The July Tour de Basalt
July 8, 2005
What grabbed me the most this week? It was close, but Basalt looked so festive over the Fourth of July holiday it won out over my own garden by a hair.In front of the shops, containers and window boxes are full of flowers. Gone are the days when plants actually grew in a container, when half a dozen petunias gradually filled out until , by the end of the summer, they overflowed their half-barrel planter. Now the fashion is to jam as many plants as possible into a container, preferably all different colors and in full bloom. Instant gratification.In the large brick planters at Gold Rivers, seasonal disposable bedding plants are anchored with more permanent trees. The current scheme of blue delphiniums and blocks of vivid red geraniums bordered by deep purple petunias knocks your eye out, whether walking or driving. It takes skill to design and pull off this kind of planting.Two dramatic flowerbeds in front of Alpine Bank feature statuesque delphiniums in electric blues, giving as good as they get from big clumps of flaming Maltese cross, Lychnis chalcedonica. Across the street, the border surrounding Town Hall is absolutely stunning also in blues but with many yellows instead of red. So many different kinds and colors of plants ought to look busy and jumbled but somehow it all flows together. No clichés here. The roundabout island at the entrance to Basalt is interesting, too; I sometimes drive around it twice to check out everything going on. (I’m pleased to see some high-desert types of plants.) These creative plantings have the devoted care lavished on them they deserve. I hate to see a nice border pulled up and replanted because lawn grass and weeds were allowed to take it over.From downtown to Homestead Drive runs an alley, a public walkway, separating two beautiful private gardens as different as chalk and cheese but equally expressing the individuality of their gardeners and the house they own. Don’t miss it if you’re having dinner in town. I find the oddly spaced steps in the alley aggravating. Is it true that they were built this way on purpose to foil skateboarders? There is another alley that has so far escaped improvement. If you want to see what old Basalt was like before it was charming and in The New York Times, take a trip along this alley instead.Several small gardens on my own street attracted me on account of individual plants. There is a Lonicera japonica, the Japanese honeysuckle, which is tied with lilacs for a most heavenly smell. Invasive in some parts of the country, it has been well behaved here for years. No aromatherapy needed if you have this vine. A medium pink rose leaning on a wire fence fills my nose with pure essence of roseness. At Cliff’s Park, another rose, on a split rail fence, has a lovely scent, too, but subtler, like its paler pink flowers.The sound of water draws me to a completely different kind of garden, visible through a gate. An imposing, precisely geometric pavilion frames a waterfall spilling into a long rill or watercourse, running straight toward me until it reaches a small pool. Getting a glimpse of this architectural garden gives me a lovely hide-and-go-seek feeling, as though it were meant only for me while at the same time being meant for everyone; a secret in full view. It is so far out of my league that I’m amazed it’s in my neighborhood. The planting is formal, but as I turn to go back to my own garden, I notice a rock placed with almost Chinese sensibility and at its foot a homely clump of hens and chicks, Sempervivums, recently planted; it’s perfect!Did you know the Roaring Fork Club has Fourth of July fireworks? Another secret in full view. I have front-row seats on my deck. From there, the brilliant explosions appear to shoot magically out of the skyline toward Aspen. I ended my Tour de Basalt with a bang.Anna enjoys the gardens in Basalt and hopes you will communicate with her at email@example.com and tell her what she missed. Please write Anna’s Garden in the e-mail subject line.