Thursday, December 8, 2016

Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference coming soon

The Second Annual Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference will be held Feb. 11 at the Larimer County Fairgrounds (The Ranch) in Loveland. 
This year, we have three tracks, including a beginner-friendly half-day, and region-specific talks, including Mountain Gardening with Natives – Firewise and Waterwise.  There is a full day of great talks, so mark your calendars and plan to come – it’s a great way to brighten the bleakest time of the year for gardeners and to start thinking about your garden next summer.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Hanging Basket Cactus Plants by Kurt M. Jones, Chaffee County Extension Director

            We were greeted last week to our first bloom from our Schlumbergera in our kitchen.  This plant was given to us as a holiday gift years ago, and continues to bring us joy now.  How many parents can say that about gifts they have given their children?  In this tough economy, perhaps a plant is on your planning lists.

            One popular plant during this season is the Schlumbergera.  This plant is probably better known as the Holiday or Christmas Cactus.  This plant is popular because it is a short day length blooming cactus.  It is not unusual for this plant to initiate blooming around Thanksgiving, finishing after the New Year celebrations.

             Schlumbergeras are native to the tropical forests of South America, where they grow on trees.  Their stems are unique, leaves colorful, and timely blossoms make this an attractive addition to indoor plant collections.  The stems of Christmas cactus’ (S. buckleyi) are spineless, but produce tubular flowers in a variety of colors at Christmas time.

            A close cousin of the Christmas Cactus is the Thanksgiving Cactus (S. truncata), which is similar to the Christmas Cactus, but tends to bloom earlier in the winter.  Its stem joints are longer and narrower than its Christmas cousin.  Blooms are generally red or white and can be up to 3 inches long.

            Another schlumbergera that you may want to add to your collection is the Easter cactus (S. gaertneri).  It is often confused with the Christmas cactus, but blooms around Easter and sometimes in the early fall as well.  Blooms can be different shades of red or pink, depending on the cultivar.
            For springtime blooms, consider the Orchid Cactus.  This cactus also works well in hanging baskets, with branches originating from a central crown.  It also has showy blooms, which appear throughout the spring into early summer.  Varieties are available with yellow, red, orange and white blooms.

           Proper care of any of these cactus plants will have the best blooms.  These plants enjoy humus-rich soils that are kept moist during their growing periods.  Following flowering, allow the soils to dry out between watering.  Overwatering any cactus plant can promote root rot, poor growth, and poor flowering.  These plants enjoy bright, indirect light from east, south or west windows.  Direct sunlight can be harmful to houseplants.

           Avoid drafty places when placing these plants.  Ideal temperatures for bud set are 40-45° F at night, with daytime temperatures in the 60-65° F range.  The remainder of the year, these plants prefer temperatures ranging from 50-55° F at night and 65-70° F during the day.  These plants don’t require much pruning and should be replanted infrequently.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

HOW PLANTS WORK The science behind the amazing things plants do (2015), by Linda Chalker-Scott, a Review

In her recent book Linda Chalker-Scott makes plant physiology accessible to anyone interested in gardening knowledgeably, efficiently and economically.  Examples of some questions Chalker-Scott addresses are:

·         How do you garden so that you use less fertilizer and fewer pesticides?
·         If phytohormones control everything from growth to reproduction and death in plants, how can we as gardeners help them do their job?
·         How do plants tell time, move to follow the sun and change color?
·         Nitrogen…where does it come from and how much do plants need?

Linda Chalker-Scott, plant physiologist, horticulturist and extension specialist at Washington State University spells out how plants do what they do. 
She clearly explains:
·         how plant cells work;
·         the workings behind roots and mycorrhizal fungi including why, when and how to mulch;
·         the facts behind NPK fertilizers and the details of the nutrients and minerals plants need;
·         how plants transform sunlight into sugar;
·         anthocyanins and how they protect plants, help them retain water and cause leaves to change color;
·         pruning and staking basics – how, when and where, and
·         plant sex – from ferns and mosses to bulbs, corms, tubers, flowers and berries.

Chalker-Scott writes in an accessible and entertaining way that engages both experienced and novice gardeners.  Included are many photos and examples.

Also by Linda Chalker-Scott, THE INFORMED GARDENER (2008).  In this science-based book, Chalker-Scott busts dozens of myths about gardening.  A few are:
·         the myth of organic superiority;
·         the myths of soil amendments, phosphate fertilizers, bonemeal and hydrogels
·         and the myths of landscape fabrics, clean compost and ‘pretty’ mulch. 

Each myth is followed by an extensive list of peer-reviewed references in which the authors are writing for an academic audience.

Linda Chalker-Scott was the keynote speaker at the first Statewide Colorado Master Gardener Conference on Oct 2-4, 2016.  Her books were highly recommended by the attending CSU professors and extension agents. Other books by Chalker–Scott are The Informed Gardener Blooms Again and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science, Practical Application.

Article by: Molly Niven, Master Gardener