Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pollinator Spotlight

Pollinators have been working in our our gardens since early spring. As we approach the summer season (if it ever arrives) once our vegetables and new or existing plants are blooming - pollinators will continue their work keeping our planet alive. Sort of like the if you build it, they will come scenario. Watching them is free entertainment, check them out in your own backyard.  

Honey bees on garlic chive blooms, late summer
Jefferson County Master Gardeners have been running a series on their blog entitled Pollinator of the Week. Their blog is linked on my site, but if you have missed the series or wish to get caught up, check out the links below. Thank you Donna Duffy, Jeffco Colorado Master Gardener extraordinaire for writing about these important bees, other pollinators and helpful articles on how to care for them. Be sure to continue following the series by subscribing to their blog.

Pollinator of the Week - Squash Bees

Pollinator of the Week - Leaf Cutting Bees

Pollinator of the Week - Rufous Hummingbird

Pollinator of the Week - The Colorado State Insect (aka the Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly)

Pollinator of the Week - Hawk Sphinx Moth

Pollinator of the Week - Halictid Bees (aka Sweat Bees)

Providing Water for Pollinators 

Build a Bee Colony

Colorado's Native Bees 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Garden Shopping in Colorado - Birdsall & Co.

One of the many perks of living in a large metro area is the outstanding choices of shopping, dining and entertainment. My amusement thrill ride days at Elitch Gardens are probably behind me, but I'll never tire of trying a newly opened coffee bar or visiting locally owned garden centers and gift shops. This is the first, in what I hope to become more blogs written about the reasons to check out and shop the good finds from local Front Range garden centers.

Birdsall & Co. located on south Broadway has been a decades-long destination garden shop for every level of gardener. If you want quality and fair prices, this is the place to go. Garden pruners, always a must have for many jobs in the garden are a personal choice and work best when they fit your hand. Find your forever pair (or two) from either Felco or Burgon & Ball at Birdsall & Co. I'm still using my garden spade and pruners purchased there over a decade ago!

As you wander their new store in its new location in Englewood you'll discover more cool and useful garden items than you ever imagined. This is not a box store full of shelves of chemical sprays and dusty rows of hoses.

You'll find quality teak furniture, birdbaths, statuary, real and artificial botanical greenery and art pieces that add pop and interest to containers or simply displayed as a front porch greeting or tucked in the perennial border. 

Air plants and succulents with accessorizing beautiful glassware or pottery are the rage and so easy to care for. The folks at Birdsall & Co. will help you choose and give you all the growing tips you need. They teach classes too!
Zinc Fountain

Speaking of great service. A few years ago we purchased a small water fountain the spring before the former owner of Birdsall and Co. sold the store to Annie and Scott Huston. John helped us tremendously with the installation procedures and until last summer it worked like a charm. When we turned it on, realized that there was a leak somewhere so we called the store. Their son Owen came out and quickly diagnosed the issue as a cracked water pipe. With the help of his sister Morgan and a couple of strong guys, was able to thread a new hose so we're back to the pleasant babbling sound and perks from our water fountain.

Rest assured when purchasing any fountain or water feature from Birdsall & Co., they can troubleshoot over the phone or send out Owen or another qualified professional. BTW their water features are out of this world amazing and a great addition for any size landscape. They carry cast stone and fiber cement fountains, plus glazed and the new to the market - tranquil zinc fountains imported from Hungary.

Their extensive selection of colors, sizes and unique shaped containers will keep you busy in a fun way. Do you choose the bright, yet calming contemporary teal green or popular bright blue glazed pot or go more traditional with a cast stone urn or iron container for a weathered, antique look? Take your time, and feel rest assured that any container you purchase will last many seasons.

73-gallon Pop Up Rain Barrel
Annie recently showed me her selection of rain barrels, which are now encouraged and legal to use in Colorado. One easy pop up barrel that can be stored over the winter holds 73-gallons of rain water and is just over one hundred dollars, a great deal!

I could go on and on with the list of garden treasures being sold at Birdsall & Co. Scroll through the photos below, better yet, stop in and say hello - browse and allow plenty of time to dream, plan and enhance your garden setting.

Rain Chains
Bird Houses
Succulents in Urn

Birdsall & Co.
2870 S. Broadway
Englewood, CO  80113
303 722-2535
Hours - M-S 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Sunday noon to 4:00 pm 
Design Services - Columbine Design, Inc.
Cut Flowers and Potted Plants - In Bloom 
Wholesale Pricing and Services for Trade Professionals - Inquire


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Third Time - NO Charm

We're close to the end of May and we're still getting snow and cold weather...this is no third time weather event that is in any way charming. It's more like..."really, we have to worry about more landscape carnage, haven't we had enough already!!" 

Covering is about the best thing you can do as shown in my photos below. It looks like a weather gone south make-do camping set up, but what else is one to do? We had the pvc pipes, rebar stakes, screen fabric, plastic sheeting, row covers and various tables, chairs and tomato cages...time to get creative!

My plan starting yesterday (Wednesday) was to use perforated shade cloth over hoops and structures to allow moisture to the plants and to keep our favorite perennials and shrubs from getting too schmushed. Later today I'll add thick floating row covers for warmth over other plantings, we're supposed to get down below freezing tonight and Friday night. Earlier I covered the leafy greens with row cover then plastic on top. It's wise not to put plastic directly over foliage, which only transfers damaging cold. Don't hesitate to use plastic garbage cans or large tubs as long as the plants aren't touching the plastic.  
For my final act of landscape protection before calling it a day - I'll cross my fingers, do a stop the snow dance and pray (not necessarily in that order). 

The photo to the right looks technical, but it's just a very large perforated shade cloth over three tall tomato cages, plus some old wire fencing lower right to protect the side of the shrub. There are three Mini Man™viburnums under there, I love these shrubs and just want them to stay nice and bushy and happy!

I'm proud of myself for thinking of this contraption - it's a square metal outdoor table plus two side chairs over lemon balm, oregano and other herbs. 

The tunnels over this area failed Wednesday night so I had to think fast. They got smashed from overnight rain, but I'm optimistic they will pull through. If not, I'll prune any broken stems or a deeper prune, they'll grow back quickly in a matter of days to a couple of weeks. Either way, all the storm stressed plants will receive some half strength fertilizer in a few days.

The tunnel set up below is iffy for holding up through another snowy night. Snow adds weight which may collapse the whole thing. I'll stretch the shade cloth late tonight and hope for the best. Bottom right is a layer of floating row cover over some new perennials I couldn't resist planting a week ago. I'll probably add some plastic over the row cover for extra warmth and protection tonight. 

When it's all said and done, our plants are going to do and react accordingly after extreme weather events. Call your tree professional for limb damage removal and pruning. Clean up spent foliage and toss in the compost pile. Get back to the garden center for replacement plants but wait until after Memorial Day to plant, even then have a bucket or table on hand!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Springtime in the Rockies

It's mid-May, and without a doubt the last two weeks of weather extremes has left "a wake" in its path. To re-cap - the last weekend in April was surprisingly correctly predicted (they're usually wrong) to be cold, snowy and possibly destructive to trees and new plantings. It started snowing on Friday the 28th around noon. It was a steady snow at our home in central Denver, but did not stick to the grass or sidewalks, which is typical for CO snow late in the season. Gardeners generally rejoice with April snow because the moisture is so appreciated and needed, especially after our mild dry and warm winter season (we only used the snow blower once). But why so cold? No answer, it just was.

Friday evening we noticed how weighted and floppy one of the early leafed out maple tree was becoming so we paused the movie a few times and broomed off the snow. I didn't set the alarm to shake all the trees during the night, I just told myself que sera sera (sing it Doris) and dreamt they'd be fine. Saturday morning was not fun to wake up to - cold, wet snow was covering every shrub, grass blade and ant pile. The teeny tiny emerging leaves on locust trees on our block looked burnt, dead burnt. So did our red bud trees which just finished a glorious season of neon pink spring bloom.

I didn't reach for a tissue, just went straight to work assessing the damage and gently brushing snow off the conifers and snow trodden plants in the landscape. After a quick text to get in my tree pruner's queue we made minestrone soup and then waited for the sun to return. Birds soon flocked to the birdbath looking for a fresh, not frozen drink of water.

Our landscape fared pretty well, no severe damage or breakage, just some dead branch tips on the Seven-Son Flower and some splayed and broken branches here and there on some shrubs. My number one concern was and is for the two-week old newly planted Kentucky Coffee tree, Gymnocladus dioicus 'Espresso.' It was in the same leafing time frame as honey locusts. We know that trees have stored spare buds when these kind of events happen, so no worries about mature trees pushing new leaf growth, but my hope is that 'Espresso' will shrug off the cold damage and also emerge with happy new leaves in its new home on the Cahill boulevard. Ten days later it seems like it is still thinking about putting out new leaves, I'll keep you posted.
Stem hail damage on Manzanita, photo by Dorothy B.

On May 8, certain areas of metro Denver and surrounding cities received anywhere from pea-sized, no harm wimpy hail or rain, to golf ball sized destructive, rip off every leaf down to branch damage hail. 

The aftermath called for a case of tissue. I can practically hear my garden friends crying from north Denver. Reports, photos and personal stories are still being reported. Golden and areas in west Denver and Lakewood seemed to get hit the hardest. Insurance companies are working 24/7 and roofers are signing up clients quicker than bindweed coiling up chain link fence. 

Our landscape dodged the golf ball sized bullets. It rained very hard with small hail that bounced around for several minutes, but no great harm or foul.

Image may contain: plant, tree, outdoor and nature
May 8, 2017 hail in Arvada, photo by Dave I.
Dorothy's herb knot garden (couple miles west of me) was shattered and sad.

Photo by Dorothy B.

So now what...the same rules apply after every hail event. Carefully prune off damaged foliage from perennials and shrubs. Wait. Call in a professional arborist to prune damaged limbs on mature trees. Wait. Lightly fertilize perennials in a week or two to give them a nutrient boost. Wait and replant as necessary, it's still very early in the season. 

Read more hail advice from these reputable resources - 

Caring for Storm Damaged Trees

Denver Post - How to Fix your Hail Damaged Garden in Colorado 

Oh Hail, What to do Now - Roses

Planttalk Hail Damage

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Japanese Beetle Spring Larvae Control

It is early in the season to be writing about a garden pest that doesn't even show its attractive coppery self until June or so. I'm not fond of giving any complements to Japanese beetles because of their insatiable, destructive appetites for many of our favorite landscape plants. However, there are effective control options that gardeners can focus on now prior to the adult beetle emergence from grass turf this summer. 

My recommendations are based on factual and research-based resources including Colorado State University Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Internet graphic from JMB Equipment
Keep in mind that there is a tremendous amount of misinformation about Japanese beetle controls out there. Comments are already showing up on local internet-community bulletin boards. My best advice is to read and follow the recommendations from reputable sources and remain informed. 
Spring Larvae Controls:

Following their life cycle will help in understanding when and what control products to use. Japanese beetles have a one-year four-stage life cycle (like butterflies, but JBs take one full year). The egg-larva-pupa-adult life cycle begins when the adult beetles emerge from their winter home (spent as larva and pupa) below turf grass. 

When they emerge along the Front Range is anyone's guess - in the past few years they have been seen as early as mid-June. My hunch is they may emerge earlier because of the warm Denver area winter and spring. Once they are flying as adults, they begin feeding, mating and laying eggs in turf grass so the cycle begins again. Check the graphic to see how they spend each quarter of their life. 

There are organic and synthetic products to use on grass turf in spring and again in the summer through fall during their egg laying period. Keep in mind that adults are very good fliers, so even if you treat your lawn, this is no guarantee they won't fly in from other neighborhoods. In large numbers JB larvae may cause turf die back as they eat their way through their grub stages, so treating the lawn is worth doing (IMO). 

University and Agriculture experts recommend treating the turf as soon as the female beetles emerge and begin laying eggs. On the many edu websites and reputable sources I've read, synthetic granular grub control products may not have much killing effect on mature overwintering grubs. Pay attention to when to apply products and read all the labels for their efficaciousness.

Check out the Colorado researched fact and information sheets linked below. As a quick summary, I have written my bullet points from my April 7, 2017 Denver Post Punch List -

Denver Post Punch List - Second Week of April
  • Japanese beetles have invaded certain areas in Denver, Littleton, Centennial and south into Pueblo. They are very destructive chewers of several ornamental flowers and foliage. In large numbers their larvae can cause turf die back. 
  • Adult Japanese beetles emerge from turf areas anywhere from late June into July. We are about two weeks ahead of spring, so consider treating the lawn now to kill their larvae.
  • Keep in mind that adult Japanese beetles are good fliers so treating your lawn doesn't mean they won't fly in from surrounding yards, parks, school grounds or golf courses.
  • Timing is everything, so apply grub control products soon, then again in the summer during their egg laying period.
  • Look for a product that is labeled for Japanese beetle grubs (larvae). Read and follow pesticide labels, some products may need to be watered in well after application.
  • Caution when using products containing imidacloprid and chlothianidin (neonicotinoid insecticides) that adversely effect pollinators like bees who visit blooming weeds including dandelions and white clover. Mow or remove any blooming plants in lawns before application.    
  • Products containing Chlorantraniliprole (trade names - Acelepryn or Scott's Grub-Ex) are fairly new registered insecticides that have a much lower potential hazard to pollinators than do other insecticides used for Japanese beetle larvae control.
  • Biological controls including parasitic nematodes and milky spore infect and reduce larva survival. These products can be pricey and may need repeated applications for control.
  • Colorado State University Extension and the Colorado Department of  Agriculture both recommend using a combination of controls to reduce numbers. This includes flicking adults into soapy water, and other recommended sprays for adults and products for grubs. Traps are not recommended for adults - they attract more adult beetles to the area.
  • Check out these three excellent research-based resources -
For links to the other blogs I've written on Japanese beetles, please click here - Japanese Beetle Blues 2016. The cedar oil "home brew" spray recipe for adult control of JBs in my blog is not research-based.