Friday, June 29, 2012

What's Blooming by Christy Hoyl

My Common Lilac, Syringa vulgaris, is in full bloom, the third week in June, 2012 here in Rollinsville.  I planted it about 10 years ago in a southerly protected area close to the house and now it's at least 12 feet tall.   The swallowtail butterflies arrived first last week and they are abundant, flying all over it.  Today there are orange butterflies and smaller yellow butterflies completely drawn in by the overwhelming aroma of the lilac.  It's such a joy to smell and see!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Howdy Neighbor! Can we talk about myrtle spurge? by Ashley McNamara

I was out walking in my Coal Creek Canyon neighborhood recently when I spotted something that made my blood run cold. There, in a garden bed in front of one of my neighbors' houses, was a rambling plant with blue-green leaves. I'd never seen it in the Canyon before, but I was quite familiar with it since I used to live in a house that backed up to South Table Mountain in Golden. I can recall how the stuff blanketed the hillsides there, and how even the most ravenous deer refused to touch it. Yep, it was time to talk with my neighbor about myrtle spurge.

Myrtle spurge in bloom
I am pretty non-confrontational by nature, particularly with people I have only exchanged a bit of small talk with. As an apprentice Colorado Master Gardener, I feel I should talk  to my neighbors about their noxious weeds, in particular ones that are on the A and B eradication list. The sight of myrtle spurge alarmed me because, like I said, I've never seen it growing in the Canyon before. Still, it was going to be tough to get up the nerve. Just exactly what was I going to say?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Drying Wind -- by Irene Shonle

The hot dry winds are not only stoking the flames of the High Park fire and making it impossible to control, but they are wreaking havoc on tender succulent vegetation.

June should be a month of fresh and happy flowers, and green vegetation.  Some flowers, such as penstemons, seem to be holding up pretty well, but others, including the otherwise tough blue flax, are withering almost as soon as they flower.
Blue flax withering in the drying wind

Any new plants will probably need extra attention at this time. If you have the water rights, give plants some extra moisture.  Otherwise, mulch heavily.  The poor bleeding heart in the picture below was battered by the wind and sucked it away all the moisture from its tender foliage.  I am hoping it will recover from its root system. 
A tender bleeding heart was wind-whipped over the weekend

  The forest is dry and crackly to walk in, and I don’t think I need to repeat that fire danger is very high right now.     Be careful out there!

Pollinator Week by Tina Ligon

It is National Pollinator week and I just got this great shot of a honey bee on an oriental poppy on Sunday. Notice the load of black pollen collected on the bee's pollen basket already. They are fun to watch anytime but on such a big flower you can really watch how they go about collecting the pollen.

Pollinators are a big part of our plant ecosystem and we need to do our part in providing a suitable habitat for them. Here is a link to a Planttalk 1404 - Bees & pollination,

There is also a great website Pollinator Partnership,
There is a downloadable guide, Selecting Plants for Pollinators, that can be customized by your area. So here is the link for the guide which includes our mounatin area,

Friday, June 15, 2012


 Rocky Mountain Iris(Iris missouriensis)

Spring time in the mountains can bring many surprises for mountain gardeners.  It seems we are either inundated by late snows or, like this past spring, it was spectacular but dry.  It’s always exciting to see what nature will bring with the first warm days mixed with those late snow showers.

To assure flowers as early as possible, I have taken to planting wildflower bulbs in the fall.  It’s possible to find many interesting varieties with varying sun requirements and deer-resistant.  Mountain people with any experience know that is often an empty promise as the wildlife will take what they want and flowers are a sweet treat after a long winter.

Alba (Chionodoxa lucilae)

Last fall, I planted Wisley Blue (Ipheion uniflorum), White Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa lucilae) an Alba, Lavender Mountain Lily (Ixiolirion tataricum), Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum and Muscari latifolium) , Queen Fabiola (Brodiaea triteleia) and Spring Beauty (Scilla siberica).  Alliums and Narcissus are also good choices.

I have experimented and find that I like to mix colors and varieties and cluster them to make a bigger statement but they are just as precious individually.  It is also possible to layer bulbs in containers to have ongoing surprises.  It’s also possible to plant such that flowers come throughout the summer and fall, all in the planning.

Wisley Blue (Ipheion uniflorum),

The work done in the last days of autumn are long forgotten with the first blooms of the spring.  This spring, I had all sorts of surprises and felt it was my most successful “crop” so far.  I lost some flowers to elk and some whole bulbs to the dreaded voles but all in all it was a success!   My next experiment is fall blooming bulbs!

For general information on bulbs look at Fact Sheet 7.411 and for more specific info, check out Planttalk Publications #1012, #1011, #1067 and #1006

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Photos of bear-proof compost systems

Shoshoni Yoga Retreat's compost system. The piles are surrounded by straw bales and ringed by an electric fence to discourage bears. 
Anaerobic compost container made of a 55 gallon drum and a metal top portion with a locking lid. 
Finished compost from the anaerobic compost container above. My friend empties it once a year. 

Vegetable Gardening in the Mountains -- by Tulsi French

Gardening in the mountains has its challenges, but is a great opportunity to grow fresh vegetables for your mountain home.  I have been gardening for the past three years at 8,700 ft at Shoshoni in Rollinsville, Co. The community I live in owns a spring and has water rights to a pond.  The run-off or pond water serve all our gardening needs during Colorado’s dry season.
Greenhouse gardening has many advantages in the mountains.  One of the advantages is that you can grow year round if you have a warm place for seeding. Shoshoni has two cold houses -no heat added- and one warm house -heated by subterranean heating, and wood boiler-.  We grow hardy veggies such as kale, collards, arugula, spinach, beets, claytonia, mizuna, onions, carrots, winter variety lettuces, pak choi, and other asian greens from fall to mid January.
There are many green house designs you can use to grow in the winter. The design we use is a double-layered greenhouse with a fan that blows air between the two layers of plastic.  It is nice to have a metal frame and good foundation due to intense winds.  Our cold houses are in a valley.  They get the most wind during the winter.  We use a thick row cover

Strategies for Composting in Bear Country by Ashley McNamara

Red worm indoor composting box
Composting sounds like a great idea, doesn't it? Instead of trucking food waste to a landfill, where it will only take up space and generate methane gas, it can be turned into a product that does wonders for virtually any soil and that you would pay big bucks for if you bought it at a garden center. There's just one small problem; your leftovers may attract wildlife. If the wildlife you're attracting weighs upwards of 500 pounds and comes with sharp claws, powerful teeth and an attitude, you've got a serious dilemna on your hands (and you were just trying to be environmentally friendly!) 

The good news is there are several strategies you can use to deter bears from considering your compost pile an all-you-can-eat buffet. Choose one or more of these that seem the most practical, time-saving and cost effective for your own situation. (For general advice on composting at home, visit the CSU Extension website and look for the fact sheet "Making Compost"). 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

@#$%%@ Voles! By Irene Shonle

Voles are having one of their periodic population explosions this year – at least at my house.  I can look out at almost any time of day and see them scurrying around on the edges of my garden.  They look like large, gray mice. 
 Under the cover of the snow this winter, they girdled some canes of one of my roses; a sorrow which I discovered when everything melted.  They are currently nibbling on foliage and grass.
I have investigated the myriad holes and runways they have developed in the bank at the edge of my garden.  The holes are small and open, and  there is a “runway” right outside each hole that the voles use to travel.  Voles like to be protected from predator’s eyes, so the runways usually travel under grass or other vegetation.
I have been using simple wooden snap traps to reduce their populations.   I place the business end of the trap into the runway, and they just run right into it, no bait needed.    Traps need to be emptied frequently, but the voles can be tossed down the hill for ravens or coyotes.  For more information on controlling voles go here:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Winter Dessication of Pine Trees by Irene Shonle

Dry dead needles on windy side of trees

We had a dry and windy winter  this year (thanks to  La NiƱa).    Pine trees are really beginning to show the effects of their winter struggles, evident  in the dead and dying needles in patches and clumps on the outer edges of the trees.    The effect is especially pronounced on the windy and south sides of the trees.   It may look alarming, but it doesn’t mean the tree is dying, and it isn’t a sign of pine beetle.  (With pine beetle, the entire tree would turn yellow to brown, not just the exterior needles). This happens because transpiration from needles or leaves occurs when winter days are warm and dry. Small "hair roots" may die in dry soils leaving roots unable to replace lost leaf moisture, and this results in needle death.   Once the needles fall off, the trees will look much better.  For more information, please go to: