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.

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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.

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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.

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Clematis start their climb on supports in the Rose Garden

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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Winding stone paths wander amongst more than a half dozen bermed beds
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Drifts of pink Phlox grayi and yellow Alyssum stribryni
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Serene stream bed
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I have conifer envy
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Waves of blue flowering ground cover
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A few columbine still blooming
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Whirligig seed heads of a clematis–maybe Clematis scottii  and what looks like snow in summer
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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
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Every level of mounded rock offers new planting opportunities
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Marked as Clematis integrifolia Mongolian Bells®–loved the two toned bells
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Identification anyone??
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The rock offers a canvas on which to paint the plants, never overwhelming them
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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.

In a daze in Denver…Confluence Park and REI

For two days our tour buses passed a lovely riverfront of some kind and a huge REI as we traveled back and forth from our garden tours in the communities surrounding Denver. I am not a camping and hiking kind of girl but both my adult sons are very into kayaking, fishing and all things outdoors so I decided a trip to what I soon learned is the flagship REI might give me some new street (forest?) cred with my boys. Who would have thought my second retail adventure in Denver would take me back to the birth of this mile high city?

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It was overcast as I approached Confluence Park and REI, walking the mile or so northwest on 15th Street from my hotel. This photo is taken from East Confluence Park where there is a pretty shade pavilion and this great stone leaf in which was nestled a little boy wrapped in a wet towel, fresh from some play at the river’s edge.

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In fact, every one of the several kiddos in that family had to take a turn in the leaf’s embrace before they all packed back into their vehicle and I got my turn.

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Confluence and East Confluence Parks are two of Denver’s most urban parks. They encompass the green space at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek which is just north of Denver’s Lower Downtown historic district. During the Gold Rush it was at this junction that gold miners established a settlement for trade and commerce in 1858. When the gold panning no longer yielded riches, the settlement reinvented itself as the supply hub for new mines in the mountains. The city of Denver eventually grew out of this mining camp.

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Shoemaker Plaza with REI in the background

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From the 15th Street bridge over the South Platte River, you can see quite far upriver. Shoemaker Plaza on the river’s bank is a venue for outdoor concerts and picnics. Biking and hiking trails run along the river. On this cloudy day there were a few folks relaxing on the banks and a big yellow dog who was having a great time.

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Public art on the Plaza

REI’s 90,000 square foot Denver flagship store occupies the historic Denver Tramway Power Company building over looking Confluence Park and the river. It has its own Starbucks with a lovely outdoor seating area which was full of young people sipping their coffees and working on their tablets while enjoying at the fresh air and the sound of the rushing river.

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The building housed the boilers and engines used to generate electricity for the streetcars which were the main link from Denver to the suburbs. Water from the river cooled the powerhouse’s turbines and there was easy access to coal due to adjacent rail lines. At the height of its operations, the Tramway Company owned 160 miles of track and more than 250 streetcars. The system was decommissioned in 1950 and the building was subsequently used as a warehouse and later, to house the Forney Historic Transportation Museum. REI acquired the property in 1998.

REI Co-op was born in 1938 of the need for a better source to obtain a quality ice axe for a reasonable price–which explains its choice of door hardware. Today it has 154 stores in 35 state and the District of Columbia and more than 13,000 employees, all dedicated to bringing consumers top quality outdoor gear and experiences.

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REI’s commitment to the careful use of resources made the rehabilitation of this historic building a project which supports the environmental concerns of its members both through responsible business practices and direct support of conservation causes.  There is an amazing amount of information about this rehab project online–just Google REI Denver Flagship store or REI Denver Tramway Power Company if you’d like to read more details.

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Camping anyone?

Being a REI virgin, I thought I might participate in whatever activities were going on in the store or pick up a small souvenir. I felt pretty foolish asking some passerby to snap my photo in front of the store. More so, letting anyone else see me taking a selfie in front of the store!

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Ok, so maybe experientially this might not be for me–the 40 foot tall Pinnacle. Although I did find out that a class was available for beginners after which I could have my first pint of beer free at Denver Beer Company.

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The small boulder outside was more my level–these girls were doing time trials with Mom manning the stop watch

Maybe a kayak is more my style…

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Or one of these colorful sleeping bags…

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From the second floor catwalks I could really get a sense of the structure of the building and what a great job REI did preserving what they could and making their needed improvements in a  style that was complimentary to the inherent industrial look. My first REI so no way to know if they all look like this!

Feeling ever so much more outdoorsy than I did when I walked in, I took a pedestrian bridge back across the South Platte towards Centennial Park.

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Just before the bridge the power of the water is really evident 
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I’m sure REI has a class entitled “Kayaking for 66 year old beginners with marginal upper body strength” What do you think?

I ventured on to Centennial Gardens and saw some more fun outdoor public art on my way back to the hotel–another post for all that.

 

 

 

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!

 

Postcards from Denver…

Hello friends! In the short 32 hours since visiting the High Plains Environmental Center (In a daze near Denver…High Plains Environmental Center), the traveling Garden Bloggers Fling 2019 participants have toured nine private gardens, one public garden and the home of Botanical Interests, a family owned seed company known to gardeners across the US. All were in the communities outside of Denver proper. Tomorrow, on our last full day of touring we will stay closer into the city visiting the Denver Botanic Garden and one of its extensions, Chatfield Farms plus six more private gardens.

With over 500 photos to sort through already to do each garden justice, I am going to tease you with just one snap of each garden–sort of a postcard from me to you just to show you what I’ve been doing on my vacation. Each garden will get a full post over the next few weeks.

THE GARDENS ON SPRING CREEK IN FT. COLLINS

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THE GARDEN OF JAN AND RICHARD DEVORE IN FT. COLLINS

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THE GARDEN OF CAROL AND RANDY SHINN IN FT. COLLINS

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BOTANICAL INTERESTS SEED COMPANY IN BROOMFIELD

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THE GARDEN OF JEAN MORGAN IN LOUISVILLE

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THE GARDEN OF JIM AND LAURA STROUSE IN LAFAYETTE

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THE GARDEN OF LAURA BOLEY IN BOULDER

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THE GARDEN OF TATIANA MAXWELL IN BOULDER

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THE GARDEN OF MARY AND LARRY SCRIPTER IN NIWOT

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THE GARDEN OF SCOTT AND PAULA DEEMER IN NIWOT

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THE GARDEN OF JUDY SEABORN IN NIWOT

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More postcards from Denver tomorrow…

In a daze near Denver…High Plains Environmental Center

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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

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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.

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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

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We don’t always co-ordinate our outfits to the border colors!

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.

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The mountain ninebark, Physocarpus monogynus, was in full bloom.

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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.

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Several nice colonies of showy milkweed caught everyone’s eye.

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A logistically lucky shot caught its flower in all stages.

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I think the penstemon were the stars of today’s show. I think this is Penstemon strictus, the Rocky Mountain penstemon.

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Penstemon grandiflorus

THE HEIRLOOM FRUIT ORCHARD

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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

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The Jeffers barn at the far end bears this banner–Nourishing Children Through Nature–what an inspiring thought

Garden plots here are cultivated by local families and the garden serves as an outdoor classroom for instructional the cultivation of food crops.

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A living willow tunnel connects this garden to the Native Plants Demonstration Garden

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Talking red wigglers with staff member Lauren

THE NATIVE PLANT NURSERY

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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.

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THE WILD ZONE

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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!

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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!

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In a daze in Denver…morning walkabout

Having arrived in Denver yesterday about 4 hours later than anticipated, I lost my half day exploring time to fatigue and dusk. As the 2019 Garden Bloggers Fling itinerary opens with ID badge pick up mid afternoon today followed closely by the evening welcome reception I have only a few hours this morning to wander the Lower Downtown Historic District of Denver–referred to by locals (or perhaps only the tourist maps) as LoDo.

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Denver has a wonderful public transit system–I rode in from the airport on the A-Line commuter rail then jumped on the 16th Street Mallride which took me only a block from my hotel. The Mallride runs continuously for about a mile on 16th Street which is closed to other vehicle traffic, with stops every block in both directions. My plan for the morning is to ride it back toward its terminus at Union Station to see the Millennium Bridge then walk the way back to see what’s on this street packed with shops and restaurants.

First, a quick detour to visit an immigrant from my home state of California…

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Entitled I See What You Mean but known locally as The Big Blue Bear, this iconic 40 foot bear stands peering into the wall of windows at the Denver Convention Center.

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Clearly a favorite spot for tourist photos, the big boy weighs about 10,000 pounds and cost about $425,000 to install. Artist Lawrence Argent was tasked with creating a work which would represent Colorado without the clichéd symbols such as trees and mountains. The bear was inspired by a newspaper article in which a Colorado resident relates encountering a curious bear peaking into his home, the incident being representative of the everyday interaction between humans and wildlife in Colorado.

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Is he interested in what’s inside or in his own reflection?
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Looking almost as though he is in his natural tree laden habitat

The bear, constructed in California and installed in 2005, was not always intended to be blue. The artist saw a mock up of the piece mistakenly printed in blue and the Big Blue Bear was born! Artist Lawrence Argent passed away in 2017 and is also known for two other mammoth sized creatures: a 49 foot giant panda in a Chinese Mall and a 56 foot long rabbit hopping through the Sacramento, CA airport.

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The Big Blue Bear as viewed from inside the Denver Convention Center

A quick ride on the 16th Street Mallride takes me to the base of the Millennium Bridge.

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The Denver Millennium Bridge is the world’s first cable stayed bridge built using post-tensioned structural construction. No water here–this bridge offers pedestrians and bicyclists a way across the massive railroad track system. Construction started in 1999 and the bridge opened in 2002. The white tapered steel mast rises 200 feet and is connected to the bridge deck and foundation anchored by steel cables. By the numbers the  bridge is quite small–only 131 feet long and 26 feet wide.

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View of the northwestern skyline from the bridge
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Looking back from the bridge
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Looking up at the mast and web of cables
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The mast and cables as reflected in the adjacent mirrored glass office building

First stop on my walk back will be Union Station where I arrived in Denver yesterday. It looks totally different this morning. I arrived a bit after 5 pm yesterday–rush hour AND just as the Colorado Rockies-Chicago Cubs game ended and very nearby Coors Field was spilling out its thousands of fans bound for dinner and drinks on 16th Street.

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The historic and the modern co-exist peacefully at Denver’s Union Station. Union Station was established in 1881 as the hub of Denver rail traffic and it remains so today, its historic buildings beautifully restored and surrounded by modern shade sails and gleaming highrises. The stationary car is one of the domed cars previously running on the Summit View line.

Visible in the distance from the tracks and platforms was this interesting moving piece of art sitting high over the trains. I finally found the way up to the overhead walkway which offered an up-close view.

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I wasn’t able to immediately locate any information about this piece of public art. It very much resembles a moving oil pump like those we see in California around the Bakersfield area.

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Union Station’s interior is meticulously restored–like stepping back into time, only with free wi-fi. Also within the station is the upscale Crawford Hotel which offers tours of Union Station in addition to lodging and meeting rooms.

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Train station memorabilia

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Having entered Union Station on the railroad track side I exited on the Wynkoop Street side where I found this art installation. There is no plaque or attribution but after surfing the net for a bit I located the website of the artist, Jim Sanborn. The piece is a bronze projection cylinder entitled Meridian and stands 12 feet tall and 5 feet wide.

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Unfortunately there is no information on the website specific to the piece, other than a photo and its title. This artist has done many projection cylinders–when the piece is lit from the inside at night the words project on the ground around the cylinder. In this case the wording appears to be a chronological history of the area. Notice the words at the top of the piece are in Spanish and follow the date 1776. I will definitely visit this artwork after dark to see the projection!

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A few other Denver transportation notes…wildlife apparently both ride bikes and skateboards and would like you to do so also–at least on June 26.

Yes, there are scooters…EVERYWHERE…and people, young and old, are zipping around on them. They not only ride but also take selfies and text at the same time.

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Even though I learned yesterday that the absolute best photo op for Coors Stadium, home of the Colorado Rockies, is from a moving train (and I missed it!) I’m going to see what I can see of the stadium by wandering down Wynkoop Street–I think it’s down that way somewhere! I pass the old Union Pacific Railroad building, now a trendy eatery.

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The back of the building now houses condos with easy access to the stadium on game day and a variety of dining options just a few floors down.

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I’m heading literally toward left field thinking that is all I’m going to get to see of the stadium when a worker from a massive new development being built in the stadium’s west lot approaches me, thinking I’m lost, and tells me how to get to the stadium’s main entrance.

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There were a number of these nicely shaped trees near the stadium. The leaves were two fairly distinctive colors–limey and medium green next to each other. I am sure by the end of my Denver daze I’ll know what these are.

Even without the game day activity it is an imposing building–all red brick with all its trim painted in a rich dark green which I have seen all over the historic district. Much like the blackish green known all over the south as Charleston green, I’m guessing this reminiscent of the forest green is known here as Denver green.

Denver’s got a lot going on in this part of town…

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A local craft brewery is growing hops on cables up the side of their building.

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A colorful herd of bison (buffalo??) is passing through.

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Old and new words have found homes painted on their buildings.

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Thrifty, eco-conscious drinkers have pooled their bottle caps to make cool, colorful planter boxes.

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What other city has an informational cow?

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Colorful planters are springing to life everywhere.

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There is an iconic clock tower which can be seen from both ends of the 16th Street mall.

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And a money museum at the local branch of the Federal Reserve. I wonder what you can get in the gift shop?

More to show, more to tell as our Fling itinerary is about to begin! Fling? What’s a Fling? Look back at my 2017 post Garden Bloggers Spring Fling…getting to know you! to find out what this is all about. Denver–here we come!

 

June 6…National Gardening Exercise Day

June 6 is National Gardening Exercise Day. I am not sure what authoritative body decides on all these special days and I am sure they don’t mean to lead us to believe that we only have to get some exercise in our gardens just once a year! My June Gamble Garden membership newsletter says, “Research shows that gardening for just 30 minutes a day can help increase flexibility, strengthen joints, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels, lower your risk of diabetes, and slow osteoporosis. So go ahead and dig those holes, shovel that dirt and pull those weeds. The true celebration is when your garden rewards you for all your hard work!”

Gardening maven Hyacinth and her friends from the Clovis Botanical Garden 2018 Scarecrow contest are not necessarily demonstrating good garden exercise form but are loving playing in the dirt, surrounded by nature.

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MAKE PLANTS YOUR PERSONAL TRAINER!