7-Eleven. And if ashes were kept from last year's log and added to this year's burning log, then chances for better luck, health and no burned down house in the New Year were much greater.

Internet Photo from People
As they often do, traditions remain, some get tweaked and some are celebrated differently by different people and cultures. Today, the Yule Log still represents light in the world during the month of December - for many that's faith in the Lord or outdoing Clark Griswold's holiday lights. 

A quick online search netted many Yule Log references. There's a band called The Yule Logs. YouTube has a Classic Yule Log Fireplace with Crackling Fire Sounds. My nephew Kyle wrote and starred in his successful play Une Buche de Noel last December at Dixon Place in New York City.
Photo from

A garden related Yule Log Hunt took place at the Morton Arboretum but was discontinued a few years ago. Thank goodness there's one closer to home in Steamboat, read more here.

Enjoy your Yule Log this month for dessert or to bring light to shoo away the darkness and chill.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Did You Know - The Holiday Edition

How about a little more information on the common holiday plants and decorations? Here's the Punch List article I wrote last December for The Denver Post.
Pine Cones
The common go to term for any “cone” we see under conifer trees are called pine cones even though there are different types of evergreens—fir, spruce, pine, and cedar. When was the last time you called it a spruce cone? No worries—keep using pine cones for wreaths, ornaments or pack them with peanut butter as a winter treat for birds.

Unlike flowering plants called angiosperms, pine cones are gymnosperms which have exposed seeds. The female cones are what we normally think of when we see pine cones with large overlapping shingle-like scales that grow at the end of branches. Female cones may live several years.  

Bowl of Female Pine Cones
Male cones are much smaller and grow in finger-like groups on the end of branches; they live for a few weeks. 

Male scales hold pollen sacs which open and release each spring pollinating female ovules—found at the base of each scale. Seeds form in about a year. Now you know where that heavy dusting of yellow pollen on roads, cars, waterways and in noses comes from. 

After pollination female cone scales get thicker and tighter. When mature the cone dries out, opens up and releases winged seeds. Don’t be alarmed by the “popping” sound of wet pine cones brought indoors as they dry out—just the seeds looking for a new place to grow.

Poinsettia 'Monet Twilight'

This holiday go-to plant was used by the Aztecs for dyes and cosmetics. It was introduced to the United States around 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and amateur botanist. He found this large, red-flowered bright shrub growing near a road. He brought back cuttings and began growing it in his South Carolina greenhouse. 

From there it went to Philadelphia and other nurseryman before ending up in Southern California with the Ecke family in the early 1900s. A generation later, Paul Ecke, Jr. mastered the grafting technique for mass propagation and promoted the plant for growing and decorating during the Christmas season.

Poinsettia 'Gold Rush'

There are over one hundred varieties in the marketplace, red poinsettias are the standard. Check out the range of colored plants with white, creamy or pale green leaves (also called bracts). Others have subtle shades of peach, yellow, pink and deep burgundy. Look for marbled, blotched, variegated, spattered or ruffled leaves—a color for every palate.  

Poinsettias need six hours of bright, natural light (not direct light) from a south, east or west window (not touching the window). Keep them from cool drafts and heat vents. They prefer temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. Colors last longer at cooler temperatures. Poinsettias are not outdoor plants and cannot be exposed to cold temperatures. They must be kept warm when transported from the store to your car to your house.
Always remove the foil or punch holes in the bottom for proper drainage. Water when the surface feels dry to the touch, if allowed to dry out leaves will drop and plants will wilt. Too much water leads to root rot, insects and death— they do not like to be over watered. Plants are not poisonous to people or pets, but the milky sap may irritate the skin. For more poinsettia information, click here.


Why are we kissing under a flowering parasitic plant that can rob their perfectly good host plants of vital nutrients, water and vigor? Ask the ancient Druids, Romans or Scandinavians. These and other cultures either praised or feared these evergreen white-berried small plants. They believed the plant had magical powers for healing, warding off evil spirits or celebrating the winter solstice. Mistletoe is poisonous to pets and can cause illness in humans. 

Dwarf Mistletoe Lodgepole Pine by Brytten Steed, USDA
During the Victorian age, a kissing ball made of ornaments, ribbons and mistletoe at the end was placed high in the room during holidays, weddings and other special gatherings. Guests would play kissing games under the ball while plucking a berry—when the berries were all gone, the game ended.

This holiday charmer in reality is a destructive parasitic organism that grows on or within the bark, branches or tissue of trees and shrubs. The parasite commandeers the nutrients and water of the host plant. In the Rocky Mountains there are six native species of mistletoes (leafy or dwarf type).

Seeds practically explode from the plant and spread by— wind, birds or gravity. Often called witches’-brooms, growths look like a jumbled mass of yellow to olive green fibrous shoots (called sinkers), reaching up to six inches in length. Dwarf mistletoe attacks lodgepole, limber, ponderosa, Douglas fir and pinyon pines. Leafy mistletoe occurs primarily on juniper in the Central Rocky Mountain Region. Urban landscapes are generally mistletoe free unless infected trees are moved here from native forests.

Lucky for us, noted Denver plantsman and dwarf conifer expert Jerry Morris has introduced several naturally occurring witches’-brooms in to cultivation. They make perfect specimens for gardens of all sizes. One of the most popular being Pinus monophylla ‘Blue Jazz’, a dwarf pinyon pine from the popular Plant Select® Program. Read more on 'Blue Jazz' here.

'Blue Jazz' Dwarf Pinyon Pine photo from Plant Select
'Blue Jazz' Dwarf Pinyon Pine from Plant Select®

Saturday, December 1, 2018

'Tis December

I couldn't help but notice that when I woke this morning it was December 1. Are you also wondering where the year went? Ten minutes ago I was transplanting tomatoes, five minutes ago I was harvesting them! Va bene, that's Italian for it's all right. The tomato seed catalogs arrived this past week along with an armload of other garden wish books. That's what they are - wish catalogs or serious eye candy for the undecided or have to have it gardener. In a matter of days (maybe hours) the pages will be dog-eared, bookmarked or ripped out and framed in anticipation of spring 2019.

This is the month it truly sinks in that the outdoor landscape is mostly shades of brown, grey and white. Brilliant sunny, Colorado clear days are interspersed with the occasional all day cloudy cast of dull. Winds seem to be either nonexistent or supersized. No sense complaining about the wind, weather and sky - it will officially be winter in another few weeks. This is the time for patience and a strong back because I am hoping for snow and lots of it to shovel, saturate our parched soil and satisfy our garden souls. 

In the meantime...let's focus on Indoor Planting which also works for Seasonal Decorating and Centerpieces

Below are some points from my recent Denver Post Punch List article about indoor holiday planting -

Pink Cyclamen, White Kalanchoe take the blooming show!
  • Traditional holiday plants like poinsettias, cyclamen and rosemary are never out of style this time of year and they look perfect placed around the house. This holiday mix it up with your own combination dish garden planting made with houseplants combined with seasonal plants. They also make attractive centerpieces and are conversation starters. 
  • The colorful pink cyclamen planting includes white kalanchoe, trailing ivy, dracaena, palm, schefflera and peace lily house plants. It will bloom for several weeks and look beautiful well into next year. 
  • Just like planting an outdoor container, consider the same general rules for a mixed holiday dish garden - thriller (tall), filler (round out the middle) and spiller (edging). Or toss out the rules and let your creative side make the rules and choose the plants. Just try to vary leaf shapes along with a complementary color scheme - not hard to do with so many red, white and green plants out there. 
  • Choose a container that drains if possible. No worries if it doesn't, just layer the bottom with an inch or so of fine pebbles and charcoal. The charcoal helps with drainage and absorbs odors. You'll find bags of charcoal designated for indoor planting at garden centers. Use fresh potting soil and some slow release granular fertilizer to keep the plants happy and blooming well into the New Year.
    'Red Glitter' Poinsettia, Lemon Cypress, 'Electric Lime' Coleus
  • If you don't have a container from your own cache, consider a lined basket or purchase one while you're plant shopping. At the garden center head over to the seasonal plant department area first and choose what catches your eye.
  • On my recent shopping trip I looked at the fun poinsettia colors and shades. The bright greens and blotchy poinsettia spoke to me. Have fun, you might need to do more than one container because once you start coordinating plants and colors, it's hard to stop at one.
  • Try to choose plants with similar watering and light needs, just read the tag or ask one of the sales people.  
  • Don't forget to add some seasonal do dads if that's your style. In the photo above I added a small red cardinal bird, some small ornaments and pine cones around one side. 
  • The container to the right is a mass of tiny red pepper plants that were on the sale table at the garden center. I couldn't resist the cute little things so massed them in a large, round container.
  • The beautiful holiday container below was planted by a popular Denver independent garden center. They used a decorative metal basket. The plants include a red poinsettia, peace lily, Norfolk pine, nerve plant (Fittonia albivenis) and ivy.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Shopping Thoughts

Just about every retailer celebrates the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday. No need to spell out what this whole movement means other than to buy more stuff which may eventually end up in a garage sale, recycled, given to charity or thrown away. There's also the Opt Outside movement to spend Friday out of doors. I think this additional name for the Friday after Thanksgiving was started by a retailer. You know what Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are all about.

Garden Gift Ideas
You will find no complaints from me when it comes to selling and buying stuff - as they say, to each their own. I have enough stuff, really, the only problem I have is coming up with ideas of stuff to give others for the holidays. Giving cash is so impersonal, we only do that for the local niece and nephew still in secondary school. 

My siblings are gardeners, so they are easy to buy for. Over the years they've gotten some useful garden gifts. A mason bee house, frost protection blankets, garden magazine subscriptions, garden gloves, seeds, seeds and more seeds. If they all didn't live out of state, I'd send them Colorado made compost, fertilizer or plants grown here. One year my sister gave to a wonderful food charity on our behalves, great idea Lee! 

This year I veered from gardening gifts for my siblings and gave them all a 2019 desktop calendar in honor of our Mother who passed away exactly a year ago at Thanksgiving. She had given up active gardening the past few years, other than caring for her indoor plants and geranium slips. She enjoyed the Maxine character immensely and often gave a desk calendar to her siblings. She outlived all but one of her siblings. Her sister, my dear Aunt Jo passed away a few months ago at the age of 95. She was the remaining generation of ten children and one of my favorite Aunts, also a life long gardener. I'm her namesake - Betty Jo.

So what am I doing this Friday as I write this blog post?  No driving or shopping that's for sure. Sorry garden retailers, but I'll see you another time soon. I spent the morning on a sunny, crisp walk around the park with Glen and Ferris, then planted some holiday containers which I'll write about very soon. The red and green plants put me in the holiday spirit so after planting I pulled down the ornament boxes from storage and am ready to decorate. 

We've officially begun another holiday season. Wouldn't you know - snow is expected in the Denver area tomorrow. 

My Mom, "Dickie" (third in from the right), her siblings (not shown, Martin "Buddy" died when he was seven).
Her parents 50-year wedding anniversary photo, 1955