Cheyenne Garden Gossip

Gardening on the high plains of southeastern Wyoming

Garden gift & New Year’s resolution ideas

Published Dec. 8, 2019, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Gift and New Year’s resolution ideas for Cheyenne gardeners.”

By Barb Gorges

Here at the end of the year you may be looking for gardening gift ideas for you or someone else. And are you preparing to make New Year’s resolutions to learn more about gardening? Here are some ideas.

2019-12 Wardian case'scher_Kasten_wikipedia

Wardian case – type of terrarium (Wikipedia)

Gardener gifts

From Garden Design magazine:

How about terrariums? You can make them out of large glass jars or fill antique-looking leaded pane structures with small tropical houseplants. Read up on them at

Who knew Crocs come in many rubber-boot styles? But we shouldn’t be out digging in our gardens in the mud because it promotes soil compaction.


Wave Hill chairs, Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center

Plans for the famous Wave Hill garden chairs are available from for $25-$35. Even I could build one, just straight cuts and screws.

Bib-style garden aprons exist, made of canvas and with bigger pockets than kitchen aprons. Keep tools handy and shirt fronts clean!


Insect house, Gardener’s Supply

Insect house, beehive house, insect hotel, insect habitat—these are all names for assemblages of hollow sticks you can buy. Insects beneficial to your garden can hide their eggs in them.

Anything with flowers on it will probably appeal to the gardener on your gift list—especially a plant.


Shawnee Pottery teapot, circa 1940s, on Etsy.


There is a cornucopia of beautiful garden books. If you buy a how-to book for you or someone here, just remember to ignore advice to add lime to soil since Cheyenne, unlike many parts of the country, already has alkaline soils. Check out the Timber Press imprint at


Nature into Art: The Gardens at Wave Hill by Thomas Christopher, Timber Press


The 6th annual Cheyenne Habitat Hero Workshop is all day Feb. 29 at Laramie County Community College. Denver Botanic Gardens’ international plant explorer Panayoti Kelaidis’s topic is “Rethinking Wyoming Landscaping: Learning from the Natives.” His talk is followed by “Native Plant Gardening 101” taught by the Cheyenne Habitat Hero Committee members. Registration is $25 (including lunch) at


Panayoti Kelaidis, keynote speaker, Habitat Hero workshop, Feb. 29, 2020

Register for Master Gardener training taught by Laramie County Extension horticulturist Catherine Wissner. It begins Jan. 6 for 10 weeks, two evenings a week. See (search “Master Gardener”). It’s held at Laramie County Community College. You’ll also find two one-session LCCC non-credit gardening classes taught by Catherine listed at that same website.

The Seed Library will have several events at Laramie County Library. Check details at

–Jan. 25, 2-3:30 p.m., “Pumpkin Growing 101” featuring Andy Corbin, Wyoming’s most recent giant pumpkin growing champ.

–Feb. 27, evening, “Winter Sowing Workshop” and “Give-Take Seed Swap.”

If you are a green industry professional, employed in landscaping, lawn or tree care, attend the free Cheyenne Green Industry Workshop Jan. 24. Register through the City of Cheyenne’s Urban Forestry Division:

Several organizations schedule lecture series or occasional talks in the spring. Check for updates:

Cheyenne Botanic Gardens,

Laramie County Master Gardeners,

Laramie County Conservation District,

Prairie Garden Club,

Garden tours

Last year I went on Road Scholar’s “Victoria and Vancouver: Glorious West Coast Gardens” (#2679) tour (I’ll be giving a public talk about it at Laramie County Master Gardeners’ meeting Jan. 16, 409 Pathfinder Bldg., LCCC, 7 p.m.). It runs several times every summer.

2019-08 Butchart Gardens - Sunken Garden, Barb Gorges

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, photo by Barb Gorges.

Another is “Topiaries, Pleasure Gardens and Botanical Gems in Philadelphia and Beyond” (#21967) which runs several times in spring and fall. You can look up the details at Pop the course number in the search box.

You can also devise your own tour. Did you know that if you are a Cheyenne Botanic Gardens member, they have agreements with more than 300 U.S. gardens through the American Horticultural Society’s reciprocal admissions program, even though they don’t charge admission themselves?


Cheyenne Botanic Gardens conservatory and gardens dedication ceremony, September 2019. The CBG is located at 710 S. Lions Park Drive. Photo by Barb Gorges.

That means CBG members visit free instead of paying $11 at the Gardens on Spring Creek in Ft. Collins which has recently added five acres of new gardens and a butterfly pavilion, or $12.50 at the Denver Botanic Gardens. I spend my savings at the gift shops!

Master Gardener wish list

“What’s on your wish list?” I asked several Master Gardeners recently:

“Narrow spade,” said Kathryn Lex.  It would be handy for inserting new plants in her established garden. She can read up on spades at

“More seeds,” said Michelle Bohanan. She’s on the Seed Library committee.

“No frost after Mother’s Day,” said John Heller. I think he needs a greenhouse.

“Tomatoes ripe by July 4th,” said Catherine Wissner. Wait, she has a high tunnel already. Maybe she wants a traditional glass greenhouse.

“No hail,” they all said. Make that a glass greenhouse with chicken wire over it for protection.

2019-12 Hartley_Botanic_greenhouse

Hartley Botanic greenhouse.

Garden tools

2016-5-Kathy Shreve's tiling or trenching spade by Barb Gorges

Kathy Shreve’s tiling, or trenching, shovel works well for inserting new plants in her perennial bed. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle May 1, 2016, “Must-have garden gear.”

By Barb Gorges

Gardening smart and using the best tools for you and your garden situation means gardening can be less of a chore and more fun, leaving you with time to enjoy your results.

With that in mind, I decided to survey the Laramie County Master Gardeners to find out which tools they consider essential for gardening. I also looked into best garden tool maintenance practices.

Like a good scientist, I checked the literature online and had my own hypothesis on what would surface in the top of the list: tools for digging, cutting, watering, hauling and composting.

Surprisingly, only one person listed a power tool, a rototiller for tilling vegetable beds.

Apparently, most of the Master Gardeners that responded have gardens small enough to use only hand tools, just love gardening by hand, or are in the no-till or minimal till camp.

[Soil science shows that over time the tradition of tilling every year, turning over the top inches of soil, whether by machine or shovel, breaks down soil structure. This disturbs the microbiome community that stores water and provides nutrients to plants. Tilling also exposes weed seeds to light and germination, mandating the use of a hoe or more tilling later.

No-till methods use plant-based mulch as a way to suppress weeds and add nutrients to the soil gradually. The soil is disturbed as little as possible when flowers and vegetables are seeded or transplanted.]

The following is the result of the tools members suggested as we head into the new season.

2016-5-Wanda Manley's hori hori by Barb Gorges

Wanda Manley displays her hori hori. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Hori hori

Outside of the lone rototiller, all the other favorite tools mentioned were split evenly between digging and cutting.

One tool does both: the hori hori.

A Japanese tool, the hori hori is “a cross between a knife and a trowel and I use it for everything,” wrote Salli Halpern.

Wanda Manley said, “This is my ‘go to’ tool…great for fluffing soil, transplanting, making furrows, etc. Does not rust.”

Rosalind Schliske said, “In the last couple of years, my new favorite garden tool is a soil knife.” The “knife” she mentions seems to be a modern hori hori, with a composite handle instead of wood.

The hori hori’s 7-inch cutting blade, serrated on one side, is formed into a shallow length-wise v-shape. It can be used to cut and scoop out a small planting hole and makes a fabulous weed remover.

2016-5-Susan Jones's Corona Egrip Hand Weeder by Barb Gorges

Susan Jones likes her Corona Egrip Weeder. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Susan Jones swears by a hand weeder sold under the Corona brand. It also has a serrated edge, but a molded plastic, more ergonomic handle and a v-shaped tip that helps pop out weeds with taproots like dandelions.


Only Kathy Shreve and Mike Heath mentioned shovels on their lists. Shreve finds a tiling, or trenching shovel to be most useful. The flat-edged, straight and narrow blade is just right for inserting new plants into her established perennial beds. The weight of the wooden handle adds to its heft, she said, giving her a little extra oomph as she digs in.

Shovels and spades (the distinction between them is not clear) come in a wide variety of blade and handle options. It takes some experience to match one with what fits your hands, height, strength and type of digging you need to do. The same is true of hand trowels or hand spades. In our clay-type soils, go for better quality tools that won’t snap as soon as you encounter a tough situation.

2016-5-Wanda Manley's Felco pruners by Barb Gorges

Felco pruners are made to last, with proper maintenance. Photo by Barb Gorges.


One favorite cutting tool was mentioned by both Shreve and Manley by brand name: Felco hand pruners. I finally have a pair myself, after years of being frustrated by cheaper pruners falling apart. Plus, Felco has replaceable parts and accessories available at area garden centers.

Felco pruners are bypass-type cutting tools, meaning the two halves slide by each other as they cut, like scissors, rather than the anvil-type, where one side is a blade and the other side is a flat surface.

Hand pruners might not be the best at snipping chives—you’d want a scissors for that, but they do work fine for cutting flowers and are tough enough for cutting pumpkins off the vine, not to mention doing a little tree and shrub pruning.

2016-5-Bud Davis's Garrett Wade anvil loppers by Barb Gorges

Anvil-type racheting loppers from Garret-Wade are a favorite with Bud Davis. Photo by Barb Gorges.


Once your trees and shrubs get beyond hand pruner size, it’s time to look for loppers.

Both Bud Davis and Shreve swear by their ratcheting loppers, which can handle more than my regular pair, rated only for a maximum branch diameter of 1.25 inches. Shreve prefers the Fiskars brand while Davis got both of his pairs, a bypass for green wood and an anvil-type for dead wood, from Garrett-Wade. His loppers even have telescoping handles to help reach farther or get more leverage.

2016-5-Jim Stallard shovel  sharpening by Barb Gorges

Jim Stallard puts a professional edge on a shovel. Photo by Barb Gorges.


No matter what digging and cutting tools you invest in, maintaining them will save you time, money and effort.

Jim Stallard has been in the seasonal tool sharpening business for 16 years. This year he is at Fort Collins Nursery on Fridays and JAX on Saturdays, both in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Stallard has seen it all, including dirt left on metal long enough that the moisture from it caused rust. He uses a wire brush to clean off dirt before putting away tools. More of us need to think about providing a convenient place to store tools out of the weather—and then train ourselves to put our tools away.

Stallard uses silicone spray lubricant on the metal parts of tools—it’s especially nice on the blades of pruners and loppers because it doesn’t cause them to bind up or rust the way some products do.

Keeping tools sharp—even the blades on shovels and hand spades—makes gardening work easier. You can check online for tips on how to do it yourself, but there is nothing like letting a professional like Stallard put a fresh edge on a tool at the beginning of the season. He’s got the power equipment and the experience to put the right angle on your blade for just a few bucks.

The other essentials

One can make do with old buckets and wheelbarrows for hauling, and make compost with just a simple pile of plant debris. Watering can be as complex as drip irrigation (see for a previous column) or as simple as a hose. I was hoping someone could recommend a hose that never kinks. That would indeed be a tool that makes the work easier.

However, it was Master Gardener intern Richard Steele, who said, “The best tool…is having access to the knowledge of the Master Gardeners.” With that in mind, feel free to call the Laramie County Cooperative Extension office with your garden questions at 307-633-4383.