Thursday, March 19, 2015

A late winter garden: technically!

Draba hispanica and Bukiniczia cabulica doing their thang
Since spring doesn't officially arrive for another two days, I believe we can categorize Bill and Sandy Snyder's* garden as a winter garden still. To show any garden in winter is to do it a grave injustice. To do so on a cloudy day, with rain threatening is tantamount to cruelty: of COURSE the Snyder garden is dazzling in June, with throngs of Eremurus blooming, and the Lotus in the pond, the roses brimming with color. But stroll through with me on a bleak winter day and I think you will be convinced this is our premier Rocky Mountain garden.

*I henceforward refer mostly to Sandy by synedoche: she is the principal gardener after all (though Bill has engineered much of the construction, waters and is a full partner in appreciation and criticism).

Massive Convolvulus assyricus
 Another shot of the same rock garden from another angle, with the champion bindweed I covet horribly. I've featured this in bloom at DBG, but not these monster clumps in this blog yet: just wait!

Tulipa humilis in a vivid shade on the rock garden
 These have naturalized in Sandy's buffalo grass lawn, to be featured at the end (although the tulips won't bloom for a few weeks still there).

Helleborus x hybridus
 I know there are no end of really sexy hybrids nowadays: but I enjoy the classic dark maroon every bit as much when it is this graceful in its bearing. Grace matters as much as color in my book--and no garden has more graceful plants than this...

Genista horrida
 At one point Sandy had a "horrid" broom in her front rock garden swallowing half the garden up: it was unspeakably spectacular. I was horrified one spring when I came and it was gone (but she'd gotten this clump to establish as a token replacement). I'm over it: Sandy was right once again: you really don't need too many of these in a single garden. It has to be over 4' across! Notice--it's swallowing up a snowdrop!

Galanthus elwesii
Here's the doomed snowdrop, growing in full sun (notice the cholla pad fallen next to it). It kills me how plants grow for her!

Quecus turbinella
Ordinarily evergreen, their hollyoak has bronzed this winter: I suspect it will come back beautifully. Sandy has shaped and bonsaied no end of oaks and other shrubs to keep them in scale. Purists believe that native plants should not be "cloud pruned"--but in fact browsers and harsh weather does it as effectively as an Italian gardener in much of the West. Sandy's shaped shrubs are much closer to their wild antecedents than the rangy, hideous monsters most "natural" gardeners insist on letting go! Amazing the B.S. that runs amok in Horticulture.
Cylindropuntia 'Snow Leopard in the background, Shepherdia rotundifolia center.
 The rusted sculpture between the two silver shrubs makes a wonderful contrast on the cactus bed.

Rubus "calycinioides"
 It's a tad winterburned (especially this horrible winter)--but this wonderful Formosan raspberry will green up soon: I've seen this making a dense groundcover for miles it seems in Vancouver--but I prefer this gnarly specimen in the open garden!

Of course, the gazebo is most fetching in summer, festooned with roses and clematis: winter does reveal structure and form. Sandy won't tell me what she paid for this (she glimpsed it dis-assembled in a nearby backyard and bargained with the owners for it. I have a hunch she got it for a song and is embarrassed to admit it! I'll probably never find out (Yankees are cagey, none more so than this clever cookie from Cape Cod! )
The big silver in the foreground is Acantholimon hohenakeri
 A garden with this bold placement of rock and plants, textures and masses of form is really what a garden is about. And few are. You really see it in winter.
Another shot of the same berm: their first big new project when I first met them in 1980.

Seseli gummiferum in a rock crevice--emerging from dormancy. Soundly perennial here.

I've not shown much in the way of the Snyder garden sculptures: there are lots, and wonderfully sited throughout.

The first crevice garden in the Rockies
 Sandy and Bill built a crevice garden years ago, after seeing and reading about the great Czech crevice gardens: the dwarf confers and daphnes and other compact evergreens here make it a stunning set piece year around. Abounding in color in spring and summer, of course.

Another shot of the same.

Iris 'George'
 This terrific clump of the stalwart  reticulata x histrioides hybrid may be showing up life size on your screen: it's a perfect specimen caught at its prime!

Helleborus niger
 My Christmas roses are all forming seedpods, but this one, which catches more winter snow, was only now in peak bloom (March 18)--much later than usual.

Galanthus elwesii
 Most of Sandy and my snowdrops are likewise finished--but this one in a shady spot is still fresh.
Viburnum farreri 'Nanum'
 Typical V. farreri can grow ten or more feet high and across, but this compact form is perfect for gardens. It blooms heavily and reliably for Sandy: I've not seen this in another Colorado garden (although I have a small one at home!)

V. farreri 'Nanum' from further out...Just starting to open.

Agave damage
Most agaves in Denver have sustained winter damage from the horrendous drop in temps in early November (down to -14F in parts of town after a balmy October and early November). A year we will not forget. As Gwen Moore (my ex-wife) once said: "the secret to good gardening is removing the carcases promptly"). But this isn't a carcass quite yet--and will recover.

Buffalo grass garden
 It's just as well I show this on a cloudy day when the flowers are closed: if it were brighter and they were open, it would be too bright! The various Crocus chrysanthus cultivars have crossed and propagated wildly (interspersed with Narcissus asturiensis and other goodies). This was the first buffalo grass lawn designed to grow bulbs--and after nearly 30 years has proved itself mightily. There must be a million crocuses in here (and later tulips and finally eremurus)...

Another shot of the same...

And another

And this is the last: the reason Mike Kintgen and I came down was to see the crocuses. But there's always a lot more in Snyderland!


  1. Amazing garden, lots of inspiration. The Uk had a similar very cold start to the winter a few years back, almost the warmest week of the year was followed by the coldest week in winter. It did so much damage to plants that had been fine before, highlighting how much dormancy helps plants cope.

  2. Thank you for the V. farer info! I've always admired these but figured I had no room for one. I'm off to source one now!

  3. Magnificent report, but even BETTER garden.

  4. Does Sandy have any sedges in her garden?

  5. Sandy's garden is pretty diverse: I'm sure she has gathered one or two, James--but not too many...I guarantee you that if she knew you she'd glom on to a glut of glumes. I'm fond of alliteration.


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