Rain barrels provide another way to conserve water.
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Rain Barrels are Now Legal in Colorado

Perhaps you’ve been engrossed watching the Olympic Games and missed this important local news flash: Rain barrels are now legal in Colorado! Water is a scarce and precious resource here in Colorado and all of the western United States; therefore, the laws surrounding water use are complex and strict. Rain barrels are fairly common already. However, before House Bill 16-1005 was signed into law last week, it was illegal to collect and store rain water. The bill now allows most homeowners to have two rain barrels and collect a total of 110 gallons of water for use irrigating lawns, plants and gardens.
If you’d like to have a rain barrel, first look at the down spouts on your house. Is there one in a convenient location where you can both collect and use the water? If so, there are many options for rain barrels and most of the differences are simply aesthetic. The Colorado law does require that all rain barrels have a tight fitting lid (which you want anyway) to prevent mosquitoes and other pests. Additionally, you may want to look for a rain barrel with a mosquito-proof screen (a fine mesh of 1/16 of an inch). Installing the rain barrel involves diverting the water from the downspout into the barrel. You can do this by simply using a flexible gutter extension, or look for a more sophisticated device called a “first flush diverter.” The device helps keep your collected water clean as the first several gallons coming off the roof which contain the most impurities (dust, leaves, bird poo, etc.) are diverted away from the rain barrel.
You can use the water stored in a rain barrel by filling a watering can or attaching a hose to the spigot at the bottom of the barrel. A drip irrigation system, with or without a timer, can also be attached to a rain barrel. Just remember that the water from the rain barrel is meant as a supplemental source – when we have a long, dry spell, the rain barrel will also go empty.
Plants actually prefer this stored, untreated water; plants don’t like the chlorine in our treated water. However, it is not safe to drink and is not meant for general household use.

The CSU Extension service published a useful fact sheet regarding rain water collection which can be found here.

One last note: while collecting and reusing rain water from your roof is environmentally friendly, it’s unlikely that the use of rain barrels will have a large effect on your water bill.

If you have concerns or questions about your container gardens or irrigation system, please contact me. Also, if you're considering doing some landscaping work, please call me (970-988-3808) to help you with your landscape design.

Get to Know These Plants

Fan Flower / Scaevola 
Fan Flower

A native to Australia, Fan Flower earned its name quite naturally. Each flower has only 5 petals arranged in a semi-circle obviously resembling a hand-held fan. The flowers are born all along the stems. Fan Flowers thrive in full sun, but will do OK in partial shade. The flowers are a variation of blue/purple or white and the plant blooms for most of the summer. The stems of Scaevola are thick and not fully trailing – they trail down out of a container and then lift themselves up toward the sun. Fan Flower isn’t too fussy about water – it will tolerate a somewhat negligent gardener who only waters every couple of days. Another favorite feature of Fan Flower is that it does not need to have the spent blooms removed by hand – they fall off naturally and the plant continues to bloom.

Sunset HyssopPERENNIAL:
Giant Mexican Hyssop / Agastache

There are numerous species and hybrids of Agastache available so you can surely find one that fits in your garden. ‘Sunset’ is a variable pink-orange color (pictured); ‘Double Bubble Mint’ is a bright pink; and ‘Black Adder’ is a dark violet color. The ‘Anise Hyssop’ sports purple flowers and smells like black licorice! Agastaches prefer hot weather and bloom mid- to late- summer. They are good low-water use plants, requiring extra water only if we haven’t had rain in a week or so. Agastaches are a favorite of hummingbirds and conveniently bloom just as the hummingbirds are migrating back from the mountains to the plains for the winter.

Butterfly Bush / Buddleia Davidii

You may wonder, does the Butterfly Bush actually attract butterflies or is the name just a marketing gimmick? It’s true! The Butterfly Bush provides an important source of nectar for many species of butterflies. Blooming in the late summer, when butterflies are especially hungry, the flowers appear in conical masses (similar to Lilac flowers) in shades of pink or purple, white, or light yellow. Many cultivars are also fragrant. Although to my nose the scent is delicate, apparently the butterflies can smell it just fine as this shrub truly attracts butterflies. Here in Northern Colorado (zone 5), Buddleia davidii naturally dies back to the ground and returns from the roots each spring. In late winter/early spring this shrub should be trimmed back to about 8-12” tall. If you have a Butterfly Bush, it would be considerate to the butterflies to also provide a shallow dish of fresh water for them to drink when it is in full bloom. 
Ever wonder where I get my information? Here's my resources:
  • Armitage, Allan M. Herbaceous Perennial Plants, Second Edition. Champaign, Illinois: Stipes Publishing LLC, 1997.
  • Crockett, James Underwood. Annuals. New York: Time-Life, 1971. Print.
  • Ellis, Barbara W. Taylor's Guide to Annuals. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. Print.
  • Flint, Harrison L. Ortho's All about Flowering Trees & Shrubs. Des Moines, IA: Meredith, 2002. Print.
  • Gordon, DeWolf P., Jr. Ph.D., et al. Taylor's Guide to Perennials. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. Print.
  • Hessayon, D. G. The New Bedding Plant Expert. London: Expert, 1996. Print.
  • Hughes, Megan McConnell, et al. Better Homes and Gardens® Flowering Trees & Shrubs. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Print.
  • Peschke, Donald B., Publisher. 108 easy-going, easy-growing flowers!, a supplemental to Garden Gate magazine. Des Moines, Iowa: August Home Publishing Company. 2006.
  • Whiting, David, et al. "Pruning Flowering Shrubs, CMG GardenNotes #619." Colorado Master Gardener GardenNotes. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Extension, 2011. Print & Online.
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