Ephedra equisetina_Bluefir Jointstem_ColoSpgs-CO_LAH_5027

It’s only November, but when it comes to gardening in a cold weather climate, it may as well be winter. From the first sudden freeze, now months ago, the leaves have been brown. For those of us who have gardened in more mild conditions, we crave green, especially evergreen shrubs, but the choices are severely limited. There are the ubiquitous junipers and other dwarf conifers. Yuccas. Firethorn (Pyracantha). Perhaps some Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia) if you have a sheltered spot so the leaves can avoid desiccation. Even my supposedly evergreen Cotoneaster is brown. But there’s one often-overlooked shrub that stays green all winter—even if it doesn’t exactly have noticeable leaves.

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Mallows

Who doesn’t like marshmallows? Floating in your cocoa, shaped into a peep, or toasted over a campfire and smashed into a s’more, we all love the squidgy sweetness. I have always wondered where the name came from. What’s a mallow, and what is it doing in a marsh?

Turns out, Malvaceae is yet another family of plants, and one that most gardeners will recognize.

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Shhh… the Plants are Listening!

Corn silks_LAHQ: What has ears but cannot hear?
A: A field of corn.

Q: Why is corn such a good listener?
A: Because it’s all ears!

Q: Why shouldn’t you tell secrets on a farm?
A: Because the potatoes have eyes, the corn has ears, and the beans stalk.

Are you groaning yet? We make (bad) jokes about ears of corn, but it appears that plants might really have ears.

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Black & White

Black coleus & White zinnias_DBG-CO_LAH_7679r

Normally, when we visualize a flower garden, we think color—yellow coreopsis, purple catmint, bright red tulips. Or, you could be more subtle, with a refreshing look in myriad shades of white. But how often do you see a garden full of flowers in monochromatic black and white? Yet, that’s one of the combinations offered last summer at Denver Botanic Gardens. And surprisingly, the results were beautiful. Continue reading “Black & White”

Deadly? Or Delicious?

Devil’s Trumpet (Datura sp.)
Devil’s Trumpet (Datura sp.)

Eating just a few leaves or berries will leave you writhing on the ground. Your mouth dries, your pupils enlarge, and you run a fever. Within minutes, you gasp as painful cramps turn into vomiting and diarrhea.  First your pulse races, then it slows, as does your breathing. Your head pounds, and then the hallucinations start. You’ve become paralyzed.

But soon, none of that matters any more—because you’ll be dead.

Happily, if you do manage to get to a hospital in time, there’s a good chance you’ll recover, although the symptoms can last up to three days. Eating an unidentified plant is never a good idea, but if it happens to be one of the more dangerous members of the nightshade family, it could be fatal. Continue reading “Deadly? Or Delicious?”

Don’t Salt the Soil!—Part 2

landscape of salt-resistant plants
A landscape of salt-resistant plants, including junipers, bearberry, Colorado blue spruce, aspen, and Japanese barberry

Last month I described a number of ways that salt can creep into our garden soil. Here are a couple more, plus what you can do about it.

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Bulb Crazy

Bulbs in box 2019-10-010

I did it again. Last spring, in a fit of gardening fervor brought on by the first flowers of the season, I put in an order for more spring bulbs, to be delivered in the fall. With my yard full of crocuses, glory of the snow, and miniature irises—and not much else—it was easy to see where those new bulbs should be planted.

Now it’s October, and I just received delivery. Yes, my box of bulbs arrived just ahead of our first snowstorm of the season. Now I have to plant them. Today.

What was I thinking?

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