Mariposa Lily

Calochortus gunnisonii

Appearance: Blooming from March to June, this is one of the most beautiful, simplistic wildflowers of Colorado.  A close relative to lilies, the cup-shaped flowers of Mariposa Lily have 3 translucent petals, usually white with a tinge of pink or blue.  Inside the cup of petals is a ring of bright yellow hair.  This native perennial grows up to 20” tall on a single slender stem.  Narrow, grass-like foliage usually withers at the base of the plant by bloom time. (more…)

American PlumPhoto by Lisa Bird (Prunus americana)

Appearance: American plum, a member of the Rose family, is one of the first native woody plants to bloom in the spring, with the white, fragrant, 5-petalled blossoms appearing before the leaves unfold.   There are numerous 1”-2” long, blunt thorns along the branches.  The leaves are long, pointed and oval-shaped.  American Plum bears edible 1” diameter fruit which ripen mid- to late summer, and fall color can be a muted reddish-orange. (more…)

lettuce.jpgQ: I had a great time growing my own vegetables and lettuce this summer and want some advice on expanding my garden next year. Where do I begin?

A: Whether you were a first time vegetable gardener or an experienced Front Range gardener, this is a great time to review your current gardening season and make some notes for next year! Evaluate your garden using the criteria listed below.

Performance: Many types of vegetables perform superbly in the Pikes Peak area. Cold weather crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower excel. Peas and potatoes may be planted before last frost and thrive. Spinach and lettuce planted successively provide salad greens all season and root crops such as carrots, beets and turnips are always dependable. Zucchini and beans produce more than we can eat or give away. Tomatoes, peppers, chilies are a bit more difficult to grow in the area; but not impossible. Learn from your garden this season and apply that wisdom to your garden next season. (more…)


White fir (downed by lightning)

Have you noticed that some of the white firs (Abies concolor) in the Colorado Springs area are suffering? Many of these beautiful native trees seem to be having trouble this year, and experts are stumped. The needles start to turn a slightly lighter shade and drop, sometimes in a spiral pattern from the top down. Looking at the whole tree, it looks like it is declining gradually overall. The problem is affecting white firs of all ages and in all planting situations, non-irrigated, irrigated, sandy soil, clay soil, etc.

Of course, all evergreens naturally lose needles every year from the interiors of their branches. As the trees grow, those needles become shaded and no longer useful in the photosynthesis process. So the efficient trees drop those needles and concentrate their energy on the newer needles on the branch ends. With this condition, which has been informally dubbed “white fir decline,” all the needles along the branches are dropping. Another interesting feature is that these trees seem to have their upper branches covered with more cones (fully and not-yet-fully developed) than usual. (more…)

Rose - JoanNusbaum Aug 09 036APPEARANCE

One might consider the rose to be the Queen Mother of the perennial garden. Despite the hesitation some gardeners have about growing roses in Colorado, they can be grown in most communities with good success. While the American Rose Society lists 48 rose classifications, the best roses for Colorado fall into the following types: hybrid tea, miniature, floribunda, grandiflora, climber, polyantha, shrub and Old Garden Rose. Traditional colors as well as blends, bi-colors, cream, magenta, brown and many others make up the palette of rose colors.


While experienced rosarians may prefer to start with bare-root, dormant plants, potted roses are also available. After selecting healthy plants from a reputable source, site selection is the next key decision. Choose an area that gets five to six hours of sun daily, as well as good air circulation. Bare root roses should be planted in the spring while potted varieties may be planted during the growing season as long as there is time to get the roots established before the first killing frost, approximately six weeks. Care should be taken in the winter to provide monthly water as well as protection from freezing temperatures. It is equally important to prepare the soil sufficiently. Colorado State University extension offers guidelines on planting and selection.

Roses should be pruned to thin out dead, weak and old growth. Begin a fertilizing routine once growth begins in the spring. Certain pests and diseases may need to be thwarted, especially if you grow modern roses.


Due to the many beautiful varieties, there is a rose for every spot in the landscape. While some may be grown for the perfection of the individual bloom, others can be used as hedges, on trellises, in the perennial bed or window box or for mass floral effect. In spite of their cultural needs, roses are worth the effort.

Contributed by Joan Nusbaum, Colorado Master Gardener. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 719.636.8921 or

Photo courtesy of Joan Nusbaum.

Q: I heard that rain barrels will be legal in Colorado on July 1. Is this true?

A: For most people in Colorado, using rain barrels to collect rain for later use on their gardens will still be illegal. The July 1 date you’ve heard about does include one change for some people. Those living completely off of wells can apply for permits from the Colorado Division of Water to collect rain from up to 3,000 square feet of rooftop. This will likely apply mainly to people living on the plains in the eastern half of the state. If this fits your situation, you can get the application and learn more at

Some pilot studies are being done to evaluate the relationship between residential rainwater collection and volume of stream flow (in simpler terms, if people collect rainwater, does the amount of water in the streams go down appreciably?), but it will be many years before these are completed and possible future legislation legalizing rain barrels for those connected to municipal water systems is enacted. (more…)