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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Morning Glory Mix-up

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You’re growing morning glories? On purpose? Are you crazy? Those things will take over your garden! Our friends, who live in wet western Washington, were appalled. They couldn’t understand why I’d plant something so invasive.

Yet, I’ve grown morning glories for years, first in California’s benign climate, then here in Colorado. I’ve never found them to be at all invasive. True blue flowers are hard to find. I couldn’t understand why our friends, avid gardeners, wouldn’t want to grow something so lovely.

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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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Delinquent Daisies

Oxeye_Daisy_TaylorCanyon_2008jul14_LAH_006-001They sound pretty good— perennial plants that:

  • Are hardy in Colorado, even in the mountains
  • Grow a compact one to two feet tall
  • Are covered with eye-catching white daisies in mid-summer
  • Grow in almost any soil
  • Bloom in full sun or partial shade

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Ditch this Dame

Worth growing for its delicious ­­­­­­fra­grance­ alone, dame’s rocket also offers showy, long-lasting flowers and is as trouble-free an herb as you could ask for. Its multitude of common names attests to centuries of cultivation in gardens and to the high regard in which it has been held. (Mother Earth Living)

Hesperis matronalis_Dame's Rocket_ColoSpgs-CO_LAH_7355How can you resist such a glowing recommendation? It’s true that dame’s rocket is all these things, but it is also an invasive outlaw, wanted dead, not alive. Like any most-wanted suspect, Hesperis matronalis hides under a plethora of aliases: damask violet, dame’s-violet, dames-wort, dame’s gilliflower, night-scented gilliflower, queen’s gilliflower, rogue’s gilliflower, summer lilac, sweet rocket, mother-of-the-evening, vesper flower and winter gilliflower, to name a few. But not matter what you call it, it’s against the law to grow this plant in Colorado.*

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Answers: Weed? Or Wonderful?

If you’ve ever pulled out the lettuce and left the chickweed, you’re in good company. Last week I admitted my failure to recognize ragweed, one of the most irritating plants in my yard (especially to my nose!). It takes practice to recognize plants in their infancy. After all, how much do you look like your newborn photos?

If you missed last week’s quiz, you can try your hand at some seedling ID by clicking here. If you’re ready for the answers, keep reading.

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Weed? Or Wonderful?

LAH_7583Everything is growing. Buds are bursting, early flowers are in bloom, and millions of tiny seeds are breaking through the soil into eager growth. It’s a wonderful time of year, and a busy one for gardeners. As we sow seeds and pull weeds, the question arises—which is which? Should we dig out that clump of green, or is it a desirable plant?

This is especially difficult if it’s a new yard, and this is our first chance to see what’s growing in it. Let me tell you a short story illustrating my gardening ineptitude.

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