Howabout Hostas in Denver?

westy1941(Boulder County, CO)June 7, 2008

Just helped move daughter to Westminster - she couldn't take Chicago winters any more and is trying to talk us into moving there but I spent a week looking around from Westminster to Ft. Collins two weeks ago and drove a little around a downtown neighborhood of older homes. I'm looking for GRASS and large trees. Are there any of you who grow Hostas successfully? There is one poster on the Hosta forum (Scootersbear) who lives in Milliken and was nearly hit by the twister two weeks ago -- he said he did lose all his hostas to huge hail. Where should I look for a house? I need to dig and move about 300 of these things! (She's telling me to find another plant!)


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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Westy,

Welcome to RMG! And welcome to Colorado! If you want to get away from hot, muggy summers, and cold, cold winters where the snow comes in November and doesnt melt again till May, youÂve found the right place! With the exception of the winter before last, even when we get a blizzard out here, it almost always melts within two or three days because of the high altitude sun. How far north were you in Illinois? I grew up in Arlington Heights, and my remaining immediate family are in Palatine and Crystal Lake. I know the area well, and itÂs a great place to be FROMÂespecially if Colorado is where you went TO! IÂve been out here since Â64, and canÂt even imagine moving back to a humid area againÂever!

Yes, you can definitely grow hosta out here, but it will also definitely not be as easy as it is in IL. Since almost everybody out here has some degree of clay, up to and including really, really heavy, NASTY clay, you will definitely need to add lots and lots and lots of organic matter. And youÂll also need to be sure that they really arenÂt getting more than very filtered sun out here. The sun is so much hotter than at sea level that something like hosta will burn very easily. I have a few on the north side of my house, but donÂt have any good pics yet. This is my third year in this house, and they were started as tiny little plants, so theyÂre just getting a halfway decent start finally this year. IÂm not sure when IÂll have time, but IÂll try to get a couple pictures and come back to post them before too long. ÂFrancee is doing the bestÂas would probably be expected! And I have a few ferns tooÂplanted last year, that are just getting started. I love the combination of hosta and ferns. But my yard is tiny, so IÂm very limited in how many of either IÂll ever be able to have. And as youÂve already learned from your hosta forum friend, there is always the possibility of hail around hereÂunfortunately. (Luckily the tornados almost always stay further out east on the plains. I only remember one year when we got a couple serious tornadoes here in the metro area.)

The GRASS can be found anywhere where you water it! When looking for a house, I strongly recommend checking out the watering restrictions in any city/town youÂre considering. I havenÂt heard a lot about restrictions this year since we had such a good snow pack in the mountains, but I bet there will still be some restrictions, even this year. IÂm not sure of this, but IÂve always been under the impression that Aurora (and possibly Denver) has/have some of the worst restrictions. Wherever you buy, if you water your lawn properly, meaning water it very DEEPLY when you do water it, and donÂt water it too oftenÂdefinitely not more than twice a weekÂand working toward and inch or a little more just once a week, even if strict restrictions are brought back, your lawn will be able to weather it. And obviously your hosta will need to be kept pretty well watered out here for them to do well too.

Where you buy, besides the watering restrictions, would depend on what youÂre looking for and how much you want to spend. At least itÂs a buyerÂs market right now! Because everything is irrigated out here, most houses that are more than a few years old will have some pretty good trees started, and IÂd be looking for a yard with the right exposure to give you the most shade for a hosta garden. And IÂd definitely recommend you keep an eye out for a house that has previously been occupied by a "real" gardener, since the soil is bound to be at least somewhat improved if itÂs been worked for several years. RMG has members living all over the Metro Denver area, so if youÂre looking in a specific area and would like some opinions, just post where your looking and ask for comments. (Though for the las week or so itÂs been VERY slow around here!)

The clay soil and need for irrigation will definitely be a big change for you, and will take some getting used to, but I find the climate, and being so close to the mountainsÂwhich I loveÂmakes those adjustments well worth it.

I need to get back out into the yard, but, one more time, welcome, and let us know when we can help you,

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 5:49PM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

Wow - lots of really helpful info there, Skybird! The recommndation you give about looking for a previously occupied house is why she and I drove around Denver proper. Sounds like you are either there or in Arvada? Westminster where she is was beautiful - very green - but not for me. It had a very 'new' look so I knew it wouldn't be easy to find established gardens.

We live in Crystal Lake!!! Close to the intersection of Hwy 31 and 176 and traffic is insane and so is development. Too crowded for us and we're retired and ready to 'get away' from insanity.

What a riot. The world is so small. One son lives near Arlington Heights - he's in Hoffman Estates. Another son lives in Fox River Grove. Daughter is trying to get them out there, too. I think if we do move, they'll be persuaded. Neither has ever been to the Denver area but the eldest spent one year between college years (!) in Steamboat Springs just goofing off.

Its so good to hear from you and so much info about the soil, etc. I know how different the sun is! I was there for only one week and it was never cloudy and I got tan just walking to and from her car. I will definitely do more posting on RMG site - I've gotten two others who answered already directly to my email which you can do also and I'll try not to pester all of you but it's so helpful to hear from people who KNOW. Not everyone is a gardener. Actually, I would like to tell a real estate agent to find me an established garden with a house on it. When I go onto the real estate sites there is very little info about the landscaping - 'course I've seen some 3 million dollar homes that were perfect! He's a golfer, so he may want a 'golf community' which I would hate because normally you can't do much of anything to the lots.

Oh well, I'll be out there a lot for the next few months looking around. Daughter just emailed me today and said she interviewed for a job in Louisville and told me I'd love it. And I DO know clay soil - it's taken me 18 years to get this yard halfway decent.


PS I HATE humidity - so that would be a major improvement in my mood - so does he. He gets crabbier than me when it's hot and humid. And Winter is hell.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 7:14PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

OMG! What a coincidence! Have you ever heard of Wild Bird Supplies (in CL) just north of 176 on Oak Street? Thats my brothers business! And in front of the bird business, the greenhouse is Thons Greenhouse. He sells bedding plants and veggies for a couple months in spring. Used to sell poinsettias at Xmas time, but stopped doing that a couple years ago. Small world! When I was a kid, Crystal Lake was a tiny, tiny, tiny little lake town that wed go to a couple times each summer to go swimming. I cant believe what its turned into! What a mess! If you move out here, I dont think youll ever regret it. I sure never have!

Im in Thornton, which is pretty much due east of Westminster! Not far away at all (just east of I25Im actually at 120th and Colorado Blvd.) I like it up here on this end of town. You might want to look around up here in the Westminster/Broomfield/Thornton areas. Theyll all have some older and some newer areas. My house is a little over 20 years old. But even in the "older" areas out here, youre not gonna find the "well treed" kind of lots you know back in Illinois unless you do get into the older, original, more central Denver sections of the metro areaand then youre likely to find other problems like higher crime rates in many areas, and many of the older houses have very small yards. On the other hand, there are some really wonderful olde houses around in central Denver, like Victorian ones, and the little square ones called Denver bungalows. I guess Id recommend just spending a couple whole days driving around and making notes when you find an area you really like.

Andits not "pestering" us when you post! Thats what the forum is here for, and we have a really fun and friendly little community here, and everybody really enjoys being able to meet other garden folk, and to try to help them with questionsand sometimes we just have just kind of "general discussions," especially in winter when theres nothing going on. So bring on your questions, and join us in answering others questions. And I know youre not actually living out here yet, but here in the Denver area weve started having two plant swaps each year. A Spring Swap, which was about a month ago, and a Fall Swap, which will probably be early in September again this year. So if youre out here by then, consider coming to meet some of the local gardening nuts, and to share food, fun, and plantseven if you dont have any plants to bring!

Im gonna link this years list below. For the last two years weve had a Whos Here thread, and Ive kept track of the names and posted them so everybody can see who lives where. Check it out and meet some of your partners in addiction!

Come out here and enjoy the dry air and clear skies,

P.S. Just to let you know, if you ever try to PM me through GardenWeb I may not get it. Sometimes the system works for me and sometimes it doesn't!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 10:39PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Whoops! I forgot to put the link in the above post!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 10:42PM
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The house my wife and I rented in Boulder for two years had a number of hostas on the north side that were quite happy. As Skybird said, the main things you'll need to consider are protection from afternoon sun in the summer and frequent watering. The varigated green/white varieties seemed to tolerate the afternoon sun pretty well, but the large blue ones (to use the technical terms ;) ) easily sunburned in July and August. All required water every couple of days in the hot weather. I don't know what soil amendments the owners made, but would expect they were significant.

We were in the house in the June 2006 hailstorm (Google 'Boulder CO 2006 hailstorm' to see clips) and the hostas were all knocked flat to the ground. I cut them back to 3" or so and they all recovered, but weren't very pretty.

As for older houses around here, they tend to be either in the centers of the older towns with small lots or old farmhouses, in which case they are probably surrounded by new developments. You'll need to poke around a bit to find what you're looking for, but a lot of the towns around here (ie Fort Collins, Louisville, Longmont and Greely, to name a few to the N of Denver) do have nice older neighborhoods with Craftsman and Victorian homes.

Do check on the recent history of the towns in terms if water restrictions (ie going back 4 or 5 years). Each town has different 'water rights' in terms of how much water they are allocated in scarce years (some towns have to cut back a little, some have to cut back severely, depending on their legal rights to the water that comes down from the mountains). On a dry year (which are more often than not), you can see which towns have senior water rights when flying out of DIA - those are the ones with green lawns. The towns with junior water rights are brown.

In any case, it's not a bad time to be looking at CO real estate. Good luck!


    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 9:51AM
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ps - as for large trees, again you're going to be looking at the older neighborhoods. Trees don't grow out here nearly as well as east of the Mississippi - they just need too much water. Many of the larger trees our here are cottonwoods and poplars, which are fast growing, and, IMHO, pretty lousy trees in terms of shedding branches, suckering, and toppling over in windstorms (and the winds come out of the mountains at over 80 mph on a regular basis - not for long, generally for only 30 minutes or less in crazy bursts in the evening, but long enough to take out any weak trees.)

So it is possible to re-create an eastern yard out here, but it require lots and lots of water and is generally fighting against the tide. On the other hand, there are tons of plants that love the sun and low humidity out here. Maybe you'll be mixing some other stuff in with your hostas in a few years!


    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 9:59AM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

I know I wrote to both of you (I think!) on my other email but want to make sure I thank you for sending so much helpful info. I picked up a 'garden magazine' that was free on a rack in a restaurant in Ft. Collins and there were gorgeous gardens featured - most in places like Estes Park where the homes cost a fortune. But there were a couple in Loveland, which we didn't get to. I guess we could always build a pergola for shade - he can build anything (except a house!). Another trip out the end of July to look around!

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 6:06PM
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stevation(z5a Utah)

Hey Westy,

My hostas have grown just fine here in Utah Valley, which is a very similar climate to the Denver area. We have a bit of clay, but not too bad. More rocky than anything. But my hostas are one of my most reliable plants. But I don't have a lot of them. Mine are on the north side of my house, and last fall I divided and put some under the shade of a crabapple tree. The transplants are doing well, too.

Here's a photo of one of mine a few years back:

I also have plenty of trees at my place, but it was a new home seven years ago when I bought it, so I have to let them grow. I planted 42 trees at that time and most are doing great and getting big. The best are my London Plane, Linden, River Birch, Golden Rain, Crabapples, real apples, Kanzan Cherries (flowering), and real cherries. I have some maples, but you have to choose them carefully to avoid ones that will get iron chlorosis from the alkaline western soil. I also have aspens, but many hate the way they produce suckers, so they're a little controversial.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 11:56AM
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Hostas are not nearly as touchy as many people think. I have, at last count, over 110 different ones, and adding more frequently. ( I quit counting, because then hubby wants to know why I need more!) I've moved them multiple times, and currently most of them reside in pots, but I've had them in our clay soil and they don't mind at all.

I have lost a couple of the touchier ones, and as a hostaholic, you will know which ones I mean. Cherry Berry I've lost three times, so I just won't try it again, Fire and Ice I've lost twice, I'm on #3 at the moment.

Hail is your worst evil here, but in trade, we don't usually have as bad a slug problem, and I've never seen vole damage here. I work as a gardener, and have multiple clients in Washington Park, several of whom have hostas. One I just divided hers, they were old, and huge, and thriving inspite of fighting for space with the Bishops weed. Another has a couple of dozen, that have been in for 3 years and are really coming into their own right now. One has a pure white sport I'm watching!

I'm a huge fan of drip watering, and apparently so are my hostas. They don't seem to mind the lack of humidity.

The worst thing I have found about hostas in Denver, is the lack of any suppliers that get in more than the same old standbys. For any new ones, I have to mail order.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 8:26PM
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Azura(z5 CO)

I have seven different types of hostas in a very small shade garden. They are in pure Colorado clay and happy as can be. I have them on an automatic drip system and I run it for 7 minutes twice a week. I have to divide them every 3 years. We have few slugs but I have had vole and pocket gopher damage, probably because I back to a greenbelt in a newer neighborhood in Douglas County.
My hostas are very protected between a fence and my house, the area is 7.5 feet wide and has a warmer microclimate than the rest of my yard. Oh the joys of postage stamp size lots.
I started mulching with leaves this last fall to add organic matter to the soil.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 9:21PM
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Azura(z5 CO)

Oh and I forgot to say good luck with your house hunting! My husband's grandparents moved from the Chicago area back in the 80's and his parents, his 3 aunts and his 2 uncles followed soon after. I hope you love Colorado and I don't envy your transplanting project.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 9:25PM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

Thanks to EVERYONE. This site is so interesting and I'm learning more here than I've learned googling stuff on the web. I'd love to know if you're in the city of Denver proper, Shadyplaces. We drove around Washington Park for a little while. I keep looking for oak trees (am a native of Minneapolis where oaks spoiled me - and there aren't many many here in Illinois -- they are the BEST for leaf mulch and shade). Anyway, you're all so helpful. We're going out in four weeks to look around again. She keeps talking BOULDER but it's not for me - it's the Gortex Vortex - I just want to garden. Plus, couldn't find anything I liked under a million dollars!!! Guess I just need to find a good realtor and tell him/her what I want. I have a feeling I'll be there by next summer - if we can sell this place!!!!

Thanks again - good to know there are hostaholics in Colorado - so many have told me they wouldn't grow there. I realize I'd need a drip system. I'll do whatever it takes to grow these things! I'm not leaving them here - we have a lot of digging to do.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 11:55PM
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I don't LIVE in the city of Denver proper currently, Westy. I just garden there a lot. I'm kinda sorta houseless at the moment. I sold my house, was buying another when DD#1 had a micropreemie, and needed help with that and the 2 year old, so I'm currently in her basement.

My hostas are currently growing in Golden, Lakewood and SW Littleton, and Englewood. Spread among friends and other children. I've had them under Pines, cedar, Catalpas, awnings, maples, dogwoods, elms, lilac bushes, roses and just about anywhere I can squeeze a few inches of shade out. My husband tells me he's afraid to stand in one place too long or I'll plant them around his feet.
(Which is one way to keep a husband on his toes!)

Anyone who tells you that you can't grow hostas in Denver, ISN'T a gardener!

You might also try looking in Park Hill next time you come out. I've done several homes there, and there are old established trees there as well.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 12:25AM
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catladysgarden(z5 CO)

Hostas grow fine in the Denver area. We are in Aurora, out where the metro area meets the plains. Our garden was fashioned from a piece of alkali desert and has been a work in progress for 26 years. We're having our annual Open Garden on July 12th. Find the details in another post. Hope you can come.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 7:39AM
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foxes_garden(Z5, CO Front Range)

My place (south Fort Collins) has a lot of hostas. I don't know the names, as they were here when I arrived. There's variegated ones on the south side under a large tree, one of the big-leafed blue-green ones on the north side and almost under the deck, several smaller-leafed green hostas along the north and east edges of the deck (north of house) and a few more to the east of the house. The soil appears to have been amended in all those areas and I try to put some compost around them in the spring. They're probably due for division, along with my large population of daffodils and irises.

In terms of house hunting, it's really important to look by neighborhood. There's a lot of new developments around here, which is what you would tend to see from the main streets, but my street was all built up 18 years ago and we've got more trees than we know what to do with.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 10:43AM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

I read this post every day - just want to let you all know how much I appreciate all the good info. Stevation - your hostas and lamium are beautiful. I'm saving all your emails, everyone, and taking them with me when we go looking around.

Thank you so much,

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 2:16AM
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stevation(z5a Utah)

Good luck in house hunting! I think that's a pretty fun thing to do, but my wife completely disagrees with me! (I also like the process of buying cars, which proves in her mind that I'm totally nuts, but I digress).

My hostas are watered by sprinklers, and they've done fine that way. I know drips are better in a lot of ways, like saving water and watering deeply, but one thing that frustrates me about my drip system (I have probably 100 shrubs on a drip system) is that they need too much maintenance. The drippers gradually clog up with hard water deposits, the sun damages some of them, and I invariably find a shrub getting stressed each spring because I didn't know it wasn't getting water until I see the stress. If you use adjustable drippers, you have to keep adjusting them each year to allow more flow as the hard water deposits build up.

And the soaker hoses don't seem to really soak anything more than 3-4" on either side of the hose, so the place where I put that stuff in to water a groundcover hasn't worked. I had to improvise a sprinkler to reach it instead. If I were doing it all again, I'd put in sprinkler pipes with shrub heads or bubblers by each shrub. Much more sturdy stuff.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 11:48AM
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Hi Westy,

I'm a pretty new gardener living north of Denver. Last mother's day I planted 5 hostas on the north side of a privacy fence. They get watered regularly with the lawn, and in the fall and winter I made sure to get them every few weeks if we didn't have snow. They were in larger round nursery pots, I guess quart size. The spot used to have a Virginia creeper so I think the former owners of the house amended the soil- it looked relatively good- but I mixed in about 1 part compost to 2 parts existing soil when planting them. They are doing great, and starting to flower. As long as my son doesn't beat them to a pulp practicing baseball against the privacy fence, I think they will do just fine.

As for real estate, I happen to know a realtor from Denver who is also a master gardener. She might be able to give you some specialized attention. Contact me privately if you would like her email or phone.

Welcome to RMG forum and to Colorado! I know you haven't moved here yet, but let's face it... you want to. :-D

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 5:05PM
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