Dressing Up


It’s that time of year, when Colorado gardeners need to actively ‘winterize’ gardens.  That involves collars and wraps.  Mid November is the time to do this, and since today is the 15th, and the weather was very mild, I got to work.  First I put tree wrap on a newly planted tree.  The tree wrap will protect a young tree from winter sunscald, which occurs when the intense Colorado sun shines on tree trunks that are in dormancy.  It is a wrinkly heavy paper that you wrap around the trunks of trees, and fasten in place with duct tape.  In mid-April the wrap is removed.  Once a tree’s bark has reached a certain level of maturity, the wrap is no longer needed for winter protection.  All the other trees in our yard have matured enough  not to require this tree wrap..Image

The other winter dress-up I did was to place rose collars on all my rosebushes.  This helps to keep the temperature relatively constant around the tender root balls of the roses.  The collars I use are corrugated plastic, about 14 inches high, and have clips to hold them in a cylindrical shape around the rosebushes.   After placing the collars it is recommended one fill the collars with mulched leaves or some other sort of mulch to help insulate the ground around the bushes.  I take the lazy man’s way out and place the collars, but I don’t add the additional mulch, because I’d have to dispose of that mulch in the Spring.Image


Some of the more hardy roses can probably take the varying winter temperatures here on the Front Range, but about half of my roses are hybrid tea roses, and I’m sure that they would fare poorly over a winter here.  So I play dress-ups each fall.

I’ll add too, that I was fortunate to find a lull in the wind.  It was very breezy this morning when I went for my bike ride, giving me a lot of resistance.  Then the breeze died down so I could do my yard work.  Now the wind has whipped up again, and the forecast is for very windy weather for the next couple of days.  My timing in the garden was great!

Just to include flowers, here is a Twinspur which is still blooming in my rock garden.  It has an amazingly long bloom season, and I love the flower color!Image

Mums – the word

Tis the season to talk about chrysanthemums.  There are garden mums, hardy mums, greenhouse mums – but to me they are all just mums.  Some are supposed to be enjoyed & tossed (perish the thought) and some to be planted in gardens.  I plant them all.  After all, waste not, want not.


Traditionally, one is supposed to pinch back the mums during growing season, in order to promote full, bushy growth and avoid legginess.  This should be done every 2 weeks until July 15 (or on the Front Range, until about June 30).  When living in the East, for some reason my plants still became leggy even if I pinched them back, and the abundance of rain there also weighed down the flower stalks. 

Here on the Front Range, I rarely pinch back my mums.  I will shear them once if they are looking particularly scraggly, but always before June 30.  Most mums I leave alone though.  Their natural growth habit fluctuates, and I’m not sure why.  It could be the specific nature of each type of mum, or the growing conditions (light, moisture, heat, etc.)  I have a number of mums in my yard, and although I’ve generally left them to their own devices, they’ve each grown in their own way.  Some have remained in a low, rounded bush, covered in blooms.  (This is my current favorite mum.  It is a rainbow of colors (sort of reminds me of Rainbow Sherbet) from pink, to lavender, to yellow, to tangerine, with its petals gradually changing color as the bud opens.  The low, bushy habit keeps it neat in the border of a perennial garden.)




Some have grown in an open clump as they spread roots underground and send up new shoots.  


And some have grown in a very open fashion, almost as if in individual shoots, reaching up to 30” tall!  (In this last photo, the flower color has subtly changed over a few years, too.  It started out as a creamy yellowish flower with some red-bronze highlights, and gradually has become a true yellow flower.  Every year it is a bit different.


A lot of people don’t like mums, but I enjoy them.  They are nice for cut flowers in a small vase, they brighten up the garden when many other plants are beginning to wane, they come in many colors, growth habits, and sizes, and branches which break off can be easily rooted to make new plants.  And aside from trouble from aphids (which can usually be hosed off), they are pretty much carefree. 

I have nine pots of mums sitting out front waiting to be planted.  I almost started to plant them today, but then remembered I have an order of Spring bulbs which should arrive any day, and I want to put some of the bulbs in the same vicinity as the mums, so I thought I’d do all the planting at once.  A storm was rolling in, too, so I guess it was a good time to put away the trowel for the day.

There’s always tomorrow……

Be careful what you ask for

It has been a very dry summer here at our home.  Even when we hear of rain in Denver Metro, or south of Denver, or even in neighboring towns, those coveted drops of rain seem to miss us.  But that all changed this week. 

We have had storm after storm after storm, drenching our area (and all of Denver Metro, the foothills, and places north and east).  Creeks & rivers are swollen to overflowing and then some.   There is flooding everywhere, and the area has received more than 50% our ‘average’ annual rainfall in just one day!

I think I can stop asking for rain. 

It will probably take days for the water to recede, weeks for things to dry out, and months (or longer) to clean up the debris from the flooding throughout the Front Range.  And by then it will be winter – and who knows what that will bring in terms of precipitation.  This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, except for a few times on the East coast during major hurricanes.  Certainly nothing like we’ve experienced since we moved here – and many long time residents can’t remember anything this disastrous either.

At our house, we are fortunate to have had no flooding or leaks – just a very soggy yard.  We are on a hill, so relatively safe from any water that might go over its banks.  And we’ve seen to it (through past experiences) that our house is tight & dry. 

I have to mention the yard, since this is a gardening blog.  The plants look happy and unstressed.  However, with much more rain, roots may begin to rot, as well as spent blooms.  We have had lots of runoff going through our yard, so no chance for the plants to ‘breathe.’  Hopefully we are nearing the end of the deluge, and things can begin to get back to normal.  The forecast is for one more big rainstorm to come through, and then sun & warmth to begin to dry things out. 

Besides, my ‘to do’ list for the garden is getting longer and longer.  But that is small potatoes compared to what others in the area are suffering.

Bidding you a very wet goodnight, along with a couple of photos from the bottom of our street, where the small, usually unseen from the trail, creek has become a raging river.


Rainy days & weekdays

Well, we finally got some good rain here in my part of the world.  Every day (almost) we’ve been hearing of storms in Denver & points south, with flash flooding, hail, etc., but they all seem to miss us.  But starting last Monday evening the rain finally reached us.  .1” the first night, .75” yesterday, .7” last night.  It was mostly soft, slow rain, or drizzly, misty precipitation, which is great for all the plants.  We may get more accumulation, but it looks like the sun is trying to come out.  For now, the plants all look happy, and relieved of stress from the heat and drought.

I went out today to get a number of flags out into my yard in remembrance of 9.11.01, and along the way pulled a few weeds.  (They sure do grow fast!)  With the ground being saturated with water, most of the weeds came out of the ground fairly easily, roots & all, which is, of course the way you want to pull them, so they won’t regrow from the roots.

The rain also brought with it some relief from the 90+ degree temperatures we had been experiencing.  It feels good to walk outside to more seasonable temperatures!

I had planned to do some pruning & garden grooming on Monday, but just didn’t feel the energy to go out & struggle in the heat.  So I put it off till the next day, knowing that the temperatures would be falling.  But what a surprise when Tuesday the weather forecast was right & we actually got rain – had to put off the grooming work.  Today it is still very wet out, so the yard work will wait another day.  It’s not a good idea to walk through flower beds (unless on a path) when the ground is very wet – it compacts the soils, and goodness knows we don’t need any help with that in Colorado!  Plus, with the plant leaves themselves heavy with moisture, it would just be a sloppy mess to garden now.  The fading leaves & blooms are not going anywhere.  I’ll do my grooming when things have dried out a bit.

In the meantime, I have a Wandering Jew (Tradescantia) houseplant to repot (actually more than one).  I have one plant that was a bit (well, actually a lot) scraggly, so I just put it out into the garage on my potting bench.  It has been there for at least 6 weeks, in the heat, with no sun and no water.  And although its leaves are feeling a bit limp, it still looks exactly as it did when I stuck it out there!  Much more durable than I had thought.

So I have that plant to work with, plus another which is getting leggy, plus a big jar full of rooted cuttings which are ready to pot up.  I think I’m going to take all I have & combine them into one container, and then shear them short to make a bushier plant – and if I keep up with the trimming, the plant will stay bushy.  And to think that all this foliage came from a 4” piece of a plant which I found broken off & trampled on the floor of a nursery, and brought home to nurse back to health.  This is one tenacious plant!


Off to my rainy day gardening project!

Down day

In honor of Labor Day weekend, and because I am still a little sore from the shrub gardening a couple of days ago, I did absolutely nothing in the garden today.  It was still quite warm, and humid, even though there was a haze and overcast for most of the day.  But rain?  No such luck. 

So I watered the houseplants, the veggie garden, and my pots on the front porch.  I freshened up the water in my hummingbird feeder, and cut more flowers for pressing/drying.  A relaxing day, all in all – enjoying what is there in the garden, without a lot of work. 

The gears in my mind were grinding though, thinking about what shrubs I plan to prune back (not as severely as the lilac I pruned the other day), irrigation drips I am going to plug, plants I plan to move this fall or next spring, and what perennial seeds I hope to spread around.   So I came inside & jotted down notes on my plans – at least the ones I could remember!

Here is a photo of some of the things going on in the yard:



From here to there

Yesterday, after my ‘rejuvenation pruning’ of my lilac, I decided to tackle another project.  Don’t ask me why.  It was, of course, in the 90s, and I had already wrestled a big shrub to the ground – literally.  But once I’ve started out in the yard, it is difficult for me to stop, so I moved over to work on another planting bed.

This was a free-standing bed with several shrubs.  One, a flowering almond, was planted near the edge of the bed, and happily sent up several new shoots right at the border of the bed.  It was crowding the border, and hanging over the grass, so I dug it up and moved it about 2 feet in toward the center of the bed.  Digging was tough, as the ‘soil’ – actually mucky clay, is not overly improved, and each shovelful of the muck was pretty heavy.   Plus, the roots on this shrub were pretty substantial, even though the shrub had only been in the ground 2 years.

Anyway, after I trimmed down the shrub and replanted it, I moved two huge daylilies which were crowding the border a bit, and repositioned some of the smaller border plants.  Then I re-mulched everything, put down a border of rocks, and I was finished (with the bed and with my aging, aching body!). 

In looking at my handiwork today, I was quite pleased with my efforts.  Many of the plants have finished their bloom and have been cut back, but I know will look great next year.  For now, I still have hummingbird trumpet, daisies, plumbago, speedwell, and a few dianthus still in bloom.  Plus an althea that is going to bloom shortly.  Here’s what my finished garden bed looks like now (without the completed rock edging):


A little pruning

Today I went out to do a little bit of gardening. Not too much, because it is, after all, in the 90s today. First up was some trimming of a lilac bush. The bush is planted in front of our porch, a reblooming variety which is supposed to max out at 4-6 feet high and wide. The bush seems happy where I’ve planted it, and has eagerly grown to about 8 feet high and wide. Time to take it down a few notches, as it is now beginning to block our view of the mountains. I’ve been putting it off, waiting for the second bloom to finish. I finally got tired of waiting for the rebloom to finish (patience is not one of my strong suits), so thought I’d snip some of the branches to open our view.
The lopping shears came out, and I snipped some of the back branches which were hanging over the porch. That opened up the back end of the shrub. So I lopped off a few more branches. Looking good. More branches came off. By then the bush was looking a bit lopsided, so the rest of the branches got chopped. Of course, I saved all the flowering tips and brought them into the house to enjoy their lovely scent.
Once I trimmed the branch tips, I took a bit more off each remaining branch; and then a bit more. By the time I finished, the following is what was left.
This is what Master Gardeners call “rejuvenation pruning.” New growth will come from the roots, and what is left of the stalks. Ideally this is done in the Spring, before the new growth begins, but this plant is hardy enough that I’m sure it will come back nicely for me. It surely did open up the area, too!

The gladiolus I spoke about in a previous post is blooming nicely, too. I cut it and brought it inside so I could really enjoy it. Here is another photo showing the blooms opening up…..

Rain, rain, come this way……

The Front Range is really arid, and I love it!  Very low humidity, lots of sun, and only rarely a gray, dreary day of rain.  Sometimes it goes a bit far though in our part of the Front Range.  South of the Denver area, a lot of storms seem to come through.  But when the forecast is for rain north of Denver, it seems to skirt right around our area.  We might get one storm for every 6 or 7 storms in other parts of the metro area – even the North Metro area.  We seem to get about one storm every 4 months or so.  And what light showers we get, evaporate about the time they touch the ground.  We end up needing to irrigate – more than I’d like to have to do.  Thank goodness for our irrigation system, which helps a lot during these dry times.  We see lots of storms on the horizon, accompanied by great lightning displays and rumbling of thunder, but the rain eludes us…. The weather reports say that we have had almost our “average” rainfall for this summer – but not here!  We sure could use an occasional storm…..Guess we can’t have it all, can we?

Here is aImage photo of skies we sometimes see, which leave us hopeful for rain, but usually pass us by.


Glads all over…or not…

Gladiolus generally don’t overwinter in the ground here. Even where I used to live, which was Zone 7b, glads didn’t reliably overwinter. So, although I really like glads, I haven’t planted them in a long time, because I really want plants that will return year after year.
Last year, I succumbed to the beautiful photos in the bulb catalog, and bought a few varieties of glads (not even sure where I’d put them. And then when I went to a nursery, in a weak moment I bought more glads. Sigh. So last spring I planted all the glads, about 60% came up, and about 60% of those actually bloomed. Not a good percentage, but I did enjoy those that bloomed.
I don’t dig out bulbs or corms, or rhizomes to overwinter safely – too much work for me. So I left the glads in the ground. This spring I needed to dig up many of the beds in which the glads were planted, (that is a subject for another post) and most had turned to mush. I resettled the beds where the glads had been. Lo & behold, in a few weeks a solitary glad began to grow! And it now has a swelling flower stalk on it! It
should begin to bloom within a week. Can’t wait to see what color it is! Love a good gardening surprise!
Afternote – Just went out to photo the flower stalk for you, and it is beginning to bloom! Pink – I believe it will have a white center.DSC00459

Green Ice

I love roses, the way they unfurl their petals, and the varying scents of the blooms.  Here on the Front Range, I find that miniature roses grow the best (but I grow others, as well).  They seem to be better (read that ‘easier’) to deadhead.  I’ll prune off large clumps of spent flowers, but the individual ones are easily just broken off their stems.  Much easier & quicker than pruning off each individual flowerhead – especially if just a single plant has 50+ hips to be pruned off!  Later in the season, probably mid to late September, I’ll begin leaving the rose hips to grow and swell, providing a bit of fall color, and supposedly food for the birds – although I’ve never actually seen a bird eating the rose hips.

One mini that I’m enjoying right now is called “Green Ice.”  It stays under a foot tall, and is slightly spreading to about 18-20 inches.  The flowers are a creamy white, with a very slight green tint to them.  Really pretty.  I just noticed this week that some of the roses opening up have a bit of a pink tint to them, as well.  Makes for a very pretty rose.   Here is a photo of this rose.  Hope you can see the subtle coloring.   The bush is just covered with flowers right now.DSC00455

Guess it’s time to take time and smell the roses………