In a daze near Denver…tough plants, easy smiles

THE GARDEN OF JEAN MORGAN IN LOUISVILLE

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.

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A raucous clump of huge, bright orange poppies greeted us as we got off our bus just around the corner from Jean’s home

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Jean’s love of found objects is obvious–especially those with a vintage Colorado feel
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Ants “mine” for crystal near a swath of cranesbill
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Colorado’s state cactus Echinocereus triglochiadiatus, or claret cup cactus
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Every nook and cranny has something growing out of it
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Stanleya pinnata or desert prince’s plume puts on a show of yellow blooms
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Jean identified this hardy geranium as the North American species G. fremontii AKA  G. caespitosum fremontii, or Fremont’s geranium 
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Bloggers are pretty much shoulder to shoulder in the rock garden between the cabin and its garage
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This old tub planted with succulents is called Barney Bazooka De Chomp III–I wonder what happened to I and II?
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The paths are narrow and there are few places to step without crushing some small vignette
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Jean IDs plants and answers questions–she has prepared reference sheets because she knows we’re going to want the names for everything
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The back garden’s focal point is a whimsical pond
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Bubbles the hippo peeks up from the water
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Tiny and tight succulents fill the rocky crevices
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Jean welcomes all to visit her garden, then come back again and again

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.

 

 

 

 

In a daze near Denver…art and experimentation

THE GARDEN OF CAROL AND RANDY SHINN IN FT. COLLINS

Newcomers in 2006 to the Front Range, Carol and Randy Shinn retired to Ft. Collins and have been experimenting in their garden ever since. Both are artistic by nature, Carol in the visual arts and Randy in musical composition. It was not until the next day that I became aware that this was the garden of THE Carol Shinn–a rock star in the art quilting world who is internationally known for her photo-based free motion machine stitched images.

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Their new Colorado home came with an outdated lawn, uninteresting flower borders and juniper everywhere, including block the front windows. The new garden has a small puddle of lawn and now the perennials, conifers and collection of ground covers winding through and tucked amongst the rock paths and large rock outcroppings are the stars of the show.

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A small stream bed runs left to right under the rock path
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Bearded iris are an important feature in the garden
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View from the driveway
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View from the street side
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View from the street side near the property line
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Wow!
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The same poppies from a different vantage point
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Color and textures weave through the diverse plant materials
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Greeting visitors near the front door
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One of several peonies in the garden–this one softens the front walk

Rock gardening has become Carol’s passion after adding the first granite and sandstone boulders to anchor her developing beds. She says the growth of the garden has been organic rather than that of a rigid structure based on a plan. Her experimentation with a bed of horizontal layers of sandstone, then later a bed of vertical basalt has cemented her love of crevice gardening–no pun intended.

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The largest of the crevice gardens as viewed from several angles.

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Another crevice garden with a bright lavender aster peeking out
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A little wider view of that crevice garden

All of the crevice gardens are anchored with conifers which will, in time, provide more vertical interest. A wide variety of alpine ground covers and perennials are tucked in all the crevices. Colorado natives make their presence known everywhere. So much of this plant material is unfamiliar to me but I’m sure if I’d had a decent alpine/steppe plant reference book I could make sense of it. This was not the only garden we visited that compelled me to text my husband the message, “I need more rocks!”–by the end of the Fling I was texting simply, “What I said before, DITTO.”

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This most recently planted crevice garden was designed by Kenton Seton, a rising star in this gardening style. Along with this bed Carol is developing a collection of miniature conifers. Central California gardeners tend to have conifer lust and so it’s unimaginable to me being able to grow both full-sized and miniature selections–other than a few pines, our dry air just crisps most conifers to brown sticks.

Carol’s gardening goals have grown organically also. Their pick of Ft. Collins as their retirement home was, in part, due to the belief that water was more plentiful here than other nearby cities. Her original garden goal was to create the beautiful and lush perennial garden we all covet in magazines and garden catalogs. Many of her original plantings, including a huge collection of daylilies from Randy’s father, remain but are gradually being replaced as needed with more xeric plants.

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A rose scrambles over an arbor topped gate leading into the back garden
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This beautiful burgundy clematis is tucked in the corner where the fence meets the house
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A small flowered white climbing rose distracts from the basement window well

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A narrow brick path leads into the back garden which has more traditional elements, especially in the shaded areas like this one along the fence line. Hostas, hardy geraniums and hellebores are seen here.

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On the opposite side of the path, creative pots combined with diverse foliage colors light up the shade.

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Look back down the garden path

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As the tree cover gives way to open sky another arch forms the perfect frame for the Shinn’s rusted iron water feature.

This island of plantings buffer the house from the lawn and sunnier garden areas.

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In the open and sunny center, conifers and sun loving perennials thrive. Multiple paths using a variety of hardscape materials give the garden floor interest and easy access to working beds many vantage points.

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A crevice garden in the works

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A vegetable garden occupies the back corner of the garden, mostly obscured from the view from the house and main patio area.

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The rose bed
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Runaway chives in the rose bed

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This large raised bed runs almost the length of the back of the house, allowing for trees and shrubs to become garden walls. We had a sudden rainstorm a few minutes after this photo was taken and I was sitting at the far end where you can see fellow blogger Noelle already resting–we did not get a drop of rain through the tree cover while other standing on the back patio were soaked.

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The same bed as viewed from the sunny lawn side
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Stately bearded iris in full bloom
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The backside of the same bed is adjacent the patio and perfect siting for this subdued pond

This garden is the one of the best looking works in progress I have ever seen. There is tremendous plant diversity–running the gamut from peonies to cacti and everything in between. It all is working well together supported by an eclectic group of year round structural elements including a diverse selections of conifers and a few deciduous trees.

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The stress that goes along with making your garden ready for a tour was not borne by this little copper haired neighbor–a budding entrepreneur who had set up a lemonade stand (plus cookies) hoping for thirsty garden bloggers. We gave her lots of business and I’m sure she was sad to see us go!

 

 

 

More postcards from Denver…

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

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THE GARDEN OF ROB PROCTER AND DAVID MACKE IN NORTH DENVER

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THE GARDEN OF JIM AND DOROTHY BORLAND IN DENVER

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DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS

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THE GARDEN OF PANAYOTI KELAIDIS IN DENVER

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THE GARDEN OF DAN JOHNSON AND TONY MILES IN ENGLEWOOD

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THE GARDEN OF KEITH AND RETHA FUNK IN CENTENNIAL

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CHATFIELD FARMS IN LITTLETON

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Over the next few weeks, I’ll post on the three public gardens and 15 private gardens we saw in a whirlwind 3-1/2 days. Make sure you look back at In a daze in Denver…morning walkaboutIn a daze in Denver…GrowHausIn a daze near Denver…High Plains Environmental Center, and Postcards from Denver… to get the full Denver story!

 

Greenwood Daylily Gardens + one more…

A Saturday road trip took me with two gardening friends, Ann D. and Glee M. several hours south to the inland hills and canyons of Ventura County off California Highway 126. Not the breezy coastal part of that county but rather the dry scrubby hills south of the small town of Fillmore. A little mapping misstep on my part sent us in a wide circle around our destination but resulted in stumbling upon another specialty nursery that had already been a possible #2 stop–more about that later.

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Our primary destination was Greenwood Daylily Gardens in Somis–well, we never really saw any town called Somis but I’m pretty sure there must be one. We were out in the country amongst small ranches and an amazing number of wholesale nursery operations. Definitely dry and I’m pretty sure really hot at the height of summer. The draw for this particular daylily source is its owner’s focus on varieties which are bred for or have shown superior adaptability to Southern California’s particular growing conditions.

As we turned into and then down the long dirt road to the ground I just didn’t know whether to take in the long views first or focus on the masses of color to my left and right! I actually jumped out of the car at the top of the drive to take a few photos as my traveling companions pulled into what we thought was the retail area.

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The gardens are in a small valley surrounded by gentle hills.

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There are plants everywhere! Greenwood also specializes in pelargoniums and iris. Hoop houses and open ground have rows of exciting colors and shapes.

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Masses of Hemerocallis ‘Mahogany Whispers’
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Scads of Hemerocallis ‘Salmon Sheen’

These two fields of daylilies were across from the hoop houses–probably each a hundred feet in length and 30 feet deep. I was amazed to see when I got up close that they are all being grown in 5 gallon nursery cans cozied up next to each other.

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Not many iris were in sight but his hoop house has row upon row of 4″ pots of pelargoniums of all kinds and hues, making a colorful tapestry. As with the daylilies, the pelargoniums are selected for their proven success in Southern California gardens.

It probably should have occurred to us that with no staff, no carts and no labels on most of what was in the hoop houses that we really weren’t in the right place but I can’t say that it did!

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Two splashy daylilies and an equally vibrant hibiscus were huddled up together growing out of the hoop house’s dirt floor.

Our soon-to-be best friend Javier and his friendly rescue dog, Diego, arrived presently in a golf cart from some far off place and…we’re busted! This is the staff only area and we should have driven further into the valley to reach the small retail area.

With a silver Airstream as its office backdrop and a shaded area outfitted with chairs looking as though a class would soon start, the retail area was quite small. We learned that the owner John Schoustra and his wife were out of town and Javier was our man for whatever we needed. I was a bit disappointed to have missed the owner. The Greenwood website, http://www.greenwoodgarden.com, has a lot of good daylily culture information (plus the same for the pelargoniums and iris) and reading through it made me feel as if Greenwood Daylily Gardens is as much passion as profitable business for Mr. Schoustra. He feels very strongly about breeding and using plants good for where you live and they’ll prosper–more important than a fancy new marking or ruffle on a bloom. He was named 2018 Horticulturalist of the Year recently by the Southern California Horticultural Society. I had a list of questions and, although Javier told me he had been with John for 20 years, my Spanish and his English didn’t mesh quite enough for me have an in depth discussion rife with horticultural nuance.

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This great bloom display gave us an opportunity to study these varieties upclose and each tubular base had the plant ID tag zip tied onto it. Smartest thing I’ve seen in a long time. On this day there was not an enormous variety of hemerocallis to purchase in one gallon cans. My sense is that Greenwood’s strength lies it its ability to provide masses of large, mature clumps (5 gallon whoppers) for large more institutional, commercial jobs. There is at least one photo on the website of his daylilies filling the medians of the streets of nearby Calabasas. Greenwood Daylily Gardens is open for retail sales only during its Open House days which are the Saturdays in April, May, and June. The retail availability list for Open House visitors lists 54 named cultivars with only 36 of them in single gallon cans. In contrast, Oakes Daylilies, who I have visited and purchased from for 20+ years, is a more retail focused grower with over 50 acres planted in the rich, dark earth of rural Corryton, Tennessee and a robust mail order business. Their website lists 400+ cultivars. Mr. Schoustra focuses on limited numbers of locally successful cultivars and does those really well. This fits right into his daylily design philosophy of using large masses of the same cultivar rather than mixing lots of different sizes, shapes and colors up. He offers a visual of those mixed up plantings as being akin to “a bad hair day.”

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Hemerocallis ‘Blushing Summer Valentine’
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Hemerocallis ‘Nile Queen’

These two mauve-y pinks were pretty but my focus today was on lavenders and purples of which there were none.

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The closest I got was this beautiful poster showing a nice range of my sought after tones. The website does list several lavenders that looked really good to me but I am not sure if the stock was gone for the retail season. Clearly it is best to visit earlier in the span of Open House days to get the most selection for purchase even if the bloom display may not be yet at its peak.

Ann picked out a few reblooming white iris rhizomes–peak iris bloom is long past here. I selected several interesting pelargoniums.

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Unlike our first illicit stop at the hoop houses, everything here was well labeled and Javier had a laminated copy of their most recent catalog (2016) which he was happy to walk around with me so I could read about each one I considered.

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This Pelargoniumdomesticum ‘Dark Mystery’ will fit right in with a small selection of plants settling into the stock tank that have a burgundy element in either foliage or bloom. This species, commonly know as regal or Martha Washington geraniums, puts on the biggest show for the shortest time–the Greenwood catalog refers to them as “the prom queens of the pelargonium world.” This one is a Greenwood Daylily Gardens introduction.

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Pelargonium sidoides ‘Lavender Lad’ is already at home in a sunny spot near the sidewalk off our back patio where it won’t get lost in the shuffle and can soften the concrete edge–although it may get buried during the peak bloom of its bellflower neighbors. I have had his cousin ‘Burgundy’ in my front garden for over 5 years with nary an issue so I have high hopes for this lad.

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No chance this delicate ferny leafed scented geranium was going to get away from me. Pelargonium denticulatum ‘Folicifolium’ is commonly called the pine scented geranium or balsam scented geranium but I was drawn to it for its unusual foliage. Going to pot this one up until I have an idea of its size and hardiness to both cold and our resident snails and slugs. The above photo is the full flat rather crammed together. My single 4″ pot is much airier.

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I had it sitting in a protected spot only a full day and it is already leaning into the sun–a good clue where it will eventually be happiest!

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I have grown Geranium maderense before from seeds (maybe seedlings, I can’t recall) from my SoCal friend Judi H.’s garden. I could never keep it reseeding as she does but I’m going to give it another go. This is the only hardy (true) geranium Greenwood grows. A biennial in nature, it is said to perform very well in dry shade, amongst masses of tree roots. Dry shade lovers are few and far between–I would be happy for just the foliage. It is potted up for now but is destined for underneath my Bradford pear trees when I return from Denver.

We had paid for our purchases and were contemplating lunch when Javier ran over to beckon me to a close to purple daylily he had found amongst a seedling mix out in the field containers that Greenwood calls ‘Miami Mix’–a melange of golds, oranges, yellows, et al. So many more questions about the idea of this kind of a mix and how it gets that way that were beyond my Spanish skills. With the work Javier and faithful Diego had put in scouring the stock for it, I had no choice but to purchase it.

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The original bloom from the day I got it was tragically lost (but then happily the only fatality) in a very short stop to avoid an accident only a few blocks from home–after transporting it and our other finds several hundred miles without incident. This bloom opened this morning.

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This flower (photographed in the field) is also part of the ‘Miami Mix.’ Ruffled, the palest yellow and at least at large as a salad plate, it was so different than the others.

Although truly not what I expected, having only visited one other daylily growing operation, our visit was educational and fun. Even the being sort of lost as we climbed up a two lane road high into the hills with precious little way to turn off or around.

Our other stop was Matilija Nursery on Waters Rd. in (ok, not in–but in the country outside) Moorpark. This seemingly one man operation specializes in California native plants and bearded iris. He had tons of 2″ pots plus other larger containers to choose from but again most of them were unmarked. I love a surprise as well as the next gardening girl but I probably would have bought more if I had not had to track him down each time I wanted to know what something was. Can’t google it unless it has a name!

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No rocket science involved in the naming of this nursery–a huge colony of Matilija poppies is busy scaling the slope. Do you think the people up there know what’s coming?

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This shade house is home to owner Bob Sussman’s precious collection of Iris douglasiana, California’s native Pacific Coast iris. I will tell you all of his crosses are meticulously labeled but it is in handwriting only his mother will recognize. I’m sure he has a system for keeping track of his hybrids which is simply not recognizable to casual shoppers! It is a little late in their season but a few were still blooming. If you are interested in learning more about California natives or the nursery’s habit restoration work check out their website http://www.matilijanursery.com–it has a well written plant availability list with links to plant profiles and photos.

I don’t think you can beat a day trip with good friends and great plants. A time to visit, laugh, share a meal together–what could be better?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m calling it ‘Geranium lazarusii’…

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Geranium nodosum ‘Clos du Coudray’

Although neither our alkaline clay-ish soil nor our zero humidity screaming hot summers are friendly toward them, I have a never ending friendship with the hardy geraniums, specifically the genus Geranium, not the pelargoniums we casually call geraniums. As they are not as common in California as other parts of the US I cannot resist buying almost any one I see in my gardening travels and am guilty of not always doing my research before swiping my credit card.

Three years ago while on my first Garden Conservancy Open Days jaunt I visited Digging Dog Nursery in Albion, CA near the Mendocino coast. My post Mendocino madness…#2 will give you a glimpse of Deborah Wigham and Gary Ratway’s wonderful demonstration garden, retail and mail-order nursery flourishing in a forest near sea level in Northern California. They have great selections in small sizes so it’s easy to try a lot of different plants for not such a huge investment. One of three hardy geraniums I purchased there is Geranium nodosum ‘Clos du Coudray’, named after a famous garden in the Normandy region of France. G. nodosum spreads by underground rhizomatous roots to form medium sized mounds and is indicated to use in medium to light shade area. My reference material–which I had with me to consult as I shopped–states “At least two sources have reported G. nodosum can become very invasive and that it is very difficult to eradicate.” Well, I have made a few missteps in the past on planting things purported to be invasive–the dreaded Lippia nodiflora (AKA Lippia repens AKA Phyla nodiflora) took years out of my gardening life to finally see the last of it after I blithely planted a 4″ pot in a rose bed needing ground cover, foolishly believing I could confine it with a brick edging. It not only overtook the bed but also everything else planted in it. Hoping to not have a repeat of that messy situation I planted little ‘Clos du Coudray’ in the Secret Garden behind our outdoor pavilion where I thought it could not do lasting harm if it ran amok under the sequoias. I never saw it again until today. After its almost immediate disappearance I have periodically checked the ground near the ID tag for signs of life three or four times a year since the summer of 2016. Nothing, nada, zilch.

Like Lazarus, the little jewel has risen from the dead. It actually looks as though this might be its second bloom, albeit only a single bloom stalk (stem? whatever!) With nine leaves I think I am in no immediate danger of the area being overrun! I will keep a close watch over it though as it has had almost three full years to build up its strength.

A tiny monster any girl can love…

I have long had a love affair with geraniums–true or hardy geraniums to distinguish the group from their cousins, pelargoniums (often called zonal geraniums.)  I am usually in the throes of a love affair with one plant or another and spend my garden center time searching out every different one to add to the garden.  In future posts you’ll no doubt hear about my current obsession with all the wonderful new perennial dianthus, or my first glimpses at the diversity in the large plant family called campanula which sent me up and down the highways hunting down every one in the Central Valley, or the lavender years, or, or, or…I first drank the kool-aid with Geranium incanum in the eighties when we had a difficult front slope in southern CA to fill with things that were easy care and would take up a fair amount of space.  At that time there were not many varieties of these hard working gems in most local nurseries or garden stores even though there are over 300 species and many, many cultivars and hybrids in the world.

Most true geraniums, often called cranesbill, are easy care; not too fussy about soil and rarely bothered by insects or disease.  Although they are often tagged as full sun, in my hot, dry climate most benefit from some afternoon shade.  Let’s face it—most everything here, including me, could benefit from some afternoon shade!  I have about a dozen different kinds between my front and back beds but few are in bloom yet.  I do shear back the foliage for our cold winter and the new foliage is just now popping out.  Later in the spring I’ll  dedicate a post to them as they come into their prime.

On the other hand, G. ‘Tiny Monster’ has been up and running since mid January and will bloom continuously until I cut it back in self defense in late November or early December. It is a garden workhorse for me.  The  source of all the ‘Tiny Monster’ clumps in my garden (and in several fellow gardeners’ yards) was a 4″ plant found almost two years ago at the fabulous Plant Depot in San Juan Capistrano, CA.  I always stop in when I am visiting my SoCal girlfriends and never leave the OC without back of the Volvo wagon full of great finds.  Lots and lots of 4″ pots so you can try a lot of new things without breaking the bank.

I popped my little discovery in the ground under one of a pair of ‘Renae’ cascading tree roses hoping to give it a little protection from the southern exposure.  It quickly grew to a clump about 18″ high and 4 feet across.  Like many of the true geraniums it will attach to the soil at points away from the original crown.  These babies can then be detached from the runner, dug up and transplanted.  ‘Tiny Monster’ has proven itself as a reliable mounding ground cover in the hottest, driest conditions imaginable.  You can see the original clump in the photo below—this is a south facing bed with brutal summer sun.  I have transplanted clumps to a dry little sloping area behind the pool which is also south facing AND gets the western sun to boot.  Never wilts, never dries out, always blooms.  If I let it, it will scramble over its neighbors but is easily controlled with 5 minutes and a pair of hand clippers.  The magenta flowers are cheerful and the charming lacy, cut leaves look airy and cool.  For me, this tiny monster can hang out in my garden any time!