Seeds to Start in January

geranium-bold-charm-rose-csu-lah-162For an avid gardener, January can be a difficult time of year. Sure, we can dream. The seed catalogs that have been arriving for a month now are filled with post-it notes, dog-eared corners, and bright yellow highlights. At the same time, I’ve decided and re-decided (at least a dozen times) where I’m going to plant each seedling once the weather warms. I love the optimism of dreaming, but sometimes I just want to get my fingers into some soil—even if the “soil” came out of a bag of potting mix.

At this time of year, gardening outside is pretty much impossible. The ground is frozen, and there’s still a layer of snow in the shadows on the north side of the house. Besides, it’s cold out there!

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Cold Brrrrrds! (a rerun)

birders_laveta-co_lah_7416Here it is noon on Saturday, and it’s currently -5 outside. Everyone is talking about the weather—especially because yesterday the temperature soared to 60 degrees. The entire country is shivering. Adding to the discussion is the fact that today is our local Christmas Bird Count. Hardy birders are out counting even hardier birds. Brrrr!

While the frigid conditions outside seem unusual for our area, an arctic cold front isn’t actually all that rare. Please go back to 2013 and see what I had to say then about Cold Brrrrrds! I think it is appropriate for today as well.

Dressing Plants for Winter

We’re turning on the heat, unpacking our winter sweaters, and looking up our favorite soup recipes. And if we’re gardeners, we may be figuring out the best way to protect our plants for winter. Lately I’ve been seeing ads for rose collars and burlap wraps. Should I buy some?

Many hybrid roses are grafted onto rootstocks bred for hardiness, not pretty flowers. It’s imperative to protect that graft union in very cold weather. If the top half of the plant dies, the roots will send up shoots next spring—we won’t be aware that anything is wrong until our petite pink rose suddenly grows into a huge sprawling shrub with ugly white flowers.

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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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Welcoming Juncos

dark-eyed-junco_lavetaco_20100320_lah_0458nefI just added bird #19 to my yard list. That may not sound like very many, but we only moved into our new house in May, and we had no landscaping until August. Birds are rarely attracted to bare dirt!

Not surprisingly, #19 was a Dark-eyed Junco. Vertical migrants, Juncos spend the summer up in the mountains, nesting in the conifers, and descend to lower elevations for the winter. At 7,100 feet , our house barely qualifies as a lower elevation; the park up the road, a mere 200 feet higher, hosts juncos all year.

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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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