What’s Blooming This Week


Prunus virginiana_Chokecherry_LAH_003If I could create one perfect plant for the Pikes Peak region, what would it be like?

Of course, I’d want it to be attractive. It should adorn itself with cheerful spring flowers, good-looking foliage, and intense fall color. I’d add persistent fruit or berries to feed the birds and provide winter interest.

My perfect plant should be easy to grow; I’d want it to thrive in our native soils with little or no supplemental water. It must be hardy to at least 8,000 feet, and still handle summer heat waves.

I’d create a versatile plant that could be trained as either a medium-to-large shrub or small tree. Deer resistance would be a bonus. And I’d want it to be readily available from local garden centers (at a reasonable price).

Well, it seems that Somebody beat me to it. There is a perfect plant for this area—the common Chokecherry.

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Forsythia_DBG_2764Just when you don’t think you can stand another minute of bare branches or dead, brown-gray foliage, spring heralds its arrival in a burst of dazzling yellow. All over town, forsythias reassure us that the growing season has finally arrived.

Originally from eastern Asia, where they have been cultivated for centuries, forsythias were collected for western gardens in the early 1800s. Most current garden varieties are hybrids of two species, Forsythia suspensa and F. viridissima. The problem is that the resulting cultivars aren’t reliably hardy in much of Colorado.

Happily plant breeders have been hard at work. ‘Northern Gold’ and ‘Northern Sun’ are both the product of a cross that includes a very hardy (but not very showy) Korean species. The resulting bushes retain the spectacular floral display of their other parentage, and survive down to USDA zone 4, or even 3 with a thick mulch or good snow cover. That’s plenty of hardiness for the Front Range. ‘Meadowlark’ is another cultivar hardy to zone 4.

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Can you name a plant that has short stems and showy purple flowers at this time of year? Now add eye-catching seed heads, and the fact that it’s native to Colorado (and other cold-winter areas in both North America and Europe). This cultivated wildflower is Pasque Flower (or), named after its Easter time bloom.

Appearance
Besides the lilac wildflowers, other purple shades are available in cultivated strains, from a deep purple-red to, rarely, white. Gray-green leaves appear after the flower buds, and may be more or less finely divided. They’re covered with silvery fuzz, giving a soft appearance that makes you want to pet them.

Wild plants are only a couple of inches tall, but those sold in the nursery trade get much larger—up to a foot tall and as wide. After the flowers fade, exotic-looking seed heads (technically fruits) grab your attention. They’re not brightly colored, but they are every bit as decorative as the blossoms.

Taxonomy
There’s some confusion over the scientific name for this widespread flower. Some consider it an Anemone, while other botanists give it its own subgenus, Pulsatilla. There are approximately 33 species, but again, not all botanists agree on the taxonomy. The common names vary too: Pasque Flower, Pasqueflower, Wind Flower, Prairie Crocus, Easter Flower, and Meadow Anemone.

Cultivation
No matter what you call it, Pasque Flower is an excellent candidate for Colorado gardens. The plants are hardy from USDA zone 4 to 9. I have them growing wild under my ponderosas, where they survive in unfertile, sandy soil with no supplemental irrigation at 7,000 feet elevation. To me, that’s nothing short of a miracle! However, more congenial conditions—well-drained soil rich in humus—encourage more blooms. Choose a site in part shade to full sun. Water when soil dries out; the plants are somewhat drought-tolerant, but you don’t want them wilting.

Garden Use
Because of their short stature and early bloom, locate Pasque Flower in the front of the landscape where they’ll be noticed. They make good rock garden plants, and combine well with other early bloomers such as Aubrieta (Rock Cress) and Basket of Gold.

The leaves and stems of Pasque Flower are very poisonous. Perhaps this is why rabbits and other wildlife tend to avoid nibbling on them.
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Article and photos by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener.

iris.jpg“Bloom events” is a term used by biologists, phenologists, and other plant scientists when they discuss when plants bloom. And this year, they must be noticing several weird bloom events occurring in our area!

As most of you know, we’ve just gone through a very very dry winter. Yes, drier even than normal for here. As (seemingly) the rest of the country had record snow accumulations, we had one of our driest winters on record. Add to that the fairly warm winter temperatures along with plenty of spring wind and you’ve got gardeners scratching their heads as some of their hardiest plants have disappeared while wimpier (or so they thought) plants have come through unscathed. (more…)

What plant thrives indoors, shrugs off low humidity, and blooms all winter in bold shades of white to pink to red? Surprise! It’s wax begonias!

Also called fibrous begonias, these familiar bedding plants have large, round succulent leaves in either lime green or a beautiful burgundy- or bronze-red. Flowers have fleshy petals surrounding a bright yellow cluster of stamens. Plants grow to a height of about six to twelve inches. They tend to flop, creating a solid mass of color, and even trailing over walls and container edges.

Wax begonias are usually considered summer annuals. It’s true that they do well in our gardens, given light shade or (preferably filtered) sun. Space them a foot apart in soil high in organic matter and keep the roots evenly moist. Happily, pests are usually not a problem—even the deer tend to leave them alone! (more…)

With giant, trumpet-shaped flowers facing outward around a central stalk, a blooming amaryllis makes an eye-catching houseplant. Colors range from white through pink to red (and even almost black), as well as salmon-orange. Stripes or contracting edges are common. “African” amaryllis have more compact forms suited to indoor cultivation. Dwarf amaryllis are smaller in size but can produce more blooms.

Not surprisingly, these striking, easy-to-grow bulbs are popular holiday gifts; perhaps you received one this year. There’s even a bright red variety named “Merry Christmas”!

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You’ve never noticed the shrub before. Its rounded green leaves and vase shape let it lurk unobtrusively in the background, where it may eventually grow to 15 feet tall and wide. Then, seemingly overnight, there’s a neon-fuchsia beacon glowing in the landscape. Fall has arrived, and the Burning Bush is on fire.

Both the species and a variety of named cultivars are widely available in garden centers. (Most of these cultivars are significantly more compact than the parent shrubs.) Deciduous leaves appear in mid-spring, accompanied by inconspicuous yellow flowers. Orange seeds are borne in orange-red capsules that mature at the same time as the spectacular fall foliage display. (more…)

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