FCN Blog

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!

Plant Availability 2014

With this amazing weather and the promise of long summer days ahead, it’s easy to get excited about adding beauty and bounty to your yard! We have put together some projected availability lists for some of our plants such as fruits, rock garden plants, vines and shade & ornamental trees. Take a look and get inspired about the possibilities! Please call us to verify availability.

FruitList2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RockGardenList2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RockGardenList20142

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shade&OrnamentalTreesList2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shade&OrnamentalTreesList20142

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VinesList2014

Rooted In History: Plants, Memories, and the Shared Experience

By Jesse Eastman

hotchkiss-wisteriaOne of the many pleasures of my job is hearing customers’ stories about their personal connections to plants. For some, a plant is hope – a young fruit tree that will feed their family in years to come, a get-well gift for an ailing loved one, a fresh face for a worn-out landscape. For others, plants can be memories – a tree planted by a parent or grandparent, a houseplant that was a gift from an old friend, a flower from a seed collected on a memorable vacation. In all of these cases, there is a common thread – the power of living things to fuel our connection to the world around us.
I experienced this connection when my grandmother passed away two years ago. She was a woman who I have always associated with plants. When I close my eyes and think of her, she is standing in her yard, surrounded by flowers, and smiling with such radiance that every bloom seems to be leaning in to be nearer to her. She was an incredible artist, incorporating pressed wildflowers into her delicate watercolor paintings, capturing the beauty of her western Colorado surroundings in ways only plants could allow.

After her passing, the slow and sometimes painful process of spreading her belongings, the physical trappings of her long life, amongst family commenced. I ended up with some various pieces of art, some trinkets, a dresser, but the things that truly captured my nostalgia were plants. I was told that nobody would be taking any of the plants from her sunroom. Christmas cactus, a variegated jade, geraniums, all staples of my childhood memories, would be lost. The massive wisteria growing on the front porch might be lost without a caretaker once the house sold. I felt nearly as great a sense of loss at hearing this as I did when I heard my grandmother had died. My memories of her were so closely intertwined with these plants that I could barely separate them.

I quickly set to work to preserve these memories. I was unable to transport the plants home with me, but I could still carry on their legacy by collecting seeds and cuttings and growing new plants at home. I carefully clipped and wrapped stems from various plants and rooted and planted them when I got home. I asked my uncle, who lives next door to my grandmother’s home, to collect seeds from the wisteria once they could be harvested, and he sent me a care package filled with crispy pods packed with seeds not long after.

The Christmas cactus, jade, and other cuttings I took rooted quickly and grew well. It took nearly two years, however, for the Christmas cactus to bloom. When the first flower appeared, my excitement was overwhelming. I firmly believe these plants bring my grandmother’s presence into my home, creating a place where plants know they are loved and can thrive, and this bloom was a sign that she was there, silently watching over my botanical menagerie.

Out of 38 wisteria seeds I planted, only four sprouted. I am not even sure if this wisteria is hardy enough to survive here on the Front Range – Hotchkiss, where my grandparents lived in western Colorado, has a much milder climate than here, and I cannot tell what variety of wisteria this may be. Nonetheless, I will find the most well-protected spot possible where I can cultivate and raise this plant. Even if it doesn’t survive, I know my grandmother will be looking down and smiling, proud of my effort.

I believe people connect to plants because they are living things. A photo is a frozen moment in time, a keepsake never changes, but plants experience life with us. If we plant a tree with hope for what its future may bring, we have to actively cultivate that hope, stay focused on it, and only then will it fulfill its potential. My wisteria serves as a reminder of the wonderful woman my grandmother was, but only so long as I nurture that memory to keep it strong and vibrant. These mutually shared experiences between people and plants make life rich, give us a future that excites us, and keep us firmly rooted in the stories and lives that make us who we are.

Weed: My Most Unwanted Plant

Crabgrassby Cortney Moore

The word weed makes me cringe. It makes my skin crawl. I am not talking about the weed that has been on the minds of most people in Colorado this year. The weed I am talking about is a plant growing where I don’t want it. It is a plant growing vigorously or in some cases in an invasive manner.

Last year I started a major project in my yard. Think Bobcat Skid-steer Tractor, 7 tons of flagstones and a whole lot of soil moving going on. So much soil was moved from one area to another that by the end of the season the weeds had gotten out of control. At this point, I thought I needed to do something about them. I yanked as many as I could. While I was playing tug of war with the nasty buggers, a million lovely little pepper speck seeds dropped to the ground. I waited too long. I felt defeated, but fall was too busy to do much about the new problem I had created.

Through the winter I stared out the kitchen window and contemplated bringing in truckloads of mulch or covering the ground with cardboard to suppress the seeds. I never actually got around to this and with March upon us, the amount of moisture in the ground and all those seeds out there are on my mind. Visions of weeds springing to life as temperatures warm haunt me. In order to get a jump on the weeds before they become the headlining plant in my yard this year, I concocted a plan to take care of these green devils. I am determined to make my yard an enjoyable place fit for entertaining this season. Read on to learn my plan of attack.

Depending on what the weather decides to do, I will apply a pre-emergent product sometime in March. Pre-emergents do not kill seeds; they destroy young weed seedlings so the product must be present prior to germination. Initially I thought about using corn gluten, but the research I read said corn gluten is most effective as a pre-emergent weed control in an established lawn and is less effective in open and disturbed soil like my yard, so it appears that for my application I will need a chemical type. Pre-emergents stop all seeds from germinating and I am planning to sow a cover crop so I will have to be aware of the amount of time the product is active in the soil before I put my cover crop seed down. I am still deciding which cover crop to use and need to do more research.

My next line of defense will be post-emergent. I will incorporate as many post-emergent methods as necessary to put the smack down on these monsters. I prefer mechanical methods, such as using my long handle weeder, hula hoe and spreading mulch or other weed barriers. I know I have some fairly aggressive weeds out there and some chemical warfare will be necessary, especially on the cotton wood suckers from the tree my neighbor cut down last year. Yes, they are weeds too. Remember: A plant growing where I don’t want it.

I love my long handle weeder. I love it so much that I have been known to give it to friends who come over and have never had one. Part of the joy of gardening is sharing. So I just give it to them and buy another. This type of weeder doesn’t always get the entire root, but it can pop baby dandelions out as they emerge.

The Hula hoe is another one of my favorite tools for mechanical control. I also consider it a bit of an upper body work out when I use it so I can skip the gym that day.

Mulch is a must have in my yard. It not only suppresses weeds, it improves soil, conserves water, and has many other benefits. (Join us for The Magic of Mulch class on Sunday, May 18th to learn more.) For large areas I load my truck at free pick up locations. This leaves me more money to buy plants. When I want something more decorative or a specialty mulch, I visit my local garden center.

While I prefer mechanical weed control, I do occasionally reach for the bottle. The products listed below are what work for me. Please read labels thoroughly and talk with your nursery professionals before using any of the products. That is the only motherly warning you will hear from me today.

Fertilome Weed Free Zone is my go to for getting an early start. It works in cooler temperatures so I like it as weeds start to green up in the spring and the mornings are still in the 40s and 50s.

Fertilome Brush and Stump Killer is potent but it is necessary for suckers when your neighbor takes an ancient cottonwood out and don’t kill the entire root system, or you try to dig honey locusts, choke cherries or aspens and they just keep coming back. I always try my trusty shovel on suckers first and use Brush and Stump Killer as a last resort. A word of caution: Brush and Stump Killer is not Sucker Stopper. It will kill the entire root system and plant. Do not use on suckers that are attached to a desirable plant.

Now don’t get the impression that I am a manic welding a sprayer full of poison. I am a realistic gardener who attempts all other methods before going for the heavy hitters but sometimes it takes what it takes.

I advocate for controls that are citric acid or acetic acid based too. They don’t kill the root and often have to be applied more than once. If you can burn the top growth enough the root won’t get fed and presto! No more weed.

As long as I stick to the plan, I imagine I will emerge the victor in my war on weeds. I figure it will take a full season of diligent weeding to really make a difference. The thing that keeps me going is inviting all my friends to see the progress and enjoy the relaxing setting of the living flagstone patio, mini orchard and various other garden rooms. I am always looking for more garden friends so connect with me and maybe you’ll get an invite!

For more gardening and more connecting with Cortney Moore check out mooregarden.com.

From the Archives: A Season for Dreaming (TREEtalk Winter 1999)

EvergreenSnowBy Kathy Reid

When you live on a corner lot, you get to shovel lots of snow. The other day, as I scooped my way around the corner and down the north walk, I realized that even in the dead of winter I am tending my garden. As I work, I am carefully directing the shovels full of snow to some of my favorite garden plants. You could call it “snow mulching”, I guess. Certain evergreen plants will survive the long winter better if they are buried in a protective snow mound. So, as I scrape along, I purposefully pile a little extra around my handsome hellebore that will sport its strange greenish-white flowers while neighboring red tulips bloom next spring. Another scoop is directed at the Sarcoxie Euonymus that climbs the fence. I shovel on past a gangly Viburnum and make a mental note that it needs a little pruning. Push more snow, scoop it up. There was a bare spot in the planting here. I stop and consider what new, exciting plant I will add next spring.

I reach the end of the walk. The shoveling is finally done. I take one lap around the pond, just a frozen sheet now except for the small hole where the waterfall tumbles in. I study the tracks left in the snow by visiting birds and squirrels. A Tanyosho Pine stands guard above the waterfall while a huge Ponderosa Pine towers overhead, both looking very dramatic with the white icing-like snow spread over their dark green needles. These beautiful evergreens add such life and interest to our winter landscapes. A large, snowy mound at the pond’s edge catches my attention. It is a seedling aster that tempted me with hundreds of pink flowers in the fall, but it grew much too large in its chosen spot. I make another note that it needs to be removed in spring and replaced with something more manageable, perhaps a new variety of Penstemon for my collection.

My hands and toes are numbing so I head into the warm, cozy house and put on some water for tea. Echinacea tea is my choice these days. What a plant! Also known as purple coneflower, it is one of my favorite summer perennials, blooming for weeks and weeks behind the pond. And in the dead of winter, it makes a tasty tea that helps fight off those nasty winter colds.

My cup of tea in hand, my final destination for the afternoon is a soft, comfy chair near a big window. Outside the birds are feasting on hawthorn berries from the small tree at the corner of the house and sunflower seeds from my strategically placed bird feeder. The small wooden table next to my chair is piled high with magazines and catalogs, each and every one plant-related: Horticulture, Fine Gardening, The Colorado Gardener, and seed catalogs too numerous to mention.

Yes, this is the life of a Colorado gardener in winter. I revel in the contrast of our seasons. Winter is a break from the weeding watering. It is a time to enjoy the special beauty of a frosty landscape but most of all; it is a time to dream. While the plants of my garden sleep, I immerse myself in the pages and pages of colorful gardens at my fingertips. I feast upon the new plant offerings for the coming spring. And I dream, and I scheme, and I plan for next spring’s endeavors in my own little piece of the world.

Winter Dreams of Springtime Bounty

By Jesse Eastman

GardenSketch3_WEBAccording to Greek mythology, Persephone, bride of Hades, returns to the underworld every year for a three month reign as Queen of the Underworld. When she goes, her mother, Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, despairs at her daughter’s absence, plunging us into a cold barren winter when no food can grow. Perhaps it is pompous of me to aim for something greater than god-like behavior, but I say that rather than despair, we should use these short dark days to plan for an ever more bountiful spring.

There is a wealth of knowledge that can be gleaned from a thoughtful and thorough reflection on the previous season’s garden. Better yet, take a careful read through your garden journal (if you keep one – if not, maybe 2014 is the year to start). Take a walk down memory lane and think about what you want to change in the New Year.

Often overlooked is the right balance of which vegetables to grow. I never seem to plant enough carrots, and I can never resist planting more tomatoes and peppers than I know what to do with. Even a small patch of potatoes can have massive yields, especially in well-cultivated soil that allows for good root penetration. Corn, on the other hand, needs ample space and many plants to ensure proper pollination.

Perhaps 2014 will open your eyes to cut flowers. Gladiolas, cosmos, dahlias, and sunflowers all make great arrangements that can easily brighten any room, and they serve multiple benefits in the garden. Not only do they bring a veritable painter’s palate of color to the garden, but they attract a wide variety of important pollinators whose busy work in the garden is essential for a good harvest. You could even mix in a few well-placed perennials with your vegetables and herbs – coneflower, iris, and salvia all make potent additions to any garden. Maybe daylilies with their subtly sweet edible blossoms could find a place between the tarragon and basil.

Planning next year’s garden doesn’t just need to be a process of fine-tuning. My father loves to tell me “the best gardeners in the world have killed more plants than anyone else.” The only way to improve as a gardener is to take risks. Choose something you have never considered growing before and give it a shot. Okra was my flying leap in 2013. It is a gorgeous plant – deeply split maple-like leaves and showy cream-colored flowers – and it loves our long hot sunny days. Turns out you have to pick the pods when they are very small, or else they get exceptionally tough and borderline inedible. I’ll try again this year, and I’ll be a little quicker to harvest.

These types of reflections will make us better gardeners, and by reliving our horticultural exploits, we are reminded of the pleasures we derive from our labors. So while Persephone is hanging out with Hades and Demeter’s distress gives us a moment of respite from the toils of the soil, let us pour a cup of hot cocoa, pull out a pen and paper, and indulge in a daydream.

 Like us on facebook and tell us what new plants you’ll be trying in 2014 for your chance to win a $25 Gift Card to Fort Collins Nursery!

Win tickets to Colorado Eagles hockey games!

Enter to win a Colorado Eagles Prize Pack by entering the drawing below. Prize pack includes:

  • One pair of tickets to the following Colorado Eagles home games:
    • December 11, 2013: 7:05 pm vs Las Vegas Wranglers
    • December 13, 2013: 7:05 pm vs Las Vegas Wranglers
    • December 14, 2013: 7:05 pm vs Las Vegas Wranglers
  • $30.00 Fort Collins Nursery Gift Card