This year’s keynote speaker is Robert Nold, who gardens at his home in Lakewood, Colorado. His new book, High and Dry: Gardening with Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants (Timber Press, 2008), focuses on a variety of plants for our area, highlighting several species of Columbine, which he rotates through his home garden.
A member of numerous plant societies, Nold has been gardening since 1956, when he was five years old. “I’ve never not been interested in gardening,” says Nold. Low-maintenance gardens are his specialty, an interest due simply due to a lack of spare time and “laziness,” he says.
Thankfully, he has not been lazy in writing. Nold’s 1999 book from Timber Press, Pentstemon, won the Outstanding Academic Book honor from Choice magazine. He also writes regularly for The Colorado Gardener and the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Rock Garden Society.
Nold’s garden is “almost entirely organic,” though he says he “is not a purist in this regard.” He admits that he has a hard time following instructions, so he wouldn’t be any good at mixing and applying them, anyway. Besides, he says, “we have an obligation to provide [domestic and wild animals] with an environment free from poisons.”
From his laid-back gardening style, Nold has “learned not to take garden pests too seriously,” anyway. By leaving things alone, whether due ethics or a problem with instructions, he has found that “most infestations appear on their own accord in a healthy garden environment.”
And a healthy garden environment is what you will learn how to create and maintain at the High and Dry Workshop. While High and Dry Gardeining “is only one type of Water-Wise Gardening,” says Yvette Henson, Director of the CSU Extension for San Miguel and West Montrose Counties. Henson, also the Horticulture, Natural Resources and Agriculture Agent for the West End, studied drought for her graduate research. It was that interest which led her to create the High and Dry Research Garden in Norwood.
There are five High and Dry Research Gardens in Colorado, four of which are on the Eastern side of the Rockies. Henson, with a grant from CSU Department of Soils and Crops, established the Norwood garden in 2006. The native plants she and volunteers put in have not been watered since the day they were planted. The garden depends entirely on precipitation.
“So far, the only plant deaths were due to too much water,” Henson laughs. This past winter’s snow coverage drowned some of the species, and Henson learned, as many gardeners do, from her mistakes. “I wish the soil was better drained. We should have amended it with gravel,” she says. Gravel is also being used for mulch now in some of the High and Dry gardens, simply because “many of these plants grow naturally in rocky soil,” Henson adds.
The plant that has flourished best in the Norwood High and Dry Garden is the sticky purple geranium (Geranium viscosissimum). One can almost see its flowers from Summit Street as it goes by the Lone Cone Building. The plants themselves are great bunches a foot or so high, and they “have been blooming for two months, and will bloom till frost,” boasts Henson.
Of the plants that have not thrived, but just hung on, Henson says she suspects the clay soil and low drainage might be the problem. “The fivepetal cliffbush (Jamesia Americana) may do real well in Telluride,” she says, referring to the soon-to-be High and Dry Research Garden at Telluride Town Park. There is no funding for this project as of yet, but a meeting this week will hopefully yield some results.
Henson is also working on a proposal for a High and Dry Research Garden at the new Naturita library. Hopefully, next year’s workshop and tours will include two new research gardens and venues in both Telluride and Norwood or Naturita.
For this year, the location is the Norwood Fire Station on 1605 Summit Street. Call Henson at 327-4393 to register, or go to the fire station at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, June 28, the day of the workshop. Registration will be unitl 10 a.m. From 10-10:30 a.m. Robert Nold will present the keynote address, “Gardening with Native Dryland Plants: All the Stuff You Don’t Have to Do!” He will sell and sign his new book during lunch, 12:30-1 p.m., and from 1-5 p.m. Henson will lead the tour of Water-Wise gardens in Norwood.