California Sunshine

I’ve been on a road trip the past week, driving from our snow-covered yard in Colorado west to a land of broad-leafed evergreens and warm sunshine. Wyoming was cold and windy, as expected. The I-80 corridor is desolate at any season. The slopes around Alta were crowded with skiers, Salt Lake City was smogged in, and Lake Bonneville had an inch of water in it, much to my surprise. Next morning, as I crossed Nevada, I encountered fog in the intermountain lowlands that had left hoar frost on every surface of the ubiquitous sagebrush. It was a desert fairyland. I wanted to grab some photos but there are few places to stop on the interstate, and besides, the car thermometer hovered at 3 degrees!

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White Frost, Green Leaves

Rime on trees_BlkForest_20091011_LAH_3876We’ve been enjoying some glorious autumn foliage these past few weeks, but there are plenty of plants that remain stubbornly green. In fact, their leaves stay green no matter what the season—that’s why we call them evergreens. With winter just around the corner, I began to wonder—how do evergreens survive our cold winters? Why don’t they lose their leaves?

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Grow for the Green

Nicotiana alata - 'Lime Green' @DBG 19sept05 LAH 405
Green-tinged Nicotiana (Flowering Tobacco)

When you think of flowers, you might imagine a red rose, yellow daffodil, or purple iris. But how about green? On March 17 we will celebrate Saint Patrick with green eggs, green beer, and parades. Being a gardener (and in honor of an Irish ancestor), I want flowers to get equal time.

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The Human Side of Gardening

greenprintsIt’s the time of year we give gifts, and by now, we probably need all the help we can get in picking out just the right thing. If there is a gardener on your list who already has all the spades, gardening gloves, and yard ornaments they can ever use (or even if they don’t), I have the perfect suggestion.

Give them a subscription to GreenPrints: The Weeder’s Digest.

Years ago my husband introduced me to this magazine, and it’s still one of the best gift ideas he ever had. There are plenty of “how-to” garden magazines out there, filled with photos of weed-free, perfectly pruned gardens, exotic plants (at least to a Colorado gardener), and bug-free vegetables. It’s enough to make an honest gardener throw in the trowel. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

This magazine isn’t like that.

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Saying Good-by to Tomatoes

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It seems that only yesterday I was picking my first ripe tomato of the season. Now I’m looking at the vigorous vines still full of green fruit and wondering… how long will the warm weather last this year? Is there will time for these to ripen? If not, when should I pick them? How should I store them? Is it OK if they freeze?

It’s early October, with warm, golden days and crisp nights, and frost could come at any time. In fact, October 10 is the average first frost date in Colorado Springs. (Where I am, 1,000 feet higher in elevation than downtown, I have to subtract 10 days (one day per hundred feet), which means that in any given year, my garden has a 50% chance of seeing a frost by October 1.)

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Go for the Green

fraxinus-pennsylvanica-green-ash-cc-2003jul06-lah-003

In honor of today being St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d celebrate “green” in the garden. No, I don’t mean about being environmentally friendly, although that’s certainly important. I’m talking about just plain green… as in chlorophyll-laden leaves.

This time of year, I’m pretty frantic for anything green. There aren’t many broad-leaved evergreens that tolerate Colorado’s winters. Even the conifers are more a blackish-olive drab—not nearly as nice as the “pine” of the decorating industry. Cold weather does that to leaves: many junipers turn plum-purple in winter. Leaves should not be that color. (Mahonia wears the same hue, but manages to look more attractive in it.) Hardy ice plant glows red, and ornamental grasses shimmer in copper and gold. Mostly, however, things look dull grayish brown, or just plain dead.

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Green is for Gardens

aquilegia-caerulea-blue-columbine-cottonwood-pass-summit-15july05-lah-005“The Green Guide, National Geographic’s source for greening your life.” “Green Home—everything you need to create a healthy home environment.” Green-collar jobs, green building, and green news. Green is certainly the color of the decade. Yet, long before green became such a household buzzword, gardeners were growing green plants. Isn’t gardening the original green industry?

Gardening is a partnership with nature. Therefore, it is only fitting that we create our landscapes with an awareness of how our actions in our gardens impact the environment. Over the next few months, I plan to post a series of articles on how to garden green. Hopefully my list will inspire you to come up with ideas of your own. I’d love to hear your input.

dsc_7100Green gardening requires an understanding of ecology. What vegetation would naturally grow on this site? What stress factors do these plants need to cope with? Will the plants grow in sun or shade? Is it windy? How hot and cold will it get here?  How about yearly rainfall? Is the ground level or sloping? What is the soil like? Is it acidic or alkaline, clay or sand? What bugs or other animals eat plants in this area? Understanding how plants grow, and how they are adapted to their surroundings, lets us choose a landscape in harmony with nature.

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