FCN Blog

2017 Rock Garden Concert Series

As the kickoff to this year’s Rock Garden Concert Series at Fort Collins Nursery approaches, we’d like to share some of our favorite memories from past concerts and give you a taste of what’s to come.  Enjoy these photos and don’t forget to purchase tickets for all these upcoming shows!

 

 

  • Liz Barnez, June 15, (Benefit for Project Self-Sufficiency)
  • Patti Fiasco, June 29, (Benefit for Downtown Fort Collins Business Association)
  • The Holler!, August 17 (Benefit for The Matthews House)

 

Photo Gallery

Native Plants for Colorado Wildlife

Columbine_NL

By Matt Edrich

It probably comes as no surprise that Fort Collins folks place a high value on the often exquisitely beautiful nature surrounding our city. Vast, open plains to the east; soaring, river-cut canyon prairies north and south; and of course, the towering, jagged Rocky Mountains to our west.

Our town sits at the confluence of a number of ecosystems, and as such, life in Fort Collins provides ample opportunity to interact with a huge variety of wildlife in an enjoyable, responsible manner. In honor of cultivating a healthy relationship between our society and our world, I’ve prepared a synopsis of plants and trees available at Fort Collins Nursery that help support local wildlife – because who doesn’t dream of spotting Bambi in their yard just once?

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos Uva-ursi)

Also known as kinnikinnick (which really does roll right off the tongue), bearberry is groundcover shrub that can be found in dry shaded areas all over Colorado – it’s native! Many animals rely on bearberry: caterpillars, butterflies, and hummingbirds feed on its nectar; the berries themselves are a staple for animals including robins, thrushes, waxwings – and yes bears too; grazers such as deer, elk, moose and bighorn sheep feed on the leaves. On top of all that, bearberry is well adapted to handle drought conditions, making it a great landscaping plant to add some coverage to bare areas. Its deep evergreen leaves and contrasting red berries make it a great addition to any yard!

Colorado Blue Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea)

We all know this beautiful and beloved symbol of the Colorado wild. You’ll find it growing in light shade everywhere from the low plains up to tree-line in the alpine ranges! Did you know that its nectar is an important food source for a whole slew of animals, from crucial pollinators (bees, butterflies, and moths) to hummingbirds? Native to Colorado, its soft blue and white color patterns are sure to bring that little extra something to your garden – whether you’re in it for beauty or for bees!

Giant (Tall) Goldenrod (Solidago altissima)

Another native perennial, giant goldenrod is just one of many goldenrod species native to Colorado. Usually blamed for hay fever, the pollen of the goldenrod flower is not actually airborne – it relies mostly on butterflies to spread its pollen, so if you plant some in a sunny spot in your garden you can expect a few pleasant visitors! Goldenrod blooms later in the summer, so its addition will keep the colors in your yard beautiful well past the summer solstice.

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)

The quaking aspen, a tree so beautiful and prolific that we’ve named cities, resorts, mountains and more after it, is probably one of the most iconic trees native to Colorado. Named for the way its leaves “quake” in the wind, aspen is browsed by beavers, squirrels, rabbits, porcupine, pika, deer, moose, black bears, and elk, to name a few. Aspens are great shade providers and make for truly dramatic backdrops during the fall color changes. Considering that you can get a whole aspen grove from just one tree….well…need we say more?

Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)

The serviceberry is a large shrub native to the foothills of Colorado. It is extremely well-suited to handle hot and dry conditions, and tends to thrive in rocky places where many other plants would struggle. Its fruits are attractive to deer and elk, as well as both resident and migrant birds, and its distinctive yellow color in the fall makes it a neighborhood favorite, both with your neighbors and your neighborhood critters!

Mountain Snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus)

Mountain snowberry is a shrub commonly found in montane areas of Colorado. They do well with little moisture, and tolerate full sun to nearly full shade. Their loose open habit makes them great background plants. Snowberries attract small mammals and browsers, as well as songbirds – meaning that one of these outside your window could be a great way to wake up to three little birds outside your doorstep!

Woods Rose (Rosa woodsii)

Woods rose is a native wild rose that can grow up to 5’ tall and produces large thickets of thorny stems. Don’t let its prickly demeanor fool you, though, this woodland shrub is quite charming. Bearing pink single-petal blossoms in late spring and early summer that bees love, this plant is enjoyed by foraging animals in the autumn because of the orange-red rose hips that develop after the blooms fade.

If you’ve ever found yourself gazing into your yard, thinking something might be missing from all the beautiful colors, have you ever thought it might be the birdsongs or squirrel chatter, or perhaps animal tracks that are such an inseparable aspect of Colorado flora? This list is a great starting place, but remember that there are many options for you to explore if you wish to strengthen your connection with the environment.

May your roots reach deep and your petals stretch wide!

 

Win prizes from Gus!

Meet Gus The Gnome

Gnomes have a reputation for hoarding gold and jewels. Lucky for us, Gus is a little more generous than your average garden variety gnome. From May 20, 2017 through August 18, 2017 he will be giving away Fort Collins Nursery gift cards and other great prizes to people who are intrepid enough to find him! 

Who is Gus?

Gus is the coveted prize for the highest bidder at the annual CNGA Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association(CNGA) Industry Celebration, a fund raiser for the Colorado Horticulture Research & Education Foundation (CHREF). Funds raised from this annual auction play a role in developing new leaders and applied science for the nursery and greenhouse industry. CHREF has contributed more than $217,500 to research and more than $230,400 to scholarships since the mid 80’s.

Gus is said to bring good luck to whichever bidder wins him each year, and we feel very fortunate to have him hiding out at our beautiful nursery this year!

Get Started

It’s easy to win. All you need is a camera, a Facebook or Instagram account, and a sense of adventure!

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Follow Fort Collins Nursery on Facebook or Instagram
  2. Visit Fort Collins Nursery and find Gus. He will be hanging out somewhere in our retail area. He will move around often, as gnomes are known to get curious and wander off. 
  3. Once you’ve located Gus, take a selfie with him.
  4. Share your selfie on Instagram with the hashtag #GusTheGnome or post them directly to our Facebook page.
  5. Win weekly prizes! 
  6. Enter again for more chances to win. Drawings will be held each Friday based on that week’s entries.

What you can win:

  • We have gift cards, concert tickets, and merchandise! Each Friday we will randomly select from the previous week’s entries, so visit often, find Gus, and increase your chances of winning. See Official Rules for details.

 

Landscape: The Ride

By Jesse Eastman, Owner of Fort Collins Nursery

Last fall my wife and I had the pleasure of purchasing our first house together. It’s on a good sized lot, nearly ¼ acre, with lots of room for a vegetable garden, room in the back yard for the dogs to play, and a small and manageable front yard. Beyond that, there’s not a lot I can say about it. The front yard is almost all lawn, with a gigantic linden and a small silver maple. The back is mostly weeds, and the garden area was buried in four inches of dyed red mulch. Needless to say, the landscape was not the key selling point. 

If you’ve been in a similar situation, you may be familiar with the rollercoaster of emotions I’m currently on. Even before you’ve gotten to the front of the line, you see how big that rollercoaster is and you wonder if you’re actually brave enough to buckle up and take that ride. At first I feel overwhelmed, daunted, absorbing how dull and basic my property looks and what it will take to make it special. Just removing all that red mulch will be a monumental effort, and who knows what’s underneath it.

As winter sets in, the sheer joy of having committed to the ride takes hold. My imagination runs wild, and I grow increasingly excited about the possibilities. I’ll start with the front yard. Tear out the lawn. Get the linden professionally pruned. Cut down the silver maple and replace it with something smaller, but what? Fantasies about redbuds, hawthorns, and all other manner of small ornamental trees float through my mind’s eye. Replace a retaining wall with large staggered blocks of stone. Design my own xeriscape. I can picture the whole thing.

Along comes spring, and the cart crests the apex and I am hurtling down the tracks towards madness. The realization that I won’t have a vegetable garden is looming large. I try hard to convince myself that it is ok, that this is a process, this will be a building year and next year I’ll grow a garden. Alas, my urge to grow food is too strong, so the front yard will have to wait. Scrape out the red mulch in the garden area (I’ve removed nearly two cubic yards and there’s still more). Install a garden fence to keep the dogs out. Figure out irrigation. Control the weeds. It’s already May, and I don’t even know what I’m going to grow. Mental fatigue is starting to set in, but I’ve nearly got the fence built, and even if I only manage to grow one decent tomato, I should be content.

An unexpected loop in the track has me once again reevaluating my choices. If I leave my front yard for later, my house will be frustratingly bare. What’s a home without a little bit of color? I’ve still got my nice big clay pots, already filled with soil, waiting for some showy annuals to brighten my entryway. That’s an achievable goal, and isn’t that what success is, a series of short achievable goals that just keep adding up until you’ve accomplished something great?

Soon the cart will pass through its final twist and coast back into the station, my adrenaline will be spent, my heart rate will return to normal. Maybe this summer I’ll get back around to working on the front yard. But then again, I’ll need time to recover, maybe a vacation. Plus I know once I’ve started down the path of veggie gardening, I’ll get tunnel vision and won’t be able to focus on anything else until harvest.

Good thing I’m an adrenaline junky who loves feeling I’m just beyond my limits. Maybe this rollercoaster of a landscape isn’t so bad after all.

Healthy Soil is the Foundation of a Vibrant Landscape

By Jesse Eastman, Owner of Fort Collins Nursery

 While there are many steps to creating the perfect landscape or garden, none is more essential than caring for your soil. Many people add an all-in-one fertilizer every spring, applying once and moving on. This is certainly easy, but can actually build up nutrients to levels that are toxic to many plants.

Before adding anything, it’s a good idea to know what’s already in your soil. Basic at-home test kits available at your local garden center can tell you your soil pH, which is a start, but to really know what your soil needs (or doesn’t need), I recommend a Colorado State University soil testing lab kit. The kit is free and available at most garden centers, and for a small fee (usually $40-$50), CSU will run a complete diagnostic for the exact breakdown of your soil’s nutrients and deficiencies.

A complete report is issued, detailing pH, salts, lime, texture, organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other minerals. They also recommend specific steps to take to balance soil. This information can help you determine exactly what steps are needed to cultivate the right conditions for your landscape or garden. For additional help interpreting your soil report, visit your local nursery – they can help you determine which products to apply to achieve the soil you aim to develop.

Of course, what you add depends largely on what plants you want to grow. If you’re working on your vegetable garden, a rich loamy soil with a good balance of nutrients, neutral to acidic soil, and good drainage may be your goal. On the other hand, if you’re installing a xeriscape with hardy native plants, you’ll want to emulate the native soil, which throughout the Front Range tends to be alkaline, low in organic matter, and often with a high clay content. Remember, not all plants want lush rich soil!

One of the more common things we see in reports brought in by customers is an excess of nitrogen, especially in established landscapes. This is largely due to high-nitrogen lawn fertilizers being applied for years without consideration for what nutrients still remain from previous applications. Yards with poor drainage and heavy soil are the most likely to develop this issue. In instances like these, the landscape can actually benefit more from easing off the fertilizer than from adding more. Excessive nutrients can be toxic on their own, and can also inhibit a plant’s’ ability to uptake other critical nutrients, causing rapid decline.

Ultimately, healthy soil is the key to a strong landscape or garden. More often than not, our customers who struggle keeping plants alive have neglected the soil. They may be doing everything else right – water, pruning, light, mulch, etc, but without good soil, all those other things don’t matter much. You don’t build a house without ensuring a stable foundation. You can’t make a good meal with rotten ingredients. So why try to grow your plants in poor soil?

Maximum Yield: How to make the most of a $100 garden budget

I’m going to share a secret with you, one that is well known in the green industry, but not often talked about publicly: You don’t save money by growing your own veggies. Sure, there are exceptions – you can save your seed year after year, collect manure from a friendly farmer, diligently compost every scrap of food waste, collect rain in a barrel, and camp out in the garden to fend off wily pests and invaders. But let’s face the facts, those of us who will willingly give up the many other aspects of our busy lives are few and far between.

So if not for savings, then why? By and large, we do it because we enjoy the crisp snap of a carrot that was pulled from the soil only moments ago. We find something strangely meditative about pulling weeds. We appreciate the convenience of having fresh herbs growing right outside the kitchen. We are enlivened by the connection it gives us with the earth. We love gaining access to obscure varieties of heirloom lettuce that will never grace the produce department of your local grocer. We care about controlling the inputs that ultimately end up in our families’ meals.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all very noble pursuits, but that doesn’t mean we need to stop worrying about the nickels and dimes we spend on the food we grow. Here are my “insider’s tips” on how to stretch your money for maximum yield. We’ll work with a $50 budget.

What to grow from seed

Use seeds for crops which require you to plant lots of plants for a good continued harvest: radishes, lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, etc. Also use seeds for plants that should be directly sown into the garden. This group includes squash, melons, cucumbers, beans, peas, corn, and any root crop (a crop where the root is the harvest like carrots or onions – transplanting disturbs the roots, which has a magnified effect in root crops). Basically, the idea here is to leave no seeds wasted. Bear in mind that seeds that are started early indoors often require additional materials – grow lights, seedling heat mats, humidity domes, seed starting soil mix, the list goes on.

What to grow from a starter plant

Most home gardens do not allow space for 20 tomato plants, meaning that pile of tiny seeds inside the seed packet will produce far more plants than you need. On top of that, many plants are difficult to start from seed, and even when successful, home-started plants aren’t as sturdy as those grown in commercial greenhouses. For starters, I’ll pay a premium for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, as well as brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts).

What to buy at the farmer’s market

As I mentioned above, space is often a premium. Some crops take a massive amount of room to grow, and I’m not willing to sacrifice the real estate in my garden for the sake of one crop. In my case, that’s corn. I’ll happily pay a farmer for some good ears of corn, because to successfully grow it at home require a minimum of 16-20 square feet of space. I can harvest an awful lot of carrots and tomatoes from that same amount of garden bed. The same can be argued for aggressive plants like zucchini, pumpkins, and other squash. It all comes down to what a certain crop is worth to you, and what space you can commit to each plant.

My $100 garden

We need to make a few assumptions up front, as everyone’s garden is a little different. Let’s assume I’ve already got four 4’x4’ raised beds with soil from last year’s garden. Here’s my shopping list:

And here’s what my planned layout would be:

Schematic made with Seed Savers Exchange Garden Planner. Visit Seed Savers Exchange to try it out.

It’s fairly basic, no big surprises. We are going to assume I’ve done a soil test and determined I need to add some organic matter (Sheep, Peat, & Compost) and my soil is a little nutrient-poor (Happy Frog All Purpose fertilizer). I tried to combine plants that will work well together: potatoes can happily grow underground while beans and peas climb upwards on trellises. The bed with lettuce, kale, and spinach will appreciate cooler temperatures, so a shadier section of the garden is ideal for this bed. Tomatoes are very hungry plants, so I can fertilize the tomato bed a little heavier than I would any of the other crops without causing any nutrient stress. I always include flowers in my veggie garden. Not only is it easy on the eyes, but it attracts pollinators, who will also visit my veggies like tomatoes and peppers, increasing my yield.

As you can see, it’s possible to pack your space on a budget. The amount you spend will depend on your tastes and space. Plus, there are always additional auxiliary costs – pest control, irrigation, paying the neighbor to water while you’re on vacation – but the benefits are huge. Exercise, fresh air, a safe space for kids to learn about nature, and of course, some tasty produce!

Reasons to Invest in Your Landscape

Find out how we can turn your home landscape into a beautiful investment!

First Crocus Contest

Get your crocus in focus and you could win Fort Collins Nursery gift cards!

It’s already February, which means crocus, those colorful little harbingers of spring will soon be peeking up through the frozen soil. We want to see the first crocus of 2017, so if your crocus is first, share your photo on social media and earn a chance to win!

Here’s how to enter

  • Your photo must show your crocus emerged from the soil and showing some color. The flower does not need to be open, but the bud must be developed enough that its color is apparent. 
  • You must include some sort of time stamp in the photo. Ideally, a copy of that day’s newspaper (just like in the movies!), but you can also use a partner’s phone in the photo showing a news article from that day. If all else fails, write the date on a piece of paper and include it in the photo.
  • You must share the photo on social media
    • On Facebook: Share a photo of your crocus to our Facebook page and tag it #crocusfocus2017. Be sure to make your share public so we can see it – if it’s not public, it can’t win.
    • On Instagram: Tag us (@fortcollinsnursery) and use the hashtag #crocusfocus2017
  • The very first picture shared that meets the requirements above will win a $100.00 gift card to Fort Collins Nursery. 
  • All other valid entries received from February 7, 2017, through February 28th, 2017, will be entered in a drawing for one of four $25.00 gift cards to Fort Collins Nursery. 

All entrants shall retain ownership rights for their submissions. Fort Collins Nursery reserves the right to use any works submitted for promotional or advertising purposes free of charge. Fort Collins Nursery may not sell or redistribute submitted works for any purpose other than the promotion or advertising of Fort Collins Nursery.

Choosing a Houseplant: Tips for Success

Schefflera

By Jesse Eastman

Whether for an office, a classroom, or your home, houseplants provide an essential connection to the natural world in what can otherwise be a fairly sterile environment. A little bit of green not only softens a room, but can increase humidity, clean air, and can even improve memory, concentration, and sleep.

Of course, a dead houseplant won’t do much good, so the challenge becomes selecting the right plant so that you and your plant thrive. When selecting a plant, there are two general approaches. The first approach assumes you have a fixed set of conditions, and you need a plant that is suitable for those conditions. The second approach assumes you have fallen in love with a certain plant and need to adapt your environment to please the plant. Either way, factors such as light, temperature, humidity, plant and room size, and maintenance requirements are all necessary considerations. Read through the discussion of these factors below, take some notes on your home or office, and then come visit fully prepared to adopt a plant into a loving and healthy habitat!

Snake Plant


Light

The first question any good salesperson asks when helping select a houseplant is what the light is like in your home. There are many factors that affect the available light, including how near to a window the plant will sit, how many windows are in the room, what direction they face, if the eaves of the house have a deep overhang, if there are trees that block incoming light, etc. While some plants can tolerate a broad range of light conditions, others have highly specific needs. In many cases, plants can survive in less than optimal light conditions, but may look haggard and perform poorly as a result.

One important distinction is direct vs. indirect light. Direct light can burn many plants that otherwise tolerate high light situations. High light locations are spots where you can comfortably read by the natural light throughout the day. Intense light is great for plants like citrus and cactus, but can cause leaf scorch and rapid drying in many other houseplants. Moderate light locations would allow you to read by natural light depending on the time of day and how strong your eyes are. African Violets and Begonia do well in moderate light. Low light locations are generally so dim you’d always need an artificial light to read by. This is an ideal situation for Zee Zee Palm and ferns, but can cause light-loving plants to get leggy and may also result in overly wet soil, leading to a host of pest and disease problems. Fortunately, some of these problems can be offset an artificial light.

Temperature

Most houseplants hail from tropical and subtropical regions around the globe. For this reason, they tend to dislike drafty areas, especially in winter when exterior doors can allow blasts of frigid air into an otherwise well-heated home. Even plants too close to a window pane can suffer the consequence of cold winter air. On the other hand, the intensity of heat flowing from a heat vent or fireplace may be too much to bear for many plants accustomed to the stable temperatures of their native habitats. Likewise, summer heat beaming through a glass window can act like a death ray on many tender tropical – you’ve got to consider all four seasons and how they affect your indoor environment.

Humidity

Here in Colorado, we have the mixed blessing of exceptionally low humidity. It’s a wonderful place to be if you don’t like frizzy hair, but your houseplants would likely prefer to be somewhere a little damper. Add the drying effect of centrally heated/cooled houses, and you’ve got a tricky situation for some of the more tropical houseplant varieties. Plants that tolerate our dry air particularly well include Snake Plant, Chinese Evergreen, and Dracaena. If you’ve got your heart set on a moisture-loving option like a fern or an orchid, it’s time to break out the bag of tricks and elevate your humidity. If you’re not willing to install a whole house humidifier, humidity trays are a great way to create a pocket of humid air around individual plants. Grouping plants together can also serve to elevate ambient humidity, as plants release moisture into the air as a part of the photosynthesis process. Use caution though, as plants touching one another may transfer pests and disease, and if too many plants are clustered too tightly, airflow can become restricted, elevating the pest and disease risk. Periodically misting plants can help too, but the effect does not last for long.  

Succulents

Size & Growth Habit

You probably know someone who bought an adorable puppy only to watch it grow into a slobbering hairy behemoth that didn’t really fit into their one bedroom apartment. The same can happen with plants (minus the shedding and drooling). That’s why it’s important to learn about mature size when selecting a new houseplant. Even though a baby Schefflera Amate is cute right now, given ideal conditions it can reach 40’ tall (but can be kept a manageable size with pruning). A Snake Plant, though, will never get more than 3’-4’ tall, not matter how much you talk to it and encourage it.

Also important is growth habit. If you’re the type of person who tends to overwater, choose a thirsty plant like Schefflera or Anthurium. Love to prune? Again, Schefflera is a good option, as are many bonsai plants. On the other hand, if you tend to neglect plants (pro tip: we all forget to water our plants sometimes), opt for something that prefers to be left alone like a Cast Iron Plant or many varieties of succulent. Also consider whether your plant has an upright or trailing growth habit. Trailing plants like Lipstick Plant or Wandering Jew are great for hanging baskets and high shelves, while upright plants such as Parlor Palm make strong statements in large floor-sitting pots.

No matter your needs, a little bit of planning will go a long way in terms of the success of your future photosynthesizing friend. Once you’ve done your homework, come see us. We promise we’ll be impressed at how prepared you are!

We’re hiring for spring!

If you love plants, enjoy helping people, and want to work on a team of friendly, fun, and motivated peers, Fort Collins Nursery has a great opportunity for you! We are a full service retail garden center. We pride ourselves in our energetic and helpful staff and provide paid training to ensure our employees can help customers succeed in all aspects of plant selection and care.  

We are now accepting applications for our 2017 season. We offer a wide array of seasonal employment opportunities, including:

  • Retail Sales
  • Cashier
  • Plant Production
  • Delivery and Planting Crew

For a listing of current job openings, click here