Garden Notes

Monarch butterflies serve as an indicator of the health of pollinators and the American landscape. The eastern monarch population has recently been assessed as critically imperilled due to its rapid decline from nearly one billion down to 57 million at the beginning of 2015. The are ways to help insure that the migrating monarchs don't become just a pleasant memory.

Winter is a barren season, frequently bereft of even a single flower. When planning a garden, many gardeners design for spring and summer. Fall, though often neglected, shines the brightest and winter is just plain ignored. It is odd that less attention is paid to how it looks in the off season, winter being the one season gardeners can enjoy the garden without being absorbed in its maintenance. A garden designed and composed of plants for winter interest will shine throughout the year.

Wind is an ever present condition gardeners know they have to live with. Amarillo had been name the windiest city in the United States, according to a report last spring.This came as no surprise to Panhandle gardeners, who have long thought the area is excessively windy, and it is. Amarillo consistently is ranked in the top 10 of windiest city. How does the wind affect the garden, and is wind related to temperature and moisture patterns. I explore this topic comparing weather data from 1892 to 2013.

Plant breeders, growers and nurserymen have been hard at work these past several years hoping to match environmental conditions with gardener's choices for this coming gardening season. What are the trends they've prepared for? I describe several and offer some predictions of my own for 2015, as well as possible resolutions for the new year.

The facts and stats -- not excessively hot, nor bracingly cold. Windy, but not extreme. The highest temperature recorded was 104º on August 31st and the coldest temperature was 1º on February 6. Between these two bookends lies a lot of weather, most pleasant and some nasty. Here's a look back on the weather for 2014 and it's effect on the garden.

Brilliant autumnal displays quickly turns smiles to frowns once they fall. But gloom not. Recycyling leaves into a valuable product for plants and soil is nearly as easy as mowing or bagging the leaves themselves. Here are a few tips in performing this sustainable function.

Last year I wrote about the Denver Botanical Gardens after visiting in July, 2013. I've seen the gardens in various years in May, June, July, August and September. Each visit is special and different from each other. Each year Denver Botanical Gardens features a display of art throughout the gardens. This summer, DBG is featuring the art glass creations of Dale Chihuly.

Scientists are discovering the complex world of plant communication, mostly centered around plant scents, volatile organic compounds. Volatiles are used to beckon pollinators, fend off herbivores and pathogens, summon helpful insect predators and alert other parts of the plants, as well as other plants to the presence of danger.

The Missouri Botanical Gardens – Shaw's Garden, as it's informally known – represents and exceeds the vision and mission started by Henry Shaw, a center for science and conservation, education and horticultural display. As all gardens, the Missouri Botanical Gardens evolved since Henry Shaw opened the gardens to the public in 1859, yet it has remained true to the purpose and style envisioned by Shaw 155 years ago.

Amarillo Botanical Gardens has announced that the proposed Plant Select® Demonstration Garden has received notice of funding from the Amarillo Area Foundation, Sybil B. Harrington Living Trust. Plant Select® ( is a regionally recognized program familiar to gardeners throughout the Rocky Mountain West and Southwest. Plant Select® plants are plants that are either native to the west or non-natives from similar floristic regions of the world that are superior performers in the Western half of the U.S.

Ah, spring. The season we look to with the greatest anticipation. If there are holes in your beds and borders, fill them with plants from Canyon's Edge Plants, our local grower and plant provider since before the beginning of this millennium. Canyon's Edge Plants has conveniently located to the square in Canyon, with greatly expanded hours, larger selection and bigger smiles than ever before.

When the word tulip is mentioned or thought, our natural association is with Holland, windmills and low-lying marshy land in a cool, overcast and rainy climate. Yet it’s origins are in a climate just the opposite a continent away. There are very few plants that have captured the love, passion and folly of gardeners, and held it, century to century, as tulips have. From the study of the history of the tulip, one follows the history of gardening, floriculture and horticulture science in both the eastern and western world.

Prior to the mid-sixteenth century, there were no records of tulips in western European literature or history. When Europeans finally took note of this unusual, variable and beautiful flower, word spread like wildfire, matched only by the wild and hot passions of the Dutch.

Tulips enjoyed a heady life in France and England with mini-mania and obsessions. The French were quicker to move on to other extravagances. Like any love story, the English had their ups and downs with the tulip, suffering through keen competition from other flowers. The tulips prevails today as a much loved flower.

Tulips came to the new Dutch colony of New Amsterdam during the seventeenth century. Just as with European gardeners, the American gardener adapted to the tulip as it changed through the centuries under the Bulbmasters, the Dutch.

Many gardeners have given up on growing tulips, mostly because they fail to return the next year, or return without much vigor. The Texas Panhandle is ideally suited to gardening with hybrid tulips and nearly all of the wild species tulips available on the market today. With a little information, gardeners are better able to make informed choices that lead to beautiful, long lasting results.

Most of the tulips we're familiar with are the hybrid tulips developed in England, France and the Netherlands, mostly in the Netherlands. This are tulips on tall sturdy stems with large flowers used in mass plantings. Oftentimes, they're not known for their longevity. By choosing the right tulip for the right purpose, we can herald in spring with the elegant, majestic flower loved for centuries.

Has the drought in California caught your attention? Near daily stories in the major national newspapers about water shortages in the Central Valley have been shouting at me. Will the cost of vegetables, fruits and nuts become prohibitive? Sure, the Central Valley is only one region, but it is a major region of food production for the United States. The cost and quantity of vegetable, fruits and nuts is bound to be impacted. What can we do?

The subject of winter interest seems to mystify gardeners when it comes to design. Just what makes a garden interesting in winter? It is a common misconception that color alone from the ephemeral flower defines the garden. Design and style is based upon our choice of plant, hardscape and materials, their placement in the landscape in relation to each other.

In my last post to Garden Notes, The Gardening Year 2013, I stated I didn't know whether 2013 was a hotter, cooler or average year, heat-wise. The AHS Plant Heat Zone Map provides a great tool gardeners can use month to month to guide them in real time plant care. Compare "heat day" averages to see if it's cooler, average or warmer. I've crunched the data for the past 20 years that may offer insights.

Gardening in the Texas Panhandle proved to be challenging once again, however not worst, best nor average. But through the resilience of both plants and gardeners, the area ended up with another stunning fall season.

To me, fall is such a glorious time; greens fading to yellows, golds and russets. More yellows than russets – after all this is Amarillo – accompanied with brilliant canary, ochre, sienna, both raw and burnt, oranges, burgundy, mahogany and crimson reds against the shiny blue skies. In the Texas Panhandle, leaf change of cool and warm season plants combine to extend a colorful and exuberant season.

Dusty Miller would usually catch my attention late in the season, alone by itself in a pot after it's companions have given up from neglect. Spindly and ratty looking, it adversely colored my vision for gray and silver foliaged plants for many a year. You would think I should have celebrated its ability to survive. Such was my bias towards green.

The founders of the New American Gardening style have passed, but their legacy remains as strong, flowing and free spirited as their gardens.

Grasses combine naturally with broad-leaf plants in prairies, savannas, pampas, steppes, velds and meadows throughout the world, and are they essential in designed landscapes. This image is so imprinted in our mind, that a landscape without grasses and grass-like plants appears lacking. When dancing in our Panhandle wind or rhythmically swaying with a gentle breeze, the incorporation of grasses into the home landscape infuses the design with soothing images of nature, whether the style is formal or informal.