Saturday, October 13, 2012

Denver Botanic Garden

On a recent trip to Denver, Colorado to visit my husband's brother and family, we took a trip to the Denver Botanic Garden. I encountered some incredible plants, many for the first time, thriving in a climate unlike any I have ever gardened in before. In some respects the desert and high altitude region seems harsh, but then again, many plants that have trouble over wintering in Vermont, seem to do just fine here. It was amazing to see what plants were entirely happy with extreme temperature changes coupled with constant dryness and drought. All those beautiful silvery leaved plants, gorgeous grasses, and unusual succulents were in their ultimate growing conditions.

Above photo: Bright red fruits of the desert prickly pear (Optunia phaeacantha) with Artemesia, Euphorbia, and Eriogonum all showcased in the low water garden.

I liked this little tableau of interesting foliage, shapes, textures and colors. I think the emerging purple flowers belong to Crocus speciousus, but I am not entirely confident in my ability to appropriately identify the crocus/colchicum bulbs. My inexpert guess is based on the great photographs and descriptions of the various autumn flowering bulbs found in a a recently acquired copy of Anna Pavrod's book titled Bulb.

Bouteloua graculis 'Blonde Ambition'
This was one of the most exciting plants I saw and it caught my eye from a great distance.  This grass is truly blonde with dainty, angled seed heads flicking about in the breeze. It is short (about 30"), but dense and extremly upright. Apparently the seed heads can stand tall through the winter. It is also cold hardy to Zone 4.

Erigonum wrightii var. wrightii (Snow mesa buckwheat)
I recently read about these great buckwheat plants perfectly suited to mountain climates and a great food source for the pollinators. Its seed heads are extremly beautiful, emanating a lovely coppery glow.

 A bamboo sculpture exhibit was going on in different parts of the garden and here the pool was decorated with these wiry objects rising up from the inky black water.

I thought this was another man made sculpture, but these wide, flat pads are in fact living waterlilies.  Victoria 'Longwood Hybrids'

The native plants garden was perhaps my favorite part. Since I arrived in this arid city, I have been enamored with all the wild plants that grow here- from peoples' cultivated gardens to the weeds in the sidewalk.  The large shrubs with a blush of pink are Artemesia tridentata, which are seen everywhere.

Cylindroptuntia imbricata, a cool region cactus native to the semi arid high plains of the United States

Meadow garden

Some incredible seed heads of some incredible plant (?)

Pink feathery flower heads of the grass, Mulenbergia reverchonii

This is a nice annual grass (zone 8-10) Melinis nerviglumis 'Pink Crystals'

A tall, towering stand of Leonotis, just a little bit bruised by their first frost

A captivating water feature and grass promenade


  1. Some wonderful photos, Helen! Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

  2. This garden looks amazing! So many beautiful grasses. Looking at the photos on your blog, these could so easily be English gardens, so many plants in common with gardens over here. Love your blog!

  3. Thanks Martin! I agree, these gardens did have a lot in common with many of the English gardens I have seen. It is always eye opening to see what plants thrive where- many plants I might have thought "tender" in Vermont were thriving in the same hardiness zone, but under drier and sunnier conditions. Fascinating! Thanks for reading.

  4. Are the weird unidentified seedheads from Cephalanthus? Was it a shrub?

  5. Beautiful photos of how grasses are highlighted fall! The garden does look like it has an amazing variety and texture to it. Thanks for sharing, Helen!

    1. Thanks Julie! It was a spectacular garden.

  6. Your photographs are amazing. I learned about your blog from Julie at Wife, Mother, Gardener and boy am I glad I did. I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing your trip photographs. And thank you Julie for telling me about your favorite gardening blogs. =)

  7. Thanks Susan for your nice comment and thanks to Julie for passing my blog along!