by 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.
by 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.
by Bridget Tisthammer
I 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.
By 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.
It’s time to get into the garden and get busy Colorado. PlantSomething Day is June 7th! So plant something colorful or cool, large or small. Plant Something Colorado has the tips, to-dos and deals to help you do it all!
Special coupons are redeemable at Fort Collins Nursery May 10 – June 7!
- May 10 – May 16 – Take 20% off any perennial in a 4” or larger pot, limit purchase to six
- May 17 – May 23 – Take $10 off any tree regularly priced at $89 or more
- May 24 – May 30 – Take 20% off any size herb and tomato plant; limit purchase to six.
- May 31 – June 6 – Take 20% off ornamental grass containers 6” or larger
- June 7 – Take 20% off ornamental grass containers 6” or larger
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.
By Jesse Eastman
One 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.
Jim Stallard Sharpening Service is back at Fort Collins Nursery! Bring your shovels, trowels, spades, hoes, lawn mower blades, knives and scissors. Here is Jim’s Schedule for the 2014 season:
Friday, April 4 • 10 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, May 7 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, May 14 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, May 21 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, May 28 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, June 4 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, June 11 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, June 18 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, June 25 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, July 2 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, July 9 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, July 16 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, July 23 • 9 am – 3 pm
Friday, July 25 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, July 30 • 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday, August 6 • 9am – 3pm
Wednesday, August 13 • 9am – 3pm
Wednesday, August 20 • 9am – 3pm
Wednesday, August 27 • 9am – 3pm
By 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.