Captivating Cosmos

Cosmos_DBG_LAH_7489Do you enjoy big flowers with bright, showy colors and carefree maintenance? It’s hard to beat annuals for season-long impact. Whenever I think of annuals, I immediately think of cosmos, one of the very best annuals for Colorado gardens.

There are currently thought to be 36 species in the genus Cosmos, but the two most often grown in our gardens are C. bipinnatus (left) and C. sulphureus. (There are two other Cosmos species in cultivation. One is a frost-tender, tuberous perennial known as Chocolate Cosmos, C. atrosanguineus. The other is Cosmos parviflorus, a wildflower of the western United States.)

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A Tale of Two Chickadees

Black-capped Chickadee_Wenatchee-WA_LAH_3690While Black-capped Chickadees are familiar birds over the northern half of North America, Mountain Chickadees are a western specialty. True to their name, they care found at higher elevations from the Rockies westward to the Sierras and Cascades, and as far north as the Yukon.

Mountain Chickadees are also selective about their habitat, preferring to hang out in conifer forests. This is why we enjoyed them at our last house, where we were surrounded by ponderosa pines. Our current home is in a new neighborhood lacking mature trees. Hoping our old friends would still come and visit, we included two fairly large Austrian pines and a dwarfed cultivar of a limber pine, (Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’) in our new landscape. It took three years, but the birds are finally here.

Mountain Chickadee_BlkForestCO_20100324_LAH_1145

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Free Expert Advice

Wildflowers_GuanellaPass-CO_LAH_4845

Nature is an excellent gardener. Take a walk through any pristine boonies and you’ll be amazed at the beauty of what grows untended. I’d never consider combining flowers in shades of fuchsia, orange, yellow, and blue, but when nature does it, we stand in awe. Ferns tucked alongside waterfalls, acres of wildflowers, pink Oxalis carpeting the ground under towering redwoods—it’s all stunning.

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Good-bye Gray Jay

Gray Jay-1One aspect of nature I appreciate is its constancy. No matter who gets elected, a rose is still a rose. Whether I’m happy or sad, a moose remains a moose. The world can fall apart, but a jay is still a jay. Or not.

That’s right. This year, the American Ornithological Society (AOS, formerly the AOU) has voted to rename the Gray Jay. From now on (or should I say “once again”?), this personable gray-and-white bird will be known as a Canada Jay.

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July Quiz: Uncropped Photo

If you were stymied on Monday, now can you name this bird? The photo was taken in Colorado in July. The answer will appear at the end of next Monday’s post.

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Where Did All the Flowers Go?

Aquilegia_Colorado Columbine_Emerald Valley-EPCo-CO_LAH_5416rWhere did the wildflowers go? It was the end of June, and we were making our annual pilgrimage along  the trail through Emerald Valley, on the slopes of Pikes Peak. This time we weren’t just looking for birds, but for blooms and bugs as well—in fact, the birds were the least of our priorities. There were bugs, especially as the day warmed, and we saw some excellent birds, but where were the flowers?

Emerald Valley usually has a wide assortment of wildflower species, including many of my favorites—Colorado Columbine, Shooting Stars, various Penstemons, and three species of orchid. This year, columbines were in short supply, the only Shooting Stars were creekside in the moist soil, and I didn’t see a single clematis blossom.

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July Bird Quiz

Can you identify this bird? The photo was taken in Colorado in July. I will post the uncropped photo on Saturday, giving you one more chance to identify this bird. The answer will appear at the end of next Monday’s post.

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