Wednesday, September 1, 2021

A pocket park that packs a punch! SummerHome!

In the course of my career I've watched quite a number of public gardens rise and fall around the Denver area: each has provided a great opportunity to learn new combinations, new methods and plants that were new to me. Kendrick Lake Park, the Betty Ford Alpine Garden, the Simms APEX crevice garden have all been revelations. And now SummerHome Garden in the Washington Park neighborhood has joined their ranks!

Like most great gardens I discover, there's always a mystery plant I can't identify--the composite in the trough here still puzzles me: please let me know the name if you recognize it! Just as I'd hoped, one of you identified it as "Chrysocephalum apiculatum": a new one for me! Thanks...

I was delighted to see this rather grand insect hotel: it seemed that every botanic garden we visited in Europe had them when we visited in 2013: they're still rather a rarity in America: they do attract a lot of native carpenter bees and other pollinators to nest and overwinter.

I'm pretty sure that's 'Windwalker' Salvia in among the Agastache: two of the many Plant Select varieties featured in this garden.

There were a number of understated kinetic sculptures here and there--I like garden art that doesn't dominate or overwhelm the plants!

I've admired the bright purple form of Carrot (Daucus carota 'Purple Kisses'), although I do wish the cultivar name weren't so....colorfully egraphic.

One rarely sees winterfat in the garden, here performing a rather graceful pirouette! Gardeners are perhaps put off by its challenging current Latin name: Krascheninnikovia lanata.  Would it have been so hard for Botanists to conserve the old Ceratoides or Eurotia before that as Bill reminded me? I curse that dad-burned Krascheninnikov! Considering the length of Greek surnames, I don't have a lot of room to complain, I suppose! And Lo! and Behold! A crevice garden looms in the distance.

The sage green masses of (Chrysothamnus nauseosus--now transmogrified to Ericameria nauseosus--probably by the same demented botanist who spoiled the winterfat!) will be to bloom soon, for a glorious finale for the growing season. You can bet your sweet bippy I'll be back to visit again then!

You may have gathered I'm rather fond of Agastache? Having had a hand in its introduction into horticulture certainly plays into my infatuation: but judging how I see it show up as I drive around Denver, I'm not alone in my admiration. This garden has got to be the best display of it I've seen anywhere (except perhaps the massive clumps glowing right now along Denver Botanic Gardens streetscape: thank you Jenny Miller! They warm the cockles of my heart each day when I come to work!)

I was struck by this combo of Perovskia (now in the genus Salvia--believe it or not, that same drunken Botanist must be working overtime!) and Monarda punctata, a stunning native American wildflower that frustratingly sidesteps Colorado: surely a few must have snuck into our state from Southwest Kansas? This would be the year to look for them!

Distribution of Monarda punctata from BONAP

The lime green Atriplex (confertifolia I believe) makes quite a combo with Aster 'Lady in Black' which should be coming into bloom soon: another reason to visit again!

Nothing makes for a focal point like a largish Agave!

Or two!

Ah yes, the crevice garden. The first in Denver devoted pretty much entirely to succulents: and boy! do they love it!

I believe this is Koichiro Nishikawa's "Jewel of the Desert" Garnet. This series of Delosperma is just the right size for rock gardens, and blooms much of the summer. They are not reliably hardy in most gardens, but in a dry crevice garden, like this, there is hope!

The serried, upright stacking of rocks like this in some crevice gardens can so often appear artificial or just plain boring--but I think the creator (my colleague Kevin Williams) has the knack of combining rocks of different sizes and making it work aesthetically. The big rock to the left is key, I think--and a masterstroke. Of course, the real reason to have a garden like this is that you can grow all manner of challenging plants well. And this garden proves it!

Notice how different this crevice garden looks from different vantage points?

Worth scrolling back and forth a bit and you can begin to "get" the magic of rock gardens: each vantage point looks so different. While not huge, by any means, a garden like this has the capacity to suggest space and distance that no garden on the mere flat could dream of. Which is why you must join the North American Rock Garden Society: click here to do so: Join. I'm not just saying that because I'm the president!

And not one but TWO white flowered desert willows (Chilopsis linearis). If you don't think THAT doesn't inspire a bit of plant envy...

Can you tell I like this combo?

So fun to wander on a perfect summer afternoon with muted light and a cool gentle hint of a breeze: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah....!

Plain ol' scarlet standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) is a show-stopper, but finding it in old gold?

There are several: let's hope they spread!

Oh yes, there's my very favorite ironweed, Vernonia baldwinii! Strikjng up close, spectacular from afar. Few people realize this is a Colorado native thriving practically inside Denver City Limits and probably in full bloom right now as well at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. A good way to end this post: of course, if you live nearby you'll want to know how to get there. There's a map and lots more information about this utterly delightful pocket park on their website here: SummerHome. If you live anywhere in the Denver metro area, you'd be remiss not to hightail it there...and soon!

Kudos to Lisa Negri who dreamed this pocket park up, and Kevin who designed and helped create it!



  1. This is wonderful. What a fabulous gift to Lisa's community. It will pay back for many years. Wouldn't it be grand if there were more of these in neighbourhoods where urban density is increasing?

  2. I learned winterfat as Erotia lanata , seems the botanists change the name every 5 years or so just to keep us hopping, also betrays how old I am getting

  3. Wonderful idea in house congested neighbourhoods. Lovely if all developers added this feature.

  4. I believe the unknown composite plant is Chrysocephalum apiculatum


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