Friday, August 30, 2019


My garden has been neglected when it comes to deadheading.  Mostly native plants have flowered year after year, providing cheerful color and food for wildlife.  But there is trouble in Paradise. The short blooming season is limiting pollinator food supplies, and aggressive plants have spread and crowded out other plants. By incorporating deadheading into my routine, I may have a longer season and greater variety of flowers.

Deadheading is the practice of removing spent blossoms.  It can be done all season long when a bloom has faded.  The practice allows energy to flow back into the plant, rather than into seed production, improving the plant’s health.

Deadheading to encourage more flowers can be as easy as pinching off the dead flower.  For most plant species, the process is more effective if the stem is cut just above the first leaf, ensuring the removal of the seed pod.  Annuals like geraniums, marigolds, and dahlias respond well, as do perennials like Jupiter’s beard, Shasta daisy, and blanket flower.  For plants that don’t have leaves along the flower stem, the stem is cut down at the base.  A longer blooming period or a rebloom may result, depending on a number of factors including the plant species, the weather and the time of year.
Pussytoes to deadhead
Deadheading can also be used to limit self-seeding of aggressive or unwanted plants, allowing other plant species to grow.  Some of my native plants (showy daisy, yarrow, and pussy toes) are bullies and crowd out harebells and lavender.  Deadheading will reduce their seed proliferation and help keep these aggressive plants in check.  Roots and new growth also needs to be controlled with a sharp shovel since these species spread by rhizome too.

For some species, deadheading does not result in more flowers.  Some nonnative plants are cultivated to bloom profusely without the need to deadhead. Others are one-time blooming plants, like daylilies and peonies.  Gardeners may deadhead just to improve the appearance of these plants and to keep their gardens tidy.  Follow this link for a list of common perennials that may rebloom after deadheading:

Incorporating deadheading into my weekly routine will keep the task manageable.  Aggressive seeders have been addressed first, then plants that may produce more flowers for pollinators. To ensure an ample supply of seeds and fruit for wintering wildlife, I will suspend the practice before too long.  Seeing birds feasting in the winter garden is a treat!

Vicky Barney gardens for wildlife and is a member of the Master Gardener Class of 2011.

Friday, August 23, 2019

WOW! What outstanding wildflowers!

By Sandy Hollingsworth, Gilpin County Master Gardener
2019 is one of those banner years for our native wildflowers in the forests, public lands, and our neighborhoods.  With the wet Spring and then repeated rains this summer, the seeds have sprouted and the flowers are in bloom.  Another benefit of the wet earth is the lower wildfire risk in our local mountains and where we live in rural Gilpin County. And our cool season high elevation vegetable gardens are happy and productive!
Wildflower enthusiasts in Golden Gate State Park (author at the far right)

Our CSU Extension office offers wildflower walks in the summer during peak bloom color. I went on one the last day of July on a beautiful Wednesday morning. Our group was focused and inquisitive about learning the flowers. Many questions were asked about identifying characteristics to help recognize and remember the flowers and plants. We were in the local state park and encountered some noxious weeds like yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) and musk thistle (Carduus nutans) but by and large the native flowers, grasses and trees were dominating. Our Extension agent, Irene, even showed us her technique for toppling the musk thistle by bending it to the ground, stomping on it, taking the flower head off then pulling up and tossing the remaining stalk to its demise.

Among the native flowers (and plants) in bloom that we admired and examined were:
Harebell                               Campanula rotundifolia
Tansy aster (yellow center)  Erigeron speciosus
Shrubby cinquefoil              Potentilla fruticosa
Gum weed (sticky flowerheads) Grindelia squarrosa
Wild Rose                            Rosa woodsii
Yarrow                                Achillea millefolium (lantana)
Evening primrose               Oenothera villosa
Whiplash daisy                   Erigeron flagellaris
Mariposa/sego Lilly           Calochortus gunnisonii
Blue mist Penstemon         Penstemon virens
Lamberts locoweed           Oxytropis lambertii
Laxman’s Astragalus        Astragalus laxmannii
Hairy golden aster            Heterotheca villosa         
Showy aspen daisy           Erigeron speciosus
Sulphur buckwheat          Eriogonum umbellatum
One-sided penstemon      Penstemon virgatus
Fringed sage                    Artemisia frigida
Blanketflower                  Gaillardia aristata
Blanket Flower (with Yarrow in front)
Mountain sage                    Artemisia ludoviciana
Nodding Onion                  Allium cernuum
Northern bedstraw (scented)     Galium septentrionale
Stick seed Hackelia          Hackelia floribunda
Native thistle                    Cirsium clavatum (whitish flowers)
Mountain larkspur           Delphinium ramosum
Indian paintbrush (scarlet and white) Castilleja miniata and occidentalis
Indian Paintbrush
Wild geranium                       Geranium caespitosum
Stonecrop                              Amerosedum lanceolatum
Scorpion weed                       Phacelia heterophylla
Fendlers meadow rue            Thalictrum fendlerii
Twin berry honeysuckle        Lonicera involucrata
Nodding brome (native grass)    Bromus anomalus
Golden rod                        Solidago simplex
Prairie June grass              Koeleria macrantha
Native cinquefoils             Potentilla argentea, speciosa, and pensylvanica
Fendlers sand wort            Eremogene fendleri
Mountain parsley             Cymopterus montanus
Whiskbroom parsley        Harboria
Wild tarragon                  Oligosporus dracunculus
Limber pine                     Pinus flexulis
Blue spruce                     Picea pungens
Wall flower                     Erysimum capitatum
Kinnikinnick                  Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Scarlet gilia (biennial)   Ipomopsis aggregata
Scarlet gilia
Golden banner                Thermopsis divaricarpa
Yellow false dandelion  Agoseris
Horsetail                       Equisetum
Black eye Susan           Rudbeckia hirta
Blue flax                       Linum lewisii
Smooth penstemon      Penstemon glaber
Porter aster
Porter aster                  Symphyotricum porteri
Pea Vine                      Lathyrus polymorphis
Snowberry bush          Symphoricarpus alba
Showy goldeneye       Heliomeris (Viguera) multiflora

Sandy Hollingsworth is a Master Gardener with  Gilpin County.  All photos by Sandy.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Sedum lanceolatum

by Cindy Gibson
There is a path I take almost every day as part of my morning or evening chores on our small ranch. I’m a downward-looking walker, usually making sure that I don’t trip over a new gopher mound or looking for weeds that I need to pull. However, I stopped in my tracks when I saw this little native gem seemingly to grow out of some rocks.

Commonly known as yellow stonecrop, Sedum lanceolatum can be found in the Western
United States and Canada, from Alaska and the Yukon to California and east to Colorado and South Dakota. It grows at montane or alpine elevations in open, rocky and dry locations. The plant evolved during the last ice age when higher altitude areas became isolated by glaciers.
Sedum lanceolatum
Like other sedums, it has a waxy coating on the stems and leaves to help reduce water loss. In addition, plants that have evolved in dry environments are able to keep their stomata closed during the day to conserve water. Most plants open their stomata during the day because that is when energy is received from the sun. The plant will also take in carbon dioxide and use the energy from the sun to form sugars. All the steps of photosynthesis occur during the day and oxygen is released. The sedums, cacti, and agaves are able to open their stomata at night to capture and store carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis starts the next day when the plant receives the energy from the sun. This two-step process is known as CAM photosynthesis, named after the plant where this process was first discovered.
Sedum lanceolatum rosette
Sedums belong to the Crassulaceae, or Stonecrop, family. The USDA classifies this plant as a perennial herb. It has been reported to be hardy in zones 4-9.  This succulent plant will appear in the spring with tight basal rosettes that are composed of small, narrow leaves that come to a blunt tip. The reddish leaves point upwards and become smaller as the plant grows. They often fall away by the time the plant blooms. 

The flowers will appear sometime in June and last until August. They have five narrow, lance shaped, pointed-tipped petals and a ring of protruding stamens. Most flower parts are greenish yellow in color. The stamens are tipped with yellow anthers. At the center of the flower is a five-lobed ovary, which transforms into reddish fruit in the fall. The tiny, lightweight seeds will emerge in late August when the fruit turns tan and begins to split open at the top. The plant will also grow from leaf or stem cuttings.
Flowers with ring of stamens and the five-lobed ovaries
Fun Facts about Sedum lanceolatum:
• The young stems and fleshy leaves have been used medicinally by Native Americans as a
• The flowers attract native bees, butterflies and the syrphid flies whose larvae will prey on
aphids, scale insect and thrips.
• The larvae of the alpine butterfly, Parnassium smintheus feed primarily on this plant. The
female butterfly lays her eggs on the surrounding ground vegetation. The caterpillars will
pupate within a silk cocoon located in ground debris.
• The plant produces a chemical called sarmentosin, which is a bitter-tasting deterrent to
herbivores. The Parnassium larva, however, will store this chemical and use it for their own

Now on my daily walks, I’m more apt to be looking for tiny treasures instead of weeds. Who knows what I will find next!

  • USDA Plant Database
  • Southwest Colorado Wildflowers Database
  • Native Plant Network

Cindy Gibson is a Master Gardener in Jefferson County.
All photos by Cindy Gibson

Friday, August 9, 2019

Rewards of being a Master Gardener

by Sandy Hollingsworth, Gilpin County Extension
Those of us who have completed the CSU Master Gardener training for our county Extension know it is an exciting time spent wondering if we can retain much of the information. We learn from CSU Professors, Adjunct faculty and Extension Agents who are experts in the fields of horticulture, entomology and forestry. We learn to be good attentive listeners, ask clarifying questions and use materials and CSU Fact Sheets and Garden Notes as references. After months of classes and clinics we are ready to teach and guide the public, and our neighbors, through their plant selection, garden preparations, soil amendments, fire-wise planting, home fire mitigation, pest identification, info on rain barrels, noxious weed eradication and encourage planting low water or native trees, shrubs and flowers suitable for Colorado.

In Gilpin County we are especially happy to be volunteers for our fabulous Extension Agent and some of us have been with her the past 16 years also serving on the Advisory Committee which brings together representation for the many programs under the Extension umbrella. Here are our current Master Gardeners and a bit about each of us.

Cindy Goodrich:
What do you like most about being a Mountain Master Gardener: I just love anything to do with dirt, gardening, and nature. The more knowledge I have, the better. And lastly, being relatively new to the area (four years), I am making a new group of friends, not only among the Master Gardeners and CSU Extension people, but also in the community we serve.

How long you have volunteered for Extension: Only a few months!

Your favorite vegetable to grow: All kinds of herbs (in pots). Veggies are definitely in my future, but not until I finish with general landscaping and mitigation. We’ve lived here for four years and still have so much basic stuff to do. 

Your favorite native to grow: Believe it or not, Scorpion Weed (Phacelia heterophylla)
! It’s not especially pretty, but it’s prolific and the bees absolutely LOVE it. Very satisfying to see them buzz around it, and it’s in bloom all summer. I also love anything scented - especially milkweed. 

Any other quote or comment: I’m looking forward to learning (so much) more and helping our wonderful mountain community! My special interests are native plants and plants for pollinators. 

Ginger Baer:
What you like most about being a Mountain Master Gardener: I really appreciate the knowledge I have gained in order to be able to grow in the mountains. I have gardened for over 60 years, but mostly in gentler environments. It is a challenge to grow up here, and every year is different. It is nice to know that I have many others joining in the struggle, it helps!

How long you have volunteered for Extension: 4 years

Your favorite vegetable to grow: Summer Squash – I get so many so it makes me feel successful!

Your favorite native to grow: Monarda – I love the spicy smell and it attracts so many pollinators

Sandy Hollingsworth:
What do you like most about being a Mountain Master Gardener: Educating and discussing with the public about land stewardship, fire mitigation, plant selection for the mountains, and tricks for a more successful garden. I enjoy listening to stories about others’ gardens and using information when volunteering for the Food Bank garden. I also enjoyed being on the first Advisory Committee to discuss Gilpin County Extension programs more broadly.

How long have you volunteered for Extension: 21 years, since 1998

Your favorite vegetable to grow: small turnips, tender and yummy! Spinach is always easy, fast and tasty.

Your favorite native to grow: Showy fleabane – it is so cheery, grown in a big bunch, and butterflies like its landing pad when in bloom.

Quote: To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. – Audrey Hepburn

Christy Hoyl:
What do you like most about being a Mountain Master Gardener: meeting new people in the community and sharing my passion for all things green.  It’s super fun working alongside other MG’s and hearing their stories too.  I love the opportunities for continuing education, conferences and workshops.  Especially wonderful is getting your hands in the dirt and seeing the plants grow!

How long have you volunteered for Extension: since 2001, so 18 years.

Your favorite vegetables to grow: salad greens (many varieties) and carrots. The grandkids love to go pick the carrots and eat them right there in the garden.

Your favorite Native to grow: Blue Flax linum lewsii - love the color. My favorite native (but I don’t grow) - is the Alpine Forget-me-not and Rosa woodsii.

Here is an Edwardian poem:
Tis like the birthday of the world,
When Earth was born in bloom;
The light is made of many dyes
The air is all perfume.

Christy Swarts:
How long have you volunteered for Extension: 3 years.

What do you like most about being a MG: Meeting new people who share the same passion for gardening.  The knowledge network is tremendous.

What are your favorite vegetables to grow: all cucumber varieties. Not so easy though up here in the high country.

What is your favorite Native to grow: Columbine

2019 Gilpin County Extension Master Gardeners with
 Irene Shonle, Extension Agent, (right)

Friday, August 2, 2019

Taming a lilac bush

by Vicky Barney 
A lilac is a wonderful bush in most gardens, adding fragrance and color early in the gardening season.  It requires little attention and will adapt to its site, be it sunny or shady, wet or dry, and provides early season nectar to pollinators.  After 5 or 6 years, however, it needs some attention if you want a bush that continues to bloom well and look pretty.  My old and neglected lilac bush clearly needs some attention.

The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), brought to the US in the 1700’s and originating in Asia, looks best in a tended cottage garden or as a riotous hedge.   It does not fit well in my native garden.  Each spring, I’m tempted to remove it and then it blooms: beautiful and fragrant flowers among rich green leaves.   Then I think I should move it to a different location, one that is a little less “wild.”  A little research has helped with the decision.

Moving/Removing - Lilacs will grow anywhere but bloom best in a sunny location.  As its current location is semi-shady, my bush would fare better in another area.  But moving it is not a good option nor is removing it all together.  Lilacs form huge root balls that are hard to move, and any roots left behind will sprout new plants.  Unless I want a major excavation project or lilac shoots all over the yard, the bush needs to remain in place.

Pruning - Adopting an annual maintenance routine will result in a prettier and healthier bush.  Since it is a spring flowering shrub, pruning is best done right after the flowers have died and before next year’s buds form. Deadhead the flowers, remove unhealthy looking stems and leaves, and trim the shape.  Periodic thinning of older stems will improve flowering and keep the blossoms from getting out of reach.   CSU Extension’s Garden Notes #619 has detailed information about pruning and includes a great photo of what not to do.

Companion planting - A lilac bush may look more attractive if additional spring bloomers are added to the flower bed.  Spring flowering bulbs – daffodils, tulips, hyacinths – are good companion plants, similarly adaptable and equally stunning in spring.

I’ve made peace with my lilac bush and am making it look better by taking generous cuttings while it is blooming and the air is fragrant.   With regular pruning the bush will be tamed, but after I’ve enjoyed its flowers both indoors and out. 
Vicky Barney gardens for wildlife and is a member of the Master Gardener Class of 2011.