Archive for April 2007

Big Rain

Wow! Over two inches of rain in 24 hours...pretty wild for high and dry Denver. My tulips weathered the storm well, as you can see from this photo.

I worked in my gardens this past Sunday and finished cleaning the last of the fall leaf debris from the flower beds, transplanted an ornamental grass and a rose, and planted some new things, too. I've held off trying Hesperaloe parviflora (Texas red yucca) for several years, waiting to see if it was truly hardy for our area. I hope it will do well in my dry, sandy soil. I've also been wanting to add Penstemon pinifolius 'Shades of Mango,' the multi-colored yellow/orange pine-leaf pensetmon. I've planted it with an English lavender for some mid-summer color punch. I plan to add more shrubs and perennials in the next few weeks---there's always something new to try!

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Meet. . .Amelanchier!

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Autumn Brilliance serviceberry today

Amelanchier, commonly known as serviceberry, are shrubs or small trees that are native to the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains and northern Great Plains. There are a number of species that range in size from 6’ tall (A. alnifolia ‘Regent’) to 25’ tall, such as my Autumn Brilliance serviceberry, shown here.

Serviceberries are real assets in the landscape: showy white flowers in the spring, edible red-purple fruit in the summer, and outstanding foliage color in the fall. The only downside to Amelancher is the tendency to sucker. As you can see from the next photo, my multi-stem tree began as a shrub. Selective pruning over several years has created the tree form.

Serviceberries prefer full sun, but many tolerate partial shade. Well drained soils are best. Species vary in their drought tolerance, so be sure to ask about the watering needs of the plant you intend to buy.

Autumn Brilliance serviceberry several years ago

Amelanchier---fall color

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Exhibit News

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I was recently contacted by Kelly Burns at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon and asked to participate in an art quilt exhibit titled "Nature of the West: Contemporary Quilts." According to Burns, "The exhibit will feature non-traditional quilts that depict the natural beauty of the West--glimpses of what might have been seen along the Oregon Trail--from awe-inspiring landscapes to the majesty of wildflowers. Oregon Trail pioneers often commented on the new and wonderful sights they encountered along the trail. This show continues the pioneer tradition of finding inspiration in natural surroundings. It will run July 1 through September 3, 2007 in our Flagstaff Gallery".
My art quilt, "Bark", is multi-layered reverse applique that also features hand embroidery and beading. It's one of my favorites, and I'm thrilled that it will be included in the exhibit.
For more information on the center, vist their website here.

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On Hold for Now...

Our rollercoaster weather has delayed my garden activities for now. Despite the cold and snow on Saturday, I just couldn’t resist a visit to the nursery. I’m in the process of infilling some of my perennial gardens with more shrubs. I’m looking for more winter structure and a bit less maintenance. These shrubs will go into the garden along my south property line that transitions the very natural looking grass garden on the east side to the more traditional perennial garden on the west side.

I always like to try something new, so this year it’s the Panchito manzanita (Arctostaphylos ‘Panchito’). Panchito is one of several new manzanitas being offered here that are supposedly both drought and sun tolerant. It’s also a broad-leaf evergreen, always welcome in our climate. Panchito’s ultimate size is 2’ x 4’, Colorado manzanita is 8” x 4’, and Chieftan is 4’ x 9’. I am anxious to see how well they perform here---please comment if you have experience with any of these manzanitas in the Denver area.

The other shrubs going in are well known and reliable: Western sand cherry and Holbert juniper. The Western sandcherry (Prunus besseyi) is a native that will get 5’ x 5’ in size and features white flowers in spring followed by edible summer berries and nice fall color (a dark cinnamon red). The silvery blue Holbert juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Holbert’) will be 3’ x 8’ with irregular, horizontal branching. I know that many people refuse to plant junipers (some folks are extremely allergic), but I think they can be great assets in the landscape. Proper selection, spacing and moderation (as with all things, right?) are the keys.

And as far as our springtime weather goes…get used to it. We often see snow here through May; this is what we call ‘normal’! So sit back and enjoy the greenest lawn that you will probably have all year!

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Magnificent Magnolias

The front page of today’s Denver Post featured a charming and interesting story about “Mr. Magnolia” of Colorado Springs. This gentleman is out to prove that magnolias can and do grow in Colorado, and his theory is backed up by Denver Botanic Gardens’ horticulturist Panyoti Kelaides. His growing tips: plant in a cool, north or east exposure with plenty of moisture.

The photos of the saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana), above, were taken about two weeks ago in north Denver near Berkely Park.

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Meet. . . Forsythia!

Forsythia x intermedia is commonly known as forsythia---nice and easy! Forsythia is a favorite spring blooming shrub; it’s vibrant, yellow color shouts, “Sunshine and warmth are here at last!”

Forsythia do best in a well amended garden soil with moderate moisture. Although they are not featured on the lists of xeric (drought tolerant) plants, I believe that they are quite adaptable to low water situations. Not only do I see them blooming like crazy in rather poorly maintained landscapes, but I’ve also seen them thriving in harsh growing conditions in Santa Fe, New Mexico---a city with less natural precipitation and more severe watering restrictions than Denver has. Two varieties that do well here are 'Spring Glory' and 'Northern Gold'.

A few tips on selecting a site for a forsythia:
1. Choose a protected location that will give it a fighting chance against our late snows.
2. Give it plenty of space. Most forsythia will get 8 feet or more in diameter.
3. Maintain them in their natural, vase/weeping form. It’s incredibly sad to see forsythia hacked into little balls or pillars (see item #2 above!).
4. Forsythia are ideal specimen (single, focal point) plants. Surround them with low growing shrubs such as blue rug juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’), or an herbaceous groundcover such as bronze-leaf ajuga (Ajuga reptans) or Turkish veronica (Veronica liwanensis).

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