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Digging Deeper, my garden journey

As an old Hippie, died in the wool, I do believe my Garden has a spirit, not a spooky or a “bow down before me, mortal” kind. But a sense of partnership with me, the gardener. Watching the plants and knowing their cycles is such a joy.

As winter recedes, the flower clock starts with great excitement as the first blooms of tiny white snowdrops emerge! The bulbs were planted along the path up to the studio even with where my foot falls when I take that first step up the hill. Then comes the mostly yellow patch of crocus, a legacy from the former owners; then the reticulated iris, beautiful and fierce as they usually catch the last snow; and the poor daffodils who almost always catch the last hard frost. Every year, I pick what I can and mourn those who are killed in the bud. Then the spring into summer clock sort of explodes as almost everything else bursts into bloom.

For a brief glorious moment in June, our garden is color coordinated with purple and white salvias and petunias.

I always feel like one heck of a gardener, full of ideas and hope as water falls from the sky and the temperatures are moderate. Then July sets in and life becomes more grim. But still the blooms come, and the air is full of buzzing bees and so many insects.

In one of my earlier blogs I talk about companion planting, it's an amazing pest control system without chemicals. And so beautiful mixing herbs, flowers, and vegetables together.

Vegetables flow in a great torrent out of the raised beds and we gorge, preserve, and give away with so much delight. Then the spirea begins to bloom and the fall clock begins the winding down to winter. Winter, when it’s good to take a break and start the dream of next year's perfect garden.

The tapestry of August flowers full of native pollinators, honeybees, and tons other tiny winged things.

Knowing how your garden progresses through the seasons is part of paying attention to your garden. This is how you know what herbs are over-producing from the past. Notice what is coming on strong and do your research. Just in case, for instance, your Lily of the Valleys are looking particularly splendid this year (so poisonous! All parts! Do not use for medicine or cuisine!)

Some folks have been wanting to know more about our garden, this is a very brief overview of almost 30 years of working this land.

Our garden here in Colorado started about 30 years ago, having just moved from humid Iowa desperate to avoid another Midwestern winter. As so many things in my life, what I thought I wanted and what option was actually presented diverged. We had moved to Colorado to start a U-Pick and B&B but found instead a little house at the base of a foothill that had been the first house in the small valley.

We remembered that we are both introverts and happily gave up the B&B idea. That first spring after we moved it rained heavily and we planted many raspberry, black berry, and blue berry bushes on the small natural terraces on the foothill. To this day I’m not sure what made them, prior inhabitants? Natural rock formations? Animal paths?

This was prior to digital photos, there might be some paper ones somewhere but time has drawn a veil.

There was a bit of sandy soil on the terraces, and we mulched and amended in the pouring rain. Each evening after warming up from being soaked to the skin we worked out how the U-Pick would work and other big dreams.

Soon after the studio was finished and the path up to it was created in 2004. The sunflowers always volunteer to be beautiful.

It became evident that our land was where the deer and the elk came through in great numbers and they were very impressed with all the tasty plant buffet and suggested us to their friends. We decided to fence the two acres to protect our investment and worked for several months with a rock drill and bales of fence and posts as we discovered that most of the foothill was indeed bedrock.

We were two kids from Iowa where the soil goes down of 3 feet most of the time and you just pound posts in with one of those pipe post setter tools, what did we know?

Then the heat set in. We had only planted an acre, but it was up the steep hill. The hoses we laid had trouble pushing the water up that high, so we started hauling water by hand. But soon the scope of our folly became evident. There would be no U-Pick and we had to go another way.

Planting the border gardens in 2012 with strawberries, herbs, and flowers. Plenty of local rock from our hillside as well.

The following spring, I dug out a 30 x 15-foot square of foothill right across the driveway from door into the kitchen. The slope is pretty steep, around 30 degrees, so I made terraces using the rocks from the property and scraping soil from wherever I could find it. Composting and scrounging, this became the kitchen garden where I grew flowers and food.

Over the years, my husband and some friends built three stone walls to help control flooding when the spring rains poured down the hillside and into our basement. I happily back filled the walls with soil and made gardens.

The rock wall, the terraces, and my stepping stones. The kitchen garden is lovely.

Then we built the strawbale studio in 2003 up the hill from the house and put in sidewalk paths up to it. The border gardens have grown and expanded to include Mugo Pines, 3 plum trees, and many many flowers and herbs. We added three beehives a few years back and the garden is full of both our bees and native pollinators.

Cathedral Hives are a top bar system developed by natural beekeeper Clive Bell.

We laid in sprinkler systems to keep the plants alive and water as we are allowed by the water conservation guidelines. Water just doesn’t fall from the sky here for most of the year. We get an average of 11” of rain a year here in the shadow of Long’s Peak. It often rains like crazy to the north and south of us while we stay dry and sunny. Micro-climates are a serious thing here.

I know for sure that we’ve lost more plants than we’ve kept. If we had even half of what we’ve spent on plants that have died, we’d be much more for financially stable.

Looking at old garden pictures is seeing plants that have died and feeling moments of sorrowing. It’s also seeing the plants that have flourished and are taking over, I’m looking at you, Catmint and Echinacea.

It’s been a tremendous amount of work, but what a joy it has been. The only parts of our property that are unchanged are the horseshoe driveway and one wall in the living room. Everything else we have impacted, hopefully for the better.


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