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  • Jane Shellenberger

Editor's Letter: Spring 2023

Has Spring arrived? Hopefully, by the time you’re reading this Spring – not Summer – will finally be here. March certainly didn’t go out like a lamb this year.

Here’s what’s in the issue.

When Eric Eaton asked if a story about the disturbing and underrated problem of light pollution resonated with me he tapped into one of my pet irritations. I try to not get so worked up about things these days, but the idiotic proliferation of so called “security lights” really gets to me. We like to walk at night, but now, as soon as we round the corner at the end of our semi-rural street, we’re confronted with a spotlight that reaches acres deep into the adjoining pasture and an offensive row of unshaded LED lights on a barn half a mile away. So yes, it resonated. Shortly thereafter I came upon The Darkness Manifesto: On Light Pollution, Night Ecology, & the Ancient Rhythms That Sustain Life, a thoroughly fascinating book by Johan Eklöf, a Swedish scientist who has studied bats for 20 years. Eaton and Eklöf are more knowledgeable, eloquent and dispassionate than I as you’ll see in “Reverence for the Dark Garden”.

We have several gardens to share with you. First, The Gardens on Spring Creek in Fort Collins, which already had a lot to offer, has undergone a stunning transformation opening nine impressive new gardens, a Butterfly House, new Visitors Center, and an Amphitheater – all since 2018. he three most recently opened gardens are our central focus here: Foothills Garden, Prairie Garden, and Undaunted Garden. They are a testament to the resilience and beauty of our regional flora, especially considering how difficult it’s been to establish plants during the past few more-extreme-than-usual years, as well as to the talent and perseverance of the hands-on (to say the least) garden designers: Sherry Fuller, Bryan Fischer, and Lauren Springer.

Desert Canyon Farm in Cañon City has been growing and selling herbs, perennials, and heritage vegetable plants, among other things, for more than two decades. Owners Tammi and Chris Hartung are steadfast plant people with diverse experience as propagators and growers who have evolved to meet the ever-changing challenges of the organic, specialty crops market and our climate. Their annual Open Farm Days are April 17 to June 11 this year.

Mary Menz has been identifying and documenting native plants on the Colorado’s Western Slope for more than 20 years.  Native Plant Master and co-author of Common Wildflowers of the San Juan Mountains, she volunteered to join the team creating an ethnobotany garden at the Ute Indian Museum near Montrose in 2017. The existing ornamental garden plants were removed and replaced with natives, especially those used by the Utes.

You might not think New Zealand gardens have much to teach Colorado gardeners, but not so, says Kenton Seth. He traveled to Central Otago, the driest part of the country, in February (their Summer) and met Jo Wakelin, whose luscious, yet completely unirrigated dry garden has been featured in several notable garden books. He shares what he learned from her, including about “the inevitable worldwide embrace of no-irrigation gardening.”

Natural history writer and illustrator Gary R Raham was fascinated by the story of a fungus that mimics the form of a flower in order to trick bees into spreading its spores. While deception is common in nature, USDA microbiologist Kerry O’Donnell says, “This is the only example that we know of anywhere on the planet where the false flower is all fungal.”

Mountain gardener Penn Parmenter writes about keeping field notes and garden records in a yearly book, “which has saved me many times...It is a record of my life and my garden life, and it holds detailed information that would be easy to forget.”

Yes, we have abundant snowpack this year, but as the last few days of intense dry, dusty winds remind us, we can’t take water for granted. Mikl Brawner has a wonderful xeriscape garden at Harlequins Gardens, his nursery in northwest Boulder, that he has managed for 35 years watering just once a month, twice a month in July. He writes here about strategies for “Stretching Our Water”.

Our Botany column by Paula Ogilvie is all about seeds, “The Next Generation”. Among other things, she explains why seeds don’t all germinate at once – a survival strategy, and how to help the process along.

Recognizing that not everyone has a yard or space for a garden, I share what I’ve learned about growing plants in self-watering containers. They make it a lot easier for just about anyone with a balcony or front stoop to grow some of their own food, herbs, and flowers, even if you need to leave town for a while.

Kelly Grummons fields questions from readers as always. This time they’re about lawns, dividing irises, and growing bell peppers.

Our Marketplace Page and Spring calendar are full of interesting things that gardeners like: classes and workshops, plant sales and swaps, garden tours, festivals, cool gardening products, and more. (If you forgot to tell us about your event we can always post it in our online calendar at so email us at

Our Harvest issue will come out in the 3rd week of August. Check our website for ad deadlines, distribution dates and where to find print copies, as well as updates on the status of Colorado Gardener. I don't mean to be coy but publishing print issues is more of a challenge every year and some would say obsolete.

Happy growing!

Jane Shellenberger



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