Saturday, August 17, 2013

Home on the range: forging the Western American garden

Glimpse of a home on the range
 If you are even a bit of a scholar of Western History, you know about Frederick Jackson Turner and his hypothesis that "American democracy was born of no theorist's dream;.... It came out of the American forest, and it gained new strength each time it touched a new frontier," Shame on Frederick! Most of America is not forest at all, but prairie and desert and steppe. And today the real garden pioneers are those who are attempting to hew out of the niggardly soils and stingy clouds of the American West a horticulture that can rival the Rhododendron-clad  Hydrangea-muffled panoply of Europe and America's bicoastal syndrome. It can be done.. My two favorite pioneers I know who play this game with pizazz are Pat and Joel Hayward, who live in Masonville, Colorado (a bit of Heaven tucked behind Horsetooth mountain in the Grand Hogback of the Rockies some dozen miles southwest of Fort Collins).

That's phlox nana in the foreground...and the Rockies in the distance. God's country!
Your generic schmo of course won't get it: for them, gardens mean green green green and floral excess at all seasons. The Hayward garden is a riot of color in spring and early summer (natch), but it is now that it truly reveals its quiet strengh: It is a quintessence of the colors, the textures, the very spirit of the West.  I took and ungodly number of pictures, and will share more than I should: I love the Hayward garden for many reasons: let's begin with views! Everywhere you look around the property you are torn between the intricate complexity of the most sophisticated garden plantings, and looking up there are melting views up and down the grand Hogback, towards the foothills and the Rockies themselves. You feel as though you are perched in the lap of the world! .

The Haywards like critters
 Although you could accuse the Haywards of being bona fide plant nerds--and pretty crafty designers as well--I would like to stress from the srart that they may both be professional horticulturists of the highest caliber--and make their living at it...and pretty darn keen amateurs too (amateur means lover don't forget)! They are a Renaissance couple interested in all manner of things, albeit tilting towards the Natural World: Pat has been a volunteer for years with various Bird-related enterprises (she is enraptured with raptors, and has produced a garden column for a Birding magazine in the past). They have had all manner of pets including llamas and of course the obligatory sheep dog (the Miserable Gardener has carried this theme to cosmic heigthts)...

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 What is perhaps most annoying for more, shall we call us obsessive people such as myself is that the Haywards actually have a life. In this vignette you see the potted succulent specimens (that could win top honors at a Cactus show), the stunning conifers that are probably best in class for Colorado anyway, but Look! there is a Spa! And it is not decorative--these folks actually relax and enjoy life. I am horrified week after week as I read Pat and Joel's accounts of their leisurely camping trips in their camper, strolling around their ranch in the Texas Hill Country, rowing a boat across Horsetooth Reservoir or just hanging out. Unlike some of us they have balance and restraint in their lives that shows in their very extensive garden which they have designed to coast during their frequent absences. 

Of course, the "low maintenance" garden is a joke: all gardens take maintenance--but I notice the many ways the Haywards have sought to combine plants in just the right microclimates, in the ecological niches where they are apt to live long and prosper--and where they will require the least fussing, mussing, dead-heading and dividing. The red in this picture is "red birds in a tree"--Scrophularia macrantha. As one would expect, since Pat is CEO of Plant Select, the program is very well represented here!

A recently replanted bed...
The Red Hylotelephium sedums proved themselves deerproof elsewhere, and now they're front and center so to speak. This use of dark purples especially for contrast is a classic technique perfected by the Haywads

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The Haywards are not above growing annuals...there are lush pots full of them here and there strategically placed throughout the garden...they have more dang fun.

And a handsome Flannel Bush
I wish I'd potted up some of the Fremontodendron I've been systematically killing by trialing...turns out we've mostly been testing hybrids with the very tender Mexican species. This does grow high enough in the Sierra we should one day have a hardy form, although I doubt we will ever have the massive trees I've seen at Rancho Santa Ana and elsewhere in California...

Raised beds filled with alpine treasures and unusual conifers throughout...
I love the way the veronica is colonizing the interstices of the limestone wall here...

Crambe maritima
The Haywards have a knack of putting things in just the right spot: I love the false perspective that a bold Crambe offers placed at the front of a bed--where it can be enjoyed near at hand. The fine textured, contrasting foliage around it paints a wonderful picture through the garden year...

Origanum 'Herrenhausen' and Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
There are not many of the xeric classics missing from this garden. What is so cool is to see them combined with such a great eye: I love this combo that brings out the touch of chartreuse in the Plumbago...

A problem spot under an eave
This problem area is now a wonderful vignette filled with Sempervivum cvs. with contrasting colors....

Tunajas and Pellies
I must ask for a cutting of this dark leaved Pelargonium~ What a startling contrast to the pale tinajas filled with succulent treasure--the Manichean interplay with dark and light makes this garden pulsate with interest, even in corners where there's little blooming at a certain time. The Western garden is not desperate for bright colors--we have the sky glowing blue after all most every day: what makes the Western garden so powerful is the manipulation of textures and color values--something the Haywards do better than anyone else. They probably don't even know how clever they are!

O dear!
I'm beginning to feel a little left out: most all of my friends have nodded to Georgia O'Keefe and have a skull somewhere in their landscapes. You saw Bone had a Bighorn skull! The Haywards have not one but TWO (being a tad competitive--his and her skulls no doubt)...

They lugged this one all the way up from Texas
I suppose if you're going to have a handsome set of horns like this, you should show it off!
Origanum libanoticum
Of course, they had to have the Plant Select oregano. I should have counted the origanums that were scattered here and there throughout this ample garden: they could go into the Pizza business! Isn't this wonderfully displayed? Next to the Plant Select Marrubium rotundifolium...They must have almost every plant in the program tucked somewhere in this yard, but they blend in so artfully, I doubt that it occurred to anyone else who visited that this is the premier display for the program!

I noticed that they used quite a few plants with the wonderful Western palette of bronzes and apricot colors...very Southwestern in mood...

Kirk Fieseler on the left, Joel Hayward on the right
Two of Colorado's great plantsmen: although Kirk lives nearby in Ft. Collins, this was his first visit in a while. I have featured Kirk's nursery (Laporte Avenue Nursery) many times in this blog. The proud owner made sure we all had beer to embellish the experience!

Gene Pielen (left) Pat Hayward (right)
Pat is carefully monitoring Gene's whereabouts--lest he make off with too many cuttings for Gulley's Greenhouse...

More vistas and vignettres...
I suppose there are those who don't get it: the interplay of unusual conifers attaining some real venerability--most of them unique to culture in the region, combined with the most wonderful, four season perennials (most of which are evergreen and self-pruning), and the Paul Klee like patterning of pale rock and dark form--and the vistas luring your gaze up from the Escher like vigtnettes...this is gardening on a Symphonic scale...I really stand in awe of the Haywards.

Acer grandidentatum
Here is our Western cousin of the Sugar maple, looking mighty happy growing in the dry dry prairie...we live in Paradise!

Pat pointing the way
Dr. James E. Klett on the right hand side--who could well be said to be the originator of the Plant Select program. He and Pat have developed a wonderful working partnership that has taken Plant Select to a whole new level of effectiveness internationally...

Happy hippo
I have ranted elsewhere about garden ornamentation--which I fear often gilds (if not gelds) the lily...As usual, the Haywards have just a few pieces placed here and there. Not too many--just about right. And they are winsome as heck!

Disascia integerrima 'Coral Canyon'
Yet more examples of that wonderful balance you get throughout the garden: the intricate curiosity of the foreground wonderfully set off with a long vista that is just as appealing...and all the counterpoint and balance of elements in between--as graceful and lilting as a Bach cantata....did I mention that I like this garden?
Opuntia 'Dark Knight'
Most of my friends grow Claude Barr's classic 'Dark Knight' but I have never noticed the dark, almost black seedpods before...and look at the mounds of Echinocereus coccineus behind..and your eye is irresistibly drawn to the blond grasses beyond, and the distant view: What a garden!

Erigeron compositus edging the patio
The spacious patio is a work of art in itself: I was fascinated at the dozens of kinds of plants that preferred the cracks here to plusher digs in the beds...

The patio is a frickin' garden!

Get a load of that gigantic Acantholimon. I was so jealous!

The obligatory Heptacodium (above)--but look at that potted planting!
What a great design for a pot--is that a sedge? combined with the lime green Ipomoea, and a silvery drooper as well--who needs flowers?

Origanum and Marrubium
I showed these earlier as a closeup--notice how utterly different it looks with the simple clay birdbath and Mexican hair grass behind? The garden is fresh from every angle--you can just keep walking and walking around it...

Salvia 'Raspberry Delight' and mullein
The Haywards seem to have all the hardy greggii Salvias and more--in their very exposed, cold site they claim is Zone 4...

Another view of the same
There's lots of flower color, but the foliage color and contrast is what makes the Western garden so powerful and pleasing.
Melampodium leucanthu
Surely, one of our most wonderful wildflowers in Colorado is Blackfoot daisy--and this was everywhere at the Haywards'. I love this plant--but it doesn't do as well in my sandy soil. I photographed this with hot tears of jealousy!

Pelly pot makes a great combo with Salvia pachyphylla in distance...
When you see things like this, you wonder--did they plan these color echoes?

Another angle of the same
Move over a few feet and it looks altogether different, with the wonderful Pachycaul tree--they have an incredible collection of "Big foot" plants--probably the best in the state.

Bonsai Crassula 'Hobbit' with Agave at its feet.

I've never seen how they fit all these tender succulents in their house in the winter...

Salvia 'darcyi x microphylla type
One of the pretenses for inviting the Plant Select propators over was to judge this amazing hybrid Salvia--which came through so well for the Haywards, although it perished in Trials...I think it's a winner...

More views...

Cotinus and company
Does anyone do color contrast better than this?

Salvia pachyphylla
One last view of this champion Plant Select Salvia that exemplifies why this program is so important: this challenging plant for nurserymen (hates to be wet in a greenhouse) makes for just about the longest blooming, showiest shrub you can grow in a Colorado xeriscape. Looks awesome with zauschneria, or here, with Penstemon rostriflorus (a terrible pest for the Haywards--they have to dig it out--it seeds everywhere...such a problem!)

Another raised bed view along the patio

Closeup of container I discuss above...

Acantholimon bed from another view--this must have been stunning when they were in pink bloom...stunning now in silver...

Phlox nana...patio pest.

Cluster of agaves in pots...

More pots and Pachycauls...

Yucca nana and Melampodium
A dollhouse yucca from the Colorado plateau, blackfoot daisy from the southern Great Plains and Chihuahuan highlands, Liatris punctata from the central and northern Great Plains, and the intermountain and northern Rocky Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius)...native gems from throughout our region combined with great artistry. I am humbled by this garden.

Picea glauca 'Pendula'
I end with this entrancing specimen of the weeping white spruce that is a Plant Select recommendation, on the west side of their home. It provides a sort of exclamation mark for what I regard as the epitome of Colorado gardening. I salute you both, Joel and Pat! It was been a real pleasure for me to watch the evolution of your garden over the last dozen or so years---thank you for having us out, even though it was much better "last month" !


  1. You say: "What is perhaps most annoying for more, shall we call us obsessive people such as myself is that the Haywards actually have a life."
    What is annoying for professional photographers, such as myself is folks like Panayoti have the time (obsessive need) to share such remarkable gardens in such detail with so many photos.
    Well done my friend. I want to visit. Though who will ever need to see more photos ?

  2. Saxon Holt: comparing my photography to yours is like comparing an Ailanthus (a stunted one at that, in an alleyway--nibbled by caterpillars) with a Sequioa soaring in Mendocino (note the sonorous assonances and alliteration!)

    I am humbled by your kind note, my redwood friend. But not fooled!

  3. Hi Panayoti, Do they pull all the thousands of seedlings every year? I tried to keep my gravel beds open like theirs by using weed fabric. I have recently decided that in my gravel bed I am going to remove the weed fabric so shorter lived plants (really just certain Penstemons) can regenerate. Yes Lori ... you finally win your petty argument with me about weed fabric in my pseudo rock garden. I plan to remove the weed fabric from this one area during winter after I have cut the die back plants down to the ground. I am still going to leave the weed fabric under the gravel walkways to keep foot traffic from pushing the gravel into my 'chocolate pudding' clay. However, even with weed fabric in my beds the seedlings still grow in the inch or two of pea gravel over the weed fabric. The Haywards must be constantly removing seedlings? I just cannot think of any other way they could maintain such an open and well proportioned garden.



  4. I did not overstress that their garden is a DRY garden: they water extremely sparingly, and rain is in Colorado is not what it is in the Midwest. Once you get ahead of the spurge and purslane, a gravel garden is manageable here...without TOO much grief.

  5. Thank you once again, Panayoti for your high praise and credit for talents where few exist. Serendipity is our partner in this gardening adventure where combinations are sometimes planned, but more often area a case of the plants determining their own best conditions. If you could see the cast of characters that have not survived our ongoing garden saga, you would be aghast at the loss of life we've experienced. In the end, the strong survive, the dogmatic perish and the battle with grasshoppers, rabbits, hail, drought, wind and cold never ends. And for any interested, the best times to experience our garden is in early to mid-June. All are welcome!

  6. Gorgeous photos and post - so much fun to read! Pat, your garden is divine. :)

  7. These containers and gardens are magnificent and give great ideas on how to start my own little gardens.

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