We are Colorado Master Gardeners volunteering at the Jefferson County CSU Extension Office. We hope you will enjoy our writings and learn something about gardening along the Front Range in Colorado. If you have questions, email us at email@example.com
Jefferson County Colorado Master Gardeners were treated to a visit at the Gardens at Kendrick Lake Park this week. We were given a VIP tour by Greg Foreman, Urban Parks Specialist for the City of Lakewood and two of his top aides. Located on Jewell just west of Garrison, Kendrick Lake Park is a veritable botanic garden for drought-tolerant plants. We saw more than 350 flowers, shrubs, ground covers, trees, and roses. In 2001, Greg and his staff set out to create the new western garden, using flora that makes sense in Colorado. Greg is a man on a mission: showcasing just what wonderful gardens we can create with plants appropriate to six habitat areas that encompass Colorado: plains, foothills, upper Sonoran, montane, and alpine. The one acre garden features six beds of beautiful native and non-native plants that will grow in these life zones. Many plants are from other dry areas on the planet like Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. There are also flowers native to Texas, California, Utah and others. The Rocky Mountain region has become known for horticultural innovation of drought-tolerant species thanks in large part to people like Greg.
These gardens prove that if we choose the right plants, properly prepare the soil (this garden uses fine gravel called slurry, mixed half and half with garden topsoil) and water correctly, we can have lovely gardens that are much more appropriate to the western landscape. Mulching for moisture control is a large part of the process. This magnificent garden demonstrates several types of mulch: rock, bark, and my favorite, buffalo grass. These plantings need very little water. They water less than once a week during the hottest months and none in the fall and winter. Visits to this garden will, dear gardener, encourage even the most resistant of you to try some new kinds of plantings and perhaps join the anti-lawn, native, or xeriscape plant movements.
Incidentally, the Urban Parks Division maintains all the parks within Lakewood. It also cares for plantings in the 1,550 acres of parks, on 242 miles of street medians, all the public buildings and right of ways in the City. And all with only 34 staff members (plus some seasonal help)! Once you have visited the Kendrick Lake gardens, I am sure you will see Greg Foreman’s innovative, thoughtful hand in many public garden areas throughout Lakewood. We are fortunate to have this talented man with his dedicated staff working to make our City most beautiful. (and water wise!).
*“The word "Xeriscape," was coined by the Denver Water Department in 1981 to help make water conserving landscaping an easily recognized concept. The word is a combination of "landscape" and the Greek word "xeros," which means dry.”* It is in fact a trademarked word owned by them. Xeriscape does not mean “zeroscape”. or no water, it means wise water use. A reduction of 60% of water use is quite common when using xeriscaping principles.
* From the Colorado WaterWise Council website: www.xeriscape.org.
Well, dear gardener, a couple of weeks ago I ordered 400 bulbs due to arrive in early October for planting. “Are you crazy? “ You might ask, and the answer might be “Yes”. I was crazy at the time, driven there by the heat during the dog days of August. You know how it is, it’s too hot to go outside so you lie under the fan and look at the dozens of bulb catalogs that begin to arrive in July. The pictures and the colors are so beautiful. And you begin to day dream winter and then spring arriving and first thing you know, you’ve ordered 400 bulbs (406 to be exact).
I chose mid to late blooming tulips hoping to fool the spring snows. My plan is to dig up several beds that I planted three years ago and replace them. They didn’t look great this year and I have learned that tulips are not necessarily perennials. They don’t come back well the second year. I have known this about tulips but assumed it was operator error. The other thing that has happened to me is that the tulips all become red and yellow after several years when they do return. Part of being hybrids I suppose. I have decided to treat them as annuals and replant each year. We’ll see how long that lasts. Planting several hundred bulbs each fall maybe doesn’t have such a great appeal. The 200 tulips are a variety of collections chosen solely on color and name: “The Rainbow Coalition” red, purple, and orange; “The Tang Dynasty” orange, white and yellow. There are a few varieties, which I didn’t choose, that are better suited for returning for several years: Darwin Hybrids, Fosterianas and many of the wild or species tulips can return. All of them need to be replaced periodically however. (Don’t tell me about your twelve year old tulip bed, please).
If you are wondering why the tulips don’t come back here’s a few reasons: Blossoms. The longer a tulip blooms the more energy the bulb loses. But why plant them if you don’t want blossoms? Weather. Long, cool springs allow tulip leaves to stay around and store more energy in the bulb. We can have a heat wave in May and June causing the leaves to die back too quickly. Moisture. Tulips like to go through a dry dormancy period and we typically have to water our beds and grass and trees and shrubs so they often rot from too much moisture.
Now daffodils are supposed to be the most persistent perennial bulb ever. But I only got one year of daffodil blooms from 50 I planted when I moved into this house. The best my research has come up with is that they had a condition called “bud blast” which can be caused by too much moisture in the fall, too little moisture in the summer, late season freezes, or temperatures that warm up too much and/or too suddenly in the spring ... you know, our typical Colorado weather. I much prefer this analysis: a superstition in Maine states that you will cause a daffodil to not bloom if you point at it with an index finger. I am sure that I may have even shaken my finger at them when they didn’t bloom!
The 100 daffodils that I ordered include at least 20 different varieties and are promised to cover the full spectrum of bloom time. I, for my part, promise not to chastise them nor point at them.
One hundred purple and yellow crocuses complete the bulb package. I’m going to stick them everywhere!