Nursery News

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!

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.

Changes to Ladies’ Night (Benefit for Project Self-Sufficiency)

After many years of building our Ladies’ Night fundraiser for Project Self-Sufficiency, we have decided to switch gears in 2016.  While the old model proved to be a very fun community event, it did not consistently reach our internal goals and expectations as a fundraising model.  This year, we will in essence be splitting the event into two separate events in order to maximize our donation potential.  On Thursday, June 16th we will kick off our Rock Garden Concert Series with a benefit concert for Project Self-Sufficiency featuring local music legend Liz Barnez.  This is a ticketed event with 50% of ticket sales going to Project Self-Sufficiency in addition to 100% of the event’s beer and wine sales.  Several elements from last year’s Ladies’ Night event will be incorporated into this festival atmosphere and we plan on having more fun than ever!

Fort Collins Nursery will be closed for shopping during the concert hours from 6:00-8:30pm.  We realize many of you coordinate your seasonal shopping with the Ladies’ Night event in order to support this wonderful non-profit.  This year we have marked Saturday, June 18th as Project Self-Sufficiency Saturday, and a percentage of our sales for the day will be donated to Project Self-Sufficiency in lieu of Ladies Night sales.

We apologize to our loyal Ladies’ Night participants and hope you will join us for the exciting next chapter in support of our friends at Project Self-Sufficiency.




Dan Booth

Marketing Director

Fort Collins Nursery

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.


Send an email to 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.


The Hawthorn: Rich with Color

By Julie Carlson

Edited by Jesse Eastman

Originally published in Vol. 1, Issue 4 of Fort Collins Nursery’s TreeTalk Newsletter

5fedac36-6c05-4ad1-ab4b-2b6062764e1cThis past fall, many of you came to the nursery seeking plants that add fall color to your yards. You’d seen it all around town – from the flaming rose-red of Burning Bush or the orange heat of Tiger Eyes Sumac to the brilliant yellows of Ginkgo or Honeylocust. These shrubs and trees offer up dramatic leaf color, but another plant can add even more richness to the landscape than mere changing leaves.

The Hawthorn is traditionally known as a shrub – many an English 0a2ae966-d0e1-4c88-b227-34462fcae45f-photocredithedgerow is comprised of Hawthorns. The English Hawthorns are also easily cultivated as ornamental trees and work well at adding interest to a yard as single specimens. Crimson Cloud Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata ‘Crimson Cloud’) is one such Hawthorn that has miniature maple-shaped leaves of glossy dark green and flowers of striking white-eyed magenta pink clusters. A close relation to Crimson Cloud is Toba Hawthorn (C. mordenensis). It is pearled with double white fragrant flowers maturing to a medium pink. Also remarkable about the Toba is its unusual tree trunk that develops seams over time and eventually looks like four or five trunks fused together.

f96f0f06-9555-4a7f-b35b-d07f4cf3e8dcThese two varieties of English Hawthorn are most showy in the spring because of their flowers, but other Hawthorns have an even more splendid color display in late summer and autumn. The Hawthorn is aptly named forbaaa8ec1-cf29-4235-8b63-7add43a8e96d its haws, or red berries that develop in late summer, and on many Hawthorns hang on the bush or tree into winter. These small red fruits are a profusion of color. On Russian Hawthorn (C. ambigua) they dangle like a wealth of rubies offsetting its sparsely-leaved twisting branches. Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn (C. crusgalli inermis) accentuates its widespread branches of shining rounded leaves with half-inch coral gems.

The Hawthorn genus does not disappoint those who are set on intense leaf change either. Some, like Thornless Cockspur and Russian offer up yellows and gold fading to russet, while Washington Hawthorn (C. phaenopyrum) turns a scarlet orange bordering on red.

154779fb-127f-449f-9174-e675aea4ff85Of course the leaves eventually drop, leaving behind bare thorny branches. The thorns add texture and silhouette, and berries on some hawthorns persist – continued color as we welcomed winter and begin to think of snow-covered landscapes and bedecked trees. The Hawthorn is naturally ornamental throughout our harsh winters.

Hawthorns are a truly visual treasure of flowers, interesting leaves, fruit, and structure. They are also very hardy, many of them tolerating and even thriving in Colorado’s poor soil, cold winter temperatures, and dry climate. Most varieties are disease resistant as well and supply a low-maintenance shrub or tree for someone looking for a plant that is unique. For those who are planning for years of color, look no further than the impressive Hawthorn.

What is a plant really worth?

By Jesse Eastman

We have a small note hanging on the wall in our office. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s been here longer than I have. It’s one of those things that’s funny but also incredibly true, the kind of thing that makes you smile to yourself as you knowingly shake your head. It reads: 

Pay-The-Price_ImageIf folks only knew how many –

Hours of thinking

Days of digging

Weeks of sunshine

Months of coaxing

Years of experience

Oodles of headaches

Bushels of rich soil

Gallons of water

Hundreds of backaches

Thousands of heartaches

– It takes to produce a pretty plant – they would gladly pay the price.

DSCN3581All humor aside, it pretty much sums up the process of growing plants. We take a lot of pride in the process, and it allows us to grow the best plants available. But it ain’t easy.

Thinking: Each plant we grow and sell starts with thinking. What plants do our customers want? Will they survive in this climate? How many should we grow? Once we’ve thought ourselves into convulsions, we move on to step two.

Digging: We don’t actually do much true digging anymore – most of our plants are grown in containers, so our equivalent is the potting process. Still, it’s pretty rigorous. In 2015 we put a staggering number of plants on our benches that were grown right here onsite. This includes over 50,000 1-gallon perennials, over 5,000 trees and shrubs, and almost 6,000 vegetables and strawberries.

Sunshine: Colorado is a very sunny state, yet somehow rarely sunny when we really need it. For example, if we get a long stretch of cloudy cool days in May like we did in 2015, tomatoes quickly develop edema, where they get water-filled blisters along the stem. We like the sun. We need the sun.

Coaxing: It takes a lot of coaxing to grow plants. You hope for conditions to be perfect. You talk to them, encouraging them to be vigorous. You tinker with fertilizer, hoping to give them that extra little boost.

DSCN2886Experience: Thankfully, we have some very experienced people behind the wheel, and that experience is key to producing a plant that not only looks good, but is healthy and strong. We learn from past mistakes and amplify past success.

Headaches: Our experts gets the lion’s share of the headaches. The saying “ignorance is bliss” exists for a reason. The more we know about potential problems, the more sleep we lose worrying about them.

Soil: Good soil is a key component to our process. The potting soil we grow our plants in is mixed locally by Organix Supply, and it is formulated specifically to create the best possible growing conditions for our plants in conjunction with the fertilizers we use and the specific mineral contents of our well water. In one year, we use 240 cubic yards of soil. That’s 5207 bushels, in case you’re counting.

Water: To go along with all that soil is a lot of water. Plant in pots get thirsty – a lot thirstier than they’d be if they were growing in the ground. One of my worst dreams is for our water systems to fail and us not to notice. On a hot day in August, that could be the quick death of thousands and thousands of innocent plants!

Backaches: Caring for all of the plants is a physical job. We have to move them from here to there. We have to haul hoses all over the place. Our nursery is an 11-acre property, and we go darn near everywhere on foot.

Heartaches: The backaches are abundant, and when things don’t go right, they are accompanied by equally painful heartaches. When the floods of September 2013 struck, thousands of plants washed away. All of that time, that thought, that backache just swirled away in
a torrential mess.

And yet we continue. It doesn’t make us rich. It’s never easy. But it is a joyful work, and an important one. And if we keep our focus on the pleasure plants bring, it will always be worth it.