FCN Blog

Choose Celebration Plants for Special Events, People, Pets

By Deb Courtner

JapaneseMaple-Monrovia_NLSpecial occasions call for the creation of memories.  What better way to commemorate a graduation, wedding, birth, anniversary, housewarming, holiday or other significant event than by planting or donating a carefully selected plant to be enjoyed year after year?  Alternatively, plants are a deeply meaningful way to pay tribute to the life of a loved one or cherished pet who has passed on.

Flowering trees that convey caring include Autumn Brilliance serviceberry, with its fluffy white blooms, June berries and fabulous fall

color; the fruitless Spring Snow crabapple, with its fragrant white blossoms; Fringe Tree, with its distinctive, fragrant, hanging white flowers that look just like the tree’s name; Eastern Redbud, with its deep pink blossoms set against gray bark; or Hawthorn, with its spring/early summer flower clusters, dark red berries, and impressive autumn foliage.  If you like trees with colorful leaves all season long, consider a Japanese maple in well-protected locations, or Purple Smoke Tree.  If you prefer an evergreen, take a look at the dwarf Alberta spruce, with its compact, conical form, which will fit into almost any garden.

Carol Mackie Daphne-Monrovia_NLAs for shrubs, options include the semi-evergreen Carol Mackie Daphne, with its tiny, sweet-smelling pink blooms and variegated leaves; Tiger Eyes sumac, with its lacy chartreuse foliage, red stems and unparalleled fall color; butterfly bushes, with their heady scent and summer-long blooms; Hedge cotoneaster, with its shiny green leaves, black fruit and outstanding orange fall foliage; viburnums, with their full blossoms, ornamental fruit and pleasing autumn leaves; weigela, with their outrageously showy pink, purple or white flowers; and, of course, many varieties of roses.

Also, keep in mind that Fort Collins Nursery offers delivery and planting services for its trees and shrubs, and a one year satisfaction guarantee.

When selecting a plant for yourself or for a recipient, there are several factors to consider:

  • Where will the plant be installed?  If the plant is a shrub to memorialize a pet, for instance, you might consider planting it in your pet’s favorite resting place.
  • How much room is available for the plant as it matures?
  • What are the growing conditions (sun, soil type, water) in the garden where the plant will be installed?
  • If you’re looking for a flowering plant, do you want it to bloom at a particular time of year in honor of a special event?
  • What are favorite colors or fragrances of yours, the recipient or the memorialized individual?
  • Would you like a plant that symbolizes a particular virtue?  For example, red roses, hibiscus and wisteria symbolize love, whereas an oak tree represents strength and endurance.
  • Do you want a plant with a name similar to that of a recipient?  Examples include daphne, holly, and rose of Sharon with its feminine-named cultivars.  Or do you want a plant that has a name relating to the event, such as Peace rose or Livin’ Easy rose?

The staff at Fort Collins Nursery will be happy to help you choose a suitable plant for your special occasion.

Deb Courtner is a garden designer and writer who creates low-maintenance environments for busy homeowners.  She owns and operates Blossoms and Blueprints, LLC, a design and consulting firm in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

Low-growing Plants Keep Weeds From Gaining Ground

GroundCoverBlog-AngelaSedumBy Deb Courtner

Pity the poor groundcover; it gets no respect.  While trees, shrubs and taller perennials bedazzle gardeners, lowly groundcovers just quietly do their jobs–spreading steadily, preventing weeds, and providing a stage from which taller plants can emerge.

Groundcovers typically grow one foot high or less, although there are some taller ones, such as spreading roses.  These plucky plants add color and beauty to a garden, in addition to performing their regular jobs.

If you currently use wood or rock mulch around your plants, why not create a living mulch instead by planting attractive, low-maintenance groundcovers?

No matter what your lighting or moisture conditions, you can find a groundcover that will thrive in your garden.

If your garden is sunny and dry, for example, it’ll provide an ideal home for prairie winecups, with their lush, purplish goblet-shaped flowers and deep-cut, geranium-like leaves; orange carpet hummingbird, with its neon orange, tubular flowers that hummingbirds crave; Angela sedum, with its plump chartreuse spikes that turn orange-red for fall and winter; Pawnee Buttes sand cherry, with its white spring blossoms, outstanding red fall color, and black cherries that birds love; and soapwort, with its abundant pink or white blooms and evergreen leaves.  Incidentally, orange carpet hummingbird and soapwort are quite rabbit resistant.

Low growers that favor sunny, moister conditions are woolly speedwell, with its spring indigo flowers and evergreen foliage; cranesbill geraniums, especially the showy, long-blooming Rozanne, which can be drought-tolerant once established; and June-bearing strawberries, with their delicious fruit and bright green leaves;

Options for dry, shady gardens include pigsqueak, with its broad, cabbage-like leaves and upright pink blooms; some drought-tolerant varieties of heuchera, with its delightful foliage available in many colors; and dead nettle, which is anything but dead with its green or white/silvery variegated leaves and delicate pink or white blossoms.

GroundCoverBlog-PlumbagoShade lovers that perform well with average moisture include plumbago, with its startling blue flowers and copper seed heads set against dark green leaves; ajuga, with its beautifully variegated foliage and whorls of tiny flowers on spikes about four to six inches tall; sweet woodruff, with its delicate, scented white blossoms and small, umbrella-like leaves; and, of course, periwinkle, whose dark green leaves and purple blooms contrast nicely with those of sweet woodruff.

Once you familiarize yourself with groundcovers and their uses, you can create a more beautiful garden with fewer weeds and lower maintenance.  Then, perhaps, groundcovers will receive the respect they deserve.

 

 

How to Control Yellowjackets without Harming Bees!

European Paper Wasp_NLBy Daniel Laucher

Yellowjackets are a nuisance around the garden and home, and can be caught in a variety of traps using baits that bees and other wasps are not attracted to.  They are scavengers that seek out any food source, including your garbage and your pets’ food.  Yellowjackets are aggressive and will sting repeatedly if they or their nests are disturbed.

Yellowjackets nest in holes in the ground, unlike most other wasps, which build hanging nests made from chewed wood fibers.  These paper wasps, such as the bald-faced hornet and the European paper wasp, will defend their nests if threatened, but they are not otherwise aggressive.  You may find paper wasp nests hanging in trees or bushes, or in the rafters or on the sides of your home.  They should be left undisturbed, if possible, since paper wasps are pollinators and also prey on undesirable garden insects.

Honeybees and bumblebees feed on pollen and nectar, and will therefore avoid yellowjacket traps.  Many commercially available yellowjacket traps use heptyl butyrate as bait, which bees are not attracted to.   It is safe and effective to use such traps around your home and garden.

Homemade traps will also work to control yellowjackets.  To make one, mix some dish soap into a bowl of water and place the bowl in the problem area.  Tie a small piece of meat or fish to a short piece of string, then tie the string to a stick.  Place the stick in the ground by the bowl so that the meat hangs about half an inch above the water.  Yellowjackets fly very erratically; when they touch the soapy water, they will sink and drown.

Yellowjackets nest in the ground.  Locating and destroying nests will help keep their numbers down.  However, they will forage up to 1,000 feet from their nests, so the yellowjackets in your garden may have come from somewhere else entirely.

Prevention is important in controlling the yellowjacket population around your home.  As scavengers, they are attracted to garbage, standing water, and will even eat honey and larvae from beehives.  Make sure your trash cans are covered and tip out any standing water you find around your home or garden to limit their possible food sources.  Place traps around your patio, grill, mulch pile, hummingbird feeders and anywhere else you observe yellowjackets foraging for food.

Get rid of those pesky yellowjackets early with prevention and traps, and keep those honeybees humming.   Happy gardening!

Win a Cherokee Purple Tomato planter!

IMG_1381Contest ends July 8th, 2016.

Was spring a little too hectic and you didn’t get your tomatoes started in time? Fear not!

Image courtesy of Johnny's Seeds

Image courtesy of Johnny’s Seeds

We are giving away a nice big grafted heirloom tomato in a grow bag, ready for your patio! This grafted heirloom Cherokee Purple tomato is sure to be vigorous and satisfying.

Want To Create Magic In Your Garden? Attract Pollinators

By Deb Courtner

Zinnia_Monarch_NLNothing delights a gardener like the sight of pollinators flitting from one plant to the next.  These fascinating creatures transform a mere garden into an animated celebration.

Which plants attract these winged beauties–those butterflies, hummingbirds and bees?  It depends on which pollinator you want to entice.

Butterflies, for example, need host plants, such as milkweed, butterfly weed, rabbitbrush, chokecherry and hawthorns, to provide egg-laying sites and food for the caterpillars that will eventually become butterflies.  Then once the caterpillars reach adulthood, they want showy plants that will provide a perch and plenty of nectar.  Some of their favorite nectar producers are zinnias, butterfly bushes, serviceberries, rose of Sharon, lilacs, hollyhocks, hardy hibiscus, salvia, asters, coneflowers, daisies, sunflowers, and blanket flower.  Generally speaking, they like brightly colored flowers with open centers.

Hummingbirds, with their long tongues, prefer tubular flowers–especially red ones.  They go absolutely gaga over hyssop.  They also like columbine, penstemons, snapdragons, bee balms, foxgloves, daylilies, lilies, delphiniums, petunias and weigelas.  Additional nectar sources include butterfly bushes, pincushion flower, verbena, catmint and tall garden phlox.  And don’t forget herbs, especially those in the mint and sage families.  Hyssop is a member of the mint family, as you can tell from its smell.

Then there are bees that, like hummingbirds, have long Coneflower_Bee_NLtongues.  These prolific
pollinators revel in many of the same flowers as the hummingbirds, and they particularly enjoy blue mist spirea.  But they also like some large, open flowers, such as zinnias, cosmos, daisies and coneflowers.  Color-wise, bees prefer blue, purple and yellow flowers, particularly with strong fragrances.

When planning a pollinator habitat, note that flower selection isn’t the only consideration.  Other factors to keep in mind include:

  • Hanging a hummingbird feeder.  Provide an additional source of nectar for your winged friends. Be sure to clean the feeder at least twice a week with hot, soapy water to prevent mold.
  • Planting for successional bloom.  Plant a variety of flowers that bloom in spring, summer and fall, so that pollinators will have a continuous food supply.
  • Eliminating pesticides.  If you can’t avoid using a pesticide, apply the least-toxic one available, and spray at night, when pollinators aren’t active.
  • Providing a salt lick for butterflies and bees.  Create a shallow puddle in your garden, and mix a small amount of salt (preferably sea salt) or wood ashes into the mud.  The salt will provide valuable minerals for pollinators.
  • Creating a shelter from inclement weather.  Plant some shrubs and taller perennials, such as Joe Pye weed, to create shade and protection for pollinators.

Once you create a comfortable environment for butterflies, hummingbirds and bees, your garden will come alive with magic and wonder.

The June Paradox: Get Busy Relaxing

By Jesse Eastman

Events_NL

If early spring is for planning, and May is for planting, what’s to be done in June? My opinion, as a very tired nurseryman, is that June should be spent enjoying the fruits of your springtime labor.

This doesn’t mean you just stop gardening in June. There are always more projects to be done in the yard. Pests are always a threat, and won’t wait until you’ve had a good rest. Weeds will take up all that May moisture, combine it with increasing temperatures, and shoot skyward in the blink of an eye, but then again, so will all the beautiful flowers you planted in April and May.

Just as June heralds the start of serious plant growth, it also signals the beginning of summer activities! This is the time of year when we can go out and appreciate all the beauty that is created by our collective horticultural efforts. For me, this means attending outdoor events where I can be surrounded by all the wonders nature has to offer.

Roses_NLHere at Fort Collins Nursery, our slate of June events is packed full. Starting with a June 11th class on roses, we want to make sure your June is as productive as it is relaxing. We are bringing in Roger Heins, a former VP at Jackson & Perkins Roses, to share his wisdom on selecting and caring for roses.

Concert2_NLFollow up a bit of learning with an awesome concert! Liz Barnez returns to the Rock Garden stage on June 16th for a benefit concert for Project Self-Sufficiency. Enjoy tunes for a good cause beneath the summer night sky, surrounded by plants along the banks of Dry Creek and the Poudre River.

PS-S_NLJust a few days later, Saturday June 18th, attend the 13th Annual Loveland Garden Tour & Art Show. Visit unique yards and gardens, take careful notes, and then make your way straight to Fort Collins Nursery where 15% of all sales on June 18th will be donated to Project Self-Sufficiency.

Come back on Sunday, June 19th, and purchase a tree for dad for Father’s Day. Any tree purchased on the 19th is eligible for free or discounted planting, so dad can enjoy his special day instead of digging holes. While you’re here finding the perfect tree, don’t miss our popular Fairy Gardening classes, but be sure to register early, as these classes fill up quickly!

FeaturedGarden_NLFinally, as June winds down, come see the amazing gardens on display for the Junior League of Fort Collins 34th Annual Garden Tour. This year’s homes are located in the neighborhood along east Elizabeth St. between College and Lemay, a classic neighborhood that is sure to delight with its mature and intricate landscapes!

I hope you’re as excited for what June holds as I am. I’ve planted my veggies, fertilized my lawn, repaired my irrigation, and I’m ready to revel in some summertime fun!

 

Container Gardening with Tomatoes: Tips to Success

Container_TomatoesBy:  Jaime Haines

Container gardening is a fantastic option for people who do not have space for a garden or want to garden on a small scale.  Tomatoes, being one of the most popular vegetables for Colorado gardens, are a great option for container gardeners.  Here are a few tips and tricks to ensure a successful container-grown tomato.

Plant

When choosing your tomato plant, determinate varieties with small to medium sized fruit such as cherry or paste tomatoes are ideal.  Determinate tomatoes will stay smaller and more compact, thus being more manageable in a container.  If you’re feeling creative, search for varieties like “Tumbling Tom” that will trail out of a hanging pot.  Once you locate your tomato variety, look for a sturdy plant, as indicated by a stocky stem without flowers or fruit.  If only lanky plants are available, do not despair!  Simply snap off a few of the lower leaves and bury the stem more deeply into the dirt to help it grow a larger root system.

Pot

Pots come in a variety of materials, all of which will host a tomato plant happily.  The key is to select a pot with adequate space.  If the tomato will be alone, look for a minimum of a 14” diameter and a 12” depth.  Be sure to have more than one drainage hole as tomatoes do not like sitting in too-wet soil. Also, don’t forget to buy a cage or stake to support your tomato plant!

Soil

The easiest method for getting a well-balanced soil is buying prepackaged potting soil.  Look for contents of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite or perlite to ensure a well-balanced mix.  If you’re an ambitious gardener or have several pots to fill, making your own soil can be more economical and calls for a mixture of similar ingredients to the prepackaged soils.

Location

Tomatoes love the sun!  While they prefer eight or more hours, they can grow in conditions as low as six hours of sunlight.  When first bringing your tomatoes outside, be sure that the nights are reaching a minimum of 50 degrees and it is at least a week after the last chance of frost.  To avoid shock, it is best to spend a week hardening off your tomatoes to prepare them for nature’s wind, direct sunlight, and changing temperatures.

Also check that your tomato receives the right amount of water.  Because containers dry out quickly, you will likely need to water thoroughly every day to keep the soil moist (not saturated).  On the other hand, tomatoes are sensitive to overwatering, so put them in a covered location if you know a downpour is coming.  When watering, do so in the early morning so the tomato has time to soak up the water.  Be sure to water the soil, not the leaves, to prevent blight and fungus.

Fertilizer

When buying a fertilizer, look for a 5-10-10 blend (5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, 10% potassium) that is slow-release.  The nitrogen helps develop healthy foliage; the phosphorus helps with roots, buds, and fruit; the potassium helps with seed production; and the slow-release feeds the tomato for an extended time.  While you can fertilize more frequently, there are three key times that you won’t want to miss.  First, fertilize your tomato plant two weeks after planting with one fourth of the package’s recommended amount.  For this first fertilization, a 10-10-10 blend is ideal, but the 5-10-10 blend you use for the other fertilizing times will work as well.  Then, fertilize when the tomato begins flowering.  Finally, fertilize when the tomato begins growing fruit (not after you start harvesting).  Follow the package directions to know how much to use.

Stop by Fort Collins Nursery to find all of the supplies you’ll need!

Happy planting!

Drip irrigation makes summer watering a snap

By Jesse Eastman

Drip_Irrigation_NLYou may know the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to gardening, preventing your plants from drying out is worth well more than a pound of veggies, flowers, and a beautiful landscape. Keeping plants watered throughout the summer can be expensive and challenging. Hand watering takes time and sprinklers can be wasteful. Drip irrigation is a great solution that delivers the right amount of water exactly where it needs to go. It can be run on a timer, allowing you to enjoy your summer without the stress of constantly worrying about your garden. Here’s a few tips to get you started:
• Know your plants
While some plants thrive in dry conditions, others can be quite thirsty. A drip system allows you to give each individual plant the right amount of water for its specific needs. If you’re unsure how much water your plants will need, ask your garden center professional for advice. Another important consideration is the soil. Sandy soil tends to drain water away more quickly than soil that is either heavy with clay or rich in organic material.
• Draw a plan
Sketch out each flower or garden bed, including the dimensions of the bed, how far it is from the nearest water source, and how many plants you need to water. This will allow you to purchase the correct supplies the first time. Rows of small plants, such as lettuce, radishes, and many annual flowers can be best served with soaker hose, while larger individual plants like tomatoes, squash, and many landscape perennials, shrubs, and trees are better served with individual emitters.
• Have a budget
Depending on the size of your garden and what you’re growing, you can spend as little as $20.00 on a 4’x8’ bed for something basic. Depending on how intricate you want your system to be, you can certainly spend more. Proper care and maintenance of your system, including winterizing it in the fall, can reduce upkeep costs in the long run. Whether you want to spend a lot or a little, the multitude of options available to use with drip irrigation makes it accessible for budgets of all sizes.

Benefits of Planting Early

By Jesse Eastman

SpringPlanting_NLWhile a savvy gardener can successfully plant virtually any time of the year, there are certain seasons that are particularly well-suited for planting, and paying attention to what and when you plant can greatly increase your success in the landscape. I’ve written before about the benefits of fall planting, especially for deciduous trees and shrubs (read more here). Another prime planting season is early spring. While some of the reasons for early spring planting are very similar to fall planting, getting plants into the ground in March and April has some unique benefits that can help your yard move from good to great!

  • Availability
    Generally speaking, early spring is the time of year when most nurseries and garden centers have received tons of new stock, but most customers aren’t shopping yet. If there’s a particular plant you’ve been having a hard time finding, now is the time to look. Even if you call and the plant you want isn’t ready yet (we start our perennial production in late February), you can often call to reserve rare plants. That way, they are available to you when everyone else is wishing they had gotten an earlier start. If you are looking for a plant that we don’t normally carry, the earlier you let us know, the more likely it is we can find it from our network of suppliers. Just like we run out of certain plants as the season progresses, our vendors’ supplies tend to dwindle as we move into the heart of spring.
  • Root Establishment
    The first step in most plants’ spring growth cycle is a push of new roots. This generally happens before any visible top growth or swelling of buds takes place. By planting before it is warm enough for top growth to occur, you can ensure that this root growth is taking place in the ground, where the plant will live, instead of in the pot, where those roots will get more bound up and dense the longer they grow.
  • Reduce Transplant Shock
    Planting early and letting your plants enjoy a jump-start on root growth also reducing the initial stress of transplant shock. Transplant shock is a general term for the stress that a plant experiences when it is moved, either from one location in your yard to another, or from a pot into the ground. The planting process can inadvertently damage the small hair-like roots on plants and exposes roots to potentially dry and damaging air. It also usually involves a transition into an unfamiliar soil, which takes time for the plant to adjust to. If the plant has time to overcome these stresses before it has produced foliage and other new growth, it can then focus more of its effort on healthy top growth instead of on surviving transplant shock.
  • Improve First-Year Performance
    Plants that have time to settle into their new home and overcome transplant shock are now ready to grow. Imagine you plant a perennial in late May that normally blooms in early June. It may still be suffering mild transplant shock by the time it is supposed to be blooming. This means you will likely see fewer, if any flowers in the first year it is in the ground. Compare that to the same perennial that is instead planted in mid-March. By the time it is ready to bloom in June, it has had three months to settle in, and its bloom will be much more satisfying!

Special Orders

February is the time of year when plant lovers get to dreaming, and if you’re dreaming of rare or hard-to-find plants or seeds, we can make your dreams come true! Whether you’ve been browsing seed catalogs and want to save some money on shipping, or you want a strange and unusual shrub or tree that you’ve never seen for sale, get in touch with us and we can poke around in the back alleys and remote corners of the plants world for you.

Seeds_NL Seeds

Get an early start on your garden by planting seeds this winter.  Seeds are less expensive than starter plants and come in hundreds of varieties not typically available as starts.  Perhaps more importantly, growing from seed gives us a sense of accomplishment and something to do over those long winter months!

Fort Collins Nursery has a huge selection of flower and vegetable seeds arriving throughout the month of January.  You’ll find all your favorite varieties from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Renee’s Garden, Botanical Interests, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. and Seed Savers Exchange in stock all winter long.

Looking for something different to plant this year?  Check out hundreds of interesting varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.  who specialize in rare, hard to find seeds from around the world.  Examples include Berkeley Tie-Dye Green Tomato, Scarlet Kale, Chinese Red Meat Radish, Blue Potatoes and Missouri Pipe Corn.

Looking to support a great cause by simply purchasing your seeds?  Check out the extensive catalog from Seed Savers Exchange, a non profit (501(c)(3) status) organization dedicated to saving and sharing seeds.  Seed Savers maintain a collection of more than 20,000 heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable, herb and plant varieties.

This month we are adding Johnny’s Selected Seeds to our inventory, giving you even more planting option for your home and garden.  Johnny’s is known for their high quality standards and were one of the original nine companies to sign the Safe Seed Pledge.  Among serious home gardeners and market farmers, Johnny’s is considered one of the most respected sources of seeds and growing information.  They have a vast catalog consisting of thousands of delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs and beautiful flowers.

We are happy to special order any Baker Creek, Seed Savers or Johnny’s Selected Seeds that we do not already have in stock.

Plants

Send an email to scott@fortcollinsnursery.com with your special plant requests, and he will check the market from our myriad of vendors and growers to find what you are looking for.