Cheyenne Garden Gossip

Gardening on the high plains of southeastern Wyoming


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Garden art

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Chihuly Garden and Glass in downtown Seattle displays glass art with a garden backdrop. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Published June 16, 2019, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Try gardening with art.” 

By Barb Gorges

My husband Mark planted tomatoes June 1. But first he put up a hail guard. It’s a wooden frame covered in hardware cloth (wire screen) the same dimensions as the raised bed. It perches on top of 4-foot wooden posts planted in each corner https://cheyennegardengossip.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/hail-busters-keep-icy-vandals-away/.

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This hail guard was built to fit the raised bed. How might it be transformed into garden art? Photo by Barb Gorges.

Now that it and other hail guards are up around our yard every summer, I’m wondering if we shouldn’t make them more decorative. Perhaps paint them or carve the posts.

I’ve been musing on the subject of garden art since our trip to Seattle over Memorial Day weekend.

I visited Chihuly Garden and Glass in downtown Seattle, next to the Space Needle. It was a little disappointing after having seen the Chihuly display at the Denver Botanic Gardens a few years ago—the Seattle garden is small.

All that brilliantly-colored glass sculpture—I wonder is it hail-proof? If you go, avoid midday—the sunlight glares on the glass. Don’t look for extravagant flowers—the garden is primarily a setting for the glass, like velvet for a diamond.

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At Chihuly Garden and Glass, glass flames shoot out from a hill covered in black foliage. Photo by Barb Gorges.

There was a burned-black, grasslike, ground cover used to set off the brilliant fire of an explosion of orange and yellow glass flames. It is most likely Ophiopogon planiscapus, from Japan, known as “Black Mondo Grass” and probably the Nigrescens variety. It’s from the lily family and is evergreen (or everblack) in Zone 6 and warmer. Here in Zone 5 it would be an annual requiring a lot of water and acidic soil—neither of which we have.

Another garden we visited had a Wyoming connection. My sister and I were at a hardware store near Sea-Tac Airport, picking out a pot for a plant for Mark’s and my son and daughter-in-law when the garden department manager started a conversation with us.

He asked if we knew about the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden only two miles away. He even got us a brochure. He’s on the board. Of course, we had to go. If you should ever have two hours to kill before returning your rental car at the Sea-Tac Airport, look it up at 13735 24th Ave. South, SeaTac, Washington.

It got its start in 1996 when a well-known, prize-winning local gardener’s garden was relocated there instead of being lost when the airport built another runway. We found Elda Behm’s Paradise Garden full of rhododendrons and azaleas just a bit past peak.

Another part of the garden is the Seike Japanese Garden, relocated in 2006. The Seike family, Japanese immigrants, began farming locally in 1929. During World War II, the family was sent to the Heart Mountain internment camp near Powell, Wyoming, and their farm was managed by a German-American family. After the war the Seikes were lucky enough to get their land back and open a nursery.

The garden was designed by Shintaro Okado, a garden designer from Hiroshima, and built in 1961. It was made in memory of one of the three Seike sons who fought in the war for the U.S. and was killed in France.

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The Seike Japanese Garden was relocated in 2006 to the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden near the Sea-Tac airport (Seattle). Photo by Barb Gorges. 

Japanese gardens are meant to be intellectual and spiritual. In addition to a pleasing juxtaposition of water, hill, swale and path, each element, including bridges, stone lanterns, gate, represents something.

Each tree and shrub specimen stands out along a small stream and pond crossed by a curved bridge. Benches are positioned for perfectly balanced views.

I found the Japanese garden minimalism more appealing than the fanciful glass garden, even though normally my tastes run to floral abundance.

Abundance is what best describes gardens at McMenamins Anderson School in Bothell, Washington. It’s an old junior high school campus turned into a boutique hotel and restaurants. The garden manager, Riz Reyes, is an up and coming horticulturist who knows how to pack the plants in, even in the parking lot islands, making the cars appear to be just more garden art.

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Even the parking lot at McMenamins Anderson School, a boutique hotel in Bothell, Washington, is thickly planted. The hoops in the background are from wine barrels. The gardens are designed by Riz Reyes. Photo by Barb Gorges.

The Portland, Oregon-based McMenamins chain of pubs and hotels famous for repurposing old buildings is known for its somewhat primitive, locally inspired artistic style. It took me a minute to realize the spherical garden sculptures were made from metal hoops used to hold wine barrels together.

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Larger-than-life bronze rabbits by Dan Ostermiller are on display this summer at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. Photo by Barb Gorges.

In our own Cheyenne Botanic Gardens this summer, discover the bronze animal sculptures by Dan Ostermiller, Cheyenne native and Loveland, Colorado, sculptor. The giant rabbits are my favorite.

Is your garden art a bit of whimsy for visitors to discover—statue or found object? Or a carved tree trunk, special boulder or bronze bear? Make sure it’s either replaceable or repairable if it isn’t hail-proof.

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Rabbits and gardens

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Cottontail Rabbit courtesy Wikipedia.

Help rabbits control their taste for gourmet greens

Published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle May 26, 2019, “Keep your garden safe from rabbits.”

By Barb Gorges

“Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries. But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight to Mr. McGregor’s garden, and squeezed under the gate!”

–The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

It must have been Peter Rabbit I caught snipping my green tulip buds the morning of May 1 as they lay helpless in a patch of melting snow. I saw him through a window and ran out in my bare feet to shoo him away. Then I walked the dog back and forth a few times—this being the unfenced front yard.

I picked up the six tulip buds, each left with a 4 to 6-inch stem, and put them in a vase inside. I’m happy to say they ripened and opened. The other buds, left unscathed, recovered from the snow and also bloomed.

The tulip vandal couldn’t have been my regular rabbit, one of Peter’s well-behaved sisters, Flopsy, Mopsy or Cotton-tail. There’s a rabbit sitting in the front yard almost every day and my garden beds have never been attacked before. Well, except the time I tried pansies in the whiskey barrel planter and the rabbits jumped in and ate them all. Since then I grow only hardy perennials in the front yard.

The backyard is where Peter Rabbit would find his favorite vegetables, but there are three rabbit deterrents: the raised beds (higher than the old whiskey barrel), the dog, and the concrete block wall. The gates have vertical bars in the lower half less than 2 inches apart. Our biggest garden problem is hail attacks and so our tomatoes grow under hardware cloth-covered frames.

But last summer, I was shocked when the 900 seedlings and assorted mature plants we planted in the Habitat Hero demonstration garden at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens (between the flagpole and parking lot) were nearly completely obliterated by rabbits.

2019-06rabbit fencing Habitat Hero garden

By the time the fence was erected around the Habitat Hero demonstration garden at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens mid-March, not more than two of the 900 perennials planted the previous season could be found. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Last fall we planted a couple hundred bulbs there and the rabbits didn’t dig very many up before we fenced it in March. It isn’t an elegant fence, but it is keeping the rabbits out and allowing plants to make a comeback. Perhaps when the plants mature and get tough stems, we can try going fenceless.

I realize it is ironic that we are establishing wildlife habitat and fencing out rabbits. There is plenty for rabbits to eat in the rest of Lions Park. They are food for other animals. They are prolific, but only live two years, providing they are the 15 percent making adulthood. The CBG rabbits feed the resident Cooper’s hawks.

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Rabbit-proof fencing allows other wildlife access and protects spring bulbs in mid-April. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Laramie County Master Gardener Kim Parker said her solution is dogs and fencing, “At our house, we have successfully used low, 18″ fencing to keep the bunnies out while my garden establishes, then we take it down and ‘let them eat cake.’

“Most of the year, I don’t think they eat hardly anything (at least not that I notice), although I notice that in the winter they nibble on some grass and grape hyacinth leaves. Weird. They also have spots in our buffalo grass lawn where they like to rest, but the dog keeps them from lingering long.

“So, dogs and fencing (I recommend), and perhaps using plants that they don’t want to eat, or that are vigorous enough that it doesn’t matter if they get eaten, grape hyacinth or fall asters for example.”

The Wyoming Master Gardener Handbook says there are rabbit repellants you can spread around or spray on your plants, but they are only effective until it rains. Be careful what you spray on vegetables you’ll eat. Ultrasonic devices are ineffective. Eliminating access to hiding spots, like nearby brushy areas (or that juniper hedge next to the Habitat Hero garden) is important.

Fencing is the only sure-fire cure. For cottontails, the handbook recommends 30 inches high and for jackrabbits (hares), 36 inches, preferably something like chicken wire with small openings. If rabbits gnaw on your trees and shrubs, wrap pieces of quarter-inch hardware cloth around trunks, 30-36 inches high.

2019-06 garden greenup

Seedlings planted last summer make a comeback in early June once the rabbits were fenced out. The fencing was put up three months before (see first garden photo). Photo by Barb Gorges.

At the CBG much of the fence is up against the sidewalk so rabbits can’t dig their way in. Otherwise, you need to allow for an extra 12 inches of fencing beyond the height you want: 6 inches at the bottom bent at a 90-degree angle to the outside of the garden and then bury that flange 6 inches deep.

Remember, if you decide to have a rabbit for dinner, you must follow the Wyoming Game and Fish Department hunting and trapping regulations.

 

2019-06 bronze rabbits

These larger-than-life bronze rabbits are by Dan Ostermiller, Cheyenne native and Loveland, Colorado sculptor. They and other bronze animals will be on display at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens through August 2019. By mid-May, the Habitat Hero Demonstration Garden, seen upper left, had begun to recover. Photo by Barb Gorges.


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Rooted in Cheyenne plants trees

2019-04 Rooted in Cheyenne 4 crew planting

A crew of Rooted in Cheyenne volunteers plants a street tree.

Published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle April 14, 2019, “Laying down roots, Rooted in Cheyenne to plant more trees, offer tree and garden tour.” All photos courtesy of Rooted in Cheyenne.

By Barb Gorges

Street trees and their canopy of green are prized, especially here in Cheyenne, located on the naturally treeless prairie. Trees keep cities cooler, break the wind’s ferocity, add to property value, remove pollutants and sequester carbon.

Cheyenne residents started systematically planting in 1882 and have continued planting in successive waves.

The latest wave of tree planting was instigated by Mark Ellison, city forester. He noticed many street trees have disappeared, victims of disease and old age. A windfall of $25,000 helped set up a tree planting 501(c)3 nonprofit, Rooted in Cheyenne. The name harks back to our city’s tree history and forward to a tree-full future.

The funds came from mitigation for the historic residential block replaced by Cheyenne Regional Medical Center’s Cancer Center, said Stephanie Lowe, involved with Historic Cheyenne, Inc., the group set up to disburse the funds.

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Trees are planted in the right of way.

Ellison and the Rooted in Cheyenne board organized an incentive program to encourage property owners to have trees planted in the right of way, between curb and sidewalk, or if the sidewalk abuts the curb, on the other side of the sidewalk.

In the spring of 2017 they bought 100 trees, and for $50 each, offered to plant a tree for a property owner as well as stake it and care for it for one year, including weekly watering in summer and monthly watering in winter.

Rooted in Cheyenne has continued to offer 100 or more trees twice a year. Some trees are available at no cost to people who qualify.  This year, the actual cost of $150 per tree, including planting supplies, was also supported by a state forestry grant and the Laramie County Conservation District. Additional sponsorships and donations are welcome.

The trees this spring come from nurseries in Colorado, Nebraska and Oregon in 15-gallon containers. They are 8 to 10 feet tall with a caliper (diameter) of 1.25 to 1.5 inches.

Ellison has taken the precaution of offering a variety of trees suited to our area. You can see photos and descriptions at www.RootedinCheyenne.com. It’s a list to work from if you are planting on your own.

When I spoke to Ellison mid-March, nearly all this spring’s trees were spoken for. If you missed your chance, there’s another planting being scheduled for September.

Consider volunteering May 18 on a planting crew for half a day. City Council Ward I member Jeff White is enthusiastic about his experience on a crew last spring and the importance of the effort: “So many of the trees in our city have reached their shelf life. We would become treeless. It’s important to have Rooted in Cheyenne.”

Each crew plants 10 trees in four hours. A crew is led by one or two people from the green industry (landscapers, arborists, yard care company employees, etc.) who know how to correctly plant a tree.

If you plant trees yourself this spring, see the Cheyenne Urban Forestry department’s website, http://www.cheyennetrees.com. Look under the Education tab for the Wyoming Tree Owner’s Manual. It describes safe planting locations and best planting practices.

Volunteers are also needed to do weekly summer watering. A crew of two drives a pickup around with a tank of water and a hose in the back.

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When sidewalks abut the curb, trees are planted on the other side of the sidewalk.

All the trees planted so far have survived, except a handful hit by hail last summer, and one tree loved to death. Once the critical first year is over, novice tree owners should be able to handle the maintenance.

“Word of mouth has been carrying the program pretty well,” said Ellison. Now Rooted in Cheyenne wants to get the word out about their Tree and Garden Tour, a mix of education, fun and fundraiser June 9.

Ticket holders will tour the Historic Dubois Block yards and gardens, viewing 30 different trees and shrubs plus other plants suited to Cheyenne.

Activities will include food trucks, Ask an Arborist, lawn games and tree planting and care workshops.

MORE INFORMATION

Rooted in Cheyenne

To sign up for a tree, volunteer, donate or sponsor, see www.RootedinCheyenne.com or call the Cheyenne Urban Forestry Division.

Cheyenne Urban Forestry Division

Call 637-6428 Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. See http://www.cheyennetrees.com for resources on city tree ordinances, trees and tree planting.

Rooted in Cheyenne Tree and Garden Tour of the Historic Dubois Block, June 9, 1 p.m.

Check the Rooted in Cheyenne Facebook page. Tickets are $10.00 per person or $15.00 per family at www.BrownPaperTickets.com or at the event.  All proceeds from ticket sales go to plant trees in Cheyenne through Rooted in Cheyenne.

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Seed Library of Laramie County

2019-03 Seed Library Lar Co Barb GorgesSeed Library of Laramie County offers gardening classes

Published Mar. 24, 2019, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Sowing seeds of knowledge: Seed Library of Laramie County offers gardening classes.”

By Barb Gorges

            “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Cicero

“Seed” + “Library”—one of the first times these words were put together in the modern era was in California in the early 2000s for the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL). It is a place where people can swap seeds, as has been done historically, before the Burpee age.

A seed is rather like a book. You open it by adding water, soil and sunshine and soon you have the whole story. But for most of us, the concept of the library is the public library and one is expected to return the book. How do you return a seed? Save the seeds from what you grew and return them, if possible, though seed libraries won’t fine you if you don’t.

There is an art to saving seed. You need to know when to harvest it, sometime after it has reached maturity and before the pod shatters and scatters it. You also must be careful that wind or bees haven’t cross-pollinated your seed, making a hybrid.

Saving adaptations

One of the original goals of setting up a seed library was to protect the genetics of seeds that are not from commercial sources. The seeds that are handed down from generation to generation in one place become more and more adapted to those local growing conditions. Some of those may start out as commercially purchased seeds and little by little, become adapted (note: this works best with open-pollinated varieties, not hybrids).

Seeds become culturally important heirlooms, like varieties of beans grown in the Southwest.

Public library connection

There are several hundred seed libraries (http://seedlibraries.weebly.com) across the U.S. and in other countries, mostly located within public libraries. Many libraries find it difficult to get seed returned. Because so many of us have depended on commercial agriculture rather than our own gardens for food, the libraries have found we first need to re-learn how to grow vegetables—and flowers. Flowers are important for attracting insects to pollinate the vegetables.

Public libraries are all about spreading knowledge and so seed libraries have an educational component, like the classes offered by the Seed Library of Laramie County this spring.

The Seed Library of Laramie County got its start at the Laramie County Library in 2017. Librarian Elizabeth Thorsen recruited the Laramie County Master Gardeners and they looked at seed library models like the one in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and Richmond Grows in Richmond, Virginia.

2019-03a Seed Library Lar Co Barb GorgesThe two local organizations have sponsored the cost, Master Gardeners’ part is from its annual plant sale. Costs include keeping up with the demand for seed, printing packets and educational materials, and purchasing what resembles a card catalog for organizing the seed packets. Donations of additional seeds and funds are appreciated.

Michelle Bohanan and Maggie McKenzie are two of the Master Gardeners working with library staff to put on this spring’s two free events:  Vegetable Gardens for Beginners Mar. 30 and the 2019 Seed Library Kickoff April 20.

Michelle, who has an extensive home seed library and takes part in the Seed Savers Exchange, https://www.seedsavers.org/, and other seed swaps, said one of the joys is watching children pick out their own seeds.

The seed library is located on the third floor and is open during library hours, Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; and Sunday 1 – 5 p.m.  Ask the librarian at the Ask Here desk for help.

Seed Library of Laramie County classes:

Vegetable Gardens for Beginners
Saturday, March 30, 3 – 4:30 p.m., Storytime Room, Laramie County Library, 2200 Pioneer Ave. Free. Adults and teens.

Which plants should be started indoors? How much space does a cucumber need? What should be added to the soil? Get answers to these and other questions about vegetable gardens from local gardening experts.

2019 Seed Library Kickoff

Saturday, April 20. Laramie County Library, time and room to be determined. All ages. Free. Contact Kellie, kjohnson@lclsonline.org.

Get seeds for your garden and tips for simple, affordable gardening! We’ve chosen a huge variety of flowers, herbs, and vegetables suitable for beginning gardeners in our climate. Seeds and advice are free; no library card needed. Each person is limited to 12 packets of seeds.


Transplanted NY gardener blooms in Cheyenne

 

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Sandra Cox’s vegetable garden did extremely well its first season. Photo by Barb Gorges

Published Jan. 6, 2019, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Transplanted gardener helps local yard bloom.”

By Barb Gorges

There’s only one thing that beats Sandra Cox’s love of gardening: It’s love for her family.

In July 2017, she gave up gardening in the Hudson Valley of New York state to move to Cheyenne at the invitation of her son and his family. She left behind a newly planted orchard and everything she knew about gardening there to start over at her new home.

When Sandra arrived, no one had watered her new yard for some months, and our clay soil required a pick ax to plant the calla lilies she brought with her. But with care and mulch, by the end of the season, time to dig them back up, she was pleased to see a healthy population of earth worms.

Sandra’s garden in New York was in the same Zone 5 USDA growing zone (coldest temperature rating) as Cheyenne. But there are five major differences:

 

  1. Cheyenne has alkaline soils rather than acidic so adding lime or wood ash is a no-no.
  2. Cheyenne has a shorter growing season. Sandra’s learned she will have to start her peppers and eggplant indoors earlier and put them outside, with protection, earlier.
  3. Cheyenne has 12-15 inches of precipitation annually, one-third of New York’s. Watering is necessary much more often here. She’s thinking about installing an irrigation system.
  4. Cheyenne has hail. Although the tomato plants this summer made a comeback, the tomatoes themselves were scarred. Sandra’s planning to protect them with wire cages next year.
  5. Cheyenne has different soil—clay instead of sandy.

Although arriving mid-summer 2017, Sandra went to work establishing a vegetable garden. “I disturb the soil as little as possible to avoid disrupting the earthworms because they do all the work for you,” she explained.

Instead, she spread leaves over the abandoned lawn, laid down a layer of cardboard from the packing boxes from her move, then covered them with wood chips from the city compost facility. To keep the chips from blowing away, she laid wire fencing over them and pegged it down. She removed the fencing and planted directly into this mulch the next season.

Sandra researches the best varieties to plant in our climate. Her first fall, she planted grapes and an apple and a plum tree. Last spring, she planted pear, peach and sweet cherry trees. The cherries did very well.

In the north-facing front yard, Sandra’s planted shrubs for privacy and perennials for pollinators and pleasure. The city’s street tree planting program, Rooted in Cheyenne, came out and planted a burr oak and a linden. A huge spruce tree shades the house on hot summer afternoons.

One day last fall, she called and asked if we’d come harvest some kale and Swiss chard since she had too much. What an oasis of lush green! And her giant sunflowers were at least 12 feet high. A sunny yard helps, but much of her success can be attributed to her dedication to compost—she composts everything, and her chickens help break it down.

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Sandra’s chickens are an important part of her gardening. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Sandra hasn’t used fertilizer yet—other than fish emulsion and well-aged chicken manure. She’s planning to do a soil test this next year to see if she has any deficiencies, but her plants didn’t seem to show any signs.

Pests are not a problem so far. Sandra thinks it is only a matter of time before the pests catch up with her. Already she’s concerned about the big spruce tree being attacked by the ips beetle. It has killed other spruces in her neighborhood, she thinks. The city forester recommended winter watering—good for all her newly planted trees and shrubs, but also good for older trees for which drought stress makes them more susceptible to pests.

Unlike New York which normally has constant winter snow cover, Cheyenne has snowless weeks plus days when the temperatures are above freezing—good days for watering trees.

Sandra remembers that growing up on the family farm was a constant delight, from taking care of the goats to eating apples while high up in the branches to joining her parents and five siblings in the field after dinner to weed, joke around and enjoy each other’s company. Her siblings still enjoy gardening and farming, as does her son, who has a degree in horticulture. Her granddaughters have caught the family enthusiasm as well.

“Bloom where you’re planted” is an old axiom that doesn’t just mean, “make the best of a situation.” For Sandra, it means with a little studying up, she can joyfully grow a garden anywhere, even here.

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Sandra’s sunflowers are more than a story high. Fencing protects new trees and other plantings from the chickens. Photo by Barb Gorges.

 


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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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Growing lavender in Cheyenne

2018-10 Cathy Rogers-lavender by Barb Gorges

Cathy Rogers inspects her lavender crop. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Also published at Wyoming Network News, https://www.wyomingnetworknews.com/lavender-is-a-perfect-plant-for-cheyenne, and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Oct. 21, 2018.

Lavender is a perfect plant for Cheyenne

By Barb Gorges

Lavender is an herb held in high esteem across the ages, even back 2,500 years when it was used in mummifying pharaohs in Egypt, according to Google.

Lavender, a member of the mint family, is edible. As a dried wreath or spray, its soft gray-green leaves and stems of lavender, pink, blue or white flowers are classic. As an essential oil or dried herb, it has medicinal uses. It is often used in perfumes and other products because its scent has a reputation for calming the mind. Even photos of great fields of it in Provence, France, or garden borders in England give one a sense of peace.

All those attributes may have been what Laramie County Master Gardener Cathy Rogers was looking for when she went to her first lavender festival several years ago.

“I became interested in lavender because it has always been my favorite fragrance,” she said. It led her to want to fill her pasture on Cheyenne’s north side with mounds of lavender shrubs. She brought home several varieties to try.

Growing conditions here are perfect for many kinds of lavender: dry weather, lots of sunshine and well-drained, low fertility, alkaline soil. The alkalinity enhances the fragrance.

Deer don’t like lavender, but bees do—two more reasons to consider growing it.

Although many of the 450-plus named cultivars of lavender are rated Zone 5, Cheyenne’s growing zone, mulching after the first freeze will protect them from being killed by our region’s tendency for multiple freeze-thaw cycles each winter.

On a hot day in August, Cathy took me out to her garden to inspect the kinds of lavender she chose from festival vendors as most suited to Cheyenne:

Impress Purple

Gros Blue

Folgate

Buena Vista

Edelweiss (Grosso white)

Grosso

2018-10 Cathy Rogers prepares cutting--by Barb Gorges

Cathy Rogers snips a soft, non-woody growing tip to start a new lavender shrub. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Lavender will seed itself, though it won’t grow true to its parent. It can be propagated from cuttings, which is what Cathy did to establish the long row in the pasture.

She prefers to make hers from the softwood—the flexible, non-woody branch ends. She cuts them about 5 inches long and strips the leaves off the lower half. Then she dips the ends of the stems in rooting hormone and inserts them in seed-starting medium, usually a light potting soil made up of ingredients like peat, vermiculite, perlite—not plain old garden soil. You can try rooting the stem in water too. Cathy had 80 percent success with her seed-starting soil method.

It takes about three years for the new plants to mature. Cathy waited a year before planting her cuttings out in the field where she had suppressed the pasture vegetation with weed-barrier cloth. Proper spacing is important—lavender shrubs can be as large as 30 inches wide as well as 30 inches high.

Lavender requires little care most years, once it’s established. Cathy had only irrigated the row once as of mid-August. But plants require annual pruning when mature. Removing one-third of the shrub, usually in spring right after last frost, will give you more flowers. But sometimes branches are harvested during the growing season.

When and what is harvested depends on what product is the goal. For decorative craft purposes, snip branches when the flowers are barely open. Potpourri and sachets use only the flower buds, again, barely open.

For use in food, often paired with lemon flavors in desserts or roasted with chicken or vegetables, check the recipe. Some call for dried or fresh flowers, others for the leaves. A little goes a long way—maybe two teaspoons of dried buds for an 8 x 12-inch pan of lemon bars.

There’s also lavender infusions, lavender sugar, lavender syrup, lavender jam, lavender vinegar and lavender lemonade.

Distilling essential oils requires a big copper distiller like a moonshine still. It can use whole branches, leaves and all. Essential oils get used in cleaning and beauty products.

Cathy’s best sources of information have been the workshops and vendors at the Lavender Association of Western Colorado festival. The next one is June 29, 2019, in Palisade, Colorado, outside Grand Junction. The association’s website, https://coloradolavender.org, has detailed information on growing lavender in a climate similar to ours.

“I use The Lavender Lover’s Handbook, The 100 Most Beautiful and Fragrant Varieties for Growing, Crafting, and Cooking, by Sarah Berringer Baden, as my primary reference, at least until I can get to Provence, France, or Sequim, Washington,” Cathy said. Both are centers of the lavender industry.

This fall is the perfect time to plan and prepare a spot to plant lavender next spring.

2018-10 Cathy Roger's lavender by Barb Gorges

Most of Cathy Rogers’ lavender plants are lavender colored. Photo by Barb Gorges.