Jean Morgan’s garden doesn’t take itself too seriously. She strives to offer food, water and refuge for butterflies in all their life stages (including the eating your plants to a naked stem phase) and rest plus a sip of water for her bird visitors within a native landscape that can get by when it needs to with virtually no supplemental water.
Jean is standing at the ready to greet us but most of us have stopped to take in the shallow plant filled front yard which runs the length of her cottage.
While there are quite a few permanent plantings, including this rose, the overwhelming sense of this front bed is that of masses of freely seeding wildflowers. Blue love-in-a-mist is everywhere, including cracks in the asphalt surface of the street. There are large colonies of both pink evening primrose and yellow sundrops–both of the genus Oenothera. Although Jean has both natives and non-natives, she admits that in a conflict where one must go–the natives win every time.
From the Denver postcards–this chocolate guardian angel watches over the yellow flowered Berlandiera lyrata, chocolate flower. The flower heads of this plants were used by native Americans to flavor their foods. Jean shares that passersby often pick up the Hershey’s wrappers she has used to highlight the plant’s fragrance and bring them to her with apologies for the actions of a careless litterer.
Jean’s home is one of Louisville’s historic miner’s cabins. The left photo shows its original size and the right photo is of the miner who built the cabin. Jean has lived and gardened here since 1972 when her passion started with a few hens-and-chicks given to her by a neighbor.
Jean believes that every garden belongs to the gardener who tends and loves it. She clearly enjoys her garden every day and revels in seeing the birds and butterflies who make it their home. She is active in community causes including the preservation of other miner’s cabins in danger of demolition. Jean is also involved in annual Boulder County butterfly inventories conducted by Jan Chu, author of Butterflies of the Colorado Front Range. Her cabin and very personal outdoor space shines in a small, clearly aging neighborhood only a block from the railroad tracks–the only thing brighter I saw was her enthusiasm for sharing her garden with us.
Six hundred tons is the tally for the Colorado sandstone used to build the walls, ponds and waterfalls in the garden of Tatiana Maxwell. This post will be photo rich–every time I went through the 75+ pictures I took of this beautiful and peaceful property trying to decide what I could eliminate…well, you get the idea!
The Maxwell home is on about 1/2 acre corner lot in the Old North Boulder neighborhood and was completed in 2010. Tatiana’s original vision for her garden was a more traditional English cottage garden but brainstorming with a friend, Thea Alvin of myEarthwork and local permaculturalist Marco Lam opened her eyes to more possibilities. Even after reading a bit about permaculture I am still not sure what its principles are but here’s how I’m going to sum it up: using perfect plants for the climate and only what works in the local environment and cultural conditions rather than starting your design process with the plants you want to use and trying to adapt your site and cultural habits to them.
We started our ramble on the driveway. I will admit I had been in the garden for almost 30 minutes before I realized there actually was a front door. I thought she had no back garden even as I was actually already in it. Let’s just walk right up the driveway which runs from street to property line near the back of one side of the lot.
Between the guest house/greenhouse and the fenced vegetable garden is the family’s handy bike storage. Tatiana’s plan was to create an urban oasis where she would be “cocooned in nature.”
The two vegetable gardens produce a broad array of vegetables through three seasons. There are also fruit trees and berry bushes plus a couple of fig trees which live in the greenhouse.
The garage is tucked on the east side of the driveway with a detached studio then nestled between the house and the driveway, a narrow walkway separating the two. As with the greenhouse and gardens no detail was spared on this charming little building.
This colorful trio lights adds interest to a very narrow planting space between the studio and the driveway. I believe the upper left is a contorted filbert, Corylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’; upper right is one of the lime leafed barberries; below them is a red hot poker plant.
The front door of the studio is protected by a unique glass and iron awning. The door frame has this southwestern influenced tile work and the same rustic wood found on the window frames.
Yes, it’s true that I’ve been basically hanging out on the driveway til now. Let’s dive deep into the garden!
Tatiana Maxwell wanted to have a garden space in which she could host events for causes she is passionate about and the broad lawn provides ample space several hundred people to be seated.
The entire south side of the lot is enclosed with a massive very high stacked stone wall which turns the corners on both the east and west sides, allowing for several elevations of planting places on the interior of the walls. These beds are lushly panted with a variety of foliage colors, shapes, sizes and textures.
I literally stood mid-lawn and turned 180 degrees right to left to photograph the interior borders. They are well kept but not fussy–looks to me like a gardener who likes to be out in her garden snipping and picking here and there.
It was not until I had walked out far enough to take this photo that I recognized that this patio was not the front of the home–that we had actually entered at the back of the property.
I love this somewhat understated front entrance into a home which I’m sure is very large and beautifully appointed. It says to me that this home is about Tatiana’s connection to her family, garden, neighbors and friends rather than that she needs a “grand entrance” to make a statement about who she is to those who don’t know her. Again, old world and international details set the tone.
It’s time to walk back to our buses, still parked by the driveway. Now I get to see what I would have normally taken in first on any garden tour–the street view. Behind its stacked sandstone walls, Tatiana’s home is virtually invisible except for a the space open to the lawn on the east side.
I found both this home and its garden very appealing. I have never seen so much rock in any other garden anywhere but many lush plantings soften it throughout. Equally suited to a young family or empty-nesters, this property could meet most everyone’s desire’s for ornamentals and edibles plus a wide swathe of lawn. Gardens that look so casually beautiful are not without maintenance but the permaculture nature lends itself to the need for less water, less fertilizer and lower energy requirements. Every garden requires maintenance and I think working in this one would be a great pleasure.
Mary and Larry’s rural Niwot garden occupies about a quarter of their 5 acre lot. With roads on two sides of their property and fields on the other two, you couldn’t ask for a more serene location. Unless you could also have an unobstructed view of the Rocky Mountains–did I mention that they enjoy that also?
Adding to their sense of privacy, a long driveway well treed on both sides brings us to their neat 70s ranch home. Mary notes in her garden profile that they started their garden in about 2011 challenged with bindweed, thistle, quack grass, dying aspen trees and clay soil. I don’t even know what those first three things are but I’m sensing they are not good.
The barn takes on a quasi desert look with this colony of shapely yuccas. Larry recounted that plants in this group have all descended from a small one he found out in the field and stuck in the dry ground. When asked what species of yucca they were (as garden bloggers do) he replied dryly, “field yuccas”.
This sprightly little pine had a spot just at the end of the field yuccas. It is one of the lodgepole pines, Pinus contorta ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ and should reach 12 ft. high and 8 ft. wide and sports those new bright yellow needles for about two months each spring. Although this pine was new to me it would not be the last time I saw it during my Denver stay.
Mary’s front porch adjacent plantings were colorful and traditional–roses, salvia, and a number of other low fillers not yet in bloom.
It was impossible not to gawk at the exquisite woodwork around the front door, not at all usual for the style and age of the home. Larry shared that one of Mary’s many endeavors had been dealing in European antiques and that this piece was from a French cathedral.
The garden slopes down at the end of the home and as we descend the stairs, Mary’s numerous fairy gardens, both sun and shade, come into view.
At the northwest corner of the garden work began in 2011 to add privacy from the road and increase bird habit. The design was done by Lauren Ogden Springer, an internationally known garden rock star who lives and gardens in nearby Ft. Collins. She and her husband, Scott, have written two books together: Waterwise Plants forSustainableGardens (Timber Press 2011) and Plant-Driven Design (Timber Press 2008). Lauren also authored The UndauntedGarden: Planting for Water-Resilient Beauty (Fulcrum Publishing 2011). She is currently overseeing the planting of a newly designed public garden named the Undaunted Garden at The Gardens at Spring Creek which is on our tour itinerary. The Scripter privacy screen contains over 60 trees and shrubs planted with the help of their backhoe and 600 blue grama and little bluestem grasses. To deter the weeds and keep the new plantings moist they were covered with free mulch from tree contractors. Now established, the area is only watered about four times per year.
In 2012, Larry prepped the area behind their home which was destined to become their own personal prairie meadow using 800 pounds of alfalfa pellets and 10 cubic yards of compost, working it into existing clay soil with his tractor. With Lauren Springer Ogden’s meadow design in hand, Mary spray painted the ground, laying out the matrix of plants, section by section.
From Mary’s garden profile, “Over a period of three weeks, we planted 1,800 plants, including 70 types of perennials, shrubs, native wildflowers, and 13 types of grasses. In the fall of the same year, we planted 1,500 bulbs–daffodils, camassias, tiger lilies, eremurus, gladiolus and various alliums plus many flowers for cutting.” Using a shovel and a wheelbarrow, Larry spread 25 tons of pea gravel around all the precious plants to deter weeds from the hayfield and retain moisture. They had realized their goal of having a prairie meadow with a view of the Rockies.
Keep in mind that this meadow was covered with snow a short three weeks ago. While it is mostly green now, it has many diverse plant colonies which will come into bloom throughout the summer and probably reach its peak in August.
This prairie meadow under the big Colorado sky lies not much more than a hay field away from the Lagerman Reservoir. Mary had laid out several bug spray options for us on the deck and you only had to venture out into the meadow to understand why–it was swarming with mosquitoes. Many of us, including me, just weren’t able to spend much time photographing plant groupings because you couldn’t stand too long in one spot before they found you!!
This striking bird bath was one of my favorite meadow elements. Mary shares that the ever changing meadow landscape is full of life year-round, including hundreds of birds. The entire meadow is a certified Pollinator Habitat, feeding wild bees and the bees from neighboring farms.
Viewing the meadow from the southwestern end of the back garden. This area is shaded and planted with many traditional shade loving species.
The shaded back deck is perfect for relaxing and enjoying the view of the meadow and the Rockies beyond.
The back deck bears witness to another part of Mary’s collecting life when she dealt in cowboy and western items. This vintage Americana seems just right for Colorado decor.
This delightful photographic essay on the meadow development which also included photos of the Scripter’s family and friends was available for us to enjoy.
Although the meadow is now well established, the Scripters concede that no garden is ever done. A meadow this size requires significant maintenance with weeds, weather and critters all being unpredictable factors from year to year. Regardless of the work involved to maintain their stunning long range view from the meadow to the mountains, they express that they are very grateful to live here. I am very grateful that Mary and Larry were willing to share their garden with us.
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.
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.
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.
The largest of the crevice gardens as viewed from several angles.
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.”
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.
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.
On the opposite side of the path, creative pots combined with diverse foliage colors light up the shade.
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.
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.
A vegetable garden occupies the back corner of the garden, mostly obscured from the view from the house and main patio area.
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.
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.
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!