Category Archives: Volunteers

More Thanks for Our Gardens

Giving Garden Thanks – 2020
By Parry Burnap, CMG since 2016

My psyche unsettled in waking and sleeping hours by
flames, floods, blowdowns, protests, and infections,
across the lands, on our streets, within our families, in our lungs.
My heart aching from the sacrifices of the most vulnerable among us,
smiles covered, hugs restrained, and gatherings digitized.
2020, my 65th year,
called into question the little I thought I understood.
Tectonic forces cleared the way for an unknowable time I likely will never see.
These days were a long time coming and will be a long time still.

Safe at home with more time and attention that I could not spend elsewhere,
I walked steps to the garden, further than any vehicle could have taken me.
Pollinators loaded heavy with yellow dust buzzed clumsy in the dance of life.
Answers revealed themselves in cycles of rebirth and exquisite order
within riotous transformation.
Dumbstruck by color and light, I was surprised by Joy.
Nourishment and sanctuary, the garden was my place and time,
my guide to here and now, where I start over and over again
to do the never-ending work at hand.

Giving Thanks for Our Gardens

Photo by Anne Burke

Thanksgiving 2020 is a good time to reflect on a year filled with a cornucopia of challenges. Many gardeners consoled themselves by planting flowers, tending vegetable beds, pruning neglected shrubs and pulling up weeds.

Our gardens never looked better.

This year let’s serve up a heaping helping of gratitude to every garden for the comfort provided during such difficult times. (Compiled by Jodi Torpey, CMG since 2005)

My garden gave me sanity and some sense of normalcy. My garden had no idea a pandemic was going on, my plants felt extra love from me for sure!
Merrill Kingsbury Master Gardener Program Assistant
(Photo by Parry Burnap)

More than ever, my garden this year gave me purpose, peace and perspective.
In the spring when we were in lockdown, the garden was there to give me purpose. Rather than being stuck at home I felt safe at home and happy to have the time to work in the garden. In mid-summer, my husband was severely burned. During the four surgeries, skin grafts and lengthy recovery, I had our lovely garden to find solace and peace. As summer turned to fall, the harvest of blooms and vegetables brought joy and at times laughter. Like the perennials in my garden, I was grounded in the garden and I was growing where I was planted. It was here I found perspective. To all that and so much more, I am grateful this Thanksgiving!
Anne Burke, CMG since 2009

 

Covid’s confinement directed me to my garden. There I could see the lives of plants, insects, animals, fungi, carry on as usual. Usual! The garden’s delightful creatures allowed my world to expand to their universes and notice so much with focused time. How thankful I am for my bit of land that gives so much by its own being.
Susan Tamulonis, CMG since 2018

 

This Covid year, the routine of lockdown days spilled into our gardens. We all had more time to focus our energies on tweaking, replanting, dividing and sharing. I was concerned for the birds who came to my feeders; they learned to ignore the barking puppy. Now I have the most overfed doves in Denver County.
Anna P. Jones, CMG since 2019
(Photo by Susan Tamulonis)

This year my garden gave me a bit of solace from the trauma and immense grief of losing one of my daughters. I am grateful for the beauty, bounty and peace it has given me as I struggle.
Donna Baker-Breningstall, CMG since 2012

Our garden gave us zucchini bread and heirloom tomatoes for Caprese salads this year…it was the highlight of the summer and fall to pick and eat the tomatoes or bake the bread.
Dee Becker, CMG since 2010
(Photo by Anne Burke)

Take a Virtual Container Garden Tour

CSU-Denver Master Gardeners have had extra time to spend in their gardens this summer, but few opportunities to show them off – until now.

Please join our virtual tour to see seven stunning container gardens overflowing with beauty and creativity. The tour features containers of different shapes, sizes, materials, and of course, fabulous plants. These talented gardeners also share their secrets to success.

We hope you enjoy the tour!

Steve Aegerter, CMG since 1999
Steve’s hanging basket includes Calibrachoa in three colors, sweet potato vine and orange nasturtiums (peeking out on right side). He grew nearly everything from seeds, except the potato vine. His planting recipe includes about 3-4 sections of a deep six-pack of Calibrachoa, probably 3-4 nasturtium seeds and 2 sweet potato vines from cuttings.
The basket is low maintenance as flowers are self-cleaning. Steve used 4-month slow-release fertilizer at planting, plus peat moss and vermiculite in a potting soil medium. He waters the hanging basket “every other day which wouldn’t be necessary if I didn’t use sweet potato vine,” he says.

Steff Grogan, CMG since 2018
Steff says she loves to mix perennials and annuals together in her containers, “at least until the perennials outgrow the pot!” One of her favorite plantings this summer included a large container meant for a mostly-shady spot. The container includes 6 varieties of Coleus, 1 Lime Margarita sweet potato vine and 1 purple sweet potato vine.
Steff’s foliage container get 3-4 hours of morning sun and she waters it every other day, depending on heat and precipitation.

Jan Davis, CMG since 2012
Jan sent in a view of one of her large container gardens brimming with a variety of flowering plants. Her secret to such a spectacular display is to use 2-3 plants of the same type in each pot for a bigger splash. She says the show stoppers are the fragrant pink Oriental Trumpet lilies. The lilies are planted in large plastic pots so Jan can remove them from the grouping after blooming is finished. She overwinters them in the garage, after they have gone dormant. “I love this container garden because it is right outside my kitchen window and next to our outdoor eating area,” Jan says. “It gets enjoyed all the time!”

Ashley Cosme, CMG Apprentice
“I love the simple color line of this pot,” says Ashley. “Sometimes going with a straightforward white and green color brings out the beauty in the textures. I have left the perennial lysimachia and the heuchera in the pot for a few years which is very budget friendly as well.”
Ashley’s recipe for planting includes one 6-inch Kimberly fern, two 4.5-inch tropical white sunpatien, three 4.5-inch euphorbia, one #1 citronelle heuchera, two 4.5-inch Niagara Falls coleus, one 4.5-inch ipomea and one #1 lysimachia. This pot gets morning sun with afternoon shade and requires a bit of extra water as the sunpatien and the fern are thirsty plants.

Lois Margolin, CMG since 2010
Lois’s raised bed garden was built by her son-in-law and includes three large containers, each 2-feet by 4, 5, and 8 feet lengths. She says the raised beds are large enough to grow enough vegetables for two people. “The raised beds work great because I don’t have to bend or get down on my knees to garden.” In the longest of the three containers she’s planted 2 rows of carrots along the front side, carrots, scallions and carrots on the back side. Other plants include bell peppers, marigolds, Early Girl tomato, Japanese eggplant and 2 cucumber plants along the edge so they trail over the side of the container.
Lois places plants close together and uses potting soil, compost and slow release fertilizer at planting time, plus a liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season.

Anne Beletic, CMG since 2016
Anne’s container garden is composed of 7 troughs that are planted with 11 6-inch Pincushion plants, 5 2.5-inch Dusty Miller plants, Forget-Me-Not, Borage, Cornflowers (from seeds); trailing plants are Sweet Potato vines, variegated Vinca (both 2.5 ” pots).
Anne says she likes this planting because the Pincushions have been flowering for weeks, the flowers attract bees and the Borage star shaped flowers are “exquisite.” The only downside is the borage has become too big and thirsty, she says.
Anne used a good quality potting soil with slow release fertilizer at planting, waters daily and cuts back the Pincushions to the next bud. She plans to keep the Pincushions in a flower bed “as these were the only plants I spent real money on, and they should be a viable perennial in Denver.” Anne notes, “the Pincushions were the bulk of the planting until seeds grew, and so merited buying a little larger.”

Jill Fielder, CMG since 2012
Jill says she played with new types of fancy coleus, both for color and because many of these can now be successfully grown in either sun or shade. She has two of these containers on either side of her front porch. “They get different amounts of sunlight, are bright with color that doesn’t rely on big flowers or wide leaves susceptible to hail and these are (mostly) plants that aren’t all that attractive to Japanese Beetles,” she says.
Jill’s recipe includes 1 Coleus Fireworks (purple & lime), 2 Fuchsia Gartenmeister, 2 Asparagus fern, 2 Impatiens Walleriana Peach Butterfly, 1 Coleus Maharaja (red), and 2 Dragon Wing Red begonias.
This container gets dappled morning light, is on a daily drip system and was planted up with slow release fertilizer early in the season.

A Special Thank You to the seven generous CMGs who shared their gardens and tips with us. We hope this virtual container garden tour inspires you to plant something a little different in your garden next year!

By Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener since 2005
Photos provided by each CMG

Meet the Garden Squad—New Master Gardeners part 2

Meet the Garden Squad is a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Here’s your chance to meet and greet the new crop of Denver Master Gardeners from the Class of 2020. Class members were invited to introduce themselves by answering one of 10 questions to help us get to know them. Please welcome them to the Garden Squad!

Kimberly Bischoff had no trouble deciding which world-renowned garden she’d like to visit. “The Gardens I would like to visit again (and again) is Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia. I loved every minute of my 4 hour stroll through the tulips!”

Alan Moores selected his favorite gardening quote by American novelist, gardener and garden writer Jamaica Kincaid: Nature abhors a garden. Alan says, “It gives me some perspective on my role, and that of the food I grow for my table, as ‘introduced’ species in this world, especially on the Front Range.

Jessica Harvey (shown with her husband Richard) says her favorite dish to prepare every summer “is a fairly easy one that utilizes multiple things I love growing—a pesto, tomato and cream cheese sandwich!”

Thanks to our new Master Gardeners for their photos and gardening insights. 

By Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

Meet the Garden Squad—New Master Gardeners part 1

Meet the Garden Squad is a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Here’s your chance to meet and greet the new crop of Denver Master Gardeners from the Class of 2020. Class members were invited to introduce themselves by answering one of 10 questions to help us get to know them. Please welcome them to the Garden Squad!

Rhianna Kirk finds exceptional joy from being close to nature. She shares her favorite gardening quote:
“Gardening… cheaper than therapy AND you get tomatoes.”

Aleka Mayr credits three role models for inspiring her to plant and grow. “Both my grandmothers and my mother have been my inspiration, and have shown me planting and growing can happen in an urban apartment, a rural farm, and even a vacant lot in the middle of Manhattan.”

Dudley Clark misses being able to grow rhododendrons in his Colorado landscape. “I have lived in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Virginia where they grow like weeds….year round greenery, wonderful flowers in a range of colors from white to deep purple and not much maintenance…remove spent flowers to encourage growth. Every few years I pay an outlandish price for a ‘rhodie’ at a Colorado nursery, plant it in a shady location, watch it struggle through our scorching heat and plummeting temperatures and finally succumb to the edict wrong plant, wrong place.”

Ashley Hooten (shown with husband Michael) says her favorite summer-time recipe is a “simple and easy Caprese salad with homegrown tomatoes and fresh basil! So delicious and fresh!”

Thanks to our new Master Gardeners for their photos and gardening insights. Watch for Meet the Garden Squad–New Master Gardeners part 2 later this week!

By Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener Volunteer since 2005

Meet the Garden Squad—Connie Rayor

Meet the Garden Squad is a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Meet Connie Rayor

Connie Rayor is a CSU-Denver Master Gardener Emeritus who still volunteers for the Habitat for Humanity outreach program. (photo provided by Connie Rayor)

Connie Rayor thinks she’s been a CSU-Denver Master Gardener for 26 years, but who’s counting when you’re having so much fun?

Fun seems to be Connie’s watchword when it comes to being a Master Gardener. She’s been involved in just about every outreach project since she began volunteering years ago. In fact, some of the programs weren’t on the Master Gardener radar until Connie got involved.

“Oh, the early days were great,” she said.

Xeriscape may be a well-established method of landscaping now, but in the 1980s it was a new idea. Tasked with finding what xeriscaping was all about, she thoroughly researched the process so it could be put into practice as part of the Master Gardener program.

Connie was also instrumental in setting up the first Master Gardener information booth at the Cherry Creek Farmers Market.

“We had lots of customers coming up to talk to us and they were delighted to see us there. We didn’t have all the materials they do now, but we did have some materials. That was a fun gig, let me tell you.”

Another enjoyable project was being on the Garden Line 9 television show in the early years, she said. The Master Gardeners group would go in on Saturday mornings and be on camera as people called in with their gardening questions.

She said it was “great fun” to field questions on the fly. “We wouldn’t know what they were going to ask.”

But of all the projects she’s been involved in, starting the Habitat for Humanity outreach program is the one that’s closest to her heart. Early on she had taken a tour of some of the homes in the Habitat program and was surprised to see such pitiful landscaping.

“There were these miserable little junipers there, and I asked about the plants. It wasn’t anything I did with thought, I just asked if they’d like some help with them.”

During the first several years, Master Gardeners supervised on planting days, helping direct how to properly place and space plants in the landscape. But now Master Gardener volunteers teach landscape maintenance classes to new Habitat for Humanity homeowners. Connie developed the original landscape maintenance manual that’s been updated over the years.

At a time when she could kick back and relax as a Master Gardener Emeritus, Connie’s still involved in teaching the landscape maintenance classes about three times a year. Together with Master Gardener volunteers Marti Holmes and Beth McCoy, the team teaches how to care for trees, plants, lawns and how to deal with insect pests among other topics.

“It’s been glorious working together with them,” Connie said. “It’s really been the highlight of  being a Master Gardener. It’s my very favorite long-term project because it provides a real service.”

Connie recommends that Master Gardener apprentices get involved in a project or task they’re really interested in, instead of just putting in their hours. “It will make you a better Master Gardener and create a lot of satisfaction,” she said.

Connie’s love of gardening started as a kid helping her mom in the vegetable garden at their west Denver home. Her lifelong love affair with gardening really took off after she retired as a Denver Public Schools teacher.

After retiring, she followed her husband Harold into the Master Gardener program, but then he dropped out. He had retired earlier and joined because he knew how much she liked to garden.

While she’s unable to do much gardening these days, two of her three daughters and her grandson, Daniel, still carry on the tradition.

“He lives in Boston and was showing off the seedlings he planted in the community garden,” Connie said. “He’s taken a Master Urban Gardener class, but he still calls me for gardening advice.”

By Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

Vegetable Growing Tips for Beginning Gardeners

New to vegetable gardening? We’re here to help!

A group of experienced CSU-Denver Master Gardeners answered the call to help new vegetable gardeners plant and grow their first gardens. These tips cover most of the basics for the best chance of success growing fruits, vegetables and herbs this season.

Their advice covers how to get your garden started, what to plant, when to plant, where to plant, how to care for your garden and a primer on growing tomatoes.

John Ashworth

John H. Ashworth, Master Gardener since 2014, shares his thoughts on various veggies that do well in Colorado vegetable gardens:

Radishes are the ideal crop to start with, especially if you get your kids involved. Radishes emerge very quickly, even in cold soil, and are ready for eating in 30 days or less.

Carrots can do well here, but can struggle if you have heavy clay soil in your garden. Before you plant in clay soil, mix in a healthy dose of play sand and mix in well. This will allow the carrot roots to grow down without extensive use of a garden fork for cultivating. Plant the shorter, stubbier carrot varieties, Nantes and half Danvers, if you have heavy soil.

Basil seeds can be started indoors under lights or in a sunny window, but  DO NOT plant them outside too soon!  Wait until early to mid-June. Basil grows well in containers — I plant ten basil plants in a large pot and get enough to make pesto all summer long. Be aware that Japanese beetles love basil, so pick the beetles off the plants early each morning.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders and like rich soil. Add compost and fertilizer (either well-rotted steer manure or a balanced chemical fertilizer) to the planting hole. Fertilize every few weeks. Because our climate is dry and lacks humidity, some tomato varieties, like large beefsteak tomatoes, tend to split open prematurely. Instead, try Sungold cherry tomatoes, Early Boy or Early Girl varieties, or any of the heirloom varieties such as Brandywine,  or the Eastern European varieties such as Black Krim or Polish paste tomatoes.

John’s final piece of advice: Above all, have fun!

Mary Carnegie, Master Gardener since 2002, is also the Garden Leader for the Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) Park Hill School garden. Her top three tips for new gardeners are concise and to the point:

1. Be willing to get your hands dirty; stick your finger in the soil to see if plants need water.

2. Know the “safe” planting dates; don’t plant too early. (CSU Extension’s Vegetable Planting Guide can help with planting dates.)

3. Learn as much as you can about watering and mulching. (CSU Extension’s Watering Guide and Mulches for Home Grounds are two good resources.)

Rikki Hanson

Rikki Hanson, Master Gardener since 2014, says something that stuck with her as a beginning gardener is that “Colorado gardeners do it for the challenge. Lucky for me, I like a challenge.” To meet that challenge, she advises to start small.

1. Start with a few veggies that you enjoy eating. Have a mix of things that grow quickly and slowly, that way you can enjoy the fruits of your labor sooner while you wait for the big-ticket items. Radishes and lettuces are great fast-rewards foods.

2. Make a plan for watering: early in the morning or after 6 pm. This is especially important when you have seeds and seedlings. We have a very dry climate that lends itself nicely to mulch.

3. Find the joy in your own plot of Earth. Vegetable gardening is something to be enjoyed and to help you destress!

Jill Fielder

Jill Fielder, Master Gardener since 2012, is happy to share her trio of tips:

Tip 1:  Many vegetable plants need sunlight to grow sturdy and strong. Planting  sun-worshiping  vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplants in less than full sun (about 6-8 hours of sun) sets one up for heartbreak. Tomato plants aren’t going to be vigorous and productive in 3 or 4 hours of sun no matter how much you will it. If you don’t have adequate sun in your space, choose plants that will thrive in partial sun (3-5 hours) such as lettuces, chard, spinach, scallions, kale, beets, Asian greens and radishes. In Colorado basil, thyme, chives, mint, oregano and parsley grow beautifully with just morning sun.

Tip 2:  Find a place for bunching onions or scallions (also called Welch onions, spring onions and green onions). These onions are super easy, speedy and fun. They can be grown from seed or slender starts from the nursery. Choose the customary white variety or scoop up the pretty deep red ones if you can find them. Plant in mid spring and you can eat the greens during the summer (snipped into eggs, stir fries and salads) and harvest the whole onion plants in the fall. Left in the garden, they’ll usually overwinter.

Tip 3:  Start seeds for ruffled, loose leaf lettuces outdoors early, even if there will likely still be frosts and maybe snow. Lettuce seedlings are remarkably tough. Depending on the lettuce variety, leaves can be ready in 40-55 days. Don’t let your precious garden space go unused in the spring!

Elizabeth Gundlach Neufeld

Elizabeth Gundlach Neufeld, long-time gardener and Master Gardener since 2017, reveals her 8 tips for tomato growing. These are the key points she wishes she would’ve known years ago when it comes to planting tomato seedlings:

1. Choose seedlings that are strong and relatively straight.

2. Harden off all seedlings for a good week after purchasing. “Hardening Off” means leaving them outside, in a sheltered location, with little exposure to the elements. Be sure to water the seedlings to keep moist before planting.

3. When ready, plant tomatoes in a trench. Cut off all the leaves and small branches EXCEPT for the top 2 inches. Plant the rest sideways in the trench. Those fuzzy little hairs on the stem will become roots! Planting the tomatoes more-or-less horizontally will produce greater numbers of roots and lead to a stronger plant.

4. Here’s the hard part. For the subsequent 3 weeks, remove ALL the flowers. Doing this allows the plant to spend its energy producing a strong root system. I sometimes compare this to humans in the following way: Although, say, young teenagers may be physically possible to bear children, they are not ready to. Similarly, the tomato plant needs to mature in the ground before producing tomatoes.

5. Pinch off all ‘suckers’ in indeterminate varieties. Suckers appear in the crotches of the tomato branches and can harm the overall plant by weakening the main stem.

6. Stake or cage the plants! Because you’ve trench-planted and picked the blossoms, the main stock will be thick and able to support many more tomatoes.

7. Water tomatoes ONLY at the bottom at soil level, trying not to wet any leaves. Keep only moderately moist. They will likely not need watering every day.

8. Enjoy the harvest!

A big thank you to John, Mary, Rikki, Jill and Elizabeth for generously sharing their hard-won secrets to vegetable-growing success.

Of course, Master Gardeners are available to answer specific questions through the Denver Master Gardener Helpline at 720-913-5278 or email denvermg @ colostate.edu. Also, please take a minute to review the list of Free CSU Extension Spring Gardening webinars and our new Grow & Give program.

By Jodi Torpey, Master Gardener since 2005
Photos provided by each gardener

Meet the Garden Squad—Gardening Help at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Meet the Garden Squad is a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Meet the Gardening Help Volunteers

The CSU Extension Master Gardeners usually pick up the gardening helpline at the Denver Botanic Gardens or answer questions when people walk-in the door. Even though buildings at DBG are closed for now, gardeners can still get their gardening questions answered by Gardening Help from Colorado Master Gardeners at Denver Botanic Gardens, only remotely.

The interest in gardening has soared ever since people have had to hunker down at home and find ways to keep busy. First-time gardeners will likely have questions on how to get started, what to plant now, what can grow in containers, and much more.

Even gardeners with some experience have questions, too. All gardening questions can be emailed to gardeninghelp@botanicgardens.org and a CMG, working remotely, will reply by email.

Gardening Help volunteers include: Back row, left to right: Jan Fahs, Jan Davis, Ken Zwenger, Mark Zammuto, Gordon Carruth, Fran Hogan
Middle row: Lynne Conroy, Harriet Palmer Willis, Kathleen Schroeder, Leona Berger, Cindy Hanna, Mary Adams, Nancy Downs
Kneeling: Dee Becker, Charlotte Aycrigg, Jan Moran
Not pictured: Mary Carnegie, Linda Hanna, Maggie Haskett, April Montgomery, Ann Moore, Kathy Roth, Amy White

Gardening Help is a project of the CSU Extension-Denver Master Gardeners at the DBG. Volunteers provide reliable and research-based information to thousands of home gardeners each year.

Volunteers commit to at least one year in the role, with a minimum of six shifts spread across the year. The commitment starts early in the year with an orientation and training from Nancy Downs, project coordinator.

Many volunteers are GH regulars and they return to the project every year. In addition to being an active CMG, they have to satisfy DBG volunteer requirements, too. That means they’re a member of the DBG and enrolled there as a volunteer.

Some of the key characteristics of GH volunteers are good research, plant identification and diagnostic skills. Because the project is located at DBG, volunteers need to keep on top of what’s blooming at the DBG by season, so they can answer common questions that might pop up.

Photo provided by Nancy Downs

Text by Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

Meet the Garden Squad’s Nancy Downs

Meet the Garden Squad is a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Meet Nancy Downs

Horticulture is the thread that connects the stepping stones in the career path of Nancy Downs. She became a CSU Extension-Denver Master Gardener in 1993, and since 2005 she’s been the project coordinator of Gardening Help (GH) from Colorado Master Gardeners at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

A year-round volunteer commitment, GH provides research-based information to thousands of home gardeners by phone, email and those who drop by. In 2019 the GH team of 20 volunteers answered over 2300 questions.

It’s the thrill of the possibility of new discoveries that helps drive Nancy’s passion in botany and plant identification.

“Plant ID is endlessly fascinating,” she said. “It’s fascinating to bump into mystery plants and try to make the correct identification. It makes a huge difference in management recommendations.”

Nancy is a Native Plant Master, but said there’s always something new to learn. She also enjoys teaching woody plant and native plant identification.

In 2019 Nancy’s garden received special recognition from the Colorado Native Plant Society. Blonde Ambition Blue Grama grass provides a golden backdrop. (Image by Nancy Downs)

In 2019 her Park Hill garden received a gold certification from the Colorado Native Plant Society (CoNPS).  The Certified Native Plant Garden recognition is meant to increase awareness of native plants and how they help provide “habitat for Colorado Native Plants and native wildlife,” according to the CoNPS website.

Nancy said she considers her garden a laboratory for experimenting with plants. The garden is about 30 years old and has gone through a number of phases as her taste and interests have evolved.

“At one point I felt I needed an all-white garden, but now it’s a big mish-mash. I’ve tried to mix natives into an existing older neighborhood with shade trees,” she explained.

The front garden includes Foxtail Lilies, white-blooming shrub rose and sunflowers. (Image by Nancy Downs)

Nancy said she’s drawn to the texture and architectural interest of her landscape plants instead of flowers. A list of her favorites includes Gambel oak, rabbitbrush, Arctostaphylos, ornamental grasses, buffalograss, junipers, yucca and, of course, much more.

Her interest in plants took root when working for the Boulder Parks and Recreation Department while an undergraduate at the University of Colorado. She was part of the team responsible for planting and tending the gardens at Central Park

After graduating with a degree in International Affairs, she worked in Washington, D.C., as press secretary for then-Congresswoman Pat Schroeder. When she returned to Colorado, she earned a law degree from the University of Denver and spent a few years working in Denver’s District Attorney’s office.

Nancy said she finally circled back to her first love of horticulture while working with Denver Botanic Gardens, Hudson Gardens, Denver Water Xeriscape clinics and Aurora Water Conservation Design clinics.

She even had her own design business, Nancy Downs Garden Design, for over 20 years specializing in residential design in Denver’s older neighborhoods.

In addition to coordinating Gardening Help as a Denver Master Gardener, she’s involved in other volunteer projects.

“A favorite recent project was the 2018 Botanical Survey of the High Line Canal carried out by Dr. Chrissy Alba from DBG’s Research and Conservation Department for the High Line Canal Conservancy,” she said.

The combination of yellow Mountain Goldenbanner and Dwarf purple iris is stunning when in full bloom. (Image by Nancy Downs)

Nancy encourages other Master Gardeners to continue working on their plant identification skills. She said an understanding of botanical Latin is important when trying to identify whether a plant is native or not.

Her hope is that more gardeners will want to add native plants to their landscapes and can start by asking nurseries to increase their availability.

Gardening Help Contact Information

To reach the Gardening Help from Colorado Master Gardeners at the Denver Botanic Gardens call 720-865-3575 or email gardeninghelp@botanicgardens.org. GH is staffed April-October on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (noon-4:00 p.m.); November-March on Tuesdays (noon-4:00 p.m.)

By Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

Meet the Garden Squad’s Kim Douglas

Meet the Garden Squad is a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Meet Kim Douglas

Denver Master Gardener Kim Douglas enjoys a day in Crested Butte.

If anyone is cut out to be a Denver Master Gardener, it’s Kim Douglas. She’s as passionate about learning as she is about sharing what she’s learned.

This comes naturally to Kim, a retired English as a Second Language teacher and a current Library Program Associate on staff at Denver Public Library.

Her part-time work at the library includes programming that ranges from helping people learn how to use their smartphones and tablets to hands-on work with sewing and embroidery.

“I’m on my third chapter,” she said. “I’m excited about getting and giving training.”

One of the library programs she’s involved with is called Plaza. This special program is designed to meet the needs of immigrant, refugee, and asylee populations. Kim helps participants learn and practice English, prepares them to take their citizenship test, and lends a hand to children with arts and crafts projects.

“It’s very rewarding and a wonderful experience to help people in a way where they really need help,” she said.

Kim became a Master Gardener apprentice in 2018, something she always wanted to do and the first thing she did when she retired from teaching.

Fourth of July fireworks in Kim’s garden.

Part of the attraction was gaining a sense of accomplishment by taking her gardening hobby to the next level.

“I knew I’d get a lot of information about gardening and get a good grasp of the science behind gardening in Colorado, even though I had been doing it for years,” she explained.

One of her big “aha” moments was when she learned about soil compaction and how important it is to not work in wet soil, something she used to do on weekends when she was working fulltime.

Kim’s advice to Master Gardener apprentices is to take advantage of all the information and experience within the organization. “Be active, be involved, go to meetings and special events, get to know people.”

She’s taken her own advice to heart. At last season’s DMG plant sale she designed a better system to standardize the plant signage. From her experience the previous year, she realized signs could be more descriptive to help customers find exactly what they wanted.

‘Queen of the Night’ tulips add stunning color to Kim’s garden.

Kim said she also enjoys volunteering at the Master Gardener booth at the Farmers Market and helping with the Plant Select plants at the Denver Botanic Gardens annual plant sale.

“It’s fun, interesting and I develop a relationship with those plants,” she said. “I guess it’s just lust—plant lust—that makes me say, ‘I must have that plant’ like the ruby muhly ornamental grass I saw there.”

Her garden is filled to the brim with those love-at-first-sight plants. Part of the front yard is xeriscaped with native and low-water plants displayed in a big swath.

“In my garden I strive for an explosion of colors like gems and fireworks.” One of her favorite displays is a combination of plants that is in full flower around the Fourth of July.

It includes dark red daylilies planted with white Shasta daisies and highlighted with sea holly (Eryngium). She said the “funky, spiky” sea holly plants produce striking purple-blue flowers that look like small glowing thistles.

It’ easy to see why’Black Nigra’ hollyhocks attract attention.

When it comes to the gem colors, she selects plants that have such rich and vibrant flowers that passersby have to slow down or stop to appreciate them.

Some of the show-stopper plants include ‘Dark Magician Girl’ daylilies, ‘Ebony Dream’ iris, ‘Black Nigra’ hollyhocks, and ‘Queen of the Night’ tulips.

In the backyard vegetable garden she plants tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, and tomatillos – “everything to make a nice salsa” – plus eggplants and potatoes.

Kim said she’ll be combining her passions for teaching and gardening this season. She’s on the schedule to present programs on propagating plants and raised bed gardening at several library branches this spring.

Images provides by Kim Douglas

Text by Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005