Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fairy Gardens

Photo Credit: From Pinterest
Feel creative?  Try your hand at a fairy garden.  The sky is the limit!  Some folks use all natural materials and make things from scratch while others purchase miniature doors, windows and furniture. 
There are no rules about creating a fairy garden.  If you want the natural look, search in your back yard for bark and moss.  If you want stones and live nearby a river, lake or beach collect them for the look you want. 
Wooden popsicle sticks and toothpicks come in handy to use for fences, bridges or window frames.  Use your imagination.  Take a look at the picture below:
Photo Credit: etsy.com  Nature Fairy House
Art in any form helps everyone from little children to adults mentally, socially and emotionally.  So start the New Year spending time reenergizing yourself and take time to create.  Express yourself. 
There is no right or wrong when expressing yourself.  Go for it!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Plant Select 2016 Top Performers

According to Director of Plant Select Pat Hayward, fifty three public gardens in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Montana participated in the Plant Select Demonstration Garden Partner performance surveys in 2016.  These gardens display Plant Select winning plants, providing communities with educational opportunities to discover the plants that grow best in their local environments.  To qualify as a partner, each garden must do the following:

  • Display good garden design with regular garden maintenance
  • Have a well-planned educational program
  • Provide clear and legible signage with proper plant names
  • Be open to the public year round
  • Be at least one year old before applying
Plants were evaluated on winter hardiness, bloom and foliage quality, and overall appearance and performance on a scale of 1-9.  The results are as follows:

Grand Winner: Top Performer Overall
This  year's overall winner is Blonde Ambition blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition' PP22,048).  Introduced in 2011, this ornamental selection of native blue grama grass was developed by David Salman, founder of High Country Gardens, and owner of Waterwise Gardening, LLC.  It received an overall score of 8.3 and was evaluated in 82% of the gardens reporting.  This is the second year in a row for Blonde Ambition as grand winner. 

Photo Credit: Plant Select

The following are the top performers in each of three elevation ranges.  Scores are based on reports from a minimum of half the gardens in each range.  Score and number of gardens reporting follow the winning plant name. 
Top performers in the 3000-5500' elevation range
  1. Blonde Ambition blue grama grass: 8.8/25
  2. Hot Wings Tatarian maple (Acer tataricum 'Gar ann' PP15,023): 8.1/21
  3. Red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora): 8.1/19
  4. Turkish veronica (Veronica liwanensis): 8.1/19
  5. Orange Carpet hummingbird trumpet (Zauschneria garrettii ' PWWG01S): 8.1/18
Top performers in 5501-7000' elevation range
  1. Hot Wings Tatarian maple (Acer tataricum 'Gar ann' PP15,023):8.4/11
  2. Turkish veronica (Veronica liwanensis): 8.3/12
  3. Little Trudy catmint (Nepeta 'Psfike' PP18,904): 8.2/12
  4. Blonde Ambition blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis ' Blonde Ambition' PP22,048):8.1/15
  5. Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa): 8.1/13
Top performers over 7000' elevation
  1. Fernbush (Chamaebatiaria millefolium ): 9.0/2
  2. Cheyenne mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii 'PWYO1S'): 8.7/3
  3. Winecups ( Callihoe involucrate ) : 8.5/2
  4. Kannah Creek buckwheat ( Eriogonum umbellatum v. aureum 'Psdowns'): 8.5/2
  5. Denver Gold columbine ( Aquilegia chrysantha ): 8.3/3
For more information about the Demonstration Garden Partner program:
High resolution images of the top winners can be found here:
Credit for this article goes to Plant Select.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Click Beetles

Adult Click Beetles, Photo Credit CSU Forest Service

What do wireworms and click beetles have in common?  Wireworms are the larval stage of click beetles.  So where can you find wireworms? 
  • They inhabit the soil
  • They feed on the roots of plants
  • They are found in decayed wood
What is the lifecycle of a click beetle?

  • First the adults can be found in abundance in mid to late spring.  The adults lay their eggs in shallow soil.
  • Then the larvae become active and tunnel into seeds, roots and other underground structures.
  • Next, the pupation occurs in small cells constructed in soil.
Click beetles host on root crops.  They also host on a wide variety of plant roots and seeds.  These beetles are very memorable once you have seen them.  They are among a large group of insects titled root, tuber and bulb feeders.  They are in good company with billbugs and weevils to name a few.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Tower Garden Results

Hydroponic System Photo Credit Alaina Akey, FFA student
Aeroponic System- Tower Garden Photo Credit Alaina Akey, FFA student
The soilless growing systems comprised of a tower garden and a hydroponic system in Wray, Colorado had the following results:
Hydroponic System:
The most efficient system was the hydroponic system because it used less water.
The system was easy to set-up. 
The pump did not circulate water that well and caused more algae build-up.
The system used .5 to 1 gallon of water.
When the system was moved outside it averaged 2-3 gallons per week.  The systems were moved outside because of the end of the school.  The systems were moved to the FFA student's home.
The Tower Garden:
The set-up was easy except for the net pots that were supposed to snap in and that did not always happen.
Easy to follow instructions.
The system used 3 to 5 gallons per week.
When the system was moved outside the water increased to 3-5 gallons every other day.
 With the Tower Garden and the hydroponic system tomatoes ended up with blossom end rot which is a physiological condition.  Researchers have discovered this to be a problem in tomatoes and peppers grown in aeroponic and hydroponic systems.  In our hydroponic system it was evident only in those grown without soil.  We broke the rules and left half the pots in a soilless medium and the others in water with clay balls for a medium.  The tomatoes growing in only water with clay balls still ended up with blossom end rot.  A medium consisting of a soilless medium can clog up a hydroponic system.  In ours it did not occur.  But that is what is meant by we broke the rules.

Photo Credit by Linda Langelo, CSU Extension, Golden Plains Area

See any of this on your Austrian Pines?  If you do then your pines might be attacked by Pine Zimmerman Moth.  These moths which you may or may not see are about mid-sized moths with gray wings.  Blended with red-brown and marked with zig zag lines.

This moth has a one year cycle.  It overwinters underneath the bark in a cocoon.  These caterpillars once active in mid-late April and May tunnel into any pre-existing wounds.  As they start tunneling, you may notice sawdust and or pitch over the entry site.   As they continue to feed into July and August, they create more pitch. 

The adult moths are active in July and August and the female lays eggs near the previous masses of pitch.  The best time to manage these moths are when the larvae are active and exposed on the bark.  Trunk sprays are best in mid-April and again in August.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Container Competition

For our small town of Julesburg, Colorado, the garden club here collaborates with the local chamber to enhance the festivities of main street.  The garden club asked businesses to decorate the containers in the theme of Old Fashion Christmas.  So some of the garden club members set example trees out in the containers ahead of the competition.

Photo Credit Linda Langelo

Friday, October 14, 2016

Small Jumping Spiders

Small Jumping Spider, Photo Credit - Bug Geek
In September, I had a client who has a windbreak within 20 feet from the house.  The client keeps the trees well hydrated and has created an environment that spiders love.  Of course, August into September is a time for spiders to mate.  The windbreak consisted of blue spruces.  On this year's candle growth, the females had made thick silken webs called "pup tents".  Some sources say they make their silken webs under the bark of various trees.  These tents are for protection and a "den" for sleeping at night.
These jumping spiders, Salticidae , are named this literally because they jump on their prey.  They can jump 30 times their length.  Their eating habits extend further than other insects.  Nectar seems to also be part of their diet.  Small jumping spiders are very active hunters or diurnal. 
These spiders have well-developed internal hydralic system according to Wikipedia.  This system extends their limbs by altering the pressure of body fluid or hemolymph within them. Pretty amazing arachnid. 
When this spider prepares to jump, they have a silken tether which they remain attached to if the jump does not go well.  This tether takes them back to their starting point.  According to Wikipedia, the silken tether is impregnated with pheromones and is used for navigation, social and reproductive communication.  So they do not have "wireless" communication. 
For further information go to the following links:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Maple Not Sensitive to pH

Photo Credit: PlantSelect.org

One of my favorite maples in the west -- Hot Wings Tatarian Maple.  One feature that people in the west relish are their trees.  Beyond that, they love to see the fall coloration of the leaves.  Hot Wings Tatarian Maple gives them a beautiful orange-red color in the fall.  In the spring, the tree comes into bloom presenting yellow-white flowers.   In the summer, the red-scarlet samaras (seeds) are the tree for a show for six weeks. 

This is a wonderful small three that is an accent piece for your landscape.  It gets to 18 feet tall by 18 feet wide.  I planted it in my front yard right in front of the bay window.  The front lawn has a slight downhill slope so as the tree grows, the main crown fills the front window with a season of changes.

The best feature is it is not pH sensitive.  Maples in our western region struggle because the pH is often between 7.2 and higher.  Our alkaline soils prevent maples and other plants from obtaining iron, manganese or zinc.  These elements are micronutrients the tree still needs for photosynthesis and enzymatic activity. 


What is the most popular annual we use in our gardens?

Marigolds -- no

Four O'Clocks -- no

That's right!  Zinnias! Most popular worldwide!  They originate from Mexico and South Texas.

Photo Credit:  Linda Langelo, CSU, Golden Plains Extension
Zinnias are great for cut flowers, color and they just fill in and cover those open bare spots when you don't know what to plant.   A zinnia will do.
Zinnia elegans
-- Magellan grows 14 inches tall and are great for using as a cut flower.
Zinnia angustifolia
-- Creeping or spreading types
-- low water requirements and grows to 8-12 inches tall.  Resistant to powdery mildew  & leaf spot.  
-- a cross between Zinnia elegans and Zinnia angustifolia
--12 inches high and 15 inches spread
--a cross between Zinnia elegans and Zinnia angustifolia
--compact with bright colors

Tower Garden

Tower Garden Photo Credit Linda Langelo


Tower Gardens are cropping up everywhere.  These are aeroponic systems where water is pumped to the top and runs over the root systems of each plant.  As an FFA project we trialed one at the Wray High School greenhouse. 
Some important tips about this enclosed growing system:
  1. Keeping the water reservoir level.
  2. Keeping the pump submerged in water.  Check the level often.
  3. If there is insufficient lighting, then supplemental lighting will be needed.
  4. Keeping the water temperature in the reservoir 85 or less.  Ours stayed around 55 F - 65 F.
With the Tower Garden, we grew the seedlings in a starter soilless mix and the rock wool.  With the seedlings in the soilless mix we washed off the soilless mix when we transplanted them in the net pots. The first problem was the net pots did not snap into place even when they were empty.  We tried snapping them in place with the seedling in it and that on some was difficult.
The second problem was with the seedlings in rock wool starter cubes you had to push them all the way into the net pot.  
Our seedlings were about at 4 to 5 weeks old and they recommend 3-4 weeks for transplanting.  The root systems were delicate and not easy to place in the net pots.  The roots did not always have good coverage with water at the angle of the net pots on the tower.  This leaves only one option - use the rock wool starter cubes because it helps with less plant shock.  Our greenhouse had a heating issue and some of the initial seedlings died that were grown in the rock wool which is why we went to a soilless mix.  If the seedlings could be grown in the net pots and just easily snap in at 3-4 weeks instead of first growing in rock wool and then placed in the net pots that would be more successful.   
We compared this system with a hydroponic system which also passes water over the plant roots.  But in our case, we let half of the plants stay in soil and half in clay hydroton pebbles.  The plants that remained in soil performed better.  More to come on more results next month in December.