Garden Spotlight Articles

Spotlight on the Garden – Bare is Beautiful

by Janet Fitzgerald, HAS Member

Photo Credit:  Debra Stinton Othitis 

The graceful and stately American Elm tree is indisputably the centerpiece of the HAS Heritage Garden. It boasts an umbrella-shaped canopy and has branches like spreading fountains. Its engaging winter architecture gives way to green leaves in summer that turn gold in fall. This tree can provide some serious shade. It’s likely the HAS tree (Ulmus americana) was planted about 1908, when the historic Van Briggle Pottery building opened in what was then the newly-formed Monument Valley Park.

Although this would currently date the tree at more than a century old, American Elms can live up to 300 years and grow to more than a 100 feet. The American Elm in the HAS Heritage Garden survived the devastating flooding of Monument Creek in 1935. It also escaped succumbing to the nation-wide scourge of Dutch Elm disease in the 1930s. The last known measurements were taken in 2007 for the Notable Trees of Colorado calendar. At that time the tree was 50 feet high and had a trunk diameter of 49 inches.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in our new Garden Spotlight series featuring photos from Debra Stinton Othitis.

The Children’s Garden
by Rob Lucey, HAS Trustee

If you’re visiting the Demonstration Garden with young ones in tow, you might consider starting your visit by passing through this fanciful gate to the right of the cottage.

There you will find the Children’s Garden which was completed just prior to the Covid epidemic. Children will enjoy spotting the creatures built into the metalwork of the gate, which was created by HAS Trustees under the guidance of local arts organization Concrete Couch.

Look down and see the animal tracks cast into the concrete. To the right is a rock garden, to the left is a bee hotel, and straight ahead is a stump for playing tic tac toe. As spring arrives, look for peas, sunflowers and other colorful plants around the edges of the garden. These provide a great opportunity to explore the senses of smell and touch with children, as well as discussing where their food comes from.

Note that sometime later in the year, the city has plans to work on a water pipe that happens to pass directly under this fence. Unfortunately, we’ve learned that it will probably be dug up during the project, but they have promised to return it to its current state when the work is completed.

Garden Spotlight – Vibrant Viburnum
by Gaye Woullard, HAS Trustee

Would you like some early showy blooms in your garden? Yes, you say? Then you may want to plant a viburnum bush.

Here is a blooming branch from the vibrant, Viburnum x bodnantense “Pink Dawn” viburnum that is one of the earliest blooming bushes in the Demo Garden. This variety is known for its bright pink fragrant flowers, opening from tiny pink buds, from late winter to early spring.

The flowers bloom profusely on this easy-to-grow deciduous bush that is attractive in every season as the flowers mature to crimson fruits that turn dark in the fall. The leaves are an attractive parakeet green before winding up a deep red as winter approaches. This variety can grow to 10 feet tall in full sun or part shade and well-drained soil. It is drought tolerant once established. It is generally a low-maintenance bush that does well in Colorado.

There are many varieties of viburnum, the most well-known being Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ or “Snowball Bush” that is widely grown in Colorado for its big showy white balls of flowers.

We were unsuccessful in obtaining viburnums for our Plant sale this Spring, but word has it that there might be a few Viburnum lantana (Viburnum wayfarer) in the Dug and Donated section.


In the HAS Gardens: Evergreens

Article by Diane Brunjes, HAS Gardener, published in February 2020 HAS Announcements

Living in a northern climate as we do, makes one appreciate anything that brings color and life to the garden in the winter. And there seems to be nothing that does that better than conifers. Strictly speaking, the ones we are referring to are evergreens. There are however, conifers that are NOT evergreens, like larches (Larix), the bald-cypress (Taxodium) and the dawn redwood (Metasequoia), which all lose their needles for the winter. But the ones we will focus on now are the ones that retain their needles over the winter – hence, ever-green.

Many gardening experts and designers say that your garden should be composed of approximately 30% evergreens. This figure can be adjusted to suit your tastes, but how many of us can claim that we get anywhere near that percentage? But considering that most of the garden is D-O-N-E by late October, and really doesn’t get going again until April, that leaves at least five full months of drab – unless you plan and plant carefully.

Of course, many perennials bring winter interest, like sedums, opuntias, grasses, agaves, penstemons with its evergreen foliage, hellebores, coneflower seedheads, and artemisias are just a few of the flowering herbaceous plants that we can rely on for winter interest. At least, until that two-foot snowstorm with 40 mile-an-hour winds occurs, and then most of our interest is plowed under until the next growing season.

That’s why adding evergreens to your garden can be the year-round boost that you might be looking for without realizing it. One of the evergreens we will be adding to the sensory garden this year is Pinus nigra ‘Bambino’. The name alone is enough reason to grow it, but its dwarf nature and tight branching certainly are other reasons. Forming a low wide dome over many years, this evergreen eventually becomes so dense, that reaching in with a gloved hand every two or three years becomes necessary to clean out the accumulation of fallen needles. Although it looks very “pet-able”, the needles retain the stiffness of the Austrian pine, and if you do clean, do it carefully. Look for it in the HAS Gardens this spring.

Another evergreen we are excited to be adding is the very narrow exclamation point Juniperus scopulurum ‘Blue Arrow’. A selection of our native Rocky Mountain juniper, this is even narrower and slightly smaller than J. ‘Skyrocket’. Its new growth tends to be slightly bluer, but this varies per specimen, as we have seen some that definitely trend more towards green. We will be adding three of these in the Demo Garden. This kind of exclamation point has several design functions. In one spot it will “stop” the eye, in another, it will be simply a backdrop to other features, and in a third spot, it will be that exclamation mark that is so useful in the garden if not overused. In ten years, these junipers will be 12-15 ft tall x 2 ft wide.

If you are looking for design inspiration for your own garden, be sure to google The Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk, England. Some conifer gardens can feel heavy and even a bit oppressive, but Adrian Bloom makes amazing use of grasses, vibrant-stemmed dogwoods, and deciduous plants to bring lightness and movement to his garden. Be warned, though, if you watch the video on their website, you will think it is just a perennial garden! Bloom used to use, very heavily, heaths and heathers (which we can’t grow) but in the last decade has begun to move to the above-mentioned groupings. This has horrified some conifer garden purists, but makes a very welcome change, we believe, for everyone else.

Happy Gardening, and as always, come visit the Gardens!