Aspen Gold

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One of the joys of living in Colorado is the gorgeous gold of the aspen in fall. Other regions may boast more colorful foliage—the reds and purples of the hardwood forests to the east, for example—but nowhere else do we get the combination of cobalt blue skies, spectacular mountain scenery, and shimmering golden leaves. Such a treat is not to be missed, so we recently joined some friends and went leaf “peeping.”

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Plant Photography: Color

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My final post on photographing plants, in all their forms, deals with one of my favorite aspects of photography—color. My dad was an avid photographer as well, but he preferred to shoot a medium format camera loaded with black and white film. Then he’d disappear into his darkroom and spend hours dodging and burning, doing his best to emulate Ansel Adams.

Me? I want color, and the more, the better. Happily, gardens are colorful places.

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Garden Synergy

LAH_1195Does this pink look too garish? Should I match it with orange—or cream? Or would the gray be better? One of my favorite aspects of gardening is coordinating flowers. Sure, each plant is a beauty all on its own but, just as a decorator pulls together matching and contrasting colors to produce a total look, so the creative gardener selects flower and leaf colors that complement one another, creating a composite whole that outshines any single plant.

The first summer in our new home, we simply added basic landscaping—retaining walls, trees, large shrubs, planters, and the lawn. Our yard was mostly mulch with little green dots scattered throughout. Think of a living room with the couch, a couple of chairs, and an end table or two, but no rug on the floor, pictures on the wall, pillows on the couch, or books on the coffee table. It looked pretty bare. Continue reading

Yellow Leaves, Red Leaves, Pretty Leaves, Dead Leaves

Fall color @TacomaWA 14oct07 LAH 015You probably remember learning about fall color when you were in elementary school. You know that leaves turn colors before they fall, and it had something to do with chlorophyll. But when is the last time you really thought about fall foliage from a botanist’s point of view?

As gardeners, we want to know which plants turn which colors so we can use them effectively in the landscape. Here in Colorado, most of us know that aspens turn yellow golden, Gambel’s (scrub) oaks become a flaming reddish orange, and burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) shine in stunning shades of fluorescent pink, purple, and red. But why exactly do they do that? And how?

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Fabulous Fall Grasses

What do we plant for fall color? Most of us would quickly list off maples and crabapples, or perhaps a burning bush (aka winged euonymus). But what about grasses? Some ornamental grasses have impressive fall foliage, and it lasts all winter.

Ornamental grasses are everywhere. What was once a fairly obscure group of landscape plants have emerged into the spotlight, and their popularity shows no sign of fading. That’s not surprising, considering how much they have going for them—flowing leaves, towering seed heads, a fountain shape unlike that of shrubs or perennials that adds contrast and texture to the garden.

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Nature’s Easter Eggs

eggsWith many of us dying Easter eggs this week, I got curious about eggs that are naturally colored. We’ve raised chickens (Ameraucanas) that laid turquoise-to-olive eggs; our current flock of Black Sex-links lay in shades of tan. In fact, I usually have to buy white eggs at the store in order to achieve those pastel Easter hues.

But what about other kinds of birds? For instance, why do American Robins lay blue eggs, Burrowing Owls lay white eggs, while the American Golden Plover lays eggs that look like ovoid granite rocks, with big, black speckles on a white background? How and why do eggs come in so many colors?

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Beyond Fall Foliage

Want to add autumn interest to your garden? Frost has arrived and flowers are finishing their season, but we don’t have to settle for a boring landscape. Even in Colorado, it’s possible to create a garden that is beautiful all year.

Colorful foliage is everywhere this time of year, but there’s more to fall than just leaves, no matter how spectacular they might be. Look for bright berries, persistent seedheads, and even colorful or thorny bark and branches.

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