Monday, January 26, 2015

Garden Myths and Secrets

The use of passed down pearls of wisdom and urban garden myths to improve plants and landscapes is as common as homemade cold and flu recipes. Has someone in your garden circle suggested some fool-proof miracle cure, product or technique to fix what’s ailing your plant or make it grow better? 

We’ve heard methods like using a high middle number fertilizer to grow bigger flowers or bloom more often, or high nitrogen to produce stronger roots or greener foliage. How about mulches, do evergreen needles acidify surrounding soils? Marigolds are supposed to repel certain soil pests in the vegetable garden. What are the actual scientific facts about companion planting? And what’s a gardener to do with all this advice from so-called experts or disguised “snake-oil” claims on websites?

How to Mulch a Garden with Pine Needles
Photo by (Dale Davidson/Demand Media)
Believe it or not some of the age-old remedies actually work and research backs them up. Other areas simply haven’t been studied, so the advice is debatable. The take-home advice is that there is good, solid garden information out there and some that is just plain wrong. If you’re like me, you like hearing about these myths as well as the "why" and "how" they came about. But most importantly, you want to know the facts, where to find them and the best ways to grow a healthy and attractive garden. All these questions and more will be answered in my upcoming class, Garden Myths and Secrets, at Denver Botanic Gardens! So I’ll see you in class and let you know if adding eggshells around tomato plants actually prevents blossom end rot.

Garden Myths and Secrets class on Thursday, February 5 from 6-7:30 pm. Register online or call 720-865-3580 to register.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Plant Choices - Plant Select® Plant Smarter

Temptation, excitation, compulsion and invitation.  No, I'm not describing the latest best selling romance novel. I'm talking about the lure of new garden plants.  They are introduced each and every year right on schedule, just like the new season of Downton Abbey. Are you still saddened over Matthew Crawley's death from a car accident?  We can move on from Downton, but what about all those new plants?

Hopflower Oregano photo by Pat Hayward/Plant Select®
Is there any way to resist new plants when the ease of the computer click to purchase..."fill in the amount"... then "send" is overwhelming?  Or loading up the wagon cart at the garden center in May? Here's my best advice."Shop Smarter" and the first place to look and plan is from Plant Select® designated plants. 
Smoky Hills Skullcap, photo from Plant Select®
If you have no idea what  Plant Select® means then here's a quick primer. Plant Select® is a collection of plants designed to thrive in the high plains and intermountain regions. That's definitely us along the Front Range and throughout the Rocky Mountain Region, many grow at higher elevations. The program began in 1997, a collaboration from three groups - Colorado State University horticulturists, Denver Botanic Gardens and green industry professionals.  New plants (under ten) are introduced each year that pass a five-year 7-point smart selection process:
  • Thrive in broad range of conditions
  • Flourish with less water
  • Tough and resilient in challenging climates
  • One of a kind/unique
  • Disease/insect resistance
  • Long-lasting beauty
  • Non-invasive 
 The smart plant features that result include: 
  • Beautiful
  • Adaptable
  • Durable
  • Water-wise
  • Easy to care for
  • Have lower negative environmental impact and higher positive impact
  • Tough and beautiful at the same time

Carol Mackie Daphne, photo by Pat Hayward
"So how do you find out which ones you want for your garden and where to buy them?"  I wish all plant questions were this easy.  Click here Plant Select® to start. You can view the latest introductions for 2015 by clicking on the PLANTS tab, upper left. Need a specific plant based on type, size, color, sun/shade conditions and other characteristics, then go straight to search plants under the same PLANTS tab. 

The Plant Select® program includes perennials, groundcovers, shrubs, trees, annuals, grasses, vines and petites.  Among these you'll find roses, herbs and edibles.  Click here for Plant Select® Videos.

So pour yourself a hot beverage and delight in the fact that you can easily search around this friendly website. You'll also find lists of retailers in your area who carry Plant Select®, public demonstration gardens to view through the seasons, interesting plant stories and professional plant designs that you can adapt to your own garden.  

I kid you not, this website will keep you happy and clicking for hours! The plants are sold and often grouped together in a specified Plant Select® area (ask where they are located) at local independent garden centers.  Each plant is clearly tagged with the logo along with growing instructions. Just like any other plant you purchase it is important to place these plants in the right location and soil conditions.  Many grow best in well-drained soils with pebble rock mulch, others do fine in shade or part sun with wood mulch. 
Fire Spinner® Iceplant, photo by David Winger/Plant Select®
If you can't tell already, I dig this program. All the heavy lifting and hard work of selecting plants that will look great and grow well has been done for you by well-respected and very knowledgeable plant professionals in our area.  Some of the plants may already be familiar to you because they are not brand new introductions, rather ones that haven't been noticed or not often planted.  Examples include the Russian Hawthorn and Weeping White Spruce trees. Other plants are brand new introductions like Fire Spinner® and Crystal River® Veronica

And finally your smart plant benefits include:
  • Having the right plants for the right climate means more chance of success
  • Having an environmentally-smart garden
  • More garden beauty with less work
  • Gardens that flourish longer with fewer resources
  • Gardens that can save time and money
  • Gardens that are smarter for the planet  
Oxlip Primrose, photo by Panayoti Kelaidis

Through the season I will write about some of my favorite Plant Select® plants.  Stay tuned, now start shopping!

Plant Select® 


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Welcome January

Many people greet January with a bit of the post holiday blues, and a pound or two heavier or both.  Not gardeners, well maybe the weight gain part, but that will easily be worked off when the gardening season commences.  In the mean time use the winter months to get your mental garden game in tune and ready for the new season.

To get started for the new year please read my Denver Post 'Punch List' (also called 'To Do' list) on this link - January Garden To Do List. Thank you so much if you're already doing so. Through the year you can read these monthly (September through March) or weekly (April through August) columns by clicking on the links to the left.  I post them to this blog as soon as they are published on the Denver Post's website.  I also link them on Facebook and Twitter. 

Don't forget to sign up for a garden class or two or more from the many resources available in our community.  Many are free or low cost.  Here's where to check for classes, not in any particular order. This is by no means a comprehensive listing, just a place to start looking.

Jefferson County