CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, August 25, 2022

A Trip to the Lavender Farm

Posted by: Lisa Mason, Arapahoe County Extension

I traveled to the State of Washington last week to visit Olympic National Park and drove through Sequim, WA (pronounced “Squim”). Located along the northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula, this town is famous for the Sequim Lavender Experience, an agritourist co-op of small, family-owned lavender farms.

I toured one of the lavender farms, and as soon as I stepped out of the car, the first thing I noticed was the light, fresh scent of lavender in the air. The farm had approximately 12 acres of lavender fields comprising of varieties of purple and white. When looking at the flowers up close, we heard the constant sound of buzzing from honey bees and bumble bees hard at work pollinating the flowers. 

Lavender fields in Sequim, WA. 
After visiting the fields, we toured inside the barn where they harvest, dry, and process the lavender. The barn consisted of bundles hanging to dry from the floor to the ceiling. They were also steam distilling lavender to make essential oil and creating bundles of dried lavender to sell. On this farm, they use 20-25 lbs. of lavender to fill a 60-liter still which produces 225-300 milliliters of essential oil from “Grosso,” a variety of lavender that produces more oil than other varieties (B&B Family Lavender Farm, 2021).

Drying lavender.

Harvesting lavender.
Visiting the farm provided me an entirely new appreciation for this multi-use plant and served as a great reminder that lavender is an excellent perennial plant to grow in Colorado!

Lavender is a plant in the Lavendula genus in the Lamiaceae plant family, also known as the mint family. Lamiaceae plants are easily identified because most have square stems. Many of the plants are herbaceous, have opposite leaves, and whorled spikes. Leaves and flowers tend to be fragrant. The genus Lavendula has about 45 plant species and more than 450 varieties (UT Institute of Agriculture, 2022). Lavender is native to Europe, specifically the Mediterranean area.

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is an excellent species to grow in Colorado. A wide variety of cultivars are available that differ in size and shades of violet and white. Lavandin plants are another excellent option for Colorado. Lavandins are a hybrid between two lavender species: Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia. Essential oils can be extracted from any lavender plant, but lavandin plants tend to yield higher amounts of oil.

A bumble bee (Bombus sp.) pollinating a lavender plant. 

Lavandins and English lavender grow well in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-7. They grow best in full sun and in alkaline and well-draining soils. Once established, lavender can be a great drought-tolerant, and pollinator friendly plant attracting bumble bees and honey bees. Generally, they do not have any pest problems. Refer to Table 1 to learn more about cultivars.

To learn more about planting, growing, and harvesting lavender, check out the following links: 

All photos were taken by Lisa Mason at the B&B Family Lavender Farm

Monday, August 15, 2022

Xeriscaping: Tips on Working with Homeowner Associations

by Robert Sánchez, Colorado Master Gardener

Why should Colorado Front Range gardeners consider xeriscaping?

· According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in dry climates such as the Southwest, residential use of water for landscaping can be as high as 60 percent of total municipal/residential water use and that 50 percent of that water is wasted from inefficient watering methods, totaling billions of gallons of water losses.

· The federal government regulates 2,051 public water systems in Colorado under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but 58 percent of water providers surveyed in Colorado have no dedicated budget for water conservation, meaning that gardeners may have to take the lead on water conservation.
· Colorado winter droughts in 1976-77 and 1980-1981 led to bare ski slopes, empty reservoirs, and poor agricultural seasons, spurring the state to develop the nation’s first drought monitoring and response plan in 1981. The monitoring and response plan has helped local water providers better plan their water availability against water needs, but monitoring drought has not been sufficient to stem the strain on water resources.

Simply put, residential water consumption in the Front Range is not sustainable at the current rate.

Sampling of Front Range homeowners’ stated reasons for xeriscaping:

  • Sustainability - want to prevent water waste
  • Aesthetics – xeriscape looks healthier than turf during hot summer months
  • Cost – irrigating turf is expensive
  • Financial incentive – some water providers or communities offer rebates.

Fortunately, Colorado and many water providers in the Front Range are on your side. Unfortunately, HOAs are not always on your side, though many are coming around. Below are some tips on navigating HOAs and a list of potential resources to help you decide if you want to xeriscape and how to do it. This post does not address the advantages and disadvantages of xeriscaping, which may include a variety of considerations, including effects on property value based on the desire—or lack thereof—of xeriscape.

Colorado Revised Statutes 37-60-126, amended multiple times between 2005 and 2021, gives rights to residents living in HOAs. Regarding HOAs, the statutes state that limiting xeriscape, limiting the use of drought-tolerant vegetative landscapes, requiring turf grass, or limiting the use of non-vegetative turf grass in the backyard is unenforceable. This means that HOAs cannot force you to have turf in your front or back yards and cannot limit you from xeriscaping, but they can enforce design and aesthetic guidelines, such as the type and number of drought-tolerant plantings or the amount of non-vegetative material in the front yard. For example, one HOA states that any front yard landscape must consist of at least 70 percent living plant material, meaning that only 30 percent can be “zero-scape,” such as a field of rock or mulch.

Tips on Navigating HOA Landscaping Requirements

1. Be patient, and be aware of timing requirements.

     Many HOAs have committees that review and approve of landscape designs. They may meet once or twice per month and you should be aware of their schedules and their workloads, particularly if you are on a schedule.

    One resident said that her town offers a xeriscape rebate, but that she must meet a tight timeline to get her design reviewed and approved by the HOA before she can submit it to her town. If she misses the submission deadline, she will not qualify for the rebate, which is a substantial one-time incentive for installing low-water landscaping.

    One resident said it took her two years from her initial submission to her HOA until the HOA approved it. Her water provider offered a rebate, but the rebate had no time constraints.

2. Know Your Association Requirements

    Some HOA requirements are not clear and may seem contradictory. Consider requesting clarification, if needed.

    Some HOAs require documentation that adjacent neighbors have been advised of your xeriscape plans and, since xeriscaping is relatively new in some HOAs, you may want to be prepared with legal information and positive neighborly discussions in the event your neighbors protest your plans.

    One resident said his HOA did not know about the law or even if the HOA had criteria or guidelines for xeriscaping when he attended a meeting to present his xeriscape plans. He said it took some diplomacy and education to get the HOA on board. However, he said he was well prepared.

    One resident said that her HOA guidelines were vague. She was turned down on her first submission, but the HOA did not give her actionable explanations to successfully resubmit. She said she had to press the HOA for specific reasons for the denial and that it back-and-forth e-mails and a face-to-face meeting over a period of time before she was able to clarify what she needed to do to successfully resubmit her design.

3. Don’t Be a Stranger to Your HOA

    One resident said going to Board meetings before you submit a proposal is a good idea so you don’t become the resident who only shows up when you want something.

    One resident said that if you are involved in some HOA event or process, you are likely to have credibility with the HOA, which could contribute to a quicker review process.

 Resources to Help You Out

Below are examples of resources provided by some metro area cities to residents. Be sure to check out your own water provider, county, and municipality to see what they may provide.


Water Provider or Town

Xeriscape information?


Aurora Water

Yes – on website and with links.

Rebates on water-wise landscaping.

Provides free water-wise landscape designers.

Provides free water use assessments.

Provides free troubleshooting for your irrigation system.

City of Golden

Yes – with links.

Rebates on smart irrigation technology.

Provides free irrigation system inspections.

Castle Rock Water

Yes – on website and with links

Rebates on replacing turf with water-wise landscaping and free classes

Denver Water

Yes – on website and with links.

Rebates on irrigation products.

Provides many helpful links, including links to organizations who do provide xeriscaping services.

Provides free monthly summertime water usage reports.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Chrysanthemum lace bugs

 By Irene Shonle, El Paso County Horticulture

This year, I have an outbreak of chrysanthemum lace bugs on many different species of plants within the sunflower family in my garden, including annual sunflowers, tansy aster, rabbitbrush, goldenrods and Maximilian sunflowers. Interestingly, they don’t seem to be attacking the showy goldeneye or the threadleaf ragwort.

Chrysanthemum lace bug damage on sunflower

Chrysanthemum lace bug damage on rabbitbrush

Chrysanthemum lace bug damage on tansy aster - note how bleached the leaves are in comparison to the green penstemon below it

There are many species of lacebugs out there, and they range from 1/8 inch to 1/3 inch long. The nymph stages are wingless and are darker than the adults.  Adults are light colored, and actually quite interesting looking if you look close up – the “lace” in their name becomes obvious.   It takes about 30 days to go from egg to adult, and there can be multiple generations per year.

Chrysanthemum lace bugs - they are usually on the undersides of leaves, but can also be found on the upper sides.

Lace bugs feed primarily on leaf undersides. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts that puncture individual leaf cells, and this is what causes the bleaching. The damage associated with lace bugs is similar to that caused by spider mites and leafhoppers, but a tell-tale difference is that lace bugs leave black, tar-spot-like droppings on the leaves.

Usually, I don’t worry too much when I see aphids or lacebugs, because they typically don’t affect plant health and there are often natural enemies that can help control them – such as assassin bugs, lady beetles, green lacewings birds, and other predators.

However, in the last couple of weeks, the lace bug situation suddenly reached critical mass and I started noticing dramatically discolored leaves – the leaves turned straw colored within a couple of days or have large brown blotches.  Some smaller sunflowers were outright killed due to the infestations.  How quickly it went from being a minor nuisance to a pretty serious problem!

Chrysanthemum lace bugs bleaching out Maximilian sunflower

So, I have begun spraying the leaves with water to knock off the nymph stage, and picking off leaves with egg masses in an effort to reduce the population.  I take some comfort in knowing that population levels and damage varies widely from year to year, but will also monitor the situation more closely next spring and knock back any incipient populations just to avoid a repeat.  If need be, I’ll use some insecticidal soap or a horticultural oil, and spray it on the underside of the leaves. While broad-spectrum pesticides can be effective, I will avoid them, as they will also kill natural enemies


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Ribbons and Livestock and Gardens, oh my!


It’s that time of year when, across the entire state, counties are gearing up for their county fairs. Event planning is being finalized, award ribbons are being made, and livestock is being meticulously groomed before show. Similarly, demonstration gardens are also being polished up before fair, but rather than being trimmed and brushed, gardens are being weeded and prepped.

Demonstration gardens are common features of extension offices, showcasing research-based practices for landscaping and/or gardening and often dedicated to a particular theme. For instance, many counties offer demonstration gardens that focus on native plants or on xeriscape gardening. Some counties have more uniquely-themed demonstration gardens, such as the Rock and Hell Strip Demonstration Garden in Boulder County or the Ute Ethno-botanical Learning Garden in the Tri-River area. So whether you’re interested in some ideas for your own landscaping or gardening project or you just want to tour some pretty gardens, make sure to check out your local demonstration gardens while you attend this year’s county fair (or anytime, really)!

Rock and Hell Strip Demonstration Garden in Boulder County

Ute Ethno-botanical Learning Garden in the Tri-River Area

Over at Jefferson County, we’ll be hosting an Open Garden Day on August 6th from 9 AM to 7 PM, located at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Golden. Demonstration gardens on-site include the Giving Farm Horticulture Garden, the Plant Select Garden, the Native Garden, and the Fruit Tree Orchard. Aside from having Master Gardeners available to answer any questions, we’ll be offering giveaways and garden-themed kids’ projects, so don’t miss out!

Giving Farm Horticulture Demonstration Garden in Jefferson County