Birding Aiken Canyon

trail-aikencanyon-21apr07-lah-015rsWherever we live, we birders have a favorite birding spot (or two)—the place we’re sure to see that less common species, or that is exceptionally scenic. Maybe the trail is just right—some ups and downs, but nothing overly strenuous, and the perfect length to fill a morning, but not leave us exhausted at the end of a too-long day. It’s the place that we imagine when we think about going birding next weekend. Aiken Canyon has it all—interesting birds, beautiful scenery, and a well-maintained trail.

The Nature Conservatory owns this site, chosen because it’s “one of the last high-quality examples of the southern Front Range foothills ecosystem.”

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Blue Stars for Your Garden

Amsonia jonesii_Jones' Bluestar_DBG_LAH_0723

Think of stars, fallen from the sky to land on green leaves. In April to June, flowers with five pointed petals, in shades of white to a pale sky-blue, appear in clusters on one-foot plants. The subtle hues give this perennial a peaceful presence in the garden.

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Buying Boxed Perennials

The calendar says it’s spring, and who is a gardener to disagree? Walk down the aisle of any Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Walmart, and you’ll find a colorful display of boxed bare root perennials, ready to pop into your warm spring soil. Cannas, lilies, bleeding heart, and clematis. Peonies, six dormant plants. Gladiolus and hostas. Caladium, phlox, and kniphofia. The photos on the packaging are so enticing to our flower-starved souls (especially after experiencing our recent  “bomb cyclone,” a blizzard of apocalyptic proportions, which dumped 4-foot drifts in our yard)!

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Common Mullein

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After the storm earlier this week, snow blankets the fields, hiding most signs that anything ever grew there. But interspersed with the even white blanket and occasional dried grass leaves are spikes, sticking up like posts in the empty landscape. We’re finally noticing the dead and dried flower/seed stalks of Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus).

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A Goose with Pink Feet

Canada Geese_MilavecReservoir-CO_LAH_9654

Have you heard? There’s a Pink-footed Goose at Milavec Reservoir (about 30 minutes north of Denver)! The word spread quickly throughout Colorado’s birding community. This was amazing. This was incredible!

As the Audubon website explains,

Although many Pink-footed Geese nest in Greenland and Iceland, these birds all migrate across the North Atlantic to spend the winter in Britain and northwestern Europe. Strays that have gone the wrong direction have been found in North America only a couple of times, in eastern Canada.

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A Collapse of Détente: Russian Sage

Russian Sage @CSUtilXeriscapeGarden 9Aug2006 LAH200r

When Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) first appeared on the scene, I jumped right on the bandwagon, extolling its virtues and recommending it for Colorado gardens. I even planted it in my own yard. And yes, this hardy perennial lived up to my expectations. It was tough, drought-tolerant, and the deer and rabbits left it alone. On top of that, late summer brought a wealth of gorgeous lavender blossoms that covered the plant’s ferny, silvery-gray foliage. What’s not to like?

I’ll tell you. The plant is a thug.

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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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