A large and shady corner lot in the historic Montclair neighborhood of east Denver embraces a 1902 family home. First glimpses reveal broad green lawn with the home tucked quite far back on both sides of the lot.
Landscape architect Wendy Booth of Ivy Street Design worked with the homeowners to transform their shallow back garden into distinct garden rooms with the goal of creating welcoming spaces for family and friends to gather. There is no back garden gate–significant shade is really that offers privacy from the lawns. It feels as if it is all one garden with structures and furnishing defining individual spaces.
The addition of a substantial two sided brick fireplace creates living and dining spaces close to the home’s raised back porch. Multiple umbrellas add to the already shaded space and the rooms are decorated as if indoors. This is one of a very few gardens on this trip where I saw annuals used in any large numbers. The electric blue container of lobelia was one of a pair and drew my attention from the bus window.
The star of this garden dining room is this one of a kind concrete topped table for 12–with a slightly more narrow chair it could probably seat 16 or 18. Homeowner Scott designed the table and had it poured in place. There is a shallow trough with a zinc liner down the center in which to float candles or arrange flowers (chill wine?). Underneath the table a tube allows for the trough to be drained. The Hamling’s table is set for today’s Fathers Day brunch. Scott joked with us that underneath the table is also their designated tornado shelter.
There is a whole lot of living packed into this back garden and all within a comfortable distance from the house making it so much more likely to be used often. Its relatively easy accessibility from the home’s lawn areas makes it a great place to draw in your neighbors from their evening walk. Wrapped in blankets in front of the fire on a night with a bit of a chill or gathered at the huge table playing board games accompanied by wine and cheese–it all sounds great to me!
Over several weeks in June my guy and I worked to get a place ready in the back garden for a long awaited potting bench.
The project has been in my mind’s eye for several years to put in place on this north facing wall which is shaded the largest part of the day.
My heart’s desire was for a bench height workspace to span almost the entire width of the wall–about 16 feet. This back wall is largely unseen from the windows in our most lived in spaces so I could tuck a fair amount of stuff out of view but easily accessed by me without carrying supplies and materials all the way around the house from the garage. The sticking point has been the existing sprinkler valves (visible in the photo) and an in ground water shutoff valve. Over our 34 years of marriage, my sweet husband has always been pretty accommodating about my various schemes and projects for the garden but my casual suggestion that we could simply move these impediments elsewhere was met with stony silence. Even my fallback position of building around them was a no go as it would make them much harder to access when needed. So I marked off space on the wall with green tape to designate the necessary wall to accommodate a pretty standard 6 ft bench which we later upgraded to an 8 foot cedar bench I found on Etsy.
While I assembled materials for a hard surface support the bench–hoping to extend its life by not resting its legs in dirt–Dave removed remaining plants and weeds, dug the area out to accept a base of sand and concrete blocks and graded the area to allow water to move away from the house foundation. I did the shopping.
Not my easiest journey when the pallet holding the stone was too wide for the truck bed and had to ride home resting partially on the open tailgate. The stones weigh in at 108 pounds each for a total of just under 1300 pounds.
Another trip yielded 13 60# bags of sand and some weed block–hoping for a minimum 2″ base of sand for the concrete stones.
The base for the bench measures slightly over eight feet wide and 6 feet deep–enough for the 24″ depth of the bench and adequate space for me to step backward and turn around without falling off the edge! I ordered my bench from Threeman Products, an Etsy store based in Texas, and Charlie answered my concern about having only fractions of an inch clearance on either side by offering to construct the bench at 94″ rather than the standard eight feet. They do each piece as it is ordered so the custom size was not an issue and the three week delivery time would allow us to actually get the base finished and settled in, have our Fish Camp 4th of July, and be home right in time to meet the boxes at the door.
We still have to “redraw” the lawn edge, trim off the extra weedblock and fill some soil in around the edges but the hard work is done. Working with this sized block was challenging but the goal was to have as few seams as possible for weed issues. I am planning to using the raised tin tank as a shady holding area next to the bench.
My potting bench just arrived in two very hefty boxes, weighing in at a combined 90 pounds. I am relieved to see some very specific written directions and assembly diagrams and it appears there are some preassembled sections further down in the box–thank heaven for small favors!
Even though my one temporary one legged status will slow me down, I intend to have the individual pieces stained by Saturday’s end with the larger goal of having my bench in place next week. Fingers crossed.
Have you ever wondered how the seeds we take so for granted every year for our annual cutting and veggie gardens get in those cute little packs illustrated with the beautiful color drawings? The Denver 2019 Garden Bloggers Fling organizing committee was lucky enough to have Judy Seaborn, co-owner of Botanical Interests, at its helm and some of her staff in its ranks. Her prominence in the Denver gardening community opened a lot of great garden gates for us–and she gave us the opportunity to see the operation of her company’s 300,000 square foot production warehouse in Broomfield.
Judy Seaborn and partner Curtis Jones founded the 24 year old business in their garage, with a goal of providing gardeners more information on their seed packets. They now offer over 600 seed varieties which are sold in independent garden centers and through their mail order business. On their site http://www.botanicalinterests.com you will not only find the seeds of your dreams and selected garden products but also their blog and a variety of short educational articles. “I like to say that we are a gardening education company that just happens to sell seeds,” Curtis says in the About Us page on their site. You can also subscribe to their newsletter–there can never be too much gardening news in my inbox!
A seed’s journey begins in the receiving area where huge bags full arrive from selected growers. Judy explains that every bag is “sampled” for germination rate. This involves inserting a sort of coring tube through the bag (specially designed to allow this) and sending the sample to her laboratory for germination testing. No bag of seed moves into the production process until Judy is satisfied that the germination rate meets her high standard.
Judy almost glowed as she introduced us to her baby–this machine counts the seeds into the individual packets AND has a special mechanism inserting the tiniest seeds (like tomatoes) into a second internal sealed packet called a sachet.
We’re learning the order filling process which uses this customized cart to increase efficiency of steps up and down the long rows of seed packets ready to be shipped.
Each of hundreds of boxes contains a single type of seed and any given order may be for many different seed types. One of Judy’s 50 or so in-house staff will work each order on the “pick line” and once complete, the order will move to the packaging area.
The upstairs of the warehouse is home to the support staff which includes marketing and IT professionals. The seed packet art is all created by Colorado artists–here you see a proof sheet to be scrutinized for color and other detail.
Botanical Interests also has 60 field based sales representatives across the nation–sounds like a great job for me! The upstairs hallways are lined with photos sent in by customers of plants grown from Judy & Curtis’s seeds. Recently Judy introduced an indoor seed starting set up to look at new varieties.
We can’t get away without a quick look–and sniff–at the “vault” where the most dear of the seeds are stored. Judy shared a story of a package delivery she was called out to sign for once, even though it was quite small the pounds of tiny seeds it held were valued at over $10,000. The vault also offers cold storage for seeds with relatively short germination lives.
On the run again–last call for the bus to our next stop!
A week at our small cabin in Fish Camp just outside Yosemite National Park’s southern entrance is always relaxing but never dull. With daytime temps hovering in the high 70s and dipping down to the fifties at night, it is a cool respite from the Central Valley’s summer heat.
We get up early to enjoy the sunrise on the back deck, eat simply and play play lots of gin rummy and Yahtzee. Our good friends Barb and Rod D., along with their sweet pup Penny, came up to hang out with us and grill on July 4th. No fireworks for us here in this very fire prone forest region.
The cabin’s Little Free Library, finally set in its ground sleeve on our last visit, seems to be doing a good business–not many books I put in there remain and I’m getting an idea of what my summer neighbors read from what they’ve left behind in exchange. At our Volunteer Firefighters Association annual potluck I got suggestions for more kids books and a nightlight. I’m on the book quest but a flashlight hanging from a cord may be the best I can do for lighting!
We took a walk up the road to visit a friend and found these beautiful blooms on the banks of Big Creek where Hwy. 41 crosses the small flow of water. The large shrubs reminded me of the deciduous native azaleas we often saw in the North Georgia mountains. In almost full shade the bright green leaves and white blooms glowed. A little post-walk research leads me to believe they are Rhododendron occidentale, commonly called the western azalea and the only native azalea west of the Rocky Mountains. This colony was very fragrant.
These are “also seens” on our walk–nothing has changed since my last mountain wildflower post–I still don’t know the names of any of these. I’m hoping this huge seed puffball is something fabulous as they were everywhere!
Just in case you believe this mountain life is totally carefree and so that Dave doesn’t get out of practice…
A shower inside is never supposed to create mini geyser outside! The oldest of our leach lines for the septic tank was clearly blocked. Fortunately, we have a second line and had only to turn the valve to remedy the problem. With the call to our septic man made, Dave digs out the tank cap in preparation for both leach lines to be cleaned out next week.
ENOUGH WORK…NOW FOR THE MOOS!
The Bohna family cattle drive has been a part of local mountain history since 1959. Three generations of the family, now led by horsewoman Diane Bohna, and the cowhands of the Three Bar Ranch in Raymond, CA spend about three days each late spring or early summer moving more their 300+ head herd to the high country near Quartz Mountain for the summer. On their way to those grassy meadows at 8700′ elevation the herd crosses Highway 41 in Fish Camp to the delight of summer visitors. The crossing takes about 20 minutes and traffic on this highway leading to Yosemite is closed by California Highway Patrol in both directions. The intersection of that highway and Summit Road which leads to our cabin is a perfect viewing spot for all the action which usually takes place around Fathers Day–possibly the late winter in the high country is the cause for this later time frame for the drive.
About mid-photo on the right you can see the end of a narrow dirt trail coming down from the hills–this is where the herd will emerge, single file. Fifteen minutes or so earlier a rider had come through giving spectators a 20 minutes to arrival heads-up and asking that everyone stay as still and as quiet as possible to avoid spooking the herd. We will really only be a little more than a single traffic lane away from the animals.
This traffic sign (there is a large construction project just ahead) is alarming for many of the animals and causes a little panicky scuffle to break out. The shoulder drops off here and their attempts to go around the sign that way are a little sketchy but a cowboy gently encourages them and all is well.
This young girl, complete with cowboy hat and a remarkable amount of photographic equipment, told our little group of two dozen spectators that she was a photojournalist for a French magazine. Not everyday you meet a French photojournalist in Fish Camp, whose population sign reads 500 but I think is actually about 60.
This rider pulled down her kerchief as she passed us and spoke to the photojournalist in French so maybe that is a clue to the story in the making.
So that no idyllic mountain day ends unblemished…on my sprint back across the highway (OK 67 year old sprint) an audible pop and searing pain in my right calf signals that the party may be over. We (Dave) packed up and returned to Fresno and after having made my ER visit, I’m now awaiting the Ortho surgeon consult…happy trails!
THE GARDEN OF ROB PROCTOR AND DAVID MACKE IN DENVER
A few months ago my husband outlined the inspirational message he was to give at our youngest son’s wedding to his long-time love on a polka dotted cocktail napkin–you can actually see the napkin in his hand in the photos taken of him with the bride and groom at the altar. In the garden notes about Rob Proctor and David Macke’s phenomenal garden, I learned that 25 years ago Rob drew a layout of the garden on a cocktail napkin as he and David celebrated the closing on their new home. The cocktail napkin’s role in new beginnings and big decisions is starting to take on new meaning for me!
Rob and David invited us to enter their back garden through their 1905 brick home which displays an eclectic collection of David’s antiques and Rob’s watercolors. Rob Proctor is part of Denver’s horticultural royalty. He is a past Director of Horticulture for Denver Botanic Gardens and has written sixteen gardening books on topics from cutting gardens to how to create beautiful gardens on a shoestring budget. Rob has written for the Denver Post and is the resident gardening expert for Denver KUSA-TV. He is also a noted botanic illustrator and watercolor artist. This garden has been featured in many books and magazines and is open annually in August (at its peak bloom) for the Proctor’s Garden tour which benefits a local nonprofit community-based animal shelter/humane society.
A Denver Garden Bloggers Fling would not be complete without a chance to see Rob’s garden. Caveats to this post which simply does not do the garden justice, even in its first few weeks of the season; you get the light you get based on the time of day we are scheduled to be in any given garden and MY photography skills can’t do much to alter that; we have about 35 minutes in any single garden to not just take it all in but also photograph it. If you are a YouTube viewer, there are multiple videos over several years of this garden, several including interviews with Rob. Especially engaging is a June 18, 2019 YouTube upload set to music by fellow Flinger Janet Davis who blogs at The Paintbox Garden–unfortunately my platform doesn’t support links to video but any of the videos can be found by Googling. Your search engine will also offer you a series of Rob’s own video clips at http://www.9news.com on a variety of gardening topics. All of these are worth watching.
On with the show…
The brick patio opens to a series of very long and lush perennial borders within a formal structure “walls” provided by brick columns and lathe fencing. The garden’s folly is the visual focus from the seating area and draws the eye to the into to the depths of the garden.
The parterre herb garden as viewed from several angles. Again, Rob has used formal structure but let the plants fill it in a blowsy, live and let live fashion. The herb beds are actually sunk below grade to collect water in a technique employed by the Native Peoples which Rob describes as the way a waffle collects syrup.
The gravel allee is actually the old driveway, now transformed into a long border completely composed of pots. This is perhaps a good place to note that this garden is home to over 600 planted pots. that’s 6-0-0! They are small and large, tall and squat, mostly but not all blue or terra-cotta. Holy moly–I’m doing well to not let the ivy left behind in last year’s abandoned container croak over the winter…
The next border over–they all extend from the back of the home sort of like tines from a fork–is quite shady due to the tree cover directly behind the herb parterre but chock full of emerging perennials. Pots of color are placed in the borders to add pops of interest at strategic spots.
This magnificent plant that is sited on both sides of the border at its sunnier end (look to the very end of the lawn strip in the next to last photo for the billowy clouds of white) was the subject of much interest to many of us–finally identified as Crambe cordifolia, sometimes referred to as giant sea kale. It sort of looks like airborne baby’s breath floating six feet in the air. Even in a smallish garden it could be used as the backdrop for other more colorful perennials and annuals.
The white lathe folly at the end of the center border is filled a variety of containers potted up with succulents, ferns, tropicals and houseplants needing a little protection.
Remembering that this garden is just now in its opening weeks of Denver’s relatively short growing season, I am not sure I can imagine all 600 of the pots bursting with blooms at the peak of the season.
The central border is alive with bright and dark foliage colors and many blooms. While more is not yet quite blooming than is, the overall effect is staggering. Another plant drawing a bit of attention is this huge leafed perennial which is present is all the borders in various stages of maturity. Several Midwest gardeners recognized it right away and referred to it ask hogweed, cautioning unwitting novices like me not to touch it! David Macke identified it for us as Heracleum maximum, commonly called cow parsnip. It is a genus of about 60 species of perennial herbs in the carrot family. Apparently it can deliver a nasty rash if you handle it and then the affected areas are exposed to sunlight.
The most Westerly border ends in an arbor leading to the vegetable garden which spans the entire back of the property, mostly shielded from the view of the more ornamental borders.
I am practically on a dead run from the far back veggies to the house as last call for the bus is made-fortunately I am not alone!
The lush back garden Rob and David have planted, nourished and nurtured over 25 years after its initial plan was rendered on a cocktail napkin was beautiful on June 18th, the day of my visit. I expect that each day of its season, while different, is equally as stunning. Layer upon layer of plants will come and go through out the borders, beds and pots, rewarding anyone who is lucky enough to spend even 35 minutes amongst them. The “bones” and fundamental framework planned out on that cocktail napkin have made it possible for diverse plant materials to flourish in both contrast and harmony with one another–bits of interesting chaos resting safely in the arms of the garden’s structure. The message David delivered to the soon-to-be newlyweds was one of building a framework of confidence in one another through caring and communication. The goal being a relationship in which both can flourish individually and as partners, in times of contrast and harmony, but always in a safe space. Didn’t think you could get all that on a cocktail napkin, did you? A huge thank you to Rob and David for their generosity in sharing their garden with us on this day.
Once I had my heart set on Clematis ‘Princess Diana’ I had no choice but hunt her down on the internet. Several sources I have previously ordered from with good results have it listed on their sites but marked SOLD OUT. I finally found a couple at Joy Creek Nursery in Scappoose, Oregon–not exactly plant material grown in conditions similar to mine but beggars can’t be choosers. I am hopeful their claim of healthy 2 year old roots is true as I grit my teeth at the $25 per plant price tag. Of course, they arrived the day before I was to leave for the Denver Garden Bloggers Fling. They were really well packed and looked no worse for wear when I finally got all the packing off them. Probably the best looking plant material–size especially–than anything else I’ve received from a mail order source.
With high temps in the forecast and my husband off on our church mission trip to Paradise I didn’t want to chance leaving them in their containers without even a pair of eyes to check on them daily, I decided they were better off in the ground where they would get a some sprinkler water at least twice in my absence. With a good layer of peat moss at their bases and my fingers crossed, I left for Denver. Nagging self doubt at the airport prompted me text my neighbor with a pleas to pour a pitcher of water on each in a couple of days. I’m sure she thought I was nuts but hey, $50 is $50.
Before I kissed my husband hello and looked at the accumulated mail, the first stop on my return was to check on my two princesses. Woo-hoo! Looking good with new growth starting to wind up the extra string support inside the tuteur.
Kathy Kreitman of Joy Creek Nursery was kind enough to give permission to use their website’s archive photo to show you the beautiful flowers on this clematis hybrid. Some sites list it as a Clematis texensis and I can certainly see that species in the upward facing bell shaped flowers. This is a summer flowering clematis in pruning group 3 so it needs a good bit of new year’s growth to get late summer/early fall flowering. Still keeping my fingers crossed til I see those raspberry blooms!
Jean Morgan’s garden doesn’t take itself too seriously. She strives to offer food, water and refuge for butterflies in all their life stages (including the eating your plants to a naked stem phase) and rest plus a sip of water for her bird visitors within a native landscape that can get by when it needs to with virtually no supplemental water.
Jean is standing at the ready to greet us but most of us have stopped to take in the shallow plant filled front yard which runs the length of her cottage.
While there are quite a few permanent plantings, including this rose, the overwhelming sense of this front bed is that of masses of freely seeding wildflowers. Blue love-in-a-mist is everywhere, including cracks in the asphalt surface of the street. There are large colonies of both pink evening primrose and yellow sundrops–both of the genus Oenothera. Although Jean has both natives and non-natives, she admits that in a conflict where one must go–the natives win every time.
From the Denver postcards–this chocolate guardian angel watches over the yellow flowered Berlandiera lyrata, chocolate flower. The flower heads of this plants were used by native Americans to flavor their foods. Jean shares that passersby often pick up the Hershey’s wrappers she has used to highlight the plant’s fragrance and bring them to her with apologies for the actions of a careless litterer.
Jean’s home is one of Louisville’s historic miner’s cabins. The left photo shows its original size and the right photo is of the miner who built the cabin. Jean has lived and gardened here since 1972 when her passion started with a few hens-and-chicks given to her by a neighbor.
Jean believes that every garden belongs to the gardener who tends and loves it. She clearly enjoys her garden every day and revels in seeing the birds and butterflies who make it their home. She is active in community causes including the preservation of other miner’s cabins in danger of demolition. Jean is also involved in annual Boulder County butterfly inventories conducted by Jan Chu, author of Butterflies of the Colorado Front Range. Her cabin and very personal outdoor space shines in a small, clearly aging neighborhood only a block from the railroad tracks–the only thing brighter I saw was her enthusiasm for sharing her garden with us.