Ah, Spring!  The North Takes a Deep Breath
One of my earliest science class memories (and maybe one of yours, too) is learning that people and other animals “breathe oxygen” and plants “breathe carbon dioxide”.  I carried this gem all the way to AP biology in high school, when things got complicated.  As it turns out, plants need and use oxygen for all the same things that we do, and they exhale carbon dioxide to boot!  So what’s going...
[gallery link="file" orderby="title"] Rain may not brighten your day, but I was positively enthusiastic about it this week.  After enough winter, it seemed like a sign of spring and a chance to step into the Gardens.  My shoes clomped across wet pavement and I relished the sensation.  When I hit a patch of ice, I nearly went down: even looking directly at it I couldn't see it.  If it hadn't been for...
The Importance of Being Ephemeral
The first daffodils are peeking through the soil, and some of the earliest bulbs—crocus and galanthus—are finishing up their flowering cycle.  As spring progresses we will watch the annual parade of our favorites:  tulips, allium, eremurus, and others will flower and vanish before the worst of summer heat.  Denver is a great place to grow ephemeral plants of many kinds because the harsh seasonality it experiences annually is the sort of...
Reviewed: "Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens"
The following review comes to us from Maggie Lee, a New Mexico-based garden designer quite familiar with drought-tolerant plants. In their new book, "Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens," Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden offer a unique resource of 200 adaptive plants ranging from trees to cacti. Accompanying the introductory page to each section, the authors’ beautifully-photographed garden vignettes illustrate accomplished examples of textural tapestries and well-proportioned compositions; gardens rich in species and relationships. I...
Better Red than Dead
The classic explanation of winter reddening is that red pigments protect plants from the effects of too much light.  This makes sense in observation--plants in full sun in the winter often turn red, while shaded members of the same species stay green.  It’s initially perhaps a bit of a stretch to imagine that plants can suffer from excess light—after all, we’re taught from a young age that plants adore the...
On Giving Roses
  A lot of people will send or receive a bouquet of roses today, and they will be continuing a very long tradition. Roses are one of the oldest of cultivated flowers—they have been grown across Asia for many centuries.  Roses first came to Europe from Persia and were already extremely popular in Greece by the time of Herodotus (5th century BC), who recorded his visit to the famous rose garden of Midas, son...
Evergreens You Might Not Notice
Plants, like most organisms, must overcome a number of challenges before they reach maturity.  Seeds are heavily preyed upon by insects, birds and mammals, and new seedlings face stiff competition from one another for light, water and nutrients.  Germinating in the fall or early winter when many competitors’ seeds are dormant is one of the strategies some plants use to overcome competition from other seedlings. Fall-germinating plants typically send down some...
As Busy as Gardeners in Winter
A Bank You Can Trust: the Seed Bank
As the Greek government, its creditors, and the bankers at the International Monetary Fund continue to discuss Eurobonds and interest rates, my thoughts have wandered from the European Central Bank to another sort of bank altogether—the seed bank. In a previous blog post I described how before germinating many seeds commonly go through dormancy which can last a few weeks, a few years, or even a few decades.  Those patiently waiting...
Seed Dormancy:  Botanical "Hibernation"
While taking advantage of the warm daytime temperatures in recent weeks to get some pruning in, I was hailed from the pathway nearby. "Do you ever worry about seeds coming up early during warm spells like this?" In a word, "no."  But why not? The seeds of most temperate plants have evolved a variety of mechanisms to avoid arriving on the springtime stage ahead of cue.  Together, these mechanisms are generally known as...

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