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." 

      Friday, October 27, 2017

      Halloween Forecast

      Right on cue Colorado weather changes in to fall (or winter) around Halloween. Until we get to the 31st we often experience extreme temperature highs to lows in a matter of hours. One day this week we hit a record of eighty-four degrees, less than twenty-four hours later we were in the thirties. It looks like Halloween will be in the forties - jacket weather for sure.

      Ferris is going as one of the Blues Brothers!
      Growing up in Montana, I remember Halloween being pretty cold. Wearing a coat over a costume always spoiled the look. "We didn't care, all we wanted was candy." Today, trick our treaters use sturdy, pumpkin themed candy totes, back in my day we used a paper sack or a pillow case. "The vessel didn't matter, all we wanted was candy." 

      In celebration of Halloween and associated themes feel free to read my bat article from 2015. Click on - Batty for Bats.

      Happy Halloween, hope your coat matches your costume.

      Saturday, October 21, 2017

      Flashy Fall

      Do you wonder if nature is prideful? Perhaps a bit boastful and flashy about the clever way she paints fall leaf colors and manages the light angles and intensity? She must be justifiably full of herself this season, the colors are remarkable - take a walk before they all fall down.

      In my October 20, 2017 Denver Post Punch List, I write about why leaves change color and include some other timely fall chores.

      Below are a few recent photos from around central Denver. The top two are maples, lake photo is from Washington Park and you know Ferris - standing near 'Autumn Brilliance' Serviceberry, a wonderful large shrub or small tree that grows well in Colorado.



      Thursday, October 19, 2017

      Canada Getaway - Part II Vancouver

      Our vacation to Canada was earlier in September, but the sights and sounds are quick to the memory forefront as I remember pristine coastal waters back dropped by impressive mountains, parks and gardens within a busy, metro city. The place - Vancouver, British Columbia was the second stop on our six-day vacation. As always, we didn't have enough time to experience what's listed in the guide books, but what we saw was more than worth the price of the favorable monetary exchange rate.

      Our brief stay was picture weather perfect with sunny skies and mild temperatures - not at all like the locals description of mostly rain, then some more rain, followed by a drizzle, then a downpour and more rain. It made me wonder if people had to dust off their sandals instead of wearing their usual galoshes and gor-tex. My water resistant light hikers worked out just right for all the city gawking and Stanley Park exploring one can do in two and a half days.

      We arrived to Vancouver via ferry from Victoria, B.C. where we started our Canadian vacation. The witty bus driver from downtown Victoria drove us right on to the massive ferry - we were the first bus on and first bus off, he must know people. The ninety minute ferry was a like a smooth flight in first class, only the seating was for hundreds. 

      The ferry had six decks, restaurants, a game room, shopping and plenty of space on the outside decks to breathe in the views or stare at your mobile device, which is what the locals were doing. Upon arrival to the Tsawwassen Ferry outside of Vancouver, we re-boarded the bus for a quick thirty minute ride through scenic downtown. With a friendly farewell we were dropped a block from our hotel.

      Do you remember that feeling of unexpectant joy as a kid when you walked by the candy shelf in the grocery store with your Dad and he says it's okay to buy something? Then he smiles and hands you fifty cents (hey, I grew up in the 60s when that was a lot of moola). 

      That's the jubilant surprise Glen and I felt as we walked by the Vancouver Art Gallery on our way to the hotel. Guess what exhibit was showing (not hard to guess, you see the photo). It couldn't have been scripted better for a gardener and lover of impressionist art - Claude Monet's Secret Garden.

      Needless to say, we checked in to our hotel quickly and dashed over to the exhibit where we ended up spending about the best three hours of any vacation.

      Ian M. Thom, Senior Curator–Historical at the Vancouver Art Gallery, couldn't have said it better. "This exhibition presents thirty-eight paintings spanning the course of Monet’s long career from the unparalleled collection of the Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris. It surveys the diversity of subjects in his art, from the portrayal of modern life in his early figure studies to the inventive treatment of light in his scenes of the Parisian countryside and views of the River Thames." I simply say "we hit the Monet exhibit jackpot!"

      'Water Lily Garden' 1918-1919
      Luckily for us this exhibit had been showing for several months and was leaving in October, so we were able to gape and gaze mostly unobstructed and unhurried.  
      What's so contemplative about viewing artists like Monet is there's just no way you'll not like his painting style (sorry if I'm being presumptuous). But we were looking at Monet, after all, the father of impressionism! It almost felt like I was a spy in to his private garden and seeing how he viewed it on both good and bad days, and perhaps during his few years of frustration with his eyesight.

      In case you don't know - Monet suffered from cataracts and was diagnosed with this condition in 1912. He underwent surgery in 1923. Often, people who struggle with cataracts have color vision and clarity issues, perhaps reflected in his 1921-1922 'Weeping Willow' painting?
      'Weeping Willow'
      You can imagine how thrilled we were viewing and studying each of his thirty-eight paintings. 

      We were almost asked to leave the exhibit area before closing. 

      Scroll down to see some of my favorites.

      The painting titled 'Wisteria' (1919-1920) was large and so beautiful that I stood there frozen and blinkless. I think this was the painting where Glen had to let me know that I couldn't move in to the gallery. 

      'Taking a Walk Near Argenteuil' 1875
      'Field of Yellow Irises at Giverny' 1887 
      'Roses' 1925-1926     It's not often I get to stand so close to a Claude Monet masterpiece!

      I'll end the Vancouver story here - even though we had a terrific time slow pedaling around Stanley Park plus an afternoon exploring VanDusen Botanical Garden - perhaps a future blog? 

      A quick morning flight back to Denver gave us plenty of time to stop by the dog sitter and pick up our happy, but tired from a week of play - Ferris.  

      Sunday, October 15, 2017

      Berries and Busyness

      It's been a busy weekend cleaning out spent foliage in the outdoor containers and the vegetable garden. Plus getting the raised beds ready for garlic planting this week - they're dry enough now after the snow storm last weekend. Ornamental bulbs need to be planted too. Needless to say, I'm a little behind in my blog writing, hope to catch up soon. These hawthorn tree berries remind of Bronco orange, let's hope for a winning season!

      Friday, October 6, 2017

      Cover your Sprinkler Pipes

      Colorado October weather can be anywhere from divine warm sixty degree days to disastrous, sudden cold - often with snow that can snap branches on leafed out trees in mere hours. Guess what is predicted in about seventy-two hours? Are you ready?

      I am prepared, mostly - the landscape trees and new plantings are well hydrated from recent rain storms, plus some supplemental deep root watering earlier in August. It's never a good thing for plants to go in to the fall and winter with dry roots. Dry means damage to the fine root hairs, so try to remember "winter - wet" (not sopping, but moist). Here's more information on fall and winter tree watering from CSU Extension.

      One easy to delay fall chore is scheduling the automatic sprinkler blow out. I'm guilty! In the meantime I have securely wrapped and covered the exposed back flow preventer and the attached pipes so they don't freeze. It's about a five minute job, so don't delay.  For extra insurance turn off the water to your sprinkler system. The shut off valve is usually inside the house (should be two shut offs, one for the sprinkler, one to the whole house). Drain excess water in the exposed pipes as well by opening the ball valves attached to the back flow preventer. Check out this video from the Broomfield Parks Department for a good resource to winterize your pipes.

      Also, please watch my short video on wrapping the sprinkler pipes. Ferris wanted to be part of the action.

      Sunday, September 24, 2017

      Tomato Harvest 2017

      Whiteflies on a yellow squash leaf that moved to the tomato plants
      The 2017 tomato season was a good one. It's about time. In the past few years, our plants were hit with either early blight, tomato spotted wilt virus, spider mites or psyllids. One year I think we had all four ailments!

      This summer started out being a challenge with extreme heat in July and August which caused some blossom drop. The plants caught up and started fruiting well in mid-August. One plant was pulled a few weeks ago due to a heavy infestation of whiteflies, that also plagued the nearby yellow squash plant. The four remaining tomato plants ended up being good producers and very tasty.

      'Sweet Chelsea' and 'Marmande'
      'Green Zebra' - will spread out the tomatoes so they ripen better

      Here's a video I did before the weather cool down.

      Saturday, September 23, 2017

      Glorious Garlic

      The temperature reading this morning in Denver at 7:00 am was 46 degrees, right now (as of this writing) it's in the mid-50s, I say summer is over. So does the September calendar. NOT that you still can't harvest warm season vegetables (if covering at night) and watch the geraniums hang on with a few blooms. No doubt we'll have many warm days in the next few weeks, but probably not consistent nighttime temperatures above fifty-five, which is what warm season plants need.  

      There's still time - go buy some garlic planting stock from local garden retailers and get it in the ground now...or very soon!

      Because I've written several garlic blogs, for the sake of not repeating or feeling the easy urge to cut and paste, below is a link to an earlier garlic writing. Not much has changed except that more local garden retailers are carrying quality planting stock and they are on their shelves. Planting stock sells out quickly so call around to check availability. If the good stuff is gone, check with mail order companies by doing a quick search. They often sell out as well, many have been taking fall shipping orders since early summer.  

      If you're resourceful and have healthy left over homegrown garlic that was harvested earlier this summer, then you know that it also doubles as planting stock. Choose from the largest bulbs and use the largest cloves to plant for large bulbs next summer.

      Here's the planting link - Plant Garlic Now

      "There is no such thing as a little garlic"    

      Wednesday, September 20, 2017

      Painted Ladies a Plenty

      Painted Lady on Oregano Bloom
      It's hard to miss the plethora of painted lady butterflies congregating on our late blooming garden plants. They seem to be everywhere - call it a convention, a meeting of the minds or what it really is, their migration. They're headed south to warmer parts of the southwest and Mexico for the winter. Their numbers vary year to year, but this year they are numerous probably due to good spring rains in the southwest that helped grow their numbers. Each spring they migrate north to Colorado and other states for the summer to hang out, lay eggs, and feed on many blooming plants. Host plants include thistle, mallow and hollyhock. Nectar plants in the aster family and many other wildflowers are their favorites.

      If you're missing out on the butterfly show in your backyard this fall, think about putting in both host (where they lay their eggs) and nectar plants. Here's a great plant list from Dr. Whitney Cranshaw at Colorado State University - Gardening for Insects

      More information on Painted Ladies (and gents) - Painted Lady

      Painted Ladies on the Agastache 'Heatwave.' 


      Tuesday, September 19, 2017

      Canada Getaway Part 1

      Leaving town for a few days during the prime time harvest period isn't easy for any gardener, so try leaving for six days. Not sure what piled up more - the tomatoes or the summer squash! It was worth foregoing Harvest Joy for the getaway to lovely Canada. Here's why, and some highlights of the trip...

      Travel is a brief change from normal routines and that usually brings a renewed perspective. Fill in the blank on your perspective, for me it was realizing that I need more time away from home to get out of the same ol' same ol' routine. I think I was living the GroundHog Day movie (you'll get the idea by watching the clip or the full movie).

      The best part about leaving is completing all the little "must do" preparation chores before locking the door. My garden was in better shape before I left then how it will probably look at the end of October. The bindweed growing on the boulevard adjacent to the neighbor's bindweed garden was pulled and dully scolded not to return. I harvested the potatoes, processed basil for winter use and picked many tomatoes, peppers and summer squash for sharing and freezing. I knew the trip was planned last winter so I planted fewer vegetables this year - no eggplants, tomatillos, green beans or pumpkins. I miss them, but the local farmer's markets and grocery stores have plenty.
      Harbor View of Victoria B.C.

      Our first stop was Seattle so we could catch the early ferry to Victoria B.C. the next day. Yes, you guessed it, destination The Butchardt Gardens - on my bucket list for years having missed the opportunity to see it with my parents and family several years ago. One night in Seattle doesn't allow a lot of time to explore and since I'd been there before, didn't need to shop Pike Place Market or zoom up to the top of the Space Needle, although they are must dos when visiting. We power walked around downtown before enjoying a delicious salmon dinner overlooking the ocean - getting us in the mood for more ocean and views to follow.

      Colorful Entry to the Empress Hotel in Victoria B.C.
      In less than twenty-four hours after take off, it kicked in that I had no need to worry about the garden or what to fix for dinner - the "let go and embrace the now" perspective was happening. 

      In the next five days we split our days between Victoria B.C. and Vancouver B.C. Both are different, yet similar cities. Victoria has a slower pace of life, less people and more quaint. We learned from some of the locals that their economy and housing market is booming so trying to find a place to buy or rent is difficult, same for Vancouver (only more expensive). 

      Everywhere we walked in Victoria (near downtown) had a spectacular view of the harbor and all the new buildings going up (not so pretty in my book). The well placed hanging flower baskets were still at peak bloom while soaking up every bit of the early fall, warm sun. We totally lucked out on weather - every day was in the 60s-70s, no rain in both cities. 

      Sunken Garden at Butchardt
      The highlight of Victoria was Butchardt Gardens, pronounced like "butcher" (as in the person who sells meat), plus "ard." Many people say Boo Chard, which is just fine. In a nutshell, Butchardt is a private garden maintained by the family who started it back in the early 1900s. 

      Jennie was the wife of Robert Pim Butchardt who came to the area to build a cement plant. Build he did, while Jennie planned how to use the deep, spent limestone pits surrounding their house for a garden. Let's just say she brought in a lot of soil to fill up the holes - not all the way to the top, which gives the fifty-five acre garden it's signature spectacular overlooking views of the sunken garden.

      One Stretch of the Rose Garden
      What makes this garden, which includes the distinct Rose, Japanese, Italian and Mediterranean garden plus water features, statues, ponds and a tasteful visitor center, are the blooming annuals that weave and blend it all together. You'd never know that seventy-five percent (over 900 varieties) of the gardens are annual plantings because they are so artfully positioned among and around the trees, shrubs and evergreen plantings. Many of these plants we know and use in our own gardens. They provide a handy guide of the plants growing there so plant description tags don't interfere with viewing enjoyment, a very nice touch.

      Large plantings of common floss flower (Ageratum) pop in pleasing pinks and purples, near bright swaths of yellow and orange lantana. Gloriosa daisies were lit up in blooming prowess while roses put on their final fall display of scented single, double and very double blooms. From the fragrant heliotrope to the common, but colorful impatiens, it all works in melodic plant fashion at Butchardt Gardens.

      To choose my favorite part of the garden would be difficult. In late summer to fall frost, the dahlias are in peak bloom. A spring visit would be just as impressive with crocus, daffodils and species tulips.

      Take some time to click on the links to read more about The Butchard Gardens and view the videos below. Today, the garden is owned and operated by Robin-Lee Clarke, great granddaughter of Jennie Butchardt, what an impressive garden legacy to be part of. 

      Click Here to Read Part II - Vancouver

      Butchardt Italian Garden

      Purple Heliotrope and White Dahlias

      View of the Dining Room Restaurant, the family's original home
      Internet videos of Butchardt Gardens:

      Butchardt Gardens from Garden Time TV

      A Year at the Gardens

      Click Here to Read Part II - Vancouver