Friday, August 4, 2017

The two greatest gardens in the Denver area

Now that I have your ask what makes these gardens so great? They're two of only a small handful of gardens in our area that are minimally watered (basically unwatered) and both exemplify superb design as well as great plantsmanship. In an area with perhaps a million landscapes, this is no mean feat. The question is, what the hell's wrong with the other 999,998 of us jerks?

I'm not mentioning names since I haven't gotten permission from either gardener to share these pix: but this first home just did the big rock thing two or three years ago. They got some very good direction from a very talented local designer (Kenton Seth, q.v. if you must know), but I believe they've done most of the work themselves. This garden looks good ALL the time. Almost all natives.

Zinnia grandiflora has settled in very well, don't you think? Blooms nonstop for months.

How refreshing, how Colorado and how utterly intelligent is this magnificent full frontal view. The owners of this house travel a lot--and are otherwise very busy: I don't think they spend too much time in the garden, but it's time well spent!

I love the contrast of delicate cactus and granite boulder. And I'm not sure what those washcloth thingies pegged down are--new plants?

Melampodium leucanthum, the incomparable blackfoot daisy that so often accompanies the zinnia in the wild, and blooms even longer. And which refuses to grow for mere mortals like me.

The simple geometry of rock, flowers, sage--it's sublime. The Japanese refer to garden effects like these (the gardens full of them) as Shibui (渋み)--a concept I find extremely appealing. Fourth time I've used that term in Prairiebreak.

I look forward to seeing the orange butterfly weed do its thing in future years!

The three leaf sumac (probably 'Lowgro' has begun to splay over the rock: talk about perfect positioning!

I'm glad they spared the foundation juniper--it fits right in!

Artemisia frigida complements the gray lichen nicely...Not your typical garden color combo--but Hey! We're in the West. Get over it!

I love the patterning on the rock itself...

Can't get enough of it: and  here's a little con-"cave"--cool as heck (only rock nerds will get it)...

We worked together for several wonderful years before bureaucracy intervened and this fellow pursued another avenue. An enormous loss for the Gardens. But we've kept up: I drop in on this amazing garden all the time: it's always perfectly groomed and I've never seen a weed. Such a relief to see this garden after miles of bluegrass and mediocrity in the 'burbs!

That pink saponaria was amazing: not sure which cultivar--but it wove through the whole garden!

I'm assuming this is Cardoon...everything looks so healthy and vibrant!

A monster Erodium chrysanthum: ours at the Gardens took four decades to get this big!

I love the way cacti interweave with perennials...this garden is proof you can have a rich, diverse plant palette (i.e., be a plant nerd) and have exquisite design!

I must drive by some evening soon when this giant Mentzelia is open (M. decapetala): probably the showiest plant growing on the Great Plains and I've only ever seen it in one or two local gardens!

Knockout beauty on the buckwheat--from southern Colorado (E. jamesii)

I can't begin to say how jealous I am of this stand of acantholimons: four or five species--self-sowing and simply stunning in seed. What a great contrast with the Zauschneria.

These didn't look like this very long. I harvested most of the seed (for the NARGS exchange--if you haven't joined NARGS, now is as good as time as any--and you might get some of the magic of these two fantastic gardens!)


  1. Both stunning.. love the rocks in the first...

    1. The rocks are not subtle, Cohan. I was shocked when they first went up--now I'd like a few like them...

      The second would beguile you just as much "in the chlorophyll"

  2. If someone did not know any better they might think someone had ruined a great view by building a house on top of it. It is nice to know the house was there first and the great view was added later.

    1. Very generous comment, James. I hope the owners read this--it will tickle them I'm sure!


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