Just Moved Here....

westy1941(Boulder County, CO)March 10, 2013

....to Boulder County. In an apartment now but soon to move to the Erie/Lafayette area. It's of course garden culture shock having collected hostas and Japanese Maples all my life in the humidity of the Midwest. Looking for a garden club and/or nurseries. I see Botany Lane is a wholesaler near me and I don't find as many retailers here as back home. Also want perennials like huechera - if they even grow here. Anyone have any advice on where to start - with a newly built unlandscaped house? I desperately want to bury myself in vines and trees and green!



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treebarb Z5 Denver

Welcome, westy 1941! I'm glad you found us! There are a few former Illinoians who use this site, myself included. This site is my garden club! Many of our members get together twice a year for a plant swap, ususally in May and October.

It's good that you're beginning here understanding that things will be different. You can still grow hostas and huechera, and a lot of other wonderful plants. Japanese maples are going to be a challenge. The sun is quite intense here and JM don't like the wind or lack of moisture either. I would put that tree on the back burner until you can establish a microclimate at your new place that will protect it.

I would spend some time on the Colorado State University Extension website. If you go to the yard and garden section you can search the Front Range Tree Recommendation List. That's been a good starting point for me. Also search the site for shrubs, vines and perennials that do well here.

Several of my go to local nurseries went out of business in the last year. I'm east of you and don't know of any in your vicinity exept Harlequin Gardens in Boulder, but someone else on our site will.

Again, welcome and good luck!


    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 11:38AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Westy,

Glad to see you made it out here! And you wound up in a great area! Don't know if you remember or not, but I'm another of the Illinois Expatriates! Family still in Crystal Lake!

Don't know how much snow you got up Boulder way yesterday, but now you're gonna get to see for yourself how snow "works" out here! In a few days it'll be gone! Over here in Thornton they're predicting 70 by Friday, Boulder won't be quite that warm but should be close--and with sun between now and then almost all of it will be gone before then anyway. Don't tell any of your old friends from Illinois about our Magically Disappearing Snow or they'll all want to move out here too!

It's gonna take a few years to get things really going at your new house, but I think it would be fun to have a blank slate to start with! It lets you do it all exactly the way you want it without needing to tear out old stuff to make revisions to somebody else's Vision!

Did you wind up bringing starts for any of your hostas along with you?

If you haven't already done this, before you start with any really major planning you should check out what kind of watering restrictions Boulder County (if that's where your new house is) will have this summer--and probably ongoing from here on out. At least this last storm will have helped the snowpack in the mountains get up closer to 100%. A month or so ago we were only at about half of normal!

With the Heuchera, are you talking about the "regular" green leaf with red flowers ones, or the "dark leaf" varieties that come in all sorts of leaf colors? If the latter, you're going to find you need to grow those in mostly shade or very filtered sun out here--like hosta! With the high altitude sun the leaves burn quite easily, especially in winter when they're dormant. So if you're into "collecting" those like different varieties of hosta you might want to start out slowly until you start to get some trees going that will give you more options for shade. The regular green leaf ones do pretty well in any light conditions, but I've found they need quite a bit of water if they're in a lot of sun! If you are into the "colorful" varieties, I'm pretty sure you're going to need to order them online to find more than a few of the most basic ones!

With vines, and especially since you're gonna be in I Want To Get It All Covered In Green FAST mode, a word of warning! Most of the commonly found, fast growing vines around here are also going to wind up being totally invasive after a few years and you'll have them "covering" things, but also going everywhere where you don't want them--things like Virginia Creeper, Boston Ivy, Trumpet Vine, etc., they start to spread underground, and some of them also start to seed all over the place. If you have a BIG yard with fences or something around the edges, that might work, but in a "normal" size yard, I recommend staying away from them, or at least be aware that you'll be fighting them forever if you decide to put them in. This has been discussed multiple times around here and the best option people have come up with for a pretty fast growing vine that won't bite you back is grapes--and there are some good grapes that are hardy out here--and give you (hopefully) something good to eat in addition to the Green! I have 'Reliance', a red table grape, but I'm not sure it gets enough sun to ever get grapes--only a couple years old and I haven't gotten anything edible yet! Concord also grows VERY well out here if you're into juice or jelly! And there are others. There have been a couple discussions of different grape varieties around here, and, in case you haven't noticed it yet, the best way to search on GW/RMG is to go to the bottom of the main RMG page and right next to the little box that says "today's birthdays," all the way down on the bottom, there's a search box where you can just search the Rocky Mountain Gardening forum rather than all of GW. So if there's something you want to find past threads about, like grapes, just go down to that box and put it in there! Clematis is another possibility for a "good" vine, and there are some truly spectacular ones with "dinner plate" size flowers!

And, below, I'm linking an old thread (not THAT old - just a year ago!) where people were listing the places they use to buy things--both local in Denver and online. So check that out to get you started with a few of the local places. They're not really "that" close, but Timberline and Paulino's are probably the two biggest "real" nurseries closest to you. Harlequin in Boulder is also mentioned, and maybe it's just me, but I went there for the first time last year with Barb and I was kind of underwhelmed! Maybe it was just because I had heard so many good things about it from other people, and maybe it was because I'm used to Timberline and Paulino's, and, by comparison, I just didn't think it was very impressive.

For you and anybody else who might go back and reread that thread, an UPDATE on Paulino's! Cheryl, the perennial grower, has now left there, and as of last word the only perennials they're going to carry anymore are the things they can "buy in!" That means they'll have a very limited selection--and have pretty much just the same stuff "everybody else" has! No more variety with a couple dozen different Penstemon and stuff like that! They will still have some of that stuff this spring--the stuff Cheryl had started last year for 2013 sales, but when that's gone it'll (probably) just be the very basic perennials. Nursery should still be a good selection! So as of this summer, Timberline winds up being pretty much the only place left in town where you can get a WIDE variety of perennials locally. (And now that High Country has "changed hands," I doubt that he'll be carrying "High Country plants" anymore!)

One more garden center on the "north end" of town (south for you!), that I just discovered last fall when somebody (was it you Misty?) posted that they were having a 25-cent sale on all remaining perennials is O'Toole's on Wadsworth. They have several locations around the metro area, I haven't been to the others, but other folks have said they liked them in the past! Besides getting a couple flats of perennials for just 25 cents, I was pretty impressed with the place--and the couple people I spoke with! Considering it was the end of the year and they were just getting rid of what they had left, I was surprised to find that they had more than the "basic varieties" that I was expecting to find. I'll probably go back this spring/summer to check them out more, and I will very definitely be watching to see if thay have THAT good of a sale again this coming fall!

Gotta go! Hope you'll find time to come and post here to ask, and to help answer questions--and just to comment in general about things!

Welcome to Colorful Colorado,

Here is a link that might be useful: Your favorite seed and plant sources

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 2:31PM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

Wow - thank you SO much - to both of you. Skybird, I distinctly remember you of course because I lived so close to your relative in Crystal Lake - I never could catch him though to say hi and I figured he'd think I was a nut anyway - most people who aren't hostafreaks don't get the 'friend plant' thing and how we're all connected! And thanks to you too Treebarb. You've both given me so much info I'll need to print it out so I have it handy when I'm out searching nurseries, etc. I also heard from another hosta collector who lives in Westminster - you might know him - he contacted me directly via email and sent a plethora of info. Referred me to a place for amendments after telling me about the soil. I notice you two have both ID'd yourselves in Zone 5 - this surprises me. I thought it would be more like Z7 or 8 here. The dryness is scaring me a little although we both detest humidity so are glad to escape that but I will so miss my JM's and my 20-year old hostas. And yes, I know about those three invasive vines because I've planted all of them. They nearly suffocated our house and I spent year after year trying to eradicate them. I will stay in touch and will be anxious to meet you at an 'event' for gardeners one of these days - but it will be a year before I even have a landscaped yard! And then how many more before I have a garden again.....this is what a grandchild does to you.

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 1:25AM
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Welcome. One thing to keep in mind, you CAN grow hostas. But should you? A good portion of the Front Range will be under increased water restriction this year due to the ongoing drought. The lawn will go dormant early and I may put another inch or so of wood chips on everything just to be safe and to lessen the hassle. Far easier and less work (and money) to go with adapted plants. My yard has something blooming from March-Oct. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 11:32AM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

You raise a good point, WxDano. I don't feel comfortable growing much of anything with this drought. I have a lot of research to do and as others have suggested, will take in as much as I can this summer until we own some land. Back in Illinois, when a new house was built it had to have topsoil added after the excavation was completed and I haven't heard anyone mention topsoil. Only amendments which I know I will need plenty of. Haven't had a chance to visit the C U Extension site but will be educating myself asap. I desperately want to grow the mini heucheras I fell in love with a couple of years ago and know those will need shade also. I wish my kids had moved to a rainforest. This is a struggle for a gardener. But with the help of this site, I'm sure I'll live!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 3:21AM
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david52 Zone 6

I have pretty good luck with heucheras planted on the east side of my house. They get 3-4 hours of sun.

Better, it seems, than those in total shade. Once they're established, they're reasonably drought tolerant.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:53AM
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This is a very challenging place to garden, that's for sure, much more so than "The West", all of which is not back east. Soils are different, rainfall different, much less water in the snow. And the wind...sigh....the wind...

As far as "topsoil" goes, we have soil with a narrow O layer and depending on where you go, deep A layer. But "topsoil" as thought of back east? No. Right here at our house we have a soil association that is shallow loam and then some wonderful clay underneath, very fertile for adapted plants. But I trucked in manufactured soil for the raised veggie beds so we could have root crops.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 10:45AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I couldn't help but laugh at your comment about adding topsoil after construction in Illinois! Illinois folks don't understand what they have and most people out here, I for one!, would be absolutely delighted to have "what's left after construction" in Illinois as my "topsoil" out here! I'm heading back there for a visit in May and I just might go out in my brother's veggie garden and roll around in the Black Dirt to reminisce about my gardening days of yore! What I wouldn't give for a couple truckloads of Illinois Dirt to grow veggies in out here!

If you decide to order some "topsoil" out here I think you're going to be very disappointed in what's delivered to you! At the very least go to the place you're thinking of getting it from and thoroughly peruse what they're selling as "topsoil" BEFORE you pay for anything. But I think the only way you're going to get anything you'd define as "topsoil" would be to order it from Illinois!

Having said all that! It'll take a "few" years, but you CAN get something passable to grow stuff in out here if you just keep adding organic matter year after year after year.........

And a lot of people out here go the "raised bed" filled with a "commercial mix" as Dan mentioned above. But if you consider using raised beds for veggies, DO get a "commercial mix" and DON'T fill them up with "topsoil" or you'll wind up with pretty much the same conditions you'd have if you planted directly in the ground.

If you'll be putting sod in at the new house (seeding a lawn, like they do in Illinois, out here is VERY difficult since the surface dries out almost immediately after you wet it down) most people have x-amount of organic matter/compost of some sort tilled into "whatever is there" and then lay the sod on top of that. And if it's watered "right," Kentucky Blue Grass can wind up being amazingly drought tolerant! It needs to be watered DEEPLY when it's watered and gradually watered less and less frequently so it develops DEEP roots. That's the same thing that makes any drought tolerant plant drought tolerant! Plants with deep roots are able to draw on the moisture further down in the soil to keep going when the surface has dried. Watering grass every few days keeps the surface wet, the roots never need to grow deep, and when you suddenly can't water often enough because of restrictions, it DIES. (I lived in Park Hill--olde Denver--during our first "restriction drought" back in the 70's and nobody had ever heard of water restrictions and about half the people watered their grass every day--and about half the people suddenly wound up with DEAD lawns!) If watered deeply and infrequently KBG won't look as lush and green as "the neighbors," but when theirs dies the one that's watered "to make it last" will go semi-dormant and will be back and happy when it gets water again. I only water mine (deeply!) every one to two weeks--even with the hot summers we've had lately, and it does just fine!

For flower and veggie gardens I recommend you start adding "organic matter" as soon as you identify the areas you want to plant. Then keep turning more in every couple weeks, and when you start planting perennials mix a lot more into the immediate planting area each time you plant something! I started with HEAVY clay in most places, and I do mean heavy, as in, if it could be purified some of it could be used for potter's clay! I started out making compost and mixing it in as I planted and en masse into my veggie garden, but it never seemed to help a whole lot. Last year I started digging the fall leaves directly into my veggie garden--whole! Now I'm making some progress! When I was mixing in the "finished" compost it was so decomposed the worms weren't really interested in it anymore! Now that I'm mixing in nice big pieces of dinner for them, they're loving it and I've had a population explosion--and lots of worms are one of the best things you can "do" for your garden! So whatever you get to mix in, IMO, it's best if it's not completely decomposed! Whatever it is you get should at least be as "light and fluffy" as possible--the "heavier" it is, the less good it will do! And since improving soil out here is a long and continuing process, do start improving planting areas as soon as you possibly can. When I'm planting perennials at this point I mix in "half finished" compost--and I transplant as many worms as I can easily pull out of the compost pile! If I run into "pieces" that are still "too big" to easily mix in I just pull them back out and throw them back on the compost pile--but I try to mix in as much un-decomposed stuff as I can to keep the Worm Action going!

If you were living in a rain forest, just think: MOSQUITOES! Methinks that's one thing you WON'T miss from Illinois out here! (But you might miss the lightening bugs!!)


    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 2:36PM
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rt_peasant(5 CO)

Westy, welcome to Boulder! I don't know about heucheras, but I would check out Sturtz & Copeland in Boulder. They usually have a great selection of plants. The Flower Bin in Longmont is another good place to go.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 1:02AM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

Thanks rt_peasant - I'll have a look at both places you mention. My son worked for a landscape company when he moved here three years ago and might know some places also. My frustration right now is that we decided to build in Erie in a brand new small division called Flatiron Meadows, just inside Boulder County. It won't even be finished til September so I'll be insane this summer in an apartment but hopefully I'll have a pot or two on this little thing they call a deck here. The 'great' room of our house will face East and that's where the garden will be so I'm happy about that decision. That's also the side that access to the patio will be. But I plan to visit the places you've mentioned this summer even though I have no garden just to get an idea of what's out there. And there's always mail order. I know personally the breeder of the new mini-heucheras (he's in Oregon - of course) and I'm nuts about them - great for pots, too. They also did well with only morning sun back in Illinois - they're not a shade plant yet burn in too much sun. Btw, I meant to attach a pic of some of them and don't know what happened. I think I attached a pic of my hosta garden. I'm not good at this and GW has changed things since I last posted pix.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 12:59PM
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jnfr(z5b CO)

That's lovely. I hope you enjoy gardening here.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 8:46PM
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