Common Mullein

plants in snow_castlewoodcynsp-co_lah_7289

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 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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Nasty Knapweeds

Centaurea stoebe_Spotted Knapweed_PikeNat'lForest-CO_LAH_1141rThe flowers could be considered somewhat pretty—a white or lavender tuft reminding me of cornflowers (aka bachelor’s buttons). The somewhat pretty flowers are probably the only positive aspect of these plants. A common noxious weed, knapweed is the bane of my garden.

The problem is that we live immediately adjacent to an open space, a few supposedly wild acres left by the developer (probably because it’s too steep to build on). There’s Gambel’s oak, six Ponderosa pines, a smattering of yucca, assorted wildflowers, and some rather nasty weeds.

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Is Your Garden in Danger from Gnomes?

gnome2-klbI’m taking a break from blogging to bring you an important message from the Utah State University Extension. There seems to be an annual increase in gnome numbers immediately after Christmas, so this is timely information.

Growing conditions in Ogden, Utah, where this video was created, are very similar to those along Colorado’s Front Range, so I’m sure you’ll find this advice very helpful.

Please sit back, relax, and learn how you can deal with invasive garden gnomes!

Gnome Management in the Garden

Whitetop (aka Hoary Cress)

whitetop_fcnc-co_lah_0313Spring flowers are finally filling the fields. Milk vetch, penstemons, wild onions and marsh marigolds all caught my eye as I hiked though the towering cottonwoods along Fountain Creek, at the base of the Rockies here in central Colorado. I was particularly impressed by huge swaths of a foamy white flower I didn’t immediately recognize.

Counting the petals—each tiny flower had four—and examining the foliage led us to conclude the plants were Crucifers, members of the mustard family. Sure enough, we were enjoying the pretty flower heads of Whitetop (Cardaria draba), an aggressive import from Europe and Asia that is listed as a noxious weed here in Colorado (List B). Oh dear.

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Paper Wasps and Butterflies

eruopean-paper-wasp__butterflypavilion-co_lah_9129Aliens have invaded Colorado. Once again, a non-native species has moved into our territory and established a thriving population. In this case, it’s the European Paper Wasp (left). You can read all about it at the Colorado State University Extension website.

In this case, having this new insect in town is a mixed blessing. Although they look a lot like a yellow-jacket, European Paper Wasps aren’t aggressive; they can sting, but they seldom do. On the down side, they’ve been known to go after the sweet juices of ripe fruit such as cherries, and pose a threat to the orchards on the Western Slope.

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A Second Opinon on Invasive Species

I recently read a confounding article on Garden Rant (a gardening blog like no other). The author was reporting on some new research suggesting that not all invasive species should be eradicated.

lonicera-honeysuckle-dbg-19sept05-lah-250-1Specifically, a Penn State biologist named Tomas Carlo studied Japanese Honeysuckle (considered a noxious weed in much of the eastern US) and found that its presence increased the biodiversity of bird species as well as the number of individual birds. In fact, the fall berries are a major source of food for fruit-eating birds.

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