Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Red poinsettia as a focal point of a holiday vignette in my home

Nothing speaks to me more about the holidays than poinsettias. They are best thought of as a growing plant in the same niche as a floral bouquet, bought for color and discarded when they begin to look a bit tired.

Through trial and error I have learned to buy and bring them home on a day where the temperature are minimally at freezing and rush them indoors. Once there I check the soil. If at all moist I forego watering until it dries out completely and then flood it in the sink having removed the foil pot cover and allowing it to drain. Depending on the dryness of the air in your home and temperatures, poinsettia will last through January.

Poinsettia can cause contact dermatitis if you are exposed to the white sap as they are euphorbias. They are also poisonous to pets.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame
There is just something so wrong with spraying poinsettias every color in the rainbow. Some growers even ad glitter.
Poinsettias come in shades of green, white, pink, and red, and mottled combinations of these. Most other colors start out as whites and have paint sprayed on to achieve all the colors of the rainbow.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Gnomes Have Arrived

House across the street is harboring gnomes? Refugees?
I live in a beautiful neighborhood. There are several gardeners on just my short one block street. The rest want to garden and they keep up their yards.

My neighbor cross-corner from me (kitty-corner would be the vernacular in this area), has been challenged by the weather and has lost his foundation planting arborvitaes at least two years, maybe three now in a row. His granddaughter has even inquired as to the variety I had planted on the south side of the high school as possible replacement varieties this last spring because of this particular run of bad luck. ('Smaragd', by the way.)

It comes as no surprise then to see these figures emerge.

The gardener there is an incredibly good vegetable gardener. His perennial garden is one ordered in straight rows perpendicular to the vegetable garden. I think of it as a color box. In mid-June it is if one opened a elementary school child's watercolor set; blocks of intense color in the primary and secondary colors.  There is the true orange of poppies which bloom in the beginning of June, a deep purple of an iris, the bright pink of a peony, a deep red-violet rhododendron and a light mauve one, white Alaska daisies. I think there must a deep red peony of the type seldom seen here anymore and probably a yellow iris, too. They are all line up in pure clumps of color, no intermingling allowed. The effect is spectacular.

He is also a gardener playing tag with 90, Parkinson's, and kidney cancer. He is not about to mess around with the possible survival of his arborvitae. Covering his arborvitae then is just good planning. With the intense wind of the last few days and the winds which will come on the flip side of winter when evergreens are particularly prone to desiccation and wind burn, covering with burlap makes good sense. (I wish thinking of covering my Boulevard cypress would make it happen.)

My Boulevard cypress after the particularly bad wind burn of 2014 (in April).
Fortunately for this lazy gardener, it does grow out of this burn over the course of a couple months.
Cypress is far more forgiving than Alberta spruce and arborvitae.

A warning to proactive gardeners wishing to avoid evergreen burn, burlap treated with copper sulfate to prevent rotting may end up with plants dying from absorption of the chemicals used to prevent the burlap from rotting. Copper sulfate is used in and around landscaping applications in many ways. Often plastic pots are treated with copper sulfate to prevent root from endless circling of the pot. I have seen an entire privacy screen of arborvitaes die from being bound in burlap treated with copper sulfate. They had been covered for the dual purpose of protection of desiccation and deer predation. They died anyway-- today's cautionary tale.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Peacock Kale
Like a blow hard, the weather seems to be threatening winter. A high pressure system has dumped 8 inches of snow on Denver, which from where I sit feels as relevant as hearing about spring blooms in Australia. Already I count the days to spring without hearing the starting gun for winter.

The trees are bare here. The oaks hold onto their burnished leaves. The grass is still green. When the sun shines it is balmy. When the wind blows more of the bones of the garden are revealed. I still have a couple annuals in the garden that are alive...

A nice-looking cordyline I should bring in