The magic of this swap is that one year you may “take some” and then, as your native plant garden matures, you may “donate some – and still take some!” Now, you can look forward to the rewards of incorporating more regional native plants into your landscape to build habitat and support local ecosystems.
A HUGE thank you to the 37 volunteers covering 47 shifts to set up, take in plant donations, check people in, keep plants inventory watered and organized, clean up post-event. WHEW! The volunteers were essential in making sure the swap ran so smoothly. Please consider helping at this fall’s seed swap or next year’s plant swap. Not only is it FUN, but our volunteers are amazing native plant people who you can get to know better and learn from!
If you’re looking for Native Plants for the Colorado Front Range, make sure to join us for our Native Plant Swaps each year in June and our Native Seed Swaps in the fall. Join us to get on our email list for announcements for upcoming native plant swaps and events.
June is the month of PLANT SWAPS!
Wild Ones is partnering again with other great organizations to host Plant Swaps and Giveaways in Fort Collins and Denver. Swaps are fun and festive events to get more native plants in the Front Range landscapes to improve our ecology, expand your native plant palette and save precious resources. Spread the word! Participants need not bring plants to take plants, but of course, please share some of your garden’s bounty if you have extra native seedlings and plants to share! (Please pot up and label each plant as specified on the event pages that follow.)
Volunteers are needed for a successful event—see the many ways to get involved at the event web pages. You can make a difference!
June 17th – Ft. Collins Plant Swap at the Ft. Collins Xeriscape Garden Party, 300 La Porte Ave, Ft. Collins (same location as last year!)
Enjoy getting these plants into your landscape to build more habitat and support local ecosystems. Plus, next year, you may have more seedlings to share with others.
A HUGE thank you to the volunteers covering who covered so many tasks, including plant potting up and labeling, set up, taking in plant donations, checking people in, keeping the plants inventory watered and organized, and cleaning up post-event. So much was needed, and this crew delivered! Please consider helping at this fall’s seed swap or next year’s plant swap. It is a FUN group to work with.
Check out this article by Betty Cahill of the Denver Post about the benefits of gardening with Colorado native plants with additional resources for getting started.
People browsing a wide variety of native plants at the free Denver Plant Swap on June 24, 2023. This annual event is organized by the Wild Ones Front Range Chapter, Earthlinks, the Colorado Native Plant Society and the People and Pollinators Action Network. (Image by Idelle Fisher)
The Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference planning committee is now accepting proposals for next year’s in-person conference on February 24, 2024. The conference’s theme is “Making our Landscapes Count.” If you have expertise with designing, growing or maintaining native landscapes and would like to be considered as a Conference speaker, submit your proposal by July 15th.
Interested? See additional details on proposal requirements here.
Thanks to all of the members who came out for our May Member Meetups in Boulder and Arvada. Our Regional Coordinators are already planning more gatherings for members to connect with and learn from each other.
We are still looking for volunteers to be Regional Coordinators for Colorado Springs. Please email us to learn more.
Did you know that many Colorado Wildflowers make great cut flowers? You could plant lots of native Colorado wildflowers in your yard for use in bouquets.
Finding a native plant that also works as a cut flower can be challenging! Cut flowers need to stand up to plenty of stress, especially if they are going into arrangements that will be out of water, in the sun, or worn as a boutonnière or hair adornment.
Let’s start with basic cut flower requirements, native or not. First, consider the stage of the flower’s life. A flower that has already been pollinated has done its job and will quickly senesce or fall off the stalk.This is why cut flower producers do their best to cut flowers early, often before they have opened. For example, snapdragons are cut when only ⅓ of the florets on the stem are open, and we cut sunflowers as soon as petals begin to rise from the disk face. Cutting early gives you much more vase life, and the flowers will be at their peak a day or two later if kept at warmer temperatures. This means you have time to cut and arrange and allow them to open fully before any event.
When should you cut? Always try to cut flowers in the early morning. At this time, they’re full of the water they’ve been drinking overnight, and they’re not releasing moisture to the air, because their stomata are closed. Definitely don’t harvest if temperatures are over 80 degrees. Cut your stems at a 45 degree angle; this gives the flower more surface area through which to drink water, while also keeping it from sitting flat on the bottom of the vase, which might keep it from drinking. Cut a nice long stem: you might need it. Once you’ve cut the flower, strip any foliage off that will be underwater. This prevents rotting leaves in your arrangement and prolongs the flower’s vase life, while also making more room for stems in the vase.
Get the flower directly in water as soon as possible! The more time the cut end is out in our dry Colorado air, the more likely the pores of the plant’s xylem are to close and scab over, making it impossible for the flower to drink. Your water, vases, and buckets should be clean enough that you would drink from them. Your shears or snips should be very clean and sharp, too. Sharp shears mean sharp cuts that slice the plant, rather than crushing it, which leads to more entry points for bacteria in the stem. If possible, allow the flowers to sit for at least 3 hours in a cool place before working with them, but overnight is best.
Flowers last longer in cool, dark places. My commercial cooler is kept at a chilly 36 degrees and most flowers love it. If you’re not using your flowers right away, a basement or garage fridge, with the temperature turned up slightly, can work wonders, or put the flowers in that one really cold closet in the house. Beware that some flowers will not like this treatment: zinnias & basil come to mind.
The other way to prolong a flower’s life is to keep its water clean and fresh. The reason flowers begin to wilt (besides just the fact that they’ve been beheaded and not many creatures can tolerate that for very long) is that bacteria begin to grow on the stem and clog the vascular tissues. If you can keep the stems and water free of bacteria, you’ll get longer vase life.
You do not need to give your flowers food. The best thing for them is very clean water. Most commercial flower foods contain three things: a biocide, an acidifier, and sugar. The biocide, often chlorine, prevents bacterial growth. The acidifier helps the plant drink more and opens its xylem pathways. Sugar continues to feed the plant, and is said to keep colors more vibrant. If you wanted to make your own plant food, you could try a drop of bleach, lemon juice or vinegar, and a bit of dissolved sugar. The only thing I’ve ever used is a drop of bleach in each 5-gallon bucket I harvest into. This works really well and allows me to hold flowers in the cooler for weeks. If you avoid bleach, try hydrogen peroxide – you’ll have to add more to get the same effects.To get the best life out of any arrangement, change the water daily, and re-cut the stems if you see them shriveling or getting mushy.
Now that you know how to treat your flowers, which flowers should you use? I found this question hard to answer! There are so many suitable flowers that already exist in your landscapes that I’m sure I couldn’t address them all. But all you really have to do is test them to see if they work. To test flowers, adventurous florists offer the following kinds of challenges to new flowers:
In water test: Does the flower withstand being cut and placed in water at room temperature? For how many days does it still look presentable?
Out of water test: simply set the flower on a table out of water, and out of direct sunlight. Can it handle it? How many hours until it’s very very droopy? Flowers that can last more than 5 hours in this state are candidates for out-of-water applications like boutonnières or flower crowns.
Hydration chamber: If flowers don’t perform as well as you’d like in the out-of-water test, try treating a new specimen in a hydration chamber and re-testing. A hydration chamber is simply an airtight box, like a Tupperware container, lined with moist paper towels. Place the flower in here for 6ish hours, and then repeat the test. Does the flower hold up longer? The theory is that the plant will imbibe water through all its tissues, not only the stem, plumping it and allowing it to hold up out of water much longer.
But here are my suggestions for native flowers that work well as cuts:
Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan): these sunny ladies are wonderful, happy additions to bouquets. Their stems are hairy, which can lead to more bacteria build up. They can also be wilty, especially in direct sunlight. Harvest before the anthers on the central cone have begun to appear, and when the petals are more upright than parallel to the ground.
Lisianthus (Prairie gentian): while the hybridized varieties most commonly used by florists may not really be natives anymore, this is an excellent cut flower, lasting for weeks in the vase and days out of water. A true gem. Cut it before it starts to make pollen and you’ll have a winner.
Achillea (Yarrow): this old standby is a fantastic cut and a great dried flower, too. Cut it after it starts to make pollen, or it will wilt on you.
Gaillardia (Blanket flower): I am such a fan of these! My favorite variety is ‘Lorenziana’, a double-flowering variety available through Wild Garden Seeds. Cut it early, before it starts to make the ball-shaped seed head in the middle.
Helianthus (Sunflower): Colorado classic! These have hairy stems like rudbeckia, so keep an eye on their water or add bleach. Cut them as the petals are pulling away from the central disk, or at least before they start putting out their anthers. The pollen can be a nuisance.
Larkspurs: A huge favorite of mine. Go for stems that haven’t fully opened to the top; harvested at this stage, they can last a long time, and the little spurred buds can be great additions to glued floral art like corsages or crowns. Plus, you can’t go without that true blue color.
Cleome (Rocky Mountain Bee Plant): I grew these for cuts last season and really loved them – they’re so unusual and intricate. They’re hard to cut on time, as the lower florets senesce before the top of the inflorescence really gets going, but you can always strip off any browning florets down the stem. They can be spiny, and they’re also sticky, so beware!
Ipsomompsis aggregata (Scarlet gilia): I’ve not tried this as a cut myself, but its stunning red color makes it worth a test or two. Again, harvest as the lower part of the stem is opening, hopefully before too many pollinators get their fill.
Clematis virginiana: I’ve often used this for draping bouquets, wrapping arbors, and informal flower crowns. I think it would benefit from a hydration chamber treatment. Try to cut it before all the flowers are open – the little round buds make it even more beautiful. In the fall, I adore the wispy pinwheel-like seed pods.
Penstemons: These succulent plants are wonderful cut flowers that do great in water, though I’ve not tried them much. Again, with spike flowers, cut when the lower third or half is open.
Artemis Flower Farm is an ecology-focused flower farm between Boulder & Longmont. We grow specialty cut flowers for florists, brides, and lovers of beauty. We offer on-farm gardening and floral design workshops, bouquet subscriptions, wedding design, and much more. You can find out more about us at www.artemisflowerfarm.com
Sustainability of the materials we use in our landscapes is an increasing focus for many gardeners, from the use of gravel mulch (gravel mining harms rivers and wetlands) to the source of soil amendments. Gardeners in the U.S. have relied on peat moss for years for its ability to retain water and improve soil structure. Almost every bag of potting soil or other amendments (think Sheep and Peat) at the nursery contains significant amounts of peat moss. Why is that a problem? Peat moss is mined from a rare and important type of wetland called a peat bog. Although peat bogs make up only 3 percent of the earth’s surface, they hold 15-30 percent of the carbon. Turns out, peat bog mining releases that carbon, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. And wetlands provide many other ecosystem services that we rely on—important wildlife habitat, and slowing and retaining water on the landscape to prevent flooding. But sadly, 90 percent of the world’s wetlands have been damaged or lost over the past several centuries. Many of my Environmental Protection Agency colleagues spent years trying to slow and prevent the destruction of wetlands.
Yet another great reason to transition your landscape to native plants! The good news is that in most cases they prefer lean mineralized soils and don’t actually like organic amendments—not too surprising as they evolved to thrive in our clay-rich Colorado soils. So you’ll have very little need for organic amendments such as peat moss in your native landscapes. Where you do need organic amendments there are alternatives such as coconut coir and wood-based amendments. Talk to your sustainability-minded local nursery or check out this link for making your own potting soil recipe—and ditch the peat!