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Around Aspen: Gardening

Mary Eshbaugh Hayes
MEHMembers of the gardening panel who talked at the Aspen Historical Society are: Gayle Shugars, of Goldleaf Gardens and Pardon My Garden Club; Michael Thompson, of Heritage Fruit Tree Project; and Anna Scott, archivist at the Historical Society and of the Aspen Community Garden.
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So many people want to know how to garden in high-altitude Aspen that they packed the Aspen Historical Society’s Wheeler/Stallard House Museum last week to hear a panel of successful gardeners: Gayle Shugars, of Goldleaf Gardens and the Pardon My Garden Club; Michael Thompson, of the Heritage Fruit Tree Project; and Anna Scott, archivist at the Historical Society and a gardener at the Aspen Community Garden. Members of the audience also contributed anecdotes about Aspen gardening.

Jim Markalunas remarked that now is the time to gather dandelion leaves as the snow melts back. Now they are sweet and tender, but once they start to bloom they are bitter.

Gayle Shugars said that plants that survive unattended in the fluctuating temperatures and dry conditions of Aspen are deep-rooted and include hollyhocks, rhubarb, lilacs, mountain ash and the yellow roses seen all over town. Most of these were brought and planted by Aspen’s early pioneers in the 1880s.

Sweetpeas and the cottonwood trees were introduced to Aspen in the 1880s and they do beautifully here. Sweetpeas must be planted before May 1. Everyone in the audience was given a packet of sweetpeas to plant.

Anna Scott manages the Aspen Community Garden, which was started in 1978. There are now more than 50 garden plots but there is always a waiting list. She explained that plants that do well in Aspen include cabbages, radishes, lettuce and strawberries. Most of the farmers in the valley grew potatoes. Aspen used to close the schools for two weeks in October so the children could help pick potatoes.

Michael Thompson told how he and Jerome Osentowski are collecting branches of fruit trees that have existed a long time in the valley. He said many of the fruit trees in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood were planted by the settlers from Italy. There are a few heritage apple trees in Aspen but it is too high for most. The Aspen Saturday Market in summer has organic “Honey Crisp” apples from Paonia that are delicious.

In March at the end of ski season, Carla Beachcomber Lutz and her architect husband, Jess Lutz, gave their annual luncheon at The Little Nell. Carla and Jess have homes in Costa Rica, Aspen and Hawaii and travel the world every year.

The April-May issue of the Santa Fean magazine includes an article about physicist Murray Gell-Mann, who lives in Santa Fe and spends the summers at the Aspen Center for Physics. Murray helped found the Aspen Physics Center and also the Santa Fe Institute.

Aspen photographer David O. Marlow has the cover photograph and 10 pages of photos inside the May issue of Architectural Digest magazine. The subject of the photos is a compound of homes on Flathead Lake in Montana.

Undercurrent…Oh joy! The street sweeper instead of the snow plow!


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