Monthly Archives: May 2018

Iris Love

Iris Love

Yellow irises in my community garden

I’ve had a love affair with irises for a long time.   They are easy to grow, easy to trade, and their colorful blooms signal the end of spring and the promise of hot summer days to come.   When my mom would come to visit in the spring, we’d visit the local iris nursery and appreciate the blooms scattered around my community garden.   She especially loved the yellow ones growing in Millie’s plot.   She LOVED it when I brought splits to her on my trips to Wisconsin.   She lovingly planted them around her home and over time, amassed quite a collection of those yellow blooms!   When she passed away last fall, her spirit came back to one of my sisters talking about yellow flowers and I knew that she wanted us to have her yellow irises.   We dug them up and split them among her four daughters to grow in our gardens.  I will always think of my mom when I enjoy the irises of spring!

After this afternoon’s sudden hailstorm – a relatively common spring occurrence in Denver, I rushed back to my community garden to check for damage to my newly planted tomatoes and was struck by the vast array of blooming irises all around.   Despite the rain, I couldn’t help but walk around and take photos of the beautiful blooms.  Here they are:


Deep purple and yellow in Brenda’s Garden. May 28, 2018

Carol’s garden


Jackie’s Garden

The Herb Garden

Millie and Theresa’s Garden

Charlie’s Garden

The south border next to the orchard and Brad’s Garden.

The east border along the fence.

I love how gardeners at Rosedale settle in and plant beautiful perennials for all the enjoy.   After looking at all the possibilities, I would love to expend my collection and just might be offering to help people split their irises in the spring.


The Flowering Fragrant Trails of Spring


Just days after our last snows in Colorado, spring flowers start to emerge to brighten up the landscape and fill the air with lovely fragrances.  During this time of year,  I make it my mission to get outside as often as possible to fill my senses with the joy that spring has to offer — and actually surprised myself with how many wonderful many blooming trails I’ve visited lately.   Here are some of the highlights of my recent adventures in Jefferson County:

Crab Apple Route, Littleton,  April 23, 2018 – Blooming Bike Ride

A group of us got together to ride the 7 mile Crab Apple Route in Littleton — a 40 year old loop lined with crap apple trees that bloom for a few beautiful weeks in April.


South Platte Trail, April 29, 2018 – Crab Apple Trees just North of Hudson Gardens

The Sunday Run I attend with the Columbine’s Running Club is secretly known at the LTR’s (Love to Run) and we meet at Carson Nature Center every Sunday at 8 am, 7:30 in the summer.   About two miles down the trail, there is a tunnel of crab apple trees that bursts into white and pink blossoms at the end of April.    Running through this fragrant stretch of the trail is a worthy goal for my Sunday workout.   Once I reached the trees, I had to stop, close my eyes and take a few deep breaths to saturate my senses with the heady aroma of the sea of flowers surrounding me.



Writer’s Vista Park, Highline Canal, April 30, 2018 – Pam’s Last Marathon Training 

During my sister Pam’s marathon training this winter and spring, I often agreed to accompany her on the trail.   At her last training run before the big race, we met at Writer’s Vista Park to run one of our favorite trails.   It is a relatively flat tree-lined crushed gravel trail that winds through the backyards and horse pastures of Littleton.   As an added bonus, the crab apples trees were in full bloom.


South Valley Park, May 5, 2018 – Trail Running Practice

Pam and I decided to participate in a trail running program this spring and so far, the training has taken us to a variety of beautiful trails in Jefferson County.   I ended up missing the group on Saturday morning (since it was rescheduled to the evening) but hit the trail at South Valley on my own and enjoyed the pleasant weather, spectacular rock outcroppings and many flowers.



Hildebrand Ranch Open Space Park, May 10, 2018 – Fly Girls Flower Run

The leader of our Thursday morning running group (Suzanne Buntrock) selects a different trail every week depending on trail conditions, weather and this time of year, flowers.   One of our favorites in the spring is the Two Brands Trail at Hildebrand Park. The park is accessible in two spots — in the Trailmark neighborhood near my house and from a parking lot just past the Denver Botanic Gardens on Deer Creek Canyon Road.   It runs along the hogback and wraps around my neighborhood of Trailmark.   This week, the flowers were blooming!



Deer Creek Canyon, May 12, 2018 – Training Running in the Rain

Our trail running group meets rain or shine and despite the morning drizzle on Saturday, we all met at Deer Creek Canyon Park.   The run up the trail was damp but fragrant and beautiful.   Many of us “power hiked” up the slippery trails but when the the path evened out, we jogged.   Dashing up the “stairs” was challenging and fun but definitely an exercise I might have skipped if alone.   The jog down was a nice reward after the two mile ascent.   We heard about a very challenging half marathon called “Fear the Deer” being held at the park next weekend.   Pam and I are committed to train and sign up to do it next year.


Chatfield State Park, May 16, 2018 – Walking Bennie along the River

My friend Suzanne is a naturalist guide at both Chatfield and Roxborough State Parks and we often meet to walk.   I always enjoy our get together’s because she is so familiar with the flora and fauna of the area and I inevitably learn something new.   On this day, we were walking her grand dog Benny who poked along while we looked at trees felled by beavers, enjoyed new flowers, found plum trees and choke cherry bushes and marveled at the running water in the river.   A beautiful day for a leisurely stroll in the park!


Massey Draw in Ken Caryl, May 17, 2018 – Fly Girls on the Private Trail

Thanks to Kim, a resident of Ken Caryl Valley, our Fly Girls group, could enjoy a morning workout on the Massey Draw Trail in her neighborhood.   Our hike/run started with blue skies and a warm morning.    The dirt trail ascended quickly and was decorated with mobs of bright flowers all along the route.    I was too busy snapping photographs and chatting with Jan to run too much.   We still worked up a sweat climbing up the trail and down.    A lovely prelude to our coffee talk at Atlas Coffee down the road.



Roxborough State Park, May 17, 2018 – Naturalist Wild Flower Training Hike


When my naturalist friend Suzanne mentioned that she had to attend a wildflower talk this evening, I was immediately interested.   How can I go?   Do I have I have to sign up?   It was a training for naturalist guides, she said, but she’ll call and see if I could tag along.   Yes, I was in.   She picked me up at 5 and we headed to Roxborough State Park and there, met about ten other naturalist guides.   The leader Ann handed me a sheet with a list of about 50 wildflowers and told me that we’d be attempting to see almost the entire list in the next two hours.  Wow!   What a treat and a mind bender.   We hit the trail with our list, pens and cardboard squares for note-taking.   The tree-lined trail was chock full of blooming flowers of every color — naturally growing in this spring forest.  Ann shared scientific detail of each flower we observed, the family name, species identifiers, uses by native Americans, color, etc.    Rather than being overwhelmed, I took great notes, many photos and left with the urge to come back tomorrow to solidify the new knowledge I’d gained.


Whew!    Its hard to believe I’ve been on so many trails and enjoyed so many flowers during this busy time of the year!   My gardens are keeping me very busy after all.   I’m within days of planting warm season crops so have been prepping plots, tending to seedlings, planting the last of the cold crops, weeding and shopping for garden provisions.   But busy or not,  I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to inhale the beauty of the season!


Heirloom Tomato Seedlings for Sale or Trade – May 20

Heirloom Tomato Seedlings for Sale or Trade – May 20

One day’s harvest of heirloom tomatoes in August. Joy!

This is the second year I’ve attempted to grow tomatoes from seed.   I amassed a great collection of heirloom seeds over the last several years so with the help of my co-gardener, Terry, we planted two trays of tomato seeds on March 31.  With grow lights, heat mats and close attention, we had an amazing rate of germination.  After weeks of splitting dozens of seedlings, we are faced with a huge surplus of beautiful tomato plants.   I can reasonably plant about 80 at Rosedale, the donation garden at St. Philip and at home but would like to find homes for the rest.

The tomatoes were seeded to be ready for planting after the last frost date in Denver — around May 20.

If you’re interested in acquiring tomato plants, contact me at    I have about 80 to spare so quantities are limited.  You can reserve specific ones if they are paid for by the time of my porch sale on May 20.   I will have the porch sale on Sunday, May 20 and one at St. Philip’s on May 27.   $3 each.   Email me for details.

Some tips and info:

  • When planting, dig a hole deep enough to bury the tomato up to its top two branches.   The extra branches will form roots under the soil.  It is OK to bend the plant gently sideways if it is too tall.
  • Add bone meal or crushed egg shell (1/4 cup) to add nutrients to the soil.
  • Soil temperature should be about 60 degrees.   It does no good to put the plants in early — they thrive in warm temperatures.
  • Fertilize every 2-3 weeks with high phosphorous organize fertilizer.   I use worm tea or bokashi.
  • Indeterminate:  more commonly known as “vining” tomatoes, can grow anywhere from 6′-10′ tall and will continue to grow, bloom, and set fruit until they are killed by the first frost of the growing season, require lots of staking and pruning of tomato suckers, will form flowers along the sides of the shoots
  • Determinate:   often grown in a cage or even without support, as it has a more compact shape, also produce most of their fruit on the terminal end, are usually smaller and can be grown in containers.   Tend to ripen earlier.

IMG_5574[1]Abraham Lincoln: In 1923 the H.W. Buckbee seed company of Rockford, IL introduces an heirloom variety named in honor of Illinois’ Greatest Son – Abraham Lincoln.   This late-season tomato produces large, beautiful, dark red, sweet, and meaty fruits in 87-90 days.   Good for Slicing, making tomato juice and ketchup. Plant 18 inches apart in rows 3 ft. apart.  Needs staking.  Indeterminate.


IMG_5575[1]Amana Orange:  One of the tastiest and earliest of the heirloom beefsteaks.   Deep orange color and rich flavor make this an all-time favorite.  Matures in 85 days.  Indeterminate – vigorous vines require tall, sturdy stakes or trellises.



IMG_5594[1]Beefsteak:  9-12 ounce tomato is splendid for slicing.   Plants are large and spreading, with medium green broad foliage.  Transplant to harvest: 55-60 days.   Needs inch of water each week.



IMG_5576[1]Black Krim:  Beautiful, dark purple=black fruits have rich, old-fashioned flavor with a hint of smokiness.   Reliable and very productive.   This Russian heirloom originated in Krim, a Crimean town on the the Black Sea.   Baseball-sized fruits weigh 10-12 oz. ad have reddish-brown flesh filled with an earthy, almost smoky flavor.   Fruit sets well in heat and is the most reliable of the black tomatoes, producing even under adverse conditions from summer to fall.   Provide support for vines that reach 6 ft. or more.   Indeterminate.   Matures in 70 days.


img_55821.jpgBrandywine Red and Yellow Pole:  Not the shapeliest tomatoes but their extra large size and outstanding flavor has made them a favorite of tomato lovers for more than 100 years.   Beefsteak-type fruits average around a pound but can weigh close to 2 pounds.   Yellow Brandywine turns golden yellow when ripe and is meaty with a slightly tart flavor.   Red Brandywine has a rich and well-balance tomato flavor.   Indeterminate – vines reach 6 feet or more and need staking. 80 days to maturity.


IMG_5577[1]Cherokee Purple – Pole:  Cherokee’s rose/purple skin with green shoulders encases red brick colored flesh with just the right level of sweetness.   You’ll be harvesting large numbers of 10-12 oz. tomatoes from this well-regarded heirloom vareity from summer to fall.   The flavor is tasty, wonderful delicious, heavenly and unbelievable!   Provide support for vigorous vines that reach 6′ or more.   Indeterminate.   Matures in 80 days.


img_55791.jpgCostoluto Genovese:  the Italian heirloom standard for flavorful sauces.   Flat, heavily lobed shape with deep, slightly acidic flavor.   A popular choice for canning and juicing.   Indeterminate – vigorous vines require tall, sturdy stakes or trellises.   Best to let ripen on the vine.   Matures in 80 days.


IMG_5581[1]Golden Nugget:  extra early to ripen and takes the heat all summer long, making it a good choice for hot climates.   Abundant golden clusters of mile, sweet 3/4 inch fruit, perfect for snacking straight from the garden.   Determinate.   Matures in 55-68 days.


IMG_5584[1]Granny Smith Hybrid:  Great for fried green tomatoes.   Tomatoes stay green, even when ripe!   Round, 8-10 ounce fruit are firm and sweet with just a hint of tart flavor.  Great for salsa verde or eating right out of the garden.    Semi-determinate plants show strong diseases resistance.   Support with stakes or tomato cages to keep fruit off the ground.   72 days to maturity.


IMG_5583[1]Hungarian Heart:  Said to have originated in a village 20 miles from Budapest around 1900.   Huge pink oxheart fruits weigh upwards of one pound.   Very few seeds and almost no cracking.   A favorite for eating, canning and for making roasted tomato sauce.   Indeterminate.   85 days to maturity.


IMG_5586[1]Lemon Boy Hybrid:  Bright yellow fruits make an eye=catching display when sliced with red tomatoes.   Deep, sweet flavor.   Indeterminate.   72 days to maturity.



IMG_5585[1]Marglobe VF:  Heirloom, 1925.   Fruits are red, medium-sized 5-8 oz. with firm walls and good flavor.   Plants are stocky, vigorous, and have excellent disease resistance.  Determinate.  70 days to maturity.



IMG_5588[1]Mortgage Lifter:  This old-timer produces one pound, meaty tomatoes with few seeds.   Well-shaped fruits with dark pink skins.   90 days to maturity.  Indeterminate.


IMG_5587[1]Oxheart:  Also known as “cuore di bue” is so named because of its shape.   An heirloom variety popular in Italy and France because it is dense with few seeds, cooking down to a robust, think sauce.   It can also be a star sliced fresh atop salad greens or paired with mozzarella and fresh basil leaves.   85 days to maturity.


IMG_5590[1]Red Cherry Large:  Luscious clusters of bright red one and a half inch gems.   Prolific bushy plant.  Let fruit ripen on the fine for best flavor.   Matures in 75 days.



IMG_5591[1]Roma VF:  America’s most popular vegetable.   Indeterminate.   An old-time plum type tomato on a compact plant.   65 days to maturity from transplant.



img_55921.jpgPineapple:  Stunning and high-yielding variety.   These beautiful tomatoes ripen to a yellow-orange accented with hints red that go through the solid, meaty interior of the fruit.   Large beefsteak type fruits don’t have a lot of seeds but are filled with complex tomato flavor with a hint of fruitiness that’s just he right balance of sweet and tangy.   Adds eye=catching color to salads, sandwiches and salsas.   Indeterminate.  Provide support for the tall plants and their heavy fruits.   90 days from transplanting.


img_55891.jpgSan Marzano:  Want to know the secret of the real Italian cooks?  San Marzano tomatoes!   This is the authentic Italian past tomato.   Its superb flavor is enjoyed both in fresh sauces and processed for later use.   Great for dried tomatoes, too!  80 days to maturity from transplanting.   Indeterminate.


img_55941.jpgSteak:  Bushy plants.   Indeterminate.  Sandwich slicing.   Indeterminate.  70 days to maturity.



img_55951.jpgSupersweet 100:  Garden fresh flavor in every bite=sized gem.   Each beautiful ruby red fruit is exceptionally sweet.   Very prolific plants producing hundreds of tomatoes.   Disease resistance to verticullium and fusarium wilt.   Provide support for vigorous vines that easily reach 6 feet.  65 days from transplanting.   Indeterminate.


IMG_5593[1]Tricolor Cherry – Garden Candy:  Bite sized, beautiful and early bearing, these 3 different colored cherries are the sweetest of all tomatoes and yield abundant harvests in all climates.   Mixed seed packet offers orange Sungold, bright yellow Sweet Gold and rich red Supersweet 100.  Mature height  5-7 feet, transplant to harvest: 65 days.



Repotting the seedlings on May 8. Two trays have multiplied into 10. More than we can plant! Tomatoes are growing bigger everyday and will be ready on May 20!


Spring in My Gardens, 2018

Spring in My Gardens, 2018

Photos from March 30:  Lillian planting peas with her grandma, Terry.   Turning the soil in the raised beds.

Although its early May, I’ve already been working in my gardens for nearly two months.  Often the first trip to the community garden occurs on a warm day in late February or early March and snow may still be on the ground.  Many times, we’ve had to brush aside snow and chisel away at the soil to get our St. Patrick’s Day peas planted.  But not this year.   We had a rather mild winter in Colorado so the soil was uncharacteristically workable in early March.   My garden pals and I were thus at Rosedale digging early in the season and the peas went in like butter.

Photos:  Toasting St. Patrick’s Day with my mom’s Waterford goblets, picking up free compost and burlap bags at Allegro’s Coffee’s Earth Day Celebration, me posing in front of our robust garlic patch with Marilynn’s garden behind me.   She was my neighbor for 17 years and sadly died of lung cancer the day before this visit to our garden on March 16.

By March 16, we’d planted our first round of peas and spinach.   A few weeks later, we planted more peas with the help of Terry’s grand daughter Lillian as well as other cold crops including lettuce, carrots, beets, broccoli and more.   I was also surprised to find that many crops that typically don’t make it through the winter, survived — cilantro, rosemary, kale, chard, parsley.

Photos from March 16:  Ana,Terry and Susan getting ready to plant peas on a very windy March afternoon, our tomato cages all lined up where we plan to plant tomatoes in late May, the garlic patch growing between planks of wood for walking.

We’re off to a good start and busily prepping all the beds for the big warm season planting in just a few short weeks.  Although the weather can be deceptively nice in May, we still must restraint ourselves from planting our precious tomatoes, peppers and warm season crops until we’re safely past May 22.   Last year, we had about 6 inches of snow around May 20!

Photos from March 31:   Free tomato seeds earned as a volunteer at DUG free seed distribution, tomato seedlings planted on March 31, two trays of 12 6 packs of tomatoes and peppers growing under lights and on heat mats.

Timeline of Chores

  • March 9:  Map the garden
  • Order or shop for seeds
  • March 12: Volunteer at Denver Urban Garden Seeds Distribution — earn free seeds
  • Visit the plots and make plans for prepping the soil
  • March 16: Plant peas and spring crops
  • Fill milk jugs with water and pack in back of car
  • March 30:  Start seedlings — tomatoes and peppers in early April
  • April 7:  Attend Rosedale Community Garden Spring Meeting, pay fees and network with fellow gardeners
  • Turn soil, pull weeds, lay down burlap on paths
  • April 20:  Visit Allegro Coffee for Earth Day Celebration — pick up burlap bags and free compost
  • April 23:  Flower garden consultation at home with Shirley at (More later!)
  • April 25:  Transplant seedlings to larger pots
  • April 26:  Scored 6-packs of broccoli and cabbage seedlings at King Soopers for $3.49/pack
  • May 1:  Plant spring bulbs, broccoli and cabbage; plant cover crop in the pumpkin patch
  • May 2: Plant broccoli and cabbage at St. Philip Donation Garden with Jennifer

Photos from April 25:  Susan working on repotting the tomato seedlings, tomato seedlings ready to transplant, individual seedlings in peat pots.

Photos on May 2:  Newly planted broccoli and cabbage with Jen Drews at St. Philip Donation Garden.


Aquaponics: Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot

Aquaponics:  Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot



During my recent visit to Orlando, I had the opportunity to attend the “Behind the Seeds” Tour to get a close up view of the greenhouses at Epcot.  The hour long tour was led by a young college graduate interning in the shrimp propagation lab and worth every penny of the $25 admission fee.    Laura was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fun!

The greenhouse showcases a variety of cutting edge agricultural growing methods including the propagation of beneficial insects, aquaponics,  hydroponics and the use of sand as a growing medium — all developed to increase production of crops in smaller space with fewer resources.  Lettuce, for example can be grown much faster in an aquaponic environment with nutrient rich water.   Currently, 1% of the produce used at the Disney properties come from the crops grown in their greenhouses.


Parasitoid wasp raised to eat invasive insects, squash growing in water on a revolving wheel, greens growing in revolving towers.


The produce highlighted included herbs, greens, huge winter squashes, gourds, cherry tomatoes, pineapples, spices, cucumbers, and flowers.  I was interested to see how the trellised the tomatoes, cucumbers and melons resulted in such a high yield.   There was a demonstration of several different non soil growing mediums which included some that I already use.


Non organic growing mediums, flowers growing in nutrient rich water, cucumbers grown in a specially shaped container


One highlight were the “hidden Mickey’s” tucked around the greenhouse in surprisingly places – some of which I didn’t notice until I looked at my photos later.  The methods demonstrated looked so clean and sterile and different from the down and dirty gardening methods that I employ in my gardens.   I was also impressed with the amount of technology necessary to be successful — the right amount of nutrients in the liquid or non soil mediums, the temperature control, the use of motorized “pots” for the plants, carefully trellised tomatoes using string and likely, lots of careful pruning, etc.


Me posing with a huge winter squash grown in the sand, English cucumbers and squashes growing on trellises.


The tour provided a fascinating behind the scenes (seeds) glimpse into some very different growing methods.  I admire and appreciate  but for now, I’ll stick with my traditional gardening methods.   On the other hand, I learned a lot and have been inspired to give the Tower Garden another look when I tire of the physical labor of my community gardens.

After the walking tour, we took the “Living with the Land” ride that toured the greenhouses by water and gave us another perspective of the gardens and fish.   A great combination!

See if you can find the four hidden Mickey’s!


A tray full of peas growing in water and hollyhocks growing in sand.


Dave and I posing in the spice garden, a topiary of guess who and a trellis of cherry tomatoes growing in sand.


Cherry tomatoes hoisted up on strings, cherry tomatoes galore and more racks of greens.