Monthly Archives: August 2012

Fall Nursery Sales are Starting

If you’ve had your eye on a particular plant and have been waiting for it to go on sale, now’s the time to check for sales at Denver-area garden centers.

I noticed that one garden center currently has its 1-gallon $7.99 perennials on sale at 3 for $10.  Another garden center has its trees 30% off.

Fall is a great time for planting most trees, shrubs and perennials.

Happy shopping!

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Filed under Plant Geekiness

What’s that White Stuff on My Zucchini?



When powdery mildew attacks your zucchini, it can decrease the plant’s production and even kill its host.

Do you see a coating that looks like powdered sugar on your zucchini leaves?  Well, don’t lick it.

You most likely have powdery mildew.  Get rid of it before it kills your plant and infects other plants in your garden.

When powdery mildew shows up, I spray my zucchini every couple of days this concoction:  a gallon of water, a tablespoon of baking soda and a squirt of dishwashing soap.  The soap acts as a binding agent.  I just mix the solution, pour it into my hose-end sprayer and spray my zucchini plants thoroughly.

To discourage the growth of powdery mildew, avoid overhead watering and, when you do water, do it early in the day so any drops that end up on the plant evaporate by nightfall.

Zucchini is destined to attract powdery mildew as it matures.  One way to deal with the issue is to plant a second zucchini plant elsewhere in the garden a few weeks after planting the first zucchini plant.  So when the first plant starts mildewing, the second plant likely won’t have reached that phase yet.


Filed under Produce Dept.

There’s Movement Afoot in the Garden

Ornamental grasses sway in the summer breeze.

I love movement in a garden.  It adds magic and excitement when butterflies hover around a butterfly bush or branches of a young tree sway in the breeze.

Fortunately there are easy ways to create this kind of stimulation in your own garden.

You can grow plants that undulate in the wind.  Plants with long stems, thin branches or tall blades fall into this category.  These winners include whirling butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri), Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), giant sacaton ornamental grass (Sporobolus wrightii) and ornamental poppies.  The ornamental grasses pictured above stand in a traffic median near a shopping mall.  Although they aren’t labeled, I’m confident that the bluish grass is Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and the grass with golden plumes is Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’).  As for the grass with the red tips, my research suggests that it’s Shenandoah Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’).

The fiery red flowers of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ will bob in the breeze. The plant’s bright blooms and sword-like leaves add drama to the garden even when this beauty isn’t in motion.

You can select plants that attract small creatures, such as butterflies and hummingbirds, to animate your landscape.  Adult butterflies like nectar-rich plants such as bee balm (Monarda), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), blue fortune hybrid hyssop (Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’). Hummingbirds prefer brightly colored (especially red) plants with tubular flowers including cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, hibiscus (the hardy kind if you want it to last), orange carpet hummingbird (Zauschneria garrettii ‘Orange Carpet), red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) and most varieties of agastache.

If you want to go hog-wild with movement, you can even install a fountain with trickling or cascading water.

As for me, I grow many of the plants mentioned above, attracting my share of butterflies and even an occasional hummingbird.  But the main sources of movement in my garden are the amazing cats, Toto the Fluff Ball and Steve the Socialite.

Toto, the fluff ball, adds humor and movement to the garden.

Talk about movement. . .when miller moths are in season, said cats leap through the air, paws extended like soccer players, knocking moths to the ground and devouring them.  As if Iams Original weren’t enough for their nutritional needs.

Steve, the socialite, tidies himself up amid prairie winecups, Callirhoe involucrata, and bleeding hearts, Dicentra spectabilis.

So if you’re looking for movement in the garden, you may enjoy the subtleties of fluttering insects, gently swaying plants and trickling water.  But it you want real excitement, add cats to the mix.

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Filed under Landscape Design

How to Save a Mint in the Garden

If you’re interested in money-saving ideas for your garden, check out my Denver Post article, 8 ways to cut waste, save money in the garden, at

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Filed under Shameless Plugs

Share your Harvest with the Hungry

Zucchini blossom

A blossom announces the upcoming birth of another zucchini.

This morning I delivered 15 pounds of zucchini to a nearby food bank.  Given that zucchini is now in season, I thought there would be a plethora of zucchinis at the food bank.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When I arrived, I noticed mostly canned and processed foods on the tables.  I also spotted two flats of store-bought peaches.  But other than my zucchini, there were no fresh vegetables.

Jodi Torpey at is a coordinator for Plant a Row for the Hungry in metro Denver.  I haven’t participated in the past, partly because planting a row sounded like a little more structure than I could handle.  But this year I decided to plant a couple of zucchini plants and an extra tomato plant for the hungry.  Once my zucchini plants started producing, I contacted Jodi for a list of local food pantries.

Don’t make the mistake that I did and assume that a few fresh vegetables won’t make a difference at a food bank.  If you live in metro Denver and have some extra produce in your garden, contact Jodi on her website.  She’ll send you a list of local food banks that may be surprisingly close to your home.

If you outside metro Denver, do a Google search for Plant a Row for the Hungry followed by your city or state to find a coordinator in your area.

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Filed under Produce Dept.

And the Plant Geek Hall of Fame Nominee is. . .

Origanum rotundifolum 'Kent Beauty'During the spring planting season, I work several Sundays at a locally owned garden center.

“Why?” you may ask.  “Is it because of the generous salary structure with stock options and 401(k) match?”  Nope.

“Is it because of the unique opportunities for recognition and advancement?”  Nope.

“Is it because you’re gaga over Max, the nursery’s resident cat?”  Well, that’s partly it.  But mostly it’s because, deep in the bowels of my very being, I am a plant geek.  And I like working with my fellow plant geeks–Cheryl, Sue and Amanda.

What do plant geeks discuss on the job?  Their favorite plants.  If one member of the perennials department raves about a particular plant, her co-workers snap it right up.  After all, nursery folk are surrounded by hundreds of plants day in and day out.  So if a plant is outstanding enough to merit special mention to fellow geeks, it has to be good.

One such plant is this year’s Plant Geek Hall of Fame Nominee: Origanum rotundifolium ‘Kent Beauty’, AKA Kent’s Beauty oregano.

In late June, this ornamental oregano begins growing delicate mauve bracts that have an ethereal quality.  Tiny purple flowers, tucked inside the bracts, add to the charm of this garden glamour-puss whose trailing stems extend one to two feet.  The plant’s blooms are about twice the diameter of your run-of-the-mill ornamental oreganos.

Although rated as a USDA Zone 6 plant (Denver is Zone 5), Denver geeks have been growing this looker successfully as a groundcover for several seasons.  Because Kent Beauty has a draping effect, you can use it to soften a retaining wall by planting it at the top edge of the wall so its bracts cascade down the front.  You can also grow it in rock gardens and containers for stunning effect.

I just planted two Kent Beauties this spring—one in the ground and one in a container.  The container plant has more blooms and is growing faster than the groundcover, probably because I water the container plant more often.

According to, the plant should be cut back to the ground in late fall.

So if you’re looking for a showy summer bloomer, consider Kent’s Beauty oregano.  But don’t use it in a high-traffic area; it’s sensitive to feet.

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Filed under Plant Geekiness