Urban Garden Denver Blog

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Uncategorized category.

Flowers For Your Soul

As those of you following this site know, I have been fairly inactive here recently. Join me on my new website and blog – Flowers For Your Soul. www.flowers4soul.com. There I explore how the work of tilling a flower garden informs the growth of our souls. The blog and website provide reflections on soul growth and flowers. There are also quotes and practical weekly tips related to gardens and our souls.

I will not be automatically transferring Urbangardenver blog subscribers over to the new blog, but I invite you to visit and follow Flowers For Your Soul.

Read a blog post from Flowers For Your Soul.

The Last Flower

The start of spring is clear. I can always spot and name the first flower that appears in my garden – a crocus pushing up through either dead leaves or snow.

Fall is more ambiguous as the season of endings and dying. I never know when I have seen the last of a flower, because I cannot know when the killing frost will come. … Read more.

Thanks for being part of the journey!



As the calendar moves from June to July, we are in the season of exuberance in the garden. This spring and summer I have found myself prone to exclamation points when enjoying my garden. The abundant water in May led to amazing blooms in June. I have never seen the roses so plentiful! The peonies were rich in fragrance, the lilies blooming by my back steps make me smile. My clematis was bursting with blooms, and even shared the joy with my neighbors on the other side of the fence. My honeysuckle rebounded from the drastic pruning of a few years ago when we put in a new fence.  Even the peach tree which was nipped by frost during bloom time is harboring a few precious peaches. And the current abundance of blooms has made me almost forget the brilliant poppies of spring. roses_pink

I have been gardening in Colorado for 29 years this summer, and my memory is full of many more years of drought than exuberance. Since careful planning is part of my personality, all this exuberance has me wondering if we will forget the lessons of drought, and the reality that we live in a semi-arid landscape. The fact that the prairie grasses have stayed green longer than many past years may dull our commitment to conservation. The snowpack in the mountains that has filled our reservoirs for our urban water supply is a gift, not a guarantee.

Daylilies - putting their all into one day!

Daylilies – putting their all into one day!

I will keep on emphasizing hardy low-water perennials that add color and joy to my garden, in a sustainable way. And today I will exclaim at the exuberance of the garden and treasure it all the more because it is unusual.polka rose



When I look at my little field of poppies in my back garden, I have to smile. Their exuberance symbolizes everything that I love about flower gardens. The wow of a bright splash of color, the buds that seem tight one day and then pop open in the warmth of the spring sun. I was away for 9 days and I came back to a rainbow of colors in my garden. My perennials had fared better than I thought they would with our crazy spring cold snaps. These wonderful days of spring and early summer fuel my flower addiction and I greedily want more of each treasured flower.image

Last week I was in DC for my daughter’s graduation, then we took some days of rest and relaxation on the Eastern shore of Maryland. The warm humidity there meant all the greens were very green, and the flowers were in full bloom – peonies, roses, iris and more. But what surprised me about the gardens in the area we were staying was their restraint. Perhaps it is the east coast personality, but if I had the expanse of yard that they had, I would not stop with 2 rose bushes and a batch of iris, I would have large sweeps of flowers breaking up the expanse of lawn. While the yards were lovely, many of them lacked an exuberant celebration of color.

This weekend I am savoring the beauty of my garden, sipping iced tea and gazing at my poppies.

To plant or not to plant?

In a fit of fall exuberance, I went to the nursery Sunday afternoon and bought a bunch of pansies and bulbs for my garden. Perhaps my judgment was impaired by the warm sun while I raked leaves on Sunday afternoon, but I knew that even though I have been travelling and neglecting my garden this fall, it isn’t too late to plant pansies. I made my purchase, planning to plant today, after the plants had a few days to harden off on my front porch. Unfortunately, when I made my purchase I didn’t realize that a winter storm was headed our way. So now I face the dilemma, to plant or not to plant?

If I was confident that we would get several inches of snow at the start of the storm, I might go ahead and plant, because pansies are hardy and the snow would insulate them. However, often our pattern of storms involves more cold wind than snow, so I have decided not to plant yet. Yesterday I was going back and forth on my decision, wondering if I should plant half and keep half in the garage. Then I decided that I was over-thinking the whole dilemma and I should just stick the pansies in my garage. Hopefully I will remember to water them; then I can plant them on Sunday, when the weather is supposed to moderate. I don’t want to skip pansies this year, because their cheery faces lift my spirits when they peek out between snow storms. I have a warm, south-facing spot by the sidewalk that has been perfect for pansies for many years, so hopefully they will get rooted into the ground soon enough to survive.

Ancient Waters

My recent travels were in Spain, where I enjoyed the Mediterranean, walking, food, wine and historical sites along with gardens. I was struck by the importance of water, both in modern times and for the ancients.  Both the Romans (2000 years ago) and the Moors (1000 years ago) left aqueducts and irrigation systems for the people of the Iberian peninsula. As I toured some palace gardens and the royal botanical garden, I also was reminded that  gardening just for the beauty of it is definitely a luxury. The peasants in ancient times were thankful for a little land for vegetables and medicinal herbs, but flowers were a luxury for the palace.

The picture at the bottom is the orange grove courtyard at the cathedral in Sevilla, the grid lines you see in the picture are irrigation channels from the mosque courtyard that stood on this site before the Christians regained control (religious history would be a whole other blog post).

Flower delivery via bicycle


Sale Season

I picked up a pair of miniature rose bushes on the discount table at the grocery story today. There were other plants marked down, including some mums and more roses. I selected the two healthiest-looking plants, judging mostly by the fresh light-green new growth on the plants. All of them had wilted flowers, but the foliage looked healthy and the new growth was promising. I will plant these next to my patio where I have quite a few other miniature roses. I don’t expect them to necessarily bloom again this year, but they have several months to develop good solid roots before winter, so they should bloom nicely next spring.

Miniature Roses on Sale

What to look for on sale plants:

  • Reputation – I don’t buy sale plants from discounters where the plants are often neglected. The small floral department at my grocery store is staffed and plants are usually well watered and cared for. For perennials, I shop the sales at local nurseries rather than big box stores.
  • Roots are the most important, but often hard to judge. You can try to slip the plant out of the pot to check the roots and make sure they are not dried out. You can also select plants that have hardy roots, such as day lilies. Several years ago I bought several day lilies on the sale table at a nursery and they have performed well.
  • Risk – not every plant will survive, but if the price is right, you might decide to risk it and go ahead. I bought 2 miniature roses for $2.99 each. If only one of them survives, then I still have a reasonable price for a plant that can live for many years in my garden.

It is also harvest season – the peaches are earlier than ever this year. And we have a great harvest. I made 3 batches of peach salsa to share, my daughter made peach soup today and we will make a pie and freeze some for a taste of summer in the winter. The peaches are small because I didn’t thin enough. I am always a bit indecisive with thinning because the squirrels take so many off the tree in their own thinning project. But the flavor is lovely. We didn’t have any peaches last year, so the fresh tasting peaches are an extra treat this year!

Gardeners are Natural Scientists

Gardeners are engaged in natural science – the observation and testing of the interactions of plants, soil, water and weather. We are also record-keepers and our “lab books” or garden journals, notebooks and blogs become valuable scientific records over time. Phenology is the study of the timing of natural events. Gardeners who note bloom times are phenologists.

I noted that my first Oriental Poppy bloomed this week, on May 10th. Now that I have a garden blog, I was curious as to the date of last year’s first Poppy bloom. I went back and noted that is was May 22nd. There is quite a bit of year-to-year variation in blooms due to weather. Last weekend was 85 degrees and that undoubtably pushed the Poppies to bloom sooner. Variations in short time periods are weather-related. Next year, my Poppies might bloom later, depending on factors of temperature and water during the budding phase.

Since gardeners have been keeping notes on bloom times for hundreds of years, this data helps scientists looking at climate change, as it provides thousands of data points from which they can extract trends. An article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences (UK) compiled a 250-year index of the first flowering dates for 405 plant species in the UK. They found that species flowered 5 days earlier for every 1 degree C increase in temperature. This kind of phenological data is possible because people have been making notes of bloom dates for hundreds of years. Some of these observers were scientists, but others were gardeners who kept notes year after year.

If you want to participate in  science through regular observations of plants in your area, you can join Project BudBurst which is a joint effort of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Boulder, Colorado and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Their website also has a section of Budburst Buddies for children to participate in the science of phenology.

Along with noting what is blooming in my garden right now, I am celebrating the wonderful 2 days of rain that we had to give a good deep soaking to the ground. Slow and steady rain is so much better than sprinklers for deep watering. This weekend many of us will be out in our gardens enjoying the new green, planting, transplanting and pulling up weeds. If your ground is very wet, be careful of walking in the garden as you can compact the damp soil and squeeze out important oxygen. The more you can stretch and do weeding and planting from the edge of the garden the better.

I felt silly a few weeks ago cautioning against planting annuals when the temperature hit 85 degrees, but our cold this week reinforced the fact that we aren’t necessarily past the last frost date in Denver. While I didn’t get snow in my yard, my friends in Boulder, Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock did. I am going to wait another week to plant annuals and tomatoes. This weekend I will move around a few more perennials and try to get ahead of the weeds that have sprouted.

Living Easter Baskets

Easter is a week from today, and my favorite project this time of year is making living Easter baskets. I described the Easter basket project last year. Even though Easter is late this year, the baskets full of pansies, snapdragons and other cool-season flowers will give a month’s worth of color on your porch or patio.

I also noticed this week that the Easter Lily I planted after Easter last year is sprouting again. Of course, it won’t bloom for Easter, but I was surprised and pleased that it was still living. Often plants that have been forced in a greenhouse use up all their energy in that process and don’t come back again.

Enjoy the new life in the garden this week, and celebrate new life of Easter as well!

Plant an Amaryllis

Today is a great day to plant the Amaryllis you received for Christmas. If you didn’t get one, buy yourself one this week. They are so simple to grow and quite stunning with their tall bright flowers. On this last day of 2010, it’s an appropriate time to focus on new life in the new year. And since the landscape outside is sleeping under a thin layer of snow (wish we had received more), something growing and alive indoors is a treat. I received two seed catalogs this week in the mail, and whether or not I order something, they are a great way to spend a winter evening dreaming of spring and color. My hope for 2011 is to spend more time outdoors!

Should be blooming in 6-10 weeks

Flowers I love but don’t grow

Dahlias and gladioli (glads) are two amazing flowers that I don’t have in my garden. They are a bit too fussy for my style of garden effort, because the bulbs need to be lifted and given some special treatment to survive our winters. This extra work discourages me from experimenting with them, but I still love seeing them in bloom. There are some lovely dahlias a few blocks away and I try to make a point to watch for them this time of year.

A number of years ago, we took Grandma Foote to Buchart Gardens in Victoria, BC, and enjoyed the amazing colors, sizes and variety of dahlias. We also enjoyed taking her to Angel Crest Gardens near her home in Port Angeles, WA to see the dahlias blooming.

I did an experiment with dahlias a couple of years ago. I happened to be at a local nursery on the day of the dahlia society sale, and after talking with several dahlia devotees, they convinced me that it wasn’t that hard. I followed all the directions and started several bulbs in large pots. I moved the pots in and out of the garage, based on the crazy weather during a cool spring. Then later in the summer when the plants were tall, I staked them up so the flowers wouldn’t break the stems. Eventually after all the effort, I had 4-5 blossoms. They were beautiful, but I decided that I would enjoy dahlias in other people’s gardens, or from the farmer’s market, I needed simpler flowers in my garden.

Yesterday when I was grocery shopping the flower special of the day was 3 bunches of glads for $10. I splurged and got 3 bunches — they were very generous in the number of flowers, so it made two enormous bouquets. I had selected stalks that were tightly budded since I knew they would open quickly in our warm house. The flowers are beautiful! The long stems have a simple, artistic look. I have seen information about hardy glads to grow in this climate, so the bulbs don’t have to be lifted in the winter, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to try them. I probably have enough variety in my small yard for now. And I the rarity of glads makes a bouquet all the more enjoyable when they are in season.

So enjoy the dahlias and glads in the market, in neighbor’s yards, or in your own yard if you enjoy the effort. Meanwhile, it’s time to plan for fall bulbs (too early to plant though) so I’ll be writing about bulbs in the next installment.