• Jane Shellenberger

Editor's Letter: Spring 2021

This spring really does feel like a new beginning. For one thing, with two feet of wet snow outside, what had been shaping up as an exceptionally dry year (even the state climatologist said so), is looking much better. Just walking in the heavy stuff was a challenge, but I trudged outside several times during the blizzard to check on the animals and free up weighted down shrubs and trees. Exhausting! That led me to include an excerpt in this issue from a piece on pruning and caring for young trees that Mikl Brawner wrote several years ago. It’s near the back on page 23.


Also toward the back of the issue you’ll find Paula Ogilvie’s interesting botany column on “How Plants Take up Water” and Elizabeth Black’s piece on “Phosphorus, Too Much of a Good Thing”, detailing the surprising results of a Citizen Science Soil Health Project she’s been involved with for two years.

It’s always a treat to meet new gardener writers, especially those from other gardening realities. A friend introduced me to Carolyn Dunmire who lives and gardens with her husband on 60 acres in southwest Colorado, just a few miles from the Utah border. She writes here about Dirt as Mulch, specifically the vivid red, fine-grained clay known as The Weatherhill that has traditionally supported dryland crops (and native Hopi farmers) of the Colorado Plateau.



Lee Recca covers seven native perennials that have reliably germinated and grown well for her in Wheat Ridge, along with tips on how to plant native seeds. And Penn Parmenter, a seed seller herself, points you toward Colorado and regional seed companies that grow or collect their own adapted seed.

In time for planting this year, Deb Whittaker wanted to find out more about “long keepers”, the vegetable varieties that last longest in storage. She shares her research here with you.



Mikl Brawner tells you about some highly nutritious wild fruits that you might consider growing. When he told me how bitter tasting some of these are – they’re called Chokecherry and Chokeberry for a reason – I balked, but he convinced me by describing their many desirable “superfruit” and habitat/ecosystem attributes.


Well-known garden speaker and author Marcia Tatroe says the questions she is asked most often involve plants for shady areas. Even when her topic has nothing to do with shade “it comes up all the time.” So she writes here about perennial plants that work in drier, shady parts of the yard. (Annuals for shade coming in the next issue.)


Dynamic duo Don and Lynn Ireland engaged the HOA at their south Denver Cherry Creek 3 neighborhood in a decade-long, award-winning, water-saving landscape transformation for all 251 townhome residences. Find out how they managed it – and more, on page 6.


R. Gary Raham contributes a piece on Biomimicry, including some projects that are finalists in the 2020 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. After all, Nature has devised many survival tricks while “keeping her systems in balance for eons”. This is what humans need to learn.


We hear ad nauseum about The Bottom Line and while we all know what that means – saving money at all costs, we often don’t understand the repercussions. But when it comes to gardening Kenton Seth gets it. He explains what we have to lose in “Double Bottom Line Gardening”. When “the mission” is also included, value is completely redefined.


Kelly Grummons’ wide-ranging Gardening Q & A column continues this year, which leads me to an important announcement. Our website coloradogardener.com has been complete­ly redesigned and now includes a lot of searchable content and resources. Kelly’s Q & A will be “live” in that anyone can ask gardening questions on the site and he will answer. Many of you tell us that you save back issues and emphasize that you’d rather peruse a hard copy than spend more time onscreen. But over time, creating a digital archive of Colorado Gardener content will be extremely useful. Many thanks to Alex Brinkman who set up our website from the beginning and has posted each new issue for many years.


Both our designer, Lise Neer, and I are learning a lot from our new webmistress, Idelle Fisher, whom I met at the Garden Bloggers Fling, a completely delightful gathering of earthy wordsmiths held in a different city each year (except 2020, alas) that was hosted by Judy Seaborn and others at Botanical Interests Seed Co in the summer of 2019.


If this sounds like full steam ahead for someone who has repeatedly expressed a desire to retire and sell the publication, I guess you could say that. It’s hard to move on when you love what you do, even if you lose patience and tire more easily. But, as the past year has shown us, we never know exactly what’s around the corner so embracing the present while staying open to future possibilities seems like the best option. It could just be inertia, but it feels like renewal.


Feeling incredibly grateful to have landed in Colorado so many years ago,

Jane Shellenberger


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