Our tour took us to an old Victorian-era neighborhood in Denver, where the lots are small and the houses quaint. It’s one of those areas which used to be an iffy place to live but in recent years has become gentrified at a rapid pace. The current trend among homeowners there is to replace all the grass with a patchwork of plants and shrubs which are hopefully low maintenance and drought-tolerant. I don’t think I can be convinced that maintaining 100 plants in a postage stamp-sized area is easier or more water-wise than having a lawn, but that’s just me. The house above was not one of the gardens on view, but was next door to one, and its "painted lady" architecture overshadowed our interest in the neighbor’s garden. And it had grass, which my husband approved of.
My husband does like ice plants (delosperma). He remembers being wowed by California’s abundant use of them on the sides of the highways in San Diego years ago and has been fond of them ever since. He doesn’t want to grow them, but he likes them. So when we saw this huge circular bed of them in a minimalist Japanese garden he wondered how a southern California plant could grow so well in Colorado. I told him that was thanks to Panayoti Kelaidis (a renowned plantsman at the Denver Botanic Gardens), who collected seeds from South Africa about 10 years ago and hybridized them into an ice plant that survives Zone 5 winters.
Never mind that I’ve had a patch of them growing in the front yard for several years, he was suspicious of my explanation so he asked the homeowner how she could grow ice plants in this climate. She said, “Oh, that’s because Panayoti Kelaidis introduced them here.” The dubious gardener and I continued our tour.
I really enjoyed the above garden. There’s nothing like a bright blue stand of Bachelor’s buttons to catch the eye, and flanked by a patch of Sweet William in varying colors, it was a pretty sight. Colorful poppies added to the mix. This garden also had a lot of the small yellowish-orange California poppies which had self-sown in every nook and cranny. The dubious gardener wondered what they were and when I identified them he said, “Looks like onions to me.” Actually he was looking at a patch of onions. We make a habit of misunderstanding each other. He liked this garden too except for the fact there was no grass.
Having been fortified by a quick beer at a metal sculpture garden (no pictures of that, the beer went to my head) we soldiered on to garden number 12, or 13, or 14. I couldn’t remember by then. But it had lots of roses. Apparently north Denver got even more rain than we did, because the plants are taller and the roses huge. Or maybe they just have more sun or are a bit more disciplined about fertilizing.
I liked the placement of this dwarf Blue Spruce in a green-glazed pot which was a nice complement of colors. The homeowner apologized for having very few flowers to show because her new puppy had spent the morning biting the heads off them. No problem. The dubious gardener admired her nice swath of lawn and complimented her on her good taste, and then, tour done, we headed back to our respective houses to - what else? – mow our lawns.