Milkweeds: Not Just for Monarchs

Monarch on milkweed

When we think of milkweeds, we typically think in terms of those plants that Monarch butterflies eat. And yes, Monarch larvae are dependent on milkweeds. The leaves contain toxic chemicals (cardenolide) that the insects feeding on them can incorporate into their own bodies, making them unpalatable to predators.

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A Pantone “Color of the Year” Garden

Right on schedule, Pantone has revealed the color of the year for 2021. In a break with tradition, there are actually two colors—a bright, buttery yellow called Illuminating, and Ultimate Gray. The minute I saw the yellow, I thought, perfect choice! It’s cheerful, and after 2020, we need all the cheering up we can get. But gray? Most of 2020 was a dismal, gray year, and the thought of facing yet another year like that is downright depressing. I don’t need to reinforce those bleak feelings.

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The Good Guys: Native Thistles

Cirsium scopulorum_Frosty Ball_SummitLakeMtEvans-CO_LAH_5720

Last month I wrote about Scotch Thistles, a noxious weed in Colorado and in many other states. Then there are Bull Thistles, Musk Thistles, Plumeless Thistles, and Canada Thistles, also on the Colorado noxious weed list. This begs the question, are all thistles invasive, nasty plants, or are there some good guys among them?

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Big, Bad Thistles

COS-CO_LAH_6707

When I spy a thistle in my yard—or in the open space next door—my first inclination is to annihilate it. Pull out the weed killer. Put on gloves and yank. Dig out the roots. Sure, some have imposing purple flowers, but I’ve learned that if you delay your war, the thistles will conquer. Then I started reading up on thistles.

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A Plant for Butterflies

Scabiosa_Pincushion Flower_DBG-CO_LAH_7349

I love a garden full of flowers, but that’s only half the story. A garden feels incomplete with just plants, no matter how pretty they are. We’ve set the stage. The background and props are in place. But where are the actors? That’s why I intentionally choose plants that attract birds and insects. (Rabbits? Not so much!) A summer day isn’t complete without the buzz of bees, the whirr of the Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, and especially fluttering butterflies—often as colorful as the flowers they visit.

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Springs-Specific Gardening

There is certainly no shortage of advice when it comes to gardening. Everyone has an opinion, and when that fails, there’s the Internet. When you garden in Colorado, however, you quickly learn that much of the advice available doesn’t apply. It’s aimed at gardeners on the coasts, or the Midwest, or even the south—but not a place with harsh winters, false springs, sudden freezes, minimal rainfall, hail, gale-force winds… the list goes on and on. No wonder so many people give up and plant rocks!

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Salvia in Red, White, & Blue

For today’s post, I’ve been considering perennials offer flowers in red, white, or blue. After all, we’re celebrating the Fourth of July this weekend. The various ornamental salvias not only come in these patriotic colors but they’re ideally adapted to Colorado’s challenging conditions. That’s why I’ve made room for at least one salvia in my Colorado Springs garden.

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A Public Garden to Visit Now

This is National Public Gardens Week. I was all primed to write about all the public gardens we can visit, but as you know, many (most?) are inaccessible. For example, there are currently ten thousand tulips are blooming at Denver’s Botanic Garden, and no one can go see them. It breaks my heart.

I was feeling a bit despondent—I desperately crave flowers by this time of year—when I considered that not all public gardens are surrounded by walls. I typically drive to Denver because spring comes earlier at  5,280 feet than it does here in Colorado Springs (with our 6,000 – 7,000+ foot elevation). But we have gardens right here in town that I can visit any time.

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First Flowers

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It’s barely past the spring equinox, but I already have flowers blooming in my yard—in spite of living at 7,100 feet in Colorado. Our average last frost date is months away, snow is predicted for tonight, and I have yet to see a bee (or other pollinator) this spring, but that doesn’t stop these stalwart beauties. Continue reading “First Flowers”

Brooms for Colorado

Cytisus scoparius_Scotch Broom_invasive_Tacoma-WA_LAH_0848I’m thinking of planting broom. Yes, one of those small, shrubs with the yellow pea-like flowers. Before you shudder and call me crazy, realize that invasive Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius, right) isn’t the only broom in cultivation, and the characteristics that led gardeners to import brooms in the first place are shared by many other species, some of which are hardy enough to survive drought, hot sun, and cold winters.

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