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.

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