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!

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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

Photography by Laura Lee!

Let me begin by saying, I never thought of myself as a “photographer.” What does that even mean? We all write but few of us are “writers.” When I began writing professionally I had no definition of “writer.” Then I read an article in a writing magazine that said, a writer is someone who sits down everyday and writes. That was me.

Now I find I am constantly taking photos from our foothills ridge simply because they need to be taken.


I mean how can you watch scenes like these everyday and not want to preserve them for others to see?

Since I started taking photos like this, I have posted quite a few on my Facebook page. Yes, everyone seems to love them, and a few have encouraged me to begin selling them so others can enjoy…


the views we enjoy everyday.

So here I am, launching myself into a whole new area of endeavor. I have so much to learn about lens and filters and everything else, I’ll admit that.

The East Peak through the lilac trees!

But life is for learning, right?

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!

What makes us who we are today?

I was struck the other day by this quote from Dr. Phillip McGraw. In my opinion, “Dr. Phil” is a wise man disguised as a TV personality.

“What I’m doing now is a culmination of everything I’ve ever done”

I have been in the midst of a “career” change for the past few years, since moving out into the Colorado countryside. I know, how can you change careers when you are already retired? But in some ways this change is more important to me than anything I did back when I was struggling to make a living.

That quote from Dr. Phil made me start thinking about the lifetime of influences that have brought me to this exact moment in time. I never gave much thought to the major influence my father has had on my interests until now. He has been an influential botanist, president of the National Association of Biology Teachers at one time, and author of some important books like “Trees and Shrubs of Colorado.” So, is that why I love living in nature and gardening at 7,000 feet with native plants now?

My Mom became a master of plant photography and Photoshop to assist my Dad in his book production. They together created “Common Southwestern Native Plants,” a lovely identification guide. Oh, maybe that is why I have recently decided to focus my future energies on photography.

The West Peak from the La Veta Public Library, 4/18/19

I believe we sometimes try to make our lives more complex than they really are. Look around you? What is influencing your world view right now? What is so close you almost don’t see it? Is that what you should turn your attention to right now, while you still can?

BIRTHDAY JOY and how to get some!

Some might say celebrating turning 64 is crazy. What can be great about being 64? Number one, I made it this far without losing too many parts or major skills. There’s something to celebrate! Second, my Mom (who is 85!) is thrilled. And finally, we already have social security and Medicare is coming soon, hopefully before Trump kills off our Obamacare.

But in my case I have found a number of other things to celebrate. For one, the guy who has been making everybody miserable around here has finally sold his house and moved away! YES! And it’s almost springtime in the Rockies too! My tiny perennials are showing signs of new life after a cold, windy winter.

In the meantime, I feel complete gratitude for the sun coming back our way for another spring and summer. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, especially when I live in a solar home!

“What’s it like to move to the Colorado countryside to build solar?”

A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado by Laura Lee Carter, M.A. Librarianship, History and Transpersonal Counseling, is a book that attempts to answer that question…

In June 2014 we packed up or got rid of most of our worldly goods, sold our nice house in suburbia (Fort Collins) and took off to stay in an old miner’s cabin, while we built a direct-gain passive solar home with spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristos, west of Walsenburg, Colorado…