Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays 2010

The beauty of nature and the wonders of the Holidays can both blend together into fond memories, grateful hearts and cherished moments.  May you have lots of each!  


Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Top of the World in Colorado

The "top of the world" in Rocky Mountain National Park
is a wondrous sight.

Rocky Mountain National Park is about 2 hours from our house. Looking through my pictures from last summer, I found some from a visit that I'd meant to put in a post so many months ago!  So, even though the park is now covered in feet of snow, I thought you'd like to see RMNP in all it's summer glory. There are so many beautiful views, creatures, and plants. The largest and the smallest of creatures make this high mountain playground their home.

Even in at the end of June there's still snow and glaciers.

This high tundra is home to a few lucky species.

Elk seem to be too used to people here. 
They don't even acknowledge that we're watching them.

This one's still shedding last year's winter coat.

This beautiful alpine flower (sorry  I don't know its name) is such a cheery sight. 
 If you look closely, you'll see the tiny visitor to its nectar.

I love finding these special portraits in nature
and feel so fortunate to capture them with my lens. 

The end of a gorgeous day in the mountains.

If you ever get the chance to make the trip to this wonderful national park, try to go in mid to end of July.  Then you can take Old Fall River Road, which is a one way dirt road that traverses the mountains along some of the old Native American trails.  Winter in the park is breathtaking as well, although not all roads remain open.  RMNP is one of my favorite parks and I hope it will be one of yours as well.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sometimes Plants get so Confused

This Orange Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea munroana)
 is putting out new leaves close to the ground.

This has been a very confusing year for plants in our area.  The calendar says it's almost December, but herbs and perennials in my gardens are still sporting green leaves and in some cases, even new growth.  So what's going on?  Has my yard suddenly been transported to a warmer state?  Or maybe just has a warmer state of mind?  Or maybe Mother Nature is just making up for how early winter came here last year. Whatever the reason, this year Fall has lasted a very wonderfully long time. We haven't even had a "real snow" yet, which is unheard of at our elevation, usually by now we've have more than a foot or more.

Although the Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris) has gone dormant for the year,
 the Red Rocks Penstemon next to it is still green and growing.

If you've read any of my posts in the past about how I "clean up" the gardens in the fall, you know I leave most of my plants standing till spring, the leaves stay on the gardens, and many of the pine needles stay where they land.  I also tend to wait till things are really going dormant before adding organic slow release fertilizer or compost to work its way down into the soil.  So, I've been waiting, and waiting to get these few chores done, but with temps in the 50s and 60s for most of October and November it just hasn't seemed like the right time.  Yesterday I decided I should get out there and do it anyway.  The veggie garden hoops and netting came down and the quick connect ends of the soaker hoses were removed.  Wagons and carts got put away, and the last of the ceramic pots moved to safer places.

Garlic, Chives, and Parsley are all still growing but in much need of moisture.  
The hoops and nets come down for the winter. 

My garden "helper" Yukon would rather be playing fetch.

The messy leftovers will get to be eaten by the wildlife, 
then pulled out in the spring

What does it mean for the plants if they grow longer than usual, ignoring the human calendar?  Does it weaken them the next spring, or do they just go with the flow?  For perennials and herbs it just means you get to enjoy them longer and benefit next spring from additional root growth and stronger plants.  By allowing plants to set their own schedule, instead of being put to bed on yours, the plants use nature as their guide to tell them when it's time to "go to sleep".  Perennials, shrubs, trees, ornamental grasses (native or not), and herbs all put extra energy into growing root systems in the fall.  They don't have to worry about putting on a show of flowers or pretty leaves, they just want to grow their feet.  The nice cool days and even cooler evenings put far less stress on their systems and the insects that may have been bothering them in the summertime are long gone.

Dormant plants can still paint a beautiful picture 
if you leave them untouched until spring.

So if your weather is still warm, and you haven't gotten out to the garden yet to do all of your "chores", maybe you should just wait a little, put up your feet, and watch your garden keep growing.  Spend the day reading some great gardening blogs, or come visit us at Wildlife Gardening to join in more discussions about fall cleanup and plants that provide winter interest.  The snow will be flying soon enough, so until then enjoy what's still growing!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sowing the Seeds of a New Business

Getting ready to plant new seeds while still nurturing 
completed gardens is always scary but satisfying.

Starting a new business is so much like creating a new garden.  Every choice you make can be a plus or a minus in how successful your creation turns out.  When creating a new business from the ground level up, there are so many things to think about.  Things like what to name it, what the business structure should be, what it's mandate or mission is, how to finance, and even the really big question of "should I really be doing this or not?"

Some seeds sprout more quickly than the others, 
but often times are overshadowed at the end of the growing
season by the slow starters.

Planning a new business, like planting a new garden, takes faith, courage, and usually a bit of self-doubt.  "What if the seeds don't grow?"  "What if the garden gets hailed out or eaten by animals?" "What if all of my hard work gets stomped on, shrivels up, or washes away?"  These are all very valid, but negative thoughts, yet all gardeners that I know, myself included, think about them.  It's the same with starting a new business or learning a new skill.  The questions become: "What if I'm not good enough?" "What if people don't like my products?" "What if no one comes?",  "What if I run out of money?" or the ultimate "What if I Fail?"

These lettuce starts are ready to go into the garden, 
but garden's not quite ready for them yet.

For the past several months I've been working on starting a new micro-business that's very different than the service type businesses I've had in the past.  While I absolutely love designing gardens and teaching people about gardening, nature and the environment, I realized that I also needed something more.  I wanted to take this love of plants, nature and our planet and create something that would help people by giving them better choices for their skin.  Just as I firmly believe that everything we do in our gardens makes a difference to our planet, I believe that what we use and how we take care of our skin also affects the world of nature.  My solution to this desire has been to create a new line of body products, under the name "Dragonfly Dew". These botanicals and blends are made with only natural plant oils & butters, herbs, clays, waxes and essential oils.  Mother Nature gives us many things and has wonderful ways to help us with our skin, just like she helps us with our gardens.  So please join me on this new journey and I'll try my best to teach you as much about botanicals as I do about gardening for nature. - the start of a beautiful new "garden"

As the "seeds" of my new business start sprouting and the "garden" is planted with new and exciting additions it will be exciting to see how it matures and changes.  For as in any garden or business, nurturing, evaluation, and faith are all needed to create beautiful results. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from the Sky is Best for Plants

The water in this beautiful alpine lake comes from the sky and
the snow pack, yet still needs some processing before
it's drinkable by humans. Plants on the other hand think
this water is wonderful.

Pure, clean drinking water is something that most of us take for granted, yet almost 1 billion people around the world would love to have just one cup. This year's Blog Action Day theme is Water, and we as gardeners can do our part to help everyone on the planet have a bit more of it. It's much simpler than you might think to use more of what comes from the sky and less of the water that comes out of the tap. Best of all, rainwater is much better for your gardens then tap water, as it contains no chlorine, fluoride or other chemicals used to make our drinking water pure. One of my post's from last year, Waste Not, Want Not: Creating Gardens and Landscapes that Make Best Use of Rainwater, can give you more ideas to help you help save this precious resource.

All of the rain water that flows down our driveway is
filtered through this dry stream bed as
it seeps into the gardens around it.

So how much water does an average family use on their yards in a season?  Well, the number of gallons are all over the board, but the percentage of water used for landscaping versus overall household use is fairly constant, at between 50% - 65%.  That's a huge amount of processed, purified drinking water to use just to satisfy our need to have green lawns, lush flowers, and a nice yard.  Just think if much of that water could be saved for other things or not have to be processed at all. Our resources would not be depleted so quickly, far less chemicals would be used and put back into the water supply, and our gardens and yards would be much healthier. 

How can you make a difference?  Try these simple things to get started:
  • water your gardens and landscapes one less day per week or month,
  • water only when and where your plants need it,
  • use soaker hoses or drip irrigation instead of sprinklers,
  • check your irrigation system for leaks and/or bad timers,
  • use the rain that falls naturally from the sky to water your gardens instead of sending it down the sewers and into the streets,
  • choose water wise and/or native plants that naturally use less water,
  • use rain barrels to harvest water from your roof if your state allows it,
  • replace some (or all) of your lawn with ground covers, perennials and ornamental grasses.
There are almost as many gardeners in the world as there are people without clean drinking water.  If each of us helped just one person somewhere on the planet by changing our watering habits, think of the positive change we would make!

To follow Blog Action Day 2010 on Twitter, check out @blogactionday, or #BAD10. Or, if you want to see the live feed, check out and pledge your support or add your blog post.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wordless Wenesday - A Light in the Forest

A single Aspen shows its beautiful light at the end of our property,
surrounded by Ponderosa Pines, Gambel Oak and lots of wildlife.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Grasses Steal the Glory in the Fall

The Rocky Mountains make a beautiful backdrop for this public garden

Fall is my favorite time of year, as I love all the rich colors it brings.  Golden aspen leaves, orange and red oak leaves, and various shades of native shrub leaves all work to make a tapestry of color.  But my favorite plants for beautiful fall color are not trees or shrubs, rather the many types of ornamental and native grasses putting on their finest for the fall show.  Many native grasses are so beautiful in all seasons, and are welcome in the gardens as well as in the wild.  One of the best places in my area to check out ornamental and native grasses is the public garden at the Colorado Springs Utilities Conservation & Environmental Center.  This Xeriscape Garden is free to walk through anytime of year, and provides residents with plenty of ideas for waterwise gardening in the high desert environment where the mountains meet the plains. 

Ornamental and Native Grasses are used throughout the gardens
in both irrigated and non-irrigated areas.

Ornamental grasses provide foundation plantings 
with color, texture and movement.

Giant Sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii) is a Southwestern native,
low water replacement for Miscanthus.

The delicate seed heads of Switch Grass (Panicum) sway with the
slightest winds while the its leaves shimmer in the sun. 
Both native and cultivated varieties are available from many nurseries.

Some grasses turn brilliant red in the fall, while others stay golden or blue. 

Isn't this a gorgeous shade of red?
Seed heads are one of the best features of grasses.

Schizachyrium scoparium - Little Bluestem is native to much of North America

Now, if the photos above aren't enough to convince you about the wonderful properties of grasses for your gardens, think about this: 
  • Native and ornamental grasses provide four seasons of interest with color, sound, texture, and movement.
  • They need very little fertilizer.
  • They're mostly free from pests and diseases.
  • They give food for wildlife especially birds.
  • Most need much less water than other plants in your landscape.
  • The only thing you need to do to them is give them a nice haircut early in the springtime when new growth begins.
So this fall or next spring, try to add a few grasses to your gardens and watch the show begin!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ode to Summer

As summer fades to fall, 
it's nice to look back into the gardens at some of the beautiful blooms.  


Snow in the Summer gets no water yet
 still provides a wonderful white carpet

Not all plants have to have flowers to be beautiful -
this Hosta made it all the way until the 4th of July
this year before a hailstorm turned it to tatters.

The Hummingbirds are still here this year even though it's now fall. 
Soon they will be flying south, and the garden
 will be a much quieter and lonelier place.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How NOT to Attract Wildlife to your Garden

Trash cans left outside instead of in the garage
 become bear food and a mess to cleanup

Bear Country.  We live in it, respect it and are happy to be a part of it.  But, some people just don't seem to be able to follow the rules about living with wildlife.  It's not like people aren't aware of where they live. We are living where the Black Bear have been for hundreds of years so it's not like they just showed up one day. We have signs throughout the area that say "Living in Bear Country", are constantly reminded through the newspapers, local papers, HOA newsletters and the media about what NOT to do when you live with bears, and even see stories about how bears are killed because of human carelessness.  We have fines for not keeping your trash in your garage or for purposely feeding bears. 

Last week in Colorado Springs six black bears were tranquilized and then euthanized because they ventured into people's houses looking for food to get ready for winter hibernation.  Six bears, in each case a mom and 2 cubs, learned how to find human food in their own territory and were subsequently put to sleep just because they were hungry. It's not the Bear's fault.  Once a bear eats human food it's hard to get them to eat anything else. Just yesterday I looked out my window to the west and saw the neighbor's trash cans left outside, tipped over and trash strewn about.  The bear had been there in the middle of the night again. They've had this happen more than once, and each time I try to explain to them where they live and what the rules are. I have to ask myself "How hard can it be?"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day August 2010

Some of the Hummingbirds favorite flowers are in full bloom now,
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
and Red Birds in a Tree (Scrophularia macrantha)

They really do look like Red Birds!

Many types of Daylilies are blooming now,
none of which I know the names of.

This red daylily is part of a large group of unnamed types,
any suggestions for a name?

Beautiful blooms that were not munched by the deer

I have hundreds of these Bread Seed Poppies in various parts of the yard.

This Mallow just kind of showed up here last year.

The Blue Mist Spirea is just getting its flowers, soon it will be covered.

These are just some of the blooms in the high altitude gardens for August.  I don't normally participate in the Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts but this month the blooms are looking nice, so I gave it a shot. By the end of the month the Agastaches and Russian Sage will be in full bloom and will give me something to photograph for September.  Now that you've taken a look at these flowers, what's blooming in your gardens? 

For a look at other gardens around the country, visit Carol's garden blog and her May Dreams Gardens Bloom Day post.
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