FCN Blog

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
with Mike Clark
June, 28th
Benefits The Matthews House
Sean Kelly of The Samples
with Shaley Scott
July, 12th
Benefits The Vegetable Connection
with Special Guests
Aug, 4th
Benefits The Growing Project







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:

Gardening with Children

I recently polled the Nursery’s Facebook fans on what they wanted to see in this article, and the most popular topic was gardening for kids. Now, I find myself trying to be the “expert” on the subject, but I have no children of my own. So, instead of trying to pretend like I know what I’m talking about, I conducted a few interviews of my own and consolidated the responses below:

My first interviewee was Sarah Barber, the 12-year-old daughter of Connie, one of our office administrators here at Fort Collins Nursery. Sarah says she helps her parents in their garden with tasks such as watering and weeding. One task she particularly enjoys is taking the plants out of their pots and helping get them planted in the ground.

She says she gives a fair amount of input into what goes into the garden, too. “I will tell my parents ‘We should plant this one’ and they usually will say ‘OK’ unless it’s a plant that won’t do well in our yard.” I asked Sarah what criteria she uses for choosing plants, and for her, it’s all about looks. “I like flowers better than vegetables, because they are pretty when they bloom, and they are a lot easier to plant than trees.”

Sarah has some advice for parents based on one of her childhood memories. “I remember when I was little we had a beautiful flower bed but it was too close to a swing I really like. My parents took the swing down because I kept walking through the flowers to get to the swing. I was pretty upset at them”

Verdict? Don’t let gardening interfere with fun. Also, in Sarah’s opinion, kids will happily help if parents ask, but only if parents understand the difference between asking and telling.

Next I interviewed Scott Swartzendruber, Fort Collins Nursery’s Nursery Stock Buyer and father of two young ladies, Iris, age 3, and Ruby, age 8. Scott’s daughters take gardening pretty seriously, so it was no surprise to learn that he gets in trouble if he forgets to include them in any of his gardening projects. Ruby and Iris help with everything from weeding, watering, pruning,  planting and harvesting. They even get an area of the garden where they call all the shots.

Scott says that the most important part of the process of keeping his daughters involved is letting them have meaningful input. By letting them choose plants, put them in the ground, and care for them, “they get emotionally tied to everything. They even give names to each individual plant.” Ruby and Iris are currently working on “Name Gardens” where they choose plants that bear their own names (Iris likes iris, and Ruby is excited about the Miss Ruby Butterfly Bush).

Again, we see that getting input from kids is crucial to their enjoyment in the garden. Kids don’t like to be slaves, but they are happy to work hard when they feel invested in the project.

Finally, I interviewed several customers who were shopping with young children.

Veleria was shopping with her two young grandsons, Blake and Tanner. They help in all aspects of work on their grandmother’s ranch, including mowing and weed-eating. Blake says he looks forward to running the ranch when he’s old enough. Tanner told me the last gardening project he did was to plant flowers around some of his grandmother’s trees as a birthday gift.

Brad and his 4-year-old granddaughter Rhya told me about their vegetable garden. Rhya helped choose almost all the vegetables they are growing in their garden this year, but the one she was most excited about was the pumpkin, “A really big pumpkin!” Brad says, “I think it’s neat, showing [children] how things grow.” Kids who are excited to learn are great in the garden, because that thirst for knowledge keeps them interested in the lifecycle of the plants.

After meeting so many people with so many perspectives, I’ve drawn a few conclusions:

  • Children want input. Don’t worry, you’re probably still the plant expert, but it’s important to give them choices. You may think tomatoes are the most fun plants in the world (I certainly do), but unless your kids can be convinced, they won’t be too excited about helping in the veggie garden. If they like flowers, give them a flower garden and make them responsible for providing beautiful bouquets to brighten the home.
  • Along similar lines, ask kindly for their help rather than making gardening a non-negotiable chore. Your children’s time in the garden needs to be fun, and it can’t take the place of something they value more highly. You might even consider easing them into gardening by setting up a reward system (30 minutes of gardening earns 30 minutes of cartoons?)
  • Make gardening an exploratory learning experience. There are plenty of life lessons that can be learned among the plants, and those lessons can help keep kids motivated. Focus on the accessible aspects – the sights, smells, textures, tastes and sounds of the insects, flowers, fruits and vegetables they encounter. Try explaining plant cell biology, though, and watch their eyes glaze over.
  • Choose easy plants with big impact and excitement. Annuals are colorful and grow fast, and veggies are fun and tasty. However, I’ll be impressed if you have a youngster who finds ornamental grasses thrilling or who has the patience to wait for a slow-growing mugo pine.
  • Remember that you’re the model for your children. Show them how much you love what you’re doing, and they’ll catch the wave of enthusiasm. Share stories from your own experiences. Go to the library and find age-appropriate, beautiful books that imaginatively open up the natural world. Invite their friends to participate in your family gardening activities.

Although I have no children, I know how powerful childhood gardening memories can be, since many of those memories inform my life today. I remember hearing about how the bees ‘kiss’ each flower ‘good morning’; I have an enduring love and respect for our pollinating friends. I remember having a great time getting dirty while digging in the soil and playing with the earthworms; I’ve never forgotten that what goes on below the surface is as important as what we see above-ground. I remember splashing around in puddles and ‘fishing’ in them after rainstorms; I continue to revel in the earth’s joy after a good, soaking rain. I remember picking up plant debris after an intense windstorm; I know that life is unpredictable and that none of us is really in control, although we try to be. Working in the soil is a learning experience for gardeners of all ages.


Have a great season!

Originally Published June 2011

Mother’s Day Gifts

Looking for the perfect Mother’s Day gift for Mom?  Fort Collins Nursery has oodles of lovely items to show her how much you care. We have roses, hydrangeas and perennials that will produce beautiful flowers for years to come.  We have hanging annual baskets, patio pots and gorgeous annual flowers to decorate her garden or patio this season.  Our garden shop is also loaded with many fun decorative items including garden spinners, flags, and bird feeders.

If you have troubles choosing from all these wonderful items, Fort Collins Nursery Gift Cards can be purchased for any amount between $25 – $1,000. You’ll enjoy giving your Mom the opportunity to choose the perfect plants, gifts and décor for her home.  Our Gift Cards also make great gifts for birthdays, weddings, holidays, Father’s Day, house warmings, memorials, and thank yous.

Purchase Gift Card

Two local specialty growers and their amazing plants

By Pat Hayward

Spring is here and that means we’re receiving deliveries from two of the region’s most talented local, independent growers: Kelly Grummons (The Cactus Man), and Kirk Fieseler (the “Conifer Guy,” Laporte Avenue Nursery). We thought you’d enjoy getting to know these two nursery folks and the unique plants they’re producing for local gardeners.

Kelly Grummons has been on the greenhouse scene in Colorado for over 30 years – as a grower at Paulino Gardens, head honcho at Timberline Gardens (now closed) and as the “Answer Man” in Colorado Gardener newsmagazine. Over the years, however, he’s spent much of his “free time” collecting and developing many incredibly beautiful and unique cacti and succulent selections.

If you’re like me, I don’t first think about prickly pears (Opuntias) when dreaming about adding cacti to my gardens, but I think that once you get to know some of Kelly’s hybrids, you’re sure to change your mind and will want to have them all. Starting with native species (mostly yellow- and pink-flowering), his goal is to develop new varieties with larger, more vibrant, long-lasting blooms that cover nearly spineless pads and with reblooming benefits.

Some of the new varieties in his Walk in Beauty™ series you’ll want to try (these have never been offered here before) include:

  • Al Parker: A beavertail cactus with deep purple-black pads and rich violet flowers late May through June.
  • Apricot Glory: A vigorous plant with large, nearly spineless pads and producing hundreds of warm apricot flowers with golden centers May-June. One of the most reliable rebloomers!
  • Blushing Maiden: Rose-pink flowers on a compact variety.
  • Chocolate Princess: Fuchsia pink flowers in May and June atop deep maroon/burgundy, nearly spineless pads. This variety often reblooms several times over the summer.
  • Colorado Sunset: Spineless, smooth green pads are topped with multicolored (orange, purple and yellow) flowers in May and June.
  • Garnet Glow: With its petite, spineless pads and smaller stature (only 6” tall), this garnet-red flowering variety is perfect for the smaller garden or large pot.
  • Hawaiian Punch: Hot pink flowers with glowing orange centers.
  • Mandarin Sunrise: Hundreds of mandarin orange blossoms cover the smooth, green pads May through June.
  • Ruffled Papaya:  A rare color in winter hardy cacti, the papaya-red, ruffled flowers appear in May and June, and often reappear later in the season. Light green, spineless pads.

He’s also brought us showy selections of tree chollas, with colorful blooms and iridescent spines. Later in June he’ll be bringing in some choice, hard-to-find southwestern species of agaves as well as additional varieties of cold-hardy cacti. Be sure to check in throughout the spring and summer for new deliveries.


Moving from cacti to conifers, we’re pleased to once again offer the largest selection in Colorado of locally-grown, hardy and adapted specialty conifers from Kirk Fieseler of Fort Collins. He’s been involved in landscape care, growing, and teaching horticulture at Front Range Community College for over 40 years. Passionate about native conifers, Kirk’s first challenge as a grower was trying to figure out how to propagate and grow our native bristlecone pines in containers, and a size easily handled by homeowners (something he’s still working on!) Though he enjoys all conifer-related activities, those involved with seed propagation (collecting, sowing, treating) and grafting are his favorites.

Kirk has written articles in Colorado Gardener and national journals on specialty conifers, which he defines as, “Any individual plant that’s noticeably different from the standard seedling population, or a genetic mutation that sets it apart. These can include dwarfness, foliage color variations, weeping habits, narrow growth habits, etc.”

Kirk’s specialty conifers are easy to find here at Fort Collins Nursery, just south of the rock garden plants, and include dwarf and miniature conifers, as well as larger-growing selections with interesting forms. Some of his favorites include:

  • Dwarf pinyon pines: These grow only an inch or two a year and are just as hardy and durable as the larger pinyon pines. They require very little care and will stay small for decades to come! Farmy, Tiny Pout and Tiny Rations, and Penasco are some of his favorites that we have in stock. (These are also part of the Plant Select Petites program.)
  • Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra ‘Chalet’): Swiss stone pines are extremely cold-hardy and adapted to our climate but aren’t as well-known or used as often they should be. (Chalet has been growing in the CSU Arboretum for decades.) This selection was chosen for its dense growth and narrow, conical form – perfect for smaller gardens or landscapes. It’s also one of the softer-needled pines, having an almost “fluffy” appearance.
  • Single-needle pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla): Kirk grows several blue-leaved varieties, from dwarf forms (Blue Jazz) to larger-growing selections (City Park). Extremely drought-tolerant and cold-hardy, these stunning varieties will light up your garden year-round.
  • Dwarf Austrian and ponderosa pines: Two of the most dependable species for the area, these dwarf selections grow ½ to 1/3 the size of the standard species. Both are longer-needled and bulkier plants so are best used in mid-sized gardens and landscapes rather than smaller rock gardens.  

Kirk’s advice for planting and growing his specialty conifers:

  • Give them room to grow, and make sure they get adequate sunlight.
  • Dig an extra wide hole and backfill with broken up soil mixed with a just a few large handfuls of wet peat moss or compost.
  • Make sure they have good soil drainage.
  • If planting a small conifer in full, brutal sun place a small to medium rock or small boulder on the south side of the plant to provide shade for the crown of the plant.
  • Water every 7 to 14 days till established, usually after one or two growing seasons.

20 Tips to Prepare for Gardening Success

by Jesse Eastman

Last year’s canned tomatoes are nearly gone. The “fresh” produce at the grocery store is starting to look a little bit suspect. If you have to spend one more day dreaming about spring instead of actually doing something, you might just freak out. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Statistics show that in the month of March, 4 out of 5 gardeners are climbing up the walls, but only 1 out of 5 gardeners is actually prepared for the rapidly approaching gardening season (statistics may be completely made up).

When spring comes knocking, will you be ready to answer? Here are 20 tips to prepare you for success in your garden this spring:

  1. Choose your seeds – If there are certain seed varieties you just have to have, get them soon. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in our store, just let us know, we’re happy to place special orders and save you the shipping cost charged by seed catalogs.
  2. Start some seeds indoors – Make the most of the growing season by starting certain seeds indoors this winter. Use seed starting trays, seedling heat mats, and plant lights to get your seeds going. Once they have germinated, you can place them near a south-facing window for the most amount of winter sunlight. Keep in mind that even in a bright window, providing additional full-spectrum artificial light will ensure they don’t get too leggy and stretched out. Peppers and tomatoes are two garden staples that can benefit from this indoor head start.
  3. Select a garden site – If you don’t already have a garden area established, tour your property for garden locations that get lots of sun exposure. Most vegetables prefer at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Be sure to pay attention to nearby trees – they may be bare now but will leaf out and create shade later this year. Other important characteristics include good soil drainage and access to water.
  4. Determine the size of your garden and the placement of your plants – Draw a plan. Research how much space each plant will need to ensure adequate space. If you crowd plants too close, they will underperform. Also consider whether taller plants like corn or climbing vines will cast shade. While some plants may suffer in shade, some plants such as lettuce will thrive in a cooler shaded location.
  5. Build raised beds – Don’t have raised beds yet? Now is the time to find out what it’s all about! Raised beds can help improve drainage, can keep your garden tidier, and raise the surface of your garden so you don’t have to bend over as far.
  6. Check your supplies – Take an inventory of your gardening tools and supplies. Make sure your tools are clean, dry, sharpened and in good working order. Repair or replace any equipment that is in poor shape. Proper tool care not only ensures your tools work when you need them, but can save you money and can help prevent the spread of disease in your garden (clean cuts heal better than cuts made with dull blades). Were there tools or supplies you wished you had last year? Stock up now so your projects don’t get stalled because you’re unprepared.
  7. Read a book – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so spend some time researching gardening techniques, new varieties, and other topics related to your gardening goals. It’s always fun to get some new ideas to implement in your garden each year. Some great all-purpose primers include Secrets from my Grandma’s Garden by Don Eversoll, How to Buy the Right Plants, Tools, & Garden Supplies by Jim Fox, and The New Vegetable Grower’s Handbook by Frank Tozer.
  8. Research irrigation options – Research options a more efficient watering program. Replace leaky soaker hoses, convert to drip irrigation, and group plants by their water needs so you’re not wasting water on plants that want less. A well-maintained irrigation system can save you loads of time and can help reduce disease such as botrytis and powdery mildew.
  9. Plan for weed control – Weeds in a garden are a fact of life, but there are steps you can take now to minimize their impact on your garden and your time. Sterile straw mulch is a great weed suppressant and can be easily composted at the end of the year. It has the added benefit of keeping sunlight off the soil, which reduces water loss. Planting your plants close together (but not so close they get crowded) can also reduce sunlight on the soil and helps prevent weeds from getting established.
  10. Eliminate pest hidey holes – Don’t leave debris lying around near the garden such as large boards or stones where garden pests like to hide. Think about barriers you can install, including everything from adding new fencing to planting border plants, such as marigolds and nasturtiums, to keep pests at bay.
  11. Create and maintain a compost area – When done correctly, homemade compost can be quite a benefit in your garden. You can create rich compost from your grass clippings, vegetable waste, egg shells, coffee grounds, and chipped woody pruning while keeping load of materials out of the landfill. To keep the pile aerated, turn it with a garden fork each month. Compost is easy to make, adds important nutrients and microbes to the soil, and helps your soil hold moisture levels.
  12. Prune trees – Late winter or early spring – before buds begin to open — is the best time to prune most deciduous trees and shrubs. Cut out any dead, diseased or damaged branches. Also look for crossing branches where bark can rub together and create a wound. If you are doing significant pruning or removing a tree entirely, consider the shade it used to create and what impact this change will have on your nearby landscape and garden.
  13. Prepare garden beds – Remove any remaining winter mulch or leaves and work fresh amendment or compost into the soil. Get rid of other debris that may have found its way into your beds. If you have raised beds, inspect them for rot and repair as needed.
  14. Fix fences, gates, and trellises – Winter can be rough on wooden garden structures. Take a survey of your garden and landscape to determine whether any repairs or replacements are needed before the growing season hits.
  15. Remove any winter weeds – While many weeds are annuals and die in the winter, some, such as thistle, bindweed, and many grasses are perennial and may pop up with no warning. Take care of any interlopers that have sprung up since your fall clean-up.
  16. Clean your greenhouse – If you have a greenhouse that has been idle all winter, it’s time to get it back into shape. Sweep out debris on the floor and benches and disinfect the inside of the greenhouse, including the walls. Wash out and disinfect pots and seed trays. Ventilate your greenhouse when the weather permits and let everything dry out well.
  17. Get your soil tested – Pick up a free soil sample kit and take it to the CSU Soil Lab to find out if you need to add nutrients and/or adjust the pH level of your soil.
  18. Start (or continue) a journal – A garden journal can be a gardener’s best friend. Keep your plans, drawings, and purchase receipts all in one place. Make notes of what grows well and what struggles. Keep track of what to do when. The best way to learn from your past mistakes and capitalize on your past successes is to make sure you’ve got good records.
  19. Get in shape – There’s no way around it, gardening can be hard work. If you’re like me, you might benefit from a little bit of exercise before you start in on the demanding physicality of garden prep. Start going for longs vigorous walks, or better, yet, a jog or a bike ride. Start doing some stretches so it doesn’t hurt so much when you bend over to plant your garden. Do some core exercises like planks, bicycle crunches, and leg lifts to protect your back from injury.
  20. Enjoy the outdoors – As the days get longer and warmer, take some time to appreciate just being outside with nature. Growing a garden is satisfying work, and each season brings with it exciting new opportunities, challenges, and rewards!

Fort Collins Nursery employees receive awards!

The Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association (CNGA) is pleased to announce the 2017 Horizon Award were presented to Shannon Eversley, CCNP & Alex Tisthammer, of Fort Collins Nursery, in February. The Horizon Award is given to individuals who, have been in the industry less than five years, exhibit the qualities and high standards exemplifying CNGA, and during that time have made a significant contribution to a CNGA firm. The CNGA Board of Directors voted to recognize Eversley & Tisthammer for their contributions and success as two members of a three-person outdoor management team. Their creativity and energy are part of what keeps local businesses moving forward. These two are continuously looking to learn and for more responsibility which is imperative to the growth of an organization. They helped to restructure outdoor management team to increase department functionality and they have an outstanding knowledge of plant material. They both have a great attitude and energy and are able and willing to work in many different departments.

Eversley & Tisthammer were presented with the award at the CNGA Industry Celebration
held during the ProGreen Expo trade show in Denver, Colorado.

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 this 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 this year 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 last year. 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.

Originally published in January 2014


Native Plants for the Win

By Jesse Eastman

North Fork Valley

Over the holidays my wife and I visited western Colorado to see friends and family, and while there, I was struck by the awe-inspiring and rugged beauty of the native western landscape. Craggy snow-capped peaks loomed in the background, standing watch over the flat-topped mesas speckled with juniper and sage. Rivers in western Colorado are deceptively large, carrying the vast majority of the water that flows through our state, but providing scant drinking water for the native plants that cling to life in the dry hard soil. All in all, it’s a very sparse aesthetic presentation, and it’s one I love dearly.


Getting to see what thrives in those harsh conditions got me thinking about how our own Front Range looked before we diverted water to feed our lawns, added compost and fertilizer to feed our soil, created urban heat sinks by paving vast areas of land, and altered the ecosystem by importing (sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally) a myriad of non-native plants, insects, and animals. Many of these imports are wonderful – a perfectly shaped linden tree, a gaudy peony, the buzz of a honey bee – but they have a tendency to mask the beauty that thrives here naturally.

Many native plants are overlooked in landscape planning. For some people, our natives are too dull a color, not lush enough, not green enough, and evoke a barren and desolate wasteland. To me, that’s like claiming Ansel Adams photographs are dull and boring simply because they are in black and white. Native plants often don’t look all that great when they’re nothing more than young starts in pots at a nursery, looking a little awkward and scraggly until they’ve had several years to establish in a landscape, and in today’s world of instant-everything, that can seem like an eternity. If you have the patience, however, the payoff can be truly stunning.

Desert Holly (Mahonia fremontii)

Two plants that stood out to me in particular were Desert Holly (Mahonia fremontii) and Green Joint-fir (Ephedra viridis). I encountered both when I was driving on a high ridge above the Gunnison River near Delta. This area has coarse yellowish soil, receives almost no moisture, and is a rocky unforgiving place for any plant to live. On the steep slopes that fall off to the sides of the ridge both of these plants could be found growing to sizes I have never seen anywhere.


Desert Holly (Mahonia fremontii)

Desert Holly is an evergreen holly in the same genus as Oregon Grape Holly, and if you look closely, you can see the resemblance. Stiff sharp leaves, a dense compact habit, evergreen leaves that change color in the winter but cling resolutely to the branches. Unique to the Desert Holly is the foliage color and the overall shape of the shrub. A silvery-blue color in the spring and summer, leaves have turned to a purple-bronze color with the dry cold of winter. While they normally bear fruit, all the specimens I found on this trip had been grazed bare by hungry critters (most likely birds). These are one of the few varieties of broadleaf evergreen (meaning non-needle foliage) that will tolerate our bright Colorado sun and not burn to a crisp, and they are happiest in dry nutrient-poor soil. Standing alone amidst the sparse grass and small perennial plants, each bush was a dense and well-formed mass standing nearly five feet tall and eight feet wide.

Green Joint-fir (Ephedra viridis)

Green Joint-fir is a very close relative of the Bluestem Joint-fir we sell at the nursery. Both are members of the Ephedra genus, a group of plants that can be brewed into a very mild stimulant, thus its alternative name: Mormon Tea. It looks a lot like many of the plants known as Brooms, with no visible leaves to speak of, instead showing off with brightly colored stems. Ephedra viridis has green stems (viridis being Latin for green) that stand out sharply against the subtle earth tones of the wintry western Colorado plateau. Tall, narrow, and straight-stemmed, this plant juts up towards the sky, not seeming too concerned about the challenging conditions it inhabits. The Green Joint-fir is the largest native ephedra, growing slightly taller and narrower than smaller Bluestem Joint-fir, whose habit is shorter and more sprawling. A source of year-round color, either can provide a vivid and structural component to any sunny and dry landscape.

As we are entering 2018, the experience of seeing these magnificent plants thriving in such brutal conditions gives me pause to consider the beauty and utility of all our native options. This year, I’m resolved to do better with native plants. As if their unique charms weren’t enough, they are incredibly water efficient, often need minimal (if any) fertilizer, and are generally less prone to forage by animals and pest insects than their non-native counterparts.

Green Joint-fir (Ephedra viridis)

When it comes to trying to force a landscape to fit into an unfamiliar climate, I’m as guilty as anyone of ignoring the hints our regional environment gives us. I love Japanese Maples, even though they are so poorly suited for life in Colorado. I want a patch of green grass to play on with my dogs, even though a patch of slender Blue Grama and coarse Switchgrass would be more appropriate on the Front Range. I understand how much effort it takes to choose to plant a New Mexico Privet instead of a dogwood. But with a little careful planning and some patience, you can create an absolutely stunning landscape with native plants, and you’ll be glad you did. It will need less care and attention so you can devote more time to other pursuits. The Desert Holly can grow to such a magnificent specimen under the relentless western Colorado sun and the Green Joint-fir is happy growing in soil that seems incapable of supporting life, and they’ll gladly do the same in your landscape while you’re busy perfecting your tomato beds!