Colorado Master Gardeners: Master Gardeners tour Eagle Valley, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
Twenty-five Routt County Master Gardeners and Colorado State Extension agent Todd Hagenbuch recently toured several Eagle Valley and Routt County gardens.
Meeting with Eagle Valley Master Gardeners and CSU Extension agent Jeff Piper, our first garden viewing was a pocket garden in Eagle, where a multitude of perennials and vegetables thrived. The garden owners created visual interest with art and stone sculptures and tended plants that included red bird in a tree, sea lavender, geum, mongolian bells and orach.
Next, we viewed the demonstration raised bed gardens at the Eagle Extension office. Each garden is tended by a different county department, which experiments with various techniques and plants in an effort to grow food for the local food pantry. Additionally, we viewed recently completed projects on the site: a compost pile, tunnel houses and a buckwheat cover crop.
From there, we drove to a professionally designed and maintained garden in Arrowhead Resort. The professional gardener in charge was our tour guide and talked about the garden in general. Some information was provided about noxious weed control, water wise gardening and use of aspens, which are not ideal landscape trees. Some plants viewed in this garden were blue oat grass, self heal, ladies mantle and fritallaria.
The fourth stop on our tour was a garden on the north side of I70 at elevation. This garden is tended by a woman who has won the local Garden of the Year award so many years they quit having the competition. The north side of the house is a rocky area shaded by large conifers and consists of stone paths and steps around a variety of plantings. The south facing side of the house has lawn, various trees and perennials. Painted rocks, sculptures and unique container plantings are tucked across the entire area.
Last, we stopped at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail. A lot of punch is packed into this 3-acre garden. After a lovely lunch at the new pavilion, the head gardener gave a brief history of the garden and showed us cement trough gardens created at a workshop. The troughs were filled with a soil mixture of pea gravel, top soil and compost with vermiculate, then planted with various alpine plants.
Inside the “cold house” of the pavilion is a demonstration rock garden planted with alpine plants. Outside, paths meander throughout the garden with waterfalls and ponds at several points. The gardens consist of alpine plants and trees from all over the world. The volunteer docent pointed out that plants in the Betty Ford Gardens often bloom later than those in Eagle, which is at a lower altitude and is warmer than the Vail valley.
On our return trip to Steamboat Springs, we stopped to view a rock garden in Toponas. This garden is fairly new. Entirely designed and installed by the owners, it is hidden behind the house. The garden truly demonstrates that beauty can be created in what appears to be an unforgiving and difficult environment.
The tour was a valuable experience for the Master Gardeners. We increased our knowledge of plants and garden design and also learned about microclimates and environments and saw where specific plants thrive.
Barbara Flowers is a Routt County Master Gardener. She is a retired interior designer, certified botanical Illustrator and student of plein air painting.
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