Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rocky Mountain High Part 3--A visit to Mountain View Experimental Gardens

One fine day I went around the mountains with Randy and Marcia Tatroe, first to Boreas Pass (more on that in a later post), then to Breckenridge, and then to visit Jane Hendrix on the outskirts of Breckenridge.  Remarkably, according to what I was told there are two gardeners named Jane Hendrix with a Breckenridge address--I met the one whose website is .  Believe me when I say her garden was a special treat--it was amazing what could survive and, in fact, flourish, in such a high alpine garden.  The short but sunny and cool growing season suits some flowers perfectly, and I saw in August things that would be blooming in spring back home.  Jane is an expert on the native flora, and behind the house was an open conifer woodland with masses of lupines and castillejas in bloom.  I found it funny that she almost apologized that they were a bit past peak, I sure couldn't tell, as you can see in the third photo it looked like something out of a Monet painting.  In the first photo a stunning mass of Primula florindae shows off flaring flowers in shades of red and yellow.  Castillejas are everywhere, even in the front gardens where their bright red flowers combine nicely with mainly european flowers in a slightly bizzare, but beautiful, scene. The incredible yellow nodding daisy is Senecio (or Ligularia) amplectens. Why haven't I ever heard of this one before I saw it, its a truly gorgeous perennial.   Luckily I was able to purchase seed of it in the small shop that Jane has in the house.  There she sells seeds of both natives and garden flowers (from her garden) for what I must admit are very kind prices. I hope to have some plants of the senecio growing by next spring to set out in my school garden. I also got three of her booklets to help me with wildflower identification, they are inexpensive and have lists and color photos of plants from locations that tourists are likely to hike in/visit in the area.  I was impressed with just how bright colors were, even though it was lightly overcast (great for picture taking) while we were there.  In the fifth photo a red Penstemon barbatus combines nicely with blue and yellow neighbors. A graceful spire of soft pink Ipomopsis aggregata rises above lavender Aster alpinus and a white silene.  I finally get to see Meconopsis baileyi in bloom in a garden, for the first time in my life.  What an interesting combination with the firey red flowered, purple leaved,  L. x arkwrightii 'Vesuvius'!  Felicia bergiana is a small blue annual daisy from the drier areas of the Western Cape.  The ray flowers open flat in sunshine, and curl backwards in shadow.  Jane told me that she needed to collect and save seed, it refuses to self sow for her.  I imagine that is because it is naturally a winter growing species, primed to germinate in fall, so perhaps the seeds germinate too early and the seedlings freeze during the long harsh winter.   In the cool bright mountain air, it grows far better than it does during our hot humid summers in NY--I have sucessfully grown it, but it expires before the end of summer here (indeed, that is what it does in its native haunts too).  Oh my, so many wonderful pansies--in early August!  They never look that good in NY, and although pansies are not exactly rare, they are a really wonderful flower, so many colors and patterns, and they are fragrant too.  Instead of expiring or limping along like they do when it gets hot here, they look perfect all summer long in Breckenridge, and nowhere more so than in Jane's garden.  Finally I am posting a photo of a mystery pink Penstemon that grows in her garden.  She was wondering about its identity, so if any readers care to hazard a guess, let me know and I will pass it along to her. 

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