While these challenges are daunting, they don't mean you should throw in the trowel. The High Altitude Gardening Society, formed last year, meets tomorrow at 10 a.m., at Christ Presbyterian Church. Tyler Schultz and Greg Caster will talk about trees and shrubs, and what to do with them this time of year, and then give a demonstration on pruning. After that, "we'll also stop at some other gardens in the neighborhood," said Bobbie Ebert, a founding member of the society. All are welcome to attend.
For this first meeting, "the intent is just to enjoy gardening and promote keeping yards up," said Ebert. "It's open to everyone. Maybe it will progress to the point that it needs to get a little more organized, but the format now is terribly informal."
The group, of roughly 20 participants, revved up last year to help maintain the Telluride Historical Museum's gardens.
"We really enjoy making it look a little homier over there," said Ebert. "There's not a lot of space, but last year we did get a few people to help put up a couple of little stack walls. Somebody said, 'It looks very unprofessional,' and I said, 'Wonderful!'"
The idea for the society came when Ebert was asked to help with the garden at the museum. "I was really motivated," Ebert said, but after already enduring four knee surgeries, "just when I got started, my knee gave out." Instead of giving up the project, she contacted other gardeners to help her.
"I was excited to find so many interested people," said Ebert. "They said it was fun to pull weeds with someone else," more fun than pulling weeds alone. "They started bringing brown bags over" at lunchtime, "and pulling weeds.
"If it's not fun, it's work," said Ebert. "If you're going to volunteer, it should be fun."
And that is how the society intends to stay.
"We want to keep the exterior up, through the old-fashioned way of people sharing things out of their gardens that they have an abundance of," said Ebert. "And not only for the museum's garden, but with other people interested in getting things. All of us who garden throw stuff out. That's kind of the theme we're presenting that this is a community social club with a community-minded purpose."
The society plans to keep the museum's garden as historic as possible, and that includes returning plants from the original museum garden to the current one. When restoration work first began on the museum, Ebert and others took out some of the plants already in the garden and took them home for safekeeping. "We took them home for several years while they worked on the museum," said Ebert. "Now it's time to start taking those back to the museum. I'm calling anyone else who had starts now is the time to return them."
A second gardening talk is scheduled for May 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the museum, when Yvette Henson, CSU extension agent and horticulturalist, presents a program about soils and high altitude adaptations.
Ebert is collecting a list of names of those interested in participating in the society, so she can "let them know when we're doing things." She is planning to hold meetings at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays (Thursday is local's day at the museum, with free admission), and some Saturday events as well.
Ebert is also planning a couple road trips for the end of May and beginning of June, including one to the North Fork Valley in Delta County, "an excellent source of nursery material, and very reasonable," she said. Plus, plants there are "already hardened" and can survive life at 9,000 feet.
"For time being, we're going to announce events as they come up," she said. "We're getting organized to know what people want. "If something good comes along, we'll just shoot the word out and take advantage." Future programs could include container gardening and sharing secrets about high altitude gardening, such as Ebert's wildflower secret.
"I have a children's garden rake bamboo and I go out to where the moles have dug and made people unhappy," she said. Moles dig in rich soil for grubs," she explained. So she spreads the dirt they've uncovered around "and drop wildflower seed in it.
"The fall is very good" for planting, she added. "You don't have to compete with the birds because the snow covers it up." And in the spring a blanket of color is ready to greet you after the snow melts.
"We're flexible, and that's the way we hope to stay," said Ebert. "We don't have any dues, we just recommend people make small contributions to the museum's garden. We're open to everybody, too."
To get your name on the contact list for the High Altitude Gardening Society, call Ebert at 728-3579, or Sonchia Jilek at the museum, 728-3344, and leave your name and contact information