It’s official! Our garden has a new name!

My garden is amazing to me this year! After the very dry spring of 2018, with evacuations and then a terrible wildfire, the Spring Fire burned over 100,000 acres, this spring has been a dream. Plants that I had almost forgotten about came back in full force! Plants that got eaten back by deer or bunnies came roaring back with no deer in sight.

Then my brother John, the self-proclaimed “dirt guy,” made a trip up here in May to finish up…

After a number of other trips up here from Sedona in the past few years to help us plan out and finish our new garden facing the Spanish Peaks, I decided to name this garden for him. He put a lot of heart and soul into his work here and it shows!

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A Brief Lesson in Garden Love & Plant Diversity

I was raised by Dr. Jack L. Carter, a well-known botanist in this area, best know for his books “Trees and Shrubs of Colorado” and “Trees and Shrubs of New Mexico.” I never wanted to be a botanist. My interests ran more towards Asian history in college, after a few months living in Thailand at age 19. But as it turns out, my new garden at 7,000 feet, is where I now go to find meaning, happiness, comfort and solace.

This catmint took two years to start looking this big and happy!

I love everything about going out to visit my plants each morning. I want to see what’s blooming, what’s thinking about it, and which plant needs some help from me to be happier with their placement in the garden.

I have had gardens all over Boulder, Fort Collins and Loveland Colorado. From this I have learned that all gardens take time to develop and grow in their own way. Only start a garden if you have a few years to watch it develop of its own accord. You need to learn the native plants in your area and gain the awareness of which critters eat what. I spent a couple years walking around La Veta before I started my own garden. There you can quickly see what may survive constant deer nibbling, plus rabbits, etc. I have also incorporated a number of native plants from our surrounding acreage. Some just turn up in the garden and I let them stay. Others I have transplanted.

This spring we have a abundance of this plant along the county roads and just about everywhere, which is curious because I don’t remember seeing a lot of it before this year. After consultation with my favorite botanist friend Jan, we decided it is called Penstemon augustifolius.

From the very beginning I knew I wanted to bring some Penstemon strictus into my new garden, common name Rocky Mountain Penstemon. I had great experiences growing it in my Loveland garden a number of years ago.

My garden in Loveland was my primary solace in the spring of 2001 when my marriage fell apart. I started a garden because I love growing things around me and I knew even then that:

Action is the greatest antidote to despair.

Eighteen years later I will share with you an essential insight into how life works. When life seems meaningless, find some part of your life that you can transform. I have transformed ugly screened-in porches into beautiful sun rooms and empty lots into native plant gardens. Find a way to make something beautiful around you. Do it today! Because:

Beauty is the garden where hope grows!

Sky Garden Thoughts

The past few weeks since my brother John left, have been quite trying. First I got bronchitis, then our kitty Charlie died, and now Mike has bronchitis. When it rains, it pours! Then yesterday I took a bad fall onto concrete directly on my knee. These kinds of experiences leave me wondering “What’s next?” but in a bad way…

Neither Mike nor I had ever had to euthanize a pet before. We couldn’t believe what was happening at the time, but Charlie was suffering so much with no solution but death. And yes, Mike had to bury Charlie himself down below our home. It seems we have started our own pet graveyard.

The thought that stuck with me after watching our cat first get a shot to help him relax, and then one to help him let go of life, was exactly how close we all are to death at any moment of our life. It hit me with radical clarity how we spend our whole life misunderstanding and fearing that moment of death, and then it is over so quickly. The line is truly fine and gloriously final.

Then my mind continued to the thought: Most of our conceptions at the beginning of life were quite haphazard. How many of our deaths will be the same?

That is why I love spending time in my garden right now. The silence except for the bird calls, the morning chill, the bright flowers that pop up one morning and leave just as suddenly. This is the natural cycle of life and death on planet earth. This is what we signed up for when we were conceived. We come, we experience and we go.

“We’re all just walking each other home…” – Ram Das

Sky Gardening – June 2019!

We all need distractions from the news and our lives in general, so how about some photos of my favorite plants? I know gardening is my favorite form of distraction, how about you? Since I wrote to you about gardening here at the beginning of May, we have received over two inches of moisture, some of it unfortunately as SNOW, but most of my new plants just said, “What, me worry?” and continued on because they are so sturdy and well-matched to this 7,000′ foothills environment.

One plant that is totally thriving is my catmint! Instead of delaying it’s bloom time, it’s saying, “Hey, look how tough I am!”

I see the Cholla cactus I started from a baby a few years ago is also looking happy. Some ask me why I would plant a cacti in or near my garden.

The answer is that when this starts blooming in a few years it could look like this! They are everywhere along I-25 between the New Mexico border and Colorado Springs. Watch them bloom in July!

I go out every morning to see how my garden grows, if the weather is sunny and it’s not blowing like hell out there. Rasta always accompanies me. His job is peeing on the plants or lying in the sun.

I still need to find a place for this BEAUTIFUL Columbine, our magnificent state flower!

Until then I’ll just keep dabbling in my sky garden. This place gives me so much JOY!

Dirt Work and Family

Early morning pastel in Spanish Peaks County…

It’s been all dirt work around our home lately! My brother John, a self-described ‘dirt guy,’ came in Sunday and he has truly spruced up our sky garden area.

After proper leveling, provided by John, we added pavers and gravel to the lower-level of the garden to give it an even finished look. More plants to come in soon around the bird bath…And so many native plants are just starting to bloom after that big snow last week! We also put in a few new trees. Perfect time for my parents to visit today.

John is a man of very few words. He always has been, but even more so since he lives alone along Oak Creek near Sedona. When I asked him this morning why he likes to work in the dirt, he answered: “It’s organic.”

What’s growing in my southern Colorado Foothills Garden?

Walker’s Low Catmint does great here, and so far no rodents have eaten it!

I have been establishing a rock flower garden with both native plants and local varieties for the past few years. I don’t dare raise vegetables and fruit here, mostly because of the extreme winds we get sitting here on the side of a ridge at 7,000 feet. It is not unusual for us to receive westerly winds over 60 mph. But in the summer the winds usually calm down and we are left with long, lovely warm days.

Rocky Mountain Penstemon around our birdbath, and BTW the birds really do bath in there!

I have had great luck also with Rocky Mountain Penstemon and Knautia Red Knight. They are both just about to bloom in spite of some very cool weather this spring. Last year the deer ate some of the blooms off so this year I will be patrolling the area!

A couple different types of Gallardia and Yarrow with some Lavender of course!

I’m trying out a few different colors and types of yarrow this spring. I have heard so many different things about the animals only liking one color of flower, so now I have yellow, red, and pink coming up, a veritable smorgasbord of deer food! I should also mention Blue Mist Spirea. It’s a small bush that seems to love it here. It’s a woody plant so no deer nibbles there. I heard a new theory recently, that animals don’t like to eat plants that give off a strong odor like herbs. Have you found this to be true?

This spring I went out and realized I had almost all purple flowers, so I’m making an effort to add new colors. I added a beautiful red Sunrose, some red Jupiter’s Beard, some cinquefoil and other yellow varieties. I’ll let you know how they do…

Finally, I added a new solar water fountain to my garden. What a great idea to let the sun keep it running, but you do have to add water everyday. We are amazed at how sensitive it is! The second you come between the sensor and the sun the pump stops.

We see everything from the largest raven to the tiniest hummingbird coming by everyday. We feed the birds and they do come!

In the summer of 2014, Mike and I sold our nice house in Fort Collins to move temporarily into an old miner’s home in Walsenburg, while constructing a passive solar home near the top of Navajo Ranch Estates west of Walsenburg Colorado. To learn more about downsizing to a tiny town and then living in the Colorado countryside, consider reading my book: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado available from Amazon or directly from me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Let yourself be moved!

Follow your heart – listen to what you care for – connect with fierce compassion. Lean into what you love – serve what you value – let yourself be moved. Allow guidance from the great fullness of life to inspire your actions.

Gratefulness directs us into the territory of the heart. When we tune into our deepest cares for the world, we are moved to be: Advocate. Friend. Ally. Guardian.

Large or small, notice what you love and take a stand for it. A tree. Oceans. Justice. A child. Humanity. Animals. Diversity. Peace. Life needs us to be protectors. We are with you, ever-grateful for the opportunity to love and serve the world...

Jeff Chemnick’s Aloes in Wonderland in California!

Here’s a man who decided he loved plants, especially all kinds of succulents, including cacti, as well as palm trees, dragon trees (Dracaena draco) and Queensland bottle trees (Brachychiton rupestris). But Jeff’s real specialty is cycads, specifically Mexican cycads. Jeff is now a leading expert in the field and has one the largest private collections.

Choose your own passion and then go for it!