Monday, December 29, 2008


First of all, I have to say that I love the DDA. They were the ones who alerted us to the fact that the electricity was going to be turned off today between 5 and 6pm because of work being done at a substation. Yikes! Panic in the streets! Panic in the streets! The plants! The butterflies! The outdoor fountain!

It all worked out ok. Whew.

I Hope

I hope that some day the WCBG can have something like this before it is too late.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The De Young Museum

I know what you're thinking. "What does an art museum have to do with a botanic garden?" You're not are you. You're really thinking "Yikes! Tomorrow is Christmas eve and I don't have Uncle Ed's present yet." To take your mind off of that trifling matter, let me explain what an art museum has to do with a botanic garden.

The landscaping at the De Young Museum was amazing. I took this picture because I loved the fact that here was this cute little garden, almost a huge terrarium because it was behind glass in this space that would have otherwise gone to waste. Not only did I like the placement of the garden but I loved that the entire thing consisted of only two types of plants and some rock. Way cool.


Well today was the big day. I was so excited to go to the California Academy of Sciences. We tried to go yesterday and it was sold out so we went today. All I can say is I was really underwhelmed. Yeah, they have a facility that they spent a gazillion dollars on. Yeah, the best and brightest worked on bringing it into existence. But it seems our little greenhouses have a bigger diversity of plants. They may have blue morphos, but I think we actually have more butterflies per square foot. And more nectar sources per butterfly.

The facility is interesting and all. I did like that you walk up a ramp through the butterfly house so you start out in the "swamp" and then move up through the different layers of a rainforest, up through the trees and end up in an area at the top where the nectar sources are. That is smart because that is where a lot of the butterflies are. Butterflies are inherently going to fly up toward the sun.

It did bother me that the whole space seemed geared on getting you through and out. There was no where to sit, no where to even stand and look. But I think it works for them because it was packed. There were a ton of people there. They were filled to capacity and not letting anymore in. At 25 bucks a pop they were raking in some serious cash. I know it takes a lot to keep a facility like that going plus I'm sure some of that goes to the their research projects. And when you look at it like that it is a pretty effective thing. The whole place houses an aquarium, butterfly house, planetarium and rooftop garden. It has an education center, cafe and gift store. It was like a scientific Whitman's Sampler. Just a little taste of all kinds of things so you can see what you like.

I'd say if you are going to visit. Go on Wednesday. It is free day.

Anyway here are my pictures from the butterfly house for what they're worth.

Time Travel

No, I actually did not time travel, as you can tell by my friend Michael in the foreground there. But it sure looks like I got shot right back to the Mesozoic era or something. Plants are so amazing. Some of them haven't changed in thousands of years. And here are some.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

So Exotic!

Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But in Oakland its quite delightful,
Since I'm there and you're in Co-lo-rad-o,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

I'm in Oakland for a short vacation before the holidays . I get to have fall one more time this year. The maples here are still firey red and the temperatures are a bit warmer. I'm enjoying seeing different types of plants as I'm walking around. Some of them we have in our greenhouses. A few months ago that would have irritated me. I thought that just because it is something common to a part of the United States, or common at all, it shouldn't be in our greenhouses or our Botanical Garden. But Shirley, wise woman that she is, pointed out to me that not everyone is going to go to California or Florida or any of these places where these plants grow. She's got a point. A very good point. And it got me thinking. What is exoctic? I'm saying it is something unusual, something you don't see everyday. I looked up the term "exotic" at and out of 6 of their definitions, 5 of them referred to plants. And all referred to the fact that something is from another place.

I've been referring to some of the plants that will be going into the new native plant japanesque garden as exotic. Eventhough the plants are native to the Western Slope of Colorado, some of them are from "another place". They are not from our carefully tended gardens, the meticulously planned landscaping or even our local nurseries. And in that way it makes them exotic.

So I've lightened up on my view of what plants we should have in the greenhouses. And the rest of our gardens. Something common in California can most certainly be exotic in Colorado. And something common in the wilds of Western Colorado can be exotic in a garden in town.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ghostly Frost

Yesterday the humidity and cold temperatures turned the Gardens ghostly.

It is such a contrast when you go into the greenhouses.

We get the best of both worlds down here at the Gardens.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Let It Snow!

It is about time some of that white stuff descended from the heavens! I was getting ready to do one more round of watering on the new trees when down came the snow. The temperatures also came down which causes me some consternation regarding the outdoor pond and the greenhouses but so far everything is A-OK. Plus, it is sooooo nice to be in the greenhouses when it is so cold outside. Between the butterflies and the flowers you hardly know you are in Western Colorado.

Monday, December 15, 2008


My internet has been playing hard to get. Which is rather annoying. You know what else is annoying? Landscape cloth. Hip hip hoorah for the volunteers from the Career Center! They have been yanking out landscape cloth out for the last two weeks. I regret I don't have photos of plants growing through the landscape cloth. Or maybe I just feel like I've been singing the same song about landscape cloth you don't need to hear it again, even if it is in the key of D flat major.

So I'm super thrilled that our trees got staked and Elsie wrapped our trees. Remember they are trees and not presents. I know we all have Christmas on our minds but wrapping trees is a little different than wrapping presents. Since I didn't rant about landscape cloth indulge me for a moment about tree wrap. First of all, you must remember to take it off in the spring. Remember you are wrapping a tree, not splinting a broken arm. Since tree wrap is to protect the tree from sun scald I prefer to not wrap the entire tree and wrap just the side that will be bearing the brunt of the sun. That way less moisture should build up between the wrap and the tree and less damage should occur from moisture and pests. Plus, you use a whole lot less tree wrap. So when you see our trees looking like they are wearing some sort of fancy tree corset remember, I am only trying to protect my tree from sun scald until the tree can take care of it on its own. That is what bark is for after all. You will note that only the pampered nursery trees get the fancy wrap. Our perfectly acclimatized trees from the city are good to go.

I couldn't resist taking a photo of the asclepias, aka butterfly milkweed, going to seed. And now I am a little asleepias my ownself. I'll check in with you all later. Zzzzzzzzzzzz....

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Fish Named Kitty

Once again we have saved a fish from being battered and deep fried for fish and chips. We are happy to announce the arrival of Kitty our albino catfish. Kitty came to us from Orchard Mesa Vetinary. She outgrew her tank and we are pleased to have her in the pond in the butterfly house where she has plenty of room to swim around and no one wants to eat her. Darn it Tyler! Put down that net!

My, How the Butter Flies When You're Having Fun!

The butterflies seem pretty happy these days. I think it probably has something to do with the fact that they have a huge smorgasborg of nectar to eat. These two lovely specimens Calliandra and Stachytarpheta, aka Powder Puff and Snakeweed, are finally getting enough sun to produce nectar. For the first time in the year and a half since I've been here I saw a couple of cute julias (battas julia) sipping nectar from them. I tried to get a photo but those butterflies are rather flighty.

Oh wait! Here they are!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hello Biscus

Or Hi biscus, if you prefer. I'm so proud of this little hibiscus. It is the first time in a year and a half that I've seen it bloom. I imagine that part of the problem was that the vent that is right in front of this little beauty was malfunctioning for a long time. We, well Lloyd and Richard with some sound advice from Terry the amazing greenhouse guy, fixed it and a week later it started to bloom. It started with one. Here there are two. And if you stop in and look closely at it you'll see that it has lots of buds just begging to be blooms.

Wish List

Sunday was fantastic. The Gardens looked beautiful with all the lights up. The special tea that Shirley made was super. There were more cookies than one elf could eat. And of course, Santa. I gave him my wish list but all he said was "Ho! Ho!Ho!"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Another Big Day

I kept the camera in my pocket today. Not that there wasn't plenty to take photos of. There just wasn't time. We've been going full tilt on the new garden. Some things have been going smooth as silk, some haven't. I'm learning lots though. So that makes it exciting. You know what else is exciting? The humidity levels are holding steady in the greenhouses. I know I've been preoccupied with the new garden but there has been plenty going on in the greenhouses too. The new nectar sources are looking great. There'll be new pupa hanging in the puparium. The orchids look stunning. Santa is coming. Oh. Wait. That is in the Pomerenke Library. Yeah. If you hadn't heard, the jolly ole elf himself is going to be at the Gardens this Sunday. I plan on being first in line to sit on his lap. I've got a pretty long list starting with compost bins and ending with dumptrucks.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Colorado Garden

I posted an earlier version of why we are putting in a "Japanese" garden but after Kenton and I went to the DBG I kinda freaked out and took it down because what we are doing really isn't a Japanese Garden. It is a Colorado Garden based on Japanese gardening philosophy. Mainly, look to nature when you are making your garden. So here it is again. My attempt to explain how a Colorado Garden is really a Japanese Garden in disguise. As always, I'm interested in what you think.

Japanese Garden Overview

It could be argued that a Japanese garden is inappropriate for the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens. Western Colorado doesn’t support a large Buddhist community nor does Japanese culture feature in the every day life of people living on the Western Slope. Many of the plants that are featured in Japanese Gardens do not grow well in the conditions found in Western Colorado and the structures and the hardscape used in Japanese gardens are not common in Western Colorado. Western Coloradoans do not observe the same rituals of Japanese culture that take place in the garden nor do the symbolic elements of a Japanese garden have immediate meaning.

So does the WCBG need a Japanese garden? Absolutely.

In the same way that Japanese gardening was influenced by Chinese gardens, Western gardening can be influenced by Japanese gardens. The WCBG “Japanese” garden is to be a space of tranquility based on nature using Japanese gardening ideas in a Western Colorado context.

One principal of Japanese gardening is that of the harmony of “man” and nature, an idea very appropriate in a valley that is surrounded by dramatic reminders of nature. In fact one of the goals of the WCBG is to highlight the nature found in the Colorado Plateau. Incorporating a more “wild” or “naturalistic” gardening style is fitting.

One type of Japanese garden is the “stroll garden”. The stroll garden was developed in Japan during the 17th through the 19th centuries when travel was limited by the central government. As a result the elite created areas on their estates that were reminiscent of famous natural areas in Japan, such as Mount Fuji. In the garden the visitor would stroll on paths designed to reveal views of a natural wonder. The WCBG is a perfect spot for a stroll garden.

While the site designated for the Japanese garden is small in terms of a stroll garden it is a wonderful spot. Three well-known natural wonders, the Grand Mesa, the western edge of the Uncompaghre Plateau and the Bookcliffs surround the Grand Valley. We don’t need acres of garden, we live right in the middle of one of the most amazing gardens on earth. The charm of the Japanese garden will be in the views revealed by the placement and type of the plants.

The site of the Japanese garden within WCBG provides continuity with the rest of the gardens. The Native Garden and the Cactus Garden are to the east and the Heritage Garden is to the west. These gardens all have elements that echo what is planned to be in the Japanese Garden so it will fit in rather than stand out.

The idea of “hide and reveal” is strong in Japanese gardens and especially in stroll gardens. The concept is to not show everything as soon as the garden is entered but to lead the visitor through the garden on a path where elements of the garden are seen only from a certain spot or as a corner is turned. This idea is a major difference between Eastern and Western gardening styles.

Symbolism is very important in Japanese gardens. Plants, rocks, trees and other garden elements, such as benches and sculpture, have a meaning to someone who is familiar with the culture. Instead of utilizing symbols from Japanese culture, the garden will have elements that have meaning to the culture of Western Colorado.

It is the ideas or concepts of the Japanese garden that will inform the way the garden will look, not the adherence to the elements that make up a Japanese garden. For example, waterfalls are a symbolic element in Japanese gardens. They look a specific way in relation to how nature looks in Japan and are placed in a specific way to elicit a spiritual enlightenment. There will be a waterfall in the WCBG’s Japanese garden but it will look like a waterfall that would be encountered while hiking on the Grand Mesa. As in a Japanese garden or nature itself, any spiritual enlightenment that the waterfall is to evoke will depend on the visitor.

Japan is an island with a wet environment and the plants found in that climate are not suited for Western Colorado. The plants in the WCBG’s Japanese garden will be native to Colorado but the Japanese ideas of placement and type such as looking to nature for inspiration will be followed.

Water is very important in Western Colorado. In a Japanese garden water is the center of the garden much in the same way a river drains into a pond, lake or ocean. Water will also be the center of our garden but we are going to incorporate water in other ways. The pathways will be based on the shapes water takes along river pathways. The placement of some of the plants will be based on the way plants follow water as it travels downhill forming tributaries.

Not all the plants in the garden will be planted at the same time. The trees will go in first followed by shrubs and perennials. During the first year there may be annuals planted or prolific perennials with the thought that they would be replaced as other plants are added. Also, not all the trees will be planted at the same time. Some will be planted two or even three years later so that the there will be variance in the height of the trees. In fact, some of the plant material may be in the process of dying or already dead.

Plant replacement or repositioning is part of any garden. As the garden is maintained over the years and as the garden matures, plants will be removed or added according to the needs of the garden in respect to the vision of the garden.

The structural elements of the garden, benches and sculpture, will be reflective of nature found in Western Colorado as well. Benches will be strategically placed throughout the garden to encourage visitors to reflect on the beauty outside of the garden, to view other gardens in the WCBG and to look to the Uncompahgre Plateau, the Grand Mesa and the Bookcliffs. The benches will be made of wood harvested from a conservation project on Watson Island, a natural river feature directly south of the Japanese Garden. The style of the benches will be rough and reminiscent of fallen trees that one would encounter in nature.

Cairns, small stacked rock monoliths, are common on hiking trails. Cairns will be placed in the garden to serve as trail markers. As works of art they call to mind the work of two western artists Andrew Goldsworthy and more specifically to Western Colorado and Eastern Utah, Robert Smithson.

Also, there will be at least one fallen log that will not only serve as a sculptural element but as a garden detail, in effect a mini-garden. Likewise, in one area of the garden will be a monoculture of trees that will have one or two trees not of that monoculture included.

The tea ceremony and tea house is an important part of a traditional Japanese garden. Unfortunately, this beautiful ceremony may not have much of an impact in Western Colorado where cultural values are much different. However, there is a parallel that can be drawn between the tea houses that Samurai came upon in the forest and the warming huts that alpine skiers come upon in the forest.

The name of the garden has not yet been determined. One thought is to name it after water itself because of the prominence of water in the design of the garden. Water is an important issue in Western Colorado. One of the things that makes this garden interesting is the way water functions in it. The focus of the garden is water, yet the plants are mainly xeric. This relationship exemplifies the ideas of balance which can lead to reflection of balance in our own lives, balance between nature and man and even a spiritual balance.

Regardless of what this garden eventually is called, its purpose is to provide a tranquil space for reflection in and through nature.

And We're Off!

Just look at that. That is a picture of 50 yards of decomposed wood chips, gratis the city of Grand Junction. I'd like to say we are special but anyone can go pick them up.

I didn't quite have all the grasses out of the way in time for the dirt work to begin in our new garden so Chad said he'd lend a hand.

Machines are great but somehow you always end up behind the shovel.