In the garden: Taking stock | AspenTimes.com

In the garden: Taking stock

Anna Naeser
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

The thistles, sorrel and prickly lettuce have set seed in the midvalley; wild asters, sunflowers, and chamisa are blooming, the grasses catch and hold the mellowing sunlight in their tawny seedheads and the color transformation on the north facing slopes has started. It is a good time to take stock of the garden, especially in the early morning after a good rain, when the garden shines.

The rich orange flowers of the groundcover hummingbird trumpet, Zauschneria garrettii “orange carpet,” are a welcome highlight on my south-facing slope, fringing a group of boulders between the thin, arching branches of a group of understated mountain snowberries, Symphoricarpos rotundifolius, and a robust specimen of blue avena grass, Helictotrichon sempervirens. They’re partly shaded by the plum tree and that may be why the Zauschneria flowers better here than in my original patch in full sun. I definitely want to plant more of those. Rosa “Linda Campbell,” its wonderful clusters of deep red flowers hidden behind the boulders should be moved to a more prominent spot. It would be impossible to pry it out of its deep narrow crevice, so I really should just buy another one, especially as it usually reblooms in early fall.

The outstanding exclamation points made by the sinuous biennial mullein stems randomly scattered throughout the garden always delight me, but over many generations of reseeding, they seem to have lost some of the silvery refinement of Verbascum bombyciferum and have acquired some of the characteristics of the weedy species V. Thapsus. V. olympicum is supposed to be perennial but mine quickly dwindled to one plant and I can’t find any seedlings. I miss their enormous velvety rosettes like giant Alaskan cabbages and their towering presence in their incarnation as flowering candelabra, against the somber spruce. I guess I’ll have to order seeds of both varieties and start my stock over again.

I gave the virgin’s bower, Clematis ligusticifolia, draping my driveway retaining wall a severe haircut to just above the ground in July. You wouldn’t know it to look at it now though, so luxuriantly is it flowing over the driveway. The ones I see festooning serviceberries and oakbrush are not nearly as rambunctious and of course are never irrigated, so maybe next year I’ll withhold the supplemental irrigation.

Well, I’ve used up my weekly allotment of words, with hardly a dent in my mental list of what worked, what didn’t and what I’d like to do differently next year. The beauty of fall is that I know I’ll have all winter to think about it.