From orchards to cacti, roses to xeric - these Douglas County "educational demonstration gardens" offer so much beauty and learning in one place. We're fortunate to have such incredible examples of what thrives and what doesn't right on our doorstep.
Tours and more information are available from the Colorado Master Gardeners in Douglas County–contact the extension office for more information.
Douglas County Fairground Gardens
Location: 410 Fairgrounds Road, Castle Rock, CO 80104; surrounding the CSU Extension office.
What you’ll find: A variety of gardens and garden plants, including herbs, cacti and succulents, Colorado natives, roses, and drought-tolerant plants for sun and shade.
Douglas County Public Gardens
Location: 301 Wilcox St, Castle Rock, CO 80104
What you’ll find: In the heart of historic downtown Castle Rock, this garden is converting traditional building landscaped areas to more xeric, native and Colorado-hardy plants in both shaded and sunny areas surrounded by sidewalks and turf grass.
Hidden Mesa Research Orchard & Demonstration Garden
Location: 3217 CO-83, Franktown, CO 80116
What you’ll find: A research orchard with fruit and nut trees, 4 high tunnels growing fruits and propagating new plants, 22 raised bed vegetable gardens, 30+ chickens used for insect management, small composting operation and various trial gardening techniques for the harsh Colorado climate.
Sedalia Museum Garden
Location: 4037-A North, Platte Ave, Sedalia, CO 80135
What you’ll find: A Plant Select(R) garden focused on drought-tolerant beautiful plants for our Colorado climate.
Credit: CSU Extension
We celebrate all that the many types of pollinators—bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and flies do for us. It's easy to show your support of your own local pollinators!
When it’s hot outside, pollinators get thirsty too. Here's how to help:
Offer pollinators a sip of water
There are several ways to provide water for your pollinators, including:
Important: Don’t create large areas standing water in your landscape, which invites mosquitos. And whichever water source you put out, be sure to clean it and refill it. You may notice that the bees, birds, and other animals will learn where the water source is. They’ll come back when they get thirsty again, so make sure the water source is ready with clean, fresh water.
According to the USDA National Invasive Species Center, a plant earns the label of "invasive" when it is non-native to a region and it causes or may cause environmental, economic, or health issues. Unfortunately, many invasive plants have escaped from gardens into natural ecosystems such as woodlands, prairies, and mountain wilderness. There, they spread and push out native plants and other wildlife, and can become a huge headache in your own garden.
The semiarid climate of the Mountain West and High Plains brings plenty of challenges when it comes to invasive species. Mike Kintgen, curator of alpine collections at Denver Botanic Gardens, says that several of the top 10 worst invasive plants in this region may not be problematic in other regions. He's also seen the opposite, where invasives in other regions don't spread as aggressively in the harsher climate in the mountains and plains.
What do you find in your garden that grows and spreads like a weed but you consider it invasive as opposed to welcome in your yard?
Article credit: Better Homes and Gardens
Flower shown in image: purple bellflower
By Clara Beaufort of Gardener Gigs
While a freshly cut and well-watered lawn looks really nice, it's not the most economical or environmentally friendly use of outdoor space. Swapping some of that lawn for eco-friendly landscaping is a great way to do your part for the environment — and save some money too! Instead of fighting against the high-altitude conditions of the Colorado Front Range, create a garden landscape that can withstand scorching summer sun and low humidity. Here are some tips from Black Forest Garden Club to get you started!
Why Invest in Eco-Friendly Landscaping?
Creating a sustainable lawn and garden can help you conserve water, save money, reduce maintenance, support local wildlife, and boost your home value!
Sustainable Landscaping Fundamentals
To get started with eco-friendly landscaping, consider reducing the size of your lawn and creating a garden full of native plants and winding paths.
How to Optimize Your Water Usage
Maximize the use of water in your eco-friendly garden by mulching your plants and installing a drip irrigation system to prevent water loss from evaporation and run-off. Bonus points if you collect rainwater!
With a little hard work and creativity, you can design a garden space that’s both environmentally friendly and beautiful! This is a great chance to spend some time outside and learn how to work with new plants. Whether you’re looking to spruce up your yard for summer or support native flora and fauna, creating an eco-friendly garden is the way to go!
For more local gardening resources, check out the links on the Resources page of this website.
By Kathy Sullivan, Communications Director
One of the most loved gifts that brings great comfort to the bereaved is the planting of a tree in honor of the deceased. Planting and growing a tree is a wonderful and environmentally friendly way to remember and remind you of a person, pet or an event and keep that memory present every time you view it.
Remembrance, or sympathy trees are a living monument to a loved one who has passed. One of the most popular remembrance trees is the oak tree. The oak is a symbol of strength and longevity. It can live for centuries. Another popular choice is a maple tree with it's gorgeous shade and fall color. Vibrant during all seasons, the maple tree is a beautiful tree and a great way to celebrate the life of a loved one while giving back to nature.
Other popular choices for remembrance include forget-me-nots, lilac shrubs, and roses. Rosemary is traditionally the herb of remembrance. Colorado's major tree species include bristlecone pine, Colorado blue spruce, Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce, limber pine, lodgepole pine, narrowleaf cottonwood, quaking aspen, piñon pine, plains cottonwood, ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, subalpine fir and white fir. You may wish to plant one of these for best success in our state.
Many people choose to plant a remembrance tree in their yard where it can be seen each day and at times of family gatherings. Other popular places to plant include at a local church, city park, state or national park, golf course, cemetery or memorial park, among others. While some of these options require permission, many groups welcome additional trees and the beauty they provide.
by Kathy Sullivan, Communications Director
I usually feed my roses at the same time I feed the rest of my perennials and garden, but this Epsom salt fertilizer idea has me intrigued.
Serious Rose enthusiasts use Epsom salts to help strengthen their plants. Using Epsom salt helps “build” lush, dark green foliage as a gorgeous backdrop to dazzling, bright, abundant blooms. The added magnesium levels help increase the production of chlorophyll in the plant for strength and deep, rich color.
If the soil becomes depleted of magnesium, adding Epsom salt will help; and since it poses little danger of overuse like most commercial fertilizers, you can use it safely on nearly all your garden plants.
Epsom salts are inexpensive and easy to use. So I'm going to give this a try, and I'll post another blog in a few weeks to update on how my Epsom Sat Rose Fertilizer experiment has been going.
More details and credit here.
Download the eBook on how to grow tomatoes at the Gardening Know-How website.
There are some great tips in the ebook!
By Dennis Volz, BFGC President
I often see queries from people new to the area wanting to know what grows here.
If you are new to the area, and even if you’re not, you can learn a lot about what grows here by visiting a public garden. There are several in the area including Hudson Gardens, Denver Botanical Gardens and the Arboretum.
By visiting a public garden you can see not only what grows in Colorado but what it looks like and how big it gets when fully grown. Specimens are labeled with the common name and scientific name so you can research them at a nursery or on-line. There are people available to ask if you have questions.
I recently visited Hudson Gardens with its numerous specimens of trees and shrubs as well as a vegetable garden, perennial gardens specific to native plants, herbs, and flowers. You can observe how plants are grouped in the landscape and get inspiration on how to do this yourself. Admission is free!
A couple of cautions:
Any public garden is an inspiring and pleasant way to spend a morning or afternoon.
As temperatures rise, you may be tempted to run your sprinkler longer. But resist that temptation, and instead practice cycle-and-soak watering. It’s an efficient way to keep your landscape healthy and be sure that none of your watering goes to waste.
Here’s how to cycle and soak:
Break up your watering into shorter intervals. For example, if you usually water an area of lawn for about 15 minutes, then don't apply all the water within one 15-minute timeframe.
Watering all at once creates run-off and wasted water your plants won't get to use.
Instead, break the watering time into three intervals so that the water runs for about 5 minutes, and then take a break. This break gives the water time to soak into the soil. It is easy to schedule these cycle-and-soak intervals with the timer on your sprinkler system. By the time each zone has received water, the first zone has had time to absorb the first interval’s water and is ready for the next interval.
Need help programming the cycle-and soak method? Check the manual, look for a video online that walks you through the steps, or consult a landscape professional to help you troubleshoot your turf issues and properly schedule your sprinkler.
When scheduling your sprinklers, make sure you’re following any watering rules for our area. They can help you establish good habits and not over-water your lawn. For example, most watering rules prohibit watering midday, which is an excellent guideline since you can lose a lot of irrigation water to evaporation during those hours.
Article credit: ALCC (Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado)
Your peonies are likely blooming or coming into bloom about now, but what to do after they bloom?
Two easy steps for great peonies next year:
Credit: Better Homes & Gardens
Bats have started migrating to their summer roosts in northern Colorado making sightings more common.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is warning the public to be aware of the bat migration as you may find them lurking in your patio umbrella, under leaves, and between log siding.
Check out this fascinating article about bats (including excellent photographs from Colorado Parks and Wildlife).
It’s getting warmer across Colorado, and our plants will need more water. But just because the drought is waning on the Front Range—for now—doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still try to conserve water.
The Western Slope, which provides much of our water supply, is still in drought. And our own next drought could be just around the corner. We should give the plants the water they need but not waste a drop.
We should give plants the water they need but not waste a drop.
One way to save water and dress up the landscape in the process is to top dress bed areas with mulch. And there is nothing better to use than fresh mulch, whether 100% organic wood mulch or rock mulch (especially good for fine-prone acreages and areas).
Here are five great reasons to use mulch:
Mulches recycled from local pruning debris can be put back into the landscape as a healthy amendment.
It is important for you choose the right mulch and apply it properly for the most benefits. Read about how you can apply mulch correctly and not smother plants and trees in the process in the BFGC blog post called Best Tips for Mulching.
Locally sourced mulch is a sustainable option, supporting the local economy and lessening the carbon footprint. Because it is derived from organic material, it settles onto the soil and does not blow away like mulch that has been recycled from treated wood products such as pallets. It must, however, first be watered in so that it settles.
By Kathy Sullivan, Communications Director
Rock gardens are popular in our area because many of us have gravely, well-draining spots in our landscapes that call for plantings different from soils rich with clay eight inches down.
According to Better Homes & Gardens, pretty, low-maintenance perennials make for excellent choices in a rock garden (including at our high altitudes), and even produce vibrant flowers and foliage despite the soil, drought, and heat.
Here are rock garden perennials you might try in your rocky garden spots this growing season:
Rock cress - I am growing this in my garden currently and it is a low growing, spreading groundcover. It grows very slowly and won't cover a lot of ground quickly. It has masses of cheerful pink, white, or purple flowers in the spring, and can tolerate heat and drought and is deer resistant (deer have never touched mine). Makes a great container plant too.
Sedum - plant it and forget it perennial. This little ground hugging spreader is tough and comes in a huge variety of colors and shapes and quickly takes root in any sunny, rocky location. Butterflies love the nectar-rich flower heads, and deer don't typically touch it.
Candytuft - bright white blooms and a reliable spring bloomer, candytuft grows well in rocky areas and is drought resistant. After it blooms, you can enjoy the plant's rich green leaves well into winter. It is supposed to be deer-resistant, and mines have mostly been spared by deer, but once in a while I do see signs that deer have snacked on it.
Thrift - a tough little charmer also known as 'sea pink' because it is often seen growing in inhospitable ocean cliff settings. Compact with grasslike foliage, it prefers poor soil and can actually rot in rich or moist soils. Deadhead the flowers as they fade to keep the plants looking tidy. Deer-resistant and non-invasive.
Snow-in-Summer - appears with cloudlike flowers in drifts from late-May to mid-June. Soft gray foliage provides visual interest. This is a slow spreader if planted in a sunny, well-drained location. Cut off flowers after bloom to keep the plants looking their best.
Red Creeping Thyme - this beautiful plant isn't suitable for culinary use, but in a rock garden it's a keeper. I have an entire swath of this deer resistant spreader, which is smothered in lavender-red blooms in the summer and does well in containers too. The deer have not touched it in five years in my landscape. I have it in a south facing rock wall area so I know it withstands heat well.
Deadnettle - for shady rock garden areas, this makes a superb rock garden plant. A handsome creeper with it's variagated foliage and pretty purple flowers, it can spread quickly but is easy to control with an occasional trim.
Ice Plant - well-known and loved for it's resistance to heat, drought, poor soil, and salt - this one's practically indestructible. It grows in mats and can one plant can spread two feet or more wide. Lovely green foliage and flashy, jewel-toned blooms that come in a variety of bright colors make this an excellent choice for tucking in between boulders.
After a colder and wetter spring than normal, backyard gardeners across Colorado are planting, tending, and preparing to harvest for the second season of Grow & Give, a program whose volunteers raise and donate fresh fruits and vegetables for statewide distribution to people in need.
Grow & Give is a project of the Colorado Master Gardener Program, a well-known part of CSU Extension. Volunteer participation is open to any Colorado gardener.
To sign up for the Grow and Give Program - click here.
To read the full article, click here.
Free Vegetable Growing Guide
By Kathy Sullivan, Communications Director
If you are seeing a bumper crop of tall, pale-yellow flowered wildflowers in many fields this year, you aren't alone. Death Camas is having a year!
Death Camas is a toxic, weedy perennial. All parts of the plant are poisonous, and although the greatest risk of the weed is to livestock and grazing animals it is also poisonous to humans. As little as half a pound of the plant's leaves consumed can be deadly.
Symptoms of poisoning by death camas include vomiting and excessive salivation, tremors, weakness, loss of control over body movements, convulsions, and coma. Ultimately, an animal that has eaten too much will die.
Tempting as it may be to clip a few stems of this pretty wildflower for a bouquet, do not touch death camas!
According to Gardening Know How, it is possible to mistake death camas for something edible, so be very aware of the characteristics of edible plants before consuming them. Death camas can be mistaken for wild onion, in particular, with its onion-like bulb. However the bulbs of death camas lack the distinctive onion scent.
Here is a video from Rocky Mountain edibles showing the difference between death camas and wild onion.
Click here for an excellent article with more details about death camas.
Image credit: Colorado State University
Thanks to Jeannette Littlejohn for the idea for this post.
By Kathy Sullivan, Communications Director
This is the time of year we start seeing "Curly Dock", a perennial (comes back every year) invasive weed that can be very difficult to get rid of if you don't act early. It has a very deep root and cannot be effectively removed by manually pulling.
It generally flowers from June to October. A large, mature curly dock can produce up to 40,000 seeds per year. The seeds are shed continuously from late summer through the winter. Seeds are capable of surviving in undisturbed soil for 50+ years and seed numbers in soil have been estimated at 5 million per acre. Young seedlings vary in color from entirely green to being red tinged in cooler months.
To remove, cut the plant at least 2 inches below the soil surface, and dispose of the cut plants by placing in trash (not compost pile). Curly dock seeds need light to germinate, so putting mulch over the cut stem of the plant prevents germination.
If you have an infestation of the plants or a large scale area of them, chemical control is typically most effective, although you could try pouring some salt onto the emerging plants and strong 15% vinegar on the plants as a non-toxic weed killer.
Interesting fact: Curly dock is used extensively in the treatment of chronic skin complaints such as psoriasis.
Great article with more details click here.
Information for this article was provided in part by community member Deb Cain, via Nextdoor.