Category Archives: Garden Maintenance

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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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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Low-Cost Propagation Methods Can Multiply Your Shrubs

This multi-caned red twig dogwood can be propagated by using simple layering, division, runners or stem cuttings.

In last month’s post, I explained how to use simple layering to propagate shrubs with branches close to the ground.

But what about shrubs that don’t have low-hanging branches?  Fortunately, there are other propagation approaches you can use: Dividing root balls, transplanting runners, and taking stem cuttings.  Within a short time, you can have several baby shrubs for transplanting around your yard.

Dividing root balls.  There are many shrubs that don’t respond well to division because of their tree-like growth habit from a single trunk.  But there are other shrubs, primarily those that produce multiple canes, that divide nicely.  Examples include butterfly bush, rose, dogwood, spirea, potentilla, lilac and forsythia.

To propagate by division, dig up the root ball of the mother plant.  The root ball may fall apart by itself, leaving several cane clumps with roots attached.  If not, use a shovel or knife to cut the ball apart, being careful to minimize damage.  Make sure that each cane clump has a good root ball.  Then transplant the clumps to their final resting places.

Transplanting runners.  Some shrubs produce runners, called rhizomes (underground) or stolons (above ground), which create suckers.   These shrubs are called colonizers because, over time, they’ll create colonies of themselves if left unchecked.  Colonizers include serviceberry, dogwood, lilac, sumac and kerria.

If you want to propagate and transplant a baby shrub from the mother shrub, look for a branch growing several inches from the mother plant—a branch that looks like it wants to strike out on its own.  Carefully dig around that branch to see whether it’s attached to its own runner.  If you spot a runner, dig it up, coat it with a rooting hormone, such as Clonex, and gently place it in a hole in a pot or in the ground.

If you’re using a pot, mix peat moss with sand or perlite for a loose, well-draining medium.  If you’re planting the runner in the ground, dig a trench about six inches deep and fill it with sand.  You should moisten your growing medium with water, then poke a hole in the medium with your finger so you can insert the runner into the medium without disturbing the rooting hormone.  Then gently backfill the hole.  After that, just keep the runner watered the same as you would a regular plant.

Then wait about four months or so to give the runner time to develop auxiliary roots before transplanting it to its new home.

Taking stem cuttings.  This approach, in my experience, is the diciest of the propagation methods.  So if you can propagate a shrub by layering, division or transplanting runners, I suggest that you use one of those methods instead of taking cuttings.

In spite of difficulties, I have successfully propagated red twig dogwoods from cuttings.  But my success rate was only about 60 percent. Professionals have better equipment and are far more adept at propagating from cuttings than I am.

With layering and division, I’ve had a 100-percent success rate, and with transplanting runners, I’ve averaged about 75%.

If you have your heart set on propagating a shrub that can’t be propagated with the other methods I’ve described, then cuttings are the way to go.

There are three types of woody plant cuttings:  softwood, semi-hardwood and hardwood.  Softwood cuttings are taken from tender new growth in the spring or early summer.  Semi-hardwood cuttings are taken from partially matured growth in the summer.  Hardwood cuttings are taken from mature stems during the fall and winter.

Different types of shrubs root more readily from different types of cuttings.  Daphne and euonymus, for example, propagate most readily from semi-hardwood cuttings.  Viburnum, on the other hand, propagates most readily from softwood and hardwood cuttings.

To determine which shrubs require which cutting types, I check my reference book, Plant Propagation from The American Horticultural Society.

When I propagated red twig dogwoods, I took semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer and stripped off all the leaves.  Then I dug a trench, filled it with sand, and planted the cuttings the same way I did for the runners mentioned earlier.  I then mulched the cuttings with black plastic.  The following spring, I planted the cuttings in their final resting places.  Four of my seven cuttings survived the winter and transplanting.  I used rooting hormone on three of the seven cuttings.

If you want to get serious about rooting shrubs from cuttings, I suggest consulting Plant Propagation for step-by-step instructions.

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What Now??? Rozanne Succumbs to Mosaic Virus

Cucumber mosaic virus, like other mosaic viruses, causes yellow mottling on the leaves and can lead to leaf distortion and plant stunting.

A couple of weeks ago while mowing my lawn, I noticed yellow splotches on the leaves of one of my robust Rozanne cranesbills.  “Looks like some kind of mosaic virus,” I thought to myself.

So I hopped on my computer and started googling away on cranesbill geranium issues.  Within minutes, I discovered that cucumber mosaic virus can attack cranesbills and that it’s often vectored by aphids.  So, I figure that an aphid probably visited the plant, sucked on it, and in the process, infected Rozanne.

Weeds apparently provide a great food and disease source for aphids, and I happen to live between the two weediest yards in the neighborhood.

The virus can also be transmitted via garden tools and gardeners’ fingers, according to The Royal Horticultural Society.  That’s why it’s important to clean tools and hands with soap and water.

Besides causing yellow mottling, cucumber mosaic virus can lead to leaf distortion and plant stunting.

It’s important to dispose of diseased plants to keep them from infecting other plants in the garden.

Worst of all, there’s no chemical control for the virus.

After reading all that, I raced outside, dug up the infected cranesbill, conducted a speedy funeral, and tossed the plant into the trash.  It broke my heart to destroy a gorgeous two-year-old cranesbill.  But it was the only thing I could do.

Next, I checked the four cranesbills surrounding the infected one.  Fortunately, I didn’t see any mottling on the other plants.

Normally, I blast a plant with water to dislodge aphids.  But in this case, I wanted to take more definitive action.  So I whipped out my Ferti-lome Triple Action insecticide/fungicide/miticide and sprayed all of my geraniums, roses and Pawnee Buttes sand cherries.  When I used Triple Action on my aphid-infested sand cherries last year, the plants recovered nicely.

I’ve been growing hardy geraniums, including Rozanne and bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum), for ten years or so, and have never had any problems with them.

My online research indicates that allium can repel aphids.  Interestingly, though, I did have one allium growing near the Rozannes, and still had this mosaic problem.  Maybe I need more alliums.

Other plants that reportedly repel aphids are catnip/catmint, garlic, chives and mint.

I grow Little Trudy catmint next to my roses, and so far, haven’t spotted any aphids on the roses.  All of my roses are own-root roses.  So fortunately, I don’t need to be concerned about another virus– rose mosaic virus—on those plants because that disease attacks only grafted roses.  It’s yet one more good reason to plant own-root roses, such as those sold by High Country Roses.

 

 

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The Grass is Sometimes Greener in the Neighbor’s Lawn

My grass has looked this green for several weeks now. The color in the photo has not been enhanced. I use water sparingly. Will the grass turn more yellow this summer? Yes, because that’s what Kentucky blue grass does. It’s a cool-season grass.

We take a monkey see/monkey do approach to lawn care on my cul-de-sac.  And sometimes it works.

Recently, I was talking with my neighbor, Rock.  He’s the premier turf grower in the neighborhood, so we swap grass-maintenance tips.

I once asked him why his lawn is so lush and green.  He said a friend told him to apply laundry detergent to his lawn once or twice a year to soften the soil and make it more water-permeable.

In the interest of science, I went out last fall and bought what I thought was the safest laundry detergent I could find—Seventh Generation liquid—and applied it to my lawn with a hose-end sprayer.  It definitely made the soil softer.  I have concerns, though, that Seventh Generation and many other detergents could add harmful salts and boron to the soil, based on information in the book, Greywater, Green Landscape, by Laura Allen.  So rather than eventually killing my grass with unsafe substances, I’ve decided to stick with Revive Organic Soil Treatment, which is designed specifically for lawns.

Earlier this spring, I noticed drifts of what looked like soil thrown here and there on Rock’s front yard.

“What’s that brown stuff on your lawn?” I asked him.  “Compost,” he said.  “I saw you spreading some on your lawn last fall.”

This is the monkey see/monkey do behavior I’m talking about.

I’ve tried other approaches on my lawn, as well.  In late winter, for example, I applied Milorganite for two reasons: (1) to fertilize the grass; and (2) to repel rabbits.  A small University of Nebraska study found that Milorganite, which is reprocessed sludge, was effective in keeping rabbits away from impatiens.  It does seem to help keep bunnies at bay in my lawn.  So does my cat, Steve.

I also get my heavy clay soil aerated each fall to make it easier for water to reach grass roots.

After the aeration last fall, I had planned to overseed my yard, but life got in the way.  So I overseeded this spring.

My lawn looks rather golf-course-like  this year, and it greened up before my neighbors’ lawns did.  I watered it only after days of high winds, which dry out the soil.  Otherwise, I let Mother Nature take care of the rest.

So, here’s my lawn maintenance timeline:

  • Fall 1917: Aerated lawn.  Applied Seventh Generation detergent (but I’m switching back to Revive).  Spread compost to improve soil tilth (ability of the soil to retain water and sustain plant growth).
  • Late winter 2018: Spread Milorganite on lawn
  • Early spring 2018: Overseeded lawn and watered it twice daily for two weeks until Kentucky blue grass seed sprouted.  Then cut back on watering

The only time I water my lawn in the spring is after high winds.  In hot summer months, though, I water about once a week.  Then I back off again the fall, when the weather is cooler and moister.

Consider trying this multi-pronged approach to see if it works for you.  And while you’re at it, have a soil test done on your lawn to determine exactly which nutrients it needs.

 

 

 

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Wait! Don’t Prune those Roses Yet!

Although you may want to prune your roses in April, resist the temptation. Otherwise you’ll have to deal with dieback of tender new growth. This beauty is a low-maintenance Livin’ Easy rose.

Don’t tell me—you’ve been cutting away at your ornamental grasses, perennials and shrubs, so that new growth can emerge unimpeded.  As long as you’re on a roll, you may as well prune those roses, too.  Right?  Nope.

Don’t prune your roses until late May in Colorado.  If you prune earlier, a late freeze is likely to kill any tender new growth stimulated by pruning.

But when you do get around to pruning, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Remove the 4 Ds: Dead, dying, damaged and diseased rose canes.  Also cut out canes that rub against each other, exposing the wood to potential disease and insect damage.  Then you can focus on shaping the plant.
  • Make your cuts at a 45-degree angle so that water doesn’t pool on top of the cane and cause it to rot.
  • Cut damaged canes about one-half inch into green live wood and about one-fourth inch above a live bud.
  • Seal the cut canes with carpenter’s glue or nail polish to discourage cane borers.

For more information about pruning roses, visit the American Rose Society’s website .  For a rose-growing calendar for Denver and Colorado’s Front Range, review the Denver Rose Society’s handout.

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Nibble Away at Turf and Water Usage

Here’s what my front yard looked like last year after my second round of turf removal and installation of new plants.

Many homeowners, especially non-gardeners, take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to landscaping.  That approach is fine, as long as those homeowners realize that as plants mature over the years, some adjustments may be necessary.

Then there are some of us gardeners in semi-arid climates who dislike high water bills so much that we nibble away at our turf year after year. Kentucky bluegrass is, after all, one of the thirstiest plants you can grow. Two years ago, for example, I reduced the turf area in my front yard by about 33 percent.  Last year, I trimmed the remaining turf by about 25 percent.  And this year, I’ve decided to decease the existing turf by another 20 percent or so.

As you can see, there was turf galore in the front yard when I bought the home 2 1/2 years ago. The yard wasn’t water-wise, to put it mildly.

“Why not remove all the turf at once?” you might sensibly ask.  Well, removing turf is time-consuming and labor-intensive.  So, I like to spread out the effort.  Also, I like to propagate plants for filling in the newly expanded beds.  If I’m propagating from cuttings, it may take several months or more to grow a new plant.

I like a small expanse of green in my front yard, but ideally, I would like to eliminate grass altogether.  That’s why I plunked a small rupturewort (Herniaria glabra) plant in my perennial bed last spring.  I’m waiting to see how it performs as a potential turf replacement.  So far, I haven’t been wowed.  Perhaps rupturewort is one of those plants that sleeps in the first year, creeps in the second year and leaps in the third year.  I’m hoping to see some leaping this summer.

This year’s turf-removal effort involves increasing the beds at the front edge of the yard by another two feet. This expansion will enable me to grow my top-performing, 5-foot-wide red fire Meidiland ground cover roses in the space. The smaller purple rain roses that I planted last year were a major disappointment.

If that doesn’t work, I might consider soapwort (Saponaria ocymoides), which I’ve grown successfully for years.  It’s evergreen, and it’s a solid, drought-tolerant performer.  I need to decide, though, whether I can live with a bright pink lawn for the two to three weeks that it’s in flower.  Also, when It’s all fluffed up, it can reach six inches tall, which is high for a lawn.

Don’t talk to me about thyme.  I’m simply not a fan.  It can brown out in the center and turn leggy.

The same goes for Turkish veronica (Veronica liwanensis).  I’ve seen it brown out in my west-facing Denver yard.  Also, it doesn’t spread as quickly as I would like.

Ajuga?  I’ve never liked the looks of it.  Its growth habit reminds me of broad-leafed weeds.

Woolly speedwell (Veronica pectinata) has all the characteristics I’m looking for.  It’s attractive, low-growing, fast-spreading and evergreen.  Unfortunately, it would burn up in my south-facing Fort Collins lawn without shade.  So, I have to be content with growing it under my autumn brilliance serviceberry.

So, the search for the right ground cover continues as I nibble away at my turf.

For those of you who are customers of Fort Collins Water, please be aware that the City of Fort Collins currently is sponsoring a Xeriscape Incentive Program (XIP), which offers generous rebates to homeowners who remove turf and install water-wise plants.

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Winter Watering–Boring, but Important

Evergreen trees, such as this magnificent blue spruce, especially require water in fall and winter because they retain their foliage year-round. Evergreens lose water as moisture moves from the roots, up through the trunk, and out the leaves. Also, newly planted trees need more water in fall and winter to help them get established.

With the snow we’ve been receiving in Colorado over the winter, many gardeners think it’s unnecessary to water their plants.

Not so.  On average, 13 inches of snow equals only one inch of rain, according to the National Severe Storm Laboratory, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

So, this means you need to haul out your hose once a month when winter temperatures rise above 40 degrees, and give your yard a good soak.  Otherwise, you could lose some of your valuable trees and shrubs–especially evergreens, which require more water.

This year, winter watering is more important than ever, because Colorado’s 2017-2018 snowpack is the worst that it has been in 30 years.  So, we could be facing a drought for the upcoming growing season.  If you keep  your plants healthy now, they’ll be in better shape to withstand drier conditions.

I watered my entire yard about a week ago, even though the soil looked moist from melted snow.  I was amazed at how quickly the water from my sprinkler sank into the soil.

Yes, it’s a pain to water in cold weather, but just do it, as soon as the snow from yesterday’s snowstorm melts.  And keep doing it until rain kicks in around April.

For more information on winter watering, visit Colorado State University’s website.

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