• Jane Shellenberger

Editor's Letter: May 2016

With all this moisture the flowering bulbs have been spectacular this year – that is, if they didn’t get smashed by snow. The species tulips are always lovely no matter what. And as long as you’re willing to accept daffodils and early hybrid tulips as cut flowers you’ll never be disappointed in Colorado. It remains to be seen which trees will produce fruit this year.


My sister in Connecticut says the entire state was under a fire watch in April. Many of the daffodil festivals were cancelled due to a dry winter and erratic spring weather more typical of the West. All I can say is, “Welcome to my world.”


All the shredded leaves and compost I added to my vegetable beds last fall has been transformed into rich, loose soil loaded with worms and ready for planting. The hay flakes I put on top have kept weeds and grass from springing up. Out here the pasture grass is very strong, especially this year. If I had to till or double dig my garden and fight the grass every spring I’d never get around to planting. I prefer the path of least resistance and least toil.


Some gardeners are fortunate to have family or household members who love, or are at least willing to dig holes, mend fences, move dirt around, or maybe even build a greenhouse. If you are so blessed, never ever take these folks for granted. In this regard, Penn Parmenter is one lucky gardener, though there’s more to it than luck. In this issue she tells you how it works in her family in “Gardening With Men.”


There’s been good news this year about monarch butterflies. Populations have increased after years of abysmally low numbers. Gary Raham tells you about all the little critters that call milkweeds home – or dinner – in “Saving the Milkweed Universe.” For those who want to attract and sustain butterflies in yards and gardens, Amy Yarger, Horticulture Director at the Butterfly Pavilion, explains what they need in “Butterfly Gardens and the Big Picture.”


Are you frustrated with your strawberry patch? Fruit growing expert Joel Reich explains why this may be and offers strategies to avoid disappointing fruit production specific to our climate.


Larry Stebbins and Sean Svette from Pikes Peak Urban Gardens have created an unusual partnership with the chef and staff at Penrose Hospital. It’s unusual yet it seems like a no-brainer. All the pieces were right there but skillful administering was needed to seal the deal and make it work. Read about it in “Hospital Food? Take Another Look.”


Niña Williams and I share a friend who, from afar, has tried to get us together for many years. When we finally did meet a few weeks ago, it was connection at first sight. It started with Niña’s peony photo (on our cover) and soon there was a story too. Niña founded and was Editor and Editor-at- large of Country Living Gardener during its 1993-2006 run. She moved back and forth from New York to Denver during her publishing career, while also creating gardens, renovating houses, raising daughters, and even decorating an “Illustrated Cottage” based on her fantasy of Provence that also became a book. Read her story in this issue.


The impressive corpse flower at Denver Botanic Gardens didn’t live up to its smelly reputation last fall and Marcia Tatroe didn’t line up to find out. But it did give her the idea for a story on “Stinky Plants.” She covers plants that may be less visually dramatic but, if it’s putrid scent you’re after, will knock your socks off.


Kenton Seth proposes that Xeriscape and Rainwater Harvesting get married. Read his piece to find out what he means and also check out the standard 7 Principles of Xeriscape on page 23. Xeriscape gardens need durable, waterwise, beautiful plants so Mikl Brawner tells you about several.


Finally, spring is the season when sap is rising so Paula Ogilvie picks up her Botany column with a piece on “Plant Plumbing: Sticky Situations.”


Lots of plant sales, garden tours and other events are coming right up so check our Calendar and Marketplace Page for details.


Have a merry month of May!


Jane Shellenberger



Excerpts from Issue:


Gardening With Men by Penn Parmenter

I like men. I’ve always gotten along famously with them. Perhaps that’s why I ran off to the woods with my mountain man husband and made three giant boys. Now that I’ve been gardening with men in the wilderness for 25 years I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I try to learn their ways and then utilize that to my benefit.


Strawberries by Joel A. Reich

Most people love eating fresh strawberries. And most Colorado food gardeners have planted them at some point. But in my experience talking with farmers and gardeners all over the state, a majority of folks have what they describe as “disappointing” results.


Saving the Milkweed Universe by Gary Raham

Milkweeds and other native plants support both wild native bees and honeybees during periods when crops are not in bloom… The Xerces Society, which promotes invertebrate conservation, also notes that in addition to supporting pollinators, milkweeds aid and abet predators and parasites of many crop and garden pests.


Butterfly Gardens & the Big Picture by Amy Yarger

It is almost impossible to create a garden that will only attract butterflies; a butterfly garden will invariably host American goldfinches, praying mantises, and ladybugs. Healthy gardens support dozens of complicated and intricate relationships.


Hospital Food? Take Another Look by Larry Stebbins

“Hey, our hospital should have a greenhouse! How great would that be? We could have healthy food, healthy patients, and a healthy community. And it could all be right here in our backyard.”


Stinky Plants by Marcia Tatroe

The voodoo flower is a bulb hardy in Front Range gardens. While the voodoo lily is probably the next best thing to its corpse flower cousin, in ten years it has never failed to deliver a flower truly redolent of putrefying flesh.


Why Rain Gardens and Xeriscapes Should Marry by Kenton Seth

Gardeners are an important and commendable force in public education… We should be proud. But a relatively new conservation concept for us , such as xeriscaping, could stand to be improved. There is a dangerous, slippery slope of overwatering xeriscapes.


The Mind’s Eye of Niña Williams by Jane Shellenberger

After extricating herself from the exhilarating, high-powered magazine editor position in New York, Williams returned to Colorado with two young children and continued as editor-at- large for Country Living Gardener. Her creativity surged in Denver.


Plant Plumbing & Sticky Situations by Paula Ogilvie

…What humans and aphids are both busy collecting is plant sap, a highly concentrated sugary fluid that moves throughout the plants’ plumbing system.


Unusual, Durable, Beautiful, Compact, and Waterwise by Mikl Brawner

Achillea serbica, the Serbian creeping yarrow, is not like the aggressive, rhizomatous Achillea millefolium varieties. It is not a thug. The foliage is very beautiful with narrow, cut-leaf, silver-gray “evergreen” leaves, the ½” daisy flowers are pure white with a yellow eye. It is deer and rabbit resistant, and provides nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies.


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