Monday, February 29, 2016

2016 Tree Diversity Conference

Tap any gardener on the shoulder and ask them if they love trees. They would undoubtedly say yes, they would even go as far as to say they love all living plants, but that's a discussion for another time. If you care for your trees or trees in general, what better way to spend a day than hearing from tree professionals and their ideas on how to enhance a landscape for good looks or water conservation or both!

Tree Diversity Conference - DESIGN WITH MORE, TREE, TYPES is Thursday, March 3rd at Denver Botanic Gardens Mitchell Hall. Cost is $75.00 and includes lunch. The conference begins at 8:30 am.

From the DBG website - 

"The March 3, 2016 program will feature one of the foremost horticulture professors from the Front Range; a noted landscape architect with extensive xeriscaping experience in Texas and New Mexico; a Washington state horticulture professor noted for science-based debunking of arboriculture myths; and a Midwest arboretum owner, author and introducer of new tree cultivars. In addition we will hear a presentation on how many of the lesser-known tree species already growing in our region fared when tested against the severe weather events of the past year."

Register here-
Tree Diversity Conference

The speaker agenda from the DBG website -

Linda Chalker-Scott | Killing With Kindness: How We Enable Trees to Their Ultimate Demise.

This seminar will discuss the underlying problems with accepted planting practices including popular soil amendments and heavily marketed garden products that all contribute to landscape tree failure. Handouts will be provided and questions encouraged.

Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and ASCA consulting arborist. She is Washington State University’s extension urban horticulturist and an associate professor in the Department of Horticulture. She is the author of four books, most recently “How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do.” Along with her academic colleagues, she hosts “The Garden Professors” blog and Facebook pages, through which they educate and entertain an international audience.

David Cristiani | Dryland Trees: Onward!

It’s time to rethink our struggling urban forests, and set them on higher ground. Embracing what makes a place great, David will separate the false and cliché from inviting habitats--respectful of geography, climate extremes, limited water, soils and resulting patterns. Everyone benefits when trees mitigate urbanization on any scale and add visual drama, so put on your west-of-100 degree meridian eyes.

David Cristiani is a landscape architect registered in three states. He has spent over two decades designing public and private gardens of and for drylands, linking people to their appealing, natural sense of place. David researches ecoregions to inform better landscape design and assists growers by collecting seed of tough plants. He also writes and blogs about outdoor living. His design practice, Quercus, is based in El Paso.

Jim Klett | Thirty-Five Years of Tree Research and Teaching.

Dr. Klett will recap the highlights of his long tenure at CSU and the changes he’s seen in arboriculture practice and education, particularly how greater tree species availability can complement modern trends in landscape design. He will describe the history of his work with multi-site trialing of promising tree species and cultivars, the current status of PERC and the CSU Arboretum, and some of the plants he feels have the brightest future in the Colorado Front Range.

Jim Klett is professor of landscape horticulture and an extension landscape horticulturist at Colorado State University. He has been at CSU for 35 years and teaches in the areas of herbaceous and woody plant materials and in nursery production and management. He works directly with the green industry of Colorado, especially the nursery, arboriculture, garden center and landscape contractor industries. His research deals with landscape plant evaluation and introduction water requirements of landscape plants, green roofs and other culturally related concerns with landscape plants.

Sonia John and Mike Kintgen | Trees that Thrived, Trees that Survived and the Rest.

At our last two conferences we’ve heard about many uncommon tree species we might use to diversify our region’s urban forests. Extreme weather over the last year posed a severe challenge to many of those species and in fact even resulted in the loss of many common trees ordinarily considered reliable here. Mike and Sonia have scouted out and photographed a large number of lesser-known tree species to evaluate how well they handled the severe weather and will comment on the degree to which they can still be recommended for expanded use in the region.

Sonia John has been the chair of the organizing committee for this and the two prior tree diversity conferences. She was the senior author of the Denver Botanic Gardens-published book “Denver’s Canopy: the Nature of Deciduous Trees” and also wrote and illustrated the “Washington Park Tree Guide.” In the past she has worked closely with Drs. Martin Quigley and David Christophel, the first two directors of the University of Denver Arboretum.

Mike Kintgen is curator of alpine collections at Denver Botanic Gardens where he also oversees eight other gardens with significant collections of woody plants. A full time staff member of the Gardens since 2004, Mike has worked to increase the Gardens’ collections of Quercus, Sorbus and conifer species. Lately, he has been experimenting with various tree species on land at 8,200 ft. near Steamboat Springs. Mike has lectured nationally in Colorado and other states, and internationally in Sweden, Germany and Argentina about the Gardens and its current focus on steppe and high elevation floras in semi-arid regions around the world.

Guy Sternberg | The Artistic Morphology of Trees.

Find the inspiration of seeing trees with a broad new perspective. Guy covers the subtleties of seasons, lighting, tree features at eye level and ground level, fragrance, wildlife interactions, how to experience the full measure of trees and view-shed management as related to tree placement. Learn how to use the artistic features of your existing trees more effectively in the landscape and how to plan for new trees.

Guy Sternberg is the founder of Starhill Forest Arboretum in Petersburg, Illinois. Starhill is now a unit of Illinois College in nearby Jacksonville, IL. Guy retired after a long career with the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources and is a life member of the International Society of Arboriculture and the International Dendrology Society as well as a landscape architect. He is also a founding member of the International Oak Society. He has written two books on native American trees (Timber Press) and has introduced many new tree cultivars.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Use Up Your 'Put Up'

For many years, perhaps millions, gardeners have been 'putting up' their seasonally grown produce every fall season for later use. Maybe even 'Lucy', the three million old female hominin species of Australopithecus arafensisin dried some fruit each fall for winter snacking. All sorts of preservation methods are used to 'put up' home grown food. Canning, freezing, drying, smoking, salting, sugaring, and pickling are the most common.  My first choice is the easiest - freezing, especially for summer grown tomatoes and peppers. A rapid boiling water blanch, followed by a quick cooling off before being tossed into freezer bags and you're set for some delicious winter eats, which brings us to now.  

Who doesn't want something quick, great tasting and homemade after a long day? There is nothing as simple and easy as using your frozen tomatoes in sauces for winter lasagna, stew for chili or for just about any tomatoey recipe - no can opener required! When I am super lazy and need something in an hour or so, my first go to is tomato soup. Toss in some basil that you froze last fall and you're inching toward gourmet status or layers of flavor as they say in the foodie circles. 

Here's my recipe, feel free to tweak or heat it up with additional spices:

Ingredients - 
For two people use at least a dozen to fifteen frozen tomatoes, thaw them day of use for easy peeling or blanche them quickly in hot water and remove the skins.
Olive oil for heating the pan - couple tbsp
1/4 onion or more, finely chopped
1 or 2 scallions finely chopped, optional 
A couple of garlic cloves or more, finely chopped
One celery stock, finely chopped
Herbs from last fall or use fresh on hand - parsley, thyme, basil
1 cup or more of vegetable or chicken stock
Pinch of cayenne pepper for heat - optional
Red pepper flakes for heat - optional 
OR add spices to make it Mexican - cumin, chile powder, oregano, etc. 

1) Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pan.  Add the onions, scallions, celery and cook over low heat, stirring often for 3-5 minutes, add the garlic after 4 minutes or so.  

2) Add the thawed, peeled tomatoes (you can seed the tomatoes too, but don't mind the seeds, they add fiber), cover and simmer for thirty minutes, add thawed frozen basil or any other herbs you 'put up' last fall (or fresh, chopped herbs). 

3) Remove the pan from the heat, cool slightly and add the mixture to a food processor or blender (do it in batches if making more soup).  Process to a smooth puree or leave it a bit chunky (your choice).  

4) Add this mixture to a the cup of stock and bring to boil, season to taste with cayenne, salt, pepper. 

5) To vary - add some cooked pasta shapes or white beans or whatever you like that works with tomato soup.  Often we'll stir in a little half and half to make it more creamy.  Top with homemade croutons, parmesan cheese chips or pumpkin seeds.  Or top with sliced avocado for a Mexican twist.     

Yum, serve with a grilled cheese sandwich and you're all set!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Check your Sunscreen and Trees

When we have a warm stretch of weather it's a reminder to buy more sunscreen if you're getting low and to drag out the hoses and water your trees.  I checked the ground moisture around our trees earlier in the week after the snow melted, it was dry. Keep in mind that the snow shadow below and around the lower branches of most trees may prevent some important moisture from getting to the roots.  Newly planted or not yet fully established trees (~five years) need regular moisture even through the winter if the ground isn't frozen or blanketed with snow.  
The watering steps are easy-
  • Mid day so moisture has time to soak in before temperatures fall or freeze at night
  • Move the frog-eye or your sprinkler of choice around the outer branches every 30 minutes or so. A soil needle works well too (move every 5 minutes).
  • After each area has soaked in well check the moisture by inserting a long screw driver into the mulch or soil around the tree.  It's not a technical measure of soil moisture, but if it goes in easily, you're good (so is the tree). 
  • Winter watering trees are priority in the landscape since they usually have the highest value, but don't forget to check other areas and water new plants that went in last spring, summer or fall.
  • More landscape tips - Winter Watering
  • Drain the hoses, but keep them close by, we may have another stretch or two of warm days before spring arrives and decides to stay. 

Now which drawer did I put the new tube of sunscreen?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Winter Pruning Punch List

Internet Photo from
It's been unusually cold and snowy this winter.  That still works for gardeners who wisely use this time to focus on outdoor pruning.

Careful, correct, well-timed pruning will maintain tree and shrub health, beauty, value, and in the long run involve less, not more, maintenance. The goal is to enhance the plant’s natural shape and keep the branches headed in the right direction.


  • Tree and shrub pruning can seem daunting: when to prune, how much to prune, what parts to prune and how to make the cuts?
  • Unless you’re skilled with pruning tools and balancing on tall ladders, schedule mature and older tree and shrub pruning now before bud break in early spring. Professional arborist credentials matter, so make sure they are International Society of Arboriculture certified.
  • If in doubt whether your trees or shrubs need pruning, consult with your arborist. Hire a well-trained, experienced professional, not a part time lawn care person. 

Prune crossing branches
  • DIY pruning on smaller fruit and ornamental trees (less than 25’) and shrubs should be completed prior to spring budding and flowering (usually early March).
  • Prune trees that tend to bleed sap later in spring, after their growth flush–maples, birch, and aspen. However, winter pruning will not harm sappy trees.
  • Prune these conditions at any time of the year – dead, diseased, crossed or rubbing branches, and hazard or structurally damaged limbs that may fall. Exceptions are trees prone to fireblight (apples, crabapples, pear, and hawthorns) – don’t prune in spring when the bacteria is most active.
  • Train by pruning trees when they are young to maintain the desired branching structure (two distinct habits)–one with a central leader (or single trunk) all the way to the top, such as linden, pines, aspen. Or trees that have a more rounded form with several secondary branches (scaffolds) that originate from the trunk like elm, maple and honeylocust.

    Internet photo from
    • How much to prune trees depends on the age of the tree and how much it grows yearly. Rule of thumb – mature trees, prune 5-10%; medium-aged to small trees 10-25%. Generally no more than 25% of the live crown should be removed on any sized tree in one growing year.
    • Common types of pruning cuts (what parts and how much) include reduction cuts used mainly for young trees, and to reduce crown size where a larger branch or trunk is removed back to a smaller branch. Use heading cuts to remove leggy growing tips on young trees only and removal cuts on smaller branches (thinning) to open up the canopy and encourage growth. 
    Internet photo from
    • Proper pruning for branches larger than one inch diameter is based on a three-cut method. 
    • The first cut is on the underside of the limb, one to two feet out from the trunk, one third to halfway through the branch. 


    Internet photo from

    • Incorrect shrub pruning or pruning done at the wrong time may lead to deformed, weakened plants with fewer flowers, fruit or foliage. Avoid shaping woody shrubs into perfect mounds, squares or pompons.
    • When to prune is based on the shrub growth habit (mounding like spirea), cane (like forsythia), tree-like (viburnum) and flowering time.
    • Prune spring and early summer flowering shrubs like quince, forsythia, Nanking cherry, lilac, viburnum, weigela, honeysuckle, peashrub, and bridalwreath spirea right after blooming. Sometimes these blooming shrubs may need thinning or rejuvenation prior to bloom – realize some of this season’s flowers will be sacrificed. Prune Lilac After Bloom
    Pruning cane-type shrubs like forsythia, photo from Fine Gardening

    • Prune late summer flowering shrubs like potentilla, Annabelle and Peegee hydrangea, rose of Sharon, dogwood, burning bush, St. John’s wort, blue mist spirea and butterfly bush (Buddleia spp. and Cassia spp.) in late winter before bud break.
    • Branch anatomy will help you prune - shoots (branch growth after one season) on shrubs grow outward from their tips. Removing tips will stimulate any lower buds (undeveloped leaf, flower or shoot) to grow.
    • Two common types of shrub pruning cuts that affect future plant growth – thinning and heading cuts.
    • Thinning removes a stem or branch completely to the ground or to where it attaches. Thinning reduces shrub density and is used on crowded, tangled shrubs or shrubs with few flowers.
    • Heading is cutting a shoot or limb back to a bud or existing shoot– this promotes branching and bud growth. Which direction the top remaining bud is pointing will determine the direction of new growth. Prune ¼ inch above the bud, away and angled down, never too close to the bud or it may die.
    • Selective heading cuts reduce height, but maintain the natural shape of the plant.
    • In general, to create more shrub fullness, prune just above a bud pointing outward or away from the tree. To keep it narrow prune above an inward pointing bud.
    • Renew older or overgrown shrubs every year (for three years) by removing up to one-third of the thickest, oldest stems all the way to the ground. This opens the canopy allowing more air and light.
    • Renovation pruning is drastic removal of all stems back to six inches from the ground. This is done to promote better flowering and reduce plant size, but not for all shrubs. Try – forsythia, lilacs, barberry, spireas, mockorange, dogwood, flowering quince and privet.
    • Prune hedges in the shape of a pyramid instead of wider at the top for better light. Cut little, but often (after 6-8 inches of growth). More-Hedges
    • Use appropriate, clean and sharpened tools – bypass lopping shears (use on 1-1/2” branches) , pruning saw (2” or larger branches), pole pruning saw (hard-to-reach, high places), bypass pruner (small twigs).
    • Always wear protective clothing, safety glasses and gloves when pruning. 

    Whacked shrubs in late fall - Wrong time and not cut correctly!

    • Non-selective heading cuts or just whacking the top of the shrub (hair cutting) is a no-no except for maintaining hedges.
    • One trunk is best – when young, do not allow trees to develop codominant trunks where each trunk is about the same size and right next to each other, or V-shaped. These trees are prone to breakage or splitting from storms.
    • Never cut into the branch collar. This creates a flush cut and large wound that invites disease, decay and cracks.

    Never Top a Tree

    • Never top or stub a tree, or hire someone who does. Topping happens when the main vertical leader or other side and upper limbs are cut back to stubs. Topping makes trees look unattractive, weakens their ability to make food for healthy growth and leads to growth of excessive weak-wooded water sprouts.
    • Do not “lion-tail” prune were too many interior branches are removed leaving heavy weighted branch ends.
    • Never prune during freezing temperatures, tree damage to the cambium (inner cell area where water and nutrients flow) may occur.
    • Do not prune trees or shrubs that are stressed during drought periods.
    • Wound dressing sprays or paints are not recommended.
    • Evergreen trees and shrubs need little pruning. For pines, pinch off 1/3 of the new candle tips in spring to maintain compact or bushy growth.
    • Juniper and arborvitae pruning needs a soft touch, focus cuts back to where side shoots begin. Shearing is not recommended and never prune branches back to bare wood, that area will never grow back.

    Super Win!

    Internet photo from

    Thursday, February 4, 2016

    A Superbowl of Plants by Carol O'Meara

    Friends - check out Carol's article on top or "Superbowl" plants for your garden.  She asks some plant professionals about their top plant choices.  More ideas for spring planting!  GO BRONCOS!

    A Superbowl of Plants by Carol O'Meara

    Carol is the Boulder County Extension Agent

    Hot Wings® Maple trees in our side-yard, before samaras

    Red samaras appear in summer, Photo from Plant Select®

    Monday, February 1, 2016

    Shovel Time - Be Careful Out There!

    Cripple Creek, CO January 2008
    Snow shoveling is tiring, aah...really? It gives the biceps a good workout, but oh...the back! Are you lifting with your knees and taking frequent breaks?  According to the University of Vermont Extension - "snow shoveling is one of the most high intensity exercises you can do.  You are using all your major muscle groups" (does that include my brain)? "If you load a shovel (two plus pounds) with ten pounds of snow every five seconds, you move a load of over one hundred forty pounds per minute."  They say that's more than a ton of snow moved in fifteen minutes! Maybe it's time to book a flight south, anywhere there's no snow!  Nope, I'm staying put. "Who would shovel if we left town?"

    Click here for a short video on correct shoveling - Proper Shoveling Techniques 

    I'm reaching far back to the early 80's when quoting Sergeant Phil Esterhaus from Hill Street Blues- "Let's be careful out there." Anyone with health issues is probably better off staying indoors. Hopefully you have a kind neighbor, friend or relative who is helping with the shoveling chores. Some neighborhood associations have organized volunteers to assist those who need some support. In my neighborhood there's a group called A Little Help. Read how this group got started- Denver Post Seniors Stay in Homes with Help.  

    Photos from past snowy years -

    Garlic April 2014
    Snowy Landscape February 2015
    Raised Beds, December 2006

    Ferris IS a snowball, April 2013