A Garden Like Mine

YampaRiverBotanicPark-SteamboatSprings-CO_LAH_6364r I love to visit botanic gardens (look for my previous posts under the category Gardening: Gardens). In addition to enjoying the beauty of these places, they also provide ideas for my own landscape. Denver’s is one of the best, and many of the plants there will grow happily 2,000 feet higher. But many won’t. The Betty Ford Alpine Garden, in Vail, is another lovely spot, but that garden features plants that only thrive in the mountains, where they enjoy exceptionally well-drained gravelly soils and cooler days. Yes, there are several demonstration gardens here in Colorado Springs, and I’m well acquainted with what they have to offer. But perhaps I’m too well acquainted. I need inspiration that I can apply at home.

YampaRiverBotanicPark-SteamboatSprings-CO_LAH_6297This summer, I found a botanic garden with growing conditions just like mine. In just five acres, the Yampa River Botanic Park, in Steamboat Springs, offers all the inspiration I could ask for. And since it’s situated at 6,800 feet, what grows there will grow for me, too.

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Bountiful Bugs

Mountain Bluebird_ChicoBasinRanch-CO_LAH_1248-001The bulldozers are at it again. Another swath of short-grass prairie is being turned into houses. I can’t complain—I live in such a house. A mere three years ago, birds and bunnies made their home in what is now my yard. The voles and cottontails are still here and thriving, largely at the expense of my landscaping. The birds—assorted sparrows, hawks, Say’s Phoebes, Horned Larks, Scaled Quail, and Killdeer—decided to go elsewhere.

Now I’m trying to lure them back by replacing what nature has lost. Instead of the typical neighborhood rocks-and-grass “zero-scape,” we’ve included shrubs and trees that offer wildlife food and shelter. Native shrubs such as three-leaf sumac, manzanita, Boulder raspberry, buffaloberry, and chokecherry all offer berry-like fruit. Our roadside oak will one day provide acorns, the limber pines have seed-filled cones. Seeds come from native grasses and flowers, too, while dwarf conifers and dense shrubs offer a place to hide from predators and the weather. My nectar garden feeds hummingbirds and other pollinators. Feeders offer additional seeds and suet, and my heated birdbath is a year-round source of water.

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Gardens Fit for Royalty

royalbotanicgardens-sydney-nsw-australia_lah_7215

One of the joys of traveling is that you can visit gardens in other parts of the world—places with different climates growing plants totally unlike those in we have here in Colorado. I just returned from a long overseas trip that included visits to botanic gardens in both Australia and Singapore. Talk about different! On the one hand, the tropical blossoms and exotic ferns were a delight to the senses. On the other hand, there is no way I could ever grow any of them at home, except as houseplants. And even then, our low humidity would discourage most of these species.

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Stop Fighting Mother Nature

Penstemon 'Red Rocks' @ExtDemoGarden 2008sept25 LAH 264Alkaline soils, sparse rainfall, extreme temperatures, low fertility. Colorado doesn’t exactly sound like a gardener’s paradise. Few places do. Lamenting the current drought and expected summer water restrictions, I often dream of gardening in a place with ample rainfall. Wouldn’t it be wonderful?

Then I visited my daughter in western Washington. She and her husband live in Everett, north of Seattle. They have a view (on a rare clear day) looking east to the Cascades. These impressive mountains form a barrier blocking clouds that would otherwise move on into eastern Washington and Idaho. As a result, my daughter’s area gets a lot of rain.

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