Friday, October 13, 2017


Photo Credit: Datlene Boden

Achemon Sphinx Caterpillar is a member of the Hornworm Family.  This family is the largest caterpillar family in the United States.  There are more than 120 species that occur on the continent.  Of the 120 only two are the most significant as pests on tobacco and tomatoes.  These caterpillars become moths known as sphinx or hawk moths.  

There remaining number of species of the 120 are attracted to shrubs and shade trees such as oak, elm catalpa, ash, black walnut and more.  They are inconspicuous most of the time.

The Achemon Sphinx Caterpillar prefers to feed on Virginia Creeper and other vines.   In the above picture, this larval stage has no horn, but does have a prominent eye spot on the hind end.  

Friday, October 6, 2017


Photo Credit: CSU Linda Langelo, Horticulture Program Associate
Growing by the side of the road in a small grouping of plants was Snow-On-The-Mountain or Variegated Spurge, Euphorbia marginata.  This is a warm-season annual that grows in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Colorado and Texas. 
The leaves are one to three inches long and start out medium green in spring.  The upper leaves produce a clean white margin.  The flowers are produced in compound cymes which are inconspicuous green and yellow.   They bloom on the end of stems from mid-summer to early fall.
These flowers are great for use in an annual border or cut flower or added to the meadow.  They have no serious pests or diseases with the exception of aphids.  Some people may develop a skin rash from the plant sap.  This plant sap is a milky juice produced by plants in the Euphorbiaceae Family.  The juice is toxic if ingested. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Interesting Bees

                                                      Photo Credit: Meredith Shrader
                                                             Tri-River, Entomologist
                                                      Photo Credit: Meredith Shrader
                                                         Tri-River, Entomologist
                                                             Photo Credit:

These bees Leaf cutting and Mason Bees belong to a large family of bees: Megachiledae - large jaws.

These are indigenous bees as one of the largest families in the United States.  The Dianthidium in the photos above are solitary nesting bees. This bee uses the resin from trees and small stones to make a waterproof nest.  They lay their eggs in protected, dry tunnels in the ground or wood.  The bees have very distinctive light colored almost white markings according to Bee Friendly.

Become a Master Gardener

Master Gardener Program for 2018

In the Golden Plains Area of Northeast Colorado, we are now accepting interested applicants until November 1, 2017.  Our program is a two-year program.  In the first year you take all the classes and have the option of doing some of the volunteer time.  Initially, there are 50 hours of volunteer time to be complete the program.  The 50 hours of volunteer time keeps the cost of the program down.  You would have until October 31, 2019 to complete.  

What are some of the projects that a Master Gardener can do?  Master Gardeners are trained professionals.  They are the "front door" to Extension.  People who chose the program are interested in increasing their knowledge of horticulture and help others learn the joy of successful gardening.  

Here are some of the projects held by Master Gardeners:

  • Providing education by teaching class -- 
  1. Attracting Butterflies to the Garden to 1st and 2nd graders
  2. Container Gardening to Seniors
  3. Native Plants to 4th and 6th graders
  4. Plant Propagation
  • Providing education to 4H, FFA and other organizations on gardening
  1. Growing Vegetables
  2. Germinating Native Plants
  3. Hydroponics
  • Other projects
  1. Answering office phones for client calls
  2. Assisting with site visits
  3. Overseeing demonstration gardens
  4. Any topic/project of interest that can assist Extension's dissemination of research-based knowledge
For further information go to the following link:
For contact information for the Golden Plains-Sedgwick, go on the link and click on contact and counties are listed in alphabetical order.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A look at Colorful Pansies

Just like chrysanthemums, pansies come in all colors.  If you are willing to try them, pansies like well-drained soil enriched with bonemeal.  Since pansies do not like the mid-day or afternoon heat, plant them where they can get some shade during this time.

For Colorado, planting pansies in late August or very early September will give their root systems enough time to become established and be prepared for winter, if the soil temperature is below 65 degrees.  The pansies planted with established root systems can withstand lower winter temperatures.  They may freeze up, but they spring back when the temperatures warm up.  Mulching around the pansies with leafmould and sharp sand will help with providing good drainage in the winter and root protection according to the Backyard Gardener. 

If you would rather plant pansies in the spring, just be sure that the soil temperature is 45 degrees.   Rhubarb starts growing and sending up shoots at 45 degrees.  If you do not have a soil thermometer, use rhubarb as an temperature indicator.  Plants begin to grow when the temperature is ideal for growth. 

The origin of pansies started in Iver, Buckinghamshire, England in the early 1800's with Lord Gambier and his gardener William Thompson started crossing Viola species.  Today's garden pansies  Viola x wittrockiana have huge blocks of color on the lower petals called the "face".  Starting in 1839 when it was discovered and named "Medora," became popular in Europe.  As for today, the pansy is breed in the United States, Japan and Germany.  With this breeding there has been an expansion of new colors and bicolor designs.  A more complete history can be found at this link:  and for further distinction from violas go to this link:

Here is a list of the categories from large to multiflora:

  • Large         - 3 to 4 inches
  • Medium     - 2 to 3 inches
  • Multiflora   -1 to 2 inches
Within each category are different series of pansies:

Within the large category:
  • Majestic Giant series is one series bred by Sakata where Majestic Giant White Face became a 1996 All-America Selections Winner. 

                                           Photo credit:  Virginia Beach Garden Club
                                             Majestic Giant White Face with blotch

                                        Photo credit: Ball Seed, Majestic Giant II Clear White

Also within the large category are the following series:
Accord, Lyric, Medallion, and Swiss Giants all by different breeders.

In the medium category are Crown series, Imperial, Joker, Roc and Springtime.

                                           Photo credit: Thompson and Morgan, Jolly Joker

In the multiflora category are Crystal Bowl, Maxim, Padparadja and Universal series.

                                       Photo credit: All American Selection Maxima Marina

For anyone there is a large selection of colors and sizes for the landscape.  For this year 2017, it is the year of the pansy.  Now matter what year, they can be mixed in our landscapes as fillers and accents and bring our landscape to life.    

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Garden Mums

This is one type of perennial flower that you can have in just about any color!  A perennial that would work in almost any landscape.  The cultural requirements are well-drained, fertile sandy soil in a full-sun location.  They do need a lot of fertilization.  But the well-drained soil needs to be a key in their cultural care.  If a plant gets too much moisture around their root systems, we call this wet-feet.  Mums do not like wet-feet. 

Here are some newer varieties of garden mums to enjoy:

                                     Photo credit: Lucas Greenhouses, Electra Amber Improved

Photo credit: Lucas Greenhouses, Chelsey Coral
Photo credit: Lucas Greenhouses, Pumpkin Pie
Photo credit:  Lucas Greenhouses, Eternal Red
There are more colors of garden mums.  There are enough colors to please anyone's color palette.  In different areas, garden mums can bloom into early November.  So if you don't have mums in your landscape, give them a try. But wait until spring to purchase them. This way their root systems get a full season to grow deeply into the ground.  You can deadhead them in early spring and leave the stems on through the winter. The new growth will come up from the crowns.  A recent Iowa State University study learned that by keeping the stems on during the winter, mums planted in areas that can get single digit winter temperatures, they survive much better.  Also, it will not hurt to put 4 to 6 inches of mulch on top of the crowns.   These can be such easy care plants.  

Do you have Deer Resistant Perennials?

First of all, there are no plants which are deer resistant.  The deer may just have a preference for something else in the garden.  The second point is that deer in a different location will have different preferences for taste.  If deer in Western Kansas do not prefer lavender, will the deer in Eastern Colorado?   Maybe not.  Deer have adapted their food preferences to their location to survive. 
According to observation, there are different lists compiled based on frequency of the deer's taste preference.  Here is a brief list of some perennials that deer seem to ignore:
  • Catmint
  • Hyssop
  • Hummingbird Mint
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Monkshood
  • Peony
  • Santolina
  • Daffodils
  • Russian Sage
  • Wild Four O'clock
  • Jupiter's Beard or Red Valerian
Just from my observation, this list has a lot of plants that will self-sow or are aggressive.  Mint and catmint can be very invasive.  Jupiter's Beard and Russian Sage will seed themselves making them a weed in another flower bed or portion of the landscape. 
 The following link is a Colorado State University Extension Fact Sheet on Preventing Deer Damage which has a listing on rarely browsed perennials, vines, trees and shrubs: 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fall Perennial Seasonal Color

Fall Perennial Seasonal Color
Most people probably think about adding mums and asters to the garden.  There is a much larger selection for every location, even in Colorado.   Here are a few to think about. 
Crocus have more than one season.  Crocus are spectacular not just in spring, but also  in fall.
Autumn crocus -- Colchicum speciosum - would make a lovely addition to the fall garden. 
                                                    Photo credit: West Island Blooms
Black Eyed Susan's are long blooming and prolific.  What a durable plant.  It blooms from June through October and does well as a cut flower, pollinator plant providing nectar and a native.  A down-side is Black Eyed Susan's are aggressive. 
                                                   Photo credit:
Russian Sage can be aggressive and seed itself.  But it is also prolific and very drought tolerant.  Once established this plant needs little to no water.  Pruning in the spring is required.  Prune to right above the new growth.
                                               Photo credit: bees and
False Aster - Boltonia asteroids is a taller white, pink or lilac flowering plant with a yellow center which is a good fall pollinator.  A plant that overtime will naturalize.  It is a decent cut flower as well.
                                          Photo credit: Missouri Botanic Garden Plant Finder

Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly 

Have you been seeing these orange-brown butterflies by the dozens fluttering around some of your flowers?   Do you recognize the picture below:

                                          Photo credit: William Ciesla, Forest Health Management International

Vanessa cardui, Painted Lady Butterfly has a global range.   If you are seeing this butterfly in high numbers, it is because they are gathering nectar before migrating to the deserts of Northern Mexico and southwest deserts of the United States.  Their migrations are dependent upon the rainy periods in the deserts.  After a rainy period, expect a migration.  Naturally, those of us in Colorado might only see Painted Lady Butterfly during spring and/or fall since it overwinters in warmer climates.

In fact,  they can have one to three flights.  In the east this occurs from May to October.  Further south in South Texas there are three to four flights from October to April.   

Painted Lady Butterflies feed on the following nectar plants, usually from Composite Family:
  • Thistles
  • Aster
  • Ironweed
  • Cosmos 
According to Butterflies and Moths of North America that are over 100 hosts for these butterflies.
Three major Families play that role:
  • Asteraceae
  • Malvaceae
  • Fabaceae
So enjoy them while they last.   Keep a watch next spring.  Plant some of the plants in these families and you attract them.  I have Heliopsis helianthoides, False Sunflower in the Asteraceae Family.  They get 3-6 feet tall as a herbaceous perennial.  They are covered with Painted Lady Butterflies.  Since the Heliopsis is right under my living room window, the flowers and butterflies are at eye level to enjoy inside as well as outside.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Trivia about Flowers

Did you know.........?

That Saffron, a spice, comes from Crocus sativus, aptly named Saffron crocus.

That juice from bluebell flowers was used to make glue.

That the powder named arrowroot comes from Maranta arundinacea, Maranta or Arrowroot.

That the rose was adopted as England’s flower emblem during the Civil War (1455-1485).  Hence, the War of Roses with Lancaster represented by Red roses and York by White roses.

That Daisies acquired their name because of the yellow center, thought to represent the sun.

That there are between 1,000 and 2,000 Begonia hybrids.

That Iris means "rainbow" in Greek, and Iris was goddess of the rainbow in Greek mythology.