CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dealing with Ice

Posted by: Curtis Utley, Jefferson County Extension

Shoveling Snow 
Well, we have had our first big, cold snowstorm of the season and the snow and ice is still hanging around. This is a problem for me because I still walk my youngest to school. Do kids still walk to school? Do people still walk? By law, as a property owner in most municipalities you are required to keep sidewalks cleared of ice and snow for pedestrians. This requirement has been lost on most people who could care less about us few who still use sidewalks, and I have yet to hear of anyone receiving a citation from a code enforcement officer reminding a property owner of their civic duty. So that being said, wise people in positions of authority have always told me, “Do not complain without offering up potential solutions”.
Snow melting into ice across sidewalk

My reply, "To whom it should concern:  The snow and ice found days later post storm on city sidewalks is hindering my free mobility across our fair city, not to mention the direct violation of the ADA standards that should be upheld by our fair city for my wheelchair-bound neighbor. I would like to provide you some information to address this issue."

 When possible, snow should be removed from sidewalks immediately following the storm to prevent it from melting and refreezing into ice. If you have a choice, deposit snow below the sidewalk so as it melts it does not create ice on the sidewalk. If you are planning to install a new sidewalk consider inserting heat cables below or within the slab to gently warm the concrete to prevent snow and ice from forming. Another idea is to keep a bucket of heated sand or gravel inside that can be sprinkled out onto the sidewalk if ice has formed. Sand heated to room temperature (70 degrees F.) will melt into the surface of the ice, and as it cools, it will re-freeze into a less slippery surface. All of these options also have the benefit of being kind to adjoining landscapes as opposed to deicing salts.
Warm sand and gravel will add traction to icy sidewalks 

For your information, chloride salts are harmful to most plants; sodium chloride is the worst followed by magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride and Urea/Carbonyl diamide . Every application of Ice melt increases the potential to cause damage to landscapes. Ice melt salts readily dissolve in water and get flushed into landscape soils where they often remain unless flushed out of the soil profile with copious amounts of clean water. If you only use ice melt salts once or twice per season landscapes probably will not suffer as long as you follow the application instructions on the bag.
Salty melt-water flowing into landscape bed 
Fir needle damage caused by ice melt product

CMA (Calcium Magnesium Acetate) is the only commercially available ice melt product that will not accumulate in landscape soils and damage plants. Unfortunately CMA does have limitations, it works best if applied before it begins to snow, and will only prevent ice formation at temperatures above 20 degrees F. However you decide to manage sidewalk ice and snow, remember that some kids still walk to school. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Boy and Girl Eggplants and Peppers Don't Exist!

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

Recently, fellow hortie Carol O'Meara sent an email to a few of us with a link to a blog that advised people on how to choose the best eggplant--based on if they were a "boy" or a "girl". Yes, really. Now, I had heard of the myth of boy peppers and girl peppers, but never eggplant. And let me tell you--it's all bunk. There are no boy peppers or girl eggplants.

(I'm taking a deep breath...this gets me worked up.)

Here's what people claim online:

"Girl" peppers have four lobes and "boy" peppers have three lobes. Girl peppers are sweeter, but contain more seeds. Boy peppers have more "meat" and are better for cooking.

The "boy" pepper is on the left (3 lobes); the "girl" pepper is on the right (4 lobes).
"Girl" eggplant have a slit at the base of the fruit and "boy" eggplant have a "bellybutton". Girl eggplant, like peppers, have more seed, which is bitter tasting. Boy eggplants taste better because they have less seed.
Whew! At least they are organic!
"Girl" eggplant on the left (slit at base); "boy" eggplant on the right (bellybutton).
Ok, so back to science. It is botanically impossible that these fruit have a sex. They can't. When the plant flowers, the flowers contain both male and female parts, known botanically as "perfect" flowers. The fruit develops from the ovary. Yes, the pepper and eggplant fruit are ripened ovaries. But the fruit itself is not sexed.
Oh that a girl cucumber?!
NO! It's just the remnant of the flower.
Now, there are some plants in the world that are male or female. For example, my favorite tree, the ginkgo, has male and female trees. The females are the ones that produce the horrid-smelling fruit. Fortunately, only male clones are sold in the nursery trade today.

But back to the peppers and eggplant...

Peppers can have two, three, four or even five lobes on the bottom. They will vary by cultivar. It also comes down to consumer preference. If you're making stuffed peppers, you look for a pepper that can sit well. If you're just chopping it up for a salad, three lobes may suffice. Many chile peppers have two lobes.
The lobes of peppers: two, three and four.
Now why the eggplant bottoms vary, I couldn't tell you. But it's likely from environmental conditions, cultivar, growth rate or other things. It's just nature. It's how it grows. Just like no two humans are exactly alike, our peppers and eggplants differ. Please stop spreading this erroneous myth. It's silly and quite honestly, one that causes horticulturists to have our eyes roll back in our heads.

What will be sexed next in the produce aisle?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Moving Large Trees at the Plant Environmental Research Center.

Posted by: Eric Hammond, Adams County Extension

Late month many of the more unique trees planted around the perennial demonstration garden at the Plant Environmental Research Center (PERC) on campus at CSU were moved via tree spade to new locations.   The gardens and the trees are being moved to make way for several practices fields which are going to be installed alongside the new stadium on campus.  In all 19 trees were moved including several very large trees which required a 120 inch wide spade.  It was pretty interesting to watch and I thought I would share some pictures and videos of the move.
120 inch tree spade which was used to move the largest of the tree salvaged from PERC.  Larger trees require larger spades in order to dig a large enough portion of their root system for successful transplant.
A slightly smaller tree spade also used in the project.

A slightly smaller spade preparing to dig a linden.
When an established tree is moved with a spade a large portion of its root system and a particularly large proportion of its fine feeder roots are left behind.  This means spaded trees need to be watered diligently for several growing season after they are transplanted.  Water should be applied relatively more frequently with relatively smaller amounts of water compared to an established tree to keep the tree's root system moist without creating a pond at the bottom of hole created by the spade.  
Severed roots can be seen along the side of the hole left by a tree spade circled in red.  A large portion of an established tree's root system is left behind when it is moved with a tree spade. 
It can take a number of years for a spaded tree to establish its root system after transplant and until they do canopy growth is often limited.  Staking recently moved trees is often advisable due to their reduced root system.
Hole left after a tree was lifted with a tree spade.
Here is a sequence of photos and videos of a large upright European hornbeam being moved (thanks to Josh Lambright for the videos):

Digging the hole for transplant.

A upright European hornbeam being dug with the 120 inch spade.

A large spruce being set in place at its new location
Close up of the "root ball" brought with the tree.  The tree root system was likely 2 to 5 times the width of its canopy before transplant.
Large upright European hornbeam after transplant.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Native Plant Landscaping conference Feb 11

The Second Annual Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants conference will be held Saturday, February 11 at the Larimer County Fairgrounds (The Ranch) in Loveland.  

Seminar topics include:
  • Native plant options for your specific region of Colorado
  • Both in-depth and basics of design
  • Propagation of natives
  • Beginner friendly 1/2 day option!! Includes keynote and combined breakout sessions 1 and 2 with Anne Clark (lunch not included) -- make sure to share with your neighbor or friend that is just getting started gardening.
  • And more!!

Mark your calendars and plan to come – it’s a great way to get your gardening fix
in the bleakest time of the year for gardeners.
Registration is now open - to register or get more details, go here:

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Season for Community Engagement

Posted by: Linda Langelo, CSU Extension, Golden Plains Area

A new season begins after this growing season is complete.  For the holiday festivities our Julesburg Garden Club joins in with the local chamber to utilize our newly-empty planters which once held beautiful petunias and other annuals.  This year we are working with the themes of A Toyland Christmas and Old Fashioned Christmas.    

The Julesburg Garden Club asks businesses to adopt-a-planter during the growing season by watering, fertilizing and weeding annuals.  During the holiday festivities, the club decided to engage the businesses and invite them to compete and decorate a tree in the themes of A Toyland and Old Fashion Christmas.  In addition, the club reached out to the schools to engage students as judges for the competition. 

The art class at the high school will be one set of judges.  The 5th and 6th graders will be another set of judges.  The students will follow a rubric.  A rubric used in education is set-up to demonstrate to the student what is expected of them.  There are definite criteria to judge such as composition, balance and creativity.  This both engages them and is a fun educational project. 

Members of the Julesburg Garden Club created sample trees to begin the competition.  The picture below shows the basic tools that we used to build the trees out of chicken wire.  The containers are cement and have a depth of 18 inches and about 18 inches wide for planting.  The materials we used were mostly recycled with the exception of the ribbon. We used tools such as wire cutters and a hammer (not in the picture) to achieve the results we wanted.  The recycled materials were chicken wire, wire hangers, a sturdy pipe for staking and smaller stakes cut from the wire hangers.  
To make your own chicken-wire holiday tree, use materials you already have around the house!
We formed the chicken wire into a cone shape and reinforced with the wire hangers.
Form your chicken wire into the shape of a tree.
 Then we created lots and lots of bows…………….to get to our final result below:
One can never have too many bows.
We tied the bows on the frame and then created a piece of chicken wire with thin strips of ribbon for the tree to have a base.  We staked the base in the container with smaller pieces of wire hanger and drove a pipe as stake in the center of the frame to secure the tree deeper in the soil.  So far the trees have sustained 25.5 and 32.5 miles per hour winds and counting. 
The final product--a fun and festive "tree" that can sustain pedestrian traffic and wind!

Monday, December 5, 2016

When the Festivities are Over...

Posted by: Sherie Caffey, Horticulture Coordinator, CSU Extension-Pueblo County

I love the holiday season.

Everything from spending time with family, to making and enjoying holiday dishes, and of course decking the halls, makes me warm and fuzzy inside. If you are like me then you probably feel like the period of time after the holiday season has come to an end can feel a bit gloomy. This feeling is especially present when it is time to take down the Christmas tree. In recent years, however, the fact that I can recycle my Christmas tree so it does not end up rotting away in a landfill, brings me a bit of post-season joy. If you need to bust those January blues, here are some tips and suggestions for recycling your family’s Christmas tree.

One of the most popular, and easy, ways to recycle your Christmas tree is to check with your local City or County recycling agency. Many residential garbage collection companies offer curbside tree recycling pickup that goes right along with your normal trash service. Each company has its own times, dates, and requirements, so make sure you check with yours to see if you can get them to haul your spent tree away to a recycling service for you. Other areas may have tree drop off sites, like we do here in Pueblo. Typically trees dropped off at these sites are destined for the chipper, where they will become mulch. Here in Pueblo this Christmas tree mulch is given away free to the community around mid-January. It is first come first serve, and tends to go fast so make plans to pick up mulch early if you intend to do so. Check out this fact sheet for information on using mulch in your garden and landscape:

You can also use the branches of your tree as mulch in your yard without making a trip to the chipper. Cut the large branches from your tree and lay them on top of your perennial planting beds. This will keep your plants from drying out as fast, and will also help to stabilize the temperature of your soil. This is a technique that is better suited for plants that need to stay dormant all winter. Once Spring arrives be sure to remove the boughs so your plants can properly come out of dormancy. At this time, you can chop the branches up and add them to your compost bin. The needles will provide a bit of acidity to your compost. For more information on composting yard waste visit this link:

There are also some “outside the box” kind of ideas for recycling your Christmas tree. You can create a bird haven by staking the tree up and tying bird seed balls to the branches. If your tree is modest in size, you can strip the branches (and use them to protect your perennials!) and use the trunk as a heavy duty tomato stake. If you use a fireplace at home, you can split the trunk and use it as firewood. Before trying this recycling option, read this article from Michigan State Extension on how to properly season and store your wood:

Whichever option you choose, be sure to remove all decorations from your tree before recycling it. Hopefully this inspires you to feel good about the end of the holiday season this year. See you in 2017!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Oh, Christmas Tree...

Homemade wreath by Susan
For centuries, humans brought boughs and greens indoors as part of ceremonies, celebrations, and they signified eternal life and were even thought to ward off evil spirits.    Today, the fresh trees bring the scent of the outdoors in and let us reflect on the great outdoors.   I admit I love Christmas and I love live plants.  I have sold trees, made wreaths, decorated wreaths all professionally.  I even developed carpil tunnel from many hours of making wreaths, but I still love having a fresh wreath and tree in the house.  To me it is the bringing the outdoors in.   Of course, there are those of you that are allergic to certain evergreen trees, so you get a pass in this conversation, but otherwise please consider the following this Holiday season.   Fresh Christmas trees and wreaths help the environment and the economy.  Fresh evergreen trees reduce carbon dioxide and other chemicals in the atmosphere and release oxygen. They are biodegradable and compost-able.  They can be chipped, used as fish habitat, and used as amendment.  Fresh trees are non-toxic and when burnt, don’t release harsh chemicals.  Artificial trees that are made of plastic and metal are toxic if they burn and end up in the landfill.  And did you know most of these artificial trees are produced outside the United States.  Economically, fresh trees provide jobs in all 50 states.  There are roughly 15,000 tree farms in the United States providing 100,000 jobs.  About 5,000 tree farms are pick and cut farms.  Trees take an average of 7-15 years before they become Christmas trees.  So there are some facts to think about.

But here is another reason to pick fresh.  Make a memory!  Not many people will remember where they purchased their artificial tree.  But people remember going out and cutting or picking a tree.  Since my kids were babies, my husband and I purchase a permit from our local forest service and take the kids out to find a tree.  Often these trees are not the prettiest, but we do it for the memory and to help thin the forest so the other trees around our Christmas tree have more resources to grow.  This past year we got smart and went for a few hikes prior to snowfall and tree cutting season and found a few contenders.   Anytime you can get teenagers off the computer and out in nature, go for it!  So we go for the experience.  We get out the snowshoes, pack the hot chocolate and coffee, and make sure we have our permit so we can tag our tree.   My kids tell stories of remember when the year it was so cold or snowy and remember the year we lost our saw… You get the idea.  So whether you support the local Boyscout troop, nursery, tree farm or local Forest service, think about getting a fresh tree this year.  It helps the environment and the economy.

Here are a few tips to pick out a good tree.  Look for firm pliable but not brittle needles.  There should be a good fragrance if it is fresh.  Color is also a good indicator but varies depending on the type of evergreen tree.  The tree should be relatively clean meaning free of lichen, moss, vines and other foreign material.  Here is an article on different types of trees:

Taking care of your evergreen tree to keep it fresh and your family safe is very important.  Once you get your tree home, make a fresh cut at the bottom taking off at least one inch.  This gets rid of the area that has sealed over since it was cut.  Now get it into water immediately even if you are not ready to take it inside.  It is a good idea to do this a second time upon moving the tree inside if you do that it directly indoors.    Make sure to keep water above this cut until you are ready to recycle your tree after the holidays.  Sprinkle your tree needles with water before decorating to keep the needles fresh.  Refill your container daily as your tree will continue to take up water.  Locate your tree away from heat sources and electronics.  Do not use candles near your tree.  There are great LED lights now but still make sure to turn them off when you leave the house.  Check all the cords for worn spots and damage.  Do not overload your electric circuits.  And make sure your tree is sturdy.

Here is a link about the Colorado state capital tree.  There is a tree tonic recipe that you can use to keep your tree fresher.

Have a safe, Merry Christmas filled with fresh evergreen natural scent.
Merry Christmas from the Carter Family.
Article by Susan L. Carter, Horticulture Agent, CSU Extension Tri River Area

Sunday, November 27, 2016

It's Time to Wrap Your Trees!

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, CSU Extension in Larimer County

The end of November marks many things, including the frenzy of college football, events where you eat more food than you probably should...and wrapping your young, thin-barked trees for winter. Not every tree needs to be wrapped, but if you recently planted trees (in the last two or three years), it's worth considering. Trees with thin bark like linden, maple, ginkgo, redbud, crabapple and others need to be wrapped until their bark hardens. If you have young bur oaks, you can usually skip the wrap because of their corky bark. We wrap trees to prevent sunscald and frost cracks, both of which are temperature related.

My crabapple that was planted about a year ago still needs to be wrapped for the 2016-2017 winter.
But instead of writing how to wrap trees, check out this super-cool video that fellow CO-Hort Eric Hammond and I made. (We're aware that it's a bit geeky.)

Happy wrapping...remember to use the right material and remove your wrap in April!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Colorado State University Announces 2016 “Top Performing” Perennials

Posted by James E. Klett, Professor, 
Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Colorado State University

The following seven perennials were recently selected by the Perennial Trial Garden Sub-committee as being superior after 3 years of growth and two winters.  Plan to utilize these in your designs and home gardens in 2017 and I think you will be happy with the results.

WINDWALKER® Big Bluestem from Plant Select®
(Andropogon gerardii  'P003S')
This is an ornamental grass with great multi-season interest with beautiful soft blue foliage that changes to a dark maroon lavender that persists even into the winter.  The plant adds impressive height to the border with a narrow growth habit that reaches about 6’ tall.  This is a great choice for a xeriscape area, as it can thrive with little or no supplemental irrigation.  Avoid overhead watering and over-fertilization to maintain compact plants and prevent lodging.

Alexander’s Great Brunnera from Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
(Brunnera macrophylla ‘Alexanders Great’ PP25,789)

This is a unique Brunnera of “monster” growth proportions which is an excellent choice to add structure to the garden.  The large size also helps show off the heavily silvered leaves resulting in a dramatic statement for the garden.  It makes a great foliage plant for shady areas but also has a good display of blue flowers that creates a light, airy appearance.  It can be used as a very attractive groundcover that is about knee high, but also makes a striking specimen.  This is one of the few perennials that was selected for the “Too Good to Wait” award in 2015 and did not disappoint during the 2016 season. Make sure to give this plant ample space to show off its naturally uniform mounding habit and beautiful flowers.


Carnival Rose Granita Heuchera from Darwin Perennials

(Heuchera x hybrid 'Carnival Rose Granita'PPAF)

One of the best in the Carnival series, Rose Granita is unique among Heuchera in that the foliage reflects light and even seems to glow at times.  Its foliage has a composite of pink, purple and green, combined with a silver overlay that seems to change with the angle of the sun as well as the season for a truly mesmerizing appearance.  Beautiful from a distance, this plant only gets more impressive up close as the leaf variation starts to come into focus.  Use in mass plantings or as a small specimen in the shade.  The plants have a very uniform growth habit and a light pink flower that complements the foliage nicely.    


Forever Purple Coral Bells from Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

(Heuchera 'Forever Purple'PPAF)

Aptly named, Forever Purple’s leaves are a deep, rich purple color that is maintained all season without fading.  The best and most vibrant purple leaved Heuchera currently on the market sports glossy foliage that seems to make the color “bounce” off the leaf.  It is grown mostly for attractive foliage which also has fluted edges.   Plants have good vigor and a very uniform growth habit.  It would make a great choice for shady areas or combos.


Summerific® Cherry Cheesecake Rose Mallow from Walters Garden/Proven Winners

(Hibiscus x ‘Summerific® Cherry Cheesecake’)

Saucer sized flowers are a stunning contrast of rich cherry-red and bright white which gives a very tropical or exotic feel to the landscape.  This selection is rated highly for its ability to produce huge flowers evenly over the entire plant.   Plants are very uniform and healthy with foliage that reaches all the way to the ground.   Be patient with this hibiscus as it comes up very late in the spring, but is well worth the wait when the showy flowers start to open in late July. 


CrazyBlue Russian Sage from Darwin Perennials

(Perovskia atriplicifolia 'CrazyBlue'USPP25639)

Besides the prolific blue flowers, this entry is noted for a very attractive growth habit that is smaller than the species and is not susceptible to lodging even with overhead irrigation.  Growth habit improves with age and with time makes a very attractive compact mound of silver gray foliage.  Plants appear dense with good branching and have a very long bloom period.  This selection thrives in a dry location and maintains a slightly more compact habit.


Glamour Girl Garden Phlox from Walters Garden/Proven Winners

(Phlox paniculata ‘Glamour Girl’)

This variety is described as “One of the best garden phlox introduced in a very long time”.  The period of bloom is impressively long and provides the garden with abundant vibrant salmon colored flowers.  Flower color did not fade and the plants create a very upright and uniform overall appearance with no lodging.  This selection seems to be fairly mildew resistant when compared to other garden phlox in the trials. 


Class of 2015 - “Too Good to Wait” Award

The Perennial Trial Garden Sub-committee likes to award the ‘Top Performer’ designation to superior plants that have been in the ground 2 winters and 3 growing seasons. This category is to acknowledge an upcoming plant that has been in the ground one winter and two growing seasons and shows excellent performance thus far in the trial. The following plant impressed the Perennial Trial Garden Sub-committee so much that they designated the category name: “Too Good to Wait Performer”.


Kahori® Border Pink from Bartels

(Dianthus ‘Kahori’)

Prolific blooms cover the plants at peak bloom and creates a mat of vibrant pink flowers.  This entry is superior for a long period of bloom and exceptional uniformity.  It looks great in ground beds and would make a beautiful border, but is a great choice to use in containers since it is always in bloom.  This selection remains very compact and has great heat tolerance during the peak of summer temperatures.