FCN Blog

Big News: We’re Growing!

The new addition on the south side of our existing Greenhouse will include both covered Canopy space and a new Propagation House.

At Fort Collins Nursery we trace our origins back to a humble nursery called Kinghorn Nursery in the early 1930s. Since then, we’ve grown, passed from one owner to the next, changed locations, and eventually split into the two great horticultural institutions known today as Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery and Fort Collins Nursery. In that great tradition of constant growth and improvement, I am pleased to announce the next phase for Fort Collins Nursery. In early November, we began construction on a major expansion of our retail greenhouse, a project which will provide over 5,000 square feet of additional covered shopping, will expand our indoor greenhouse by over 2,500 square feet, and will create a brand new plant propagation house!

 

It takes a big drill to drill big holes for the concrete piers that will support the structure.

This project has been years in the making. As our community has continued to grow and thrive, we have found ourselves barely able to keep up with the demand for more plants. In 2016, we began exploring ways to meet the increasing demand by looking for land where we could move our plant production operations, but were unable to identify the right property to fit our needs. After a long and fruitless search, we changed our focus to upgrading our facilities to better manage the needs of our customers, and the concept of expanding our retail buildings was born. Ideas were formed, explored, picked apart, and tossed aside until we settled on the project that is now underway. With the help of DS Constructors, we were able to create a design, clear the permitting process (no easy task!), find the best builders around, and are now full steam ahead with the construction process.

 

Setting the columns.

We are very excited about what this expansion will mean for you, our customers, in the years to come. Among the many benefits, you can expect:

  • More covered retail space. Our expanded Canopy space means that many more of your favorite landscape plants will have protection from the most extreme weather. They will look nicer throughout the season, will be less stressed when they are ready to go home with you, and will be easier to access regardless of what craziness the weather throws our way.
  • Better events. Rain or shine, we’ll have more covered space for our already epic events including our Open Houses, specialty plant events, and our extremely popular Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off. We know how to throw a good party, and now we can keep from getting rained on while we do it!
  • More space in the Greenhouse. We will be able to offer an even wider variety of your favorite vegetables, herbs, houseplants, annuals, and tropical plants, and you’ll have more room to move around when you visit.
  • An even better selection of quality plants grown right here in Fort Collins. Our new Propagation House will allow us to ensure we’ve always got the plants you want, even if other growers aren’t growing them.

 

With the trusses in place, the building takes shape.

We couldn’t even begin to dream about a project like this if we didn’t believe in the long-term continued success of our business, and for that, we thank you. We are deeply honored to have such amazing support from our customers. From our humble beginnings over 85 years ago, we have seen generations of gardeners and plant lovers pass through our doors, and we plan on being here when your kids and grandkids are ready to pick up the shovel and plant their own landscapes. We can’t wait to see you this spring when our new space is open to the public. Until then, keep on growing!

 

Check back often for updated photos of the project!

Nursery Pot Recycling to End at Fort Collins Nursery

We are sad to announce that beginning January 1st, 2019, we will no longer be offering a recycling program for nursery pots. While this program has been extremely popular, we have faced skyrocketing costs as non-recyclable items and heavily contaminated plastics are frequently left in our recycle bin. If a load of recyclable material is too contaminated, it is diverted to the landfill, which is costly and contrary to our goal of reducing the flow of plastics into the landfill.

In addition to our challenges of keeping recycling loads clean, changes in the world of plastics recycling have also played a roll. Recently, China stopped accepting American recyclable products due to high levels of trash contamination mixed in with recyclables. This means it is much more difficult and costly for the recycling industry to meet the demand, as China was one of the largest global processors of recycled plastics.

Our current pot recycling program will remain through the end of 2018. While we do not currently have plans to replace the pot recycling program, we are exploring the possibility of hosting buy-back days for certain pot sizes and types. In the meantime, here are some steps you can take to help make sure plastics end up getting recycled and not tossed in the landfill:

  • You can recycle nursery pots through the curbside recycling offered by your local trash hauler! #5 sized pots (aka 5 gallon pots) and smaller may be included with curbside recycling.
  • Pots larger than the #5 / 5 gallon size may still be recycled at the Timberline Recycling Center, located at 1903 S. Timberline Rd. This center offers a wide range of recycling for all kinds of “hard-to-recycle” items and is open Tuesday – Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Currently the Larimer County Landfill only accepts plastic labeled #1, #2, #4, and #5. Plastics labeled #3, #6, or #7 are NOT currently recyclable. 
  • Keep contaminants out of the recycling bin: As it relates to nursery pots, this means they need to be emptied of soil and other debris.
  • Remember to place recyclables loose in the bin – recyclables bundled in plastic bags won’t be processed.
  • For more information on recycling in Fort Collins, click here.
  • For more information on recycling in Loveland, click here.
  • For more information on recycling in Greeley, click here.
  • For more information on recycling in Cheyenne, click here.
  • For more information on recycling in Laramie, click here.

New Record Set at 2018 Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off & Fall Jamboree

Joe Scherber with 1,568 lb. winner

Our 10th Annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off is now in the books!  Dozens of pumpkin growers and our largest festival crowd to date gathered here last Saturday to create a truly unforgettable event.  This year’s competition featured 23 entries in multiple categories from some of the top growers in the region.  The day’s top prize went to Joe Scherber from Wheat Ridge, CO, marking his second time as Fort Collins Nursery’s Weigh-Off champion.  Joe’s 1,568 lb. behemoth is a new Fort Collins Nursery contest record and is reportedly the second heaviest pumpkin in Colorado state history!  Joe also set a new state record for his long gourd entry that measured almost 10 ft. long! Here is a list of all of this year’s winners.

Heaviest Pumpkin

  • 1stPlace- Joe Scherber  (1568 lbs)
  • 2ndPlace- Marc Sawtelle (1148 lbs)
  • 3rdPlace- Andy Corbin (1070 lbs)
  • 4thPlace- Jim Grande (987 lbs)
  • 5thPlace- Mick Hodges (873 lbs)

Field Pumpkin

  • 1st Place- Dustin Grubb (85 lbs)

Heaviest Squash

  • 1st Place- Olivia Thayer 

 Howard Dill (Prettiest Pumpkin)

  • 1st Place- Dustin Grubb

 Longest Long Gourd

  • 1st Place- Joe Scherber (117″)

Kids Division

  • 1stPlace-Olivia Thayer

 

Press

 

Photo Gallery

In Praise of Pumpkins!

by Beverly Henke

What does the word pumpkin bring to your mind? I think of holidays, and pie, and of my own somewhat pitiful, but very sincere and prolific pumpkin patch. I think of all the pumpkins I’ve carved, both as a child, and with my own children and the memories that were created from those fun pumpkin moments. I saw a PBS special once on people who can best be described as obsessed with growing the biggest pumpkin in the history of the world. They cover their monstrous pumpkins with blankets and sleep with them at night, to make sure nothing bad happens, and I can’t leave out; “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!”

I discovered years ago, much to my delight, that cucurbits, (pumpkins, other squash and melons) actually love our alkaline soil here in Fort Collins. I don’t believe everything I read or am told, I have to test things out for myself. So naturally I had to plant some New England pie pumpkins, to see if it was true. It is! My first attempt yielded more than two dozen from a total of two plantings with 2 vines in each planting. I ended up with more than sixteen quarts of delicious pumpkin puree. That created a problem with how to use it. I had basically only thought of pumpkin as something to make pies or pumpkin bread from. I now know you can make; scones, pancakes, granola, cookies, and even curry with it. Oh, and my dog LOVES it! He had a near death experience and spoonfuls of pumpkin were how I got him to take his pills.

To grow pumpkins you need to have some compost amended soil, pumpkins don’t like cool ground, so I start them indoors in big peat pots. I also put a big square of black landscape fabric down where they will be planted for a couple weeks before I plant them. This helps warm up the soil. I don’t bother planting them in hills; that is only necessary where there is a lot of rain. They need regular watering and I step up the watering when the squash start to form. You can make “compost tea” by soaking a shovelful of compost in a 5 gallon bucket for a week. Use it to water and feed your pumpkins every now and then. In late summer you will get powdery mildew on the leaves of the vines (it makes them look silvery white), don’t worry about it. This is just a sign that summer is near an end. Start removing any new pumpkins that are trying to form, this will send the plants energy into making the ones that are already growing, bigger. When it starts to cool off water less and let the vines die. Do not remove the pumpkins until the vines are looking pretty bad and the shell is too hard to dent with a fingernail. Cut them off the vine with pruners, leave the stem on to prevent rotting. Take them in the house and let them “ripen” for a couple weeks.

Originally published October 1, 2012

Fall Planting

We generally think of spring – a time of new growth and life – as the time to plant everything including trees & shrubs. However, cooler temperatures make fall an excellent time to plant. The soil is warmer than in the spring, and many of us actually have more time to devote to planting trees and shrubs in the fall, when we aren’t so preoccupied with our annuals and vegetables. Fall is a great time to plant because it gives your new plants time to overcome transplant shock without the added demands of producing leaves and flowers, giving them a jump start over anything planted next spring. We have a great new selection of fresh trees and shrubs plus all your fall favorites like mums, asters, garlic and bulbs.

 

Trees & Shrubs

  • Plant while the soil is still warm (Soil temp. 6″ deep should be above 55 degrees Farenheit) to encourage strong root growth and development. Typically, our soil maintains warm temperatures into mid-October, even after the air is much colder.
  • Container-grown trees, (nearly all trees available at Fort Collins Nursery are container-grown), transplant much better than bare-root or recently dug balled-and-burlapped stock.
  • Keep newly planted trees & shrubs well-watered (but not over watered) until they drop their leaves, and then water them deeply once a month throughout the winter.
  • Young thin-barked trees should be wrapped in late October/early November with a breathable wrap to prevent frost cracks, animal damage, and sunscald. Wrap the trunks with either paper tree wrap or rigid plastic (both in stock now) that allows for air movement. Remove the wrap no later than early/mid March. Trees that have developed the coarse craggy bark typically associated with mature trees do not need to be wrapped in the winter.
  • Mulch trees with 3-4” wood chips to prevent early soil freezing. Avoid piling mulch directly against the trunk.

Bulbs

Every Autumn, our garden shop is taken over with a diverse selection of bulbs for spring color!  Tulips, daffodils, iris, narcissus, allium, crocus and more are available in a rainbow of colors.  These bulbs can be planted up until the soil freezes, but shop early for the best selection!   It is best to plant bulbs early in the fall so that the bulb root has time to get established, prior to the ground freezing, but not too early – wait until daytime temperatures are holding steadily at or below the mid-60s to prevent them from sprouting prematurely in the fall. Bulbs prefer sandy or clay loam soil.  In general, bulbs should be planted at a depth of three to four times the diameter of the bulb.  If planting in a sandy soil, plant two inches deeper.  Small crocus bulbs should be planted at a more shallow depth; large allium or daffodil bulbs should be planted at a deeper depth. (Information courtesy of CSU).   We also offer amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs that can be forced to bloom indoors in the winter months.  Call or stop by for availability, or chat with one of our knowledgeable staff for how-to tips.   We also have all great selection of bulb accessories: gravel, vases, bulb planter tools, books and bulb fertilizers.

There’s No “Right” Way to Garden

By Jesse Eastman

I’m often a bit surprised when people come to the nursery looking for a definitive answer to a question. They can get frustrated and sometimes outright angry when they get different answers to the same question depending on which employee they speak with. While this is an understandable response, it’s important to recognize there are many reasons for this. The science of horticulture is constantly progressing and many issues which we’d like to believe are settled are often still highly debatable. Other times, what may seem like a hard fact to some may depend a lot more on personal taste than on right vs. wrong. Most often, though, it’s simply a matter of there being more than one way to do things while still ending up with a desired result.

Scientific Gray Area

When it comes to the progress of science, there are several factors that hinder our ability to be in lockstep on a particular issue. One factor is simply incomplete information. When it comes to whether or not to remove the wire cage from a ball & burlapped tree’s root ball before planting, there are convincing studies done by exceptionally smart people that come down on both sides of the argument. On the one hand, there is a risk that the wires, left in the ground, may eventually interfere with root growth. On the other hand, the risk of wires damaging roots is very small, and the wire is often the only thing holding the root ball together. The process of completely removing the wire from a ball of soil that could weigh between 500-1000 lbs runs a high risk of damaging that root ball.

Another challenge is the self-correcting nature of scientific discovery. As our scientific understanding of a given topic grows, our practices must change. What you learned as a kid may no longer be valid in the face of new information. A great example of this can be found when you look at the history of soil amendment recommendations for new trees and shrubs. As recently as 10 years ago, we recommended that the soil used to backfill around a root ball when planting be comprised of 30-50% compost or other soil amendment. Since then, studies showed a much higher long-term success rate with only 15-20% amendment. The most current science supports eliminating soil amendment altogether in most cases, in spite of the short-term benefits of adding organic matter to the soil when planting. For a more in-depth explanation, read this article by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott of Washington State University and The Garden Professors.

Fact vs. Opinion

People generally like things to be black and white, right or wrong. In horticulture, however, the line between right and wrong is not always so clear, and many times not that important. Rose pruning is a perfect example. Here in Colorado, most roses will suffer some degree of winter die-back, leaving us with some branches in the spring that do not leaf out and must be pruned. While some gardeners prefer to preemptively prune their roses in the fall, others prefer to wait until spring. Experience shows that it does not make a significant difference in the overall longevity of the rose whether you prune in fall or spring, but the outcomes for each approach can have noticeable differences.

Fall pruning allows you to dispose of rose branches at the same time as all your other fall yard debris (and if you’re busy working in the spring like we are, you get as much done in fall as you can!) This can leave a much tidier looking landscape through the winter. However, because the plants may not have died back as far as they were pruned, they may be shorter next season than they would have if left to their own devices, albeit a little bushier and fuller.

If you choose to wait until spring, you can selectively prune only those branches that died back over winter. This requires a second round of debris disposal, but ensures you haven’t removed any wood that was sturdy enough to survive the winter. The plants may get a little taller, but may be leggier as well. As you can see, the trade-off is based on your personal taste – the rose will thrive either way.

Many Paths, One Goal

Finally, we often give conflicting information because there is more than one way to accomplish the same thing.

You can grow delicious vegetables in raised garden beds, in containers, or directly in the ground. In-ground gardens require less materials to build, but drainage can be challenging and you’ve got a bit more work to do to make the soil nice and rich for vegetables. Raised beds and containers drain well and bring the garden up to you, so you don’t have to bend over as far to work the soil. You choose what soil to fill them with, so you can get good soil much more quickly. However, you’ve also got to build and/or buy the materials to build the raised beds or containers, so the initial cost may be higher. In spite of the sometimes dramatically different procedures involved in these various methods, the end result is still a big red juicy tomato!

Plant selection is another arena where the end result may be the same, but the choices that got you there varied significantly. If you want to plant a pollinator garden, you can plant tons of annuals like dianthus, snapdragons, lantana, and more, or you can plant all perennials such as hyssop, bee balm, coneflower, and honeysuckle. If your goal is to feed pollinators, either option will be wonderful, but the process is very different. Your annual flowers can easily be swapped for something different next year if you’re not pleased with the results, because you’ll be replacing everything anyhow. Your perennial flowers may take a year or two to fill in and thrive, so there is more long-term commitment, but less work in subsequent years since those plants will survive the winter and pop up again next spring.

In this modern era of instant information, it is easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis. Too much information makes it hard to decide what to pay attention to and what to ignore, and that doesn’t even account for the flat out wrong information that seems so popular. Successful gardening depends a lot on recognizing and adjusting for regional differences, a fact which is all too often overlooked when researching gardening online. It also depends on being able to distinguish between two apparently opposing pieces of advice to determine what will be best for you and your particular project. A phrase I repeat often is “The best gardeners in the world have killed more plants than anyone else.” There is a lot of trial and error in learning to garden, and through that process we learn and grow. If you find yourself confused or lost in a sea of advice, don’t panic! Just remember, there’s probably a reason for every piece of advice. If you can find out the reason behind the information, you can decide what’s best for you, and find your own “right way.”

Plants for Pollinators

Plants for Pollinators

Pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds and bees are necessary for the survival of most plant species.  By introducing plants to our gardens that attract these pollinators, we create a mutually beneficial relationship that provides them with a great food source while allowing the plants to reproduce.  Below is a list of several recommended plant varieties to attract some of your favorite pollinators and read this great article by Deb Courtner for additional information on the topic.

Butterflies

  • Milkweed
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Rabbitbrush
  • Chokecherry
  • Zinnia
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Serviceberry
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Lilac
  • Hollyhock
  • Hardy Hibiscus
  • Salvia
  • Aster
  • Coneflower
  • Daisy
  • Sunflower

Hummingbirds

  • Hyssop
  • Columbine
  • Penstemon
  • Snapdragon
  • Bee balm
  • Foxglove
  • Daylily
  • Lily
  • Delphinium
  • Petunia
  • Weigela
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Pincushion Flower
  • Verbena
  • Catmint
  • Garden Phlox 
  • Blanket Flower

Bees

  • Blue Mist Spirea
  • Zinnia
  • Cosmos
  • Daisy
  • Coneflower
  • Goldenrod
  • Apple (including crabapple)
  • Russian Sage
  • Bee Balm
  • Yarrow
  • Thyme
  • Veronica
  • Marigold
  • Honeysuckle (vine and bush)

Originally published on July 5, 2017.  Updated on June 1, 2018.

Oh Hail!

We garden in Colorado! We know the heartbreak of the 5 or 10 minute storm that can undo 500 hours of hard work.

When hail strikes—what’s a gardener to do?

  • Wait a day or two. Let the sun shine and the anger subside. The damage will be easier to evaluate after some time has passed. This is a good time to work on a new margarita recipe!
  • Remove debris that could encourage the onset of disease.
  • Prune selectively. Remove broken stems and leaf parts. Even parts of leaves can be removed. Make angled cuts for a more natural look.
  • Feed your plants with a gentle nitrogen fertilizer. We recommend Age Old Grow or Age Old Kelp liquid fertilizer.
  • Watch for insect infestations. Bad bugs tend to pick on weakened plants.
  • Try Fertilome Triple Action, a blend of naturally occurring pesticides for your garden, or OMRI approved Safer Insect Killing Soap.
  • Re-evaluate plant choice and positioning. Fine-leafed plants generally tolerate hail better than those with large leaves. Many natives are well-adapted to hail. Position plants prone to hail damage under trees or on an east facing wall or fence.
  • Have a plentiful array of patio pots. Those that are spared can be moved into place while others recover.
  • This is why God invented ANNUALS. They can be purchased in full-bloom-and put in areas that need instant color and give INSTANT gratification!
  • Conclusion….Keep a hail-thy attitude, and say “What the hail-where are those margaritas?”

 

The Importance of Tree Diversity

By Jesse Eastman

It is a pretty basic human trait to see something a fellow human has, and if we like it, we want it too. Usually this sense of “keeping up with the Joneses” is just a funny social quirk, a sort of communal benchmarking. Sometimes, though, it can have devastating consequences. One of those potential consequences can be seen in the outcomes of our collective choices of which trees to plant.

Throughout modern history, certain trees have grown in popularity to the point where they are found absolutely everywhere. In certain notable cases, that fad comes to an abrupt and brutal end as specialized pests gain a foothold and, presented with a nearly endless supply of food and no natural predators, sweep through the region, leaving a path of dead and damaged trees in their wake.

The first such incident that comes to mind is the Dutch Elm Disease epidemic that struck North America full force in the mid-20th century. This disease is native to Asia (in spite of its name) and is spread by various species of Elm Bark beetles. When it arrived in North America in the early 1900s, it spread quickly, encountering nearly no natural resistance in the North American elm population. Soon, nearly all American Elms were gone, leaving only the significantly less-desirable Siberian Elm. While American Elms are slowly making a comeback, they are still few and far between.

Black Walnut failed to leaf out this year, will be removed

Similarly, Black Walnut trees have recently come under assault from a problem known as Thousand Cankers disease. Once widely planted as a resilient hardwood ornamental tree with various uses for timber and nuts, healthy black walnut trees are now a rare sight. Both of my parents’ houses were once home to beautiful black walnuts. Today, one is gone and the other will likely need to be removed this year.

This leads to the most pressing issue we see affecting Colorado. Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has finally made the jump across the Great Plains and has taken up residence in the Rocky Mountain State. Although it has only been positively identified in Boulder County, the spread of EAB to all urban areas of the state is considered by experts to be inevitable. An infestation is a guaranteed death sentence if untreated. Treatments must be done on an ongoing basis for the life of the tree, and get more and more expensive as the tree ages.

The biggest problem here is that ash trees are absolutely everywhere. It was recently estimated that roughly 1 out of every 10 urban trees was an ash. 10% is a pretty large market share, but losing 1 out of every 10 trees is not in itself a complete loss for our urban forest. The real problem lies in the size of ash trees. They are large trees, providing a tremendous amount of shade, animal habitat, water runoff capture, air cleaning, the list goes on. While ash only compose 10% of the trees in our urban forests, they account for around 30% of the total urban canopy. Now we are talking about major impact on our cities and towns.

These three examples demonstrate what can happen if we get too focused on a small selection of trees. The more food source for the pest, the faster it can reproduce and spread. If the pest is not native, it is likely to spread rapidly. If we are highly dependent on the particular tree in question, the results will be felt deeply. By choosing a diverse palate of trees, we minimize the risk of one particular pest being able to run roughshod over our neighborhoods.

Beyond the practical reasons for selecting a diverse range of trees, there is also aesthetics. Personally, the idea of an entire street lined with nothing but one type of tree, no matter how beautiful, is mildly disturbing. I find nothing appealing about the image of extreme uniformity represented in the song made famous by Pete Seeger: “…And they’re all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same.” When I’m walking my dogs or driving to work, I enjoy the variety of a myriad of different trees and plants. Sometimes the differences are subtle – varying shades of green, different branch angles, different bark colors – and sometimes the differences are stark, but they make the visual landscape a thing of beauty, keeping me engaged and interested, and they don’t all look just the same.  

Northern Catalpa is a great large shade tree with beautiful white spring blooms

The Colorado Tree Coalition is a great place to start doing research from home if you’re considering planting a tree. They list trees by all kinds of different characteristics, including soil condition tolerances, overall size, foliage and bloom color, growth rate, and more. Visit coloradotrees.org to see their complete list. Our expert staff is also here to help, and believe me, we love helping people find their way out of the tunnel vision that can lead to the monoculture approach to urban forestry that has historically resulted in devastating losses. Don’t settle for keeping up with the Joneses. See their ash and raise them a Turkish Filbert, or a Hackberry, or a Linden, or a Norway Maple, or a Honeylocust, or a Buckeye, or a Catalpa, or a Cottonwood, or a Kentucky Coffee Tree, or…. You see where I’m going here? Khalil Gibran wrote “Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” So get out there and start painting, just be sure to use a wide variety of colors.

For more information on Emerald Ash Borer, including tips for identifying the pest as well as prevention and management strategies, visit https://csfs.colostate.edu/forest-management/emerald-ash-borer/

Originally published June 5, 2018

 

2018 Rock Garden Concert Series

Tickets are now on sale for our 2018 Rock Garden Concert Series at Fort Collins Nursery!  We have an amazing lineup this year with lots of great bands and community partners.  We’ve even added an opening act to each of our shows this year!  Please check out our complete schedule below and follow the links for more information and tickets.

Thanks and we look forward to seeing you at the shows!

Rob Drabkin 
with Brian David Collins
June, 14th
Benefits Project Self-Sufficiency
 
Whippoorwill
with Mike Clark
June, 28th
Benefits The Matthews House
 
Sean Kelly of The Samples
with Shaley Scott
July, 12th
Benefits The Vegetable Connection
 
HONEYHONEY
with Special Guests
Aug, 4th
Benefits The Growing Project

 

Press

2018

2017

2016

 

Here are some of our favorite memories from past concerts to give you a taste of what’s to come.  

Photo Gallery

 

Sponsors & Community Partners: