Everything listed under: Eric Larusson

  • Labor Day and Early September Mountain Gardening Notes

    September really is a time of scurrying around.  Before I had the immense pleasure of raising children, my wife and I would leave this beautiful place every fall for the Rockies.  I have had family in southwestern Colorado (Ouray) since the early 70's and I LOVE the Colorado flora.   We would try to go for two weeks.  One week in Ouray, relaxing by the lake, fishing, hiking, botanizing and gardening for my Nana; and one week exploring the Rocky mountains. We would be the only people in the entire campground, MANY times.  Moose would walk through our camp and grizzlies would be browsing for berries two hundred yards away. I collected LOTS of seed over the years. I came to absolutely love fall.  (that was a change: growing up as a passionate amateur naturalist and botanist, I had always loved spring, things rising from the dead but fall was depressing, everything was dying...of course it meant going back to school which may have had some impact on my emotional bent.)

    I still love fall.  I love going hiking when no one else is around.  I love collecting seed (many of the native plants we have in the nursery are from our seed collections).  I love the warm days and chilly nights.  I love the hardiest of perennials that continue to bloom into the fall, in spite of frosts or even snows.  AND I love fall colors.  I think the show of fall colors is more dramatic and can be longer lived than the explosions of spring.  I love the colors of stems and the structure of bare branches.  I love rose hips,  persistent crabapple fruit and pendulous branches loaded with mountain ash berries.

    In spite of the FACT that fall is the best time for planting in our short season and to wait until spring costs gardeners a year's worth of root system expansion, we are slower in the nursery and I am looking forward to getting out and hiking and biking several more times.  By all accounts, the wildflowers in the high country are just beginning to explode and many just won't have time to bloom out before it snows.

    So... In the Villager Nursery... we have an amazing assortment of plants that deliver late and spectacular fall colors like Rudbeckia laciniata, R. triloba, Heleneum, Phlox, Physostegia, Aster, Erigeron, Eupatorium, Sedum, Campanula, Aquilegia (you know our native columbine blooms for about 3 months!), Spiraea douglasii, Potentilla, Hemerocalis, Clematis, and even more...     Under appreciated fall colors from Dwarf Birch (already going dormant), Skunk Bush (looks JUST like poison oak), Mountain Maple and Twin-flowering Honeysuckle (both have etherial, ghostly cream fall color... incredible in dappled shade), Wild Roses (the flowers are a flash-in-the-pan but the fall colors, the showy hips and the cranberry red stems are beautiful)... and AH!  Birch-leaf Spiraea (a Cascade native - perfect mounding shape, crisp white flowers in early summer and fluorescent red-orange - like GLOWING - fall colors)  AND the Villager only carries the hardiest of bulbs, specializing in wildflower bulbs, naturalizing bulbs and bulbs that animals are repulsed by.

  • Prune Your Mugo Pine

    My wife and I spent 5 months riding around New Zealand in the late 80's pre-kids, pre-marriage...on our bicycles.  During a memorable one-day backcountry ride (that took 3 grueling days) through mountainous sheep country, we were told to look out for "woolies".  These were sheep-gone-feral that hadn't been herded in for shearing in some time.  

    Mugo pines that have missed their regular shearing remind me of "Woolies".  Pinus mugo, Mountain Pine is a high-elevation pine native to European mountain ranges (Alps, Apenines, Carpathians, Pyrenees...).  The subspecies Pinus mugo ssp. mugo is usually a multi-stemmed small tree or shrub up to 15' tall.  It appears very much like our native lodgepole pine in color, needle fascicles, and cones. There are selections from individuals, propagated by grafting, that can maintain a smaller and more dense habit.  Many are grown from seed and habit and eventual height is variable.

    Windswept and frost pruned "krumholze" lodgepole pines can be found on high Sierra ridges. They are artistic, dense and beautiful. To achieve the same look on your landscape Mugo Pines you need to prune. All the new growth (candles) are sheared back or broken-off, about halfway, for a dense and sturdy growth habit.  Once they have been allowed to go "feral", un-sheard for several years, it is very difficult to prune back into a dense shrub.


    The candles in the picture above are ready to be broken off.  It took me about 2 minutes to do all of them by hand, leaving some longer than others to accentuate irregularity or all evenly to achieve perfection.  It is extremely easy, don't be affraid.  If you miss a year or two here or there don't worry too much. It can be left unpruned and it may grow into a nice shrub but the open "woolies" are more susceptible to snow breakage and their ultimate size is often unpredictable.

    The reason we prune the candles is because it is easy, the lateral buds have not completely formed yet and the wounds seal flawlessly.  You can use the same technique to prune branches and tips on other pines and on spruce.

    This is a stunted white pine near Bishop, CA

Contact Villager

Villager Nursery, Inc
10678 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161-4834
Central Truckee, exit 186 off I-80
(530) 587-0771

Founded 1975, Incorporated 1990

California Nursery License 1975
No. C 3976.001, Co.29CA
Contractors License 1977
No. 413907-C27 LS
ISA Certified Arborist: Eric Larusson
No. WE-7983A

View All Events