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  • Jane Shellenberger

Editor’s Letter: Harvest 2023

It’s been a good long run—27 years. When my plant-loving mother died in 1996 she left me enough cash to pay the first three printing bills for Colorado Gardener. Thanks to our advertisers I didn’t need to use it after the first issue.

Most gardening information published at the time featured English garden plants and styles, and in the U.S., focused on the East Coast or California. Few people knew about the palette of plants for semi-arid western climates because few garden centers grew or carried them. Xeriscape wasn’t a household word and was often misinterpreted as “Zeroscape,” a bleak, no maintenance landscape of rocks on top of landscape fabric. Chemically supported lawns were championed. Insects were destructive pests to be eliminated and bees were considered a nuisance at best. My old friend Tom Theobald, a pessimistic beekeeper who passed away a few years ago, was sounding the alarm way back then, but nobody wanted to hear it (he kept at it till the end). There were very few farmers markets in the state and CSAs were a novelty. Food had become industrialized. Produce grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides was called “conventional”. No one was talking about pollinators.

The Rodale Institute had been publishing books and Organic Gardening magazine for decades after WW II, but composting and organic methods were still considered somewhat subversive in the 1990’s at Land Grant Universities and Extension Offices. Round-up ready crops were new and the “miracle weed killer,” used in agriculture then marketed to home gardeners, was embraced by millions (and still is despite known risks). DDT was banned for agricultural use in the U.S. in 1972 after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published, but neonicotinoid pesticides developed in the 80’s and widely used today are even more lethal to insects, if safer for humans.

Much has changed for the better. We now realize insects aren’t simply pests, but plant pollinators and the basic building block of the food chain, supporting all animals including humans. We champion healthy “living” soil, fungi, microbes, and interconnectedness. And yet, we’re still hurtling toward a very unsettling future.

I didn’t understand all this when I started Colorado Gardener of course, I just knew I wanted to contribute in some way to a healthier environment and didn’t have much skill (or ambition) beyond words. I’ve always surrounded myself with plants and liked growing them, mostly on my own. But I discovered a vibrant gardening community here and was eager to tap into it. I’ve learned an awful lot from various people at Denver Botanic Gardens—especially Panayoti Kelaidis, who has been generous since the moment I first contacted him—and from the many gardener/writers who’ve contributed to the paper over the years; several are horticulture graduates from CSU in Fort Collins. Joining groups like the North American Rock Garden Society and Boulder Culinary Gardeners also introduced me to amazing plants and plantpeople.

This is the last print issue we’ll publish, though will continue as an extensive archive for gardeners, with some new content added during the year. I have much confidence in our web designer, Idelle Fisher. Many thanks to our talented, patient Art Director, Lise Neer, who stuck with me for so long, and my trusty distributors, especially Sean Stevenson and Joyce Wagner, who brave Front Range traffic to get the paper out. We’ve had many calendar compilers over the years, including my daughter Sophie Macaulay who has been pressed into service (and come through gracefully) many times. Jodi Torpey has also stepped up recently. Special thanks to Publication Printers in Denver, especially Mike Blodis who shepherded every issue for decades and to Dave Sanchez.

As usual, we’ve packed a lot into this Issue. John Hershey’s writing continues to delight me. The photo he took at a local garden center for his piece on page 3 is apropos but disturbing; we added a touch of Tiananmen Square, which I think lends itself perfectly.

Sara Stewart Martinelli covers immune-boosting herbs for winter wellness. Check out the Botanica Fest she puts on at her farm in Lafayette in October.

Panayoti Kelaidis wants us to plant more shrubs, which provide “a vast array of services,” require little care or attention, and live for decades. His 10 favorites are rarely seen in newer gardens. Mike Kintgen shares five alpines that are easy to grow even if you live on the plains.

In “Poison, Food and Medicine” Mikl Brawner discusses the nature of poison and describes common toxic plants that you’ll want to be aware of.

Entomologist Eric Eaton describes the amazing diversity of grasshoppers. There are roughly 145 species in Colorado. (He thanked me for tolerating his unorthodox perspective.)

Garden Father Larry Stebbins knows a lot about growing vegetables. Here he focuses on strategies for success in an increasingly unpredictable climate. The best thing about growing your own food is eating it. Penn Parmenter knows how to grow and cook. She shares what she’s learned about eating more parts of the plants we grow.

Marilyn Raff immersed herself in horticulture after studying Jungian psychology in Switzerland in her 20’s. Here she looks back on her lifetime passion from a Jungian perspective.

Wishing you all the best,

Jane Shellenberger



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