CO-Horts Blog

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.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Yipee, It Snowed!! But We Still Need to Water...

Posted by Deryn Davidson, CSU Extension, Boulder County

After months of warm and dry weather, parts of CO finally received some much needed precipitation in the form of rain, sleet and snow yesterday. I have to admit, even though I had been hoping for snow for weeks (where was our typical Halloween blizzard?!?) it was still a shock to have to bundle up and drive on those icy roads along the Front Range.

Even though we got that moisture, our landscapes are still not out of the woods. They NEED WATER! That is lawns, perennials and trees. Most people have had their irrigation systems turned off and blown out by now, but you still need to get water to those plants.

Areas across the state received between 0.1 and 1 inches of moisture yesterday. However, not all moisture is created equally. For example, 0.5” of rain is not the same as 0.5” of snow. And in fact, 0.5” of snow is not necessarily the same as 0.5” of snow! 

Unfortunately, figuring out what the snow to water/rain ratio is can be tricky. Like most things, the answer is…it depends. Depending on the temperature, snow will have more or less moisture per snowflake. Have you noticed that when it’s super cold out our snow tends to be really light and fluffy? Or when it has started to warm up in the spring and we get a big snow it’s often very heavy and wet? Depending on when and where you measure your snow can also make a difference. If you measure in an area of high wind, then you are likely to have variable heights (think snow banks and drifts). When you measure can make a difference as well. If you measure as soon as it stopped snowing you will have a more accurate reading than if you wait an hour to measure. Some of that snow may melt or even settle like instant mashed potatoes in a box. Light and fluffy flakes at first, but after sitting on the shelf for months, “Contents may settle. Product sold by weight not volume”.

The point is, it can be quite tricky to get an accurate conversion of snow to water. A general rule of thumb is that 10” of snow is equal to 1” of rain, but hopefully from the examples above you realize that won’t always be the case. It is my understanding that if the temperature outside is 30 degrees, 10” of snow will equal roughly 1” of rain or a 10:1 ratio. However, if the temperature is 20 degrees, the ratio may shift closer to 20:1. And with those warm spring snows, the ratio can be closer to 5:1. There are rain gauges available that can help with this. They have a removable funnel that you keep in place during the warm rainy months (if we’re lucky) and you remove it during the cold snowy months.

From roughly October through March when we have extended periods of dry your landscape needs water. If it doesn't receive any, there is a good chance your plants will experience injury or even death to the root system. In the spring, plants may seems just fine, but once the temperatures begin to rise and the growing season really kicks in the plants may show signs of weakening or die altogether.

So when should you do this watering?? Good question. You want to make sure that you do it on a relatively warm day (which shouldn’t be hard to find this year) with temps above 40 degrees. Water late morning to mid-day when the temperatures are rising, but there is enough time left in the day for the water to fully soak into the soil before nighttime freezing temps return. 

The next question is typically, how MUCH should I water?? Newly planted landscapes are most susceptible to winter drought injury because their root systems haven't had time to fully establish, so keep a closer eye on them. Trees prefer to have water delivered slowly to a depth of about 12" throughout the root-zone (under the canopy to the dripline). You can use a deep-root fork at a depth of 8", soaker hose, sprinkler or watering wand. A rule of thumb is to give landscape trees 10 gallons of water per diameter inch of the tree. Newly planted shrubs (less than a year in the ground) will appreciate 5 gallons, twice a month. Established shrubs can receive 5-15 gallons depending on their size, once a month. 

Mulch is another important part of this equation. Having a nice thick layer of mulch will help the soil retain moisture year-round. You can refresh mulch any time of year.

Remember, the amount of water you put down depends on the amount of natural precipitation your area is receiving throughout the fall and winter months so adjust accordingly. A little extra attention over the winter will benefit your landscape for years to come!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Forcing bulbs for winter bloom

Posted by: Irene Shonle, Gilpin County Extension

Although it’s probably too late to plant bulbs outside for spring bloom, you can still plant them for indoor bloom. Even better, indoor bulbs will bloom earlier than they would outside ---right when winter seems endless and you really need that pick-me-up. Unless you already bought bulbs and didn't get a chance to plant them, at this time of the year, your best bet for finding bulbs will be online retailers. 
Amaryllis bulb (Irene Shonle)
Paperwhites are the standard for indoor forcing because they are the easiest. They require no refrigeration, and will bloom reliably about 6 weeks from planting. They don’t even require soil – water will work fine.  Amaryllis are the second most popular indoor bulb, and the ones you buy in the store have usually been prechilled or dried down to bloom after about 6 weeks as well. However, other bulbs such as tulips, narcissus (daffodils), hyacinths, crocus and grape hyacinths will all come beautifully into bloom with just a little more effort.  I particularly like planting tulips and crocuses indoors, since the critters eat them more often than not outdoors.
Hyacinths (Plant Talk Colorado)
In planting bulbs for indoor forcing, it is easiest to plant all the same variety in one pot so you don’t have to worry about different chill and development requirements. Loosely fill the bottom two inches of the container with potting soil. Plant the bulbs close together in the pot – typically they are planted much more closely together than bulbs planted in the ground. Plant 6 tulip bulbs, 3 hyacinths, 6 daffodils, or 15 crocus for a 6-inch pot. Place the bulbs in the planting mix with the pointed side up. The soil under the bulbs should be loose so that the roots can grow freely. Add more loose soil, but don't bury the bulbs -- leave the tops of the bulbs exposed. With tulips place the flat side of the bulb next to the rim of the pot since the largest leaf will always emerge and grow on that side, producing a more attractive pot. The bulbs should be watered immediately upon planting, and thereafter the soil should never be allowed to become dry. 

After planting, immediately put the pot into a dark and cold spot. Bulbs (except paperwhites) must be given a dark and cold (35– 48 degrees F) temperature treatment for a minimum of 12–13 weeks. This cold treatment can be provided by an unheated garage, attic, basement, or crawl space, as long as the bulbs don’t freeze.   Make sure to check that the soil doesn’t dry out during this period; water if necessary.  It is easy to forget about your bulbs, so mark your calendar to remind yourself when the first pots can be removed from storage for forcing to begin. For example, if you plant in early November, bring in the first pots in late January to early February. For a continuous supply of flowers, bring in a few pots at weekly intervals. On average, the bulbs will flower in three to four weeks; closer to spring, they flower more rapidly.

In the home, place the pots in a cool, bright location. A temperature of 50–60 degrees F is preferred for the first week or until the shoots and leaves begin to expand. Then, they can be moved to warmer locations (or can stay in the cooler temperature, but they will not bloom as quickly). Discard tulips, narcissus, crocus, paperwhites and hyacinths after flowering as they normally are "spent" and are not likely to ever flower satisfactorily again (although if you feel like gambling a little effort, you could dry down the tops of the bulbs and try planting them in the garden. They may bloom in a couple of years).  Amaryllis, on the other hand, can be kept in a pot and brought to rebloom yearly:

Friday, November 4, 2016

Keep ‘Em on the Up and Up Protecting Upright Evergreens from Snow-load Breakage.

By Curtis Utley, CSU Extension Agent, Jefferson County

Upright junipers. The center specimen has a co-dominant leader
Upright or fastigate evergreens are a common and attractive feature of many home landscapes often used as screen plantings or focal points in narrow planting beds. However, In Colorado, or any community frankly that experiences heavy snow fall in the winter, these narrow specimens can be damaged, disfigured or down-right destroyed by heavy snows.  Why does this occur?
Snow-load impacted Arborvitaes
Narrow tree forms succumb to snow load breakage because the side branches are poorly attached. The strongest branch attachment forms a 90 degree angle between branch and trunk (think of any native spruce or fir). When branches are attached more acutely there is
Right-angle branching
less trunk material to hold the branch into its socket. The likelihood of included bark forming between the trunk and a branch increases if a branch immediately ascends from the tree’s trunk. The other reason Fastigate cultivars often break in snow load events is our fault in how the trees are pruned and managed. Most narrow cultivars are sheared to keep their appearance balanced and tidy. If the terminal branchlette is clipped and apical dominance is removed, aggressive, competing side branches will try to grow up and become the leader.
Strong central leader

If these competing side branches are maintained they will grow into co-dominate leaders that will have included bark in the future and may break in future snowstorms.
Co-dominant leaders failing after heavy snow load
So what should you do to protect your fastigate trees in the winter?
Wrap them with Ag fleece.
Ag Fleece protects shrubs from snow-load and desiccation
1. Wrap them with straps
Wide strap wrapped around a Woodward juniper
Light cord or Christmas lights can prevent snow load breakage 
2. Wrap them with Christmas lights or light cord
3. Stake them when small and tie them loosely to the stakes