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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Don't Miss Chihuly!

     The Chihuly glass exhibit now at the Denver Botanic Gardens is about half-way through its five-month Denver stay.  If you haven't seen it yet at least once, don't put it off.  This stunning exhibit should not be missed!

Glass + Gardens = Amazing!

     The work of international glass artist Dale Chihuly is beautiful in its own right.  But Chihuly's meticulous placement of the pieces throughout the gardens at D.B.G. turns the plants and the glass into a sprawling 24-acre work of art.  Chihuly says he wants his glass sculptures to be organic, as if they're as much alive as         the plants surrounding them.  He's a master at doing just that.

Light and Time of Day

     People who've seen the Chihuly exhibit more than once say the sculptures almost seem to morph into different forms, depending on the light....  looking one way in the morning, a different way in the afternoon.  And on most  dates in November,  the Denver Botanic Gardens has scheduled night viewings, with special lights accenting the flowing colors and curves of the glass pieces. 

Mark you Calendar

     The Chihuly show will be at the Botanic Gardens until November 30th.    Like any great exhibit, the crowds will no doubt swell as that closing date approaches.  I'd urge you to make a point now to plan a visit to the Gardens.  Make it a priority on your "acitivites" list.... maybe something special when friends or families get together.  Or simply treat yourself to this amazing display.  It's fantasy and art and the science of glass all rolled into one amazing





Sunday, March 2, 2014

Being your houseplants' best friend, Part Two

     In my last blog, we looked at how to be your houseplants' best friend.... specifically, in terms of watering, drainage and re-potting.  High time we looked at the notion of the "right" light for houseplants.  Light can dramatically affect your plants' overall health.  But how do we know what light is "right?"

Too much?  Too little?  

     At Tagawas, our Houseplant Department is always ready to help you choose the best plant for home or office.  One of the first questions that Dee  (our houseplant queen) or her staff will ask you is about the light your new plant will be getting..

     Feel free to ask for one of Dee's "Houseplant Instruction" tip sheets.  Here's how she describes the different types of light.

     High light -- full direct sunlight for three to six hours
     Bright light -- indirect sunlight for six to eight hours
     Medium light -- full morning sun for two to four hours or
     bright indirect light for four to six hours.
     Low light -- diffused indirect sunlight for more than three
     to four hours
     No light -- diffused indirect light for three hours or less

 Save the labels!

     I always urge people to save the labels and descriptive tags that come with their plants, whether they plan to grow them indoors or out.  There's a library of information on those tags, not the least of which is the name of the plant.  Knowing specifically which plant you have can be a huge help in diagnosing problems.

     The labels will also tell you how much light a plant requires.
Plants that don't get enough light will tend to stretch.... to get leggy and unattractive.  They're reaching out, struggling to get more light.  Until their lighting situation improves, those plants can't thrive.

     Plants that get too much light can show signs of sunburn... light brown papery patches that will never "heal."

Want flowers?

    With a very few exceptions, houseplants that flower need higher light conditions before they can produce their blossoms.  One big exception, a plant well worth having, is a "Peace Lily."  It's happy with moderate to lower-light conditions, and will give you elegant milky-white flowers without ever getting any direct sun.

     A lot of other flowering plants will do very well with a few hours of bright, morning sun.  Sunlight early in the day can be enough to feed many plants flowering needs without burning their leaves.

     Be careful putting plants in a south- or west-facing window when the sunlight can be especially intense, especially in the winter.

     Dee's tip sheet on "Houseplant Instructions" includes lists of dozens of plants that are suitable for differing light conditions from high light to no light.

     Growing the right houseplants in the right place is easy, with a little help from Tagawas!




Monday, January 6, 2014

Being Your Houseplants' Best Friend, Part One

     I've certainly killed my fair share of houseplants.  Who hasn't?  But I still refuse to accept  the notion that some people just have "black thumbs," and are beyond help.  Not so! Help is waiting for you right here at Tagawa's!

     You don't have to resort to plastic to have healthy (looking) houseplants.  Sure, there are some plants that qualify as "fussy."  But there are far more houseplants that will thrive by following a few basic care guidelines. 

     Let's take those guidelines one at a time.  Over the next few weeks, we'll look at watering, soil and repotting, light requirements, temperature and humidity, fertilizing, pests and summer care for winter health.  Here we go.

Houseplant Rule #1:  Mind your watering!

     Dee is the supervisor of Tagawa's Indoor Plant department.  If you ask her about the most common cause of houseplant death, you'll always get the same answer:  overwatering!  She cites a time many (many!) years ago when she bought a few dozen houseplants, and then proceeded to kill them all because she watered them when it was convenient for her, not necessarily when  the plants needed it. 

     Healthy plants need healthy roots.  Plants that routinely get more water than they can use will get root rot.  The constantly-moist soil is simply an invitation for disease.  Bottom line:  water your houseplants only when the soil has begun to dry out.  And remember that light levels can dramatically effect how much water your plants will need.  We'll talk in detail about plants' light requirements in the next blog.   

      Tagawa's has moisture meters that can help you understand how quickly (or slowly) your plants take up water.  It's impossible to say that thus-and-such plant will use X amount of water in a given period of time.  It depends on where the plant is in your home or office, how dry the air there is, and how large the plant and its root system are, among other factors. 

     A helpful tip from Dee:   Most plants do well if you allow the soil in the top one-third of the pot to dry out before watering again..  Then, make sure you water thoroughly, until water comes out the bottom of the pot. (That's a not-so-subtle hint that you should always grow your houseplants in containers that have drainage.)  Never leave the pot sitting in excess water. 

Houseplant Rule #2:  Good soil and good drainage are vital!

     Even if you think your garden soil is terrific (does anyone around here think their soil is terrific?), don't use that soil for your houseplants.  The most basic T.L.C. for houseplants includes using a good, fresh commercial potting mix that drains well. 

     Don't skimp!  Buy the best soil you can afford.  Tagawa's has lots of good choices.  Dee and our expert houseplant staff will be happy to help you pick the one that's best for you. 

     It's in the nature of organic matter to decompose... to break down over time.  That means the "fluffiness" of the soil will decrease.  It will become finer and more compact and won't drain nearly as well as when it was fresh.  The beneficial little pockets that once held bits of water and soil will disappear.  Not a welcoming place for roots....

Houseplant Rule #3:  Don't repot too soon  

     A lot of times, when a plant isn't doing well, people assume that repotting it, and increasing the pot size, will help.  That could be a bad assumption.

     Dee's best advice is to investigate first.  Knock the plant out of it's pot.  If roots have filled half or more of the pot, then you can usually move the plant to a slightly larger pot... maybe two inches larger. 

     If you jump to a much larger pot, the outer rim of the new soil won't have any roots actively working in that area.  The soil will stay too moist too long.... just what several plant diseases love to call home. 

More help awaits at Tagawa's

     Our good folks in Houseplants have lots of plant lists and care guides to help you overcome any sense of having a "black thumb."  And check back on my blog soon.  Lots more tips coming on "Being Your Houseplants' Best Friend."











Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holiday Plant Care 101

   It's hard to look at a poinsettia and not think of the holidays.  And that means we're thinking about the holidays a lot right now at Tagawa's.  Plant benches that are loaded with annuals in the summer are now bursting with the colors of more than thirty different varieties of poinsettias.  Many of them are grown from cuttings by Tagawa staff.  And for sports fans.... poinsettias in your favorite team colors.... orange and blue, perhaps?

     But you don't have to have a Tagawa green thumb to keep your poinsettia happy and healthy well into the New Year.

Poinsettias' likes and dislikes ...

     I'm hard-pressed which dislike to put at the top of a poinsettia's list:  drafts or getting too dry, so I'll just take them in that order.

     Poinsettias and cold air do not get along at all, and the plants don't hesitate to show their displeasure.  Tagawa's will always insist on wrapping your poinsettia in a paper sleeve before it leaves the store.  During our recent arctic spell, sometimes we'd put two paper wrappers around the plant.

     The draft rule still applies once the plants get home.  If you set them near an outside door that gets lots of use, your plants will protest by dropping their leaves.  A naked poinsettia is not a pretty thing.  They'll also pout and dry up if they're placed near a heat vent or fireplace.  They may be native to Mexico, but a stream of hot, dry air will do them in.

And if you let them dry out....

     ,,,,they will wilt... and wilt hard.  Then they'll drop their leaves.  You should check your poinsettia's soil moisture every day.  Smaller pots will dry out much faster than larger ones.  You can use a moisture meter or gently lift the pot and check the weight to keep track of how quickly your poinsettia is taking up water.

     Soak the plants thoroughly, until water come out through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.  But never let a poinsettia (or pretty much any plant, for that matter), sit in that excess water. 

     Bright but indirect light will help keep your poinsettia looking its best.  By the way, poinsettias are not poisonous!  Plants in general should be kept out of the reach of children and pets.  The milky resin of this and other members of the plant genus Euphorbia can be irritating to sensitive skin.  But no part of the plant is poisonous.

Dazzling amaryllis

     In his last years, I always sent my grandfather a big amaryllis bulb for Christmas.  He  swore to me that he could sit in his easy chair and actually "watch that plant grow!"  What fun, for both of us.  Amaryllis put on an amazing display, and they do all the work!  We just watch and enjoy.

     Remember that the bigger the bulb, the bigger the flower.  Amaryllis bulbs do best when they're a bit pot-bound, growing in small pots just an inch or two wider than the bulb itself.  They can be grown in a special vase that allows their roots to reach down into a reservoir of water only or pebbles topped off with water.  Watching the roots at work is a great lesson for kids.... of all ages...!
     Amaryllis bulbs need eight to ten weeks to flower, but the wait is worth it!  And with some follow-up T.L.C., which our Tagawa experts will be happy to explain, you may well get another show of flowers from the same bulb next season.

"Christmas cactus" don't read calendars.
    For some of the most exotic flowers you'll find on any plant, take a close look at blossoms of what are generally known as "Christmas" cactus. The flowers are complex, intricate and stunning!  But the plants aren't putting on their show because it's December.  It's the day length and temperature that have triggered their wonderful display of color.  Plants that bloom early are often referred to as "Thanksgiving" cactus.  Plants that bloom later may be thought of as "Easter" cactus.  But they're all just varieties of the same plant,.

    Tagawa's has already taken care of back-timing the show of flowers for our Christmas cactus, and the colors are eye-popping!  But like poinsettias, Christmas cactus are very sensitive to drafts.  We will always wrap your plants before you leave the store.  Otherwise, you'll wake up the next morning, and every flower and bud will have fallen off. 

Christmas cactus watering rules

     Christmas cactus are in the succulent family, and they do store some water in their leaf segments.  But they're not a desert cactus.  They're semi-tropical, but shouldn't be over-watered.  Allow the top one-third to one-half of the plant's root ball to dry, then give the roots a good soaking, 'til water comes out the drainage holes.  Don't water again until the top few inches of soil have dried.

     If you want to coax your Christmas (or otherwise) cactus into blooming again next year, talk to one of our experts in the Tagawa houseplant department.  They'll be happy to coach you on the basics.

And last, but definitely not least...

     People may not think of orchids as "holiday" plants, but perhaps they should.  Actually, why not see them as anytime plants.  Orchids do have some preferences... even some requirements.  But they are not the divas you might think.  And they make great gifts!

     I was given an orchid several years ago, and it bloomed for three months!  "Moth" orchids, properly known as "phalaenopsis" orchids, are my first recommendation.  They're elegant and come in a rich variety of colors and a wide variety of sizes.

    Once they're already in bloom, moth orchids (so named because of the shape of their flowers) are wonderfully easy to take care of.  Give them plenty of bright indirect light.... regular watering and fertilization... and any and all visitors to your home will be duly impressed.  And if you want to try your green thumb and push them to bloom again, you know where to take your questions:  straight to the good folks in Tagawa's houseplant department. 

   To one and all, the very best of the holidays from Tagawa's!




Friday, November 1, 2013

Too late for some lawn T.L.C.? NO!

     In the best of all worlds, we'd  be done with fall chores like aerating, fertilizing and top-dressing our lawns.  But are we?  Maybe not, but it isn't too late!

     As long as you can give your grass a good, root-soaking drink beforehand, (and yes, that will probably mean dragging a hose around...), a deep core aeration now can still work wonders.  Removing two- to three-inch plugs of roots and soil will help your lawn in more ways than you can count. 

          The aeration holes will allow water and air down into our usually compacted soil.  That makes better use of any moisture Mother Nature decides to offer.  Whether you rake up the plugs or leave them in place is your choice.  Personally, I leave mine right where they land.   They contain nutrients!

     And for the record, aerating a lawn is much more productive and much less harmful than power-raking.  If you think your turf grass might have problems with thatch build-up, aeration is the perfect answer.  Introducing air and moisture into the thatch layer will help it decompose.  That's much better than trying to rip the thatch out with a power-rake, tearing up or damaging the crowns of many of the individual grass plants in the process.

And after we aerate...?

     Then we fertilize.  The fall/winter feeding is the most important "meal" you can give your lawn.  It gives the roots of the grass a helpful boost to get through the winter stout and strong.  And you'll see your lawn green up faster in the spring, too.  Always apply at the recommended rates and water it in according to the directions.

     One of our customers' favorite fertilizers at Tagawa's is Rich Lawn.  The "winterizer" formula is slightly different than the all-seasons product, but only slightly.  Any fertilizer you don't use now will be just fine to put down next spring, as long as it doesn't get wet between now and then.

And then are we done?
     Almost.  If you really prize a green, healthy lawn, you may be interested in another tip:
John, Tagawa's resident lawn expert (you'll find him at Dick's Corner....),  highly recommends a quarter-inch application of EKO Lawn Top Dressing.  It's a rich, dark, finely-milled compost.  The Top Dressing is too heavy to apply with a fertilizer spreader.  Just pour it into a bucket or wheelbarrow and "fling" it across the lawn..... kind of like feeding your chickens..... if you have chickens....  But that's another matter.

     Rake the top dressing lightly until it's evenly distributed over the lawn.  And then sit back and wait for a wonderful flush of green next spring.

And keep in mind....

     If all of this seems like a lot of trouble, remember this:  A healthy, well-rooted lawn is far more resistant to weeds, disease and drought.  The time and money you invest now can make your lawn, and your gardening life, a lot better down the road. 


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Very Unwelcome Guest

     Maybe it was just a matter of time until the Emerald Ash Borer (E.A.B.) arrived in Colorado.  It had already killed tens of millions of ash trees in 21 other states east of here. Now it's official:  the
Emerald Ash Borer is in Colorado.

     Thankfully, it has not been confirmed in any ash trees outside of the one small and specific area where it was found in northeast Boulder.  But because of its discovery there in September, all of Boulder County is now officially under quarantine.  No live ash trees or untreated ash lumber, firewood or wood products can be moved outside of the county's boundaries.

      Experts with the Colorado State Extension office seem fairly well convinced that the borers came here on infested firewood.  Their best advice?  "Burn it where you buy it!"   Never bring ash or any firewood from one part of the country to another.  That free ride is the perfect way to give an otherwise slow-moving insect a whole new world of tree-killing opportunities.

     By the way, the good folks at Tagawa's are not known for blowing their own horn, but I'm not shy.  Tagawa's nursery staff realized years ago that ash trees in Colorado would likely to be attacked by this borer sooner or later.  Tagawa's quickly began phasing out ash trees as part of our nursery stock.  As a matter of conscience, ash trees were no longer a good choice.   We haven't sold them in many seasons.    One more reason I'm proud to work there.

A pretty, but deadly bug

     The Emerald Ash Borer is a strikingly pretty bug:  bright metallic green, about half an inch long.  The borer's purple body can be seen when its wings are unfolded.  But as my mother used to tell me, "pretty is as pretty does."  Based on what the E.A.B. does, this is one of the ugliest bugs to hit Colorado in decades.

     The E.A.B. is unforgiving.  Once it has infested a tree, it's usually just a matter of time.... two to four years... until the tree dies.  All species of ash are susceptible.  ("Mountain ash" is not a true ash, and is not a target.)  More than fifty-million ash varieties have died since the borer arrived in Michigan and parts of Canada in 2002.

     Experts at Colorado State University estimate that one in five trees in our Front Range  "urban forest" are subject to attack.  Nearly 100,000 trees in Boulder.... and more than 1.4 million ash trees in metro-Denver, could be at risk.  One state official calls it "the greatest threat to Colorado's community forests since the introduction of Dutch elm disease in 1969."

Signs and symptoms

     Unfortunately, it's common for a lot of trees in our Front Range community or urban forests to look stressed.  Poor care, and putting the wrong tree in the wrong place, result in
trees that don't look their best.   To the untrained eye, a tree that's been hit by E.A.B. may be hard to distinguish from other trees that are simply struggling.

     But there are things we can look for.  The first symptom of an E.A.B. infestation is a tree that's thinning in its crown.... its upper branches.  Even if the rest of the ash tree is fully leafed out, the crown can already be failing.  During the next season or two, the foliage will continue to thin out.  Branches will die.  The Emerald Ash borer claims another victim. 

     There are two sure-fire symptoms we can look for.  First: examine trees for distinct D-shaped exit holes made by the adult beetles as they mature and fly off. 

     And near the exit holes, examine the tree for S-shaped tunnels or "galleries" underneath the bark.  It's this tunneling that damages the trees vascular system and shuts down the tree's ability to carry water and nutrients.  The tree slowly starves to death.

What can we do about E.A.B.?

    Opinions vary about how we as tree-owners and tree-lovers should respond to the arrival of the Emerald Ash Borer, but experts all agree on one fact:  the E.A.B. will not attack any trees other than ash.  Know what trees you have in your yard.  (You might be surprised how many people don't....)  Feel free to bring a bagged sample of a leaf cluster to Tagawa's to have your trees identified.  Tagawa's nursery staff would be happy to help.

     Crews of tree experts are surveying the neighborhood in northeast Boulder where the E.A.B. has been confirmed.  For now, unless you're within five miles of that neighborhood, or unless further infestations of the bug are confirmed, there's only one thing you should do for your ash trees:  give them the very best care you can!!  The less stress, the stronger the tree. 

     That means proper watering, including winter watering.  Be careful not to compact the soil over the root zone or damage the bark or roots during routine yard work.  


     The jury is very much out on the use of chemicals to fight back against the Emerald Ash Borer.   Some tree experts says systemics can help protect an otherwise healthy ash tree.  Systemics are insecticides taken up by the tree's roots or injected directly into the tree by licensed professionals.  Other experts say that in the case of E.A.B., the effectiveness of systemics is far from proven, and may not be worth the cost every year for the life of the tree.  Also, the chemicals most often used for E.A.B. are suspected of damaging beneficial insects like honey bees. 

     While the research continues, know that C.S.U., the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and many other groups are working hard to organize the best defense possible against this invader.  Links to their websites are listed below. 

Colorado State University Extension

Colorado Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Multi-agency Emeral Ash Borer website (E.A.B. elsewhere in U.S.)








Wednesday, September 18, 2013

After the Flood: Fighting the Mosquitos

     West Nile Virus was a growing problem in Colorado long before the devastating floods of this past week.  Now, as the water begins to recede and warm temperatures return, mosquitos are likely to be hatching out in possibly dangerous numbers.  This is the time to take the threat of West Nile very seriously. 

Be on the alert for standing water!

     Female mosquitos lay their eggs in standing water, but they don't need much water to feel welcome. 

     I'd urge you to take a walk around your property and look for any low spots or containers that you wouldn't normally think of as a mosquito-breeding ground.  Old tires, buckets, trash can lids, bird baths, garden ponds and gutters on your roof can easily hold enough water to incubate the mosquito eggs into adults.  The sooner you take that walk, the better.  Mosquitos can mature from egg to adult in just four to seven days. 

More than a nuiscance

    Adult female mosquitos are the only insects that can transmit West Nile virus to humans.  On the positive side, most people who get West Nile will never show any symptoms.  But for the two or three people in ten who do get sick, some of them get very sick.  Before last week's flooding, the State Health Department was reporting nearly 100 diagnosed cases of West Nile in Colorado.  Two of the people died, one in Arapahoe County and one in Weld County.

     Symptoms of West Nile include headache, high fever and neck stiffness.  If the disease progresses, it can lead to tremors, seizures, paralysis and coma.  These symptoms can begin within just three to fourteen days after an infected mosquito bites. 

Fighting back

     There are lots of ways to protect your family and yourself.  The most obvious tactic is to wear light-colored clothing that covers arms and legs.  And don't count on the old adage that mosquitos feed primarily in the cool of early morning and evening.  I've taken out a couple that decided high noon on an 85 degree day was the perfect time for lunch. 
    Tagawa's has several ways to help you fight back against the 'skeeters.   We carry insect repellents with and without Deet.  Your choice.

     One of my favorite ways of defeating the mosquitos in my neighbor's pond is with an earth-friendly "larvacide" with a special bacteria that affects only the mosquitos.  There's no harm to birds, bats or other creatures that eat the treated mosquitos.

     This biological insecticide is sold as "Mosquito Dunks" or "Mosquito Beater."   The good folks in Dick's Corner at Tagawa's will be happy to help you choose the product that is right for your situation. 

A long fight?

     Studies have shown that some mosquitos can actually survive the winter.  Fortunately, most of them don't.  Our first hard freeze should kill most of them.  But this being Colorado and all, there's really no telling when that first freeze will come. 

     In the meantime, be on the alert for the familiar buzzing that the female mosquitos make. That sound is meant to attract the male mosquitos.  But we can use it as an alarm... a kind of call-to-arms that it's time take precautions against this nasty pest.