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  • Jane Shellenberger

Editor's Letter: April 2019

Here’s what you’ll find inside the issue.

Entomologist Eric R Eaton tells you about human inventions - everything from paper to GPS systems - that insects actually came up with first. Much more is detailed in his new book, Insects Did It First, co-authored by Gregory S. Paulson.

You may have heard about a recent global study that confirms the rapid loss of insect life occurring worldwide. With this in mind, Mikl Brawner writes about Insectary plants that support beneficial insects - not just pollinators, but also those that prey on aphids and other pests. Create some habitat, give them a chance to do what they do best, and you’ll eliminate the need to use any garden poisons.

I recently heard a presentation by Nick Courtens, Curator of Plant Collections at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail, for our local chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society. Nick showed some amazing slides of his recent adventures in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan with the Alpine Garden Society. One purpose of the trip was to become familiar with Silk Road plants for a new Silk Road Garden at the Gardens in Vail. This led me to interview Nick and use a shot of the Gardens’ Alpine House on our cover. Marcia Tatroe writes about “Snow Iris”, some of the first flowers to bloom in early spring Colorado gardens. Some are miniature versions of the familiar tall bearded iris, blooming months earlier. Others are beautiful new hybrids.

Natural science writer & illustrator Gary R. Raham describes the process that a Boston company has devised to resurrect the scent of flowers from extinct plants using DNA extraction and a DNA printer, among other things. Another Biotech company describes its mission as “genetic rescue of endangered and extinct species.”

In an ongoing effort to introduce readers to garden worthy native plants, we include “Plant This, Not That” by Jennifer Bousselet, describing native alternatives to common garden plants. Pineleaf Penstemon and Little Bluestem are featured.

Even though they were told, “No you can’t,” Penn and Cord Parmenter have been growing abundant edible crops at over 8000’ near Westcliffe for many years. Penn tells you what they’ve learned from their decades of growing on the mountain.

She also writes about Quinoa, “the Mother Grain”, which grows better at higher altitudes with cooler summer temperatures than we usually have on the plains. Emily Weakland tells you about growing the plant in Loveland for its nutritious greens, and occasionally also reaping a harvest of its seeds.

In “Repurposing a Garden” Lee Recca suggests you let go of previous years’ expectations and experience, and begin with a fresh approach. Ask yourself some of her pointed questions to inform the aesthetics of your new garden.

Deb Whittaker asks a different question: “Is Saving Seed Making You a Criminal?” As mega seed companies consolidate, utility seed patents are on the rise. They prohibit even home gardeners from saving, transplanting, or sharing patented seed.

I met Roland Evans through the Boulder Culinary Gardeners. He has been building healthy soil for many years and has an extraordinarily prolific and vibrant mountain garden packed with vegetables and flowers of all kinds. His connection to his garden runs deep, as you’ll see in “Gardening and the Soul.”

On our back page, plantsman Kelly Grummons answers readers’ questions about pruning roses and getting amaryllis bulbs to re-bloom.

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it a surreal and disturbing time to be alive. Some of that is simply age. If we’re fortunate, contentment replaces angst and insecurity as we grow older, yet many things once taken for granted seem less solid. Friends and family are here one moment, gone the next. What seemed crucially important before is suddenly insignificant. Our lives are just as full, beautiful - and temporary - as a garden.

I know there are readers out there who disapprove when I stray from the topic of gardening because I hear from them occasionally. But speaking as someone who came of age at a time when peace, love, and justice for all were prevailing ideals that we at least aspired to, (and didn’t care if that sounded naive), the in-your-face viciousness that we’re witnessing repeatedly today is incredibly shocking, even if violence and prejudice are nothing new. And while every generation bemoans a particular loss of innocence, the accelerating damage to the planet caused mostly, if not completely, by human beings is staring us all in the face and already impacting lives.

Sure, I love to focus on my garden; it’s satisfying, fun, and calming. But I still find myself thinking about single use plastic (can we please stop with the plastic grocery bags?), dying oceans (plastic again and fertilizers), and hate crimes.

I hope the stories in Colorado Gardener bring you some pleasure and a rest from the roil of politics and divisiveness. Maybe they’ll even inspire you in some way to do something helpful or thoughtful: stop using chemicals and watering your lawn; let someone else go first; consume less; slow down; mentor someone younger; listen to old people; help immigrants in our communities instead of bashing them.

We’ll publish again in mid May and we always appreciate your suggestions.

Jane Shellenberger



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