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  • Jane Shellenberger

Editor's Letter: April 2016

It’s greening up out here on the plains west of Longmont. I’ve planted some seeds and pretty soon the asparagus will be up too. I’m looking forward to fresh garden salads like the one on our cover.

When my friend and fellow garden writer, Jodi Torpey, mentioned a couple of years ago that she was writing a book about prize-winning vegetables I thought, okay, but I didn’t really grasp the concept. Now that her book is out I have to share it with you. What a fun read for vegetable gardeners! See the excerpt from her Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening: The Secrets to Growing the Biggest and Best Prizewinning Produce on page 3. When my daughter was riding horses in 4-H, “Fair” (the Boulder County Fair in July) was the biggest, most exciting week of the year with the Stock Show a close second. Jodi captures some of that same excitement from a different angle while offering plenty of growing tips.

Penn Parmenter is still at it up on “their mountain” near Westcliffe. Cord is building greenhouses while she’s been busy processing seed in her kitchen, especially her tomato seeds adapted for cold climates, to sell to mountain gardeners. One day last fall she got a call from a guy at the Colorado Department of Agriculture. He had discovered her small, fledgling seed company, Miss Penn’s Mountain Seeds, and wanted to pay a visit to inspect her seed, to make sure she’s labeling them accurately and honestly. She tells you the story in this issue.

Other vegetable growing topics you’ll find here this month include Beets for All Seasons, plus a very handy chart that details the soil temperatures needed for many different vegetable seeds to germinate.

Gary Raham profiles Alexander Von Humboldt, “the Shakespeare of Science”, a German explorer whose writings and travels across the Americas at the beginning of the 19th century inspired generations of thinkers, writers, scientists and artists, though few recognize his name today.

Lauren Springer Ogden coined the term “Hell-Strips” to describe the hot median strips of ground between street and sidewalk. Generally these are owned by the city but maintained by the homeowner inside the sidewalk. Writer Cheryl Conklin tells you about some of the creative approaches to “maintenance” taken by new and experienced gardeners on her Colorado Springs street.

I was elated when Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator and Director of Outreach at Denver Botanic Gardens, agreed to write about his Olympic plant trips to Turkey and Greece last summer. Panayoti has touched and inspired nearly every plant person in Colorado – and many beyond. He has certainly been generous to me with his time and knowledge. We ran a story about his plant trips to South Africa in one of our first issues roughly 20 years ago, as well as his more recent journey to the Mongolian Steppes. Turkey is in the news a lot lately as desperate immigrants pour in from many countries, especially Syria. Panayoti’s story offers a close-up glimpse of a very different world – the incredibly rich natural one.

There’s so much interest in native plants now that I asked four of the specialty growers who’ll be bringing plants to the Plant Hunters Market on April 22-23, to write a brief profile of a native plant that thrives in gardens. The Market has a special focus on natives this year and celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Rocky Mt Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS). This club is full of amazing, unassuming, expert plant people so it offers a great opportunity to learn about gardening and plants of all kinds.

Mikl Brawner tells me there’s also a huge interest in smaller shrubs right now, including at his Boulder nursery. He writes about several really good ones for Colorado gardens in “Small Shrubs that Fit In.”

Remember how the baby spiders floated away in the book, Charlotte’s Web? Entomologist Eric Eaton zooms in on ballooning spiders in his piece, “Up, Up and Away – Spider Style” on p. 23.

Kelly Grummons continues to answer gardening questions for us in each issue. Here he addresses tomato pollination, cheatgrass, and lawn aeration. If you have questions for Kelly just email us at and we’ll pass them on.

Don’t forget to check our Calendar and Marketplace Page to see what’s going on.

Happy Spring!

Jane Shellenberger



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