Cheyenne Garden Gossip

Gardening on the high plains of southeastern Wyoming


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Should garden literature be in the fantasy section?

2018-12 GardenlandShould garden literature be listed in the “fantasy” section of the bookstore?

This column was published Dec. 23, 2018, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and also posted at Wyoming Network News: https://www.wyomingnetworknews.com/should-garden-literature-be-listed-in-the-fantasy-section-of-the-bookstore

By Barb Gorges

My book reviews have always been about books I like and recommend. Gardening books are some of my favorite winter reading and gift suggestions.

However, I was disappointed by “Gardenland,” by Jennifer Wren Atkinson. No color photos—only a dozen black and whites! It was described as a book about garden writing. Among other topics she discusses is how over the centuries it hasn’t always been about how-to, but how writers support our garden fantasies. We started dreaming about floriferous and bountiful gardens when industrial agriculture took away the romance of the family farm.

But this is an academic textbook, it turns out, written at 20th-grade level, compared to this column clocking in at 9th -grade level. We need a popular literature writer to interpret these very interesting ideas. The 17-page bibliography is a useful list of garden writers like my favorites, Michael Pollan and Eleanor Perenyi, and introduces many more.

2018-12 GardenlustFor those of us who want to be immersed in fantastical gardens, there is a new book, “GardenLust, a Botanical Tour of the World’s Best New Gardens,” by Christopher Woods. You can justify buying this 8.5 x 10.5-inch, 400 page, full-color, $40 extravaganza as it will give you inspiration for your own garden—if you have a million dollars to spend. At the very least it may count for your recommended daily dose of nature viewing.

You can preview the book at http://www.timberpress.com. I haven’t decided if I want to order it or if I can wait for it to appear at a used book store. Will what’s new today look boring by then because everyone copied it, like Karl Foerster grass and Russian sage today? Maybe it’s best consumed fresh or at least when there’s a good discount.

2018-12New Organic GrowerAtkinson thinks books about vegetable gardening are not in the realm of fantasy garden books. She would be mostly wrong when it comes to Eliot Coleman. He’s come out with a photo-filled 30th anniversary edition of his book, The New Organic Grower, A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.”  He’s a successful year-round market vegetable grower…in Maine. If he can do it there, we can do it here.

Coleman does it without a lot of expensive machinery. He’s learned how to appeal to customers and how to handle seasonal employees and he passes that information along to the reader, and the nuts and bolts of growing.

Barbara Damrosch, Coleman’s wife, contributed a section about how she grows and sells cut flowers at their farm store as well.

Even if you aren’t planning to go into business, this is an engaging introduction to organic growing from a farmer happy to share his knowledge. You can just imagine Coleman jubilantly giving you a garden tour of Four Seasons Farm. Successful organic growing might not be as much of a fantasy as you think.

Seed catalogs have long been known to be fantasy literature. Those Burpee babies hold giant tomatoes in their outstretched little hands. It’s an old fisherman’s trick that uses perspective to make the fish, or tomato, in the foreground look huge in comparison to the person in the background.

As I become a plant nerd, I can get excited about catalogs with absolutely no pictures. However, the catalog that gets my vote for most beautiful is Botanical Interests Seed Catalog, 2019 Season. Their seed packets feature original botanical art. It makes me want to cut out the pictures and frame them—both flowers and vegetables.

Botanical Interests is a family-owned company in Broomfield, Colorado. Its seeds can be found nationwide and in our local, independent garden centers. Both the website, https://www.botanicalinterests.com, and print catalog contain a wealth of information, as do their seed packets, printed inside and out.

For instance, in the catalog there is an article about the national movement for local cut flowers. In the last few decades, most cut flowers purchased at grocery stores and florists in the U.S. have been imported from South America, raising concerns about pesticide use and the carbon footprint of travel. Check out https://slowflowers.com/. It’s like the slow food movement.

Here in Wyoming we need fantasy garden literature for the five or six months when nothing blooms outdoors. Besides the catalogs and coffee table books, don’t forget to look for garden shows on Netflix. Several are British and make a nice getaway.

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Garden gifts: books, magazines, classes

2016-12-garden-mags-barb-gorgesPublished Dec. 4, 2016, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Holiday gifts for the gardener on your list.”

By Barb Gorges

I asked members of the Laramie County Master Gardeners for their top picks for gardening magazines and books to give you ideas for gifts for the gardeners you know.

Gardening conditions in Cheyenne are somewhat unique so advice from these publications must be taken with a bit of local knowledge:

1) We have alkaline soils so ignore advice to add lime and wood ash;

2) We are officially in USDA plant hardiness zone 5 but microclimates can be harsher or milder;

3) Our average annual precipitation is 15 inches. Even if you run your well dry, you can’t reproduce a wetter, more humid location, which some plants require, like somewhere else in Zone 5—say southern Iowa.

MAGAZINES

Most of the magazines recommended are available at local bookstores. Discounted multi-year subscriptions and back issues are available online.

We are lucky that Colorado’s gardening climate is close to Cheyenne’s, making our local choice The Colorado Gardener (www.ColoradoGardener.com, free at outlets, including the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, and online, or $18/5 issues/year delivered). It is a full-color, tabloid-style, 16-page newsmagazine. In addition to articles and a calendar of Front Range garden-related events, even the advertising is informative.

Another option is Rocky Mountain Gardening (www.RockyMountainGardening.com, $24/4 issues/year). Previously known as “Zone 4,” it covers Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. It was recommended by Catherine Wissner, horticulturist at the Laramie County Cooperative Extension office, and several other respondents. Topics in a recent issue included hellstrip gardening (the hot, dry strip along the curb) and frost blankets (written by a Smoot, Wyoming, gardener). Wyoming is well-represented in the news section.

Judy Kowrach was one of two people who endorsed Garden Gate (www.GardenGateMagazine.com, $20/6 issues/year). With no ads, it is full of tips, plant profiles and design ideas. Despite its Iowa origins, much of the information is applicable to Cheyenne. Even without a subscription, you can sign up online for its free eNotes.

Kim Parker and several others listed Fine Gardening (www.FineGardening.com, $29.95/6 issues/year). It does a splendid job of inciting people to commit acts of gardening. I like their warnings on which featured plants are officially classified as invasive in which state and their scientific plant name pronunciation guide. And their deep website full of free garden and plant information.

2016-12-garden-design            I couldn’t come up with an issue of Garden Design (www.GardenDesign.com, $45/4 issues/year), but looking at a preview copy online, it also is sumptuously photographed. Its price reflects the 148 ad-free pages per issue. And its website is also full of free information, even for non-subscribers.

Finally, Rodale’s Organic Life (www.RodalesOrganicLife.com, $15/6 issues/year) is the latest incarnation of Rodale’s Organic Gardening and Farming. In 1978, that publication printed my interview of a man who built a better bluebird house. These days, think of it as the organic version of Better Homes and Gardens—mostly lifestyle, little gardening.

BOOKS

2016-12-garden-primer-rodales-ultimate-encyclopedia            My primary garden book, recommended to me several years ago by Shane Smith, director of the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, is The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch (2008, Workman Publishing, 820 pages). Written by a gardener from the cold climate of Maine, it covers every aspect of organic home gardening in well-organized chapters, but with an index for quick consultation.

Another option is Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (2009, www.rodaleinc.com, 720 pages). Earlier editions have been on my shelf for years. It’s a tad more technical, but both this and The Garden Primer are good how-to guides and problem solvers.

2016-12-peterson-kaufman-insect-guides            Tava Collins recommended National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders (1980, Alfred A. Knopf, $20) for help identifying garden friends and foes. Similar guides are available in the Kaufman and Peterson field guide series.

Collins also recommended three books written by Colorado gardeners: Rocky Mountain Gardener’s Handbook, John Cretti (2012, Cool Springs Press); Rocky Mountain Getting Started Garden Guide, John Cretti (2015, Cool Springs Press); and Cutting Edge Gardening in the Intermountain West, Marcia Tatroe (2007, Big Earth Publishing).

For special gardening techniques that will work in our area, these next two were recommended.

Marie Madison cited The Bountiful Container: Create Container Gardens of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits and Edible Flowers by Maggie Stuckey and Rose Marie Nicholas McGee (2002, Workman Publishing).

Susan Carlson, who I interviewed a few months ago about straw bale gardening, apprised me of a new edition of her favorite book: Straw Bale Gardens Complete: All-New Information on Urban & Small Spaces, Organics, Saving Water – Make Your Own Bales With or Without Straw by Joel Karsten (2015, Cool Springs Press, $24.99).

If your giftee’s interest is in growing native plants that attract pollinators or in identifying plants on the prairie, try these. Keep in mind the definition of “weeds” depends on the situation.

2016-12-weeds-of-the-west-rangeland-plants            Carlson listed Rangeland Plants: Wyoming Tough by Smith et. al. (2015, publication B-1265) It is a free download at www.wyoextension.org/publications or $8 at the Laramie County Extension office, 307-633-4383.

Richard Steele found Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science, 2012, $34 at www.wsweedscience.org) to be particularly useful while manning the “Ask a Master Gardener” table at the farmers market this fall.

Collins mentioned the classic Meet the Natives: A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers, Trees and Shrubs: Bridging the Gap between Trail and Garden by M. Walter Pesman. It was revised by Denver Botanic Gardens staff in 2012 and republished by Big Earth Publishing.

2016-12-undaunted-garden            The author of one of my favorites, The Undaunted Garden: Planting for Weather-Resilient Beauty (2010, Fulcrum Publishing), Lauren Springer Ogden, is a firm believer in “the right plant in the right place” and is the originator of “hellstrip” gardening. Her photography is inspiring. She speaks often at garden events on the Front Range.

Her book would be a good accompaniment to the next two books, helping you to pick appropriate local plants to interpret their lessons. These books are about planet-friendly landscape gardening.

Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West (2015, Timber Press). This may be intended to introduce landscape designers to more natural, sustainable plantings. But you can apply the advice to your own yard, such as using groundcover plants instead of shredded bark mulch everywhere.

2016-12-garden-revolution-planting-in-a-post-wild            The other is Garden Revolution: How Our Landscapes Can Be a Source of Environmental Change by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher (2016, Timber Press). Proponents of the “right plant in the right place” too, the authors have designed this book to help you understand their premise: that with knowledge of your eco region and local habitat, you can plant a garden that will evolve over time with a minimal amount of assistance, i.e. chemicals and labor.

LECTURES AND CLASSES

One option: Give your favorite gardener tuition for the 10-week Master Gardener class beginning in January. For more information, call 307-633-4383.

Or give them tickets to the spring gardening lecture series Laramie County Master Gardeners is offering in conjunction with the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. Call 307-637-6458.


Gardener’s Wish List

greenhouse

A greenhouse is tops on my gardening wish list. This one is at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Published Dec. 8, 2013, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “What’s on a gardener’s wish list? Garden expert Barb Gorges asked her friends, and here’s what they told her…”

By Barb Gorges

Lately, I’ve been listening to what local gardeners want for Christmas.

Most items on their gardening wish lists are, not surprisingly, utilitarian.

Perhaps they are saving their flights of fancy for the spring seed catalogs.

Collapsible rain barrel

My gardening mentor, Kathy Shreve, told me tops on her list is a collapsible rain barrel—something that would need a fraction of the winter storage space as the large, plastic, 50-gallon, imitation wood variety.

I had my digital elves do a search and they came up with the “Heaven and Earth Knockdown Rain Water Barrel.” Think mini portable swimming pool held up by sturdy poles, complete with a lid, leaf filter, plus connections for your gutter downspout and garden hose.

While they may be listed by popular discount stores, try www.brookstone.com, a long-time home and garden supply company that offers them in five sizes, from 52 to 250 gallons.

Tools

My longtime friend Florence Brown has been eyeing a pair of “Snip and Strip Rose Cutters” with which you can snip the stem and then pull it through a notch at the end of the blade to remove the thorns. Try Lee Valley Tools, www.leevalley.com. But if they are sold out, Santa should look for the “Professional Rose Thorn Stripper” at www.wildflower-seed.com.

Susan Carlson, a friend of Florence’s, also has a sharp object on her wish list—long-handled bypass pruners. I couldn’t find any made by her favorite company, Wiss, but another Swiss maker of cutting tools, Felco, has many models.

It can be aggravating to buy garden hand tools that don’t last more than a season or two, Bob Jansen told me. I agree. I’ve snapped cheap hand trowels while digging in our clayish soil and jammed or broken cheap hand pruners. What Bob wants is quality, which will save him time and money.

Maybe he’d like one of the items on my list, a pair of Felco hand pruners, recommended by several people I’ve talked to. They are available through many sources, such as www.leevalley.com, but Felco also has its own website, www.felcostore.com. Each type of pruner can be repaired and sharpened. Felco also makes 13 kinds of loppers Susan could choose from, plus lots of information to help in selection. Prices for loppers run $80-$150, hand pruners, $30-$70.

Bob also mentioned he’d like a strong back and younger knees. No problem. They can be hired.

Ladder

My friend Lila Howell shared her wish list and it really is a list: rain barrels, arborist ladder, new shovel, heat mats for seed starting, new wheelbarrow, plant markers, new hoe, new blade for pruning saw, and a hummingbird feeder. Many of these items are available locally, or through the catalogs I’ve already mentioned (even the hummingbird feeder), but the arborist ladder intrigued me.

A ladder designed for use in maintaining trees is of a sturdier standing, three-legged design. Also known as an orchard ladder, it is available from companies such as http://www.sherrilltree.com, which cater to tree professionals. Who wouldn’t want to go with a product designed to keep professionals safe? The prices range from $250 to over $500. But they are still cheaper than the cherry picker Lila really wants.

Fountains

My birding friend, Donna Kassel, gardens with the birds in mind. She has many berry producing bushes to feed and shelter them, as well as feeders among her trees and perennial flower beds. Garden tools are not on her list, but garden whimsy is.

We’re not talking about concrete bunnies. But Donna would like to add more garden lights. She has several solar-powered types, perfect for avoiding power cables and power bills. She’d love to have twinkling lights in one of her trees, but how does one charge solar lights hung in a shade tree?

What really catches her fancy is a lighted, bird bath fountain.

The first place my digital elves looked, the website, http://www.simplyfountains.com, popped up. They have scads of birdbaths with fountains, even one for $80 that runs on solar energy. Many of them are of classical Victorian/Italianate design sometimes decorated with little birds.

None of the birdbath fountains seemed to have lights, but there were many lighted, outdoor fountains. One, made of faux stone, has recirculating water pouring between four levels of pools. I’m sure birds would be attracted to the moving water for a drink. The pools might be big enough for baths as well. It’s a bit pricy at $350 (regularly $500), but maybe some clever elves in Donna’s family could build one for her.

Greenhouse Gardener's Companion

Reading Shane Smith’s “Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion” is a must before acquiring a greenhouse.

Greenhouse     

More than one gardener, including me, has a greenhouse on their wish list.

I keep seeing advertising in garden magazines for Hartley Botanic, an English company, http://www.hartley-botanic.com. Their largest, non-custom greenhouse is the “Victorian Grand Manor,” measuring 13 feet wide by 13 high by 36 long. It would fit nicely, but no price is listed, not even the calculations for shipping. As they say, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it,” much less afford to replace the glass after each of our hailstorms.

Reading Cheyenne Botanic Gardens director Shane Smith’s “Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion” would be the first step if I get serious about finding a greenhouse suitable for Cheyenne, or anywhere else.

But Santa, I’d settle for a promise of perfect growing weather in 2014.