Surviving the Winter: Basic Garden Design 3

Too many times I find myself wandering around my yard, holding a new plant in its pot, wondering where I can squeeze it into my landscape. While those impulse buys are a lot of fun, that’s probably not the best way to go about adding plants to a garden. It’s best to consider the size, shape, and color of a plant first, before trying to determine what exact species is best.

Consider how nature positions plants. In any forested area, trees form the highest canopy. They reach up to capture the full brunt of the sun pouring down on them, and provide shade in varying degrees to the plants underneath.

In the shelter of the tallest trees grow understory plants. Usually large shrubs or small, multi-stemmed trees, these plants form a middle layer of the forest. Continue reading “Surviving the Winter: Basic Garden Design 3”

Surviving Winter: Basic Garden Design 2

When contemplating a garden design, I ask myself: What do I really want in my yard? What features are permanent, and what am I willing to change? How do I want to use my outdoor space? What feelings do I want to experience when I step out my door?

water-garden-dbg-lah-2711While we all want to gain maximum use from our yards, it’s very helpful to prioritize. Perhaps you entertain a lot, and your garden wish list includes a deck or patio, a fire pit, and a lawn for playing games. Or perhaps you are the introspective sort, and you want a garden bench under an arbor, a reflecting pool, and paths wandering through your plantings. My priorities include food and water for the birds, a secluded place from which to watch them, and a vegetable garden. Limiting yourself to three main features brings a sense of unity to your landscape. Continue reading “Surviving Winter: Basic Garden Design 2”

Surviving Winter: Basic Garden Design

After dreaming about blooming zinnias and vine-ripened tomatoes, I woke up and looked out the window this morning. Yup, still winter. What’s a frustrated gardener to do?

Dogwood's red branches add winter interest
Red-Twig Dogwood

Winter is actually the ideal time to think about spring. This is the best time of year to design a new garden, or improve upon the one you already have. With all the foliage out of the way, the bare bones of the garden show clearly. Is there still a sense of design to the landscape, even without growing plants? Is some of last summer’s growth still attractive in its dried and dead state? What about interesting bark or seed pods? Dried berries and other fruits? Bare branches form winter sculptures. Look at your dormant landscape—do you like what you see?

When I can’t take another day of leafless branches and frozen soil, I grab a mug of hot tea and head for my favorite chair—the one that has a view of my garden. Then I start to imagine. Continue reading “Surviving Winter: Basic Garden Design”

Surviving Winter: A Tropical Vacation… in Colorado

The greater Denver area sports at least three options for anyone in need of a green-leaves-and-humidity break from winter: The Denver Botanic Garden, Westminster’s Butterfly Pavilion, and the Denver Zoo.

OrchidHere I am, still in the middle of winter. There are five more weeks until spring, and that’s just according to the calendar. At my altitude of 7,000 ft, I won’t be seeing green until the end of April. I need something to encourage and motivate me… something green and flowering… something more productive than pacing the floor, complaining about the gloom, and dreaming about a trip to the Bahamas that isn’t in the budget.

My husband is well aware that his wife develops a bad case of cabin fever by mid-February. That’s why our annual Valentine’s Day date involves a visit to a tropical rainforest. No, we don’t buy a plane ticket. In fact, we head north. We hop in the car and make the hour drive to Denver.

The greater Denver area sports at least three options for anyone in need of a green-leaves-and-humidity break. Other parts of the country will have similar places, where you can escape winter for a day. Continue reading “Surviving Winter: A Tropical Vacation… in Colorado”

The Birds and the Bees

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and once again the topic of love is in the air. We often mention “explaining the birds and the bees” as a euphemism for discussing… well… sex. But is this valid? Is there anything similar between the mating habits of people and birds and bees?

Bee on Anthemis tinctoria
Bee on Anthemis tinctoria

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and once again the topic of love is in the air. We often mention “explaining the birds and the bees” as a euphemism for discussing… well… sex. But is this valid? Is there anything similar between the mating habits of people and birds and bees?

Yes, the goal is often the same—babies! However, the way members of a species choose one or more mates, and then rear their young, varies not only between birds and bees, but even among bird species within the same family.

So, how do the birds and the bees “do it”?

Continue reading “The Birds and the Bees”