Thursday, December 28, 2017

Front Range Garden Class Resources 2018

A new garden year means a fresh start, a clean palette to dream, design and do. Resolve to sign up for some classes or workshops and get the brain energized and filled with the right stuff. Happy New Garden Year 2018, 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. The first group - seminars, workshops and conferences charge fees unless otherwise noted

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.  

Please check back often for updates to the lists.


Adams County CSU Extension and Brighton Shares the Harvest Spring Vegetable Gardening Classes February 24, March 31 and April 28 Brighton

CSU Extension Certified Gardener Program flexible year round online training 
Gardening for Success Laramie County, WY April 14 and 15, Cheyenne

Community Forester Program Denver

Native Plant Master Program in 2018

Cottage Food Safety Training - Dates and locations starting in 2018

Denver Urban Gardens Calendar of Events 

Master Composter Training Through Denver Urban Gardens, begins in March 

FREE Rose Pruning Workshop and Demonstration April 29, Golden

Battling the Japanese Beetle May 1, June 9, Denver 

FREE Rose Pruning Workshop and Demonstration May 5, Littleton

DIY Landscaping with Natives June 1, Littleton

Fairmount Cemetery Annual Tour of the Heritage Rose Garden June 3, Denver

Native Plant Master Course at Deer Creek Canyon 3 sessions in June, Littleton

Native Plants for Birds July 14, Littleton 

Wetland/Riparian Plants of the Front Range August 2, Littleton

Edible Flower Class September 4, Lyons, CO  

Grasses of the South Platte September 15, Littleton 

Trees for Landscaping September 21, Longmont

Discover Native Plants October 6, Littleton

Collecting and Sowing Wild Flower Seeds October 16, Golden 

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 
The Gardens on Spring Creek Ft. Collins  
Growing Gardens Boulder  
The Arboretum at Regis University Denver
The Hudson Gardens  Littleton
Pikes Peak Urban Gardens Colorado Springs
Montrose Botanic Gardens
Plains Conservation Center Aurora
Western Colorado Botanical Gardens Grand Junction

AREA GARDEN CENTERS: too numerous to mention, please call area stores or check their websites or Facebook for their 2018 classes.


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

Farewell Gardening Season 2017

Another year of weather wackiness, world and national escapades. Closer to home it was a good tomato year, first one in many years, so something was going my way.

Please join me in looking back on the 2017 tomato year and more.

Ah...the weather in Colorado, always a safe conversation starter.

During the first quarter of any winter season, it's fairly easy to gauge how much and how often it snows in the Denver area based on the number of times a snow blower or shovel is used. This past January through April, we used our snow blower twice, hardly worth having it tuned up this season.

In addition to being almost bone dry the month of January, we had balmy days reaching sixty degrees. February and March where such winter "lamb" months that all you needed was sun screen and a rake to start early garden clean up. In February we had close to twenty days of over fifty degrees and reached seventy-eight on February 10. In March we had eleven days in the sixties and nine days in the seventies. No need to be a snow bird and head south during the Colorado winter of '17!

It snowed in late April followed by the catastrophic hail storm on May 8 that hit the west and north areas of metro Denver. I won't forget that day. I was in Longmont and headed back to Denver later that afternoon. My volunteer supervisor cautioned me about the storm and suggested I stay in the office for awhile, good call.

Internet Photo ABC News

Once in the car I crawled home slowly, ready to turn back if needed while glued to the radio weather news and the stormy sky up ahead. And it was of those dynamic spring skies with blue directly above, powdery gray in the not so distant foreground that was butting up to the streaky, mean sky. 

Internet Photo Denver Post
I followed the storm that left devastation in its wake and ankle+ high moving rivers of hail on the highway. Sure, I had white knuckles driving that day, but nothing like the folks who were in their cars getting hit so hard by softball size hail that it shattered their windshields. BTW, car body shops still have a wait list (in to late 2018) to repair cars from this storm.

And as you can guess, gardeners cried during and after the hail storm, maybe you were one of them. I cried with you and again ten days later when our house had a direct hail hit. We had some warning so I covered my favorite plants with as many covers I had on hand. I learned during that storm that patio tables and chairs can be used over shorter plantings for a quick, easy cover. If you're worried about the table getting damaged by hail, cover it with an old blanket or tarp. Weigh it down with bricks or boards.  

Patio Table over Herb Bed 5-18-17 Storm
By June 10 we hit the low nineties and settled in to a long, hot summer. It continued in September followed by a warm October. 

Veil over Smart Pot to keep JBs off 
Our vegetable garden had a very good producing summer, not the case for many friends and gardeners who lived in other neighborhoods. Many of their tomato blossoms dried, which means less fruit. I even escaped the common tomato diseases and psyllid pest insects which often find our address. 

Japanese beetles had another banner year in our garden and many other areas, they are definitely on the move. Friends found them for the first time in parts of Arvada and Golden. If you want to read all my JB beetle woes and management hints, start here, I've written several blogs on them - Japanese beetles and here for the fall re-cap.  

The flowers and blooming shrubs and trees were happy in bloom so made us happy as well.

Maple Tree Near our House
As in 2016, this past recent fall was visually delightful - the autumn colors were prominent and long lasting. It also seemed like the fruits and seedheads on shrubs, hawthorns, crab apples and many more plants held on for weeks, which only added to the orange, red and purple fall color parade. 

Winter has finally arrived in the Denver area (the mountains are getting some snow, they need more). Snow has been spotty along the Front Range - we'll welcome any moisture to replenish our dry soils from the dry fall season. Warm days in the fifties and sixties seem to sneak in here and there between the brief cold snaps. 

Take advantage of the dry days above forty degrees to water unfrozen new plantings and south facing areas of the landscape. After you drain the hoses, head inside for a warm cup of (your choice) and peruse the 2018 garden catalogs. Dog ear the pages or bookmark the company on your toolbar. Place your orders soon but save some dollars and support your local garden retailers. Better yet, stroll on in to your favorite store, get some seeds and other garden supplies. Breathe in the moist air and dream...of you know what...spring. 😎

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Winter Arrives with Brrrr what we're going to say and feel in a day or two as we get closer to Christmas Day, the end of Hanukka and the winter solstice of 2017. Seinfeld fans may remember the episode where they celebrated Festivus, the anti-commercial celebration of the season (December 23).

It's been a joy writing my blog scribbles each week and I more than appreciate your readership. Thank you very much! Please continue to follow me as I share my garden tales in to the New Year. My prediction is it will be the best tomato year ever.....for everyone!

Look for a couple more blogs next week with my thoughts about the 2017 gardening season and the start of the 2018 list of not to be missed Front Range garden classes and events.

Stay warm and enjoy your time with family and friends.  

My Favorite Photo of Ferris, Winter 2015 

"Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart"  Victor Hugo

Monday, December 11, 2017

Parched December Landscape

Repeating this timely blog from three years ago - with a few revisions.

Few do it on a regular basis. More people need to do it on warm days. I'm not talking about taking a walk on a pleasant sixty-degree winter day. I'm referring to giving your trees and landscape a much needed deep drink of water.

In the Denver area we've had a trace of precipitation the past several weeks. On November 27 we set a record high of 81 degrees. This morning I saw two honeybees on the still blooming blue scabiosa (pincushion plant).

You might be thinking because its winter there's no need to be concerned about watering the landscape. Who actually waters their plants this time of year? Gardeners and homeowners who pay attention to the year round needs of their plants, that's who. 

The best way to find out if you need to water is to grab your longest screw driver and poke it down in to the ground through the mulch, the grass and especially on sunny south, west or southwest facing areas. Check anywhere the soil isn't frozen. If it doesn't go down easily, then you're dry, if you need to use most of your weight to get it down, then you're parched.

Winter watering is one of the best things you can do for your landscape. On-going or prolonged dry plant roots in the winter can lead to root damage, death or reduced plant vigor. 

During the middle part of the day when temperatures are over forty degrees, set up your sprinkler and move it around the drip line (outer branch tips) of trees or close to the trunk if the tree is new or young. 

I make it super easy on myself and set the timer and move the sprinkler every 15 to 20 minutes or so. Circle back and repeat the same spots (soak and cycle) if the area is severely dry. Soak and cycle helps the water soak down avoiding water waste and run-off. 
If you want to use the deep root soil needle then plan on an hour or more of hands-on time for large trees and other areas. Insert the soil needle down no more than a foot or eight inches (that's where most of the roots are located) and let it run five or so minutes in each spot, you'll know when the area is saturated. Move it every five to eight feet around the tree. Don't forget the shrubs too.

You can also use a soaker-hose, some call them weeping hoses and extend it around the tree drip line (or closer for new trees). Make sure the water pressure is low so it soaks downward and not up and misting the air. Leave it in place until the screw driver goes down easily (check after thirty minutes), you may need to soak and cycle using the soaker if the area is super dry. Keep in mind that soaker-hoses aren't as easy to place around the tree when the hose is cold from being in your shed or garage, use some stakes to keep it in place. 

Check your landscape every four to six weeks if there's a dry weather pattern. 

If you are growing garlic that was planted last fall they probably need a drink too, check them! 

After watering you still have time for that winter walk, or maybe some frisbee. The golf courses must be having a banner fall season!

Additional local watering resources:

Fall and Winter Watering from CSU Extension

Watering Tree Care Guide from Denver Water

Planttalk Fall & Winter Watering

Thursday, December 7, 2017

My Mom

When you lose a parent or a loved one time seems to stand still. My 92-year old Mother passed away the day before Thanksgiving and it feels like the Christmas season has begun without me. I'm going to try to catch up very soon, but grieving doesn't have a timetable, ask anyone.

If you are reading this blog and know me personally then you know my Mother has been a role model for many of my behaviors (good and not so good). She shaped and encouraged an entire family of gardeners - from my three siblings to their spouses, children and countless cousins. Most of my aunts and uncles planted seeds and tended flowers during their lives. My remaining Aunt Jo, given name Mary Ruth, gardened for years in Billings, having worked at a popular garden center before retirement. Customers sought her out for her plant and planting wisdom. She's 94 and the last remaining sibling of ten, my Mother was the youngest. Aunt Pat (Pauline) died just a few years ago at age 100. 

Mom and Me, windy-bad hair day! Easter 2014
Why all the male sounding monikers for my aunts? According to all seven aunts, my grandfather was hoping for more boys, but they only had three, so he decided to give them all (or most) male sounding nicknames. I'm not sure if that would be politically correct today, but it worked in the early part of the twentieth century when Sherman and Emma were starting their family. My Mom was called 'Dickie,' another aunt was named 'Kelly.' I already mentioned Aunt Jo and Aunt Pat. The eldest, Florence became known as 'Sister,' probably because she was the first born and they didn't know how many girls were ahead. Her role in the family was being the big "sister" who helped my grandparents raise the younger kids. 

I think grief sharpens our memories to help us cope and keep loved ones close. I'll miss the Sunday afternoon phone calls when we mostly talked about the weather, always back to gardening, don't you know. My frantic call near the holidays to ask for the special ingredient in the green bean casserole - there really isn't one, unless Velveeta is considered special. How deep are potato seeds planted? I already miss the December goody package of her delicious peanut brittle, which I always shared with others, especially my father-in-law who looked forward to it as much as me. Her Christmas gifts for many years have been a Montana imprinted shirt, tote or something clever and useful like an embroidered oven mitt. She ordered them from my older brother who owns a small embroidery and pack/mail business. 

Days ago while clearing her house I came across a bright purple bag containing some pretty holiday themed silky women's scarves. I had no idea why she put them in the place I was emptying - the antique buffet cupboard near the dining room table. My brother told me she had recently purchased them for my sister and me for Christmas, having run out of time or ideas of something to order from Paul's shop. My Mom was tired, not well, and most likely in the know of what was happening to her health. 

My Mother was a doer, she completed any task she set her mind to doing. Add the no nonsense approach and attitude and you'll get the full picture of her personality. My husband says she didn't suffer fools gladly. Per my brother's observation, our family was a very early example of the latch-key generations to follow. Both parents worked to provide a home and support four children. Mom stayed home with my older brothers and sister until I started first grade (there wasn't kindergarten back then). When I turned six she went back to practicing nursing, working the seven to three shift in order to be home when I got home from school. She fixed dinner every night and did all the motherly chores we all know. My Dad was helpful and a loving Father, but back then married roles were clearly defined and followed.

Before we both left town my sister and I visited the hospice home where she died since we weren't present at the time of her death. We wanted to meet the nurse and let her know how thankful we were for her care of our Mom. She hugged us first (tightly) and then told us how our Mother knew all the ins and outs of hospice care (she volunteered for them for ten years), and had been a lifelong nurse. Vickie described Mom as being no nonsense, of course my sister and I nodded in agreement. Lee, my sister was quick to add that "it was great that she was no nonsense, unless you lived with it full time!" We all laughed - a respectful laugh.
Mom's Primroses

In addition to gardening she loved to read and was part of an active book club with her church friends right up to the end of her life. She was part of the volunteer church group who made sandwiches for homeless shelters in Billings. 

She enjoyed decorating her south facing bay window with seasonal scenes so passing walkers could admire and enjoy. She loved old classic movies and PBS programs like 'As Time Goes By,' 'Ann of Green Gables' and 'Downton Abbey.' Her love of music included Pavarotti, Louis Armstrong, Roy Orbison and Christmas music. 'Joy to the World' was her favorite. And musicals - 'Oklahoma,' 'My Fair Lady' and The Sound of Music' to name her top must watches. My parents always had a dog with a great yard to play. Her very old, yet still happy, mixed-breed dog Toby was put down just a week prior to her death. 

Mom wanted to die at home, she almost got her wish. She spent just a few hours in the hospital emergency room early Sunday morning before Thanksgiving. She told the hospital staff and my two bothers that she wanted to go to the hospice home immediately. Tom, my bother took her to her house, they had some soup and gathered a few of her belongings. We talked Sunday evening on the phone and I told her that I loved her, she died just three days later peacefully in her sleep, out of pain from slow growing lung cancer.

Ever Happy Toby!
My hope is that as we inch toward a New Year and then spring, I'll be refreshed and renewed to begin a new gardening season. I know my Mom would have planted her geranium slips outside in May and enjoyed seeing the first blooms on her roses. Her favorite plants were primroses and hybrid tea roses - 'Double Delight,' 'Chrysler Imperial,' and 'Peace.' 

She also enjoyed her bougainvillea, Christmas cactus and several indoor plants. Her ficus and jade plants were giants and loved her east facing sunny window. Mom looked forward to spring tulips, summer zinnias and homegrown vegetables. She grew peas and potatoes, hoping to enjoy creamed early potatoes and peas by the fourth of July. She canned tomatoes, peaches and cherries, a task she mastered early in a large family that survived on home farming and selling chicken eggs.

From the King James Bible - Ecclesiastes 3:2 

"A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, 
and a time to pluck up that which was planted."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Losing a Mother and Gardener

Dear Blog Reader - I'll be taking a couple weeks off from writing to spend time with family. My Mother passed away and my focus will be elsewhere until it's time to come back to the keyboard.  

My very best to you for a wonderful Thanksgiving and Holiday Season.  

Sending heavenly well wishes to the best gardener I know - Madylene, known as 'Dickie' by many, but Mom to me.

I love you Mom!

Tilling my Mom's garden a few years ago, she had the BEST soil!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Bulbs - There's Still Time to Plant

We're having a very mild fall season along the Front Range of Colorado - which means there's still time to plant bulbs in the ground in non frozen areas. This includes ornamental bulbs (tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, etc.) and garlic planting stock. Also, consider planting ornamental bulbs in containers for outdoor cold storage for 16-18 weeks. After that time move the container indoors to enjoy cheery spring blooms.

Below are some helpful resources to help you plant.

Jefferson County Master Gardeners Video - Gardening Power to the People: Planting Bulbs

Garlic Planting Video Link - Planting Garlic

Friday, November 10, 2017

Outdoor Winter Containers - Store or Style

A few years ago I wrote about decorating outdoor containers for landscape winter interest. The message bears repeating, along with some container storage tips if you prefer to focus on holiday lighting and getting ready to deck the halls.

What to do with outdoor containers after the growing season - will they make it through the winter?

Plastic containers are probably the most forgiving when it comes to surviving the recurrent freeze-thaw cycles in Colorado. In the past few years new, frost resistant plastic containers have been introduced and they may be fine sitting out all winter. 
If you have the space - store plastic containers in a garage, shed or under a protected eve. First toss the spent foliage and soil in to the compost bin. If disease plagued the plants like powdery mildew, just throw away the entire contents. 
Glazed and terra cotta containers are much less forgiving when it comes to winter conditions. Unlike plastic, these materials are porous so easily absorb moisture from winter rain, snow or remaining potting soil left in the container. 
When glazed and terra cotta containers freeze they often crack when the soil inside expands then warms up again. No doubt whomever coined the phrase 'crackpot' did so during the winter. 
One note about glazed containers - less expensive pots may not be glazed on the inside, or not fired at high temperatures which makes them more likely to crack during the winter. 
If they are glazed both out and inside, and fired at high temperatures when made, they may not absorb water - making them more winter proof. One way to tell quality is to lift it (or try to lift it), the heavier the better and if it's glazed inside, it will feel and look smooth, not rough.
For storage - if they're small enough to move, repeat the same procedure for glazed and terra cotta as plastic containers. Take one more step and carefully turn them upside down for good drainage and rest them on some bricks, bubble wrap or boards to prevent direct freezing to the ground. 
If your glazed or terra cotta containers are too large and you're not going to decorate them, then cover with a plastic tarp to keep them dry. Wrap with bubble wrap before or after the tarp for extra insulation. 
    Metal Containers - many are low cost
Any of the other materials used for outdoor containers including the newest recycled weatherproof plastic containers, concrete, marble, metal, fiberglass, wood and cast iron are the best bets to endure our tough outdoor conditions - generally for many seasons.

    Recycled  Weatherproof Plastic
    What are your outdoor fall-winter decorating goals?
    Do you need curb appeal? Your containers might be sitting there empty anyway - they can't or won't be moved. They would remain lifeless from November to May except for the neighborhood squirrel's regular visit to snack on his stash of acorn or buckeye nuts.  
    More "selling" curb appeal? A couple of houses went on the market on my block earlier this fall and the first thing I noticed was the owners (or their realtors) quickly replaced faded, dried geraniums with brightly colored mums. They looked inviting..."come on in and buy me."
    It's not enough the day after Thanksgiving to put out the blow up Santa workshop or the herd of pre-lit wire deer - better decorate the outdoor containers too!
    Put on the creative cap and have fun. Here are some basic guidelines, there are no absolute style rules:
    Empty the containers you're decorating - before they freeze. Frozen potting soil is difficult to remove unless it comes out in a solid block after being tipped over. Loose soil is easier to poke in branches or greenery. A couple of years ago I got a late start on decorating the front concrete urns and had to use some old heating pads to thaw the soil (silly, I know). It didn't work and it probably wasn't the safest thing to do. Thank goodness we had a warm spell in early November that year and in a couple of days I was in business.
    Gather the fill materials. This is where you can really go to town or the nearest thrift store, hobby store, discount center and for sure your favorite garden store. Don't overlook what's growing in your own backyard. Red and yellow dogwoods add color plus vertical winter interest. Dried foliage, flowers and seed pods add depth and interesting fall muted tones. Look for anything that will complement a green foliage base or skirt (my personal choice), but you don't have to stick to green. The container doesn't have to be the traditional - thriller - filler - spiller, although this model works for outdoor winter containers too. A container filled with pinecones and secondhand Christmas tree ornaments is simple, yet seasonal.
    Build it and they will come (to admire). Adding lights or some of the battery or pre-lit props add the final pop to any outdoor container masterpiece. Don't forget the wreath or swag on the front door.

      This is a rectangular metal container (they have square too) from Room and Board. If you're looking for weatherproof, there are more metal containers on the market then just a few years ago. 

      It's filled with internet ordered curly willow - that have lasted several years. They are stored in the basement in the off season. At the base are free fir branch cuttings from a nearby Christmas tree lot. Our outdoor containers are placed on our patio with a view from the living room - quite nice!

      This urn contains layered evergreen pine, blue spruce, and fir branches with tucked in winterberry and pine cones. Look for assorted green boughs in garden centers or try artificial. 

      The low container with birch, tillandsia and pinecones is meant for an indoor table but the same idea would work on an outdoor space. Instead of the air plants, opt for sprigs of pine or similar.

      This concrete container has curly willow, free fir cuttings from a Christmas tree lot and winterberry.

      For more examples and ideas, check Pinterest or search outdoor container images online. 

      Glazed Container with birch branches and pinecones

      A few years ago we took out a birch tree and kept several branches. In the fall I place them in the blue glazed container along with some pine cones. Some years I place evergreen boughs around the base.

      Happy outdoor container decorating fun!

      Thursday, November 2, 2017

      "The Boys of Summer Have Gone"

      Congrats to the Houston Astros, a first time win for this franchise. The Dodgers also played well so the win could have gone to either team. Pro baseball is one long season - spring/summer/fall. Does this remind you of any other outdoor activity? Can you believe these thirty teams play 162-games every year? That's a lot of run-hit-score motion and reminds me of the grade school joke - "What has eighteen legs and catches flies?" "A baseball team!" GROAN! 

      Mowing the leaves, will use to tuck in the beds
      What's next? For the "Boys of Summer" it's a long vacation, they probably aren't handed a leaf rake as soon as they walk in the door. For gardeners, it's finishing up the landscape clean up and savoring any remaining summer tastes of the garden season. 

      We had our three final ripe tomatoes on a salad a week ago. Winter squash dishes are on just about every restaurant menu and probably on your plate as well. One of our favorite fall recipes is squash soup from the 1996 December issue of Bon Appétit Magazine. Talk about deep, rich fall flavors, this is a go to must. Don't leave out the croutons - they make the soup. You probably have the fresh thyme and sage in your own garden that hasn't fully gone dormant. And one other tip - it's a pain to peel both the acorn and butternut squash, so precook them for easy peeling.  

      11-11-2014 Polar Vortex
      When the World Series finally ends it seems like we're so much closer to winter - which in Colorado can arrive in mere hours or a day. "I'm ready - the snow shovel is hanging right next to the rake."