Denver Garden Bloggers Fling: Welcome to Colorado and High Plains Environmental Center

June 23, 2019

Just two hours away by plane but a mile high in altitude, Denver is a world away from subtropical Austin thanks to its short growing season (freezes can occur as late as June and as early as September), low humidity (ahhh!), and aridity (just 15 inches of annual rainfall). Over 5 days around the weekend of June 14-16, I soaked up the gardens and gardening culture of high-plains cities along Colorado’s Front Range — Denver, Boulder, Niwot, Loveland, Fort Collins — during the 12th annual Garden Bloggers Fling.

Flinging in the Mile High City

Photo courtesy of Linda Lehmusvirta of Central Texas Gardener.

The Fling is hosted each year by fellow garden bloggers who volunteer untold hours to put on a 3-1/2-day tour of gardens in their hometown (and, sometimes, surrounding region). This year’s planning team was led by Judy Seaborn, a longtime Flinger who co-owns Botanical Interests seed company and blogs at From the Garden. She’s pictured above, in the yellow blouse, alongside co-planners Leigh Pond, April Shelhon, Jennifer Spainhower, and Laura O’Connor. Kudos to them for putting on an excellent Fling!

Sightseeing in Golden and Denver

I arrived in Colorado a day early with three Austin gardening and blogging buddies: Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden, Cat of The Whimsical Gardener, and Laura of Wills Family Acres. We rented a car and drove west to Golden for a little sightseeing in the mountains before the Fling began.

That evening we met up for dinner with some other early arrivals, including Beth of Plant Postings, Gail of Clay and Limestone, Jean of Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog, and Margaret of The Gardening Me. The Fling is all about meeting and touring with fellow bloggers, and it was a joy to see these old friends again. The next day we’d connect with around 80 more!

Denver’s iconic blue bear, a sculpture called I See What You Mean by Lawrence Argent, peers into the Denver Convention Center. It was the first thing I saw from my hotel room window and made me laugh out loud.

Argent said his bear was an artistic response to the convention center as a meeting place for the exchange of ideas and information; regional western art; and the natural beauty of Colorado. That aligns nicely with what Denver Fling was about too, if you consider the region’s gardens a western art form. I certainly do!

High Plains Environmental Center

The first day’s tours began north of Denver in Loveland at the High Plains Environmental Center, an urban environmental park in a mixed-use neighborhood. HPEC offers a visitor center, native plant nursery, demonstration gardens, and 3 miles of walking trails. Executive director Jim Tolstrup (in the white shirt and brown hat) spoke to our group about HPEC’s mission.

In the gardens, orange California poppies were blooming amid rust-colored boulders — a glimpse back in time to early spring, at least for this Austinite. Our poppies finished blooming in April.

Columbines were dazzling as well.

Penstemons too.

A busy bee amid purple wands of Rocky Mountain penstemon (P. strictus).

What a great resource the gardens and trails must be for homeowners living here.

Next up: The rock garden and newly planted Undaunted Garden at The Gardens on Spring Creek, a botanic garden in Fort Collins.

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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark! Hungry to learn about garden design from the experts? I’m hosting a series of talks by inspiring garden designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year. I’m also co-hosting design-focused, private-garden tours for small groups. Held in Austin, the talks and tours are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

Save the date for Austin’s Open Day garden tour, sponsored by The Garden Conservancy, to be held Saturday, November 2. Get info about Open Days all over the country by purchasing the 2019 Open Days Directory.

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