First Fall Frost

What a long, slow, delicious fall we’ve been having. The autumn colors have been beautiful, too.  Last week I took some pictures of shrubs changing color in the nursery.  This is Rhus aromatica.  (Gro-low sumac)Gro-low Sumac

We haven’t seen a hummingbird for four days. They started flying south around Labor Day, and for a while we’d see just two or three a day at the feeder. On September 10, we had only one hummer here (picture below) and we thought it was almost over, but then more stopped in and we were still seeing two or three a day until Sept 24.

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Now the hummingbirds really seem to have deserted us, and the feeders are covered with honeybees. I’m sort of surprised, because that hasn’t happened here before. We’ve had ants, of course, and even hornets attracted to the feeders, but never honeybees.  I was puzzled, but then read that the bees are collecting the sugar water to convert to honey to survive the winter. I had no idea that honeybees could convert sugar water to honey, but it turns out they can. Not only that, beekeepers will feed them sugar water on warm days in the winter to help them make it through until spring. I wonder if the bees swarming the feeders means anything about the harshness of the coming winter.

Our apple tree (30 years old and counting) has quite a few apples on it.  They are always late to ripen, and seem to taste better after a few cold nights. If we get the frost midweek, that they’re predicting, Thursday might be the day to pick them all.  I’m tempted to do it today before some critter finds them, but unlike our grapes, the apples have been ignored by the raccoons and bears.  I know many of our neighbors have a problem with bears in their apple trees, but so far we’ve lucked out. Maybe Xander, the dog, is more of a deterrent than he seems.

Xander with Halloween toy.

Xander with Halloween toy.

I always tell people to bring their tender plants inside by mid-September (or earlier, depending on elevation) but I’m better at giving advice than following it. I still have a couple of pelargoniums outside, and some tender succulents that need to be protected from frost. That’s on my list of things to do today. No more procrastinating!

In early August I decided to plant some vegetables for fall and winter harvest. I had such good luck with my container peas that I decided to do them again this fall. And I was really disgusted with the price of potatoes in the summer so I planted an old wooden box  with potatoes. I only put in two potatoes, so I doubt I will  be able to harvest much.  It didn’t cost me anything to do it, except some time. I used a couple of potatoes that were sprouting in my cupboard, and compost for soil. I’ve been mulching them with straw.

Potato plant breaking the soil surface on August 8

Potato plant breaking the soil surface on August 8

And this is what it looks like today, less than two months later.

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The sunrise this morning was gorgeous. I caught it just after its peak, but I think it’s still pretty. Two minutes before I grabbed my camera, it was red! I grew up hearing my grandparents say “Red sky at morning, sailor take warning,” so I always expect some sort of exciting weather event when the sunrise is this showy.  My grandpa was born in Bangor, Maine, and I guess he had some experience with the sea, although by the time I knew him he was landlocked in the Midwest.

001Oh, and two more pictures.  Yesterday we had help from friends with our prairie restoration project. This is an area that had been nothing but weeds, and we’re replanting it to native grasses.  Now all we need are a couple of bison.

planting grasses with D&B

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Reflecting on 2014

I know, I know, most people write about the end of the year nearer the end of the year. But for us to have plants ready next spring, we have to start planning now! Ordering is in full swing, and my desk is piled high with seed catalogs, nursery catalogs, and nursery supply catalogs.  I’m reviewing the year as I plan for 2015.  I took a quick walk around the garden this morning to see what’s blooming in mid September.  Quite a bit!

Chrysanthemum 'Mary Stoker' with a big fuzzy bee.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mary Stoker’ with a big fuzzy bee.

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Achillea 'Pomegranate' has been blooming in the garden since late May.

Achillea ‘Pomegranate’ has been blooming in the garden since late May.

Teucrium ackermanii is a super drought tolerant perennial. Blooms in August and September.

Teucrium ackermanii is a super drought tolerant perennial. Blooms in August and September.

We cut back Phlox 'Purple Beauty' in June, and it's blooming again right now, next to the teucrium.

We cut back Phlox ‘Purple Beauty’ in June, and it’s blooming again right now, next to the teucrium.

Agastache 'Joyful' with a blurry sphinxmoth.

Agastache ‘Joyful’ with a blurry sphinxmoth.

The first native shrub to show fall color: Ribes aureum, the lovely golden currant.

The first native shrub to show fall color: Ribes aureum, the lovely golden currant.

Origanum 'Kent Beauty' starts blooming in early July and it still looks great. Drought tolerant and deer resistant.

Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ starts blooming in early July and it still looks great. Drought tolerant and deer resistant.

I find it helpful to take pictures of the garden every week or two. Then when I’m planning for the next season, I remember what I liked and didn’t like.  Here’s a few things that are on my mind as I work on orders:

Native plants is a category that continues to outsell almost all others.  This year we sold out of certain desirable penstemons, Indian paintbrush (of course) and milkweed.  Columbines were also very popular and we’re out of them, now, too.  On the other hand, eriogonums (the wild buckwheat) didn’t sell….what’s up with that?

Sometimes I go off on a tangent and think that something should be way more popular than you do, dear reader.  I think we had a few too many salvias this year. I love salvias, not only because of their beauty, but because of their absolute deer resistance, but there might be a limit to how many we need in the nursery.  For 2015, we’ll grow the best salvias, but we won’t try to have EVERY salvia on the planet.

In the edibles category….eggplant! I missed eggplant this year.  Must grow them next year.

Fruit trees sell out here, every year, and we’re trying to figure out which fruit trees to grow. Apple trees are certainly the most dependable for our climate, but what tree is next in popularity? Are there certain fruit trees that you dream about? Tell us, we’ll try to grow them.

Are you gardening for birds and butterflies and bees? This is another category that continues to sell out, the “plants for pollinators” category.  We’ve been lucky enough to have a few Monarch butterflies in the garden this year.

Monarch on native currant.

Monarch on native currant.

If you’re evaluating your garden now, I hope you’ll share some of your thoughts with us.

Feel free to make suggestions and tell us what you would like to find in our nursery next spring. You can email us—  perennialfavorites@ghvalley.net, or comment on Facebook—  https://www.facebook.com/PerennialFavoritesColorado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Never Enough Time

We tried to cram a trip to the Denver Botanic Gardens, a visit to Bob Nold’s garden, and a stop at the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the national rock garden society’s annual plant sale and fund raiser into little more than 24 hours.  It wasn’t enough time! Add on to that a bit of food poisoning to make the trip even more challenging….

Still, we had a good time and got to see cool plants everywhere! We were lucky to spend some time with Mike Kintgen and see some of his favorite plants at DBG.  I didn’t take enough pictures, but I would like to share a few with you.

Chihuly exhibit at DBG

Chihuly exhibit at DBG

You need to go the botanic gardens this year for all sorts of reasons. You can see plants there that you will not see anywhere else in Colorado. The garden designs are inspiring. The plants are fascinating. And the Chihuly exhibit just adds to the experience.  The exhibit lasts until November, so you still have time.  Go!

A really red Agastache aurantiaca hybrid in Bob Nold's garden.

A really red Agastache aurantiaca hybrid in Bob Nold’s garden.

I’ve been obsessed with agastaches for over 20 years. This one is really different! The color is a red without orange….not like anything I’ve ever seen.  Bob’s garden was beautiful and filled with amazing plants, but the only picture I took was this one.  My excuse, if I can offer one, is that I was sick.  I didn’t get any pictures of the cyclamen that are so pretty this time of year, or the huge Cercocarpus ledifolius in his front yard that is the most spectacular specimen of this species I’ve ever seen.

The next three pictures are of the crowd at the chapter fund raiser. It was held at Marcia and Randy Tatroe’s garden. If you like native plants or alpine plants, or cactus and succulents, you need to get to know this group.  If I lived closer to Denver I’d go to all their events. Panayoti, in his charming and humorous way , helped sell the plants, pointing out the stars in each category. There were eriogonums in bloom that I couldn’t resist.  I came home with a flat full of new and different stuff to try here.  It’s so much fun to hang around with plant geeks.  Here’s the link to the chapter website:  http://www.rmcnargs.org/index.php/events

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After the sale we got a chance to walk around Marcia’s garden.  It’s good to see a garden in mid-September–you start to notice all the things you missed when it was at its blooming height in spring or early summer.  Foliage and structure are revealed.

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I don’t usually like these star patterned petunias, but there was something about this one that caught me.

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Little bulbs popped up here and there. Delightful.

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I came away from Denver with lots of great plants, and now it’s back to work.  I’ve been reminded that even a short trip can give you new energy and inspiration.

 

 

 

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Dividing Perennials

Even though our nursery is closed to the public until next spring, we still have lots to do. One of the first things on my September to-do list is dividing perennials. A lot of people are afraid to divide plants, or they don’t know when to do it. The general rule is that you divide plants opposite their season of bloom. So, for example, if a plant blooms in spring, dividing in the autumn is best.

Following that logic, it doesn’t take much thought to figure out that now is the time to divide or move peonies.  Peonies are incredibly long lived, and somewhat slow to spread, so unless you have one that is very old, or that is in the wrong place in the garden, there’s really no need to divide or move them.  Still, “when should I move peonies?” is one question we get a lot.

Here’s a quick list of plants that do benefit from fall division: Phlox paniculata (tall garden phlox); Monarda (bee balm); Salvia nemerosa (meadow sage); Stachys lanata (lambs-ear); some penstemons including Penstemon glaber, Penstemon pinifolius, and Penstemon barbatus; and, Leucanthemum superbum (shasta daisy).

Any plant that starts to die out in the center, and flop over onto its neighbor, is hinting that it would appreciate division.  When you divide your plants, make sure you get both a leafy stem and a root with each section. Every plant is a little different, but when you start to pull them apart, you’ll see how they grow and what goes with what.

It’s impotant to note that there are  some plants that don’t like division at all and will most likely die if you attempt it: Aquilegia caerulea (columbine); Gypsophila paniculata (baby’s breath); Linum lewisii (blue flax); Alyssum saxatile (basket of gold); and Lupinus sp. (lupine).

You’ll start to see a pattern in how the plants that can be divided grow compared to the ones that can’t.  If a plant grows from a single growing point and has a taproot, it’s not a candidate for division.  Once you start, you’ll get addicted to this process of making free plants.

In the picture below you can see a single division of Penstemon glaber. There are some new leaves starting on the stem.  This one small piece, when replanted in your garden,  will make a new plant that can grow to 12″ wide by the end of next summer. I love this penstemon, it’s a tough native, it blooms a long time, and it has lived in my garden for 20 years!

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The Nursery is Closed for the Season

We had a good summer and hope you did, too. We know we’ll miss all of you until we meet again next spring. Have a great fall! Check back to our website for information and pictures as the seasons progress.

Aster 'Chilly Winds' blooming at Perennial Favorites

Aster ‘Chilly Winds’ blooming at Perennial Favorites

The asters blooming in the garden are covered with bees and butterflies! I only caught a couple of bees in the picture above, but those of you who were here this week saw hundreds of them!  I hope your garden is home to many, too.

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Labor Day Weekend Sale; Blooming in the Nursery

This is our big annual end of season sale! We’re open 9-5, every day this weekend, including Labor Day. All plants are 25% off! If your garden is lacking late summer or fall color, we can help.  Here are pictures of plants that are blooming in the garden now and that we also have for sale in the nursery.  The first one shows Achillea ‘Moonshine’ and Perovskia (Russian sage.)

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Russian sage, again, with Ratibida (Mexican hat) in front of it. I love blues and yellows together.

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Campanula incurva, my new favorite rock garden plant.

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Aster ‘October Skies’ blooming in August!

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Agastache ‘Sonoran Sunset’ is a hummingbird magnet. All the agastaches are. This is a picture from a couple of years ago, but this same plant is blooming in that same spot today.

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Labor Day Weekend Sale

Starting Wednesday, August 27, and going through Monday, September 1, all the plants in the Nursery will be 25% off. In addition to the discount, there is a drawing Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for free plants, at 1 p.m. each day. Hours: 9-5 each day.

Saturday, the drawing is for a Pollinator Collection, a trio of native plants that will attract butterflies, bees, or hummingbirds.

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On Sunday the drawing is for Clematis viticella ‘Venosa Violacea’.  Here’s a picture of the one growing on the shade house at the nursery.  Despite being trampled in May, this clematis came back covered in blooms this month.  They are easier than you think!

013Monday we’re giving away a flowering shrub for the xeriscape.

If you find you need to fill in some gaps in the garden, now is the time to do it. Plants still have time to get well established before winter, and will be ready to take off in your garden next spring. We have fruit trees, shrubs, and a great selection of perennials. Monday, September 1 is the last open day of the season, the nursery will be closed after that. Don’t miss out!

 

 

 

 

 

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Early August in the Garden

Echinacea tennesseensis is looking good!

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We have so many mushrooms growing in the shady grassy areas, I think I could make my own mushroom compost!

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This bumblebee was only one of many buzzing around the ‘Kent Beauty’ Oregano.

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Russian sage and Mexican hat are in peak form. Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is actually native to Afghanistan, and Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) is native to Colorado. Such is the treachery of common names!

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Drop by anytime in August, Wednesday through Saturday, 9-5, to see more blooms and butterflies and bees and birds!

 

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Planning the Perfect Pollinator Garden

To create a good habitat for bees, birds and butterflies, you need to provide the basics: food and water and places for them to hide from predators. Here’s a hummingbird hanging out near our honeysuckle vine. They like the vine for the nectar and the shelter it offers.

Rufous hummingbird

Rufous hummingbird

It’s important to provide food all during the growing season, because it doesn’t help the bees if your garden is full of flowers in May and then there’s nothing for them to eat in August or September.  Provide a diverse ecosystem and you’ll attract lots of hummingbirds and butterflies and bees.

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All the butterflies like pincushion flower. And so do the hummingbird moths (AKA sphinxmoths.)

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Bees are everywhere here at Perennial Favorites. They’re not aggressive or mean, they work right alongside me as I plant and weed in the garden.  I know that some people are severely allergic and can’t take the chance of getting accidentally stung, but for the rest of us, bees are good companions in the garden.

Bee on Russian Sage

Bee on Russian Sage

Remember that you cannot spray insecticides if you want to attracts pollinators.  There’s been a lot of news lately about the neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals that are particularly toxic to bees and birds.  We have never used them here and never will! Unfortunately, saying “NO to Neonics” is not enough. I’m afraid that many of the big growers will just switch to another insecticide that could be even more toxic but that hasn’t received the bad press that Neonics have.  When Neonicotinoids were first introduced, they were considered a much milder, more gentle insecticide that what was used at the time,  mostly organophosphates.  (We’ve never used those either!)  The only insecticides we use are soap and neem–both of those are certified organic insecticides–and even with them we are cautious and don’t spray when bees are out. Organic certified doesn’t mean that it’s safe for bees.

This is Kniphofia ‘Mango Echo.’ Kniphofia is native to Africa where they have a bird much like our hummingbird called sunbird. Sunbirds drink nectar from the kniphofias, and so do our hummingbirds.  It’s called convergent evolution (something to Google in your spare time.)034 038Here’s a picture of the hummingbird garden. All the birds flew away when I came out to take the picture. In the bottom left corner you can see a red salvia blooming. Salvia darcyi is native to Mexico and a favorite of hummingbirds. I’ve never been able to get it to survive the winter here, but I’m trying again. I want it to live!  That’s the honeysuckle vine that was in the first picture of this post. You can see why they like it. They can sit on a branch and survey the feeders and the flowers. The agastache is just starting to bloom, too, and that is a fantastic late summer plant for hummers and butterflies.

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An Abundance in August!

Since we’re opening this Friday, August 1, I thought it might be fun to show you what we have in the nursery right now. It’s surprising really, how many plants we have! The first picture is of Rudbeckia ‘Denver Daisy.’  This variety, selected from the native black-eyed Susan, is one of my favorite flowers–long blooming, cheerful, attractive to butterflies–Plant Select picked a winner when they added this one to their collection.

006The lavender blue pincushion flower ‘Butterfly Blue’ has been blooming for months and shows no sign of stopping! The kniphofia in  front of it is ‘Echo Mango,’ a really nice Torch Lily that blooms longer than some.010

Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit.’

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This picture is not in the nursery, it’s in the hummingbird garden, but we do have buddleias looking gorgeous in pots, too. I just wanted to include this picture because of the hummingbird.

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I don’t know who likes the butterfly bush more, hummingbirds or butterflies.

The yellow flower in the trough below is Ratibida columnifera, AKA Mexican Hat. It’s a very drought tolerant native plant. The one in the trough is a very dwarf form. Usually they grow 18″ tall, but this one is two years old and only 3″ tall. I love the form of it. I’m going to save seed this year and see if it will come true from seed.

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Delosperma ‘Fire Wonder’ is a fantastic color in ice plants.  Very long blooming, too.005

We have lots of native shrubs ready that we were out of in the spring, including Apache Plume, the native currant, and Juneberry.

Hope you can visit us soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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