I'm an avid gardener in Colorado Springs, Colorado, elevation 6700ft (2042m). Follow along as I learn how to garden in this steppe climate and turn my almost blank canvas yard of mulch, rocks and turf into a garden.
Silverheels Horehound (Marrubium rotundifolium) looking pretty nestled against a red boulder in my xeric bed. This plant is in its third year and keeps spreading slowly contrasting beautifully with the red stone. I love the silvery edges on its soft and wooly leaves. It is native to south facing slopes in the dry mountains of Turkey where it gets extremely cold and windswept, so it’s a natural for the steppe climate of Colorado. It’s in full sun in poor gravelly soil here and thrives with very infrequent watering. A beautiful plant I don’t want to be without.
Eggplants Pingtung Long and Fairy Tale. Love their bright colors and they have more flavor than the larger ones. Tomatoes Sean’s Yellow Dwarf and Berkeley Pink Tie Dye. Both tomatoes I will grow again; I love their slightly tart but well balanced flavors.
Last year I bought a Phalaenopsis aka Moth Orchid for Al as an anniversary gift on January 18. It had two bloom stems and was still blooming in May. I figured I would kill it as usual, but had attended an orchid care class and decided to give it a go.
After it finished blooming I moved it to bright indirect light and followed the instructions that came with the plant to give it 8 ounces of water once a week. I also bought some orchid fertilizer which was pelleted slow release and fed it. It continued to look healthy and put out some new leaves. Aaannnnd — in January 2021 it started putting up a bloom spike. It is still blooming today. This rebloom is my first success with an orchid, so I am a very happy camper.
So happy in fact, I bought another one last week. This beauty is white with a yellow and brown column and lip. I love the color contrast.
The trick for me was to not overwater and provide bright indirect light. My next challenge will be to repot our “Anniversary Orchid”. I hope to see both these orchids rebloom with more and more bloom spikes for us year after year.
Earlier this year I posted about two peppers I was growing that were supposed to taste like Habaneros without the heat.
Gardening season ended here in mid-October. I did have success with one of the peppers that was supposed to taste like a mild habanero — the Arroz con Pollo. Unfortunately, the Habanada had just started blooming when the frost occurred. I didn’t do my research and I find this pepper has 100 days to maturity, a real stretch for Colorado Springs. However, I am bringing the container in and out to protect it from freezing so hopefully I will get a few to taste. Evidently pepper plants are not day length sensitive, however they may drop blossoms if temperatures go below 60F and above 90F.
But onto the success story of the Arroz Con Pollo. These are small bright red peppers when ripe which are very pretty as well as very tasty, and only tiny bit hot if you leave the seeds in. Seed them and the heat is gone. The flavor is definitely pepper with overtones of citrus which gives them a delicious fruity quality. But do they taste like a habanero? I think the habanero has a more floral fruity flavor and less pepper before the heat hits.
The Arroz con Pollo bush was very decorative with the bright peppers contrasting against the green leaves. I will definitely be planting a lot of these peppers next season and will be working to get some ripe habandas by starting them earlier under grow lights.
I’ve been writing monthly articles for the Horticultural Art Society of Colorado Springs‘s newsletter and thought I would share some with you since that work has kept me away from my blog. Last month’s was about the Colorado apple industry which had its heyday from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s.
“Recently I came across an article about the rediscovery of the Colorado Orange apple, which was thought to be extinct. I was surprised to find out that in the late 1800’s there was a successful apple industry both along the Front Range including Fremont County and in the Western part of the state.
Though they were told that orchards wouldn’t grow in Colorado due to the high elevations, settlers in 1800’s experimented with different growing techniques and varieties and created a thriving apple industry. In 1922, there were 48,630 apple trees in Montezuma County, and at least 50 different varieties of the fruit. The apples varied widely in color and flavor and keeping quality. Some apples were bred for cider-making as well as eating. These apples were called “spitters” due to tannins that made them unpalatable, but excellent for making hard cider. Contrast that number with the 10-15 varieties carried by local nurseries today.”
You can read the entire article here, including how the Colorado Orange apple was rediscovered.
In June 2019 I was given a tomato plant — the AAS winner F1 hybrid Fire Fly. It started producing small sweet yellow tomatoes later than my other plants since I got it so late. Since it was only around 5 feet tall, I’d been hauling it in and out of the walkout basement if frost threatened as tomatoes were still ripening. I continued moving it in and out into November.
Meanwhile, I’d read that some gardeners in Colorado Springs were successfully growing tomatoes in winter indoors under lights. I didn’t have grow lights or a greenhouse, but I did have a south-facing patio door that I thought might get enough daily sun. The plant I was nursing along was developing leaf disease, but there were several suckers with healthy foliage.
I picked two suckers off the plant and put them in water. Both rooted and I moved them to 1 gallon pots. One plant took off and started growing well; the other just sat there. After 2 weeks, I gave up on it. The remaining plant was getting at least 4 hours of direct sun daily. I used Espoma Tomato Tone as fertilizer at about 1 Tbsp. per week.
This is the plant on December 26, 2019.
It continued to thrive and grow. Blossoms developed on January 2, 2020. On January 7, I had a nice bloom cluster and the plant needed a taller stake. I “flicked” the blossoms to help pollinate. Tomatoes self pollinate which is a good thing since I only had one! And lo and behold — on January 17 I had tiny tomatoes.
Fire Fly continued its upward growth putting out lots of blossom clusters. There was no sign of leaf disease during January. Water, organic fertilizer and 5-6 hours of direct sun worked to produce many clusters of green tomatoes. I picked the first ripe ones on March 8 and had a handful of very tasty little tomatoes on March 15.
We have not had huge harvests, but the occasional handful of home grown tomatoes has been very welcome in salads and as snacks. When Firefly became taller than its stake, I topped it towards the end of March to keep it in bounds.
Alas about two weeks ago I noticed signs of leaf disease. Since this plant was a rooted sucker, I’m sure the spores were there all along. I’m actually surprised it took this long for them to take hold.
I should have put the plant into a 5 gallon pot, but it had gotten very unwieldy and I decided to leave it in its 1 gallon home rather than risk breaking the main stem. I’m sure it is stressed by being root bound no matter how much water and fertilizer I give it. However long it lasts, I am grateful for its bounty.
The winter tomato experiment was far more successful than I expected and I’m going to do it again next year. I will try Sungold, which is an F1 hybrid with almost a cult following, and also a dwarf tomato. I think F1 hybrids may have an advantage since they are disease resistant and bred for vigor and fruit production. Dwarf tomatoes were created for container growing and are great space savers.
Next year, I will start plants from seed in late summer and let them grow outdoors until frost. Then I’ll let them hog the sunlight in the patio door window. I hope the amaryllis aren’t too bummed about sharing ;-). My success I’m sure is due to our intense Colorado sunlight and my south facing window. Other Colorado gardeners have had success with grow lights, but I’m lucky I don’t need them. Of course, I can always dream of a greenhouse…