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Posts Tagged ‘Fort Collins Colorado’

The new year has gotten off to quick start and gardeners are eager to get their hands back in the soil. But the ground is frozen and plants are asleep, so the best cure for the green thumb itch is to sit through a few classes. Fortunately, there are several seminars to choose from along the Front Range.

Two powerhouse speakers, Lauren Springer Ogden and David Salman, are appearing January 22 at the Drake Centre, 802 W. Drake Rd. in Fort Collins. Salman, owner of High Country Gardens in Santa Fe, and landscape designer/author Springer Ogden are expert in creating beauty in the west. Their topic, “Creating Undaunted Gardens: Plants & Inspiration from Two Pioneers in High Country Gardening,” is a must-see for gardeners feeling the winter blues.

Fee for this seminar, a fundraiser for the Gardens on Spring Creek in Fort Collins, is $40 members, $45 for non-members, and includes a breakfast buffet. Information and registration are available online or by calling the Gardens on Spring Creek at 970-416-2486.

“Your Edible Gardening Workshop,” offered by the Colorado State University Extension offices of Larimer, Adams, Weld and Boulder counties, is a one-day immersion into food gardening. The basics of soil, water, and plant selection are explored, along with seminars on specialty crops, like strawberries, tree fruit and brambles. This all-day workshop is Saturday, January 22, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ranch in Loveland, and costs only $75. Lunch is not included. Call 970-304-3565 for more information or to register.

Can’t decide between landscaping for beauty or wanting to plant for food? Check out the one day “High Plains Landscape Workshop,” Saturday, Feb. 26 at the Fort Collins Senior Center, 1200 Raintree Dr. Featuring Scott Calhoun, author and columnist for Sunset magazine, the workshop focuses on gardening from the ground up with seminars on perfect plant combinations, soil savvy, strategies for design, and choosing vegetable varieties.

The popular event includes lunch and a chance to talk with other gardeners who revel in early season planning for beautiful landscapes. Registration is $35; $40 after February 16. Workshop information and registration materials are available online or by calling the Gardens on Spring Creek at 970-416-2486.

If you don’t mind driving and want a chance to hear elite speakers discussing issues and intricacies of gardening in a land with limited resources, head to Colorado Springs for the Peak to Prairie Landscape Symposium, Feb. 4 and 5. Design tips, trends, and water-wise landscaping are the focus of this two day event.

In addition to David Salman speaking on designing with xeriscape plants and also on rock gardening, Denver Botanic Gardens’ plant explorer Mike Bone will dazzle you with “The Wisdom of Well-Adapted Plants,” and Dr. Patty Limerick of the University of Colorado’s Center of the American West presents the thought provoking “From the Ground Up: Harvesting the Lessons of Westward Expansion.”

Register for both days or a single day only; check out their Web site for fees and registration information online.

This post was previously published in the Longmont Ledger.

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A pitfall of being a gardener is overconfidence.  After triumphing over soil, weather, and a few insects, there’s a swagger to your walk; you find yourself smugly thinking you could master any plant your heart desires.  When you reach that point, there’s always one that calls your bluff. 

In my case, it’s hops, the essential element in beer.  A friend convinced me to put in two plants with a simple plan: grow hops, harvest them, and trade them to brewers for beer. 

The first season was an easy, no-brainer, I thought, since the vines with hand-shaped leaves stayed small and well behaved.  In the winter they died back, and I snipped off the spent vine and tucked in the roots for winter.

The second year, the hops settled in, crawling up the fence and spilling over the side.  “Must be why they call them Cascades,” I thought, “they’re cascading all over the neighbor’s yard.”  Pulling them back, I harvested the cones and offered them to home brewers.

Now in their third season, they’re showing their true nature: alarming.  Not content with climbing the fence, my hops grabbed the neighbor’s apple tree, vining up to cover the branches in an aromatic blanket.  Staring up at the harvest dangling 20 feet above my head, all I could think was “Houston, we have a problem.”

“They’re really vigorous; they’ll climb over anything. They’ll take over bushes, ornamental plants,” says Ali Hamm, Hops Specialist with Summit Plant Laboratories, Inc., in Fort Collins (plantlabs.com/).  “There are reports of them getting 50-feet tall, but in Colorado they’ll only get about 25 feet.”

Hamm spent four years on what many college students might consider a dream project: researching the best types of hops for our area at Colorado State University.  The high yielding plant shows promise for Colorado growers; warm days, cool nights, low humidity and few pests keep problems away.  Once established, hops are also drought tolerant.

The market for local hops looks strong.  “People in Colorado will always be drinking beer, and there will always be hops in it,” says Hamm, “I think it’s a great crop to be growing here, but I’m biased about it.”  She estimates the industry is two to five years from being established, mainly due to large up front costs of trellising and post harvest equipment.

Brewers are watching the fledgling industry closely, which currently has 75 acres in production.  “We used to get wet hops from Yakima Valley (Washington), but we want to use local hops for our beer,” says Ro Guenzel, Head Brewer for Left Hand Brewing Company in Longmont (lefthandbrewing.com/).  “They’re better, fresher, and we can visit the fields to select the rows that we want.”

Wet hops, unprocessed cones used within 12 hours of harvest, are expensive to ship by overnight express for brewing Left Hand’s Warrior beer.  Now Guenzel brings in his hops from Sunrise Farm in Paonia, which picks and packs the hops onto small airplanes for a quick trip over the mountains to Longmont. 

 “We can only make a wet hop beer once per year, when hops are picked.  Since they’re not dried, there’s no loss of volatile oils.  They provide a different character to the beer, it’s a little greener, brighter flavor,” he said.  Balancing malty sweetness with a touch of bitterness is not all hops do; each type brings its own flavor to the brew.  “Hops can be citrusy, piney, earthy – they’re all unique.”

Guenzel was happy to take the two bushels of hops harvested from my plants to add to the Warrior brew.  “Cascades are the most widely used, they’re the quintessential hop.”  But Hamm also recommends Chinook, Crystal, or Nugget for people who want a tried and true plant.  Then get to know your neighbor, taking them beer in exchange for their patience with your vine. 

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