Friday, September 24, 2021

A Steppe above! A magical garden in Boulder

 If there is a Deity, she must have a great sense of humor. I've known for a very long time that Peter and Cynthia Scott lived in Boulder not far from where I grew up. I knew they had to have a pretty amazing garden. But only this September did I finally take up their standing offer to visit. What I found was perhaps the most elegant, appropriate and ambitious garden I'd never dreamed existed exactly one mile due West of where I spent the first 25 years of my life.

I've known Cynthia for more years than either of us care to admit: her mother (Ann Young) is a fantastic gardener as well in Colorado Springs, and a long time friend. Cynthia has served on Denver Botanic Gardens' board for nearly two decades where she is now a Trustee Emerita and has chaired the Gardens' Gardens and Conservation Committe. She will be president of the Garden club of Denver in the coming year: just a few of her many civic commitments! When on earth does she have time to garden?

These are but a few shots taken on a much too bright day of the enormous garden she and her husband, Peter, have created. Growing up down Aurora street a ridiculously short distance away, I never dreamed such an extraordinary house and garden existed (they are tactfully hidden from the street, I might add!).

I don't have a clue what Allium that is: the garden possesses a wealth of unusual as well as classic garden plants all thriving in what must be some very good soil--and obviously good care! (I do hope she saves a pinch of seed from that onion, hint hint...)

Another view of Mystery Allium, gracefully accompanied by a ground cover of thyme (?) below and a stunning pale pink form of Silene schafta--which is ordinarily a harsh magenta. You won't find these plants (or the others in their garden) at your local Walmart. Or garden center for that matter!

A closer look at the Caucasian catchfly: Silene schafta is unusual in its enormous genus for blooming in late summer and autumn.

I was charmed to see a late blooming Townsendia parryi on the Steppe massif.

Slightly out of focus, but I had to include this delightful Turkish salvia (Salvia horminum a.k.a. S. viridis: botanists can't decide). It appears that it's naturalized--which is lucky since it's an annual.

I was impressed with this hefty mound of Petunia patagonica--an almost mythical Patagonian gem--this must be stunning in full bloom in spring (I hope I can time a re-visit in time to see it!)

What a gracefully situated tansy (or is it Artemisia?) I am not sure which genus or species--but what a cunningly placed plant.

I was delighted to see the enormous wands of Liatris ligulistylis waving gently in the breeze among the bold granite boulders of one of the Scott's rock gardens. Cynthia told me that this has attracted monarchs (which are generally not common hereabouts) almost every day it bloomed.

Surely one of the most imposing Liatris--they shone gloriously in the backlight during our visit. My puny plants at home had a good talking to later that day.

What a fabulous setting for a home and garden! The meadows full of pollinators demonstrating the Scotts' commitment to gardening responsibly in such a sensitive setting.

Everywhere I looked there were wonderful plant combinations--here the bright red berries of a Himalayan Ephedra with asters. The house peeking out from behind!

Another portion of the steppe garden, festooned with late summer gaillardias and little gems tucked in the crevices...

A variety of artful troughs filled with alpine treasures along one of the patios...

A series of terraces, many with a variety of apples, plums and all manner of heritage fruit trees--the "processing room" of the guest house was filled with baskets and containers brimming with the harvest! They were anxious to gather what they could: they have a veritable wild kingdom of wildlife (deer, rabbits, but especially bear, cougar, bobcat--you name it): too much windfall creates more problems!

The orange brick brought back associations with so many Edwardian and Victorian buildings of old Boulder--as well as whole neighborhoods I've seen on the Eastern seaboard and Britain: they've lovingly restored and preserved this historic home that has a long and rich local heritage.

And of course there are daphnes tucked in crevices of walls and the rock garden: the garden must be fragrant in the spring!

Although Ajuga isn't ordinarily my favorite genus, I wouldn't mind having a mat of this crisp leaved form in my garden!

Hakonachloa macra 'Aureola' grows fitfully for me: look how splendid it looks with those lichened boulders here!

The garden has a sense of quiet elegance and charm. One wants to sit on a bench and just relax!

So many interesting trees! An obviously quite old Catalpa--a genus which I love--but even my half acre garden isn't quite big enough for one. Here it fits in just fine~

Here are the talented couple in their bear-repelling apiary! Thank you both for creating such an extraordinarily bold, gorgeous and inspiring garden in my home town. Long may you (and your garden) flourish!


  1. Upon viewing the second image I thought, “They don’t have a rock garden. There just happened to be a fossilized whale backbone in their yard and they thought it would be a nice place to plant some flowers.” 😊

    In all seriousness, it is a lovey garden which is in every respect larger than mine. I'm not jealous. Not jealous at all. 😊

  2. Stunning. Oh to have so many boulders at ones feet. A collectors garden for sure.

  3. Did the site come with rocky outcrops or did they haul all the rocks in to create the different beds? Lovely garden, could probably spend a lot of time looking at all the various treasures.

  4. Boulder is well named: I am sure they had some wonderful rocks on site already--and there are dramatic escarpments not far from their house: but the granitic rock work and the sandstone in the steppe garden were both brought in and carefully placed under their supervision (and some help from landscape professionals of course). Not your average rock garden!


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