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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. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The 'Shrooms' are Coming!

     If you're a fan of fungi, you're in luck!  Our recent rains (as in many days of downpours!) may trigger an interesting crop of mushrooms throughout much of Colorado, including in your lawn and landscape.  They're already popping up in my yard.

     Colorado is home to dozens of types of mushrooms.  I find them fascinating and often comical, but these odd "fruiting structures" of fungi need to be taken seriously, especially where kids and pets are concerned.

"When in doubt, throw them out!"

     There are a lot of wild mushrooms in Colorado that are both edible and delicious.... but there are a few that can be deadly.  Many of Colorado's wild 'shrooms fall somewhere in between.  They can easily make adults, children and pets very sick.  Unless you're absolutely sure that a wild mushroom is edible.... meaning its been examined by a fungi expert.... don't eat it!  And don't leave it around for kids or pets to find.  Just pluck it up with a plastic bag and get rid of it.  You don't need to spray with fungicides or other chemicals.  Most of the thread-like body of the fungi are underground.  The mushroom itself is just the fruit.

A teachable moment

     With adult supervision, mushrooms can make for a fun little scientific experiment.  One of the ways that fungi experts identify a mushroom is by its "spore print."   You can make one yourself.  Simply pick the cap off of a mushroom as it is close to being fully  open.  Remove enough of the stem so the cap will sit flat, then set the cap onto a piece of clean white paper. 

The cap on the right was left for just a few hours. 
Heavier spore prints from caps left on longer
    Within a few hours, the underside of the mushroom will begin to release its fungal spores.... the dust-like powdery little wonders that serve as the mushroom's "seeds."  The spores will settle onto the paper and create a beautiful print that duplicates the pattern of the mushroom's "gills," the fan-like structure on the underside of the cap.  They can be quite lovely!

     The longer the mushroom is left in place (as in a few days rather than a few hours), the heavier the spore print will be, 'til the gill pattern disappears altogether.  It's kinda fun!

Just be careful

     I'm not trying to lecture.  I'm just saying "heads up!" while the mushrooms are beginning  to appear, seemingly overnight.  They're likely to be popping up in your yard, in parks and open spaces and along hiking trails.  Kids and pets are always full of surprises.  Don't let nibbling on a new and curious thing like a mushroom be one of them. 


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Do your trees have leaf scorch?

     I'm seeing it just about everywhere I look:  leaf scorch... where the outer margins of a tree's leaves turn brittle and crumble when touched.  I'm seeing it at the big box stores.  I'm seeing it at the gym.  I'm seeing it in lots of parks and median strips.  And most of it could have been prevented if the trees had been better cared for.

A textbook example of leaf scorch
    Leaf scorch is common when a tree's roots have been damaged and can't deliver enough water once the heat of summer sets in.  The roots' ability to supply the needed moisture is limited because many of the roots dried up and died over the winter. Come summer, the roots system can't take in enough water.  The end of the "supply line" is the  outer-most edges of the leaves, and they pay the price.

Winter watering

     The leaf scorch damage we're seeing now could easily have been caused last winter.  "Winter watering" is one of my favorite soapbox topics.  A lot of gardeners and homeowners just don't fully appreciate how important winter watering can be for keeping our plants healthy.  Back in my Master Gardener days, "winter drought" was easily one of the most common problems that would prompt homeowners to call the Master Gardener helpline in July and August, when the temperatures climb into the 90's and above. Most of the time, the callers had no idea that the damage began months earlier.

Good care now could save this tree

     Our trees and shrubs are dormant during the winter, but they're not completely shut down.  If we don't have a good, wet soaking snow at least once a month in the winter, it's up to us to keep the roots of our trees and shrubs (and even our lawns) healthy. We need to drag out the hoses or the buckets on a warm morning and put down an inch or so of water to make up for what Mother Nature isn't delivering.

     Winter drought  is one of the most common causes of root damage, but other things can kill the roots, too.  Watering too much or too little, especially on younger trees, can destroy roots and eventually show up as leaf scorch.  Again, the roots are damaged and can't perform their job.  Construction like trenching, use of heavy equipment over the roots and paving can create problems, too.

So what's the answer?

Too late for any T.L.C.

     If you're seeing leaf scorch on your trees, there's no way to repair the leaves that have already been damaged.  But regardless of what caused the damage, the "answer" is pretty basic:  give the tree or shrub the best and most appropriate care you can now.  Don't try to over-compensate with excessive watering or fertilization.  That's not the answer, and could actually make matters worse.

     The staff at Tagawa's can offer lots of advice on what "best and most appropriate care" means, given your particular plants and growing conditions.  We encourage you to take a few pictures of the tree or shrub and bring them into our nursery experts for detailed advice.

     Leaf scorch doesn't have to happen.  Even when we start out the gardening season with watering restrictions as we did this year, good basic care is still possible.  The folks at Tagawa's will be happy to show you how.



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tagawa's Salutes Red Hawk Ridge Artists

     There's plenty of talent at Red Hawk Ridge Elementary school just north of Tagawa Gardens.  The mural just outside our front entrance is proof!

     Before they broke for the summer, Miss Rose's 5th grade art class at Red Hawk put in a lot of time, planning and hard work to create the mural at Tagawa's.   More than 100 students were involved in all aspects of the project, including the choice of a theme.

     And that theme is a perfect greeting for our guests as they enter Tagawa's:  "Plants give us...."   As the mural says, plants give us joy, beauty and health and so many other good things.

     The young artists sketched out drawings to illustrate their theme and then did all of the painting themselves.


   We salute the students and Miss Rose, their enterprising teacher!  Take note of the colorful mural when you visit Tagawa's, and know that there's a very talented bunch of young gardeners, environmentalists and artists who made it possible.



Monday, August 5, 2013

A Look at Plants to Come

     You know the "Hardy Boy" line of plants.... the folks with the "Red Hot Pots?"  They're a favorite here at Tagawa's.  Not just because it's been a Front Range family-owned business for decades, like Tagawa Gardens.   And not just because they offer top-of-the-line, locally-grown plants.... about 300-million every year.  And not just because they have some of the nicest people you could ever meet, which they do.  But for all of these reasons, and more!

So what's new from Hardy Boy for 2014? 

     Glad you asked!  Welby Gardens, the retail side of Hardy Boy, held their annual flower trials this past week.   People from the "green industry," growers, landscapers and greenhouse folks from independent garden centers like Tagawa's, were invited to judge more than 600 plants.  Each of us was allowed to vote for out ten favorites.  (The results are still pending....)

     The dozen or so folks from Tagawa's who attended the Welby Trials had a hard time picking their very favorite plant.  There were so many!  But I did manage to get most of the Tagawa crew to take on this challenge:  "If you could take home just one plant, which one would it be?"

     Their choices are included here.  See what you think!

Welby Gardens Trials
Begonia "Solenia Orange"


Rudbeckia "Gold Rush"
Geranium "Lavender Rose"

Euphorbia "Star Dust:

Celosia "Intenz"

Petunia "Rose and Shine"

Geranium "Dynamo Salmon"

Angelonia "Archangel"

Lobelia "Bella Oceana"

Begonia "L.A.X."

Our expert production staff at Tagawa's will be comparing notes over the next few months to decide which plants our customers might love the most! 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Help Parker Celebrate the Bees!

     I'm a beekeeper, so around my house, whenever I mention "the girls," people know I'm talking about the honey bees.  So consider this your formal invitation to come by O'Brien Park in downtown Parker for the annual "Honey Festival."  We'll celebrate "the girls."  I'll have drawings to give away beautiful bee-friendly perennials from Tagawa's.  And you just might learn something you didn't know about these remarkable insects.

For example.....?

     Okay.  For example:  honey bees are funny!  They make me laugh.  I have a large flat plastic saucer with a couple of bricks in it on my deck where the girls can come for water.  (Water is important for them all year long, but especially during hot weather.)

     If they miss the brick and plop down into the water, it's fun to lift them up with the tip of my finger.  Their fuzzy little bodies are soaked, and they all but shake like a wet dog.  I set them down to dry and we both go our separate ways.  Done carefully, no stings.  No fear.  No drowned bee.

"The Girls" need our help

     The honey bees are in trouble, and planting bee-friendly plants is one way we can help.  Come by the Tagawa table at the Parker Honey Festival on Sunday (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and enter to win a plant that will give The Girls a nice place to visit.  You, too, may discover what wonderful, and funny, little creatures they are!

All the details are at the Honey Fest website: