The Denver Gazette

How I wish I knew then what I know now

BY DEBRA STINTON OTHITIS Colorado Master Gardener Submit gardening questions to or call 719-520-7684. Find us on Facebook at Colorado Master Gardeners-El Paso County.

“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.” — Janet Kilburn Phillips

1. We surveyed several Colorado Master Gardeners to hear what they have learned from their gardening experiences.

2. About 20 years ago, I planted a bunch of beautiful red tulips in our courtyard. They were stunning the first year. What I did not know was that most tulips degrade quickly after the first year of bloom and should best be just dug up and discarded after bloom (treated like an annual). They may have sent up a few blooms the second year, then for a decade or more they would just send up one leaf. The bulbs became incredibly difficult to dig out.

3. I used to not take into account the final size of a plant so I would plant things too close together, or a shrub too close to the sidewalk or building. Now I plan better.

4. Twenty-two years ago I was delighted to find aspen trees for sale in a neighbor’s driveway. Being my favorite tree (I thought at the time), I purchased three to plant in my yard. Little did I know that I would come to rue that day. They are extremely invasive. Stems are still sprouting up from their roots throughout my yard (and my neighbors’), not deterred by concrete, garden barriers or sidewalks. Additionally, they are highly susceptible to insect damage and disease. While beautiful in nature, aspen trees are not a good choice for an urban garden.

5. Circling root systems occur on plants too large for the container size or kept too long in the pot causing the root mass to be so dense that it prevents roots from penetrating into the landscape soil after planting. I now cut circling roots on a new perennial before planting.

6. Disease organisms such as blight might not be visible on tools, but pathogens can be spread from plant to plant during pruning, causing plant loss. Now I take care to clean and disinfect pruning tools after usage.

7. I’ve learned my lesson about succumbing to wishful thinking about plant placement. Even if I think “I’d really like for this plant that is only happy in full sun to do well in this shady location, because that’s where I would like it to go” I no longer tempt fate and face disappointment.

8. Having moved from Illinois where rain is much more plentiful, I never considered water requirements for a plant. Plant catalogs rarely published this information (although more do now). Even if a plant sounds like a fit for my soil and light, I now check how much water it requires.

9. Whenever I planted a new plant in my garden, I would pack the soil around it, pressing with my foot with all my weight. What an eye opener when I learned about soil compaction and how bad it is for plants. Now I just lightly push soil in around a new plant.





The Gazette, Colorado Springs