CO-Horts Blog

Monday, February 22, 2016

CVFGA Conference Was a Hit

Posted by: Curtis Utley, Jefferson County Extension

On February 16th I attended the second annual Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association Conference and the program was fantastic! Over 300 people attended the conference from all across Colorado who grow fruits and vegetables or support the production of fruits and vegetables as consultants, product sales reps and extension personnel.
Watermelon on the vine
                The day started off with a Colorado grown breakfast and words of encouragement and respect for the newly formed association from the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, Don Brown.

Youth are encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables 
Don was followed by Major General Gary Dylewski with a presentation on Mission Readiness, a national security non-profit organization committed to changing the food culture in America to fight the obesity epidemic that has rendered 70% of America’s youth ineligible for military service. This statistic is shocking to me as I always assumed the military would take anyone who wanted to join. Now I know the military has minimum standards and having the correct body mass index for your height is part of physical standard.
After lunch we heard from the passionate Justice Hobbs, former associate justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, on Colorado water law and how important it is to maintain Colorado’s prior appropriation law to maintain the state’s greatest industry, Agriculture. In the arid west, leveraging water resources by diversion has been the most important tool to increase productive acreage and in-turn successful farms and ranches. Without water resources there would be no Colorado agricultural industry. 
Fish screens on one of the major diversions of the Colorado River, Western Slope, CO

The afternoon was rounded out by 16 different breakout sessions on everything from land access, product marketing and farm labor issues to presentations on production techniques, including sub-surface drip irrigation and season extension with the use of high tunnel hoop houses.

Shade cloth hoops to prevent sunscald on peppers, Rocky Ford, CO 

If you are a market gardener or a specialty crop producer or you dream of one day becoming a fruit and vegetable producer you should seriously consider attending this fantastic conference next year as the opportunities to network, learn the business, and share in the general enthusiasm about Colorado produce is invaluable. Join today at:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Shrubs for Winter Interest

Just because its winter (don't let the 60 degree weather fool you) does not mean your landscape has to be boring.   There are lots of plants that add winter interest to an outdoor space from ornamental grasses to evergreen trees.  Even the seed heads of some herbaceous perennial plants can look attractive in the winter.   One group of plants which shines in during the winter due to the variety of feature and types of interest they can create during the season is shrubs.

Some shrubs have twigs which are an attractive color or provide and interest texture to a landscape.  For example, red twig dogwood (also known as redosier dogwood- Cornus sericea) has showy twigs that bring color to a winter landscape.

Red twig dogwood- each year remove around 1/3 of the  the

 oldest stems to help plants retain their color

Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') as well as several species of Willows (Salix sp.) have contorted habits which add texture to a landscape.

Contorted Shrub Willow

Other shrubs retain their fruit into the winter which can add interest and color to a winter landscape as well as attracting birds. Many species of hawthorn (Cratagus sp.) retain their fruit into the winter along with shrubs like firethorn and some crabapples.

Due to their spreading suckering growth habits some sumacs (Rhus sp.) should be used with care in smaller landscapes.  However, many species of sumac keep their interesting red fruits through winter.
Fruit of Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Curlleaf Mountain Mahogany 
Most people are familiar with the more common evergreens like pines, spruces and junipers.  However many are less familiar with broad leafed evergreens.  These plants retain their leaves all winter and add both color and texture to a winter landscape.  There are actually quite a few broadleaf evergreens which can be grown in our area including,  curl leaf mountain mahogany, mountain mahogany, winter creeper euonymus, Manhattan euonymus, English ivy, Oregon grape holly, creeping grape holly, manzanita, joint fir, Spanish broom and firethorn.  All of these plants will benefit from winter watering and many will do better in sites which are protected from drying winter winds.   

Creeping Mahonia

Monday, February 15, 2016

Gardening Adventures in Virginia

Forward by Alison O'Connor: Susan Perry has been a Colorado Master Gardener for years; she's embarking on a new adventure in Virginia. I asked her to write down some thoughts about moving from Colorado to the (hot and humid) east coast. We wish her well! If you want more of Susan, read her tomatoes or cold frame blogs.


Posted by: Susan Perry, Master Gardener in Larimer County

Some of you know and some of you don’t, but my husband and I are trying to move to Blacksburg, Virginia.  I say trying because we sold our house in the fall and then the deal fell through a few days before closing.  We’ve sold it again but this time we won’t feel it’s “real” until the papers are signed at the end of February. 

Blacksburg is the home of Virginia Tech, the land grant college in Virginia.  It’s also the home of 40 inches of rain annually, summer humidity, and soils with pH of less than 7.  I guess saying it’s going to be a big change may be an understatement. 

Since growing veggies is our top gardening priority, I’d be sugar-coating if I didn’t admit I’m a little nervous.  Not so much about the water, although I do see powdery mildew in my future on a regular basis.  I keep telling myself that before we moved to Colorado 20 years ago, we gardened in the Washington, DC metro area with little problem.  Hopefully, it will be just like riding a bike and will all come back to us.

Besides the rain and summer humidity, we’re going to rent for a year to make sure it’s where we really want to stay.  So, it’s probably unlikely we’ll get lucky enough to find a good place in early March AND have our new landlord allow us to install a garden.  There’s a community garden where one can rent plots – we’re #18 on their waiting list although the garden coordinator assures me we’ll probably get a plot.  If not, we’ll have to come up with a plan B …….

In addition to weather and gardening location, we’ll have to learn to deal with more acidic soil.  Memo to self:  make offer to buy a house contingent upon an acceptable soil test.  VT literature says statewide soil pH ranges from 4.0 to 8.0, with most falling in the 5.1 to 5.5 range.  So at a minimum, there will be amending required to raise the pH somewhat.  Several years ago, I read a number of Eliot Coleman’s books and felt if he could grow throughout the winter in Maine, I could do it in Colorado.  Several years and several permutations of cold frames resulted in my being able to over-winter carrots, lettuce, and spinach.  Eliot Coleman also had to contend with transforming acidic, rocky, tree-covered land into ideal veggie gardening plots.  Once again, if he could do it in Maine, I’m not going to let anything I encounter in Virginia be a permanent obstacle.

If we stay, we’re both going to apply to become Virginia Master Gardeners.  Tom’s not a Master Gardener now but he’s become so interested in growing our own veggies for the last few years that he thinks it’s something he’s going to want to do.  It will be good (and necessary) to learn about plants that will thrive (beyond azalea, rhododendrons, and holly) in the Virginia conditions.  I’ll miss being a Colorado Master Gardener but will look forward to the challenges and adventures of gardening in Virginia.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tri State Horticulture Symposium

Monday, April 4 & Tuesday April 5, 2016

Yuma County Fairgrounds

At the Concession Building

410 West Hoag Road

Yuma, Colorado

Thompson Park, Julesburg, CO. Photo credit: CSU Extension, Linda Langelo, Horticultural Program Associate
Whether it is the year of the begonia or the year of the delphinium, another gardening season is around the corner ready to present challenges to even the most experienced gardener.  Join us for this upcoming symposium and get educated on some of the issues facing gardeners today.


Topics and Speakers on April 4, 2016:

Bugs, Bugs and More Bugs

By Whitney Cranshaw, CSU Entomology Specialist



Topics and Speakers on April 5, 2016
Registration starts at 9 am

Invasive Weeds

By Brian Talamantes, CSU Weeds Science & Agronomy,


Habitats for Pollinators

By Dori Seamans, NCRS/Beekeeper, Burlington, CO. &

Shannon Bowling, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist


LUNCH & Meet the vendors


Continue Meeting the Vendors – 1:00-1:30
Native Grass Display available on site.

Best Practices for Caring for our Trees

By Boyd Lebeda, CSU Forest Service



Contact: Sedgwick County Extension at (970)474-3479 for further details and to register by Monday, March 28, 2016 

Cost $30 includes lunch for one day either April 4 or 5, late registration or at the door $40. Registration for both days is $45 while late registration for both days or at the door is $50.  Sponsored by Colorado State University Extension.
Colorado State University Extension is your local university community connection for research-based information about natural resource management; living well through raising kids, eating right and spending smart; gardening and commercial horticulture; the latest agricultural production technologies and community development. Extension 4-H and youth development programs reach more than 90,000 young people annually, over half in urban communities.
Extension programs are available without discrimination.  If you have a disability for which you seek an accommodation, please notify your local Extension office hosting the program.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Superbowl of Plants

Posted by Carol O'Meara, Boulder County Extension

Here we go again – our dreams of a championship season are back, hope resting on whether our superstars are tough enough to weather anything thrown at them and still look fabulous in orange, blue, and white.  Pink, purple, red, and yellow is ok too, as long as they give us dramatic pinwheels, mile high spikes, or daring snaps.

In celebration of Superbowl 50, we asked the pros at DenverBotanic Gardens, Plant Select, and All America Selections for their top picks for a Superbowl of plants.  What these sage plants people tell us we need in our starting lineup are petunias.  Plus some zinnias, Echinacea, and a lot of Blonde ambition. 

Blonde Ambition courtesy of Plant Select

Like our very own Peyton Manning, Blonde Ambition blue grama grass is selected as the number one seed for the team by Plant Select’s Executive Director, Pat Hayward.   Durable and adaptable , Blonde Ambition was voted the MVP two years in a row in the Plant Select® demonstration gardens performance survey.

A vigorous form of our native blue grama grass, Blonde Ambition grows in sunny spots with little to no additional irrigation beyond natural precipitation. Unassuming in spring and summer, the mounds of medium-green, fine-textured grass explodes with drama when showy, chartreuse seed heads high above the leaves in fall and winter.

Hot Wings courtesy of Plant Select
Plant Select’s second all-Pro choice has a name to match its performance:  Hot Wings®.  One of the highest team scorers in the performance survey, this Tatarian Maple was rated in the top 10 performers in all but the highest elevation gardens.   Hot Wings® is a smaller ornamental tree getting its name from the brilliant, flame-red seed pods (samaras) produced in June, and lasting through most of the summer.  It’s extremely tolerant of our challenging gardening conditions, and grows in full sun or partial shade. 

Dan Johnson, Associate Director of Horticulture and Curator of Native Plants with Denver Botanic Gardens, anchors his line with BigToothMaple (Acer grandidentatum).  This native tree from Western canyons and mountainsides is underused for inexplicable reasons, says Johnson.  Perfectly proportioned, this Rocky Mountain version of the famed sugar maple is an ideal small tree for compact gardens.  It’s tough, drought tolerant, and produces fall colors that rival their more delicate eastern cousins.

Johnson also appreciates the power of blitzing, and lists ProfusionSeries Zinnias as first string starters.  “This series of Zinnia hybrids took me by surprise. Plants are uniform domes of saturated color that start blooming early and last all summer long. They thrive in heat and tolerate dry spells easily once established. Each daisy-shaped bloom last for weeks -pair these with blue or purple Angelonia to stop people in their tracks,” he said.

For sheer performance from coast to coast, All America Selections puts up a roster of winners, says Diane Blazek, Executive Director.  Petunia Wave® Purple Classic set the standard for the wildly popular Wave series, and was an AAS Winner in 1995. Like Von Miller, Wave covers everything; smothering slopes or hanging like a curtain from baskets and window boxes.  
Petunia Wave Purple courtesy of All America Selections

Outstanding along borders or rising above mass groupings, Cheyenne Spirit is an AAS Echinacea that produces a mix of flower colors from purple, pink, red, and orange to lighter yellows, creams, and white. Sow several seeds from the packet to get the wide range of flower colors.  As an added bonus, ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ does not require a lot of water and stays upright, even during wind, rain, or a bruising tackle.

Echinacea Cheyenne Spirit courtesy of All America Selections
Scouting reports from the big three plants-people list these hot prospects as rookies to watch: Plant Select’s Standing Ovation littlebluestem (2016), Mini Man™ viburnum (2016), Coral Baby penstemon (2015), Windwalker®big bluestem (2015), and Undaunted® ruby muhly (2014).

All America Selections welcome rookies Impatiens SunPatiens® SpreadingShell Pink (2015) and Mascotte beans (2014).  And Denver Botanic Gardens keeps the veteran Agastache rupestris, Sunset Hyssop, in its lineup. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Neighborhood Walk Yields Plant Photo Ops...and Oops

Posted by Mary Small, Jefferson County Extension

Walking through my community is not only good for my health – it’s also a great time to scout for plant problems, take pictures and post them here!
Arborvitae with desiccation injury
This arborvitae is a good example of fall/winter injury. Our dry, warm fall contributed to the problem. Needles can still transpire (lose water) on warm, sunny and windy days. If there’s no water reinforcements, needles dry out.

The damaged side faces south so it’s also possible the tissue was not acclimated in time for a cold weather event.  It’s also possible the tissue on the south side warmed up, activated cells and then temperatures dropped rapidly, causing the cells to freeze. Oops.

Junipers with desiccation injury
Down the street I found a grouping of junipers that met a similar fate. These face west and are planted next to the foundation. I think the plant tissue warmed up because of the warm western exposure and was likely damaged at the same time as the arborvitae. The foundation area is a typically dry site in a landscape; there may not have been enough water for the plants to replace losses, either. That light colored stone mulch reflects heat onto plants, too. Oops.

Both sets of injury emphasize the importance of two practices – siting correctly and fall watering. Narrow leaved evergreens are prone to needle damage in dry fall and winter weather, so it’s important to plant them in a location that affords protection from temperature extremes. South and west exposures do not.  Evergreen roots can still absorb moisture well into the fall as long as soil temperatures are above 40 degrees F. Monthly watering around November 1 and December 1 can go a long way to help supply needed moisture and decrease the injury. 


Oops is one of the few things I said when I saw this poor willow. We had a strong windstorm and this section of the community was particularly ravaged. 

The raggedy wounds should have been trimmed to be more circular – that would help promote wound closure. But the real problem is that the tree was a poor selection, being a weak-wooded species that breaks up easily in wind. It wasn’t trained while young to improve its form and now it’s too late to do much about it. Sometimes a tree just needs to be removed when it is the wrong plant in the wrong place.  

Don't leave stubs!

Finally, what is this crabapple “pruning” job all about? Leaving a stub is never a good idea. It eventually decays and can be an invitation to insect and disease problems.  Oops. (Good thing I took the picture when I did –the tree’s since been removed!)