FCN Blog

Are your evergreens looking yellow or brown? This might be why…

After the unusually hard freeze we experienced in early November of this year, a lot of evergreen trees around town are looking a little yellow and sad. There are a number of different reasons an evergreen tree might be turning yellow/brown and/or dropping needles this time of year. Sometimes it’s perfectly healthy, other times it’s not. How do you tell the difference, and what should you do? Here’s a few tips:

This pine is showing needle cast. Notice the brown needles are lower on the branch while the healthy green needles are closer to the tip.

This pine is showing needle cast. Notice the brown needles are lower on the branch while the healthy green needles are closer to the tip.

Needle Cast: If your conifer (pine, spruce, fir, or juniper) is dropping needles, it may be a perfectly normal and healthy occurrence. If the needles that are dropping are only on the interior part of the tree while the needles toward the ends of the branches are still flexible, green, and firmly attached, then your tree is going through a process called “needle cast.” This process is kind of like deciduous trees casting off their leaves every fall – the needles deepest inside the tree no longer receive much in the way of sunlight as they are shaded by the newer exterior needles, so the tree drops them. This is totally normal and you should not be alarmed.

Sun Scald: If the needles on one side of the tree are showing yellow or brown coloration, but the other side of the tree still looks healthy, it could be suffering from sun scald. The exceptionally dry winter air combined with low soil moisture and intense sun causes the needles to dry out. The damage is often only present on the most exposed parts of the tree where prevailing winds or southern sun can have the greatest impact. Often, only the tip of the needle will be discolored while the base of the needle remains green.

Some of this damage may be inevitable, depending on the location of the tree, but it can be mitigated by good winter watering (click here for more on winter watering). For particularly sensitive evergreens like boxwoods, arborvitae, and oriental spruce, to name a few, a permeable fabric like burlap can be used to wrap the plants, providing a little extra protection. Trees can also be treated with Wilt-Pruf, a product designed to give evergreen plants an added layer of protection on their needles and leaves. Generally, this type of damage is only short-term. Only in extreme cases do we start to worry about the overall health of the tree.

Freeze Damage: If your tree is dropping needles or yellowing/browning uniformly around the entire plant, there’s a chance the recent deep freeze caused such a shock to your tree that the needles were damaged.

Fort Collins Weather Nov. 2-15, 2014

The week leading up to the November freeze was exceptionally warm, followed by a very fast drop in temperatures.

Freeze damage on a Southwestern White Pine. Note the damage is present on the tips of branches while the interior needles remain green.

Freeze damage on a Southwestern White Pine. Note the damage is present on the tips of branches while the interior needles remain green.

When plants go through such a rapid change in temperature, they don’t have time to undergo the physiological changes that help them tolerate the cold. Cell walls can rupture when they freeze and the dry air can cause damage more easily than would otherwise be the case. In instances like this, the damage will be most prominent on the outer parts of the branches, causing the tips to discolor and lose needles while inner needles that weren’t as exposed during the freeze remain green.

Freeze damage on a Southwestern White Pine. Note the damage is not limited to just one side of the tree.

Freeze damage on a Southwestern White Pine. Note the damage is not limited to just one side of the tree.

In these cases, the only thing to do is wait and see. It is possible that in the spring, the buds that have already formed on the tips of those branches will still produce a new candle (the  growth from which new needles emerge). We encourage you to wait to prune until you are certain a branch has died, as cutting a branch that has a healthy bud on it will result in no growth next season. You can gently pinch the buds on damaged branches to find out if they’re still healthy – a firm bud is a healthy one, while a dried out dead bud will crumble between your finger tips. In this case, as with sun scald, the best treatment is a good deep watering 2 times a month through the winter when possible.

Come spring, even if no new growth emerges, if the remaining needles are still green, you’ve still got a healthy tree. Prune away the dead branches to expose the inner needles to light, give your tree a feeding with Jirdon Tree & Shrub fertilizer, and be sure to tell your tree how much it means to you and how happy you are that it’s still alive!

Out of sight, but hard at work

mini-poinsettiasby Jesse Eastman

As days grow short and Mother Nature slips into her frosty slumber, we get a lot of questions about just what it is that we, nursery employees, do during the winter. In spring we are caught up in the crush of customers seeking the perfect plant for their yard and the vegetable that will grace their table in summer. Through the summer it is all we can do to keep all our plants watered and looking good. Autumn is consumed with end-of-season sales and putting away plants for a long winter rest. But what happens when the plants are in bed and the snow comes?

Lots of desk work
Between analyzing this year’s sales numbers, budgeting, and placing orders for next year, we spend a lot of time sitting at our desks. For a group of hardcore plant nerds like ourselves, this is a challenge. Greenhouse manager/gift buyer Troy says “since I have to spend more time at my desk it means I spend a lot less time with the plants.” On top of that, we are generally a pretty active group of people, and the slowdown during winter can be a blessing and a curse. “It’s a time to let my mind and body heal so they are ready for spring” says Brendan, the production manager. On the other hand, as Ashley, the assistant production manager points out, she really misses the exercise she gets throughout the rest of the year.

Holiday sales
It’s no mystery we sell a variety of holiday merchandise, but do you know what it takes to pull off a good Christmas season at the Nursery? We have to reorganize our store and greenhouse, set up a work area where we can decorate wreaths, build and stock our Christmas tree lot, and decorate everything. Scott, who does buying for nursery stock and garden supplies, says his favorite part of winter at the Nursery is the transformation from nursery into holiday wonderland.

Decorating wreaths is a major process every year. Did you know we sold nearly 400 wreaths last year, each and every one decorated by hand? That takes a lot of skill, patience, and hot-glue burns.

We also sell lots of poinsettias during the holidays, and they are a time-consuming plant. They break easily and must be handled with great care. They balk at cold air (why are they such a popular plant in the dead of winter?), so we have to wrap each plant before it goes outdoors, even if only for a moment. Kristen, our garden shop manager, will tell you that the most time-consuming thing she has to do during the winter is carefully wrap tropical plants. “A lot of people will say ‘It’s OK, I am going straight home.’ These people are usually wearing a jacket and forget the plants are not!”

Business as usual
Perhaps the biggest misconception about how our nursery works is that we get to just kick our feet up and sit at our desks. In fact, we have to do all the things mentioned above while maintaining a warm and welcoming retail experience for our hardy customers who still visit us throughout winter.  According to Bobby, a sales associate, in spite of everything else going on this time of year, sales and customer service still takes up a lion’s share of his time. In spite of the obvious lack of plant activity outdoors, we still keep ourselves very busy through the winter with indoor plants, gifts, décor, books, and more. We are always receiving new plants and merchandise, and it is constant effort to keep our store looking fresh and exciting.

Winter often feels like the longest season, dragging on as we slowly freeze to death. Here at the nursery, though, winter is often too short. With all the activity going on behind the scenes, spring has a way of creeping up on us. Scott has some good advice for those of you who, like me, fear spring may never return. “Spring seems so far away one day, and then suddenly it’s right around the corner.” So enjoy the winter, do your planning, decorate for the holidays, and start fantasizing about spring. It’s what we do, and it keeps us happy!

From the kitchen to the garden

By Kathy Reid

istock compost 4webI learned the phrase from my mother: “Garbage is gold.” The garbage she refers to isn’t just any old thing that ends up in the trash can. Her “gold” is the scraps that accumulate in the kitchen from the not-so-perfect leaves of lettuce to the stringy orange carrot peels and the used coffee grounds.

Yes, my mother is a composter and has been since long before it became a fashionable thing to do. As far back as I can remember, there was always some sort of receptacle under the kitchen sink filled with her soupy, sour-smelling accumulation. How often did she tell me over the years, “No, no. Not down the disposal. That garbage is gold!” For my mother is also a vegetable gardener and she learned long ago the magical power of the rich, black compost that she created from things that so often end up down the disposal or in the trash can.

As I washed the dishes the other night in my own kitchen, I contemplated the half-gallon milk cartons that line the space along the back of the sink, stuffed with banana peels, potato skins and apple cores. Nothing is wasted, for I, too, have learned the secret potential of what another might see as mere trash.

I don’t know where my mother learned the skill of turning kitchen refuse into a wonderful soil amendment, but I would guess it was from her own mother. The skill, no doubt, is as ancient as cultivation itself. Whatever the source of the knowledge, I am happy to carry on the tradition.

My mother has taught me so many things, among them the precious nature of garbage. I will think of her next spring as I marvel at the tender seedlings pushing up through the dark, rich soil of my garden. Thanks, Mom!

 

Great Pumpkin Contest winners

And the winner is … Pete Mohr with a 794-pound gourd. Mohr surpassed all other entries in Fort Collins Nursery’s annual event, taking the top prize of $500. Other winners are Margie Davis with a 350-pounder; Julie Bonneville, 307 lbs; Don Shelly, 301 lbs; and Oliver McCalmount, 199 lbs. Thanks to all who participated – we hope to see everyone back next year for more fun and an even bigger contest.

Pete Mohr took top prize with his 794-pound gourd.

Pete Mohr took top prize with his 794-pound gourd.

No such thing as “gardening season”

HerbPatioPot1by Jesse Eastman

This time of year I often hear the phrase “gardening season is almost over.” I hear it from friends, family, customers, and employees. Daylight is beginning its retreat as we slowly march into autumn, nights are cooler, and even the leaves are beginning to change colors before they succumb to the irresistible force of gravity. It truly does feel like the end of something wonderful.

The problem with this phrase is that nothing is ending. Does your passion for homegrown vegetables also end in autumn? Do roots stop growing? Does all of nature come to a screeching halt just because it will soon be too cold for petunias to bask outdoors in the summer sun? There is no end to gardening season – in fact, I would argue there is no such thing as gardening season, simply four seasons in which we garden. We do not speak of parenting season, eating season, or music season. These are things that are perpetual, ongoing, and even when we aren’t actively “doing” them, they are never far from our mind. Likewise, gardening is not a discrete period of time – it is a journey. As the external display of foliage and flowers draws to a close, the internal effort kicks into high gear as plants prepare for spring.

Every plant that goes into the ground in September is a testament to the never ending cycle of gardening. When their roots are gently lowered into the ground, they begin their own journey outward and downward, seeking out the elements of life – water, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium – and they start the hard and strenuous work of storing these nutrients for spring. Without the sharp deep cold of winter, many bulbs would not know when to awaken in the spring. It is not an end, but rather the next step in a cycle.

Not all gardening disappears underground in the fall and winter. Perhaps it is just time to move indoors. Houseplants help us cope with the apparent desolation of winter, and many people like to grow herbs on their windowsill in the kitchen. While we sit inside dreaming of warmer days, we are engaging in the unintentional act of mentally preparing for spring. We think about our successes and failures from last year and imagine ways to improve in the year to come. Classes are a great way to keep participating in the joyful progression of gardening – Fort Collins Nursery offers a wide range of Winter Workshops in January and February for just this reason. Just as plants grow, so too grows the gardener, and that in itself is a form of gardening.

No matter where you choose to enter the flow of the eternal river of gardening, you are never too late because there is no season. All that is needed to stay afloat is the awareness of what stage of the cycle you are in, and you will easily find your way to a life full of plants, beauty, and contentment.

 

What’s Blooming? | Photo contest

If you’ve ever spent time with a nurseryman or woman, you know we can’t take five steps without finding a plant to examine, a tree to admire, or a weed to pull. We love flowers deeply and intensely, so it only makes sense that we want to see what’s blooming in your community.

Share your best photo here for a chance to win great prizes (listed below) and all the fame and glory that comes with winning a photo contest sponsored by your friendly locally-owned independent garden center!

The entry period for this contest is closed. Click here to view all the entries.

Down the walk and into the woods

GatherStrength_PlantYourHistory_WEBby Gary Eastman , Retired owner of Fort Collins Nursery

The Front Range communities of Colorado and Wyoming are set at the edge of the cold, arid high plains. This relatively treeless dry country supports a wide variety of plant and animal life, but outside of a few scattered groves along the rivers, it is hardly woodland.

Despite this treeless nature, we transform our cities into woods – the urban forests. When I step out of my Old Town Fort Collins home, I am surrounded by mature trees. As I go down the sidewalk, massive trunks, some more than a century old, flare outward as they enter the earth, cracking and heaving the walk in places. The branches meet overhead to from a nearly complete canopy above my neighborhood. I live in the woods.

As I travel outward from the center of town I pass from older to younger woods: over one hundred years from Grand View Cemetery to Old Town to the old Fort Collins High, fifty years old in Circle Drive and South College Heights, twenty in Village West, until I reach the newest additions where I observe a family, parents and children all helping to plant a tree in their front yard.

Planting a tree is hard work. Choosing the right tree and the right spot, digging the hole, mixing compost into the soil, wondering when this little tree will be big enough to climb, looking for worms in the clods of earth – everyone has an important role.

Looking around this new neighborhood I see many other newly-planted trees, starting out as small saplings on their way to becoming new additions to our urban forest. Someday these trees will shade the streets and harbor woodpeckers and owls, chickadees and squirrels.

I feel a debt of gratitude to all the men, women and children who worked so hard over the last one hundred years to make my neighborhood into woods. I, and countless others, for a hundred years to come will feel the same about this family planting today.

Keeping your cool in Colorado

by Bridget Tisthammer

Honeysuckle_HailI believe in the resilience of nature. When hail shreds my hostas, I look forward to seeing those first new leaves unfurling through the confetti of their mates. When wind blows down the flower stalks on my meadow rue, I’m amazed that the plant blooms anyway, bent to the ground, but beautiful nevertheless.

To garden in Colorado is a testament to the vital urge to grow and thrive, no matter what is thrown your way. We’ve all had setbacks in life, and so, too, have our plants. Thanks to a recent hail storm, many of our customers have called to ask how to help their plants recover. Other than cutting off the damaged growth and applying a light fertilizer, there’s nothing to do but watch the plant make its way back. And, fortunately, most of them do. But is it fun to overcome these setbacks? Hail, no!

Good intentions without follow-through are also a part of life. I really meant to keep that beautiful new honeysuckle hand-watered until I had time to extend my drip system. But, life got busy and the honeysuckle suffered under my neglect. I hope it will recover, but if not, maybe this time I’ll learn the lesson of preparing before I plant. And, another Hall’s Honeysuckle is probably waiting on the bench for me to take home and try again.

Last week on my way to work, I watched a mother duck cross a busy street during morning rush hour with five ducklings close on her tail. Even the impatient driver who couldn’t see why everyone had slowed down managed to slam on his brakes in time to allow the fragile family to pass. Life continues to amaze me. Despite setbacks, despite danger, despite a little careless neglect, plants still grow, people still care, and the beauty of life goes on.

Creating rainbows in our community

RainbowHearts_SXC_1414428_50381383_WEBBy Heather Chappell

Shades of green have returned to the Front Range and some of you are probably already reaping the benefits of a well planned fall and early spring. This is such a magical time of year; birds are nesting with new broods, buds are swelling and bursting, and shoots have sprouted in the garden with the promise of a tasty bounty.  Working at the nursery gives me a front row seat to the magic but also reminds me that for others, the trials of daily life can trump these small pleasures. Fortunately, we live in a community with an incredible variety of non-profit organizations dedicated to making life better for people so that everyone can afford a moment to appreciate the magic around them.

As the Marketing Director at Fort Collins Nursery, I have the privilege of working closely with many amazing non-profit organizations in Fort Collins. Over the past few years, I have been able to collaborate with some of these extraordinary groups on fundraising events and special projects. Organizations like The Growing Project, Friends of Happy Heart Farm, Project Self-Sufficiency, Loveland Youth Gardeners and the Junior League along with countless others that change people’s lives and make our community such an awesome place to live!

One of our most popular events is Ladies’ Night, coming up on June 5th. We have partnered with Project Self-Sufficiency (PS-S) to help them raise funds for their worthwhile programs. Their mission is to assist low-income, single parents in their efforts to achieve economic independence and become free from community and government assistance while building and maintaining strong, healthy families. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that, right?

We create an environment here at the nursery that is all about community and togetherness for Ladies’ Night. This year, in addition to the regular live music, food, drinks, silent auction, chair massage, tarot readings and specials, we have invited some great community organizations to set-up as vendors: Golden Poppy Herbal Apothecary, Crescendo Olive Oil, Raspberry Hill Flowers and Ten Thousand Villages. The evening is sure to be a fun time for all who attend and a great benefit to our friends at PS-S. Join us from 4-7pm on Thursday, June 5th and invite your friends and neighbors to come along too!

When it comes to giving of yourself in order to benefit another, I think that Maya Angelou said it best… “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” I feel blessed that part of my job includes creating opportunities to help others. I like to think of the nursery as a prism, bending light and casting rainbows in all directions of this lovely little town we call home.

Gardening outside the box

By Heather Chappell

Grow_HC

Photo Credit: Babs Finkle “mom”

When all of our new seeds came in this season, it was kind of like Christmas all over again! It is so hard not to get drawn in by the beautifully illustrated seed packages and the promise that spring is surely on its way. The possibilities for bounty are endless and oh so exciting!

Now, if only I had decent sun to garden by. I love the privacy of my urban oasis, with all of its big trees, wildlife habitat and lovely shade in the summer. But what is a tomato and salad loving girl to do in this type of yard? Think outside the box and get a buddy system going on! Luckily, my mom is quite the garden enthusiast and has a great set-up working for her already!

This year, when I dropped off piles of seed packets, exclaiming, “Look what I got for YOU to plant!” she said, “won’t WE have fun?” So along with another family, we got busy starting seeds, setting up a small portable greenhouse (which has NOT blown away, apparently ALL that camping experience is handy) and readying garden beds for planting at my mom’s house. We will share the responsibilities of weeding, watering and often wrangling the plants, and then share the harvest. After all, many hands make light work!

I love the way that my mom approaches gardening. If there’s a spot by the Fairy Garden, by gosh let’s plant it! Don’t know where to put those beans? “Let’s put them by the patio so they can climb the trellis and provide some shade in the summer.” Her yard is an eclectic combination of vibrant perennials, self seeding annuals, fruit trees, vegetables, ornamental trees and grasses all thriving together and somehow there is order in the chaos. It is a place where iris, garlic, tomatillos, marigolds, lettuce and morning glories can grow in harmony in the same garden bed. A place where pumpkins can go crazy under the pear tree, eventually vining up into the tree allowing its fruit to hang out of the tree, causing my dad to totally freak out one morning thinking he had a James and the Giant Peach situation going on with his pears!

When it comes to gardening, don’t be afraid to experiment. There is so much to be learned, even in failure. Move things around from year to year, mix things up and DREAM BIG! My mom would say, “Dream big, but start small”. You do a little here and there and soon enough, you’ve done so much! Put in one small garden patch that you can manage. The next year, you might decide to add some raspberries and see how that goes. The following year, you add another garden bed and a couple of fruit trees. Time passes and suddenly you realize what you’ve created and how the people you love are benefitting from your hard work, the “fruits” of your labor.

I realize that I am so blessed to have the convenience of sharing such an Eden with my family; I know not everyone has this luxury. However, I encourage anyone to think outside the proverbial box when it comes to feeding yourself and your family. Partner up with a neighbor or friend. Check out one of our many CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) and volunteer some time in order to receive some of the bounty. There are community gardens in many neighborhoods and non-profit groups like The Growing Project along with gardening clubs in Northern Colorado that you can get involved with. Let your desire take flight and happy gardening!