Archive for November 2010

Larch. Love.

European larch, Larix decidua, is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. It's one of those plants that I really wish I could have for my very own. I love the contrasting textures of the fine, deciduous (yes!) needles and the coarse, nubby branches. The bark is deeply furrowed, and the size of the tree is majestic. Oh, to see a forest of larch in it's native, northern European, habitat!

So what's the problem? Although Larix decidua is hardy to zone 2, and not too fussy about soil, it needs plenty of moisture and, I suspect, moderately high humidity. It also needs plenty of space, as it can grow 75 to 100 feet tall and 25 to 30 feet wide (comparable to a Colorado blue spruce). These growing requirements mean that larch is not suitable for most landscapes in the Rocky Mountain region (and why you rarely see it for sale at local nurseries).

These photos were taken at Fort Collins' (Colorado) City Park a couple of weeks ago. The trees are in a well irrigated area, and somewhat protected (and crowded) by a small grove of spruce trees. The foliage is sporting its yellow fall color; in the spring the new, emerging needles are bright green and then turn darker in the summer. I first became aware of this planting when I was a horticulture student at Colorado State University back in the 1970s. I was thrilled to see that they are still alive --- and not just a dream!

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Off Season

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I recently visited The Gardens on Spring Creek in Fort Collins, Colorado, and was enthralled by the beautiful, rich colors of the late season edibles. The foliage of the artichokes was lush and full, and still wearing its silver patina, although the vegetables are now in a strictly ornamental mode.

Strawberry foliage in hues of garnet and ruby.

A few golden delicious apples clung to the espaliered trees (Note the wonderful demonstration kitchen in the background!)

My favorite: a giant array of silvery green and purple kale. The various foliage textures in the low afternoon sunlight really made this planting sing.

The adjacent garden plot was planted in a cover crop of annual rye grass. There is a good article on selecting and using cover crops as "green manure," in the December issue of Fine Gardening magazine, if you'd like to learn more about this beneficial gardening practice.

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How to Create a New Garden Vista --- Instantly!

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The rounded bench back echos the rounded line of the wall. Design by Phase One Landscapes
One of the most valuable components of a landscape, whether large or small, is destination seating. Every garden should have a spot where you can sit and relax, dream and scheme! More importantly, a place to and look at the garden away from your main window or patio/deck view gives you a whole new vista. Gardens are composed of three-dimensional forms and, like a piece of sculpture, should be viewed from multiple points to be fully appreciated.

View from back of house to seating area. Design by JHChilvers
View from seating area to back of house. Design by JHChilvers

Two seating areas on opposite sides of a small space. Design by Phase One Landscapes
The same concept with a more rustic interpretation. Design by owner.
  Another reason to create a destination seating area is that it will pull you into the garden. There's nothing like actually walking through the space, instead of just viewing it as a static "picture," to get you interacting with nature again. A small seating area can be an oasis of quiet and calm, a place to regenerate.  Conversely, it may bring you closer to the action if you site it near a play structure or active lawn area.  Hey, there's no rule that says you can only have one!

Front yard pair of chairs perfect for watching the world go by. Design by owner.
Multi-season impact. Design by JHChilvers
Design by owner
And finally, a pair of chairs, a teak bench, a large boulder, etc. can also act as a focal point in the garden. Try and select a seat that is harmonious in color, materials, or character to the architecture of your home and the other furnishings in your landscape. Choose materials that are low maintenance or attractive to you in their rustic state. Also think about weight - you don't want something that will end up in the next county every time the wind blows.

Albuquerque Botanic Garden
Chair lift swing, Telluride, Colorado
Rustic flagstone bench in garden designed by Elenor Welshon
 Now sit back and enjoy!

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Friday Afternoon Garden Club 11.05.2010

It’s FAC time in The Art Garden!  Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair.  You didn’t really want to work this afternoon anyway, did you?  Leave a comment to join the garden party.
Today’s topic:
 As the weather turns cold, most of us will be spending more time indoors reading about plants and gardens than doing any actual gardening.  My favorite garden reading right now is Gardens Illustrated magazine, from Great Britain. As an experienced gardener it's easy for me to discard the gardening/plant information that's not appropriate for my region, yet glean plenty of new ideas worth trying.  Mostly, I appreciate the magazine's focus on British and, especially, European design. The ideas seem fresh and different, yet readily adaptable to our plants and climate.
What is your favorite gardening magazine, and why? Do you depend on different magazines for different aspects of gardening, such as design, plant profiles, and gardening how-to?

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