Hard frost came last Tuesday night and Wednesday, and though Indian summer has returned and it's been toasty today, the warmer nights aren't going to last forever. (I confess, I dragged in my favorite container with begonias and coleus inside...giving it a reprieve for a while). The gardeners at Denver Botanic Gardens are thrilled: busy yanking the last tired annuals and getting around to winterizing. I have always been somewhat dismayed by their ghoulish yearning among professional gardeners for an early frost: somethings never change. I cling to the growing season. But, not to panic! Nature isn't really dormant in winter as all wise gardeners know: the next month or two are really the best time for many things. Geraniums, for instance, have yet to become truly ignited: they provide some of the best fall color in perennial borders and rock gardens after all. And grasses are really in peak splendor right now.The scrub oaks were beginning to color a few weeks ago: many have probably lost leaves by now, but the oaks in Denver are just starting to turn (they are always the last trees to turn). Aaah: I must go back soon and see what's happening this month!
Turkey foot (or big bluestem: Agropyron gerardii) had already turned: this is one of America's great grasses. I can't think of a private garden in Denver where it grows, although we have it all over Denver Botanic Gardens...
I took the picture above recently at Roxborough State Park, one of the many super state parks that garland Denver--and possibly my favorite. The red rocks of the Fountain formation form ramparts much like they do at Garden of the Gods or the Flatirons above Boulder only the access is trails. The panic grass was growing next to the parking lot: Panicum virgatum has become one of the bulwarks of the ornamental grass movement around the world (which in Denver--which should be the grass capital of the world!--usually consists of massive armies of Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'). Very occasionally in a specialist gardener's yard you will see a clump or two of 'Heavy Metal' or some other Eastern selection of Panicum...but I have never seen anyone grow our native form, which presumably would be much hardier. There is so much to be done horticulturally in our wild and wooly steppe climate!
I will include another picture or two from Roxborough on the hike I took with my daughter when she was visiting: I need to go back down there soon!