Getting Established

Catmint established_COS-CO_LAH_1542You’ve read the instructions; I’ve used them frequently here in my posts. “Drought resistant once established.” Sounds good—we’re always trying to save water—but how should you water these plants to start with? And what does “established” mean?

There are a lot of misconceptions about xeric plants. Our landscaper (who was much better at dealing with hardscapes than with living plants) thought that our xeric shrubs and trees needed to be sopping wet for the first few years, until they were “established.” Dead, more likely. (I’m already having to replace some fernbushes that were growing in muck, and we lost the top half of our oak tree in the first few months.)

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Mosquito Repellant Plants? Caveat Emptor

mosquitoI sometimes wonder why God made mosquitoes. They’re so… annoying! No one enjoys getting bitten. It’s more than just the never-ending itch—they carry some very nasty diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and chikungunya. Even here in the U.S. we’re at risk of West Nile, dengue, viral encephalitis, and now zika.

Lavendula - Lavender @DianeBrunjes-GlenEagle 22july05 LAH 003rMy Facebook feed is suddenly overflowing with lists of plants that supposedly repel mosquitoes. Just plant these flowers and herbs and your yard will be pest-free! Or, as one post on Pintrest claimed, “Plant a Mosquito Control container so you can sit and unwind in the evenings.” Unfortunately, anything that simple raises a red flag for me. Can controlling mosquitoes really be as easy as planting marigolds and lavender? It took some research to get past the hype, but I eventually found some scientific studies that look at this question.

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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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Snowy Blankets

Snow-covered yard_NSFT_COS_LAH_9309We have a lot of snow in our front yard. It may not seem like much to those who live in Minnesota, upstate New York, or Maine, but for us here along the Front Range of the Rockies, it’s a lot of snow. Colorado is dry. Colorado is sunny. We don’t get all that much snow, and what we do get melts the next day. The “real” snow is supposed to stay up on the ski slopes, not in our front yards.

When we picked out a lot for our new house, we were thinking about a longer growing season from our south-facing backyard, the spectacular view of Pikes Peak out the living room picture windows, the warmth of sunshine filling our bedroom. We carefully oriented our house to take advantage of all these.

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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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Phloem is for “Phood”

Cercidium  sp. - Palo Verde Tree @PBG 2004apr18 LAH 003Last week’s post about xylem explained how it carries water from the roots to the rest of a plant. But there’s another transportation problem that plants have to solve. As you know, plants make food (sugars) through photosynthesis. (See my previous posts on photosynthesis.) This food factory requires both chlorophyll and sunlight, and can only take place in the green parts of a plant. Usually this means the leaves, although cacti and other xeric species (such as this Palo Verde, above right) often have chlorophyll in their stems.

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