Friday, March 22, 2013

Paradise postponed

Centennial Park tulips in their glory
 What if they created a park, and no one came? That's sort of what occurred at Centennial Park in the heart of Denver--a lavish, really wonderful garden built by a former mayor as a sort of culmination to his administration. I had quite a bit of input in the design of this one--but many horticulturists had a hand: the purpose was to show a Watersmart formal garden (and I think it fulfilled its purpose manifold). This year with drought restrictions already in place, perhaps the City and County of Denver should revisit this spectacular garden...the bulb displays were the best I've ever seen in town (they loved the summer droughts)...

Another Centennial Park parterre
 Yet another parterre--each one was different. You can't tell looking at this the transformation that took place once the bulbs died down. Our wonderful native Zinnia grandiflora--yes, both a native and a perennial zinnia, which does best in harsh soils and great heat--took over the space from the bulbs and created months of glorious color...check out the next one for THAT effect...

The very same parterre in late summer: Zinnia grandiflora doing its thang
 The pictures were taken at slightly different angles, but if you look at the buildings, yes, indeed, this is the same parterre, Virginia! I have seen few more elegant double uses of a space. If this bed had been given even the slightest attention (a bit of extra water in winter, perhaps, some bulb feeding), this would only get better with time.

A closer view of the Zinnia grandiflora
 Of course, you can only grow this zinnia in very hot, sunny exposures like this--without much supplemental water. This was a dream come true really. I'd like to think it was my idea--but quite a few horticulturists contributed. Well, a number did (Maria, Margaret, Rob--you know who you are...). I did think up some of the shrubs we used--which have turned out to be a colossal success. There is a sign on Centennial saying it will be open "this spring" and to call a number (720-913-0642 to be exact) where I have left my name and number to find out just when. Several times (no call back yet). There is always a recording when I call--it is sad how City agencies have been starved for resources...maybe you will have better luck? The Garden really looks stunning right now, and I'd love to have a closer look. At least I have pictures to remind me of an experiment that succeeded--and yet failed. It's not too late with an improving economy and worsening drought, perhaps, to resurrect it.

Another view of Zinnia grandiflora--this time in the gardens at Kendrick Lake in late summer


  1. The gravel garden is stunning indeed. I have searched for the Zinnia. Why don't they sell it here in Austin. I did see it one time growing at the wildflower Center but now it is gone.

  2. The gravel garden is truly marvellous: it is in good repair for the time being (was there yesterday). Zinnia is sold locally in Denver. And of course, is native in West Texas--I know High Country Gardens used to sell it. It should be a staple in all the west.

  3. Very nice, yet no one comes...weird! But about right. The formality is really good stuff.

  4. That Zinnia looks like a great problem-solver. In the last photo, what's the plant with the purple blooms?

  5. Well it is location...location...location! I think it is a great little garden - but is is tucked into a spot that just isn't easy to find. If you know where it is - that is great. It is not in a good drive by location.


  6. perhaps Centennial Gardens would be more popular if it were listed as a downtown attraction; I usually walk there from Commons Park or along Cherry Creek when I'm in LoDo ( Lower Downtown Denver ) and have some extra time;
    It is also unique as the interpretation of a Formal Garden with Xeric plants; I particularly enjoy it when the garden " knots " composed of santolina are grown out and the liatris is in full bloom during the late summer. One can imagine oneself as royalty strolling to admire the symmetrical beds planted in various shapes.
    Please excuse me, I'm a member of the Landscape Chapter of Society of Architectural Historians stephen gale

  7. First off, Scott: the bright purple flower in the Kendrick shot is Agastache 'Ava'--one of the most vivid hybrids produced by High Country Gardens. The red in the distance is Zauschneria californica 'Etteri' and the big mound behind the Zinnia is Chrysothamnus nauseosus var. nauseosus (Blue Globe form). I agree, Mark, that it's not a good drive by location--but could be: the city could designate some parking just for the garden--or someone effective could have negotiated with Elitch's (which doesn't even open half the year, for God's sake!). It's not so much location cubed, as it is priorities, priorities, priorities: and with the glaring exceptions of Mayors Speer and Stapleton, city beautification is not a very high priority for most city admins alas. Oh, that we could lure a Bob S. or a Ben S. back to the helm!

  8. I love this garden. I stop by it at least once a year when I am in Denver.


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