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High altitude gardens in full bloom

Kimberly Nicoletti

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County plants must be as tough as the most extreme athletes, enduring summer frosts, fierce sun and extreme nighttime temperatures. Gardeners become coaches, weeding out plants that don’t make the cut and nurturing those with the best potential.

The annual Summit County Garden Tour is the Olympics of high-altitude gardening, showcasing 12 extraordinary residential rock gardens, wildflowers, perennials and landscaping.

“The garden tour is an opportunity to see what works, what doesn’t work and talk to the people who did it,” Summit County Garden Club member Patrice Lara said.

This year’s early snowmelt, drought and hot weather have provided gardeners with extra challenges.

“The drought has been challenging, and it’s created an environment where it’s caused gardens to peak earlier,” Lara said. “There’s been a lot of extra deadheading to get the flowers to bloom again.”

“People see how different gardens are structured, and they walk away with ideas they can take and use in their own garden. For some it’s an opportunity to just see beautiful settings.”

One such setting is Jane Hendrix’s award-winning garden at 10,000 feet in Breckenridge, which will be featured in next month’s issue of “Sunset Magazine.”

Another complements a Scandinavian home milled in Finland and built in Frisco.

“I think our landscape reflects not only our love for the beauty of flowers, but also it helps make our log home even more inviting, perhaps something like the Scandinavians do when they use profuse landscaping, flower painting and flower boxes outside their homes,” gardener Bill Wymore said.

A new waterfall garden, dotted with flowers, shrubs and trees, accents Victorian houses on Main Street in Breckenridge.

“You’ve got to be careful. It’s a little romantic, so you’ve got to be careful who you go with,” designer Ernie Blake said. “I have a little patio, a little candle thing and some very comfortable chairs.”

One of the older gardens of the tour is Grace Keeling’s rainbow garden, bursting with pink, red, orange, yellow, blue and violet flowers up to 10 years old. She also specializes in microclimates for her roses and tomatoes.

“Different sides of the house have different weather conditions,” Keeling said. “There’s cool air on both sides of the house, but next to the driveway, there’s more heat from the asphalt. This year the warm weather has allowed us to grow things that we just don’t normally grow, like tomatoes and petunias.”

Like Keeling, Sharon Witt can educate gardeners new to Summit County about what plants work and what plants don’t.

“We moved here from Minnesota five years ago and had a lot of failure,” Witt said. “We don’t repeat our mistakes. We try to do all the colorful flowers of Colorado. Anyone that’s new to the area, I can tell them what not to do.”

Other gardens on the tour include drought-resistant rock gardens, terraces, plants transported from St. Louis in a suitcase and backyard oases in progress.

Registration for the tour begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Silverthorne Pavilion.

Tickets are $12, and proceeds are distributed by the garden club for the enhancement of public gardens and community education in high-altitude gardening.

The Summit County Garden Club meets every third Tuesday of the month from April through October. Guests may attend the meetings, and anyone with an interest in gardening is welcome to join. For more information, call Neide Cooley at (970) 453-2651 or visit http://www.SummitCountyGardenClub.org.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at knicoletti@ summitdaily.com.


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