Monthly Archives: February 2017

Master Gardeners Heart Barbara Hyde Boardman

barbara-hyde-gardening-in-the-mountain-westWhen Barbara Hyde Boardman says she’s had the book thrown at her, she means it.

After spending 17 years with CSU Extension as a Boulder County horticulture agent, she retired and wrote the first of her gardening books, called Gardening in the Mountain West.

The publisher took issue with her manuscript because it included “too much Latin” and refused to publish it or return her original.

Because she didn’t have a copy of the book, she was relentless in pestering him for the manuscript. Then one evening he drove to her house and threw it on the front steps where it landed with a thud.

“I didn’t care,” she says. “I got my book back.”

As the first woman to graduate from CSU’s Horticulture Program in 1977, and just the second female horticulture agent in the U.S., Barbara had to learn to stand up for herself in a male-dominated agricultural industry.

Barbara, now 93 and living in Longmont, had a long and successful career with Extension even though it was tough for a woman in those days. Apparently agriculture agents didn’t think women belonged in horticulture.

Whenever there was enough money in the Extension telephone budget, she’d make long-distance calls to the other female horticulture agent so they could commiserate.

Barbara grew up in Colorado and says she always loved gardening. Her father came from an Iowa farm and her mother raised flowers so she learned gardening at an early age. She says she always had a little spot in the garden that was all hers.

“I could plant anything I wanted and some things were dreadful.”

That early start eventually led to gaining two degrees in horticulture from CSU. Working with other Extension agents around the country, she helped get the Master Gardener program off the ground. Eventually more than 500 volunteers had signed on in Boulder County before she retired in 1990, according to her bio.

In addition to Gardening in the Mountain West (published in 1999), Barbara authored three other books. The most recent is a gardening book for children and their grandparents. She also wrote weekly gardening columns for newspapers in the region and still writes for several garden club newsletters.

The second edition of Gardening in the Mountain West is a classic text on how to garden in one of the most challenging climates in the country (and it’s still available from online sellers). She dedicated it “to the volunteer Master Gardeners of Cooperative Extension. They have had a major impact on the level of horticultural excellence now achieved by the gardeners of this nation.”

Her affinity for CSU Extension and the Master Gardener program continues today. She’s contributed a tidy sum to start the Barbara J. Boardman Fund at the university.

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener

Horticulture Therapy Connects People With Plants and Potential



The Horticulture Therapy Garden at Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Englewood, CO


Plant lovers know the personal benefits gained from working in the garden. Nurturing plants and playing in the dirt seems to energize the spirit, stimulate creativity and dissolve life’s inevitable speed bumps. But not only does it seem to, it really does. In fact, even a walk in nature  has measurable advantageous effects on our brain.

These positive benefits are the foundation for the science-based field of horticulture therapy, which uses specially designed gardens or plant activities in targeted treatment programs within rehabilitative, vocational, medical or communities. Individuals with physical limitations, post traumatic stress syndrome, cognitive and memory impairment or vocational challenges are among the populations who benefit from professional horticultural therapy.

According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, “a therapeutic garden is a plant-dominated environment purposefully designed to facilitate interaction with the healing elements of nature.” Therapeutic gardens are designed to be safe and comfortable, invite exploration, build confidence, stimulate senses,  improve dexterity and increase physical ability.



The Anchor Center Horticultural Therapy Garden in Denver

The Anchor Center in Denver, which provides early intervention and education to blind and visually impaired children age 0-6, has offered horticulture therapy for over ten years. Erin Lovely, Horticultural Therapy Coordinator and Denver Master Gardener (DMG) says that on most days, children can be found interacting with the child-scaled garden which is planned to stimulate senses, build fine and motor skills and increase sensory awareness. The sweetness of the space, which was designed with the help of  DMG Angela Vanderlan, belies the rich learning opportunities within the garden.



Some of the purposeful, yet playful, activities include:

  • navigating changing surfaces and hardscape  while using a walking stick;
  • identifying flower colors, which are strategically placed to highlight contrasting textures and colors, especially yellow, purple and red, which are easiest for the visually impaired to see;
  • sowing seeds to increase fine motor skills which aide in learning braille later in life;
  • petting a fuzzy leafed plant, touching a prickly pine needle and taking in the glorious scent of basil;
  • filling a watering can and carrying it to its destination while navigating pebbles, mulch and concrete paths;
  • harvesting and eating produce from the “Pizza Garden”;
  • splashing in the water and crawling around large rocks.

Denver County Master Gardeners have been associated with the Anchor Center for many years. In addition to Erin and Angela’s work at the Anchor Center, each spring and summer, groups of Denver anchorcenter3Master Gardeners contribute time to the Anchor Center’s garden by teaching and guiding  gardening activities to groups of community volunteers. Past efforts have included planting trees, expanding garden beds and supporting the center’s compost program.  From experience, I can attest to this being an inspirational way to share gardening knowledge with others.

If you are interested in learning more about the field of horticulture therapy and other programs in Colorado, here are some resources:

Colorado State University and the Horticultural Therapy Institute’s concentration in horticultural therapy.

Mental Health Center of Denver’s Horticulture Therapy program’s excellent video.

Denver Botanic Garden’s newly expanded Sensory Garden and therapy programs.

World-renowned Craig Rehabilitation Hospital’s blog on using ikebana flower arranging in their horticulture therapy program for patients with spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries.


Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener

Photos used with permission of Craig Hospital (photo 1) and the Anchor Center.






















“Air Plants”: Trendy Tillandsia


Houseplants like clothing and interior design follow trends. There is a revival of the popularity of “air plants”(loose common term), or, more specifically, the sub-group tillandsias. From a design perspective, especially in winter months, these structural plants are useful. They can be frequently moved around, and have the flexibility to be displayed in non-restricted ways.  They can be hung vertically, aerially, or just plopped down to bring greenery and create spontaneous ‘intention’.


The name “air plant” is misleading as these delightful plants still require light, water and nutrients. Generally they are rootless; if they have roots they are for attachment purposes rather than nutrient uptake (tillandsias are epiphytes the largest component of the bromeliad family). They are suited to Denver and city living as they do not like the damp and are perfect for scaled-down city living spaces.

Tillandsias fall fairly neatly into two groups: xerophytes (desert, xeric origin) and mesic (tropical rainforest) varieties. The origin of the plant dictates both its leaf structure and texture, as well as its light and water requirements.
Xeric (desert origin) tillandsias need less water, and can therefore sustain drought periods. They will  flourish when placed in mid to late Colorado afternoon light.  Note that the xeric plants will generally grow more slowly, but can better tolerate being neglected! On the other hand, the mesic group needs more and frequent watering, and flourish when located in plentiful but gentle light (eastern is optimal).  Versatile tillandsia plants can be temporarily displayed in a darker setting as long as they are put back into light within a week. Normal house temperatures are fine as “air plants” are not too fussy. All tillandsias will enjoy sitting outdoors in clement weather, however they should not be exposed to extreme temperatures. Helpfully their leaves indicate if their nutrient requirments are being met. As far as fertilizer goes, natural is best and applied to an already hydrated plant which can then either be misted, dunked or soaked (err on the stingy side with the fertilizer to water ratio). Zinaida Sego suggests a balanced NPK food but I have seen success with an extremely high N content, specifically sold for air plants. Feeding should encourage flowering if desired.

Depending on the species, flowers are sometimes insignificant, but often are dramatic single stems. The flowers may be highly fragrant. Some leaves and flowers can undergo specific and beautiful color changes in inflorescence. A few tillandsias produce new growth in a chain pattern after inflorescence, but most tillandsias reproduce new “pups” at the base of the plants (they also produce seeds for airborne distribution). Pups may look quite different in form to the adult plant. This, along with the fact that there are hundreds of naturally occurring tillandsias, plus the addition of recent hybrids, can make identification tricky. Here is a short List of Popular Tillandsias with beautiful images.
Tillandsias are easy to care for and have few problems.  However, they will rot in a damp environment, for example: when sitting on moist soil, in a humid terrarium or when droplets are left gathered in their leaves. Do not be concerned about overwatering the tillandsias, just be sure to dry them off quickly. Click for watering suggestions and an image of hydrated verses dehydrated leaves: Three Hydration Methods. Personally I prefer the soak method,  however note that this will occupy a sink for awhile! Other people prefer the frequent misting method as it is fairly “zen”, especially if you like a little chat with your plants!


Soaking Method of Hydration.  A Couple of Hours at least once a Week. Just for the record this is not a toilet!


Lastly, I should note, that the only other thing to watch out for are mealybugs. Mealybugs will look like white cotton on the tender new growth and require (in order of severity) a dousing of water wash-offs, mechanical cotton bud removal, or, if extensive, a couple of treatments of natural pesticide (the second later application for eggs that hatch subsequently).

Tillandsias can be tidied up to meet your aesthetic needs, oddly shaped and yellowing leaves can be taken off, inflorescence can be carefully snipped at the base when no longer pleasing.  As the old growth at the base of the plant turns brown gently remove these leaves, taking care to look for new pups. Depending on your species, new pups, blushing leaves, and/or inflorescence may be signals that a plant is beginning the dying cycle.  This decline process can take a year.img_7324  In conclusion, how you chose to display your plants is only limited by your imagination!  In fact, the photos in this blog are of the same two plants. If you are looking for more information I recommend  Air Plants, The Curious World of Tillandsias by Zinaida Sego, of which there are several copies in the Denver Library System.  This elegant book documents the history, buying, care and display of air plants in a most beautiful, informative and comprehensive format.  The second part of the book is chiefly devoted to design and has useful information as to companion plants, waterproof natural glue, as well as hooking and hanging systems. For example there is a tripod screw, Thigmotrope Satellite, that attaches to the wall, and this is specially designed to “float” “air plants” practically invisibly. If you haven’t been convinced by the beauty of tillandsias this extensive but curated book should persuade you! Another, more basic, internet resource for decorating with “air plants” is  Tillandsia Display Ideasimg_7325

All Photos. Top: Tillandsia juncea : Tillandsia harrissi. Please correct me if you disagree!

                                                                     Anne Beletic,  Colorado Master Gardener, Denver



Isley, Paul. 1987. Tillandsia. The Worlds Most Unusual Airplants

Sego, Zenaida. 2014. Airplants. The Curious World of Tillandsias