Sunday, November 3, 2013

Denver Botanic Garden does not disappoint

A couple weeks ago I got to go out to Denver to speak at a rock garden society meeting... I wasn't sure what to expect. I've never really been to that part of the country before. I had an AMAZING time, met some wonderful people and saw some really lovely gardens.
Today, let me share some of Denver Botanic Garden... it was absolutely stunning.

Mike Kintgen, senior horticulturalist at DBG, and my tour guide for most of my visit (and a freaking plant genius), here giving a sense of scale to a spectacular specimen of Yucca faxoniana. Wish I could grow that thing... Denver is zone 5, same as me in Michigan, but the much drier climate they can do lots of yuccas and agaves and such that just rot for me.
Cylindropuntia echinocarpa... Those white spines make it look backlit even when it isn't. Almost makes me rethink having cactus in the garden. Almost. I can deal with spines. It is the glochids I'm not willing to put up with.

Again... those brilliant fruit on the opuntia almost making me love cacti...

I loved this simple, meadowy hillside. Soft, romantic, almost glowing. The yellow is from rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus, is the genus, I believe)... A plant that I'd never heard of before, but was everywhere around Denver. 

The Japanese garden is STUNNING. And I love that they use native Ponderosa pines instead of a more traditional Japanese species of pine -- it is a wonderful native, more locally adapted species, and looks absolutely spectacular grown in a traditional Japanese style.

A English-style double border... but with a completely different plant palette. A wonderful local take on a traditional garden style.

The rock garden. There is no way to do this justice... Denver is a rock gardening climate, for sure... A glorious collection of plants really well grown. I need to come back and see it in spring when everything is flowering.

The new crevice garden in the rock garden area... I took dozens of photos of little green buns in this bed that don't look particularly exciting now, but just seeing species I'd only heard of grown so beautifully was exciting. The clumps of Petunia patagonica, the hardy petunia (probably now a calibrachoa, actually) from the extreme southern end of South America were stunning. As was the Fabiana nana and Onosma albo-rosea and all the acatholimons and... well, you get the idea.

THIS was my biggest plant crush of the trip. Mahonia fremontii. Isn't it glorious? Big, beautiful shrub, and that BLUE foliage! 

Mahonia freemontii close up. Be still my beating heart. By the end of my visit, Mike was pointing out these whenever we saw them with a chuckle saying, "There's your favorite plant." Which was my signal to run up to the latest specimen and take yet more photos. Happily I came home with both a plant of this AND seeds in my luggage.

A tetraneuris in the rock garden.

I came away in love... what a magical place!


  1. Looks like a pretty cool place- very well maintained. Love the gluacous foliage on the Mahonia fremontii.

  2. Thank you for these photos! You are a lucky man to have visited. I had a 4 hour layover in Denver back in September. It wasn't until about an hr before we boarded our flight home I thought to look up and see how close the garden is to the airport. Damn! I totally could have had a 2hr close, yet so far...

  3. The "billowy hillside" has just been carted away today (it will soon be a Science Pyramid). Better not visit in May and June when the cacti are blooming--that will put you over the edge, Joseph! We're all thoroughly (and literally) stuck on them. What a treat to see DBG through your eyes!

  4. The fruit of the Mahonia fremontii when ripe is very sweet and juicy. I bet it would make a great tasting jelly.