Category Archives: Gardener’s Notebook

Leave the Leaves!

Each year as the leaves come down we can regard them as a nuisance or as a great  gift of organic matter that benefit our landscapes. The Xerces Society’s new campaign Leave the Leaves articulates the benefits of leaves for our insect friends—check it out: .
Or, if this is the year you have decided to kill some of your lawn, collect your neighbor’s unwanted leaves, put down a base layer  of overlapping cardboard or heavy paper and pile the leaves on top. Plant into the mulch next spring.

November 6, 2018

November 23, 2018

Landscape to Habitat

The more I work with plants, especially native plants, the more I realize that the real goal is not simply replacing lawn and consuming less water. The real goal is creating Habitat: Habitat for bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, myriad other insects–and birds. (Build it and they will come!) A landscape that is truly a Habitat buzzes with life. It changes with the seasons. It evolves from year to year, always revealing new surprises. It creates the opportunity for new insights into the natural world that is everywhere around us. It is not static. There are many rewards for the gardener who creates Habitat, one of the best being that the Landscape becomes Habitat for humans!

September 24. 2018

September 28, 2018

Pollinator Garden

If you have a moment, stop by the Garden City Library and check out the beautiful Pollinator Garden right next to the library. It was lovely last May when we celebrated its grand opening. And it is still beautiful now, at the tail end of summer. Creator Judy Snow has done a marvelous job of attracting all kinds of bees, bugs and hummingbirds by providing the food they need over a long growing season. It is an inspiration!
Draggin’ Wing will open for fall planting September 5 and be open for the whole month Wednesday-Saturday 10-5. Fall is the best!

September 2, 2018

September 23, 2018

Jacob’s Garden

I love it when customers send me photos of their beautiful landscapes. This one really knocked my socks off! Jacob filled his smallish front yard with a huge variety of plants, and his approach has paid off–low water but full of vibrant color. Photo courtesy of Jacob Durtschi.

June 24, 2018

June 23, 2018



The Paintbrush is blooming on Mores Mountain! It’s just one of the most striking sights awaiting hikers. But as much as people would love to have Paintbrush in their home gardens, I have not yet figured out how to grow these beauties in a pot–or even in the ground. Fun facts: 1) the red you see are bracts (modified leaves), which hide the tiny flowers 2) most Paintbrushes are semi-parasitic, deriving some of their nutrients and water from the roots of a host plant, a strategy that allows them to inhabit drier spots.There are about 250 species of Paintbrush in N. America and over 20 in Idaho. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Moyer.

June 15, 2018
June 16, 2018

May Flowers

May Flowers! It takes my breath away when May arrives and flowers just jump up out of the green. This year the woody Penstemons–like this one (Dwarf Shrubby)–are in exceptionally fine form. What makes for a good Penstemon year? What unique combination of winter cold, spring warmth, snow cover, rain, sun? It’s a mystery to me, but a delight to witness.

May 18, 2018

May 17, 2018

Beautiful Desert

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

April 17

April 17, 2018

Golden Currant

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.

April 2

April 17, 2018


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

January 10, 2018

Site Preparation

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!

September 28, 2017

Late Bloomer!

In our demonstration gardens we work with 4 or 5 different species of Liatris, also called Blazing Stars or Gay Feathers. They are all beautiful, but I have to say that this one, Liatris punctata (aka “Dotted Blazing Star”), is my favorite. It is the shortest, stockiest one of all, also the latest to bloom–just taking off right now. To top that off, it appears to be the most drought tolerant of the Liatrises. Wouldn’t you know it, L. punctata is frustratingly slow to get started in a pot, but once established in the garden it is long lived and gradually produces a scattering of offspring. What a gem!
September 4, 2017

A Late Summer Garden

By mid-August some gardens can look dry and exhausted. But a properly descigned xerixcape, like this one, can still be vibrant and exciting after six weeks of searing heat. Here we find a mix of late-flowering perennials like Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria), Hummingbird Mint (Agastache) and Coneflower (Echinacea)–along with evergreen groundcovers like Partridge Feather (Tanacetum densum) and Sedums. Earlier flowering perennials–which made this garden sparkle in May and June–are still there, but are now inconspicuous. This is a great example of a true 4-season landscape.
September 4, 2017

Sulfur Buckwheat

The ever-beautiful Sulfur Buckwheats are just coming into bloom and will be wide open by the summer solstice. As early summer flowers get going, the garden is buzzing with insects. Butterflies and hummingbirds are looking for food and the first Monarch of the season showed up just a couple days ago.
But as the heat of summer approaches, gardeners understandably take a break –and so do I! So, this week will be our last week of regular hours until September. The nursery will be open by appointment through the summer. But keep in mind . . . September and early October are arguably the best time of year to plant perennials and Draggin’ Wing will have more plants than ever!
June 4, 2017


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.


May 4, 2017

Wax Currant

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

April 22, 2017

Evergreen Sandworts

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

March 24, 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

March 24, 2017

The Fall Garden

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

January 24, 2017

What looks good in August, Part 3

Gaura (4)

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

August 25, 2016

What looks good in August, part 2

Calylophus hart

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

August 25, 2016

What looks good in August?

Zauschneria (4) crop

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

August 25, 2016

Indian Ricegrass

Indain riceOn 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

May 26, 2016

Oakleaf Sumac–Two Views

Rhus trilobata Apr   Rhus tri oct




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


May 6, 2016

Aase’s Onion


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!

March 20

May 6, 2016

Smothering Weeds

Smothering leaves

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

February 23, 2016

Buckwheat in Winter

Buckwheat in Winter 30

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​

January 12, 2016

Pollinator Planting

Pollinator Planting crop2

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!


October 3, 2015

Colorado Four O’Clock

Mirabilis multiflora crop

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.


September 3, 2015

The Mid-Summer Garden


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!



August 12, 2015


Bee on Monarda crop

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 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 ( Happy Bee Watching!


July 26, 2015

Foothills Plants that work at home (3)

Oenothera pallida fthills

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!


Oenothera pallida gdn

June 18, 2015

Foothills Plants that work at home (2)

Erigeron pumilus fthlls

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

Erigeron pumilus gdn

June 12, 2015

Foothills Plants that work at home (1)

Eriophyllum lanatum sm

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

eriophyllum lanatum small

June 4, 2015

Syringa Grows in the Darndest Places!

Syringa sm

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

May 30, 2015

May Flowers

demo may 20

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

May 30, 2015

A Hillside Restored

Hausrath sm

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

Welcome sm

May 30, 2015


Antennaria in bloom sm
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
April 13, 2015