• Jane Shellenberger

Editor's Letter: Spring 2022

Building a garden over time is one of the pleasures of this earth. We add new plants each year while others proliferate on their own. Some vanish, then in wetter years suddenly reappear. Others just can’t make it in our climate or they get eaten by bunnies or voles. Trees keep growing bigger giving more shade or fruit. The plants draw in animals and the animals sometimes plant seeds for new plants.

We create habitat, introduce beauty, grow enough food for ourselves and to share. Working with an alive, ever-changing natural system, sometimes starting from scratch, is what makes gardening so compelling. It humbles us, surprises us, slows us down, soothes our soul, offers refuge and sanctuary, and makes us sweat – not a bad thing in moderation.

Welcome to our Spring Issue! We’ve consolidated. Here’s what you’ll find inside.


John Hershey always manages to make me laugh. “A Tomato You Can’t Refuse” is his rambling paean to lifelong improvement in the garden.


In the last few years you may have noticed a lavender farm near you. Colorado’s climate is ideal for growing this aromatic herb and it’s become a booming business in our state, says herb gourmet, Deb Whittaker.


On the heels of last month’s Annual Tree Diversity Conference, Mikl Brawner passes on recommendations for resilient trees from four Colorado tree-loving experts.


While creating signs for Kestral Fields, one of the City of Fort Collins’ Natural Areas, Gary Raham became better acquainted with North America’s smallest falcon. These impressive small raptors “built for speed and agility” prefer some of the same settings as people but are becoming scarcer as we encroach on their habitat.


The High Plains Environmental Center (HPEC) in Loveland (aka “Suburbitat”) has become an “ecological supersite,” a thriving 4-acre landscape dense with native plants that sits right beside a housing development. Executive Director Jim Tolstrup says they’ve noticed an amazing influx of pollinators, but now there is data that backs that up and specifies exactly which pollinators. A new study by entomologist Paul Opler of CSU has identified more than 100 different bee species at HPEC.


Carolyn Dunmire has immersed herself in research about mega-droughts in the Four Corners region of SW Colorado where she and her husband tend 60 acres. Conditions today are not dissimilar to those that likely caused the collapse of Mesa Verde Society. More importantly, she says, it’s how we respond that will determine our fate during a coming mega-drought.


Want to start a kitchen garden? Sara Stewart Martinelli tells you how to plan it, plant it, and preserve it.


Penn Parmenter took lots of pictures of last year’s mountain wildflower super bloom where she lives near Westcliffe. This, she says, is evidence that seeds, including vegetable garden seeds, last much longer than we’ve been led to believe.


Coloradans now have another option for “final disposition” that may have special appeal for gardeners. We are the second state to pass a law allowing “Natural Organic Reduction”, i.e., composting our bodies. Jodi Torpey tells you all about it.


Years ago, Merle Moore, working as horticulturist for the Denver Zoo, suggested I cover the importance of natural corridors for animals in the landscape. Wildlife often become stranded, separated from their young, or funneled toward busy roads when unknowing humans put up barriers like fences. So when entomologist Eric Eaton told me he’d been pondering the nature of fences for an article, I suggested he include that angle in his piece, even though he was more focused on the ways insects and animals use them: as launching points for ballooning baby spiders, for example, and basking spots for lizards.


Doug Tallamy spoke at the CO Native Plant Society Annual Conference last fall. His latest book is Nature’s Last Hope. He’s so articulate and detailed about restoring the spoiled-our-nest mess we find ourselves in I squeezed in some highlights on p. 17.


Finally, Paula Ogilvie writes about plant names and definitions. If you’ve ever been confused about Latin names or terms like selection, hybrid, endemic, or species she sorts it out for you. This article landed at the back of the issue not because it’s any less important – in fact, just the opposite, especially for new gardeners.


Kelly Grummons continues to answer your gardening questions here and online so keep emailing them to us.

Our Harvest Issue comes out in late August. Until then, Spring! Then Summer.


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Jane Shellenberger