Join me at the Mesa County Library in Grand Junction Colorado on Tuesday, March 28th at 6:30pm for “Gardening for Seniors” talk. I will cover tips, techniques and ideas to continue gardening at any age and ability. Topics will include reducing maintenance, simplifying your landscape, special equipment and staying safe. I will also talk about non-conventional ways to garden. This talk is part of the libraries’ DIY Tuesday series. It is free and open to the public. Hope to see you there.
Christmas comes early every year for the BEACON staff
I just finished a very fun and informative presentation on successful gardening in our high desert climate at BeaconFest in Grand Junction. I had lots of good questions from the audience and thought it would be a good idea to put some of the slides up on my website to share.
Our high desert climate is a challenge unless you understand it and embrace it.
Plants that like lots of sun should be planted together just like those who like it shady or dry.
We talked about an integrated approach to xeriscaping and sustainable landscaping practices.
I am partial to these trees as they are growing in my yard and have performed beautifully over the last ten or so years. Russian hawthorn, Sargent and Indian Summer crabapples, Green Vase Zelkova, Wichita Blue juniper, Hot Wings maple, Bur oak and Ft. McNair red horsechestnut.
There are some classics (code for overused) but still worthwhile shrubs in my list. My new favorite is the smoke bush. Looking forward to working with that gorgeous burgundy foliage in my landscape soon.
Any surprise that lavender is in this list? My hummingbirds will be so happy when the agastache, zauschneria and salvias start to bloom. I saw the first hummer in my yard just last night.
I consider grasses and groundcovers the jewelry of the garden. They add that extra sparkle of movement and texture that every garden needs. What about that Firespinner ice plant? Truly amazing colors.
Words to live by. Take care of your landscape. It is an investment, just like gold, silver or mutual funds.
If you need advice on how to unlock the secrets of your landscape, give me a call. I’d love to help.
This story is from High Country Gardens’ blog. I found the picture on my Pinterest page. I thought it was important enough to share with my audience. This type of transformation from huge, useless lawns to beautiful wildlife friendly garden is totally doable for anyone in any area of the country. Please consider reducing the amount of lawn you have. Thanks.
NORTH TEXAS WILDSCAPE – BEFORE & AFTER
This entry was posted on February 20, 2014.
A before and after of Rajesh J.’s Dallas,TX home.
A Q & A with High Country Gardens’ customer Rajesh J.
How would you describe your garden?
I call it an English garden with a Texas twist. I would estimate it’s around 1000 square feet, about 80 feet long x 12-15 feet deep.
What inspired you to create it?
In the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, most people just have huge lawns—Bermuda grass or St. Augustine grass. They use sprinklers.
My water bills were a lot higher than my neighbors, so I decided to cut down on the water usage. I happened to stumble upon your website and picked up a few ideas there. Most of the plants are from High Country Gardens.
If someone wanted to create a similar transformation to their landscape, what advice would you give them?
Invest in good soil. We have clay here; people call it ‘black gumbo.’ It is highly alkaline. None of the plants would have survived if I hadn’t amended the soil. It’s a one-time investment. Follow good practices.
Learn about the plants before planting them. I lost a lot of plants that looked good in catalogs but weren’t suited for the conditions here.
Rajesh J.’s freshly planted garden.
If you could do it over, is there anything you’d do differently?
I wouldn’t put in a lawn to start with. I should have just started with getting good soil and began from there. Instead of a regular sprinkler system, I would have put in a drip irrigation system at the start.
This is what I’d do in hindsight. As it was, I had to kill the grass that was there. I don’t like to use chemicals, but Bermuda grass is hard to kill, I had to use Roundup, three times. The best time to do it is when it is growing.
How long has the transformation taken you?
The first year, all my plants were from High Country Gardens; they were premium plants in 5-inch pots. I expected magic to happen, but some did not grow more than 10 inches that first year. I remember calling one of the HCG agents to ask, “What am I doing wrong?” She told me that I need to remember that perennials take some time—first they sleep, then they creep and then they leap. That’s what happened the third year—they came together. So you have to be patient.
What are your favorite plants?
Agastache is my favorite –I just like it because it is low maintenance, the hummingbirds love it, and the rabbits don’t eat it. My second favorite is penstemon. I also like salvia/sages and ornamental oreganos, because they are low maintenance and easy to grow.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your garden?
The other thing I find satisfying and interesting and look forward to are the random plants that just start happening. For instance, the Salvia farinacea that is in the middle of the photo. I did not buy it and I did not plant it.
The same goes with one of the Agastaches. It showed up last year and I let it grow. It bloomed this year. Something crossed with it, similar to the ‘Desert Sunrise’ that I planted. It is pinker and has a different smell to it, with a hint of turpentine. The rabbits don’t bother it.
The second year of growth, when the plants ‘creep.’
What benefits have you seen by creating this garden?
The biggest benefit I see is a lot of wildlife activity. Before I did this I never saw a hummingbird. Now they hang out nine months of the year and only go home for the winter.
We’ve got birds, bees, toads, frogs, an occasional snake or two, and lots of bunnies. At first, I would plant things that would be gone the next day, so I would look for rabbit resistant plants. Everything I plant is rabbit resistant or has a fragrance or smell that rabbits don’t like.
My backyard is shaded, so I have to follow a totally different strategy there, but overall, I try to use less pesticide and more organic fertilizer, and create a better environment.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has designated my yard as a certified backyard wildlife habitat.The program is affiliated with the National Wildlife Federation, where people can fill out paperwork, send photos in and get Texas Wildscape Certification.
Share your garden transformation with High Country Gardens and you could be featured on our website and in our next catalog!
Entire Plant List:
Agastache “Desert Sunrise”
Agastache “Blue Blazes”
Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame Acanthus)
Aquilegia species (Columbine) ‘Swallowtail'(R)
Aquilegia (Columbine) Chrysantha
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly milkweed)
Achillea filipendulina ‘Coronation Gold’
Artemisia abrotanum ‘Tangerine'(Wormwood)
Caryopteris cladonensis (Blue Mist Spirea)
Centranthus Ruber (Jupiter’s Beard)
Chrysanthemum maximum (Shasta Daisy)
Coreopsis lanceolata ‘Sterntaler’
Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Early Sunrise’ (Similar to Jethro Tull variety)
Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (Cranesbill)
Geranium ‘Johnsons Blue’ (Cranesbill)
Guara Lindheimeri ‘Cloud of Butterflies”
Guara Lindheimeri ‘Pink Cloud”
Guara Lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’
Hesperaloe parviflora (Red Yucca)
Kniphofia ‘Wayside Flame’
Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’
Monarda hybrida Lambada (Bee Balm)
Nepeta “Walkers Low”
Nolina texana (Bear grass)
Nolina microcarpa (Bear grass)
Origanum ‘Amethyst Falls’
Pavonia lasiopetala (Rock Rose)
Penstemon ‘Red Riding Hood’
Penstemon mexicali ‘Red Rocks’
Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain Beard tongue)
Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spires’
Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Filigran’
Platycodon grandiflorus Mariesii (Balloon Flower)
Physostegia virginiana “Miss Manners” (Obedient Plant)
Poliomintha maderensis (Lavender Spice/Mexican Oregano)
Salvia farinacea ‘Texas Violet’
Salvia greggii ‘Black Cherry’
Salvia greggii ‘Cherry’
Salvia greggii ‘Maraschino’
Salvia nemorosa ‘Marcus’
Salvia nemorosa ‘May Night
Salvia greggii ‘Raspberry Delight’
Salvia greggii ‘Rose Pink’
Salvia greggii ‘Ultra violet’
Salvia greggii ‘Wild Thing’
Salvia reptans – West Texas Grass Sage
Scutellaria resinosa ‘Smokey Hills’
Scutellaria ‘Violet Cloud’
Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear)
Stachys coccineus ‘Mountain Red’
Stachys lavandulifolius (Pink Cotton Lambs Ear)
Stachys officinalis Hummelo
Thalictrum flavum glaucum (Yellow meadow rue)
Verbena tenuisecta (Moss Verbena)
Yucca recurvifolia (Soft Leaf Yucca)
Nasella tenuissima (Silky Thread Grass)
Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass
Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’
Panicum Virgatum Northwind (Feather Reed Switch Grass)
Just out of this picture to the left are:
Chilopsis linearis ‘Monhews’ (Desert willow)
Helianthus maximiliana ‘Dakota Sunshine’
Vitex agnus-castus – actually a tree that the homeowner maintains as a shrub
There are several annuals and perennial bulbs that are under-planted as well:
Linum rubrum (Scarlet Flax)
Lobularia maritima (Sweet Alyssum)
Lycoris Radiata (Spider Lilies)
Red Corn Poppy/Flanders Poppy
Join me on April 15th at 6:30pm at the central branch of the Mesa County Library and April 24th at 6:30pm at the Palisade branch for an informative talk on Curb Appeal Makeovers. Learn how to improve your home’s exterior so when your home is on the market it will sell faster and for a higher sales price.
Plant Select has released three short videos showcasing the plants that have been chosen over the years to receive the coveted Plant Select designation. If you are looking for plants that are adapted to our harsh climate, bring visual interest and beauty to your landscape, take a moment to watch these videos. I have long been a supporter of the Plant Select program as a garden designer because they find, trial and market plants that really work hard in our gardens. Gardening in Colorado can be very challenging and the plants we grew up with back east or down south just don’t thrive at our altitude and intense sunlight. These plants really give you the most bang for your buck. When your landscaping dollars are tight, its comforting to know there are some fool-proof, tough-as-nails choices out there. The videos have been separated into three categories:
If you want to see these plants in person, many of them are planted at the CSU Extension Tri-River office in Grand Junction. The office and gardens are located on Hwy 50 at the Mesa County Fairgrounds, in Orchard Mesa across from the City Market shopping center.
Local garden centers like Bookcliff Gardens, Valley Grown, Meadowlark Gardens and Chelsea Nursery also carry a wide variety of Plant Select plants.
I recently attended a seminar on Urban Forest Diversity given by Vince Urbina, a community forester with the Colorado State Forest Service. Vince has been our local authority on urban forests and has taught classes through the CSU Extension master gardener program for many, many years.
His talk on diversifying our urban forest was especially topical now that the Emerald Ash Borer has been found in Boulder, Colorado. Please refer to this CSU fact sheet on the EAB threat to Colorado. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/Emerald_borer.pdf
He showed us the effects of not diversifying our trees through three major tree disasters. The Emerald Ash Borer destruction has spread from Detroit, Michigan in 2002 throughout the entire eastern and Midwestern areas of the United States. The other major tree disasters which have occurred in the U.S. are the Chestnut Blight and Dutch Elm Disease. Combined, these three tree disasters have wiped out almost 4 BILLION trees since the early 1900’s. Thank you to Dan Herms of Ohio State University for the following stark picture of the destruction of EAB.
What forces enable these insects or fungi to wreak havoc on such a large scale on our trees? One word – Monoculture. When a seemingly “perfect” tree is introduced to the public, it gets overplanted in a big way. Cities and towns across America have planted Chestnuts, Elms and Ash trees along roads in massive quantities. They are the perfect street trees. Strong limbs, fast growers, good shape, etc. But, when the insects and diseases come to town, there is an endless supply of hosts to continue their wrath.
What Vince is proposing is something that will slow down the destruction and increase the health of our tree populations. Diversify the community forests by planting several different types of trees instead of focusing on one or two “perfect” street trees.
Here is a list of Vince’s favorite trees that are suitable for Colorado. These are in no particular order and encompass ornamental trees, large shade trees and conifers.
- ‘Spring Snow’ crabapple – beautiful shape, white flowers, no fruit
- Russian hawthorn – bright red fruit, horizontal branches very architectural
- ‘Winter King’ hawthorn – exfoliating bark, white flowers, orange fruit
- Swedish Columnar Aspen – does well in lower elevations
- Redleaf chokecherry – very cold tolerant, beautiful maroon and green foliage
- ‘Sensation’ Boxelder – not bothered by box elder bugs, gorgeous variegated foliage tinged with pink and cream. May become overplanted because it is so “perfect”
- Kentucky coffeetree – very gangly when young but stately with age. Rugged bark
- Bur Oak – One of the best oaks for Colorado
- Western Catalpa – native to our area. Huge white blossoms which turn into long cigar shaped seed pods.
- ‘Autumn Blaze’ pear – Great fall color, waxy leaves make it drought tolerant
- ‘Princeton Elm – new variety of elm. Great shade tree, high salt tolerance
- Big tooth maple – native to Utah and Colorado, great fall color, usually found in multi-stem form
- Douglas Fir – native to Colorado. Does well even in Grand Valley
- ‘Radiant’ crabapple – no persistent fruit, resistant to blight
For more information on diversifying our urban forest, the Denver Botanic Gardens is hosting a talk called MORE!TREE!TYPES! March 7th from 9am to 4pm in Denver. “Our urban forests are under siege from disease, aging canopy, budget constraints and more. Leading experts on creating a vibrant urban canopy from across America will launch this first event of its kind in Colorado. ” Visit DBG’s website for more information:
I love tree diversity and have implemented this principle in my own yard. I live in a subdivision on a corner lot approximately 100’ x 100’. Even though I have a relatively small lot, I have planted quite a few trees that add shade, color, texture and interest year round. Here is a list and a few pictures of my trees.
A complete list (as of today!) of the trees in my yard:
- ‘Indian Summer’ crabapple
- Russian hawthorn
- ‘Sunburst’ honeylocust
- ‘Autumn Purple’ ash
- Colorado blue spruce
- ‘Wichita Blue’ juniper
- Eastern redbud
- Columnar blue spruce
- ‘Sargent’ crabapple
- ‘Ft. McNair’ red horsechestnut
- ‘Green Vase’ zelkova
- Austrian pine
- ‘Arnolds Sentinel’ scotch pine
I would like to encourage you to plant outside the box. Find something different yet appropriate for your yard. Between Vince’s list and mine, there should be something for everyone. Remember, diversity shines in your landscape.