Intimations of Autumn

Tiger eyes sumac’s foliage is stunning, but usually short-lasting. This year is an exception.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.  Albert Camus

Fall showcases nature at its most breathtaking.  Reds, oranges, and golds of turning foliage combine with vivid late-season bloomers.  This fall, in particular, is delightful.

Tiger eyes sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ Tiger Eyes) is outdoing itself right now.  In some autumns, I’ve seen it barely turn red before it’s already dropping its branches.  But this year, this show stopper’s leaves and branches are hanging on, creating a remarkable display.

Pawnee Buttes will soon look like it’s on fire as more of its foliage turns red. Sonoran Sunset agastache blooms complement the sand cherry’s fall color.

Pawnee Buttes sand cherry (Prunus besseyi) is just starting to turn red and won’t reach its peak until after tiger eyes has dropped its branches.

Serviceberries (Amelanchier), including autumn brilliance and regent, are also just beginning their transitions.  Autumn brilliance will turn a fiery orange-red, while regent will complement it with more muted reddish-gold foliage.

Autumn purple ash (Fraxinus americana ‘Autumn Purple’) is showing off deeply colored leaves.  It makes me sad to look at them, though, knowing that the emerald ash borer could eventually destroy many of these magnificent hardwoods.  You may have noticed that many nurseries have stopped selling ashes.

Regent serviceberry’s reddish-gold leaves provide a welcome contrast to the fiery orange-red leaves of tiger eyes sumac and autumn brilliance serviceberry.

Lower to the ground, gayfeather (Liatris spicata) displays its multi-colored foliage, which reminds me of the outstanding colors that the bluestem grasses exhibit this time of year.  Meanwhile, plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) adds red foliage to its already beautiful blue blooms and copper seed heads.

Even Angelina sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’) is getting into the act.  Her chartreuse summer foliage is morphing into its fall/winter colors of red and orange, which will last all winter long.

If you don’t have enough stunning fall foliage in your garden, consider adding some of these plants.  Other favorites you might include for Colorado’s growing conditions are autumn gold maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’), bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum), western chokecherry (Prunus virginiana melanocarpa), Peking cotoneaster (Cotoneaster acutifolius), golden currant (Ribes aureum and Ribes odoratum), and bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum).

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Water Restrictions are Coming: 10 Steps You Can Take Now

This time of year, prairie winecups produce hundreds of seeds. Harvest and scatter them now if you want more of these drought-tolerant beauties in your yard next spring.

On October 1, 2020, water restrictions will go into effect for customers of the  City of Fort Collins Water District.  This means residents won’t be allowed to water their lawns, wash their cars, spray their sidewalks and patios, or use water features, misting devices, and water toys.  Residents can, however, water trees, food crops and non-lawn parts of their landscapes by hand or drip systems.

City officials are concerned about a potential water shortage because of our drought conditions, the 6-weeks-and-counting Cameron Peak fire, and a Horsetooth Reservoir maintenance project.

So it’s more important than ever to conserve water.

Of course, you can set up drip systems and rainwater-harvesting devices.  But what are some actions you can easily take right here, right now to save water?

  1. Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. Once established, your plants won’t need as much watering. Group plants together based on similar water needs.  Right now, many drought-tolerant plants are producing seed.  Harvest that seed and spread it so baby plants will emerge next spring.
  2. Avoid throwing fruit and vegetable scraps down your garbage disposal.  Put them in the garbage or, better yet, a compost pile.
  3. Place mulch around trees and plants 2-3 inches deep to retain moisture in the soil.
  4. Raise your mower blade as high as it will go. Higher mowing enables grass to conserve moisture and encourages grass roots to grow deeper.

    Use a water-filled jug or bottle to displace water that would otherwise be used to fill the toilet tank each time you flush.

  5. Indoors, take short showers instead of baths.
  6. In bathrooms, stick a water-filled plastic jug or bottle in your toilet tank to reduce the amount of water needed to fill the tank after each flush.
  7. Keep a bucket in your shower stall to catch stray water for watering outdoor plants.
  8. Don’t let water run while brushing your teeth or washing your face.
  9. When hand-washing dishes, use two large containers—one with soapy water for washing and one with clear water for rinsing.
  10. Clean fruits and veggies in a water-filled bowl instead of running tap water.

These easy steps are just a few ways you can contribute to Fort Collins’ efforts to avoid a water shortage.  For more information about the city’s water use restrictions, visit Fort Collins’ utilities website.











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Wild Things, You Make my Heart Sing

The branches of Tina dwarf crabapple veer haphazardly, creating a wild and crazy look.

Have you ever wanted to throw a little wild and crazy into your garden to complement all your tidy, symmetrical blooms?  Just to cut loose a little?

If so, there are a number of whimsical choices. Consider Lydian dwarf broom, tumbleweed onion, Tina dwarf crabapple, or Harry Lauder’s walking stick.  And if you want to venture into downright weird territory, you can always add a few succulents or even create an entire succulent garden.

Here are a few of my favorite wild and crazies:

The mop-like growth habit of Genista lydia ‘Bangle’ resembles that of the popular fiber optic grass. But unlike fiber optic grass, Bangle is cold-hardy.

Lydian dwarf broom. Genista lydia ‘Bangle’, a relatively new introduction, is a shorter, more compact version of the conventional Genista lydia.  However, both are dwarf brooms.

Bangle grows about 1 to 2 feet high and wide, and produces a brilliant display of golden yellow blooms each spring.  Personally, I like her even better when she’s out of bloom because I enjoy the scruffy look of her foliage.

Whether you plant conventional Genista lydia or bangle, plant it in full sun and watch it closely during to first season to determine how much water it needs.  Once established, Genistas are remarkably drought-tolerant.

Note that Genistas are notoriously difficult to transplant, but if you’re careful, you can pull it off.  I’ve successfully transplanted six and lost only one (which I was transplanting a second time).  I plant them in a mix of soil, compost and sand.

Tumbleweed onion (Allium schubertii) looks like something from Star Wars.  This funky plant sends out shoots from the center with tiny rose-purple blooms scattered here and there.  It screams, “Wake up and take a look at me!”  I’ve ordered some for planting this fall.

Tumbleweed onion grows 1-2 feet tall and about 1.5 feet wide with heads 9 to 12 inches in diameter.

Tina dwarf crabapple (Malus sargentii ‘Tina’) is an ideal tree for small yards.  Tina grows about 6 to 8 feet high and wide, is drought-tolerant, and looks like a wedding bouquet when she blooms In the spring.  The bright red buds contrast beautifully against the white blooms.  Then tiny crabapples come along in the summer and hang on during the winter.

Tina’s branches go every which way, giving the tree an appealing, offbeat look.  Although Tina’s head is grafted onto a standard, the grafting isn’t noticeable once Tina’s branches start spreading because they dip below the grafted area.

Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) is a contorted, deciduous woody shrub that offers architectural interest in the garden. Harry will grow 8 to 10 feet high and wide.

I don’t see one often, which leads me to believe that either Harry is difficult to grow or that gardeners find him so ugly that they don’t want to plant him.  He’s reportedly a very slow grower.  All the same, Harry is useful if you want to add uniqueness to your garden.

An amazing Harry Lauder specimen used to grow at the entrance of Alameda Wholesale Nursery, but it’s not there anymore.  So if you want to meet Harry in person, you’ll likely need to visit a botanic garden.

Succulents, which include cacti, are the very definition of other-worldliness, and many are beautiful.  If you plant them outside along Colorado’s Front Range, make sure they’re hardy to USDA Zone 5.

Zone 5 cold-hardy succulents include red false yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), Angelina sedum, blue spruce sedum, autumn joy sedum, ice plants (Delosperma), and white sands giant claret cup cactus (Echinocereus).

Be sure to avoid myrtle spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) because it’s classified as a noxious weed in Colorado.



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Meet Bob

This is Bob. He’s not just a pretty face. You can grind his berries up to make a meat rub, to sprinkle on hummus and salads, or to make sumac red lemonade.

One morning in early July, I gazed out my patio door and noticed a small reddish blob smack in the middle of my tiger eyes sumac foliage.  When I went out to investigate, I found that Tiger Eyes had given birth to Bob.

My tiger eyes (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ Tiger Eyes) is about four years old.  So apparently, she has reached sufficient maturity to produce clusters of drupes, known as “bobs.”  My tree is currently 5 feet high by 4.5 feet high, and will reportedly grow up to 6 feet high and wide.  Bob, on the other hand, is 4 inches high.  He’s an only child.

You can see Bob peeking out of the center of Tiger Eyes. Next year, he’ll likely have brothers and sisters.


Tiger eyes is late to leaf out (early May in Fort Collins), but when it does, it creates a dazzling display of lacy golden leaves that turn orange/red in the fall.  You can use it as a specimen, accent, or even as a hedge.  It’ll grow in both full sun and part shade.

Because the plant suckers gently, I plant it in unamended heavy clay soil to discourage suckering.  I also don’t water it unless it looks particularly droopy.  You’ll read all kinds of advice online about keeping it watered, but I’ve found that this plant is incredibly xeric.  I’ve got one growing in the rock bed at the side of my house.  It gets no supplemental water, but it does just fine, as long as it has good drainage.

The suckers are easy to dig up for removal.  Because tiger eyes is patented until 2024 (20 years from its introduction date), it’s currently illegal to transplant the suckers.

About three years ago, borers attacked two of my tiger eyes sumacs.  On one sumac, the borers went into the base of the main trunk.  So I cut the plant down and planted the root ball in a pot for a few months to see what would happen.  Eventually, leaves and stems began emerging from the root ball, so I planted the root ball back into my garden, where the new plant has taken off.  Other than the borer attacks, my sumacs have been trouble-free.

Getting back to Bob, I should point out that he has culinary uses.  You can clean, dry, and grind up his berries to make a spice rub for lamb, fish and chicken.  You can also sprinkle the ground berries on salad or hummus.  These little orbs are loaded with antioxidants.

You can even use Bob’s berries to make sumac red lemonade.  Check out the recipe in Farmers’ Almanac.

So as you can tell, Bob isn’t just a pretty face.  He’s an important nutrition provider for humans.  And although his berries aren’t a favorite among wild life, they still provide food for survival.

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Layering: The Key to a Professional-Looking Landscape

One reason this landscape bed is so appealing is the effective use of layering. Notice the tall spruce and ornamental tree used as top layers. Then below, plants progress downward from tall/medium shrubs to tall perennials, and finally, to ground covers.

One characteristic that visitors often notice in a well-designed landscape is plants of varying heights.

Juxtaposing plants of different sizes is called layering.  This practice generally involves using trees and tall shrubs as backdrops for smaller shrubs, perennials, grasses and bulbs.  With experimentation, you can create layers in your own garden.  It just takes some planning.  And when plants don’t always grow as tall or short as expected, you have to do some plant shuffling.  But fortunately, most plants are portable and relatively easy to move.

When designing a landscape, I think in terms of five layers:

Shade trees and large evergreens.  These landscape giants grow about 30 to more than 50 feet high. Examples are honeylocusts, oaks, maples, Kentucky coffee tree, and American elm.

Ornamental trees and small evergreens. Plants in this category grow about eight to 25 feet high. Some of my favorites are autumn brilliance serviceberry, Tina dwarf crabapple, spring snow crab, Russian hawthorn, and golden raintree.  As for small evergreens, I take their “mature height” on nursery tags with a grain of salt because most of them grow huge.  However, the dwarf Alberta spruce grows very slowly and stays relatively small.

Medium/large shrubs and grasses. Here, I’m talking about shrubs and grasses that grow six feet or taller.  Think of viburnums, rose of Sharon, chokeberries, serviceberries, Peking cotoneaster, redtwig dogwoods, tiger eye sumac, Cheyenne mock orange, bluestem joint fir, mugo pine, and Swiss stone pine, for example.  Tall grasses include big bluestem, giant sacaton, and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus.’  Don’t forget about vines, as well, to add height to your garden.

Tulips and alliums pair well with blue avena grass, adding a layer by poking up above the grasses. Here, coral tulips contrast beautifully with spiky blue grass in terms of color, texture, and form.

Small shrubs and grasses, tall perennials, and tall bulbs. Small shrubs and grasses can range anywhere from about two to five feet tall.  One of my favorite plants in this category is blue avena grass, which grows about 2.5 feet high and wide.  First of all, it isn’t as allergenic as most grasses.  Second, it’s a four-season plant.  Third, it’s blue, which is sometimes a difficult color to find in plants for the garden.  And fourth, it looks fantastic with reds, purples, and oranges.  Pair it with coral tulips in early spring and purple alliums in late spring/early summer.

Some easy-to-grow small shrubs are emerald mound honeysuckle, Pawnee Buttes sand cherry, meidiland ground cover roses, shrub roses, color guard yucca, Carol Mackie daphne, Genista lydia bangle, gro-low sumac, spirea, weigela, and leadplant, to name a few.  The sand cherries, meidilands, and gro-low sumac make outstanding taller groundcovers, especially when you underplant them with shorter groundcovers.

Notice the height progression from the Genista lydia (green in foreground) to the red-leaved Pawnee Buttes sand cherry and on up to the fading tan sunset hyssop. Then in the upper right-hand corner, there’s a taller serviceberry.

Tall (as in two to five feet) perennials that dress up your garden include Joe Pye weed, hyssop, coneflower, shorter varieties of hardy hibiscus, daisies, asters, lavender, crocosmia, black-eyed Susan, oriental poppies, Rozanne cranesbill, bloody cranesbill, red hot poker, and tall garden phlox.

Bulbs that add height in the lower region of the garden are iris, daylilies, alliums, tulips, daffodils, frittilaria, Asiatic lilies, and dahlias.

Ground covers. This category of low-growing (one to two foot), spreading plants often gets short shrift in the garden, even though they provide continuity and help prevent weeds.  You wouldn’t build a house without flooring, so why wouldn’t you want an underpinning for your garden?

I use Veronica pectinata as a fluffy blue carpet from which bulbs can emerge each spring.  Other delightful choices include prairie winecups, orange carpet hummingbird, creeping phlox, Siberian bellflower, Angelina and other sedums, soapwort, candytuft, dead nettle, and creeping thyme.

If you haven’t thought about ways to layer plants in your garden, I encourage you to do so.  You may find the results rewarding.


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Is it Time to Fine-tune your Landscape?

Angelina sedum (yellow in foreground) and purple sensations allium add pops of color to the spring landscape. Notice tulip foliage that emerged from blue Veronica pectinata ground cover, which provides a carpet for spring bulbs.

In Colorado, it typically takes a good three years for a new landscape to take off.  At that point, you may notice aspects of the garden that need addressing.  Examples include coloration and bloom times, as well as hardiness, sunlight, and maintenance concerns.

Coloration.  How’s the color balance in your garden, especially in the spring, when plants often don’t bloom as long as they do later in the season?  In early- to mid-spring, for instance, I noticed that my front yard was heavy with purples, blues, and whites, thanks to little Trudy catmint (purple), blue avena grass, Veronica pectinata (blue), Pawnee Buttes sand cherry, and serviceberries (whites).  I realized that I needed to add some pops of brighter colors, such as yellows and reds.  So I planted Angelina sedum (yellow) in a few strategic spots.  I also planted fuchsia and coral tulip bulbs.  Just a few vivid plants make the garden more exciting.

Bloom Times.  Bulbs are great fillers in early and mid-spring, when other plants are just beginning to wake up.  Fortunately, Colorado has an ideal climate for most bulbs.  Add some Corydalis solida, daffodils, dwarf iris, tulips or allium, to name just a few.  I’ve discovered that purple sensations alliums, which bloom during the second and third weeks of May in Fort Collins, deliver tall lollipops of violet-purple after most tulips have faded.  Pair your bulbs with low-growing evergreen groundcovers, such as Veronica pectinata or white candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), so blooms will have a lush, colorful carpet from which to emerge.

Sunlight Issues.  You may discover that some of your plants need more sun or shade than you originally thought.  Spring is a great time for plant shuffling.  After four years in my home, I decided to move my autumn brilliance serviceberry tree because: (1) It would likely grow faster if it weren’t so shaded by the next-door neighbor’s large honey locust tree; and (2) I needed more shade in front of a southeast-facing bedroom window.  So I uprooted my serviceberry (a much easier job than I expected) and moved it in front of the bedroom window.  Then I planted a compact merlot redbud tree in the area where the serviceberry originally stood.  The redbud will likely appreciate more shade than the serviceberry did.

Hardiness Issues.  You’ve been so conscientious, reading the plant descriptions before buying and installing your plants.  Heck, some of them are even Plant Select winners, so they’re sure to work well in your garden, right?  Well, not always.

For example, Coral Canyon twinspur performed like a champ for two seasons, then up and died.  I had planted it before when I lived in Denver, and it lived only one season.  So I’m done with twinspur.

Mojave sage (Salvia pachyphylla), another highly touted plant, has gorgeous silver-blue foliage.  I planted three.  Each year for three years, I replaced one to two plants because they just couldn’t deal with our cold winters.  Now, three splendid blue avena grasses reside where Mojave sage did so poorly.

If plants keep dying on you, either move them to new locations or simply replace them with something else.  Don’t be like me.  I clung to Mojave sage longer than I should have.

Maintenance Issues.  You may find that some plants require more maintenance than you’re willing to give them.  Blanket flower and coreopsis are two prime examples.  They’re lovely flowers, but you have to deadhead them every 15 minutes.  What’s worse is that the blanket flower seed heads are pointy, so you have to wear gloves to avoid getting poked.

Some gardeners won’t grow roses because they don’t want to prune and deadhead them.  I understand.  However, roses vary in their neediness for care.  For example, purple rain roses die back like crazy and require a lot of pesky pruning in the spring.  Red Meidiland roses, on the other hand, don’t die back nearly as much, so pruning isn’t as labor intensive.

While there’s still time to plant, consider fine-tuning your landscape by moving plants around or installing new ones.  What till fall, however, to plant spring-blooming bulbs.

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Easy-Growing Plants Offer Colorful Excitement All Season Long

Goblet-shaped blooms of xeric Callirhoe involucrata adorn the garden from late May to October.

In an ideal garden, I suppose individual plants would bloom all season long, providing continuous color.  Here in Colorado, season-long bloom is rather uncommon, other than with annuals.

As for perennials, bulbs and shrubs, a long bloomer along the Front Range could be defined as one that produces flowers non-stop for four to six months.  Fortunately, there are a few stalwarts out there, including those mentioned below.

  • Catmint (Nepeta). My favorite catmint is little Trudy—a sterile, drought-tolerant cultivar that grows into a compact mound of lavender fluffiness lasting from May to October.  If Trudy begins to poop out in the summer heat, simply shear her back, and she’ll be fluffed out again in a week or two.  This perennial grows about a foot high and 1.5 feet wide.
  • Prairie winecups (Callirhoe involucrata). Winecups generates vines up to 2.5 feet long that are loaded with burgundy blooms about an inch in diameter.  This stalwart perennial grows about six inches tall and can handle the hottest, driest conditions in your landscape.  Like little Trudy, winecups blooms from May to October.

    Perky lavender Rozanne cranesbill lights up the landscape from June to September. When blooms start to fade, cut Rozanne back judiciously to encourage new bloom.

  • Rozanne cranesbill (Geranium ‘Gerwat’ Rozanne). If you love lush, lavender blooms, Rozanne is for you.  This hardy perennial grows in full sun to part shade and boasts blossoms about an inch in diameter.  The plant itself grows about 1.5 feet high and 2 to 2.5 feet wide.  Rozanne isn’t as drought-tolerant as catmint and winecups, so water it once or twice a week in hot weather. She’ll give you color from June to September.
  • Coreopsis and Blanket flower (Galliardia). These two beauties will bloom from June to September.  I’ve stopped growing them, however, because they require such frequent deadheading.
  • Stella de Oro daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Stella de Oro’). Unlike most other daylilies, Stella d’Oro blooms from May to August, displaying soft yellow blossoms.  Stella grows about 1 foot high and eventually will spread to the point that you’ll need to divide her to make new Stellas.

    It’s hard to beat fire meidiland for sheer showiness. This tough, yet beautiful groundcover rose will delight you all the way from June to September.

  • Roses.  There are quite a few roses that will bloom from June to September.  One drought-tolerant favorite is Linda Campbell, which grows about 5 feet high and wide, with deep red flowers.  Long-blooming groundcover roses include sea foam, white meidiland, fire meidiland, scarlet meidiland, and magic meidiland.  When looking for long-blooming roses, check for “good repeat” or “continuous repeat” in the plant descriptions.



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How’s Your Pruning Technique?

Cut ornamental grasses back as new growth emerges. Otherwise, you’ll end up with new growth poking out of dead blades, the wrath-of-God look.

As new growth emerges, our fingers often itch to get out in the garden.  Late February/early March is an ideal time to start cutting back ornamental grasses. With perennials, early to mid-March is a good time to prune.

Trimming ornamental grasses is simple, unless you have a huge stand of pampas grass or some such.  For small grasses, such as blue avena, simply use pruners or small hedge clippers to cut the blades down to 4-6 inches above ground.  For larger grasses, wrap a bungee cord or rope around the plant to contain the blades like a pony tail, then use manual or powered hedge clippers or a chain saw below the pony tail to cut the grass back to 6 inches or lower.  Once done, you can simply carry the rubble to your compost pile and remove the bungee cord or rope.  Be sure to wear gloves to avoid cuts.

Make quick work of pruning agastache and other spiky plants by wrapping a bungee cord around the base, then cutting the stalks below the cord.

As for perennials, you can prune them different ways, depending on the individual variety.  For some plants, such as soapwort, it’s often easiest to simply grab a handful of foliage, twist it, and yank it out.  Before you do this forcefully, however, give the plant a gentle tug to make sure you won’t be ripping it out of the ground when pulling on it.  But if you end up ripping out a small, rooted chunk of the plant, you may be able to transplant it elsewhere.

With orange carpet hummingbird and other short plants with stiff dormant twigs, you can often grab a handful of twigs and snap them off.

For taller, stalky perennials such as agastache, you may find it easiest to treat them like a large ornamental grass, wrapping a bungee cord around the stalks before cutting below with hedge clippers.

Otherwise, you can simply cut perennials to the ground with pruners, although it sometimes takes longer than some of the methods mentioned above.

You can prune many shrubs and trees this time of year, as well, using techniques from Colorado State University Extension.

Leave your roses alone, though.  Don’t prune them until late April or early May.  Otherwise, frost might kill new growth that occurs when pruning stimulates roses’ hormones.  For more information on roses, check CSU Extension’s Pruning Roses.

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Reseed Your Way to a Lusher Garden


Agastaches, such as Sonoran sunset (left) and sunset hyssop, reseed in some gardens, but not in others. The seedlings seem to spread more prolifically on bare ground or in sparsely mulched areas.

Do you have what it takes to grow self-seeding plants? Maybe, if you don’t mind seedlings popping up here and there, and you have the guts to destroy plants that turn thuggish. Because let’s face it–reseeders aren’t for everyone.

But for budget-conscious gardeners, self-sowing can offer an inexpensive way to fill gaps in a garden or cover large chunks of real estate in a hurry.

Let’s say you want to create a cottage garden in your back yard, but you’re concerned that self-sowers will crowd out your existing plants. You can select gently reseeding annuals and perennials.

The trick to successful reseeding is being able to recognize seedlings so you don’t mistake them for weeds and kill them. Study the leaf structure of mature plants, then compare it to that of the seedlings. The seedlings with long, slender leaves on the right and in the rear are sunset agastache. The plants to the left, with broader leaves, are Sonoran sunset agastache. Notice the tiny plant just sprouting at the far right? It’s another Sonoran sunset agastache.

Well-behaved annuals include sunflowers, pansies and sweet alyssum. As for polite perennials, consider low-growing bloody cranesbill with its bright fuchsia blooms; lady’s mantle with its fluffy lime-green clusters; or cupid’s dart with its purplish-blue flowers resembling bachelor buttons. You can also choose English lavender, bleeding heart, lupine, purple coneflower, chocolate flower, penstemon or agastache, as well as biennial snapdragon.

If you’re more interested in populating a large, sun-scorched area to prevent weeds, pick seedy characters that spread quickly. Aggressive annuals, such as California poppies, larkspur, bachelor buttons, cosmos and blue flax will sprout in your yard for years to come. You can also toss in a few strong-willed perennials, such as hardy four o’clock, with its deep-pink trumpet-shaped blooms and mint-green leaves; globe thistle with its architectural growth habit and spiky blue flowers; and knautia with its burgundy, pincushion-shaped flowers on long stems.

Broadleaf weeds or desirable perennials? These are baby soapworts, which can spread 24 to 36 inches wide and produce masses of pink flowers in spring.

Other quick spreaders include prairie winecups, Jupiter’s beard, Mount Atlas daisy, catmint, yarrow, hollyhock, rose campion, soapwort, and salvias such as May night. And don’t forget ornamental grasses, such as Mexican feather grass and little bluestem.

In the vegetable garden, lettuce is notorious for producing babies if you allow the plant to go to seed. You may also find volunteer tomatoes, spinach and purple mustard.

Check around your compost pile, too, for baby cantaloupes and other squashes that may have sprouted from seeds of decomposed parent plants. You’ll need to protect these little ones from the cold in early spring, but you can transplant them to your garden once the weather warms up.

Chives, both common and garlic, can reseed to the point of weediness in the garden. So can dill. Other self-sowing herbs are culinary sage, cilantro, some sorrels, catnip, oregano, borage, calendula, parsley and chamomile.

If you eventually discover that you have too much of a good thing, you can discourage reseeding by deadheading or yanking plants before they go to seed.

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Every Yard Needs a Berry Patch 

Chester began popping out flowers in early July. Now they’re turning into blackberries.

Chester’s pregnant!  After 22 months in the ground, my Chester dwarf blackberry is producing small pink flowers and baby berries.  I spotted this hardy, thornless darling at the Labor Day sale at Fort Collins Nursery in September 2017, bought it, and promptly stuck it in the ground.  Chester didn’t produce any berries during the summer of 2018.  But this year, he looks very promising.

Chester (Rubus fruticosus ‘Chester’) reportedly grows three to five feet high and wide.  Mine has reached five feet high by two feet wide, growing on a trellis.  However, I’ve pruned the tallest canes back to three feet.

Chester and his new friends hang out in the garden. He’s on the trellis. Strawberries are in front. Bright lights Swiss chard and winecraft black smoke bush are on his left. Zucchini is behind him on the right. If he doesn’t play well with others, I’ll relocate him.

Although Chester is a perennial, his canes are biennial.  For best performance, stake the canes.

According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, you should tip-prune new non-fruiting canes on established plants in the summer.  Then immediately after harvest, cut down all canes that fruited.  Finally, in late winter or early spring, prune away damaged canes and thin your way down to four or five well-spaced canes, trimming their laterals.

I should mention that it’s advisable to seal the tips of your pruned canes with carpenter’s wood glue to discourage borers.

I also note that one respected Denver garden center claims that Chester doesn’t play well with others.  He’s surrounded by strawberries, Swiss chard, cucumbers and zucchini in my berry/vegetable patch.  I’ll see what happens.  If he misbehaves, I’ll relocate him for a time out.

Chester isn’t my only berry provider.  I also grow the strawberries mentioned earlier—both June-bearing and ever-bearing.  My June bearer produced fruit through early July.  Now the ever-bearers are picking up the slack, generating white blooms that will soon turn into even more berries.

My June bearer is Honeoye, and my ever bearers are Ogallala, Quinalt, and Fort Laramie.

Besides providing fruit, strawberries help keep weeds down by serving as a lush, dense groundcover.

I like strawberries not only for their fruit, but because they make such lush, perky groundcovers.

Then there are the serviceberries from my regent and autumn brilliance varieties.  Yes, serviceberries are edible by humans.  They taste somewhat like blueberries and are great for snacking, mixing with other fruits, or tossing into salads.

Some gardeners avoid growing berries because birds eat so much of the fruit.  I’ve been picking my strawberries and serviceberries before they’re fully ripe and taking them inside to ripen.  I may have to do the same with the blackberries.  Or eventually I may have to break down and install bird netting.

If you have children or grandchildren, be aware that a berry patch can occupy them for hours and provide treasured memories.

Fortunately for us here in Colorado, we have one of the best climates in the country for growing berries.  Just don’t plant blueberries—they like acidic soil.  We have alkaline.

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