Colorado Master Gardeners: Educate yourself by visiting gardens
One of the best ways to learn about garden design and plant material is to visit other gardens. Every garden will have successes and failures, and you can benefit from this. As you stroll through a garden, pay attention to the location of plants. Are they in the shade or full sun? Is it partly shaded with dappled sunlight? What direction do they face? Is the soil dry and sandy, clay or rich topsoil? Is it moist and boggy or rocky?
In Steamboat, we have a general zone, but there are often variations of this zone in different locations of the garden, depending on the exposure and sheltering structures or heat traps, such as asphalt driveways and rocks.
What types of plants are in these locations? Typically, plants are identified in botanic gardens. If you are in a friend’s or neighbor’s garden, it might be helpful to take along a plant identification book. This also is helpful on a hike. Keep notes in your notebook that detail the above criteria, and be sure to photograph the plant and its neighboring plants for design ideas and color references.
When you return to your garden, study it for exposures and soil conditions. Match your garden conditions to the gardens and walks or hikes you have seen or been on. Plants you have seen thriving in other gardens or locations should do well in similar conditions in your garden. Be sure to ask the owner or keeper of the garden for his or her advice and experience.
So how can you view other gardens? In Steamboat, the Yampa River Botanic Park is open to the public every day all summer. It is an excellent and valuable educational tool, as it has various gardens in different locations with varied conditions.
Garden tours are another fun and pleasant way to view various gardens. On July 23, the annual Strings Kitchen and Garden Tour will take place. This tour features a variety of gardens with plant material that thrives in our mountain conditions.
Many times, there are some surprises as to what is successful. There are gardens that feature native plants, some that are meticulously designed and maintained, some that are wild and natural and some that are created and cared for by the garden’s owner.
Routt County Master Gardeners will be on hand as garden docents to answer your questions and point our special features of each garden. Tickets are on sale at the Strings ticket office.
Often, there are other garden tours during the summer. Watch for them in the newspaper, or take a walk or hike in your neighborhood and be nosey. Look over fences, say “hi” if the gardener is out and ask questions. Most gardeners are proud of their work and love to show off their gardens.
Barbara Flowers is a Master Gardener, member of the Strings Guild and coordinator for Master Gardener docents at the Kitchen and Garden tour. She is a retired interior designer, certified botanical illustrator and student of plein air painting.
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