Thursday, July 5, 2012

Childsplay...DBG's stunning annex

If someone had told me years ago that Denver Botanic Gardens would have created about an acre of scree on top of a garage roof and filled it with floriferous gems, I would have surely have never believed it possible. And now, entering its third growing season, the Children's Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens has gone from strength to strength: It is amazing how little tiny pots of alpines have spread a foot, two feet--even three or more feet across in just a few years. Of course, they are growing in an amazing medium consisting of expanded shale with special amendments and micronutrients: all the plants seem to love it...behold not just ice plants above, but big mounds of crucifers (Alyssum, I believe) and the white mass in the back I will speak about at the end: the garden consists of hundreds if not thousands of perfect mounds and mats, each of which would take a prize in a British flower show!

Although many of the plants growing here are rather choice, there are workhorses like Penstemon pinifolius, which never looked or grew better anywhere. various thymes and veronicas provide wonderful lavender and blue counterpoints to the incredibly flashy penstemons throughout--these are the most amazing demonstration to me of the importance of drainage and dry crowns: the penstemons here come back year after year lustily...

One of my very few quibbles in Jim Locklear's masterful new monograph on Phlox is that he lumps this extremely distinctive Arizona native into the widepsread Phlox longifolia: I think Phlox grayi will prove to be distinct enough to retain its identity: it is almost as compact as a creeping phlox, but it thrives in a wider range of soils and irrigation regimens including extremely dry. It has the wonderful habit of reblooming in late summer. There are vast scatterrugs of this rare phlox throughout this garden.

There was a time when I yearned to grow the high altitude, winter hardy sun daisies from South Africa (Osteospermum). Plant Select has introduced three clones thus far, and I have quite a few seedlings (some intermediate) in my home garden, but I must admit this paperwhite, blindingly white groundcover that was obtained as cuttings from Fritz Kummert in Austria takes the cake. It is uutterly resistant to the various soil pathogens that cause the other clones to die back suddenly. There are numerous clumps of this wonderful plant throughout this garden--they bloom for months in spring, and rebloom throughout the summer and fall. I have seen and admired 'Avalancche' in many a garden, but none can begin to compare to the ones in Children's Garden in size or vigor.

Ross Shrigley was the Gardens' staff member who first designed and planted the garden. He quit to work for Fort Collins Nursery Wholesale over a year ago, and Julie Casault has ably carried on the management of this amazing garden. There are dozens of taxa which thrive here and have been challenging, short lived or impossible at York Street proper: so next time you visit the Gardens, make sure you go visit the Chldren's garden across the street: it's not just for kids...believe me!


  1. Are there some sedum in that garden? I' d like to come get some photos for my Sedum book.

  2. I am thinking Mr.Anonymous name may be Brent Horvath? There are some fine sedums in this garden--nothing too strange: we have more in DBG proper and I have a few. We should be doing a lot more with this great group hereabouts! I think the trip would be let me know before you head out here!


  3. Very interesting - here, Pineleaf Penstemon fries, except on a N side...but not bad in part shade on clay soil. That is great that plant and the others look so stunning on thin roof soils. Looks like DBG will be a destination later on this summer's Denver roadtrip!

  4. Te plants are just great. How is this watered?

  5. Because the soil is so fast draining, it was watered frequently when the plantings were fresh (like multiple times a day)...the horticulturist in charge has cut back the watering considerably--and the plants have held up quite well despite one of the hottest summers in memory. I shall ask her what her current rate is and let you know.


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