Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener
Garden tours celebrate summer, the season of color. Local “green thumbs” share their unique, creative, colorful and productive gardens. Participation in or planning a garden tour allows growing communities to showcase how new landscapes may be established, assists newcomers in identifying successful ideas and techniques, and demonstrates the uses of plants, trees, and turf along the Front Range.
When visiting gardens, do not always expect to see “perfection”. One’s personal paradise may be colorful and creative or may have an educational emphasis. Yards on a tour allow newcomers and neighbors to observe raised beds, plants that attract hummingbirds or butterflies, water-wise landscaping, vegetables/produce, roses, herbs, water or fountain features, healthy trees or special turf and grasses that survive in clay based soil. One gardener on a local tour was growing soil and compost. She demonstrated organic gardening techniques that are needed when a beehive was added to her yard.
Garden tours are sponsored by a variety of organizations, which sell tickets and provide programs, maps and information about their organization as well as the participating gardens. Rain or shine, tours may last three to six hours. Other communities and organizations offer tours that are one or two days, Friday/Saturday or often a summer evening for gardens viewed in a different light.
In sponsoring a garden tour, groups usually provide a name for their tour e.g. Down the Garden Path, A Day in the Garden. Some organizations offer plant exchanges at the end of the day, include entertainment for children or vote on the most outstanding garden. Participation in a garden tour may require labeling flowers, shrubs, plants, vegetables or identifying other features.
Organizations advertise the day or weekend for the tour. June is a month when most annuals, perennials and roses are blooming. It is a month when the weeds have not grasped the garden and there tend to be fewer hailstorms. July is great because food gardens have produce and the gardens tend to look full. Directional signs, door prizes, ticket distribution and people to staff the gardens help assist visitors.
If you are a newcomer to the Front Range or an established “green thumb”, participate in a garden tour or become a member of a group planning a garden tour. Visit local greenhouses, garden centers, read copious gardening articles and magazines, attend classes in gardening know-how, and walk about town observing what your community has accomplished. Gather ideas for next year and enjoy the season of color.
Q: Why are viburnums such versatile shrubs?
A: The varieties of available viburnums are suitable for dry, wet, sunny or shady areas. There are more than 150 different species with hardiness zones from 2 to 9. Besides having attractive foliage and a variety of growth habits, viburnums may also offer lovely and fragrant flowers. Many also boast of colorful fruits and exciting fall foliage. The fruits are appealing to birds and other wildlife.
Q: Rhubarb is a sweet and sour treat. Is it a fruit or a vegetable?
A. Rhubarb suffers from an identity crisis. It is best described in garden books as an “uncommon vegetable” that’s used as a fruit in sauces and pies. Rhubarb is an indispensable perennial vegetable, which appears in early spring and is a great source of vitamin C and iron. The edible portion of the plant is the stalk (petiole). The leaves provide a good source of organic matter in a compost pile.
Q: In the “war of the weeds” is the dandelion always a villain?
A. Dandelion is a serious problem in lawns and in many other crops. In tree fruits it lures bees away from the fruit blossoms. It is a weed of alfalfa fields as well. The seed head is quite symmetrical and beautiful. However, the parachute attached to the seed carries it far and wide. Each plant can be removed by use of a dandelion knife but it must go deep into the ground to remove all of the crown buds. The dandelions greens can be cooked like spinach or provide a tangy flavor that adds interest to salads. The roots can be eaten as vegetables or roasted and ground to make root “caffeine free” coffee. Dandelions are an excellent source of vitamin A, iron and calcium. Why not enjoy your weeds?
For a bright addition to most any perennial garden consider adding daylilies. They’re easy to grow and come in a wide range of sizes and bright colors, many of which will bloom throughout summer. Arching, strap-like foliage also provides interesting texture.
Much of the soil in our Front Range area is alkaline, clay composition, which can make growing a challenge. The addition of an organic amendment such as compost or sphagnum peat moss spread 1-1/4 inches on the soil surface and thoroughly tilled in will help reduce alkalinity and improve aeration and drainage.
Plant and gardening information on a wide range of topics is available from Planttalk Colorado. This is a 24-hour, toll-free, automated phone service of Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver Botanic Gardens and Green Industries of Colorado. A brochure containing a list of topics can be obtained from the CSU Extension Office, at most garden centers or by phoning 1-888-666-3063.
The authors have received training through Colorado State University Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener program and is a Master Gardener volunteer for Larimer County.
Gardening and Insect Fact Sheets are available on-line by clicking HERE.
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