• Jane Shellenberger

Editor's Letter: Education Issue 2016

We’re constantly being reminded of the environmental degradation of our planet, but the fast, free, accessible flow of digital information also fosters collaboration and grassroots innovation. Opportunities for positive change and restoration abound.

For example, we gardeners hear a lot about “working with nature” instead of against her, but what does this actually mean, especially if we live in cities and suburbs?


Entomology and wildlife ecology professor Douglas Tallamy, in Colorado recently to give a Habitat Heroes talk at Denver Botanic Gardens, brilliantly articulates an answer to this question and backs it up with science.


In case you missed the talk in Denver you can find “Doug Tallamy’s Plant Natives 2015 presentation” on YouTube. It’s stunning. Even our top plant people, known to bristle at “Nativist extremism”, found his talk “riveting” and “eye opening.”


The gist of Tallemy’s message is that ornamental horticulture’s exclusive focus on aesthetics without regard for the ecosystem is destroying local biodiversity. Lawns, trees, shrubs, and flowers from other parts of the world now dominate millions of acres where native flora and fauna once thrived. Since most of these “alien” plants offer little or no food for native insects, spiders, birds, etc., their populations have drastically declined.


Tallemy also explains what biodiversity friendly suburbs look like and how residential landscapes can be a powerful conservation tool. He says, “Nature has proven to be resilient, malleable, and very forgiving. She will give us another chance.”


On March 12, you can go to a Landscaping with Native Plants Conference (“first of its kind in Colorado”) at the Larimer County Fairgrounds in Loveland, not far from the High Plains Environmental Center where Jim Tolstrup and others do so much for western natives. Plus, if you join the CO Native Plant Society you can order “certified neonicotinodia-free” native plants online through April 15.


Pesticides also play a huge role in the decline of native insects and plants. “Neonic” has almost become a household word, but their use and impact, along with other pesticides, persist so we include ”Another Silent Spring?” by Thomas D. Landis in this issue. A retired forester who lives in Oregon, Landis holds MS and PhD degrees from Colorado State University. The piece is reprinted from a recent issue of the USDA’s Forest Service Notes. Mikl Brawner covers the demise of Front Range fruit trees, especially cherries, during 2014-15. His Boulder nursery, Harlequins Gardens, continues to be a cutting edge resource for natives and neonic-free plants.


The Mental Health Center of Denver is opening a new Dahlia Campus for Health & Well Being, which includes nearly an acre of urban farm and a large hort therapy garden. Jennifer Loyd tells you all about it.

It’s time to start vegetable seeds indoors so April Shelhon from Botanical Interests Seed Company offers tips for success. We’ve added a sidebar on sowing wildflower seeds outdoors by Jacki Hein.


Jodi Torpey reports on Russ Finch’s geothermal greenhouses in Alliance, Nebraska, a two and a half hour drive from Denver. Finch grows all sorts of plants in them, including productive orange and lemon trees. Plus, he sells greenhouse plans and kits to growers all over the world.


Entomologist Eric R. Eaton writes about insects that produce galls, abnormal plant growths that are easy to spot when branches are bare. Their complex life cycle is fascinating enough to have caught Alfred Kinsey’s research attention before he turned to human sexuality.


Be sure to check out Kelly Grummons’ Q & A and our calendar of gardening-related events, conferences, and classes from early February through mid April.


In this age of continuous, dynamic, exponential info flow and spread I often wonder about the relevance of capturing stories in print. A new report by the Columbia School of Journalism that flashed through Facebook about a month ago concluded: “A perspective-altering piece is worth more for 10,000 in print than as a brief distraction for 100,000 online.” It also found that readers love to curl-up with print magazines. As our first issue of 2016 comes together I still feel the thrill that comes from watching a publication materialize out of thin air. Hope you enjoy it.


Jane Shellenberger



Excerpts from Issue:


“Hearticulture” in East Denver by Jennifer Loyd p. 3 Many of the children visiting the Campus for treatment lack experience with giving and receiving care, in having a sense of control over their lives, and with developing coping skills. However, as most gardeners can attest, a garden is ripe with metaphors for those types of experiences. Gardening, whether you are cultivating a patch of land, or a single potted plant on a patio, teaches us visceral lessons in attachment (and nonattachment), nurturing, patience, surprise, change, and growth. Start Seeds Successfully by April Shelhon p. 6 Why start seeds indoors? Some varieties are best started indoors because you have control over the growing conditions. Starting seeds indoors extends your gardening season, allowing you to grow varieties that require longer growing times than your area’s natural growing season allows. In the case of perennial flowers, an early start can reap first year blooms. Galls - What’s that Growth? by Eric R. Eaton p. 7 Insects are scarce during the winter, but signs of them abound. Among the more conspicuous are galls, the abnormal plant growths induced by insects, mites, fungi or viruses. Surprisingly, galls rarely compromise the overall health of the affected plant even though they draw a disproportionate amount of nutrients. Another Silent Spring? by Thomas D. Landis p. 8-9 Neonicotinoids were initially considered much safer than other pesticides due to their low toxicity to vertebrates. As with DDT, however, the evidence that neonicotinoids have been harming non-target organisms has been slowly accumulating due to anecdotal observations that are hard to prove scientifically… Being systemic, small concentrations of neonicotinoids are found in both pollen and nectar of treated crops that could have negative effects on pollinators, especially honey bees. The main concern is not direct toxicity but rather sublethal impacts that affect bee behavior. Front Range Cherries Take a Hit by Mikl Brawner p. 10 According to some reports, Colorado Front Range weather in 2014-2015 has resulted in the deaths of 80% of our cherry, plum, and peach trees. How did this happen? Does it make sense to replant? If so, how can we reduce future losses and increase fruitful successes? Let’s start by focusing on cherries. Geothermal Energy Heats up Greenhouse Potential by Jodi Torpey p. 15 Western Nebraska isn’t considered a tropical paradise, and it isn’t known for its citrus groves either. But even when blizzards rage outside, Russ Finch is able to pluck oranges from his 20-year-old fruit trees for a glass of fresh juice. Temperatures outside may dip to 13 degrees, but his citrus trees, figs, pomegranates and hundreds of other plants enjoy temperatures of almost 40 degrees…The secret to his success is using geothermal energy to heat an impressive greenhouse.

This issue is brought to you by

Brady’s Garden Centers • Burrell’s Seed Co. • CO Native Plant Society Garden Tour • Denver Botanic Gardens • DogTuff • Echter’s Garden Center • Ecoscape Environmental Design • Elliott Gardens • Fairmount Heritage Rose Sale • Flower Bin • Fort Collins Nursery • Four Corners Horticulture Conference • Gardens on Spring Creek • Graff’s Turf • Big Yellow Bag • Groundcovers Nursery • Growing Gardens • Gwynne’s Greenhouse • Harding Nursery • Harlequin’s Gardens • High Country Gardens • Humalfa • Jared’s Nursery & Garden Center • Lafayette Florist • Long’s Iris Gardens • Loveland Garden Center • McGuckin Hardware • Metro Denver Farmers Market • Nick’s Garden Center • Northern Water Conservation Gardens • Old Santa Fe Pottery • Paulino Gardens • Steven Pfeifer Arborist • PlantSelect • Rick’s Garden Center • Southwest Gardens • Sturtz & Copeland • Tagawa Garden Center • Welby’s Hardy Boy • Windsor Gardener