My Favorite Bulbs

Depending on your location, there are many bulbs to choose from.  Many varieties of Tulips, Daffodils, Crocus’, Alliums, Colchicum are available at local nurseries, or online.

If you live in an area where deer abound, Daffodils are the bulb of choice.  They are deer resistant, and blooms times can vary throughout the spring.  Alliums, are another deer resistant bulb, and come in varying heights, and colours.

If you enjoy the dainty, woodland bulbs, my favourite are the Fritillaria.  They grow best in part shade, with ample moisture.

I enjoy walking around the neighbourhood and seeing a neighbour who has planted Crocus’ in the front lawn.  In early spring these bulbs are blooming, but the lawn is still dormant.   By the time the lawn needs a mowing the bulbs have finished blooming.  It is a fun way to add colour in the lawn, during our long spring.

Spring Clean Up

Spring weather in Montana is extremely variable. Although snow still falls occasionally, early spring is the time to begin to cut down the previous year’s growth and flower heads. It is advisable to cut down the old growth 2-4” above the ground for perennials, and 6-8” for ornamental grasses. Old growth removal is performed once a year.

As the weather warms and the spring sun shines, weeds grow quickly. It is important to be diligent, and start to weed in these early months. The perennials are still small, and weeds have sufficient light and room to grow. It is inevitable that you’ll find some grass roots in the soil, such as Quack grass, an aggressive, fast spreading grass with long root systems. There are also pasture grasses that can become invasive in perennial beds if not removed on a regular basis. With these vigorous grasses you should remove as much of the root system as possible.

Thorough weeding is especially important in a new perennial bed, when plants are small, have a small root system, and have not filled out. During the first three years, it is critical to minimize weeds so they do not continue to propagate, smother space and compete with the perennials and ornamental grasses for light and water. The success of the garden, and the enjoyment it provides, will be your reward.

Weeding thoroughly 2-4 times a month is advised.

Visit the Garden Maintenance for detailed steps to take in March, April, and May.

Greening Last Chance Gulch

In the fall of 2012, I was leaving a job site in Big Sky when I received a call from Community Design & Architecture, based in Oakland, California. They asked if I would be interested in being on their design team for the EPA’s “Greening America’s Capitals” project, for Helena, Montana. They interviewed me over the phone, and said they’d get back to me within the next week.

I was delighted to be offered a position on the team, and enthusiastically accepted. Our first task was to submit our qualifications and technical approach to the EPA. There were four other teams submitting applications; fortunately, our team was awarded the project.

Greening America’s Capitals is an EPA program to help state capitals develop an implementable vision of environmentally friendly neighborhoods that incorporates innovative green infrastructure strategies. Helena also wanted to improve traffic flow, create safer crossings for pedestrians and bicyclists, and improve the connection between historic downtown and the newer commercial district to the north.

This design process involved walking around downtown Helena in January with the other members of the design team. We defined several key intersections to focus on and began creating schematic designs, incorporating rain gardens, permeable paving, bike lanes, and stormwater swales. Adjusting vehicle traffic to create a pedestrian and bicycle friendly experience was also an objective.

I worked with the other members to ensure that the landscape design and other design elements and concepts properly and creatively considered the local eco-region, cul­ture, and economy of Helena.

We had a three-day design charrette with Helena City officials, as well as with business owners and residents. We also gave two public presentations, from which we received ample feedback.

Based on the feedback from these meetings, we revised the design schemes, and provided the final report. Helena can utilize this report for funding and grants to begin to implement these design ideas, which include green infrastructure and native plants.

I am looking forward to visiting Helena over the years and seeing these green infrastructure ideas become reality.

You can see the final report on the EPA’s website, or here: