Colorado’s Wild Plum Tree

I say “Colorado’s,” but this wild plum, Prunus americana, is native to most of the U.S.  It has the sweetest perfume on the planet! The blooms say SPRING like almost nothing else. In Rye, it often blooms the first week in May, and earlier at lower elevations. It is one of our more reliable wild fruit producers, and the plums make great jelly, jam, chutney, and if you’ve the talent, plum pie. It’s a good pollinator for many other plums, too, even though it doesn’t need a pollinator itself.

Yesterday, when we were at the Nature Center, the plums were blooming along the Arkansas River. What a delight.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was great seeing friends and customers after the long winter! Bill Adams, and his son Will,  had their great plants from Sunscapes there, too, as you can see in the picture below. You might not be able to read the woman’s T-shirt– it says, “It was us. We let the dogs out.”

The weather was perfect, and lots of people were there with their kids, dogs, and even horses to walk along the river.

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Nature Center Plant Sale — Saturday, April 19

We spent the day getting ready for the sale at the Pueblo Nature Centers. This annual event is always a lot of fun. You can take a walk along the river, have coffee or lunch at the Coyote Cafe, and, of course, buy plants!  I think we have everything that’s important loaded on the van. We have quite a few special orders to bring for people, and that’s exciting.  This morning, we saw our first hummingbird of the spring at the feeder–a Black-chinned male.

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The sale is from 9 a.m to 3 p.m.  We’ve got lots of edibles and herbs, native shrubs and wildflowers, and an excellent selection of perennials.  Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

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Antsy for Spring

How perfect has the weather been these last few days? Warm but not windy! Sunny with a few lovely clouds at sunrise and sunset! You couldn’t ask for anything better.   No wonder everyone is calling to find out when we open!  We open May 1, here at the nursery, but we’ll be in a couple of other places, with our plants, before that.  The first time is at the Pueblo Nature Center Plant Sale. This has become quite an event, with quite a few nurseries bringing plants, and fun events for the whole family.  It’s happening this year on April 19. We’ll have a great selection of our plants there. If you’d like us to bring you anything special, please email us your requests at perennialfavorites@ghvalley.net

There’s free parking at the Nature Center the day of the sale. For more information, check out this flyer:  Nature Center Flyer

The next weekend we’ll be in Denver at the Denver Botanic Gardens for the rock garden plant sale. The sale is Friday night for members of the rock garden society, and Saturday from 9-3 for the general public.  Here’s more information about that sale:

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Please email us if you have any questions:  perennialfavorites@ghvalley.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring Snow!

First there is a mountain....

First there is a mountain….

Then there is no mountain....

Then there is no mountain….

Then there is.

Then there is.

 

 

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Hummingbirds are Pollinators!

We’re lucky here at Perennial Favorites, we have four species of hummingbirds that visit our gardens and nursery each summer: rufous, broad-tailed, black-chinned, and calliope.  The hummingbirds are a joy to watch, and they provide a very useful service, too. They are primary pollinators of some of our native flowers.  Some people think that hummingbirds only like red flowers, but that isn’t the case. They are attracted to red flowers, true, where bees are not, but they will drink from purple and yellow and orange flowers, too.  Since bees don’t see the color red, the hummers are important pollinators of native plants like the Southwestern varieties of agastaches and red salvias.  Here’s a hummingbird at Agastache rupestris, here in the nursery.

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Hummingbird at Salvia 'Hot Lips.' Picture by Carol Rich, Portland, OR.

Hummingbird at Salvia ‘Hot Lips.’ Picture by Carol Rich, Portland, OR.

When I saw this picture of Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ I knew it was a plant we needed to grow.  We plan to have lots of these at the nursery this spring.

There’s a hummingbird garden here at the nursery, and starting in late April, the hummers are our constant companions.  Plant some hummingbird plants near your patio or deck, or even in a big pot on your deck, and find out how much fun they are to watch.  We planted this purple flowered agastache in a big barrel and the hummers and the butterflies loved it!

Hummingbird at Agastache 'Black Adder'

Hummingbird at Agastache ‘Black Adder’

Many of our native penstemons (AKA Beardtongue) are also pollinated by hummingbirds.  Some of my favorites, including P. barbatus and P. pseudospectabilis,  are also favorites of the hummers. By providing this natural nectar buffet, we entice them to nest here and raise their babies. They are so tiny when they hatch! Usually there are two eggs in each nest. Here are two young ones we saw last summer, their little beaks pointing up, waiting for mom to bring food.

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Weird New Sedum

We’ve had this sedum, Sedum booleanum, for three or four years, and this is the first time it’s bloomed. The flowers are an unusual color for sedum–orange-red.  Many sedums come from Europe, but this is a North American native, found in the mountains of Mexico. It has survived winters in Denver, yet I’ve never wanted to risk it outside in Rye. Seeing these tiny buds makes me think I have to find the right spot for it and give it a chance in the garden or a trough.   The blurry little buds you see in the picture below will open  into a much larger flower soon. I’ll post pictures of it then, too.

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This is a recent discovery, and the International Crassula Network has this to say about it:

BOOLEANUM [Turner, 1995] NE Mexico, n=?, no older names, fl. red: affiliation uncertain. Named to honor the 5 yr. old grandson of Geo. B. Hinton, a well known collector of native plants of Mex., using the middle name of Mr. Hinton (Boole). Leaves are light blue-green, fleshy, overlapping & usually stacked in 4 straight rows on the upright stems. The bright red flowers are unique for a Sedum, but may reflect some connection to the reddish flowering Villadias and Thompsonellas that could be related.

If we can get more of them potted up, we hope to have it at the nursery this spring. For all of you who are crazy about cactus and succulents, this is a special plant to add to your collection.

 

 

 

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When to Prune

I just answered an email from someone in the Springs, asking if this is the right time to prune Buddleia davidii (Butterfly Bush.) That made me think about pruning in general and how hard it is to know when to do it. Too early, and you risk causing damage from late freezes; too late, and the plant is more likely to bleed –for a plant, bleeding means leaking sap at a wound or cut.  Making it even more difficult to give pruning advice is the variation in elevation we Colorado gardeners experience.  The middle of March might be the right time to prune in Pueblo, or Denver, and the wrong time to prune in Rye, or Colorado Springs, or Westcliffe.

So without further waffling, here’s my basic advice: Prune fruit trees in late winter or early spring. For most of us on the Front Range, that is now! The best crop of apples I ever got came after a pretty vigorous March pruning. You want to prune fruit trees before they start to leaf or flower to stop the spread of disease.

Prune most roses and grapes and buddleias when you see the buds begin to swell and start to show a little green.  For us here at Perennial Favorites, at 6200′ elevation, that is in mid to late April.  Remember it is always okay to remove dead and broken branches, no matter the time of year.

I have a fear of pruning my grape vine. It’s an irrational fear–grapes are really no harder to prune than anything else.  Every year I plant to prune it and every year I put if off…but this year I’m determined.  One thing that is different for grapes: instead of pruning to a 1/4″ above the bud, you want to make your cut halfway between two buds to allow the grape vine that much space to dry up and still leave a living bud.  Once I start to prune, I’ll try to take pictures of the vine before, and after.

Trying to sum up pruning in a blog post is almost impossible. If you’re new to the whole woody plant pruning thing, I encourage you to get a good book and look at the pictures. The library is full of them! And feel free to ask us for advice when you’re here at the nursery in May. And as always, you can email us or ask us on our Perennial Favorites Facebook page, if you have a specific question.  We love to hear from you.

Here I am, a couple of years ago, pruning the apple tree:

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Much Needed Moisture

All my drought stricken friends in the West know how important precipitation is this year.  We’re so grateful for the rain and snow yesterday afternoon and last night.  The total here  was 1.4″ of precipitation, 8″ of snow.  Our gardens are happy.  The birds are, too.

Grosbeaks.

Grosbeaks.

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Junco in the boxelder tree.

Junco in the boxelder tree.

Bird feeder before dawn.

Bird feeder before dawn.

 

 

 

 

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Mid February Garden and Greenhouse Tour

I’m not sure about you, but when the temperatures warm into the 60′s after the frigid weather we had last week, I have to get outside and enjoy the day.  I know, I know, we have lots of winter left, and hopefully more snow to add to the mountain’s reserves, but I feel the first hint of spring.

Greenhorn Mountain in the early morning, sun red against the clouds:

IMG_0194And later in the morning, the blue blue Colorado sky:

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I was going to title this posting DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME, because when I show you the little seedlings that are germinating in the greenhouse, you might be tempted to start some yourself.  Unless you have a super sunny bay window, or a plant shelf with lights, or a greenhouse, it’s best to wait another four to six weeks before starting annual herbs and vegetables at home.  Here’s baby basil:

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Parsley seedlings.

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A forest of asparagus seedlings:

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The snow has melted in the garden and for the first time in months I can see the plants I put in last fall. Despite the Minus 17 degree temps we had, everything looks good.  This is Eriogonum umbellatum, a great xeric native:

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And Daphne sp., a very nice rock garden plant that keeps its leaves all winter.

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Last fall I planted seeds of a peony directly into the garden.  It’s always a little scary to plant perennial seed directly in the garden. Unlike most annuals, perennials can be slow and erratic to germinate, but everyone said this was the best way to handle this particular peony.  The seeds germinated shortly after they were planted in September and it’s so exciting to see that these tiny seedlings survived the winter.  I had to add the third picture, so you could see the deer print in the middle of the seedlings.

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Planting Peas for Pea Shoots

The ground is frozen solid here in Southern Colorado, but if you are pining for fresh vegetables from you own garden, you can have a fabulous early spring pea garden on your windowsill, ready to eat in just a couple or three week.  Pea shoots are the first few inches of new growth from the baby pea plant and they taste just like the sweetest peas you’ve ever eaten.  You can harvest them with scissors and you can cut from the plant two or three times before they quit producing–I like them uncooked in salads, or throw them in with other vegetables at the last minute of a stir fry.

If you’ve never planted peas before, don’t worry, it’s easy pea-sy….

Start by soaking the pea seeds overnight before planting; Fill a jar with warm water, let the peas soak for a couple of hours, drain the water, and then cover it with a plastic bag and let them stay moist until the next morning when you’re ready to plant.

soak pea seeds

You can grow them in anything, but if you have the choice, pick a pot wider than it is tall.  this year I decided to plant them in my salad garden box. I’m using our organic potting soil,  too.

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So far it has lettuce, cilantro, and kale growing in it.  If you want to grow your pea shoots on a windowsill, or kitchen counter, pick a pot that will fit your space. Peas are cold hardy, so if you have an enclosed porch that doesn’t freeze this time of year, you could grow them there.  They need a lot of light, the more sun the better!

peas planted in salad box

Oops, I accidentally deleted the picture of the peas planted in the container. They were planted close together. You can plant the pea seeds super close because you’re going to be cutting the top two inches for your salads or stir fry, and they don’t need the space they would if they were going to grow big and produce peas.  After planting, water them daily until they first poke through the ground, then water when the top inch of soil is dry. Try it today and you’ll have pea shoots to harvest before April!

(This article was first printed last spring, and with a few updates I reprinted it for this snowy cold day.)

 

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