Buses depart at 7:30 a.m., board in front of Marriott on California Street.
Tour the intimate home gardens of Dan Johnson: Associate Director of Horticulture at Denver Botanic Gardens, this city lot supports an eclectic garden that is anything but average, the result of a driven collector with a creative proclivity.
Uncommon plants greet the visitor even at the street, where a warm terracotta wall frames the stucco home and small front gardens. The gardens slope downwards behind the home, with red flagstone paths and boulders creating distinct spaces. This garden is a wonderful melding of whimsical garden art combined with dramatic garden design and sophisticated plant choices. The theme is one of pushing the envelope for Colorado gardening, and unique plant specimens are found throughout. Deliberate use of microclimates and selective irrigation seem to make anything possible. Magnolias, wisteria, sheltered fuchsias and palms, Japanese maples and bamboo seem unlikely in their proximity to cacti, penstemon, agaves and yuccas.
Collections made in Spain, South Africa and Pakistan mingle with more traditional fare. Sculptural elements and found objects enhance the sense of surprise. A small stream leads through the contours of the gardens to a koi pond with lotus and waterlilies. Photographers delight in the detail and unusual vignettes. Many consider this to be the finest small garden in Colorado.
The second garden on this tour is the home of Janet Manning, where she has transformed her garden into an extravagant perennial border featuring drought-adapted plants designed for beautiful foliage effects and showy flowers. This is a four season garden, with roses and a fabulous collection of bearded iris offering spectacular floral effects during their bloom season, and other perennials and bulbs chiming in from early spring until the late fall. Many plants in this garden are selected for their evergreen foliage. The walled back yard garden is not visible to passersby and is a true refuge with gorgeous potted plant combinations, climbers on the wall and a welcoming patio.
The tour travels then to the University of Denver Arboretum which combines many graceful mature trees with an abundance of unusual young trees planted in recent decades to grace the many new buildings that have been built as this prestigious private University has burgeoned.
Dr. Martin Quigley, Director of the Arboretum, will host this visit, which will concentrate on the central quadrangle of the University where many of the large oaks and maples are believed to date to early in the 20th century. There are numerous champion trees in this area, including the largest specimens of several kinds of Cedrus, impressive Sequiodendrons and numerous specimens of the hardy Rubber Tree (Eucommia ulmoides) which is almost unknown in Colorado outside this campus. This University and the surrounding neighborhood are noted for having the largest concentration of unusual trees in the Denver area, and many of the largest specimens in the state due to the foresight of an early donor to the University who insisted that thousands of trees be planted and cared for.