Sale offers varied plants

Posted 4/8/09

Once upon a time, there was grass in his yard. That was seven years ago, when Dare Bohlander of Littleton embarked on changing his personal landscape …

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Sale offers varied plants


Once upon a time, there was grass in his yard.

That was seven years ago, when Dare Bohlander of Littleton embarked on changing his personal landscape plant by plant, rock by rock.

“I started plugging stuff in and didn’t water much.”

Bohlander is a member of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, which will host a plant sale in the Inn at Hudson Gardens from 3 to 8 p.m. April 17 (members only) and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 18.

Membership costs $10 a year and one can join at the door and have the best choice of plants April 17, suggests active member and plant sale chairman Sandy Snyder of Littleton, whose lovely Ridge Road rock garden gives ongoing pleasure to the community as we drive past.

More than a dozen specialized growers from Colorado and New Mexico will offer xeric, alpine, native and rock garden plants.

“These plants are especially well-suited to grow in troughs, patios or architectural elements in combination with rocks or boulders found in alpine and desert environments,” Snyder says. Expert advice should be available.

Gradually, Bohlander turned the turf over and built some raised areas with rocks he brought back from twice yearly trips to South Dakota, where he grew up. He kept on “plugging things in.” Sometimes, when working with the plants, he finds little fossils in the Missouri River basin rock specimens — “it’s a souvenir garden.”

It’s also a frustrating project at times because these plants grow so slowly, he says, frowning at an agave that has been in place for five years.

The yard is now filling in with a great variety of rocks and plants in all sizes, shapes and textures— plants that will survive without much water. Spiky cactus and yucca, low clumps with soft silver green leaves, a red leaf peach, crocuses, cyclamen, hundreds of varieties, including some that grow in dry shade among tree roots. With a little portable solar panel, he pumps trickling water into a small pond.

This high energy gardener worked for four years on the splendid rock garden at Denver Botanic Gardens under the guidance of DBG’s globe-trotting horticulturist Panayoti Kelaidis and learned the possibilities of this style of gardening. And that it affords lots of color.

“Be sure to drive by in May,” he says, happily anticipating that color.

After the front yard began to take shape, he tackled the back yard, removing a concrete RV pad and stretch of chain link fence. Rocks there are from Colorado, he says. The back also houses a rather new and very appealing solar greenhouse, in a geodesic dome shape.

“When it snowed last week, I just hung out in there,” he said.

Warm air and blooming plants are a sure antidote to cabin fever. On the west sunny side of the greenhouse is a vegetable bed that is watered by a downspout from the garage eves, when it rains. This requires supplementary water from a hose at times. “I used to live in Seattle and I’m still trying to figure out when to plant peas here,” he mutters, peering at some sprouts.

Why work so hard on a project like this? And why does a gardener always need new plants?

The latest NARG newsletter, “Saximontana,” offers a quote from Panayoti Kelaidis, chapter president: “Our gardens are safety valves in our busy lives. They are our solace when we mourn, our stimulus when we are listless. They are the ornamentation to our lives and expression of our very souls. New plants (like compost, love and money) are essential to a garden…”

He later speaks of heading out every morning with his cup of coffee to see what’s blooming. Bohlander says he works at home, so he is able to visit his plants during breaks. On a nice day, it’s tempting to stay out there.

As a side note: Hudson Gardens has a unique canyon shaped rock garden, leading downhill toward the river, with huge red rocks individually chosen by landscape architect Doug Rockne and horticulturist Andrew Pierce from a quarry west of Canon City. After the rocks were lowered into place, rock garden society members, who were Pierce’s friends and colleagues, arrived and planted specimens, originating around the world, dug from their own gardens. At the top of the canyon path is a mound with Colorado native species.

If you go:

Hudson Gardens is at 6115 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton. The Rock Garden Society plant sale, held in the Inn at Hudson Gardens, is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 18. It’s open to members from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 17 and one can join at the door for $10, thereby ensuring the best selection of plants. Information? Show chairman Sandy Snyder is at 303-795-9484, e-mail



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