Father-son team Larry and Brian Coe admit that the region's harsh climate makes for finicky gardens, but with a little direction on plant selection, local landscapers can create the perfect mountain landscape.
"At this altitude and this climate, as well as our need for gardens to be more deer resistant, we are certainly limited in the number of plants that will flourish here. But once gardeners are aware of what works, there are plenty of options that can help build a great garden," Larry Coe says.
Those options go by the handsome names of Delphinium, Columbine, Penstamon, Salvia, Russian Sage, Blanket Flower, Yarrow and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea), to name a few. The Coe nursery outside of Ridgway bursts with these high altitude-loving perennials and more. But Telluride gardeners need only turn to the weekly Telluride Farmers Market to snatch up some of the Coe's carefully grown plants and friendly advice.
Mountain Spring Nursery is not an unfamiliar name within the regional Farmers Market circuit; the Coes also sell their perennials at the Sunday Farmer's Market in Ridgway. As Larry Coe explains, the Mountain Spring Nursery is more suited for venues like local farmers markets than large-scale garden centers.
"We run an informal, smaller nursery, which really caters to the individual high-altitude gardener, as well as a few smaller wholesalers," Coe Sr. explains.
Larry and Brian Coe opened Mountain Spring Nursery in 1999, after the duo began raising high-altitude perennials for their own gardens and for a few other regional landscapers. The father-son team has been digging in the dirt for much of their lives together, as Coe Sr. raised rare dwarf conifer trees in his spare time while Brian was growing up in their hometown of Willamette Valley, Ore. After Larry Coe retired, he took up camp in Colorado, first in the Delta area and then later in Ridgway, in 1997. Brian Coe, who his father claims has gardening steeped in his veins, played an integral role in the family's 1999 opening of Mountain Spring Nursery.
Today, the nursery boasts a large selection of plants specifically suited for Ridgway's elevation and above, including shrubs and trees along with an assortment of flowering and ground-cover perennials. The nursery is currently focusing on their tree inventory, with the recent planting of nearly eight full acres of Blue Spruce trees.
Larry Coe says that all the plants raised at his property have fought for their place in the greenhouse and in the ground, as he and Brian have spent seasons unearthing the very best plants for our tricky high altitude climate.
"Everything we have at the nursery has gotten here through trial and error, and talking to local gardeners and clients about what really works," Coe says, explaining that the business uses Colorado State University's high altitude plant handbook as a guide for the plants they raise. But even more importantly, they listen to feedback from gardeners in Ridgway and Telluride to determine which plants can really thrive at this climate and altitude.
The weekly Telluride Farmers Market is an ideal venue for the Coe Family's plants, says Larry, because it allows local gardeners to have access to a variety of plant products that cannot be found in regional garden centers.
"There isn't a whole lot of access to the plant material that really works here, so we bring it to [local gardeners] rather than making them come to us," Coe says. "Any farmers market is an opportunity for somebody to take a look at our business, and so far, we've done very well. We can't seem to bring enough plants to meet the demands!"
Ultimately, Telluride's Friday afternoon farmers market is a chance for this small, family-run business to reach the general public, explains Coe.
"There are a lot of small, agriculturally-based family businesses that wouldn't get recognized without access to venues like the Telluride Farmers Market," he explains.
Mountain Spring Nursery's perennials and small shrubs can be found every Friday afternoon from noon to 4 p.m. on S. Oak Street. To make an appointment to visit their Ridgway nursery in person, call 626-3293.