Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Creating Your Colorado-friendly Garden: 6a - What Type of Gardener Are You?

Some garden tasks are fun, while others seem more like chores. Take our
quiz to discover your own preferences

Gardening should be enjoyable.  You should want to get out in your garden.  While you may not have considered this, the garden itself can determine whether you enjoy or dislike gardening.  Since you are designing/redesigning your garden, you have the chance to plan a garden that’s suited to your time, budget, abilities and gardening personality.  That’s what the Colorado-friendly Garden is all about.

We all approach gardening in slightly different ways.  Certain gardening tasks may bring you great enjoyment, while others seem more like chores. Even if you’ve gardened for a long time, it pays to re-evaluate what you enjoy (and even can still do physically).   Your Colorado-friendly Garden should maximize enjoyment and minimize the ‘chores’!   But first you need to seriously consider what you like and dislike about gardening.  Our questionnaire will help you organize your thoughts.

Even the pace at which you install your garden is highly personal.   You may want to install your entire garden ‘right now’; alternatively, you may be more comfortable with letting your garden plan develop more slowly.  There is no one right way – we each need to work within our own constraints and desires.  Here is a Table to help you discover elements of your gardening self that may influence the landscape plan you develop (http://www.slideshare.net/cvadheim/what-type-of-gardener-worksheet-29222124).



We welcome your comments (below).  You can also send your questions to: monaturesmontrosegarden@gmail.com


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Creating Your Colorado-friendly Garden: 5 – Discovering Your Garden’s History

Every garden has a history. Learning about your garden's history can help you plan an
 interesting  and appropriate Colorado-friendly Garden.

Each garden comes to the present moment with its own unique history.  Part of that history is ancient – bound up in the rocks that form its soils, the rivers and volcanoes that shaped its topography and the effects of other natural forces.  In the more recent past, the land where your neighborhood lies was host to a number of plant and animal species, as well as the human inhabitants that subsisted on them. 

In the even more recent past, your garden has a history that includes the development of your property, past gardens/gardening practices and even the current conditions.   Learning more about your garden’s past is an important part of designing your landscape plan.  

Perhaps you have remnant native plant species, such as a native oak or pine, already growing in your yard.  These can form the basis for your landscape plan.  As you look around your neighborhood you may find other native relicts that can provide inspiration – perhaps even seeds or cuttings – for your garden.   There is nothing more exciting than knowing that you’re providing a home for plants that are native to your immediate location!

Even if your neighborhood currently includes no native plants, learning about the plants that once occupied your land can suggest species that may thrive in your garden.    Learning about the plant communities that existed in your local area can also suggest palettes of plants that ‘go together’ – both in terms of their requirements as well as in how they look.   Some good resources for learning about Colorado’s Plant communities include:


You may become fascinated by the ecology of the plants and animals of your area and want to explore further.    Learning more about the Native Coloradans who lived in your area can suggest ways to properly manage your native plants.  After all, the Native peoples were the first stewards of our native plants!

Perhaps your garden was once a homestead.
How your property was developed – and when – can also influence the design of your landscape plan.  Were your soils compacted?   Was fill brought in?  These and other factors may influence the plants you choose and the preparations needed to produce a thriving landscape.  Perhaps your garden was once the site of an orchard, a pasture or an oil field. Can you find any old pictures of your home or homesite?  This sort of history comes with its own set of challenges. Knowing about your site’s history will help you to plan for them.

Finally, considering the gardening history of your yard may suggest additional factors to consider when developing your garden plan.  Knowing whether fertilizers, pesticides and soil amendments were used, and when, can be useful.  Some landscape plants change the pH or other soil characteristics.  Knowing the gardening history of your site can help you avoid costly mistakes.

Learning about your site’s history can take time and research.  Some information will be unavailable.   Just do the best you can in filling out the History Worksheet (http://www.slideshare.net/cvadheim/your-gardens-history-worksheet). File it and old pictures, articles etc. that you discover in your Garden Notebook.   Any knowledge of your site’s history will be useful when you – or a designer you hire – designs your Colorado-friendly Garden.

Many local gardens were once agricultural land.


We welcome your comments (below).  You can also send your questions to: monaturesmontrosegarden@gmail.com


Sunday, January 5, 2020

Plant of the Month (January) : Midland (English) Hawthorn – Crateagus laevigata

'Crimson Cloud' Hawthorn: in full bloom
Mother Nature's Montrose Garden, Montrose CO

For the past few months we’ve featured non-native fruiting shrubs and trees chosen by the previous gardener.  These ‘Legacy Plants’ are mature, provide food and are important habitat plants. For those reasons, we’ve chosen to retain them, even though we’re transitioning to more native plants.  For more on Legacy Plants see: https://mothernaturesmontrosegarden.blogspot.com/2019/08/creating-your-colorado-friendly-garden.html

This month we focus on a non-native tree, Crateagus laevigata (pronounced krah-TEE-gus  lee-vih-GAY-tuh). The Midland hawthorn (also known as English or Woodland hawthorn, or Mayflower) is native to western and central Europe, from Great Britain and Spain east to the Czech Republic and Hungary.  In England, it is largely confined to the lowland ancient woodlands.

The hawthorns, genus Crateagus (in the Rose family), are a group of several hundred species native to temperate regions of the Northern hemisphere.   Almost all are shrubs or small trees and most are notable for their thorns – modified branch tips that are stout and sharp.  The hawthorns produce small fruits which can be made into jams, jellies, juices, alcoholic beverages, and other drinks.  The young leaves are sometimes eaten fresh and many species have a history of medicinal uses.

Hawthorn fruits make juice, jelly, beverages and syrup

Four species of Hawthorn are native to Western Colorado [1]. These are Crateagus macrocantha var. occidentales, C. erythropoda, C. saligna and C. rivularis.  Of these C. rivularis, the River hawthorn, is the most common.  This species grows in the intermountain states from Canada to the Four Corners states and Texas.  A nice shrub/small tree, the River hawthorn has edible fruits and is very hardy.  It also has formidable thorns, and is almost never available in the nursery trade.  We’ve tried to grow it ourselves from seed – thus far with no success. 

Since native hawthorns are difficult to procure, most gardeners grow either Crateagus laevigata (and its cultivars), Crateagus monogyna (Common hawthorn) or hybrids between the two. Crateagus laevigata differs from Crateagus monogyna, in several ways. The leaves are more shallowly lobed and, more importantly, each flower has more than one style (and hence, more than one seed per fruit).  Of the two, C. laevigata or it’s hybrids are more widely used in U.S. gardens.

Two cultivars of Midland hawthorn are readily available in the U.S.   ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ hawthorn is a showy tree, 15-20 ft. (4.5-6 m.) tall with bright magenta blooms.  Unfortunately, this cultivar is more susceptible to a variety of pests that can cause summer defoliation: Aphids, Beetle Borers, Scales and Spider Mites, Fire Blight, Armillaria, Powdery Mildew, Root Rot, Rust and Sooty Mold.

‘Crimson Cloud’ hawthorn cultivar is resistant to the leaf blight that can be the bane of ‘Paul’s Scarlet’.  It is similar in size, shape and other characteristics – including the showy spring flowers and edible fruit.  It is grown – and loved - in gardens throughout the U.S.   We are fortunate to have inherited a mature specimen.

'Crimson Cloud' Hawthorn: growth habit

Our ‘Crimson Cloud’ Midland Hawthorn is currently the largest tree in our front yard.  Mature size is 20-25 ft. (6-7.5 m) tall and about 15-20 ft. (4.5-6 m.) wide. This cultivar usually grows as a single tree, but sometimes spreads by suckers to form a clump.  The growth form is upright and rounded, though the form can be somewhat erratic.  In fact, you can deduce the common wind direction from the form of our hawthorn.  This cultivar is said to be thornless; ours has a few tip thorns, but nothing like the natives.

'Crimson Cloud' Hawthorn: foliage

Crateagus laevigata (and its cultivars) have gray-brown bark and medium- to dark-green foliage.  The foliage is dense, making this a good small shade tree (even in winter).  The glossy leaves are alternate, lobed with crenulated edges.  The foliage – and the tree itself – are handsome in leaf.  The tree is only moderately so when deciduous (in winter).  And fall leaf color is not notable.

'Crimson Cloud' Hawthorn: winter
'Crimson Cloud' Hawthorn: flowering plant

Midland hawthorns really shine in spring, when they are covered in pink blossoms. In our area, this plant blooms in late April or May, depending on the temperatures. The flowers are bright magenta/pink with white centers and scented.  The flowers attract lots of bee pollinators; you can literally hear the buzzing when you approach a blooming hawthorn. 

'Crimson Cloud' Hawthorn: fruits are pomes

The flowers are followed by small (1/4-1/2 inch) fruits, which ripen slowly and are ready for eating after a few good frosts.  The fruits look like tiny apples (they, like apples, are pomes) and are dark red to black when ripe.  We pick the fruits for making jelly and syrup, although there are many other uses.   The fruits remain showy into late fall and even winter (below).

'Crimson Cloud' Hawthorn: note fruits
 remaining on tree in winter

Birds also eat the fruit.  While they don’t seem to be a bird’s first choice, the remaining fruits are eagerly eaten all winter.  This makes hawthorn a good year-round bird habitat plant.  The dense foliage and size make it a choice tree for nesting and cover. We’ve had both Blackbirds and Robins nest in ours. And the fruits provide important nourishment when other foods are scarce.

The Midland hawthorn and cultivars are easy to grow and widely available.  They are hardy from USDA Hardiness Zone 4 or 5 to 8.  We’ve even seen ‘Crimson Cloud’ growing in Zone 10 regions of S. California!  The plant is quite adaptable in the types of soils it accepts: clay soils are fine, and the pH range is reported to be wide.  ‘Crimson Cloud’ certainly thrives in soils with pH around 8.0 in Western Colorado.

Hawthorns like full sun best, but will tolerate a little shade (fruiting may be decreased in shadier locations).  They also need semi-regular water; probably best with at least a weekly deep watering during dry periods western U.S.   It will not tolerate standing water.  We don’t prune ours much.  Just remove old, unhealthy or crossing branches, those that detract from the shape, and the water-sprouts.  

In our dry climate we have not experienced much trouble with pests or diseases. ‘Crimson Cloud’ is resistant to leaf spot diseases, but since hawthorns are in the Rose family, one should examine plants for fungal diseases, fire blight, scales and spider mites, particularly in warm, damp weather.

'Crimson Cloud' Hawthorn: specimen tree

The English hawthorns make lovely garden trees, even in smaller gardens.  They provide shade year-round. Their small size makes them appropriate for street trees and under power lines.  In Europe, they are commonly used in hedgerows and screens.  In the U.S., they are more often used as specimen plants.   They can be trained for espalier (or even bonsai) and are sometimes grown for their fruits.

Hawthorns are important bird habitat plants, and should be considered for this reason alone. They have a long history of use as medicinal plants (see references 2-4). They are easy-care and likely have a long life, even in gardens. They are moderately hardy to urban air pollution.  And they are an attractive, edible alternative to other non-native trees planted in the Four Corners states. 

'Crimson Cloud' Hawthorn: juice from fruits


  1. Weber, WA & Wittman RC. Colorado Flora – Western Slope, 4th ed. 2012, University Press of Colorado
  2. https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Crataegus+laevigata
  3. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-527/hawthorn
  4. https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-2106005

For more pictures of this plant see:

For plant information sheets on western native plants see: http://nativeplantscsudh.blogspot.com/p/gallery-of-native-plants_17.html


We welcome your comments (below).  You can also send your questions to: monaturesmontrosegarden@gmail.com

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Colorado Gourmet: Easy Desserts Using Fruit Purees

Individual cobblers using fruit puree are ready to bake.

Last month we discussed making fruit purees (https://mothernaturesmontrosegarden.blogspot.com/2019/11/colorado-gourmet-making-fruit-purees.html). Fruit purees are an easy way to preserve summer’s bounty.  And they are a handy pantry staple, particularly during busy times like December.  We’d like to share a few easy desert ideas using fruit purees.

The easiest way to utilize fruit purees is to use them to top a bowl of ice cream or a slice of cake.  They make either look dressier, and their flavor adds a needed zing to an otherwise bland dessert.

But maybe you need something that’s a little more refined (but still easy to make). Here are three dessert ideas for you to try.

Holiday cheesecake

Top prepared, chilled cheesecake (home-made or store bought) with a ¼ inch layer of fruit puree.  Refrigerate to chill topping before serving.
The puree adds a layer of complexity to plain cheesecake.  The colors make the dessert more festive, particularly if red colored purees are used.  And the flavor of fruit purees adds just the right sweet-tart note to complement the cheesecake.

Holiday Parfaits  

Here’s another easy idea that makes a festive dessert for the holiday season.


Vanilla pudding (prepared and cooled) or vanilla yoghurt (your choice)

1 pint preserved (or frozen and thawed) fruit puree (red color is nice)

1 cup crushed cookies* (your choice; vanilla wafers, graham crackers, etc.)


Layer pudding, puree and cookie crumbles* in parfait cups or glasses, starting with a layer of pudding.  Pudding layers should be about 1 inch deep.  Use 2 tablespoons of puree and 1 Tablespoon of cookie crumbles for each layer.   Top last layer with whipped cream (if desired)

* place cookies in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.  You can also substitute granola for the cookie crumbles

Sweet-tart pear cobbler with fruit puree.  Yum!

Sweet-Tart Individual Cobblers

These cobblers are baked in 4- to 6-ounce, oven-safe ramekins or souffle dishes.  The cobblers can be made with your choice of biscuit topping: sweetened biscuit mix; your favorite biscuit recipe (sweetened just a little); or using ready to bake biscuits. 

The sweet flavor of the pears contrasts beautifully with the tart zest of the fruit puree.  You can serve these cobblers hot (or re-warmed in the micro-wave), cold or at room temperature. They can be baked ahead of time, making them a good choice for the busy holiday season.  And a baked dessert tastes just right on cold winter nights. 

Sweet-tart Cobblers - before placing biscuit top.


3-5 medium to large, ripe pears

1 pint preserved (or frozen and thawed) fruit puree

Biscuit mix or ready to bake biscuits

1/3 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 350˚ F.   Wash, peel and core pears.  Cut into ¼ inch chunks.  Divide pear chunks between 6 to 8 ramekins.  The pears should cover about half of the depth of the ramekin.  Top pears with 2 Tablespoons of fruit puree.   Top puree with un-baked biscuit rounds that are slightly smaller than the diameter of the ramekins.  If making biscuits from mix or scratch, add 1/3 cup sugar per 2 cups biscuit mix.  Roll out dough to ¼ inch thick; cut biscuit rounds to slightly smaller than the ramekin diameter. 

Place ramekins on a cookie sheet in pre-heated oven.  Bake at 350˚ F for 30-40 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown and filling is bubbly.  Cool slightly and serve; or cool entirely and serve (or store in the refrigerator).   Enjoy!


We welcome your comments (below).  You can also send your questions to: monaturesmontrosegarden@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Plant of the Month (December) : Flowering Quince – Chaenomeles species and hybrids

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles species) 

Last month we featured our Japanese Crab Apple, chosen by the former owners as an anchor plant for their Japanese-themed garden (https://mothernaturesmontrosegarden.blogspot.com/2019/11/plant-of-month-november-japanese.html).  This month, we feature another of our heritage fruiting plants, the Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles species).  Both of these plants, while not Colorado natives, have much to recommend them.  And both do well in the gardens of western Colorado.

The genus Chaenomeles contains but four Asian species: Chaenomeles japonica, C. cathayensis, C. speciosa and C. thibetica [1]. The genus, in the Rose family (Rosaceae), is related to the true quince (Cydonia oblonga) and the Chinese quince (Pseudocydonia sinensis).  The genus name is pronounced kie-NOM-e-lez.  The Asian quinces have a long and confusing taxonomic history.  For more on the taxonomy, see reference 2 (below).

Japanese quince, Chaenomeles japonica (also known as Maul’s quince), is native to the low mountain woodlands of central and southern Japan. The fruit is called Kusa-boke (草木瓜) in Japanese.  The Japanese quince has also been known as Chaenomeles maulei, Cydonia japonica, Cydonia maulei, Pyrus japonica and P. maulei [3].

The more common Chaenomeles speciosa or Flowering quince (sometimes also known as ‘Japanese quince’, ‘Chinese quince’ and Zhou Pi Mugua) and the other two species are native to China.  Chaenomeles speciosa has also been called C. laganaria, Cydonia lagenaria, Cydonia speciosa, and Pyrus japonica. 

Many of the plants sold as Flowering or Japanese quince are actually hybrids.  Four named hybrids have been bred in gardens. The most common is C. × superba (hybrid C. speciosa × C. japonica), while C. × vilmoriniana is a hybrid C. speciosa × C. cathayensis, and C. × clarkiana is a hybrid C. japonica × C. cathayensis. The hybrid C. × californica is a tri-species hybrid (C. × superba × C. cathayensis).  

Common horticultural cultivars of Chaenomeles include:

  • 'Cameo' - Double, apricot-pink flowers; 4' to 5' tall; few thorns.
  • 'Contorta' - Twisted stems and white flowers; showy in winter.
  • 'Jet Trail' - A low-growing (to 3' tall); pure white blossoms.
  • 'Nivalis' - A vigorous, upright growth; White, single flowers.
  • 'Texas Scarlet' - Low-growing (to 4' tall); bright red flowers; few thorns; apple-like fruit good for culinary purposes.
  • 'Orange Delight': low spreading plant, bright orange flowers.
  • 'Toyo-Nishiki' - Upright, rounded habit (6' to 10' tall); red, pink and white flowers in the same flower cluster; very hardy, but may be more prone to fireblight disease.
  • 'Scarlet Storm', 'Orange Storm', 'Pink Storm' – thornless; double flowers; no fruits

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles species):
 habit of small cultivar

Of the four Chaenomeles species , only C. cathayensis grows to more than 3-5 meters (9-15 ft) tall; most are small to large shrubs. They are often wider than they are tall.   All species (with the exception a few hybrid cultivars) are very thorny, and have a rather wild appearance, often with overlapping gray-brown twiggy branches.  The overall shape is rounded, but there is much variability between individual plants. 

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles species): foliage

The foliage is fairly typical for the Rose Family.  Leaves are medium to dark glossy green, alternate, and elliptical in shape.  Leaf margins are serrated.  Young leaves may be orange/red tinted, but fall leaves do not provide much color, usually falling while still green. 

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles species) : flowering plant

Asian quinces usually flower before the plants leaf out, often in March or April; as a result,  flower buds may be injured by cold weather. The flowers are surprisingly showy for these modest-appearing shrubs. Plants are often chosen specifically for their floral characteristics, though flowers last but 2-3 weeks.  Flowers grow on 2-4 year-old wood, so care must be taken to not over-prune. The flowers are often clustered, and individual flowers one to 1 ½ inches (3-4 cm) wide.

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles species) : flowers

The flowers of all species within the genus Chaenomeles normally have five sepals and five petals. The petals can vary from white to darkest red through pink, orange, and scarlet, and bi-colored petals are frequent. The species’ have single petals, but some cultivars have double flowers.  The flowers have many stamens and produce abundant nectar (but are scentless).  Flowers are pollinated by bumblebees and European Honey bees.  In some areas, the flowers also attract hummingbirds.

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles species) : ripe fruits

Fruits are apple- or roughly pear-shaped, depending on species and cultivar.  Fruits are 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches long, yellow-green or pale orange, and remain hard even when ripe.  Fruits ripen in October or November; a few falling from the shrub (see above) is often a good sign the fruits are mature.  Ripe fruits are easy to pick.

While small, the fruits of Flowering Quince are similar in flavor (and other qualities) to the true quince.  All require cooking to enhance their flavor and soften their texture.  Many quince fruits also attain a soft peach tint with cooking.  Quince can be used to make jelly, quince butter, syrups and puree.  For tips on making fruit puree see: https://mothernaturesmontrosegarden.blogspot.com/2019/11/colorado-gourmet-making-fruit-purees.html.  

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles species) : making puree

Like pears and apples, fruits can be poached in wine or juice for a nice cold-weather desert. They can also be used to make kitchen cordials.  In fact, they can be used in any recipe that calls for quince.  They are high in Vitamin C, antioxidants, pectin and fiber – and have a pleasant aroma and tart flavor. There is current interest in developing hardy, high-producing cultivars for fruit production [1].

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles species) : may become
 a common domesticated fruit in the future.

Flowering Quince is easy to grow and hardy from USDA Zones 5-9.  Choose a site where plants can grow to their full size (read up on the characteristics of your cultivar) and where thorny branches are not a problem. Best flowering/fruiting occurs in full sun, although plants can tolerate some shade.   They are adaptable to many soil types, but can become chlorotic (yellow leaves) in soils with pH above 7.5.  If you have alkali soil, give plants a yearly treatment with an acid fertilizer.  Plants also benefit from a spring application of compost.

Flowering Quinces tolerate dry soils; you can probably get by with a deep summer watering every other week in Western Colorado.  Keep the area around and beneath quinces well-weeded.   Prune out dead, old branches in winter (you may want to mark these in fall before plants lose their leaves). Some cultivars tend to sucker, so watch and prune out suckers if desired.  That’s really about all there is to routine care.

Cultivars have different susceptibilities to diseases and pests, so be sure to learn the characteristics of the plant you choose.  As members of the Rose Family, apple scab can cause significant summer defoliation; and scale, mites and aphids can be problematic. In wet years, plants may be susceptible to fungal leaf spot. Watch especially for Fire blight and prune out affected branches with sterile pruners.  Rabbits may eat twigs in winter.

Flowering quinces make a great addition to an Asian-themed garden – even a small one.  They are often used as border shrubs and are ‘wild’ enough in appearance to be appropriate for a woodland garden.   Plants make a good hedge, although hedge-pruning reduces flowering and fruiting. The thorny types make great barrier plants.  Flowering quinces are appropriate for home fruit orchards, providing an interesting and unusual alternative to more common fruits.  And massed Chaenomeles provide a spectacular – if short-lived – floral display in early spring.    

Flowering Quinces are used as medicinal plants in Asia, often as an anti-inflammatory in joint and muscle problems.  They are also used to treat and cure seasonal respiratory illness, and as a general tonic to stimulate health or recovery from illness.  For more on the medicinal properties of Chaenomeles, see references 4 and 5.

In summary, the Chaenomeles species provide an interesting alternative to garden shrubs commonly planted in western Colorado and the Four Corners states.  You might want to consider one for your own home garden.

For plant information sheets on Western native plants see: http://nativeplantscsudh.blogspot.com/p/gallery-of-native-plants_17.html


  1. https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-385.html
  2. https://ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2018/9/quince/
  3. https://permaculturenews.org/2017/01/16/quincessential-guide-japanese-quince-chaenomeles-speciosa/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3917013/
  5. http://www.itmonline.org/articles/chaenomeles/chaenomeles.htm


We welcome your comments (below).  You can also send your questions to: monaturesmontrosegarden@gmail.com