I'll have a Denver on the Rocks Bartender -and Make it a Double !

Coming home from Fling with a desire to rip out the whole garden and start over is a common though impractical sentiment. Common to me I should add.  Different climate zone, different plants, different soils, different plot size, but still the raw hunger to possess an Eden of sorts where one can grow anything, anytime and have a garden like the one we just saw today or yesterday or the day before persists. My own garden never looks as good when I come home as it did before I ventured forth to visit those of others. Still, after 30years of gardening where I live,  I have learned which envelopes I can push, how much energy I'm willing to ante up to create a faux climate for plants that won't thrive in mine, and how to let go of  the gardens I will never have.

 My garden is in USDA 9 , Sunset zone 15. Denver is in USDA 5b , Sunset zone 2A-defined as 'Warmer Summer Intermountain'.  Because Denver is in the west, and experiences only an average of 15 inches of rainfall per year, I assumed (setting aside winter temps) the dry climate would be summer-dry like mine.I asked at one of the gardens what the ratio  was of rain to snow in what I thought was a combination stat of total precipitation.I didn't frame my question well and answer I got was ambiguous, so when I got home I looked up all the average monthly rain and snow totals for Denver. I was surprised to see, unlike here in wine country,  the 15" of rain falls every month  year round, with the highest totals in July and August--our driest months in Northern California. So, though there is less rainfall, on average there are no rain less summer months, in contrast with my region which typically sees zero precipitation from June through September-or longer.  The Denver snow total on average is 55" with the highest accumulation in March. There are various formulas that convert snow into inches of rain, but the number is highly dependent on the type of snow i.e sleet, powder, heavy wet snow etc. The most common conversion I saw was 10" snow=1" rain, but don't quote me.  I am no expert on snow-I have managed to avoid it most of my life except for a few years when I lived in northern Arizona , and a couple of ill-timed visits to Portland. Not a fan.

 So you may be wondering what the point is of this long meteorological ramble . It's simply this: I was completely captivated with the gardens of Denver Fling, particularly the rock and crevice gardens. I spent a week trying to justify how I could create something similar in my own garden, but I am on the valley floor close to the river and though there are places in this valley that are rocky and steep and would easily support a Colorado style rockery, my location isn't one of them. Not to mention the expense involved in creating such a garden. So I'll satisfy myself with introducing some rock garden plants I saw that I know are available and will grow here.

  Lets have a look at some of the great rock gardens we toured in Denver.

  First the garden of Carol and Randy Shinn. The Shinns are retired educators and current creatives and have made  an outstanding garden in a suburban neighborhood of Fort Collins. Not pictured are the insanely dramatic Peonys -I might have to do a Denver Peony post.



 Having also traveled to the PNW in June, I'm suffering from some pretty acute conifer envy.




 The Shinns' entire front garden was a splendid example of Colorado rock garden style, one of my favorites. They also served wine. Bonus points for that.



 The Linda Boley garden in Boulder is another example of a rock-garden front yard; this one with the backdrop of a nifty mid-century style exterior.This garden will get it's own post at some point in the future.






Who doesn't love Sempervivums spilling out of the crevices of  retaining walls ?









More rocky outcroppings awaited us at Denver Botanic Gardens, and I had to include a photo of this Bouteloua , which I spent way to much of our brief time here staring at and photographing. I was unable to find a tag and my internet search was inconclusive. 'Blonde Ambition's dark-tressed alter-ego.


 Denver Botanic Gardens York Street  was our lunch spot and the hour we had to explore didn't allow for an in-depth visit of this 24 acre site. Many Flingers were forward thinking enough to add a day to the trip to allow for a return visit. My plan is to return to Denver in September of 2020 . These images were all taken in and around the Steppe Garden area.




 This corner lot in Centennial is the garden of Keith and Retha Funk, and features a large front garden pond and patio with the colorfully planted rocky landscape sloping down to the sidewalk below.The patio was both a scenic overlook and a hospitable front-porch style space to allow friendly interactions with neighbors passing by.






I hope to post more about the beautiful gardens of the Denver area in the next few months   Be sure to visit the Garden Bloggers Fling website for links to more posts about the interesting and diverse gardens the Denver team of organizers arranged for us to visit.

Comments

  1. The rock gardens of Denver were superb. It's not a common style of garden in Austin either, despite all our natural rock, so it was fun to see what those enterprising Colorado gardeners are doing.

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    1. I would venture to say this style may have been a rarity 15 or 20 years ago when the rock garden was the purview of plant-geek alpine collectors. Regular gardeners were probably trying to grow English style borders like the rest of us ! I'm glad the rocks have come out of the shadows.

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  2. I think the grass that captivated your attention is Harpochloa falx, available from Far Reaches Farm. The Denver rock gardens were pretty cool, but unlike you I didn't come away with any desire to recreate them here. Thanks for sharing your great photos!

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    1. You are my hero Alison ! Not only did you tell me what it was, you told me where to get it ! I was so certain it was a Bouteloua -the flowers are so similar. My desire to create a rock garden was short lived, but my desire to go back to Denver next year will be a reality.

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  3. The rock gardens were captivating...and like you, I so wish I could grow conifers.

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    1. Oh the conifer thing Gail. I can grow some of them , but there are limits-the main one being real estate.

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  4. Isn't the study of when the rain falls in our gardens interesting? I was reminded of the summer rain of Denver just yesterday when I looked at my newly planted (Denver inspired) collection of sempervivum, they were so thirsty and a little crispy. Poor things.

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    1. I got into the weeds a bit ! I lived in high desert canyonlands for a few years way back when and should have expected late summer rain from the southwest monsoon season. My Semps look like crap right now too, but they always plump in winter and spring. They seem to do better for me with morning sun only.

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  5. I was taken by the rock gardens too. I've already been growing dianthus and erodium with my succulents, and the Denver trip gave this direction a boost.

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    1. Dianthus and Erodium are on the list , along with Lewisia. All available in these parts.

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  6. Great images, Kathy! I was so entranced with Denver's rocky plantings and crevice gardens that I came home and immediately ordered the DBG Steppe book for further reference and inspiration.

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    1. Thanks Jane ! Good for you for ordering the book and doing research before you start buying plants -one must occasionally show restraint !

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  7. I SO wish I'd made it to this Fling. I experienced some of the same kind of angst about my garden when I returned from the 2 Flings I've attended thus far but then summer isn't the best time for comparisons of any kind as my garden doldrums peak during the summer season. I vaguely recall reading a comment that Denver's gardens are at their height in June and the flower fiesta doesn't last long.

    Thanks for sharing a selection of your pics. I look forward to your more detailed coverage.

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    1. I'm sorry you had to miss it Kris ! I was excited about a Denver Fling but my expectations were definitely exceeded. I've always enjoyed visiting the mountain west, but have not been in many years , and never as a 'hort-tourist' ! One of the positive things about that post-tour angst is that we re-see our gardens in the context of those visited , and usually there are some useful ideas.

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  8. I visited the DBG a few years back and loved it. I too had the desire to go home and recreate the look.

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    1. We can't recreate the weather though can we Michelle !

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  9. Must have been another great Fling. Example of gardening in a way that agrees with the climate and terrain--it produces excellent results.

    I'd like to add rocks to my front slope--they add a wonderful accent. Maybe someday.

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