Editor's Letter: April 2020
Two weeks after I wrote the letter below, everything has changed. One by one the states where my sisters (and friends) live have gone on lockdown. Colorado will likely do the same very soon. My daughter is on the front lines as a hospital nurse and the stories we’re hearing about the lack of protective equipment for health workers are true. She’s scared. I’m pissed. But I’ll spare you the rant - it isn’t helpful.
Many of the scheduled classes, events, plant sales, etc., listed in our calendar and in ads have been cancelled. Denver Botanic Gardens is closed. The good news is there’s no better time than the present to garden and grow food, so let’s do it!
Another day, another decade. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and the last bits of snow on the north side of the house – from the big storm in late November no less – have finally melted.
Last night’s Super Moon marked the beginning of spring. The March full moon is known as the Crow Moon, Worm Moon, or Sap Moon, all based on observations of the natural world by Native American tribes. We have two pieces in this issue that focus on other such observations.
Lee Recca’s “Trees That Speak” looks at Native American “Spirit” or “Prayer Trees” in the area south of Larkspur, once home to the Ute people. The technical term for trees changed by humans, including the most famous example – Japanese bonsai, is “culturally modified trees.” These trees in Colorado have been reshaped to frame sunsets, mark trails, and point to sacred landmarks like Pike’s Peak or “Tava” to the Utes.
When Jim Tolstrup was a young man he spent a summer with a Lakota family, which he describes as the start of a deep and lasting relationship. His connection to Native American cultures has also informed his lifelong study of plants, and he has integrated the two in his position as Director of the High Plains Environmental Center in Loveland. He writes here about seeing native plants “through the lens of indigenous cultures.”
Marcia Tatroe describes some of the earliest March flowers in her garden that aren’t bulbs. She suggests that the meteorological calendar designating March 1 st as the first day of spring might be more appropriate than the conventional calendar for Front Range gardeners.
I guess it isn't surprising that so many readers got such a big kick out of John Hershey’s “Pee in Your Garden” story in our Late Spring issue last year. It’s always a pleasure to publish his work, which just seems to get better and better. John serves it up for you again in “The Virtues and Vices of Gardening.”
Nature writer and amazing illustrator Gary Raham takes a close look at Crab Spiders – as both beauty and the beast – and their complex relationship to flowers. Mikl Brawner, who has been researching alternatives to pesticides as well as testing non-toxic products and methods for decades, writes about managing weeds without using poisons. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Round-up has been found in 93% of the people tested in the U.S., he reports.
If you suffer from allergies you’ll be especially interested in Jody Norman’s piece, “Trees are Gardens Too”, based on the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale (OPALS), which ranks allergenic plants from 1-10. She describes the repercussions of cities’ seemingly innocent decision to plant just male trees. On the facing page, Paula Ogilvie dives into the botany of pollen in “Why Plants Make Us Sneeze.”
About 13 years ago herbalist Brigitte Mars wrote a piece for Colorado Gardener on Vinegar of the Four Thieves. For obvious reasons, it’s a fitting piece to reprint this month in the midst of the corona virus outbreak.
Jodi Torpey and I both went to the Colorado Food Summit in January. Focused on improving Colorado’s food system and the urban-rural connection, the event culminated in a brainstorming session on creating a better Food System Vision for 2050. Jodi gives you the wrap-up here. The following month we went to the 6th Annual Conference of the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association in Denver. You’ll hear more about that later. There’s a cascade of creative energy in food and agriculture in our state right now.
I’ve also included a profile of a lifelong creative gardener from Longmont, Derice Pfefferkorn and a profile of my favorite vegetable to grow, broccoli! Kelly Grummons’ Q & A column continues this year. One of Kelly’s long-term projects has been hybridizing beautiful cold hardy cactus for our climate. His business partner, Jorge F Lopez, writes about how to best transplant these outdoors for success in your garden, just in time for the annual Colorado Cactus & Succulent Society sale the last weekend in March.
Don’t forget the annual Rock Garden Society sale on April 25 (at Jeffco Fairgrounds this year), the Gardens on Spring Creek sale in Fort Collins May 15-17 (be sure to visit their new “Undaunted Garden” & butterfly house this year), and so many others. Look carefully through our Calendar and Marketplace Pages to discover all the riches that Colorado’s gardening community has to offer.
Happy Spring and many thanks to our advertisers and writers; our fabulous, patient art director, Lise Neer; our distributors who brave Front Range traffic; to Sophie who faithfully compiles the Calendar; and of course our readers.