I have always adored the flowering pears in the middle of Harrison Blvd. That is, until I started thinking of them as Alien Ornamentals and understood what that implies. These showy spring beauties are cultivars of the Asian Callery Pear and–as members of an introduced species–they do not offer food for native insects. You may think, “Great! No pest problems!” The catch is that native insects feed native birds, especially while they are raising chicks. So as far as wildlife is concerned, these pears are a beautiful desert.
Entomologist Doug Tallamy has compared insect productivity on a flowering alien Pear vs. a White Oak in his Pennsylvania home and found hundreds more caterpillars on the Oak than the Pear. Who needs caterpillars? Baby chickadees! The takeaway is that if we want to support native insects and birds, we need to plant natives. To read more, check out https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/11/opinion/in-your-garden-choose-plants-that-help-the-environment.html.
Golden Currant is blooming, this one in my back yard. Take a hike in the Foothills or along the Boise River and you will surely see some.
There isn’t a whole lot left of this native Snowberry bush in winter–except for those dramatic cascades of white berries! The berries themselves, though not poisonous are apparently not very palatable to birds and other wildlife. So they hang there lovely profusion throughout the winter. A well-named plant indeed.
January 10, 2018
When redesigning a landscape to conserve water, many people face the daunting challenge of removing lawn. Here is a great example from veteran xeriscaper Jill Weigel. She and her husband stopped watering the lawn this summer but they knew it would still come back with the first fall rains. The next step to completely eradicate the lawn was to cover it with cardboard. Step three was to hide the cardboard by spreading out a thick layer of organic much. They are now are ready to plant!
Alert!! Cheatgrass Season is on! May is great for flowers, but it is also when Cheatgrass sets seed, thereby becoming both recognizable and vulnerable. Cheatgrass, as you may know, is an incredibly successful annual weed, having taken over much of the Foothills (yes, a lot of that nice green fuzz up there) and many urban landscapes. Cheatgrass has two important allies: 1) Fire, and 2) Gardeners who ignore it. The key to controlling it is to understand its strategy—seeds! To win pull up all the Cheatgrass you see NOW—a gentle tug will do—and throw the seed head in the garbage. Mowing will not help—it only comes back shorter and makes more seed. Do not wait until the Cheat is all dried out and clings to your to socks or gets in your dog’s ears. Stay tuned next fall for more on Cheatgrass control.
In this long, cold spring following a long cold winter many plants have been slow coming on. But this Wax Currant next to my shady back porch is in its glory. Wax Currant is native to Southern Idaho and much of the Intermountain West. It has leaves smaller and tends to more dense than the better know Golden Currant. It is happiest in part shade. A bit of trimming will maintain its nice compact form.
April 22, 2017
This time of year, when most things in the garden are still dormant, the Sandworts really stand out. Mountain Sandwort is appropriately big and green on St. Patirick’s Day. We grow several other Sandworts–all beautifully evergreen–including one Idaho native, King’s Sandwort (Arenaria kingii).
March 18, 2017
The snow has barely retreated, and here they come! A promise of spring . . . and none too soon for me. These Snowdrops are just the first in a succession of bulbs than will bring color, beauty and joy to the brownest, driest yard. Bulbs are a perfect addition to any xeriscape as they rely on natural moisture to keep them going and basically require no irrigation.
Spring–bring it on!
February 12, 2017
I love the garden in fall with its warm, rusty colors and cheerful splashes of white Strict Buckwheat. The bees know winter is coming and they are all over the many late-blooming flowers.
September 27, 2016
I’m not sure why this plant is not in every Boise garden. Long-blooming, graceful, immune to heat and drought, this plant looks like a cloud of fairies in your garden. It is native to Texas, but does really well here!
August 25, 2016
This vibrant little plant looks good starting in mid-June and running through September. Hartweg’s Sundrops can spread a bit by seed to fill in an area, though I wouldn’t call it aggressive. Its cheerful flowers just light up the garden all summer long!
August 21, 2016
It’s so hot and dry out in the garden this time of year, yet there are a handful of plants that bloom on beautifully and are not stressed in the least. “Hummingbird Trumpet,” also called “Fire Chalice,” is one. This hummingbird attracter is an Idaho native related to our common Fireweed
August 16, 2016
On a recent trip to Bruneau Sand Dunes with granddaughter Rosalie I was stunned by the beautiful stands of Indian Ricegrass. Because it grows out of the pure sand there, it has no real competition. Ricegrass also does well in the well-drained soil of our demonstration gardens in Boise, where its graceful seedheads wave in the breeze and glow in the sunshine.
May 25, 2016
Oakleaf Sumac is in its glowing spring blooming phase right now. In October it shines again with fall color. An easy no-care anchor in the landscape, this dense, mid-size shrub is an Idaho native gem.
April 20, 2016
This beautiful little onion is now carpeting a few places in the Boise Front–spots with really sandy soil and minimal competition. Listed as a rare plant by the Idaho Native Plant Society, it is one of the sure signs that spring is here! There are quite a few different onion species native to Idaho, but for lovers of the Boise Foothills, this is our secret, special gem!
This weedy area in front of our propagation greenhouse was threatening to get out of control. So, leaf bags were piled up here last fall, and I finally got around to slitting them open and spreading out their contents a couple days ago. This thick layer of leaves will seriously discourage weeds for at least two years. Smothering is also a great way to kill a lawn!
February 23, 2016
Sulfur Buckwheat is one of my favorite landscape plants. In summer the spoon-shaped leaves are green and by June it has sent up balls of yellow flowers which fade to orange as they age. This photo, taken yesterday, shows how beautiful the plant can be in mid-winter.
January 6, 2016
Yesterday Mike Sommer of Purple Sage Farm and Jen Miller of Northwest Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) are poised to plant a long strip of our native shrubs and flowering perennials chosen to attract a variety of pollinators. Working with the Xerces Society for invertebrate conservation, they are aiming at enhancing the populations of bees, beetles, butterflies and other beneficial insects on a working farm. NCAP and the Xerces Society are working with other farmers to transform their weedy bits of “waste land” into insect conservation areas. A great example for everyone!
Do you have space for a big beautiful, expansive plant? A wall that could use something gracefully draping over it? Colorado Four O’Clock (Mirabilis multiflora) might be the answer. Draggin’ Wing customer Marlene Strong writes, “I’m continually amazed by this plant. Last year it got about 6 ft wide, but this year it is more like 8 ft wide! It’s a good thing I don’t need that section of the patio!”
Four O’Clock likes sun, but can work in partial shade. It makes a huge taproot, dies back to the ground in winter and booms back ever more vigorous the following spring.
What’s blooming in mid-August? The answer is–dozens of different plants are relishing the heat and blooming like mad.When planning a landscape, it is important to think about all 4 seasons. Late May and early June produce the most blooms, and so spring-blooming perennials tend to be very popular. But what happens as summer hits and those early bloomers retire? So few people see our demonstration gardens this time of year, here are a couple recent photos for midsummer inspiration!
This time of year I love watching the bumblebees go nuts over Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa). Interestingly, bumblebees and other native bees can use this plant but–because of the flower structure–honeybees cannot. We have all heard a lot about the decline in honeybee populations, but, sadly, bumblebee populations are also on the decline. According to this article http://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/earth-is-losing-its-bumblebees/ar-AAcLXhu?ocid=iehp the culprit is global climate change. Planting more native wildflowers and leaving some bare ground in your garden for ground-nesting bees can help. And make sure that any plants you purchase are not treated with neonicotinoid pesticides (http://www.xerces.org/neonicotinoids-and-bees/). Happy Bee Watching!
The Pale Evening Primrose (Oenothera pallida) shown above is blooming in the Foothills in late May. Growing on a bone-dry hillside, it struggles against choking cheatgrass. Below, Pale Evening Primrose in the Garden, with some water, grows vigorously, blooms like crazy, and spreads by root!
This is Shaggy Fleabane (Erigeron pumilus) in the foothills above the Nursery, (photo taken May 28). And below is the same plant in the garden, photo taken this morning. Idaho has quite a few native Fleabanes or “Daisies”, but this one is–in a natural setting–the closest to home. Clearly, this plant can stand a lot of heat and drought! 6-11-15
Woolly Sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum), also known as Oregon Sunshine, is blooming now in the lower foothills. There it grows in intensely hot, dry locations, as on this hillside. Bring this plant into the landscape, add just a little bit of water via drip irrigation, and you get one of the superstars of a native xeriscape. Voila! 6-2-15
Syringa was well chosen (in 1931) as the Idaho State Flower. It is wildly fragrant and capable of growing in the most challenging locations–as right out of these rocks in our very dry foothills. Syringa does love the shelter of canyons and a bit more moisture–and in those locations it can reach great size. It was named (Philadelphus lewisii) to honor Meriwether Lewis, who first collected the plant in 1806. The leaves and bark contain saponins, and were used by native Americans to make soap. Blooming now! 5-30-15
After all that dryness in March and April, the Demo Gardens have greeted the rains with gusto! Everything seems to be popping into bloom at once. In the foreground, one of the real garden gems, Dwarf Shrubby Penstemon, is putting on a show. The daisies are “Beautiful Fleabane”, and in back you can see Snow-in Summer, Greek Yarrow, Orange Globemallow and Persian Stonecress. 5-22-15
Walking up a winding trail early in the morning, I make my way through waist high bitterbrush, sagebrush, rabbitbrush and native bunchgrasses. The balsamroot is starting to bloom and tiny biscuitroots have popped up. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago this hillside, tucked between homes in Boise’s Northend, was nothing but a big patch of cheatgrass and cereal rye. This amazing transformation has been a labor of love by Anne and Alan Hausrath. It’s an inspiring demonstration that our foothills can, with help, return from weeds to the native plants that have grown here for millennia. 5-1-15
Spring is really here when the Pussytoes have popped into bloom. There are several different subspecies of this Idaho native groundcover, and you may see one of them blooming soon in the Foothills. After a while these lovely little blossoms will turn into fuzzy seedheads, and if you can manage to shear them off, the foliage below will look tidier all summer. Or . . . just let them go wild and your landscape will look a bit more naturalized. 4-11-15