Virginia Robinson Gardens…

rewild 1

I have been receiving the Virginia Robinson Gardens e-mail newsletter ever since I saw a small article about the Beverly Hills estate in my AAA magazine a few years ago. It looked like just the kind of garden I love to visit–interesting and progressive garden originators, a historic home and a size pretty easily covered in a single day. The kind of garden that locals cherish but is not widely known outside its broader neighborhood. This six and a half acre jewel is smack in the middle of historic Beverly Hills–in fact it is often called Beverly Hills’ first estate. Vintage photos taken circa 1911 show a ground hugging house built in the Beaux-Arts style on a rise surrounded by acres and acres of bare dirt. Some 100+ years later it sits behind a modest stucco wall at the end of a residential cul-de-sac.

rewild 2

The home was built by Harry and Virginia Robinson in 1911. Mr. Robinson, originally from Massachusetts, was the fourth generation in a family of dry goods merchants and heir to what we know today as JW Robinson, the Los Angeles based department store. Virginia was known for her social, business and philanthropic activities and their garden, much of which was modeled after architecture and gardens she and Harry had seen on their 1911 world tour, were often used to entertain the Beverly Hills and Hollywood elite and fundraise for causes dear to the couple. Although Harry died in 1932, Virginia continued to live on the estate for another 4 decades. Upon her death in 1977, the estate was donated to the public for their enjoyment and is currently owned and maintained by the County of Los Angeles.

The Virginia Robinson Gardens can be seen only by pre-scheduled docent led tours–in part this may be due to their good neighbor policy of having all visitors park on the property rather than on the street. They have a small lot which probably only accommodates 20 or so cars and thus must maintain strict control over the size of tour groups. Every Southern California trip I have made in the last several years has started with a e-mail to them checking for an available tour spot coinciding with when I am passing through–they also periodically update days & times with open spots on their website but you must email them to secure your reservation–no online booking. Go to http://www.robinsongardens.org for all you’ll ever want to know and some really wonderful photos. The newsletter announcement of a short class entitled Re-wild Your Garden on the day after I was planning to attend an event at The Huntington in nearby San Marino was a no-brainer for me–not the docent led tour but an opportunity to see the gardens and learn about their efforts to create a more sustainable garden and habitat for pollinators and other local birds and wildlife. I’m in!!

So…the day did not go as smoothly as I had hoped–the first challenge a result of being gone too long from living in a city where you measure your trip in terms of traffic and minutes rather than miles. I checked my Map app as I wound down from my Huntington visit and noted the 39 minute driving time to Beverly Hills. All y’all from SoCal know how this turns out–that was a Sunday night about 7 pm and my drive was to be on the following Monday morning. When I got into the car (fortunately pretty early) I turned on my navigation to reveal the 1 hour and 34 minute drive time which meant that if all went well (??) I would still be 11 minutes late for class. And then there was the route over winding Mulholland Drive and Laurel Canyon Road…

Arriving semi-intact at 10:06 am, it was already 91° but hey..I’d made it and I was not, in fact, the last person to arrive. Tom Lindsay, Superintendent of the Virginia Robinson Gardens, introduced the concept of Re-Wilding as creating sustainable garden spaces that offer opportunities for meaningful interaction with nature and people while nurturing the health of the planet. We would walk the gardens as a group using them as an outdoor classroom to illustrate various techniques and concepts such as composting and using plantings well suited to the natural climate/rainfall.

Our first stop was the Kitchen Garden, home to this little lathe greenhouse and its surrounding veggie garden. Composting was the message here–Tim is super hands on in the management of this property and gave concise, clear explanations of how they produce and use their compost. As a note–the home, large back lawn, pool and pool pavilion are on flat ground but everything else falls off precipitously to either side of those areas. The veggie beds have only a small swathe of level ground then go right up a hill.

rewild 5

To further illustrate that, base of the stairs are at the driveway level–at the top of the stairs you are on the level of the lawn and pool.

Tim shared that a mandate from the City of Beverly Hills several years ago requiring them to cut their water use by 30% was integral in sparking the desire to be more sustainable. At that time the property had two large lawn areas in the front, the Great Lawn in the back and two smaller lawn areas immediately in front of the pool pavilion. He felt the Great Lawn was necessary for siting large numbers of tables and chairs for events but decided to eliminate all the other lawn. The first season after the lawns were removed they reduced their water usage by 33%.

rewild 8
Looking from the Great Lawn to the Pool and Pool Pavilion
rewild 10
One of 14 water features on the property–all maintained with the use of mosquito fish and without chemicals–provide habitat for birds and insects
rewild 11
Lone pond bloom
rewild 6
Pool nestled in front of the Pool Pavilion–the areas to either side of the brick surround now contain pea gravel and a tough ground cover that will take both foot traffic and dining seating when needed
rewild 9
Looking back toward the house from the Great Lawn

The Italian cypress seen in this photo are a prominent feature throughout the grounds and provide a baseline of water requirements for any future plantings. The automated sprinkler system runs once every seven days and anything to be added must be adaptable to that watering schedule. Newly planted materials may get a little supplemental hose watering but only until they are established. From the Great Lawn we moved toward the Dry Border and then on to the Italian Terrace Garden both of which are off to the right of this photo and then downhill…way downhill by means of multiple sets of brick steps and walkways. It was in the Dry Border that I dropped my camera on the brick walk and it bounced off and downhill about 3 feet under a bush–good thing I was at the end of the group! Well…everything seemed to be working and it wasn’t until I got home to download my photos that those from this point on are totally black. See–I told you that you would enjoy those great photos on their website! I so wanted you to see the Musical Stairs-a set of brick stairs which have a rill in the middle (little rivulet of water) traveling downward down from a neighboring small water feature. The hillside terraced garden was spectacular as was the skyline view of LA skyscrapers. Go ahead and close your eyes and maybe you can imagine it.

Tim took the class on through to the meadow garden which has replaced the turf on both sides of the front walkway from the street. The meadow is at its peak in March, April and May and looks pretty dreadful now–which is just as you would expect it to. The dead vegetation has been tidied up and Tim demonstrated how he uses a whirlybird spreader to broadcast seed to beef up the meadow for next year. Many plants are reseeding annuals or perennials but each year something new is added to keep it filled in.

It is here our class ended but Tim offers us the opportunity to walk down into the Palm Forest across the driveway to see the newly installed pond which will be the centerpiece for many children’s programs. There are old and new narrow sloped walking paths, not yet having handrails all the way down. My camera strap was irritating my now pretty sweaty neck so I tucked the camera in my bag and pulled out my phone for some photos. I am convinced now there must have been a garden fairy on my shoulder giving me that idea or I would not have a single shot of this amazing part of the garden.

rewild 12
Palm Forest seen from the driveway

The Palm Forest is a roughly two acre sloping area originally planted with citrus and other Mediterranean plants. Poor drainage and heavy soil eventually caused their demise and a consultation with a landscape architect in the 1920s led the Robinsons to dedicate the area to tropical plants. Hundreds of King palms from Queensland, Australia were planted and now provide a shaded canopy 60+ feet high. It is not known if the palms were planted from seed or small plants but it is agreed that this grouping is now the largest of this species outside of Australia. The forest floor along the upper part of the walkway is planted with Clivia miniata. Although only a few remnants of it remain today, Harry Robinson tended a serious collection of ferns in this area.

rewild 18

The new pond is very large and bordered with large boulders. A duck house awaiting a coat of stain rests on the corner of a small terrace. It is hoped that a few outliers from a duck colony living in nearby Franklin Canyon will take up residence in the pond and lay their eggs in the house once it is installed on the water’s surface.

rewild 16
Amazing King palms
rewild 15
Looking up from the forest floor, newly planted with sun perennials, near the pond to the house above

Insane hilly driving and lost photos notwithstanding this was a worthwhile visit. I was fortunate enough to spend a little time talking with one of the children’s program docents (for 26 years!) who encouraged me to come back and take the guided tour for more history of the garden and generally more time in each area.

rewild 19

She also helped me with the purchase of this wonderful book written by Mr. Lindsay and colleagues which is chock full of photos of both the home and garden from its earliest days and of Mr. & Mrs. Robinson and their friends and family in addition to descriptions  of each garden area including plant lists. I will study it before I visit again so I can be on the lookout for interesting features and details which I’m sure I passed by this time.

rewild 13
Harry (named after Mr. Robinson) the Kitchen Garden cat hopes to see you soon!

Virginia Robinson Gardens is located at 1008 Elden Way in Beverly Hills, California

All things Robinson, including a timeline of the garden’s development, great photography and information you need to visit at http://www.robinsongardens.com

 

 

 

 

 

Dog and other woods…

The last trip to our cabin in Fish Camp near Yosemite National Park had a few hours for leisurely walks and Yatzhee! on the wraparound deck but was mostly about accomplishing chores necessary for the coming winter. We take the removable snow rails down from the deck and pull out the painted plywood snow doors for installation on two of our three entry doors. With central heat and a nice wood stove, we make use the cabin every few weeks throughout the cold season. It’s impossible to know whether we will have 10 feet of snow or none at all and so the smart money is to be prepared for whatever comes well in advance the the first icy flakes.

In my 2018 post Dogwood day…Memorial Day I featured bloom photos from the lone Cornus nuttalii, Pacific dogwood, on our property. I’ve since found that we have one other but certainly that’s not really the making of a dogwood forest, especially when the spring blooms bursting out along the highway to our place have almost a wedding like feel. On this visit the dogwood’s leaves are starting to show their fall color.

wood 1

wood 2

Shaded by a high canopy of cedars, firs and pines it is a little hard to see the russet and purple tones creeping in.

wood 8

I got pretty excited when I saw a number of seed clusters well within my reach–maybe I can grow my own little dogwood forest! I texted my native plant mentor Ann for counsel and spent a bit of time on a few California native plant propagations sites to get a sense of the best way to go. The consensus was that directly sowing the seeds would probably be more successful than trying to start in pots. I was amazed to learn that germination could take up to 18 months!! Seed collection is #1 on my to-do list for our next trip–hopefully I won’t have missed my window of opportunity.

Number one of this trip’s list was to take care of our wood supply for the winter. We are able to cut firewood every year in specific amounts and from designated locations on public lands with US Forest Service permits. Every couple of years we supplement that supply with a load of cured and cut almond.

wood 7

In preparation for the new wood we shift the older wood remaining on the second set of wood cribs to the front one, making a nice open space for the new wood to be delivered. Even with two sets of hands this is a several hour job.

wood 4
The big truck makes the big dump

The weight of the wood truck (this one hauling 4 cords of wood stacked in the bed with vertical partitions separating each cord) dictates that the wood must be dumped at the TOP of our year old asphalt driveway–the truck could come down but would never be able to get back up!

wood 5

wood 6

Our wood moving method involves Dave backing up our truck to the pile. We then fill up the bed, drive the truck down the hill and back it up near the wood cribs and unload it into another pile…three times.  A strong motivating factor is that we cannot drive off our property until the wood is moved.

wood 3

Then that big pile gets stacked onto the empty crib. The whole process takes about six or seven hours. Dave is strong and I am slow but steady. I am not sure I would have survived “the olden days”. He always gets the honor of placing the last log. With every stick tucked in its spot both piles get tarps and bungee cords to keep the wood dry. We use these two wood storage stacks to refresh the smaller wood supplies kept closer to the cabin. I am here to tell you this work makes even the most strenuous garden tasks seem lightweight!

Dogwood Day 3
Missing these beautiful blooms until next spring (taken May 2018)

 

 

Salvia mexicana ‘Ocampo’?

limelight 3

I have had several failed attempts to successfully grow Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’–most recently a couple of years ago in my back garden close to the fencing so as to provide a green backdrop for other lower perennials planted in the foreground. As much as I would appreciate it, few plants die with a definitive autopsy report conveniently attached to their crispy brown stems. I am reasonably sure this last loss resulted from the species’ need for more shade and less of our death star summer sun.

Not to be defeated and with a few large open areas in the new front beds having a high shade canopy from the Raywood ash, I threw caution to the win and bought 3 wee 4″ pots in late March. The ‘Limelight’ cultivar is known for the chartreuse calyces which form in the fall signaling impending bloom. Unlike many of my other salvias which bloom year round given periodic cutting back, this one appears to be a true fall bloomer. As spring and summer passed the three little plants grew and grew. I did a little pinching back to promote bushiness but not having any experience of when they would actually bloom I was perhaps too timid, worrying about nipping off soon to be bloom spikes.

limelight 2

Here you see one of the three, having grown to about 6 feet tall and 4 feet across. A second is directly behind it but on the other side of the ash’s canopy, near an open pathway which provides me access to the bed for tidying up and planting tasks. The inflorescences which eventually grow to 6 or 8″ in length started to form just a couple of weeks ago.

limelight 6

The calyces on all of my plants lack ‘Limelight’s signature yellow-green color. A little research leads me to believe my plants may actually be Salvia mexicana ‘Ocampo’ which is known for its dark purple to almost black calyces. So for all my self congratulation through the summer at these flourishing specimens I STILL haven’t been able to successfully grow ‘Limelight’! Regardless of what I call it, this salvia is a hummingbird and bee magnet. Its sturdy structure sways in a light breeze and the dappled shade makes the bright green leaves dance. I love it!

The third of my plants was sited in slightly more sun. All got adequate water (they are are not especially drought tolerant) due to regular hand watering to supplement the minimal automatic irrigation of the bed and I’d give their planting positions an A+ for drainage.

While the last of the plants grew as large, if not larger, than the two in slightly more shade; many of the new leaves emerged somewhat curled. Even as the entire plant looked on death’s door it continued to put on new leaves with some emerging curled or crispy dark brown. Through this seemingly torturous growing process it too began the process of forming bloom spikes along with its neighbors. As the siting of the struggling plant pretty much obscured its closest and better performing neighbor, I gave in and cut it back to about 15″ a few days ago. It is starting to put on a few new leaves but they too are deformed–any thoughts out there in gardening land??

For those of you who would like to try Salvia mexicana, (‘Limelight’, ‘Ocampo’ or a more compact form ‘Lollie Jackson)’ give your plant sun to bright shade depending on your summer climate and well-drained rich soil. Protection from frost is essential although most are root hardy down into the 20°s. Your reward will be a summer of beautiful clean foliage followed by stunning fall flowers buzzing with nectar loving pollinators.

In other salvia news…

limelight 1

This unidentified microphylla/greggii hybrid–maybe Heatwave ‘Blaze’–is putting on a fabulous show as you approach my front door.

 

In a daze near Denver…sculpture on a grand scale

THE GARDEN OF SCOTT AND PAULA DEEMER IN NIWOT

Scott, owner of a Boulder landscape design-build company, and his wife Paula have transformed a distressed property in foreclosure into a beautiful and highly functional indoor-outdoor living experience inspired by the fusion of art and nature. Warning–this is another garden whose photos just would not allow me to delete them! A riot of foliage, form and texture makes a statement in its rocky surroundings. The garden is not only filled with art but is home to many specimen plantings whose forms are natural artwork.

GBF Deemer 12
The home’s clean lines and muted palette allow the landscape to shine
GBF Deemer 18
Sitting on a rise at the end of a cul-de-sac, massive rock installations create structure and planting terraces in the modest front garden
GBF Deemer 9
The front walk has a life of its own
GBF Deemer 1
Boulders grooved to accept curvy lengths of steel produce small flat planting pockets–loved this idea
GBF Deemer 8
Creeping color is tucked into the rock work, softening edges
GBF Deemer 13
Access and view from the driveway
GBF Deemer 2
Peony and catmint loving their time together
GBF Deemer 10
Casual gravel path right of the front walk from the lawn–almost a small secret garden perfectly visible from the basement windows
GBF Deemer 14
Massive stones tucked against the house bridge the elevation as the lot falls off away from the front porch
GBF Deemer 15
Wider angle of the same area with plantings at every level
GBF Deemer 11
Lovely mix of conifers, iris, perennials and woody shrubs
GBF Deemer 3
Eye-catching combo tucked between driveway and the front porch–Japanese maple, daphne and a twisty blue spruce
GBF Deemer 5
Color gets a bit more intense as you approach the front porch
GBF Deemer 19
Notes of burgundy in both flower and foliage are found throughout the garden
GBF Deemer 4
A pair of these huge planted metal bowls flank the porch
GBF Deemer 7
The view from the porch to the mountains on the horizon, we’re in for a brief rain
GBF Deemer 6
Selenite desert rose crystal

This very large piece of crystal (usually only found as one or two of the little ball formations) was hauled back from Mexico by Scott and foreshadows many other unique pieces of art we will see in the Deemer’s home and gardens. This lovely couple graciously opened their home to the Garden Bloggers Fling participants, allowing us to wander through to view their collection of modern paintings and sculptures and soak in the home’s modern mid-century vibe. As welcomed as we were I would not post photos of the home’s interior or art in deference to the family’s privacy. I did take some shots from the balcony off the second story master bedroom and will share those further on.

Only steps from the sleek modern kitchen is an outdoor world the Deemers enjoy through every season. Multi-level living and entertainment areas have been developed with extensive rock hardscaping and lush plantings and large windows on the home’s rear allow almost all of the shallow and wide back garden to be visible from the interior living and kitchen spaces.

GBF Deemer 37
Modern but very comfortable dining spot with the kitchen and outdoor grill close at hand
GBF Deemer 45
Stunning stone and plasma cut steel fireplace evoking the nearby Rocky Mountains
GBF Deemer 39
The mixed material garden “floor” adds interest and offers wee planting spots

The back garden runs the width of the home but not the full depth of the lot which slopes uphill. The Deemers have left a naturalized meadow strip behind the landscaped areas. The home is flanked by two undeveloped lots and the cul-de-sac is adjacent to an open meadow area. The meadow area is a favorite pass through for many types of Colorado wildlife. The massive stones used throughout form a natural feeling retaining wall and soft line of demarcation between the tamed and the wild parts of their backyard oasis.

GBF Deemer 49
The fire pit is surrounded by enough open space for seating–yet another garden floor, this one small gravel
GBF Deemer 26
Looking as if this all has just found its place naturally even though I know every stone and plant was meticulously planned–it is hard work to make it all look so easy

GBF Deemer 25

GBF Deemer 27

A massive set of stone steps allow the basement to be accessed from the back garden. The elevation change is significant. Both side of the steps are beautifully planted, again using the stone to create planting pockets. Another twisty blue spruce is perfectly placed to grow as a backdrop for the patio’s grill.

GBF Deemer 41
No spot is too insignificant to have a bit of cool color–notice the steel waves used to mitigate the steep slope and provide small flat openings for planting
GBF Deemer 33
This striking green goddess makes her home on the shady side of the steep stairwell in full view of the basement’s windows–Scott calls her Athena of the Marina
GBF Deemer 24
Looking back toward the dining patio and the Rocky Mountain fireplace
GBF Deemer 48
Up a stone or two from the fire pit-wonderful grouping of specimen conifers create their own skyline
GBF Deemer 40
Raised beds for veggies–the espaliered apple will eventually screen the mechanicals 
GBF Deemer 34
Fruit trees, veggies and herbs are somewhat obscured from the entertaining parts of the garden
GBF Deemer 32
This planting of weeping conifers (spruce?) marks the far side of the lot–I think they look like a group of ladies with heads bent together sharing a juicy bit of gossip about whatever is going on in the field beyond

As if the show-stopping fireplace, gorgeous fire pit area and off the beaten path veggie garden is not enough–we’re going to do a deep dive into one of the most well suited for its site pools I’ve ever seen.

GBF Deemer 30
Pool view from the garden’s midpoint

The pool was designed to appear as if it is a natural swimming hole occurring in the mountains at the base of a small waterfall. The uphill side rock formations have continued across the width of the garden as does the naturalized meadow wildlife runway. The pool is not treated with chemicals but instead employs a biofiltration system utilizing beneficial micro-organisms to remove impurities.

GBF Deemer 47
Backdrop plantings are kept low behind the pool to be able to see passing wildlife 
GBF Deemer 20
Great spot to dip your toes after long day of garden gazing
GBF Deemer 31
One of many outdoor art pieces tucked in amongst the plantings
GBF Deemer 38
The far end of the pool with screening plantings in place should the neighboring lot be built on in the future
GBF Deemer 51
Little burgundy iris surrounding by variegated reeds
GBF Deemer 44
A shady secluded spot
GBF Deemer 36
Looking back from the pool’s far end
GBF Deemer 29
A weeping copper beech tucked up against the home

The photos taken from the master bedroom balcony (visible in the next to last photo) offer a wider view of all of the garden’s elements. They emphasize many of the features of this garden that I find most appealing including the variety of foliage color on both coniferous and deciduous trees, the proximity of all the different entertaining spaces to the kitchen and the ability to have more utilitarian areas (like the veggies) a little bit out of sight but not too far away to work in easily. The most central parts like the fireplace and dining patio aren’t visible due to tree cover up against the balcony. Oh…and the view of the surrounding countryside is fabulous. No commentary needed on these–just take it all in.

GBF Deemer 21

GBF Deemer 42

GBF Deemer 35

GBF Deemer 28

As the homeowner is a designer-builder of rock rich custom landscapes it would have not been a surprise if the tons of massive stonework totally dominated this garden, leaving precious little attention given to the plantings. This was not the case and it is clear that much thought was given to careful selection of trees, shrubs and perennials and their placement in relation to the hardscape. A rich and diverse plant palette glows against the stone, softening the hard edges and enveloping visitors as if they have entered a forest. Probably not a garden for a young family with little ones needing running room and lawn for throwing a ball around but certainly a garden meeting the Deemer’s goal of a sanctuary where they can live in harmony with nature and art. For Scott, the landscape is “sculpture on a grand scale.”

GBF Deemer 22
Scott Deemer greets us with his garden clippers in his back pocket just in case…

Like what you’ve seen in the Deemer’s garden? Go to http://www.outdoorcraftsmen.com to see a gallery of other Colorado landscapes Scott and his team have designed and built.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a daze near Denver…The Gardens on Spring Creek

It is not very often one gets to experience a public garden in its infancy. The Gardens on Spring Creek is the community botanic garden of Ft. Collins, Colorado. It opened in 2004 as a public-private partnership between the City of Ft. Collins and the Friends of The Gardens on Spring Creek. The botanic garden’s vision is stated as “to be a world class botanic garden that is community oriented, educational, experiential and sustainable.”

The Gardens on Spring Creek is in the midst of a two year expansion and renovation project which increases its size to about 18 acres, adds four new themed gardens plus a new, larger Visitors Center. Because of their proximity to the Visitors Center construction we were unable to visit several of the garden’s more mature areas such as the Children’s Garden (2006), the Garden of Eatin’ (2009), the Sustainable Backyard and the Daylily and Turf Demonstration Gardens. We did get to see just how the new gardens were shaping up and for some inexplicable reason I was faintly surprised to see that they look just like our own gardens do at the beginning of their lives–lots of smaller plant material, exposed irrigation systems and bare ground awaiting mulch! I guess I assumed public gardens just spring right out of the parched earth, immediately lush and mature.

THE GREAT LAWN AND THEMED GARDENS

The Great Lawn is a two acre garden with a soaring stage and featuring a half acre of amphitheater lawn seating surrounded by educational themed gardens. Garden Bloggers Fling participants assembled on the lawn for our group photo and had a short time to walk the surrounding areas before reuniting for lunch on the stage.

GBF Spring Creek 2

The asymmetrical roof over the stage is a show stopper. Shade structures similar in style are located throughout the surrounding themed gardens. Raw wood, hefty metal and rock–very Colorado.

GBF Spring Creek 1
Welcoming spot to lay out a blanket and enjoy a picnic or musical performance

A Rose Garden, Fragrance Garden and Moon Garden are newly completed and adjacent to the Great Lawn.

GBF Spring Creek 10
Clematis start their climb on supports in the Rose Garden

GBF Spring Creek 3

GBF Spring Creek 4

The Fragrance Garden’s raised beds bring the scents closer to visitors. Raw and new now, I can imagine that in a few years when the shade structures are massed with foliage and color this will be an appealing area for young and old alike.

GBF Spring Creek 6

Lonicera reticulata Kintzley’s Ghost® is planted at the base of the metal supports. At first glance to a California girl it looked like eucalyptus but I would later learn it is one of the Plant Select® program which features plants designed to thrive in high plains and intermountain regions. After we returned to our bus I realized I had totally missed a plot dedicated to Plant Select® specimens–a great resource for a local gardener to explore choices well suited to the area.

THE UNDAUNTED GARDEN

GBF Spring Creek 7

In In a daze near Denver…a praire meadow I introduced you to the work of internationally known landscape designer, author and Ft. Collins resident Lauren Springer Ogden. The 3/4 acre xeriscape Undaunted Garden was designed by Lauren and is in the plant installation phase. Named after one of Lauren’s books, the garden will artistically showcase plants native to western North America and non-native plants adapted to grow in drought prone areas. Fling organizers had arranged for Lauren to meet with us in the garden but we soon learned that just a day or two before she had fallen and seriously injured her knee–as we were walking the paths she had laid out, she was having needed surgery. The structure in this garden will act as an outdoor classroom.

GBF Spring Creek 8

GBF Spring Creek 9

From a distance the foliage on this succulent looked almost navy blue and made a striking contrast with its bright green neighbor.

THE NEWLY REOPENED ROCK GARDEN

This unique and naturalistic garden features Colorado native plants and plants adapted to local growing conditions. Dwarf conifers and specialty bulbs are set among the locally quarried rock. It first opened in 2011 and is the largest rock garden in northern Colorado. I readily admit to spending most of my browsing time in this area–it was spectacular and came equipped with a very knowledgeable young horticulturalist, Bryan Fischer, ready to answer all our ID questions. This garden was very well marked but over time plants have wandered about and popped up far from their tags and original sites! Happy plants!

GBF Spring Creek 21
Winding stone paths wander amongst more than a half dozen bermed beds
GBF Spring Creek 24
Drifts of pink Phlox grayi and yellow Alyssum stribryni
GBF Spring Creek 13
Serene stream bed
GBF Spring Creek 14
I have conifer envy
GBF Spring Creek 12
Waves of blue flowering ground cover
GBF Spring Creek 23
A few columbine still blooming
GBF Spring Creek 26
Whirligig seed heads of a clematis–maybe Clematis scottii  and what looks like snow in summer
GBF Spring Creek 17
A lovely mix of texture, foliage and flower forms
Staychs lavandufolia--mountain tea
Several large mounds of Stachys lavandulifolius drew a lot of attention–a xeric lamb’s ear relative
GBF Spring Creek 15
Every level of mounded rock offers new planting opportunities
GBF Spring Creek 20
Marked as Clematis integrifolia Mongolian Bells®–loved the two toned bells
Onosma alborosa
Identification anyone??
GBF Spring Creek 16
The rock offers a canvas on which to paint the plants, never overwhelming them
GBF Spring Creek 11
A final alpine scene

Our time was very limited at The Gardens on Spring Creek. I could have spent a half day in the Rock Garden alone, noting plant names and combinations. I have an irrational fondness for small conifers (poorly suited to my garden conditions) and they were wonderful here in combination with so many other plant forms. I think much of the appeal of the rock gardens I saw in the Denver area is that they lend themselves very well to the personality of a plant collector. While still resting comfortably in the arms of the design principle of repetition of form and color there is always a little spot somewhere to sneak in that plant that could not be left behind!

The current construction phases are due to be completed this fall. You can find more pictures of the ongoing projects and learn about future events and programs at The Gardens on Spring Creek by going to their website http://www.fcgov.com/gardens/ –I’m going to give this developing garden oasis in Ft. Collins a couple of years after that and then schedule return trip. It will be fun to see how the newly planted areas have developed and to be able to see the older gardens not now open to the public.

‘Princess Diana’ comes to town…

A May blog post by Pam Penick who writes at Digging introduced me to a royal clematis that looks perfect to ramble and scramble around my two new purple tuteurs. See Tuteur-ial… and Les deux tuteurs sont finis! for their story.

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.

princess d 1

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.

princess d 2

princess d 3

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.

princess 3

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!

 

 

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.

GBF Morgan 1
A raucous clump of huge, bright orange poppies greeted us as we got off our bus just around the corner from Jean’s home

GBF Morgan 4

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.

GBF Morgan 2

GBF Morgan 5

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.

GBF Morgan 8

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.

GBF Morgan 10

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.

GBF Morgan 9
Jean’s love of found objects is obvious–especially those with a vintage Colorado feel
GBF Morgan 22
Ants “mine” for crystal near a swath of cranesbill
GBF Morgan 11
Colorado’s state cactus Echinocereus triglochiadiatus, or claret cup cactus
GBF Morgan 6
Every nook and cranny has something growing out of it
GBF Morgan 12
Stanleya pinnata or desert prince’s plume puts on a show of yellow blooms
GBF Morgan 7
Jean identified this hardy geranium as the North American species G. fremontii AKA  G. caespitosum fremontii, or Fremont’s geranium 
GBF Morgan 13
Bloggers are pretty much shoulder to shoulder in the rock garden between the cabin and its garage
GBF Morgan 14
This old tub planted with succulents is called Barney Bazooka De Chomp III–I wonder what happened to I and II?
GBF Morgan 16
The paths are narrow and there are few places to step without crushing some small vignette
GBF Morgan 18
Jean IDs plants and answers questions–she has prepared reference sheets because she knows we’re going to want the names for everything
GBF Morgan 17
The back garden’s focal point is a whimsical pond
GBF Morgan 19
Bubbles the hippo peeks up from the water
GBF Morgan 21
Tiny and tight succulents fill the rocky crevices
GBF Morgan 20
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.