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  • Jane Shellenberger

Editor's Letter: April 2018

It’s always a little frustrating to be gardening virtually and vicariously instead of getting my hands in the dirt this time of year. But it’s also exciting to learn more about what’s going on in the realm of Colorado gardening and to be able pass that information on to you.

The Landscaping with Native Plants Conference in February has become so popular that it sells out every year despite moving to larger and larger venues. Jennifer Bousselot, who wrote about green roofs in our last issue, gave a talk called “Plant This, Not That” in which she suggested native alternatives to common landscape and garden plants. Great idea! She agreed to adapt it for Colorado Gardener so you’ll be seeing it in most if not all of our issues this year.

At the Tree Diversity Conference, held at the Botanic Gardens in March, four accomplished arborists discussed various aspects of urban tree canopies, including planting recommendations for the Front Range. I was pleased that David Temple of Trees of Trail Canyon nursery near Cortez discussed Bigtooth Maple as one of his “top 10” since I’d asked Mikl Brawner to write about this underutilized but highly recommended tree for this issue.

Lee Recca profiles Sharona Thompson’s permaculture-inspired Ruby Hill Tiny Farm in Denver’s Ruby Hill neighborhood, while William Dagendash tells you how Colorado Springs resident Peggy Greenwood builds her compost pile.

Chatfield Farms, Denver Botanic Gardens’ south Denver campus, still remains undiscovered by too many Colorado gardeners. The Prairie Gardens near the Visitor’s Center at Chatfield, designed by Lauren Springer Ogden, are a complete knockout, as you will see from the photos in this issue (and on our cover). Make a point of visiting these now mature and fabulous gardens at least once or twice this year. A lot goes on at Chatfield!

Every year various plant organizations choose a few plants for their Best of the Best list. Jodi Torpey tells you about this year’s winners, both vegetables and ornamentals, which are tried-and- true plants for difficult gardens.

No doubt you’ve seen David Winger’s beautiful photographs in many plant and xeriscape books. In this issue he explains “One photographer’s approach to timing and light” in “Flower Garden Photography.”

Longtime herbalist and nutritional expert Brigitte Mars teaches Herbal Medicine at Naropa University in Boulder and The School of Health Mastery in Iceland. She writes here about Fireweed, an herb that heals people, animals, and “a scorched and wounded planet.”

Maggie Gaddis discusses plant morphology, the study of the form of organisms, in our botany column this month. As she explains, “The shape of a plant tells a story of the evolutionary struggle to survive.“ (Gaddis is offering an online high altitude gardening class through EcoCity Partners that may interest you.)

On our back cover Eric R Eaton tells you about some new phone apps that can help make you a better gardener.

We may consider our vegetable gardens much more productive than lawns but that doesn’t justify wasting water. I’ve certainly made wasteful mistakes (like forgetting to turn off a manual drip system that ran for hours). These mistakes have led to a more specific awareness about watering the garden so I include an excerpt from my book, Organic Gardener’s Companion, Growing Vegetables in the West with some tips on conserving water in the veggie garden.

I’m really pleased to be able to reprint excerpts from a long piece by Douglas W Tallamy called, “Giving Ecological Purpose to Your Garden.” It originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Rock Garden Quarterly, magazine of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS). You’ll find Part 1 in this issue. Tallamy is professor and chair of the Dept. of Entomology and Ecology at the U. of Delaware, and the author of Bringing Nature Home.

Kelly Grummons answers questions about moving perennials and how to choose the best low water plants. Re how to choose, I’ve included an example of a plant description from the PlantSelect website to show how much helpful, valuable information they offer to inform our choices. I’d also like to point out that offers thorough, helpful info on the plants they sell with the added bonus of mentioning if plants are neonic-free.

We applaud any company or garden center that’s able and willing to offer pesticide-free plants. It’s not easy (or cheap) to do this in the green industry for various reasons, including shipping regulations, so those who do are sticking their necks out to address the continuing, serious issue of pesticide contamination in the United States. You certainly won’t find this kind of consideration at big box stores

Check our calendar and Marketplace Page for upcoming plant sales, events, services, and classes. We publish again at the beginning of May and June. Enjoy the spring warm-up, hopefully accompanied by some moisture.

Jane Shellenberger



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