Monthly Archives: July 2016

Colorado’s Iconic State Flower

August 1st marks the 140th anniversary of Colorado’s statehood. The Rocky Mountain Columbine is the state flower and a beloved Colorado symbol. How much do you know about the plant’s history and care? Read on to see.columbine-flower-13

The Rocky Mountain Columbine (Aquilegia coerulea) was discovered in 1820 by a hiker on Pike’s Peak. It became the state flower seventy-nine years later, thanks to a vigorous campaign led by Colorado school children.

The colors of the Rocky Mountain Columbine are symbolic: the blue petals represent the state’s clear sky, the center white cup reflects the snow-capped mountains and the yellow stamen symbolizes the region’s gold mining history.

Columbine is the Latin word for dove, a name befitting the graceful, long spurred blooms. We are fortunate that most of the 70 species of columbines can be grown in our climate. Cultivation requires a half day of sun, good drainage and moderate moisture. A fairly short-lived perennial (about 4-5 years), it self-sows with ease. Beware, seedlings can be mischievous chameleons, returning as a different color than the mother plant.

Hummingbirds, butterflies, native bees and bumblebees are attracted to columbine nectar. Many columbine varieties do not like heat, so flowering will decline in the hottest part of the summer. Blooms can re-appear when temperatures moderate, especially if  spent blooms are deadheaded.

The Denver Gold Columbine® (Aquilegia chrysantha)  has become very popular in recent years. While not an official plant of the city, it is an unfussy, heat tolerant, hardworking yellow bloomer which can flower from May through September.

Want more?

  • Check out this site to learn about the official flowers of other states.
  • Additional information on growing columbines, including suggestions for varieties suited for higher elevations can be found here.
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Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CSU Webinar Helps Solve Garden Mystery

Deformed tomato leavesEvery summer is different in the garden, but this year I found something I hadn’t seen before with two container tomato plants. The new leaves on these  plants was stunted and twisted into odd shapes.

Like many gardeners, I’ve seen plenty of tomato problems in my garden over the years. Early blight, late blight, blossom end rot and insect damage have cropped up from time to time, but these twisted leaves had me stumped.

I looked for images of similar problems online and checked my Tomato MD app, but I couldn’t find anything else that looked like that deformed growth.

In a great gardening coincidence while I was finishing my Colorado Master Gardener continuing education requirements, I clicked on a Small Acreage Management (SAM) webinar, and the mystery was solved.

These SAM webinars are posted on YouTube, so any gardener can watch them for free. The one that helped me diagnose my tomato plant problem is called “Herbicide Carryover and Fall Garden Care” led by Darrin Parmenter of CSU Extension in La Plata County, dated Sept. 4, 2013.

Herbicide carryover can happen when gardeners use herbicide-treated hay, straw or grass clippings as mulch or compost in their gardens. Herbicide carryover can also occur if gardeners apply manure from livestock that ate treated pasture or crops. Tomatoes and members of the tomato family are especially susceptible to herbicide carryover.

I’ve used well-aged horse manure in my garden for years and there’s never been a problem until this season. It turns out that herbicide carryover from horse manure is the top pathway because herbicides can pass through horses so quickly.

As soon as I understood the problem, I started a remediation program to improve soil microbial activity in the two containers with the affected tomato plants. I’ve cultivated the soil to increase oxygen, added a different kind of organic matter to increase beneficial soil organisms and used a home-made organic mulch. I’m also keeping the soil evenly moist and using a liquid fertilizer once a week.

According to Darrin in the webinar, the tomato plants may recover if there’s enough vegetative growth. I’m certainly going to be more thoughtful with how I amend my garden soil in the future.

By Jodi Torpey
A Colorado Master Gardener

Help, My Garden is Wilting!

Have you ever noticed your perfectly healthy plants wilting at the end of a hot, sunny day? This is the plant’s way of protecting itself from the elements, much like our bodies adjust to temperature changes. Plants routinely gather moisture and nutrients from the soil through their roots and move it up transpirationtheir stems and leaves. Moisture is then emitted back into the air through pores on the underside of the leaves, called stomata. This process is called transpiration. On an especially hot day, the leaves will begin to emit more moisture than the roots can supply, which triggers the pores to close. As a result, the leaves lose rigidity and wilt but the plant is protected from further loss of moisture. While all plants transpire, broadleaf plants such as cucumbers, squash, hydrangea and many annual flowers are especially susceptible to heat wilt.

To  help your plants recover:

  • If the soil is moist about an inch under the soil line, the plant will likely recover on its own in the cooler night air. If it is dry, water the plant at the soil line and check in the morning; again, the plant should have perked up.  If the coming day will be another scorcher, consider a bit more morning water to avoid further late day stress.
  • Be gentle around the limp foliage, it is stressed and can easily break.

To reduce the potential for heat wilt:

  • Add 2″-3″ mulch around  plants, stopping at the outer edge of the plant so water can be absorbed easily.
  • Promote healthy roots by routinely watering deeper a few times a week versus a daily short spritz.
  • When adding new plants, loosen soil deeply and add organics such as compost to aid in drainage and root development.
  • Consider location when planting. Afternoon sun is very likely to wilt plants that need only partial sun. Also pair plants needing the same water and light conditions together.
  • Add succulents and plants requiring less water to your garden. They will thrive during the dog days of summer.

Transpiration fun facts and resources:

  • An acre of corn can transpire 3,000-4,000 gallons of water a day.
  • Transpiration is to thank  for the comforting shade under large trees. Eighty percent of the cooling effect of a shade tree comes from the evaporative effects of transpiration.
  • Much more on the transpiration process can be found on CMG Garden Notes 141 and at http://water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycletranspiration.html

 

Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener