Monthly Archives: August 2013

Garden Tour Highlights

The 22nd annual Western Colorado Botanical Garden garden tour was this weekend and by my count, the wettest on record.  I have volunteered as a master gardener for the last 10+ years for the tour and have seen really hot days, really cold days, really windy days but never quite so wet.  The amazing thing was no one, not the homeowners, the volunteers or the brave souls who came out to see the gardens complained about the rain.  Everyone agreed that no matter what, we need the rain.  It didn’t affect the beauty of the gardens either in my opinion.

For the first time in 22 years, the tour was offered in August instead of the first weekend in June.  I love the idea of seeing our late summer gardens for a change.  So many shrubs and  perennials are just getting started in June we never see their full glory on the tour. But  according to Jon Schler, who is on the garden tour committee, the tour will resume its  rightful place during the first weekend in June next year.
Jon said because of the operational changes that occurred with the WCBG and Strive this year, planning for the garden tour was later than usual.  The hard working committee and volunteers struggled to find a date and homeowners willing to showcase their gardens with little notice and a unconventional time period.  When it is all said and done, I think the garden tour did a good job of presenting interesting gardens and continuing the tradition of one of the largest fund raisers for the WCBG.  Jon Schler was also quick to point out that the tour wouldn’t have been as successful without the help and direction of Susan Rose and the Master Gardener volunteers with CSU Extension.
So let’s start the tour!
WCBG Western Heritage Garden

I brought along two neighbors to see the tour.  One is a garden junkie like myself, the other moved here recently from Michigan and wanted to see how we garden in the high desert of the Rockies.  We started at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens and jumped right into the Plant Select gardens.  What a great program CSU Extension and The Denver Botanic Gardens put together to showcase all kinds of plants that thrive in our challenging climate.  The butterflies were flying in the Butterfly House and the outside gardens were awash in seasonal colors and textures.

Next up was the Arboretum at CSU Extension at the Mesa County Fairgrounds.  Because the BMX group was hosting a large event, we were not able to see most of the gardens that line the parking lot.  We did see the world renowned cactus garden and raised garden beds that surround the Extension building.
Loretta in the cactus garden
Gardens at the CSU Extension

The rain started coming into the Valley at this point in the morning but we were determined to see as many beautiful gardens as we could.  Upon arriving at the Loshbaugh residence, we were thrilled to see such an exuberant display in this suburban garden.  This garden was on the garden tour 10 years ago but it has matured into a rich tapestry of color, texture and interest that made it worth a repeat visit.

The front gardens at the Loshbaugh residence

Wandering through the gardens revealed a perfect pond complete with koi fish swimming in it and statues of herons looking in it.

Loshbaugh pond with herons

The variety of plants and the way they were combined really caught my designer’s eye.  I loved the look of the ribbon grass and nasturtiums.  The bright colors of the zinnias and dahlias also made me smile.

Ribbon grass and nasturtiums
Zinnias, dahlias and butterfly bush

Next we moved onto a serene, quiet reflective garden.  Lenore Donovan has turned her childhood home into a peaceful park in honor of her parents.  While caring for her aging parents, she turned to garden therapy to help ease her stress and satisfy her soul.  The result is an oasis in the middle of the desert.

Primrose Park – an oasis in the desert

Being peaceful and serene doesn’t mean you can’t have a little whimsy in your garden.  Lenore installed this beautiful fountain complete with blue water a few years ago.  She then added a heron statue with a fish in his mouth!  Looks like he just caught it out of the fountain.

A little whimsy at Lenore’s

In addition to being a park, you could also call it a cat sanctuary.  Lenore is known as the Cat Lady because she has a generous heart and takes in cats that need a home.  Some live inside, some outside, some temporary and some permanent.  I will always be thankful for the time she helped me with a lost cat in my neighborhood.  The ecosystem is in perfect balance as well.  Mosquitos that have an eye on her pond are promptly eaten by Mr. Jack the giant catfish in the pond  or the many varieties of birds that live in the surrounding trees. Toads by the gazillion hatch every summer and take care of any other insect that gets too much to handle.

When you think of an urban garden, what comes to mind?  A small patch of grass, a tree or two between the sidewalk and street?  The small backyard might have a patio with a few pots and more grass?   A visit to Judy Hilty’s garden will change your mind forever.

Judy’s Hell strip – a piece of shade heaven

With mature trees and seldom seen in this part of the world plants, this front yard and hell strip is colorful, lush and full of interest.  Jacobs ladder, hellebores and hostas thrive in the rich soil along side coral bells, begonias and angelonias.

Judy Hilty and her bathtub garden

One of the surprises in her backyard was the claw foot bathtub painted bright red.  Filled with tropical plants atop a raised bed, its a sight to see.

Her containers are filled to the brim with flowers of every color, size and shape.

I love the fact that Judy has adapted her garden over the years to accommodate the ever growing shade from her trees and she uses containers and trellises to fill narrow spaces in her gardens.  We were also grateful those large shade trees offered some protection from the steady rain as well.

We missed the three gardens in the Redlands because the rain was coming down too hard to enjoy ourselves.  I hope I get to see the Golden and Murdock gardens someday because my tour booklet says they were designed and installed by Bill Richardson of Dragonfly Gardens.  I’ve known Bill for many years and have worked with him on several of my own garden designs.  He has a good eye for designing with plants and does creative work with rocks, fountains and other hardscapes.  I also want to stop by the fire station on Broadway to see more of their gardens designed by Ann Barrett.  Even whizzing by everyday at 45 mph, the front gardens always look good.

Now that the garden tour is over, the garden tour committee will be working hard to line up next June’s gardens.  If you are interested in working on the committee or you would like to have your garden showcased on the garden tour, please contact the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens at  (970) 245-9030.  You can also visit their website for more information about the tour and events taking place at the lovely gardens throughout the year.

My Crepe Myrtle Miracle

Back in the day, I lived in the super-large, super-humid, super-congested city of Houston, Texas.  I’m am so glad I live in Colorado now but I don’t regret living in Houston as I met my wonderful husband of nearly 30 years in Houston and married him there.  We moved to Denver from Houston and then to Dallas before we moved back to Denver and then finally to Grand Junction.  I know its confusing but corporate transfers have a way of taking you places you wouldn’t have thought about on your own.  And on a timetable that usually isn’t of your choice.  We made the best of it and had beautiful homes everywhere we lived. Since I have always enjoyed gardening, I learned to garden in vastly different environments.  You can’t get any more different than Houston and Grand Junction!

Kathy canoeing by crepe myrtles in front of our Houston house after Hurricane Alicia in 1983.

While living in Houston I fell in love again.  This time with the crepe myrtle or Lagerstroemia. Everywhere you went, there they were.  Lining the streets, adorning front yards, commercial spaces, everywhere.  The hot pink, bright red, soft pink and white blossoms stood proud and tall no matter how stinking hot and humid it was.  They bloomed when every other plant had call it quits for the season.  The exfoliating bark and seed pods just added more interest year round.

So, a few years back, much to my astonishment, I saw a crepe myrtle for sale at Meadowlark Gardens on the Redlands.  How could that be I wondered?  They would never survive our cold winters or would they? Turns out, a plant breeder created a crepe myrtle that would grow well in areas with winters as cold as -10 below zero degrees.  They have American Indian names like Zuni, Hopi, and Miami and come in a wide variety of colors.  Naturally, I bought the hot pink one – Zuni.

Crepe Myrtle ‘Zuni’ in July 2008

Growing against our house facing the scorching southwest sun, it bloomed its little head off for several years.  That is until that brutal winter of 2010-2011.  I can’t begin to list how many established shrubs and perennials I lost that winter.  My beloved Zuni was one of them.  I tried to hold out hope for some sign of life in the following spring but nothing.  Then, in late summer, just a sprig or two came up.  I felt like it was never going to come back so I dug it out.  I dug about 2′ deep and got out what I thought was all of the roots.  

A summer came and went with no signs of life from Zuni.  Then something amazing happened.  This spring, more than just a sprout came up.  Many sprouts with bright green leaves.  Could my Zuni have come back from the dead?  I had to know what was left of my beloved crepe myrtle so I watered a little extra, fertilized a little extra and talked to it every time I reached for the hose on the back of the house.  Sure enough, this tough plant came back.  I was very content to have the bright green leaves add some color and texture to the back of my herb garden.  But then, it developed flower buds!  OMG is all I could think!  
My crepe myrtle returned from the dead in August 2013
Look at those hot pink blossoms!


Bright green leaves and hot pink blossoms next to Bergartten sage

How on earth did this shrub survive after all of this time?  I have no idea.  But I have stopped doubting the power of plants. They perform miracles all the time.  I am just blessed it happened in my yard this summer.  Keep looking for miracles.  They are all around us.

May Night Salvia Reborn

This time of year many perennials start to look tired and shabby and overgrown.  But a few, like May Night Salvia, respond well to a severe pruning right about now.

May Night salvia on July 7th
This is a large clump of salvias has finished blooming and was looking awful.  So I cut them back to the basal rosette about 2″ above the ground level.  Here is what they look like today.
May Night salvia on August 7th

They are refreshed and will likely bloom in a few weeks.  This is also a good time to transplant some of the salvia seedlings to other areas in my garden. While I’m at it, I will also divide and transplant my iris.

LAWC will host Essentials of Distilling Conference in Grand Junction

Through a specialty crop grant from the Colorado Department of Agriculture and generous support from Colorado State University Extension, the Lavender Association of Western Colorado (LAWC) is presenting an intense two day conference on all types of distilling methods for essential oils and hydrosols.  
Featured speakers include:
Ann Harmon – Morning Myst Botanicals
Northport, Washington
Dr. Cindy Jones, Sagescript Institute
Longmont, Colorado
Dr. Curtis Swift, Swift Horticultural Enterprises
Grand Junction, Colorado
Bob Lane, Dayspring Farm
Olathe, Colorado

Dr. Janet Scavarda, certified aromatherapist
Grand Junction, Colorado

Topics will include:

  • Workshops on creating products with essential oils and hydrosols
  • Live distillations using several types and sizes of distillers
  • Learn how to distill for commercial as well as medicinal products
  • Learn how to distill for hydrosols as the product, not the by-product of essential oil distillation
We will also talk about our latest research and testing results of our high altitude lavender essential oils. 
Registration is open.  Please visit our website at for more information.  
There will be substantial ticket discounts for members of LAWC and USLGA.  Lunch for both days is included in the ticket price.  
Look forward to seeing you at the conference.