Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Denver Botanic Garden’s Horticulture Library: A Resource for Front Range Plant Lovers

The Helen Fowler Library at the Denver Botanic Gardens is the largest horticultural library in the Rocky Mountain region. The library supports the mission of the Denver Botanic Gardens, connecting people with plants. unnamedWe hold in our collection more than 20,000 specialized book titles, over 100 magazines and journals, a VHS and DVD collection (popular and technical titles), as well as archival and special collections. Our collections highlight agriculture and food, botanical art and illustration, botany, Colorado and Rocky Mountain plants, gardening, landscaping, world flora, sustainability, children’s gardening and more.

The library is also host to Denver Master Gardeners who volunteer at the Gardens staffing our Garden Help desk. Hours vary throughout the year as the schedule follows the gardening season. In January, February, and November master gardeners are available on Tuesday; March, April, and October on Tuesday and Saturday; May through September on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. All shifts are from noon – 4pm. Additional shifts are added on SCFD free days.  Master gardeners can also be contacted anytime at 720-865-3575 or via email at gardeninghelp@botanic Photos (close up and whole plant) and/or samples of the plant in question aid in answering questions.

In the spring and fall, librarian Rory O’Connor-Walston hosts a book club at the library. Literature of the Land is a book club series where we read three books over three months, focusing on a specific topic of interest. We delve into literature related to the land and to nature, discussing topics that may range from environmental issues to the culture of food and drink, from the American dust bowl to the cinnamon trees of Southeast Asia. Check our website,, for more information about the fall series where we will examine water and the American west.

The library is located at 909 York Street, within the Boettcher Memorial Center and is open Saturday through Thursday from 10:00 to 5:00.  Members of the public and visitors to the Gardens are encouraged to peruse shelves, research within the library, and consult with library staff and volunteers. Members of the Gardens can check out most materials for a three week period.

Stop in during your next visit to the Gardens!

Submitted by Allaina Wallace, who has been the Head Librarian at the Denver Botanic Gardens for about two years. She holds a Masters of Library Science, with an emphasis in archives, from Emporia State University. Someday she hopes to have the knowledge and free time to garden

Balcony Gardening – Grow A Salad Bowl

Now is a good time to plant baby lettuce, spinach and micro-greens for early Fall harvest.  You do not need a deep container to grow salad greens and you can grow the greens from seed.  Covering the potted seeds with loose plastic wrap holds the moisture and heat and encourages sprouting.

Growing Container Salad Greens:  “You will be able to harvest your first crop in just a few short weeks, using the small tender leaves that are often not available to buy. These micro-greens are the mix of choice for gourmet salads. Leafy greens also make a flavorful addition to sandwiches or wraps.”

Salad greens

Radishes also mature quickly.  Use radish greens instead of basil in your pesto recipe.Radishes

As a container gardener you can quickly move your salad bowl inside if we get a sudden Colorado frost.  In a sunny window you can keep growing salad all winter.

If you need an incentive, a CSU Extension publication lists the nutrients in different salad greens and has notes about taste.  It has great photos — I can now identify Mizuna.  Enjoy!

King of the Butterflies – The Monarch

The monarch butterfly is one of the most familiar butterflies of the garden.  This butterfly makes a heroic migration, over the lives of several generations, from forests in central Mexico where it overwinters, to summer breeding grounds as far north as southern Canada.   The Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s North American Monarch Conservation Plan. published in 2008, states that the “North American migration is considered an endangered biological phenomenon due to threats to the monarch’s habitats during its annual cycle of breeding.”

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).  The Monarchs progress from egg to larva to chrysalis to butterfly over about 5 weeks.  In the spring, the first generation, derived from eggs laid by females who probably overwintered in Mexico, appear in Northern Mexico and the SE United States.  There may be three to four more of the summer generations.  The adult monarchs present at the end of the summer in the colder climates of the north must retreat to the more hospitable south.  According to the Monarch Butterfly Fund, the autumn Monarchs are born in a reproductive state of suspended development called diapause in which the internal sex organs are not mature.  In late August through October, they will fly to mountain ranges in central Mexico, living on nectar and helped by warm air currents to cover a distance of up to 2,000 miles.

Once in Mexico, they will settle on the branches of Oyamel fir trees on south-facing mountain slopes and go into a state of torpor, reserving energy until the warmer weather of spring arrives, generally in March.  The Monarchs emerge from torpor, end diapause, and again repeat the breeding cycle.

Unfortunately, loss of milkweed habitat due to development of pesticide-resistant crops and pesticide use on agricultural lands has greatly impacted Monarch breeding potential.  Suburbanization of agricultural lands has also contributed to habitat loss.  Diversion of water in the overwintering sites has increased the distance the Monarchs must fly to reach it, using up valuable body food stores.  Forest fires and degradation of habitat by poorly regulated tourist visits may also be contributing to difficulties for overwintering Monarchs.

What can we as gardeners do to help the Monarchs?  We can plant common milkweeds for breeding sites, and abundant nectar-producing plants for food sources.  A quick internet search will turn up sources for Milkweed seeds and seedlings in our area.  Working together, we can aid in restoration of habitat and provision of nectar flowers for our beautiful butterflies.

By Mary Beth Cooper, Denver County Master Gardener

Five Favorite Bulletproof Plants for Denver Gardening

Just about every gardener I know lost a favorite plant or two over the winter. Most of my hardy roses died to the ground, but eventually returned.  Sadly, the tall and lovely redleaf rose (Rosa rubifolia) is gone for good. Whether a rose, shrub or fruit tree, losing a prized plant is like losing an old garden pal.

The only way to get over the loss is to replant with something that will survive the challenges of living in our climate. Here are five bulletproof plants that seem to thrive in spite of the vagaries of weather:

Kintzley's Ghost honeysuckle smallKintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle (Lonicera reticulata ‘Kintzley’s Ghost’)

If you’re looking for a dependable woody plant, Kintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle is it. I planted this Plant Select recommendation years ago and it continues to surprise me every year. The vine does well with only the precipitation it receives. When there’s wet weather through the winter and spring, it grows a bit taller with more foliage. During drier years it still shows up and looks good. In addition to its low-water, low-maintenance needs, I appreciate the eucalyptus-like foliage on vines that crawl up and over the picket fence.

Gold flame spirea smallGoldflame spirea (Spirea x bumalda ‘Goldflame’)

In 2001 I planted three of these tidy shrubs and they’re still going strong. Even after the shock of the sudden freeze last November, all three returned with only a few dead branches. A quick trim was all they needed. This spirea is a compact deciduous shrub that grows to about 3 feet tall and just as wide. Drought-tolerant once established, it can brighten any spot with crimson-red leaves in spring that turn to vibrant green by summer. Reddish-bronze fall color is an added bonus. Small pink flowers can bloom twice over the season if dead-headed.

Silver Fountain butterfly bush smallSilver Fountain butterfly bush (Buddleia alternifolia)

This Plant Select winner is a beautiful shrub with graceful arching branches. In spring there are tons of light-purple flower clusters that attract butterflies like crazy. If you plant one, be sure to give it plenty of room because it can grow to more than 10 feet tall and wide. I’ve found the only downside is the long branches are surprisingly brittle during winter and some may break under heavy loads of snow — nature’s way of pruning so you don’t have to. This butterfly bush prefers well-drained soil and is adaptable to low-water conditions.

yarrow smallMoonshine yarrow (Achillea ‘Moonshine’)

Some gardeners think yarrow is the least sophisticated of the xeric plants, but I appreciate it because it loves my landscape. Its tall, shrub-like habit makes a nice backdrop in a xeriscape garden and the silvery-gray foliage and bright yellow flowers really shine in summer. I started with two plants but yarrow needs to be divided every few years, so I’ve transplanted more around the yard. I leave some flowers on the plant through winter, but I also clip some to use in dry table arrangements and crafts projects.

Brown-eyed Susans smallBrown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba)

Brown-eyed Susan is smaller than its black-eyed cousin, and that’s fine with me. This biennial coneflower behaves more like a perennial because of its generous seed-sowing nature. My large collection started as two small starts and have spread throughout the garden on their own. The sunny yellow, daisy-like flowers have beautiful brown “eyes” and stand tall from mid-summer through fall. Bees and butterflies are attracted to the long-lasting blooms, but they make nice cutting flowers, too.

By Jodi Torpey
Denver Master Gardener

Garden Getaway – CSU’s Annual Flower Trial Garden

CSU Annual Flower Trial Garden

CSU Annual Flower Trial Garden

Want a break from  weeding and deadheading? Need to recharge your plant-loving soul? A trip to the Colorado State University Annual Flower Trial Garden on the grounds of CSU makes a fun mini-getaway and maybe just what you crave during these dog days of summer.

The CSU Annual Flower Trial Garden is one of many official All American Selections public gardens across the country where you can see new varieties (introduced in the last three years) of annuals and perennials which are being grown, studied and rated for exceptional performance. Colorado gardeners know this means the ability to withstand intense sun, cooler evenings, relatively low moisture (most years) and everyone’s arch-nemesis, hail!

A stroll through the gardens is a treat, especially now when plants are at their peak. In fact, the plants are rated by the official judging team of CSU horticulture students and faculty, green industry representatives and advanced Master Gardeners each year in early August. Over 1100 varieties of annuals, grouped by genus and arranged by  color, provide a symphony for the eyes. The perennial gardens are equally beautiful, with the added benefit of being trialed for two winters before being judged. A Pansy/Cool-season Crop Overwintering Trial garden has also been added to test the over-wintering abilities of the plants.

So, grab your camera, water bottle and sun screen and head to Fort Collins. Have a great time exploring  the gardens and don’t forget to record your favorites and compare them to the judges’ picks at the end of the season. You are likely to return home inspired, ready to tackle your own garden and possibly with a touch of flower envy.

For more information about the gardens, past winners and photos galore, check out

By Linda McDonnell, Denver County Master Gardener