CO-Horts Blog

Friday, December 28, 2018

A Gardening Resolution for 2019

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

Image result for 2019 images

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but I do like to make goals. My typical resolution is something silly, and generally something I already do. So I'll make a "resolution" to eat more chocolate...or go to exercise class (because of the chocolate consumption)...or play golf as much as I can. I already do these things, so my resolution stays part of my routine. Easy!

But I like to make plans for the vegetable garden, since it's a blank slate every year...and I'm not a great vegetable gardener. I always try to grow something new (for me) or different. I'm not a tomato eater, so having tomato plants isn't a priority. For awhile it was trying to grow the biggest zucchini, but the local Larimer County Master Gardeners proved they are far better at that. FAR BETTER. It's embarrassing to bring a puny seven pound zuke, when they show up with ones weighing over 12 pounds.

For two years I grew Indian corn, because I fell in love with 'Glass Gem'. And it was fun! I had a bumper crop of Indian corn. Unwrapping each husk was a surprise (like those LOL Dolls that are all the rage). I planted two rows, six in each row. At the end of the season, I had enough to make a wonderful wreath for fall decor.
'Glass Gem' Indian Corn
I was so proud of my harvest!
For the last few years I've grown potatoes in fabric bags. While easy, I find my interest in keeping them watered all summer to wane around the end of July. But even with my limited inputs (only water, rarely fertilizer), I had a pretty good crop of potatoes. Even Hazel the beagle approved!
Ten pounds of potatoes from two containers.
Last year I decided to grow birdhouse gourds, because I saw these crafty chickens and wanted to make them for holiday gifts.
Birdhouse gourd crafty chickens!
And while the gourd vines grew great, the incessant hail didn't bode well for the fruits. I had hail four times in 2018 and it was brutal. These vines are so tender and the big leaves just couldn't keep up with the damage. The final straw was a doozy of a hailstorm in late September that decimated everything, so I had to harvest the gourds early. They were very, very green, which is not the way to long-term preservation.
Bumper crop of too-green birdhouse gourds.
Let's just say that the combination of the hail pockmarks on the gourd flesh and the fact they didn't properly dry led to a rotting, oozing mess. Needless to say, no one got any crafty chicken gourds for Christmas this year (maybe people are relieved?). "Wow...thanks Alison...I just don't know what to say....".

So I'm trying to think of what to try in 2019. I have room in the garden, since there won't be zucchini or corn. I was thinking about miniature pumpkins because they are so cute--and can be used in many ways in the home and garden. I have to eliminate sweet corn, since the garden is adjacent to the chicken coop and I don't want any raccoons in the yard. Any thoughts? What have you grown that was new and exciting?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

“Top Performer” Perennials from the 2018 CSU Perennial Tial

Posted by Dr. Jim Klett, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

The results are in and we are excited to announce the 2018 "Top Performer" Perennials! Winners of the "Top Performer" award are selected by a different process than the "Best Of" Annual winners. Since individual perennials often peak at different times of the year, evaluators meet and review photos taken every two weeks during the growing season for the entire trial period of two winters and three growing seasons. Data tabulated by the student coordinator throughout the season is also taken into consideration during the process. The evaluators are members from the Perennial Trial Garden sub-committee which is made up of professionals from the local Green Industry as well as staff from Colorado State University. A perennial entry is only considered for the "Top Performer" award if it has maintained superior performance in the ground for two winters and three growing seasons.

Geum ‘RUSTICO™ Orange’ from Terra Nova® Nurseries

(Geum x ‘TNGEURO’PP28238)

Flowers were a beautiful bright orange and very prolific but the foliage was equally impressive if not more so and some evaluators commented the plant “looked so good that it didn’t even need the flowers”.    Plants had a great dark green foliage that kept a fresh look all through the season and made a good contrast for the colorful blooms.  The growth habit was very controlled and had a very uniform appearance.  It would make a great choice for mass plantings.



Phlox Flame® New Improved Purple from Dummen Orange®

(Phlox paniculata Flame® New Improved Purple)

Abundant purple flowers made a solid canopy of color at peak bloom and also rated higher than other phlox for an impressively long bloom period.  Plants had a very uniform growth habit with dark green foliage.  A small splash of white at the base of each petal added a bit of “sparkle” to each flower as it matured.  Blooms also were noted to have an attractive color even as they faded late in season.  Plants had superior resistance to powdery mildew.


KISMET™ Raspberry Coneflower from Terra Nova® Nurseries

(Echinacea 'TNECHKR'PP28768)

Prolific flowers formed a solid canopy of blooms over the plants and even had an attractive rustic look as it faded from peak bloom.  Dark green foliage kept the plant attractive even at times when the flowers were not present.  Plants had a very uniform growth habit and good branching.  The KISMET™ series also features colors of orange, red and yellow.


Gaillardia ‘SpinTop Yellow Touch’ from Dummen Orange®
(Gaillardia aristata ‘SpinTop Yellow Touch)
Plants were unique with a relatively small, compact mounded growth habit but packed a lot of flower power on the top of each one.  Flowers were very showy and predominately red but had an edge of yellow around the tip of each blossom.  Plants had attractive green foliage that complemented the bloom color.  Cold hardiness was also very impressive as the survival rate was very good for a Gaillardia.  Additional entries in the ‘SpinTop’ series seemed to have superior cold hardiness as well.



Delosperma ‘Alan’s Apricot’ from Plant Select

(Delosperma ‘Alan’s Apricot’PPAF)

Flowers made this a standout for both the unique color and continual blooming through the season.  At peak bloom plants are just a carpet of Apricot colored flowers. Plants are very uniform, have great vigor and have better cold hardiness than most Delosperma .  Good for low water plantings but will also tolerate extra water in areas that often kills other Delosperma.  This is a great low maintenance plant.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Gardens, Holiday Wishes and Peace

Winter Garden, Phillips County Fairgrounds, Photo Credit: Linda Langelo

My most ardent holiday wish this year is to light up the world.  I don't mean that literally, but in our hearts.  Colorado State University Extension is about service to others, and as we continue towards the end of 2018 into 2019 let's continue to do what we do best.

My second holiday wish is as ardent as the first.  I wish people take some time and visit a garden.  Gardens, no matter what type, are by nature designed for healing on many levels.  Here are just a few uses created by gardens:

  • You can seek a garden in solitude.
  • You can seek a garden for meditation and/or prayer.
  • You can seek a garden for safety.
  • You can seek a garden for mentally and physically releasing stress.
  • You can seek a garden for calming effect.
  • You can seek a garden for a happy place.
  • You can seek a garden for nourishment for body and soul.
  • You can seek a garden for a thousand other needs.  There is a garden for every need.
If you do not have a garden, seek a garden.  As I have been writing for other professional journals this year, my research has lead me to discover an interesting fact about both community gardens and parks.  In the research, gardens are often spoken about as places that bring people together.  Both types of gardens make communities safer.  People enter into these gardens meeting strangers that can often become friends.  Meeting their neighbor, for the first time whether they are just taking a walk or going to an event.  This leads me to my next ardent wish.

For the holidays, put your IPad away, your cell phone down, your computer off and be face-to-face with whomever is in your life.  Maybe take a walk, especially in a garden.  Just get technically "unplugged" from any device you use to communicate.  Enjoy the moment or the experience of the moment in a garden of your choice, even if it is your own garden.

My next holiday wish is to keep building gardens and helping other build gardens.  When I lived on the east coast, there was a movement to create a National Peace Garden.  In 1985, Elizabeth Ratcliff, a former English teacher from California, proposed a national monument to peace.  The proposed site for the garden was Hains Point which was approved by Congress.  In 1989, there was a design competition put forth by the Peace Garden Project Committee.  The committee selected Eduardo Catalano's olive branch plan seen below:

Photo Credit: Histories of the National Mall/National Peace Garden.

Unfortunately, this project was never funded.  However, there were other peace gardens funded.  There is an International Peace Garden on the border of Canada and the United States.  You can access the following link to learn more about it:

Their motto is "Connecting People to Place."  Gardens bring people into them to discover a new experience.  That new experience isn't just finding a new plant; it is the plants connecting the people to a shared passion- the garden.  This last type of garden leads me to my final wish: peace.  Gardens are meant to be peaceful places.

Over the holidays, take a walk in a park and go meet a new friend.  Go enjoy a garden and the experience it brings to you.  The quiet solitude of a garden covered in snow has a calming effect.  Totally unplugging from every type of communicative device you have brings about a new experience.  Whatever place you chose and with whoever you chose, enjoy the moment.  Then share the experience.

By Linda Langelo, CSU Horticulture Agent, Golden Plains Area Extension

Friday, December 14, 2018

Oh Christmas Tree

You have seen my posts in past Christmases about how to pick out a tree and how live trees can actually help the environment.  In past years my family and I have purchased a Christmas tree permit and gone out into the forest and collected our Christmas tree.  We always try to pick one that is crowding another tree to give it some room.  This year the Every Kid in a Park initiative is giving tree permits to 4th graders for FREE.  What a fun way to get kids in the woods and create a family tradition.

I personally don't care if it is a perfect Christmas tree.  In fact I have memories of my Granddad "Poppy" bringing home a Charlie Brown Christmas tree from the mountains when I was a kid.  He liked space between the branches so the ornaments could actually hang.  Only recently has Grandma, who is 96, gotten a fake tree as we call them.

But this year I broke down and bought a tree instead of cutting our own.  My oldest is in college at CSU in Fort Collins and my youngest, who is now 17, was busy with Christmas community activities plus one Saturday there was actually snow accumulating on the mountain- and we still need the moisture.  So, off my daughter and I went in search of a tree.  We decide to support the Boy Scouts since her brother was an Eagle Scout and sold trees one year.  The profits go to help the kids go to camp.  Many of our kids would not go to camp without the support of fundraisers like selling trees.   We pulled up to see 2 moms and a bunch of boys and one little sister helping to sell the trees.  They had Fraser fir, grand fir and balsam fir. 

None of these fir trees are native to Colorado.  Colorado natives include subalpine fir and Douglas fir trees.  These can fall within cutting areas in the national forest.  Other species available for cutting in the wild yourself include Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine, pinon pine, rocky mtn junipers and perhaps others.  I like the firs as they are soft, have a nice scent, have a nice green color and I am not allergic to them like I am pine trees.  Here is a link to videos of most of our evergreen trees in Colorado. 

The Fraser's were a bit too skinny though I like the way the needles curl upward.  The grand and balsam both have very flat needles but the grand were truly grand and too wide for my small house.  The young boy scout that helped me was well acquainted to the different sizes and layout of the sales lot. So a balsam it was.  As we were pulling away, I spotted a sign about how fresh trees are good for the environment and I agree.  I always pick plant materials over plastics.

The Boy scouts had offered to cut off the end of the trunk for us, but I declined as I didn't know how long it would take us to get it into the house.  Once you cut the trunk, you want to get it into water as soon as possible so it doesn't seal over.  No one wants a tree that won't take up water as it drops needles and turns into a fire hazard.  Not the makings of a Merry Christmas.  So by the next night, my husband cut the tree and got it up.  Now I need to remember to check it daily for water.  It is amazing how fast they can absorb water.   There are formulas out there to keep your tree lasting longer, but I typically just use tap water.

So whether you have that "fake' tree, support a group by purchasing a tree or venture out into the wild and cut your own, with a permit of course, ENJOY your Christmas tree.  It seems like it is up for such a short time.  Merry Christmas.  Susan Carter, TRA Horticulture Agent

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Poinsettia's Pertinent Past

by Amy Lentz, Weld County Extension - Horticulture

Did you know that December 12th is National Poinsettia Day? This holiday was set forth to honor the first United States Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who served in this role during the Madison presidency from 1825 to 1829. Poinsett had a love for botany and brought the plant from Mexico to his home greenhouses in South Carolina to propagate and share with others in the region. The first poinsettia plant (Euphorbia pulcherrima) was sold with it's new name of ‘Poinsettia’ around the mid 1830’s. 

Joel Roberts Poinsett. Photo credit: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

The poinsettia has long been equated with the Christmas season, just not as a consumer product like it is today. There is an old Mexican tale of a girl named Pepita that collected a bouquet of weeds to use as a gift because she did not have the means to get something more elaborate. She placed the weeds next to the nativity scene during the Christmas Eve services and they miraculously turned into beautiful and vibrant red blooms. Ever since that night, the flowers have been known as Flores de Noche Buena or Christmas Eve flowers. 

To some, displaying poinsettias may seem like an old-fashioned way to deck your halls for the holidays, but it’s a fairly new tradition to see in homes across America. Furthermore, although poinsettias are native to Mexico, the popularity of the plant and a new ‘budding’ industry actually started right here in the United States just around a century ago by Paul Ecke Sr., a German immigrant whose family settled in Los Angeles California around the turn of the century. Even though the farm mainly produced milk and fruit, they looked at growing the Poinsettia to make some extra cash in the early winter when other flowers weren’t blooming. They peddled the vibrant red flowers from a roadside stand and convinced other growers in the area to also turn a profit by growing the plant as well using Ecke’s stock plants.

Paul Ecke, Sr.  Photo credit: L.A. Times

In the mid-1920’s, the Ecke Farm was moved south to Encinitas because the movie industry began booming in the Los Angeles area. The business really took off after World War II, as air freight began to gain in popularity and they switched their product from stock plants to cuttings that could then be shipped all over in a short period of time. Then in the 1960’s, Paul Ecke Jr. began taking advantage of their Hollywood neighbors and began marketing their flowers to be used on the sets of many popular TV shows. It wasn’t long before the craze swept the nation and Americans began to really associate the flower with celebrating the holiday season. 

Paul Ecke, III holding the original sign from the 1920's packing shed. Photo credit: San Diego Union-Tribune

In later years, as poinsettia plants were grown worldwide, Ecke moved their production operation to the ideal climate of Guatemala to remain competitive with the global poinsettia market (the original Ecke Ranch still exists in Encinitas and acts as their research and development center).  

Poinsettias grown (by me!) in Kentucky. The pink variety is Ecke's 'Enduring Marble'.

The Ecke family’s poinsettia operation at one time produced about 70% of all the poinsettias purchased in the United States and 50% worldwide. After three generations, the Ecke family sold the business to a Dutch company but retained the Ecke name and most of the staff in the process. When horticulturalists today think about poinsettias, Ecke is still the name that comes to mind.

Today, tens of millions of poinsettias are sold each year to help people around the world ring in the holiday season with hundreds of different varieties from which to choose, but red remains the standard.

To learn more about caring for your own poinsettia plants this holiday season, check out Colorado State University's fact sheet on Poinsettias HERE.

Friday, December 7, 2018

How Insects Survive Winter

Posted by: Jessica Wong, PhD Student, CSU Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management

Insects have remarkable strategies for surviving Colorado winters. A few species migrate to escape the cold. The most well-known species to do this is of course the monarch butterfly. By now they have made their way to roosting sites in Mexico (or California in the case of monarchs from the Western Slope). The green darner, Colorado’s largest dragonfly, is another species that makes its way south before winter arrives. For the rest of the insects that can’t fly thousands of miles, they stay put right here in Colorado.

Migrating green darner dragonfly. Photo by Praveer Sharma, Flickr Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 2.0
Most insects have figured out how to survive our cold, dry, snowy, sometimes balmy winters. A few, like brown marmorated stink bugs and multicolored Asian lady beetles, will escape the cold by going indoors. Cracks and gaps in door and window frames are great opportunities for them, so make sure those are well sealed to prevent them from invading your house. The rest of the insects stay outdoors and go dormant. These insects produce their own antifreeze compounds to withstand temperatures well below 32 degrees. And they have genetic programming that prevent them from coming out of dormancy too early, which is handy on that 70 degree day in February.
Multicolored Asian lady beetles preparing to overwinter. Photo by Howard Russell & Christine DiFonzo, Michigan State University
Insects overwinter in different life stages – egg, larva, pupa, or adult – depending on species. Most species of aphids and crickets survive the winter as eggs. Aphid eggs can be found on trees and shrubs, and cricket eggs can be found in the soil. Japanese beetle and emerald ash borer are two serious pests that overwinter as larvae (also known as grubs). Japanese beetle grubs spend the winter in the soil under turfgrass, such as your lawn. Emerald ash borers overwinter in their galleries just under the bark of ash trees.
Aphid eggs on pine needles. Photo by Beatriz Moisset,
Japanese beetle larvae. Photo by David Shetlar, the Ohio State University
Emerald ash borer larva in its gallery. Photo by Howard Russell, Michigan state University
Black swallowtail butterflies survive the winter in their pupal (chrysalis) form, while another butterfly species, the mourning cloak, overwinters as adults. Bumblebees and yellowjackets also overwinter in the adult stage. Both bumblebees and yellowjackets are social insects with colonies in the spring and summer, but in the fall workers start to die and only fertilized queens survive through the winter. When spring finally comes all the insects break dormancy and resume their unique life cycles. 
Black swallowtail pupa. Photo by Donald Hall, University of Florida