Sunday, June 10, 2007

Other people's gardens

In Colorado, June is the month for garden tours. And Saturday was my husband’s birthday so of course I took him out for a day of doing what I like – visiting gardens. We started at his house where his main pastime is mowing the lawn - he grows Kentucky bluegrass and little else but doesn’t mind seeing what other people are doing even if he doesn’t agree.

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.

These folks claimed to have an all-edible front garden. How’s this for creeping thyme? The gardener had two huge patches of these, one on each side of his front walkway and as we approached them the thyme appeared to be buzzing and humming. It was. There were hundreds of bees swarming over the blossoms, belying the “vanishing of the bees”, at least in this garden. The description of the garden mentioned recycled rain barrels in the backyard but someone must have given him the heads-up that it’s against the law in Colorado to collect rainwater because they were nowhere in sight.

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.


Zoey said...

What a fun day!
For some reason I was thinking you were a single lady. I am all confused now that you have mentioned a husband. :)

KC MO Garden Guy said...

Wow you toured a lot of gardens in a day! The tour my garden is on has 5 and I thought that was a lot. I love the comedy in your post especally the one of the dubious gardener. Everyone needs one in their life. Now if I could get mine into his own house that would be great!!

Carol said...

Very interesting tour commentary, and very interesting insight about you, Lost Roses. I do like that painted lady!

Bob said...

Love the colour commentary. Always enjoy your blog. It always amazing that when going to nurseries or doing garden tours it reminds me of all the opportunities I have in my yard. Oh! that reminds me --- I have to go out and dead head the roses :)

All the best, Bob

LostRoses said...

Zoey, sorry for the confusion! It does sound that way but there is quite a simple explanation. Almost 20 years ago we agreed to disagree and have maintained separate households ever since. We vacation together, go out to dinner (and garden tours) together. What we don't do is live together!

KC, I'm glad you enjoyed it! It is rather amusing to tour with a dubious gardener, it kind of gives you a different perspective on things! The tour was actually 19 gardens in all. It was rather a lot, but most of the gardens were quite small. This is the largest tour we go on, and I wonder how people manage Garden Walk (over 200 gardens) in Buffalo. I think folks who open their gardens for tours are a brave lot, so kudos to you!

Hmm, have you thought about a carriage house in the back yard(grin)?

Carol, I feel like I just did "a reveal" like they do on home improvement shows! Mine was just a little slower in coming but seemed appropriate for this post.

I couldn't resist the painted lady. When I asked the homeowner if I could take the photo I probably should have mentioned it was going on my garden blog! She has a lot to be proud of as they did the work of restoring it themselves over a period of 9 years. Oh, and she had a lovely garden of roses too.

Bob, thanks! You're so right about discovering opportunities by looking at other people's gardens. I usually come home with an idea or two or find myself wondering why I never thought of doing something a certain way. Oh yeah, deadheading roses, that's where I'm heading right now!

Rosalind said...

Please could you explain to a bemused Brit why it's against the law to collect rainwater in Colorado? Seems like a good idea to me in this era of global warming, every liuttle helps, especially in the garden!

CountryGirl said...

Why is it husbands never believe us? I absolutely love that he got that same answer you gave him! I love garden tours and seeing what other gardeners are doing.

LostRoses said...

Rosalind, water is like gold in the semi-arid western United States. Here in Colorado our water laws state that precipitation fall to the ground, run off and into the watershed where it fell. Because water rights are legally allocated by the state, an individual may not capture and use water to which he/she does not have a right to. So, it may fall on my roof, but I can't keep it!

Besides, Arizona needs it for all their golf courses, and California needs to water their veggies. ;-)

Countrygirl, I think it's some kind of law of nature. But every once in a while it works in our favor!

Mary said...

Lost Roses, I loved this post. I'm glad your husband loves grass and ice plants as much as mine does :o)

The gardens were extraordinary and I'm glad you took the time to show us.

I'd love to have a quick beer with you while on a colorful walk.

rusty in miami said...

That was a great post, I enjoyed it, and the pictures are great. I was going to ask you about that law on rain water. That law sounds a bit antiquated, rain barrels are great water conservation measures. I am thinking about installing some in my garden.

Mary Carlson said...

Lost Roses - loved your post. I lived in Colorado for 7 years (1967-74) and had never heard of that law, although I never did collect rain water back then. Question for you - is that Victorian-era neighborhood in the "downtown" area, or just outside of the downtown area? Or is it south towards Cherry Creek? That's a beautiful looking house. And that hybridized ice plant was a surprise. That is beautiful creeping thyme. I thought mine looked good. :) Thanks for sharing your garden tour.

Naturegirl said...

I also attended a garden tour this weekend. In yours I loved the creeping thyme and the dwarf blue spruce! Oh I forgot the roses too!!! thank you for sharing! hugs NG

LostRoses said...

Mary, yeah, grass and ice plants, those are his favorites! Is that a "guy" thing? The beer was a nice break, I'd take you up on that!

Rusty, well,one would think it would be a great conservation measure, but they don't want us using what we haven't paid for, basically! Here's the way it works here - we get no nonsense water restrictions and when we follow them (which people are generally good about) they raise the rates because they haven't sold enough water. Oh, those bureaucrats.

Mary Carlson, oh, another Coloradan (sort of)! The metro area has changed so much since 1974, if you haven't been back to visit you'd barely recognize it. The garden tour was in northwest Denver, west of the Platte River; it overlooks downtown.

I know what you mean about thinking your thyme looked good until you saw that picture. That's what I thought about some of the plantings, too!

Naturegirl, glad you enjoyed it! It was really cool to see all those gardens. I hope the tour you went on was just as much fun to see!

Zoey said...

I came looking for the neon pink Zepherine rose with the orange zinnias.

Surely you will post a picture of this? LOL. I want to see what I will have to look forward to all summer on my own deck.

Have a great day.

Carol said...

Great tour LR! I especially love the rose pictures! Thanks for sharing! Carol xox

Yolanda Elizabet said...

LOL, you are one wicked lady. This post cracked me up. The dubious gardener and his lawns are hilarious!

Great pic of that painted lady, I love those houses! And that thyme, no wonder it was humming with life.

The pics of the roses are simply lovely. It sounds like you had a really nice day, good for you!

LostRoses said...

Zoey, It's pouring rain this evening so if there are any roses left that are not shattered I'll take a photo tomorrow and then try to get up the nerve to post it! What was I thinking? Ha ha

Carol, good to hear from you again! I know you've been very busy in your gorgeous garden so I am going over to take a peek.

Yolanda, glad you liked the post! It was an amusing day and the dubious gardener makes me laugh especially when he's not trying to. The painted lady, the thyme...we saw some really nifty things, and oh,those roses! No lost ones there, for sure.

EAL said...

Nice tour!

Our lots are small in Buffalo too and that is exactly why I think a perennial/shrub/grouncover mix works better than grass. Nothing more pathetic than a tiny square of ratty-looking grass. It is very difficult to keep the grass good-looking in that situation, for many reasons.

That Painted Lady (beautiful renovation) reminds me of a lot of the houses on the Bflo tour.