The Garden Bloggers Fling 2019 is all in–we closed our final full day of touring last night with a delicious meal together in wood clad barn surrounded by beautiful landscape and rollings fields. Today folks are heading home with their heads and hearts filled with hundreds of garden vignettes and even more inspiration for their own pieces of paradise–and so far uncounted photos which they will share with the readers of their blogs. We’ll gather again next year in Madison , Wisconsin and do it all over again.
To learn more about the Garden Bloggers Fling go to http://www.gardenbloggersfling.blogspot.com where, in addition to general information about the Fling, you’ll find lists of participants and links to their blogs, a list of our wonderful sponsors, and photos from all the past Flings.
My last postcards from Denver…
THE GARDEN OF KIRSTEN AND SCOTT HAMLING IN DENVER
THE GARDEN OF ROB PROCTER AND DAVID MACKE IN NORTH DENVER
THE GARDEN OF JIM AND DOROTHY BORLAND IN DENVER
DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS
THE GARDEN OF PANAYOTI KELAIDIS IN DENVER
THE GARDEN OF DAN JOHNSON AND TONY MILES IN ENGLEWOOD
The High Plains Environmental Center (HPEC) is a non-profit (501c3) organization located in the Lakes at Centerra neighborhood in Loveland, Colorado. HPEC manages open space for the Centerra Metro district, homeowner’s associations and other landowners. In the simplest terms, revenues from those management fees support the operation and projects of the center. The organization’s website http://www.suburbitat.org has a wealth of information about the vision that inspired the center and the road it has taken to result in the current method of operation.
THE MEDICINE WHEEL GARDEN
The under-construction Medicine Wheel Garden is an ethnobotany garden which features plants that are used by Native American tribes of the Great Plains for food, medicine, and ceremony. The site also hosts powwows with regional third grade classes. The plants in the slightly raised, cut stone bordered beds which form a circle are just recently planted and very small.
Looking back toward the HPEC’s office building it is obvious that this is not a manicured garden space but a natural space whose primary goal is that of environmental stewardship and education. They are focused on community outreach rather than elaborate structures. Executive Director Jim Tolstrup shared that everything on their site, save the actual buildings, has been built by volunteers.
The geographical area known as the High Plains or Front Ridge enjoys 300+ days of sunshine a year and rarely more than 15″ of rainfall. It is a rich habitat for both wild life and plant life.
Centerra is a 3500 acre mixed use, master planned community in which people can live in harmony with nature, work and play. Seventy-six acres of land, three miles of trails and two lakes totaling over 200 additional acres are managed by HPEC. They work to create sustainable landscapes, restore native plant communities, and provide habitats for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. In addition to the Medicine Wheel Garden, the site includes a Native Plants Demonstration Garden, an Heirloom Fruit Orchard, a Community Garden, a Native Plant Nursery and a kids area they call the Wild Zone.
NATIVE PLANTS DEMONSTRATION GARDEN
The Native Plants Demonstration Garden showcases Colorado native plants and promotes a regionally appropriate style of horticulture that celebrates the natural beauty of the state, conserves water, reduces reliance on pesticides and fertilizer, and provides habitat for birds, butterflies, and other pollinators.
This very long double border contains trees, shrubs and perennials. This area had snow only a couple of weeks ago and thus is having a very late spring. Lots of healthy foliage throughout the border but not as many blooms as I had hoped for.
Although the Falugia paradoxa, commonly called Apache plume, on which these flowers and seed heads were born was pretty well past its prime, there were still many of the clear white blooms and even more of the fluffy, plume-like developing seed heads. I first saw this shrub in Austin and have lusted after one ever since.
The mountain ninebark, Physocarpus monogynus, was in full bloom.
Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’, the Montgomery spruce, is not only structural and sturdy but also provides a pop of blue gray to the border. Denver gold columbine is seen in the foreground.
Several nice colonies of showy milkweed caught everyone’s eye.
A logistically lucky shot caught its flower in all stages.
I think the penstemon were the stars of today’s show. I think this is Penstemon strictus, the Rocky Mountain penstemon.
THE HEIRLOOM FRUIT ORCHARD
Northern Colorado was once a significant fruit growing region. Apples, plums, cherries and blackberries with historic significance have been collected and are grown here, celebrating and preserving a piece of Colorado history.
THE COMMUNITY GARDEN
Garden plots here are cultivated by local families and the garden serves as an outdoor classroom for instructional the cultivation of food crops.
THE NATIVE PLANT NURSERY
The NATIVE PLANT NURSERY works in conjunction with the demonstration garden to help local homeowners establish their own native plant focused landscapes–they can see what mature plants look like and how they perform and then purchase their own small starts. The nursery grows over 80 species and propagates much of what is planted throughout the center. Plant sales provide an additional revenue stream for the HPEC.
THE WILD ZONE
The Wild Zone is an area dedicated to letting kids be kids in an unstructured natural environment. The signage says, “Please DO climb on the rocks, wiggle your toes in the water and create your own art projects using natural materials found here. Go Wild!
The High Plains Environmental Center is both proud of and passionate about its commitment to the community and Colorado’s natural world. Jim Tolstrup shared that Centerra has been registered as Colorado’s first National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitat–way to go!
The Garden Bloggers Fling 2019 kicked off with a welcome dinner and tour at GrowHaus, a non-profit indoor farm, marketplace and educational complex in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood.
GrowHaus makes its home in a renovated 20,000 square foot historic greenhouse on a neighborhood street.
Lovely tables were set for us. The leafy pergola at the far end of this large room is a very large bearing fig tree, supported partially by overhead piping and partially by a couple of huge potted banana trees.
Large diameter black corrugated pipe sent on edge provides soil depth to support plant growth while using vertical space to its best advantage. This one is planted with hops.
We’re welcomed by one of this year’s organizers who introduces her committee and recognizes first time Fling attendees–20 this year. Emily Hoel, GrowHaus Director of Operations, is introduced and gives us a bit of the organization’s history. I’ve added to her presentation with facts from their website because I believe they are doing such important work in this economically challenged part of Denver. The Elyria-Swansea area was established around 1880 as a working class neighborhood and has historically lacked access to fresh food as, even today, they have no grocery store within a 2 mile radius. It has the lowest household incomes in the state of Colorado and faces the challenges which come with the lack of money and nutritious food. The vision of GrowHaus is “a world where all communities have the means to nourish themselves.” Their mission is to create “a community-driven, neighborhood-based food system by serving as a hub for food distribution, production, education and economic opportunities.”
They have a three pronged approach to achieving their mission: direct marketing of food; a full schedule of educational classes and opportunities for youth and adults focusing on nutrition, food production and preparation; and production of food in a sustainable indoor setting .
The Market Next Door offers fresh fruits and vegetables plus a selection of processed foods. Proceeds from the organization’s 3 production farms’ sales to local restaurant and grocery stores are used to stock the market with products not grown or produced on site.
In addition to classes, educational opportunities abound in the ongoing endeavors of GrowHaus. Here you see a worm farm, complete with hanging spade, made by neighborhood participants.
And what, you ask, does this pile of bikes have to do with food security? Each summer, teens from GrowHaus fan out through their own neighborhood to construct raised beds for residents to grow veggies and they use these bikes for transportation.
The food production component of GrowHaus is divided into three farms: aquaponics, hydroponics and mushroom cultivation. Please note we were not able to enter the hydroponic growing area and thus these photos were taken through the glass. The walls of the large aquaponic growing area were semi-opaque–no photos from there possible.
Hydroponics and aquaponics are both soil-free methods of cultivating crops. The major difference between the two methods is that aquaponics integrates a hydroponic environment with aquaculture, the process of cultivating fish. It’s all in the fish!
This little demo set-up with its planting space and small fish tank is a small scale example of an aquaponic system.
The catch of the day board lets visitors know what fresh fish are available for sale.
A fellow blogger trying to get a shot next to me commented that she was “going for a moody ambiance.” A small window, sweaty with humidity, was the only peek available of the mushroom operation, in full swing since 2015.
I don’t know that we could have found the ‘shrooms without the sign!
We closed our evening with drawings for great products donated by Fling sponsors, including a whole box of stylish hats from Austin-based Tula.
Throughout the GrowHaus there are positive affirmations about community and neighborhood. Most off them hand lettered just like this one. The work of children’s hands is seen everywhere and this is clearly a safe and welcoming environment in which a place is found for anyone who wants to take part, make a contribution, and help shape the future of their neighborhood. My own city, despite being in a valley of agricultural wealth, ranks very high amongst the nation’s cities with massive pockets of poverty. I can’t help but think that we must have the resources to establish neighborhood centers similar to GrowHaus and must only be lacking the will.
Please go to http://www.growhaus.org to find out more about the outreach and programs (or to offer support) of this community based indoor farm.