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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Here’s to Hollyhocks

Alcea rosea - Hollyhocks @DianaPicchietti-Monument 22july05 LAH 002rHow do you like your flowers? Do you grow annuals? You have to replant them every year, but they grow quickly and bloom all season. Then they die with the first freeze. Or perhaps you prefer perennials. They continue from year to year, dying back to their roots in winter, then re-sprouting to bloom again. Their bloom season is short—some only bloom for a couple of weeks, others hang on for a month at best. In all the fuss over perennials vs. annuals, one category of flowers often gets overlooked—the biennials.

Biennials take one growing season to reach blooming size, then overwinter to bloom the following year. Once they bloom, they die, leaving plenty of seeds behind to ensure their replacements. If you plant them two years in a row, you’ll never be without. Yes, you have to put up with plants that don’t blossom that first year, but they earn their keep by the show they put on the next.

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I Love Veronicas

Veronica peduncularis 'Georgia Blue' @DBG LAH 171rs

It looks like the sky has fallen and landed among my perennials. Purple-blue flowers formed a dense carpet nearly obscuring the thick layer of green foliage underneath—and the whole show was only a few inches high. I have a weakness for “blue” flowers (when it comes to botanical descriptions, usually that means purple), and the various speedwells are at the top of my list.

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Garden Hopping

Gazebo_HASDemoGarden-COS-CO_LAH_9487As an enthusiastic gardener, I spend a lot of time in my yard, but it’s always a treat to visit other gardens. Just as sandwiches always taste better if I don’t have to make them, a garden I haven’t tended seems more lovely somehow. Perhaps it’s because I’m not responsible for pulling every weed; I can just relax and enjoy the flowers.

I’ve been garden hopping a lot this month. Earlier this month, our house suffered 45 minutes of half-inch hail accompanied by a torrential downpour. Runoff scoured my gravel paths and adjacent flower beds—I  never did find some seedlings I had just planted. Happily, other parts of town completely missed the destruction. I find their intact flowers and un-shredded leaves therapeutic, easing my bruised sensibilities while my garden heals. Continue reading

Charming Saponaria

It’s such a pretty plant, petite and delicate, only a few inches high and covered with quarter-inch flowers of the softest pink. It’s the kind of groundcover perfectly suited for small spaces, rock gardens, and fairy bowers. It can even be used as a lawn substitute, as it tolerates limited foot traffic. With so much to recommend it, I’ve often wondered why this hardy perennial isn’t more popular. Perhaps it just needs a better name. “Soapwort” fails in the marketing department!

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Snow-tolerant Veggies

Yes, it’s May. And yes, it’s still snowing. In fact, we had temperatures around 20 degrees, with snow, over the past few days. The prediction is for warmer weather, but in previous years we’ve had snow and lows below freezing well into June. Of course I’m anxious to get my garden growing—but what will survive our winter/spring weather? Surprisingly, quite a lot!

Kale
LAH_7318We were gone last fall, so I never got around to pulling out last summer’s freeze-killed veggies. It turns out that was a good thing. With no protection at all, my Starbor kale roots survived our Zone 4 winter, and new growth is appearing from a dead-looking stump. I expect the kale plants to bolt as soon as it warms up a bit more, but in the meantime, I’m harvesting kale now. I plan to include kale in my garden again this year, starting seeds inside and setting out plants in late June to mature in September and October, after frost sweetens the leaves. You can bet I’ll leave those plants in place next fall, maybe with a bit of mulch or a row cover, for yet another early harvest. Continue reading

Blizzard Gardening

2016-03-23 14.33.18Today (as I write this) is officially the third day of spring, but you’d never know it here in Colorado. I can barely make out the house across the street through the snow hurtling by at up to 70 mph. Cottony clumps of white stuck to the window screen have totally blocked the view from my office (right). Those who can are staying home, businesses are closed, and schools would be too if the kids weren’t already off for spring break. The blizzard warning keeps changing. We can expect a mere 1 to 3 inches of snow. No, we’ll get 6 to 12 inches. And now they’re saying 8 to 16 inches with significantly higher drifts.

My first daffodil bloomed yesterday.

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