Monday, July 1, 2019

Way Too Much is Just About Right

Like Saturday, the Garden Bloggers Fling schedule on the final day, Sunday, was grueling, starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m., once again a list of eight gardens. I'm going to cover most of the gardens in a future post. But there were two private gardens that day that really stood out for me. In many ways they were opposites, but they had something in common that is always guaranteed to appeal to me -- a certain degree of over-the-top, overabundance. I'm a girl who believes that more is more, at least when it comes to the garden.

I suppose that could also apply to the Fling schedule, which had way too many gardens for any reasonable person to make sense of in three days

The first garden was the garden of Rob Proctor and David Macke. Rob Proctor is a local Denver gardening authority who appears on the Denver channel 9 news in a segment called Proctor's Garden. He has also written 16 books on gardening.

The front garden, including this hell strip, was devoted to drought tolerant plants that we had seen in many other gardens already -- Salvias, etc.

The entrance to the house, through an enclosed porch

Rob Proctor on the enclosed front porch greeting Flingers
We all obediently filed through the house on the way to the back garden.

My first glimpse of the colorful back garden let me know I was about to see something special, a very different thing from the many tons of rock and xeric plants we had seen in so many gardens

Truly, a little electric shock of excitement went up my back when I saw this through the window

I was immediately struck by how very English those double perennial borders were, backed by a fence held between tall brick pillars. I made that comment to a few people, only to be met with silent stares.

So in my defense, I present Exhibit A

There was also a lot of color being provided by annuals in blue pots, found throughout the garden.

For a flower floozy, this was a very welcome sight

Denver does rock gardens well, but damn, by Sunday I had reached my fill of them

On the back side of each border was an equally beautiful perennial border

To the left of the borders was the area I think Rob referred to as the Waffle Garden

A metal gazebo with pots in the center stood in the middle of the Waffle Garden

Looking back at the back door

From the opposite end of the double borders, looking back at the house

Even the pots in the pot ghetto were blue

Under the wooden folly at the far end of the garden

There was a spiral staircase leading up to the roof, which we weren't supposed to climb, although at least one visitor tried

There were some special, very statuesque plants that stood out.

A tall, silver-white thistle/Onopordum acanthium


Cow parsnip/Heracleum maximum

On one side of the house, on the way back to the bus, Heather (Just A Girl With A Hammer) and I discovered the sunken garden.

From a patio full of containers holding Agave attenuata, steps lead down into a shady area

The second garden that greatly appealed to me on Sunday was the garden of Dan Johnson and Tony Miles, stylistically very different, with its upcycled bits and pieces and painted stucco walls. But the principle of more is more was very much in evidence.

Right out by the street was this wavy-armed metal piece of garden art

Great juxtaposition of the terra cotta wall and the purple foliage of the smoke bush, as well as the Iris that matches the wall

Hanging from a large conifer in the front garden were Tillandsia usneoides/Spanish moss

This head planter with a fabulous Medusa Euphorbia for hair stood out on the front porch amongst a profusion of succulent containers

Painted shutter with hanging containers on the wall by the front door

And a cluster of pots with a pink flamingo by the front door

More Spanish moss with a very long rat-tail cactus

I'm so jealous of this Sedum container -- I look cross-eyed at my specimen of this Sedum and it drops all its little beads

On the way to the back garden this troll leers at visitors

A strappy plant with Artemisia 'Sea Foam' tucked into its base

A rock with a cluster of Sempervivum and a sparkling blue jewel

Every step through this garden revealed something new to look at -- a plant, a flower, a little vignette.

This colorful doorway revealed a comfy couch

This little naked figurine facing off against a snake was hilarious

And a water feature made from a bottle pouring endlessly onto a shell and then onto the frog with his umbrella up was intriguing

More enormous metal spirals

A dragonfly on the tip of one of the metal spirals floats over colorful flowers

A boulder with jewels and antlers -- of course!

Looking back toward the comfy couch through the field of flowers

Glass bottles with swan-like necks rise over a field of thyme

Far at the back of the garden a wooden pergola covers a wooden deck, backed by a painted stucco wall

Next to the deck is a fish pond

A stream empties into the pond

Yet another wavy metal sculpture -- and a crowd of bloggers all trying to keep out of each other's way

A now familiar Agave treatment -- skulls on the sharp tips

A piece of driftwood bends sinuously around the trunk of a Yucca

Time to head back up the side of the house to the street -- and the bus


  1. Both of those gardens are wonderful, and all that color and green in the first garden is refreshing after the dryer rocky gardens. It must take a lot of watering though, and both must need a lot of protecting during the winter.

  2. Both of these gardens are utterly wonderful. I entirely agree with you about the English feel of the Proctor/Macke garden and I suspect I would have been just as thrilled to see all those flowers after a heavy diet of rock gardens. The metal sculptures in the second garden really appealed to me. I love the bright pops of color too. Thanks for the great post, Alison!

  3. Silent stares? But the double perennial borders were very English! Maybe they just didn't hear you right? Or if it was me who gave you that "reply" it may have been the fact that by Sunday I was verging on brain dead with over stimulation.

  4. Thanks for your post. I've read a few others posts on these gardens but you captured the humor and the outliers and some much different and more telling views. Thanks for that. One more rock garden I would have been done. But I garden where it rains 45" a year so how can I relate. Loved the blue pots - I have many myself. But now I know sometimes more really is more.

  5. I'm guessing Loree's right: Those double-double borders are so overtly, obviously English that the blank states were more likely from exhaustion or stupefaction than incomprehension. And, despite their OTT-ness, the push borders and lawn path must have been a huge relief after so much rock.

  6. Thanks so much, by the way, for the link to the Lester Hawkins article. It's such a substantial, intelligent piece that it sent me in search of his other Pacific Hort. articles, and carried me back to the era when his Western Hills Nursery was the revered mecca for sophisticated West coast gardeners. Transplanted out west then, moving from rental to rental and with no time or money to garden ornamentally, I nonetheless absorbed a ton of planting wisdom from articles and visits to public gardens and nurseries -- though I never got to Western Hills in person.

  7. The Johnson-Miles garden strongly evokes the Bay Area, too -- the Marcia Donahue school of More Is More. Your pics of the many fabulous vignettes are outstanding; thanks.

  8. Excellent gardens, excellent comments. The 1st house was also very cool and had a garden appropriate to the style of the home. I'm not much of a fan for style mismatches.

    Looking back to past flings, the gardens I remember clearly were the ones where we had a chance to sit and take it in a while--sit with our feet in the pool, or on a bench under a tree...

  9. Proctor garden was a little too rich for this zone 10er's blood, and I think you're absolutely right about the English influence, but I loved seeing stuff like the big heracleum. The Johnson Miles garden had so much going on, and it looked like it had been airlifted from the Bay Area/SF. I must note that for a person who claims to not be a big fan of bus-driven garden tours, you do an amazing job of documenting the gardens, which was not at all an easy thing to do. I failed on a lot of the gardens so I'm closely watching your posts.

  10. 8 am to 8 pm, 8 garden; WOW. It takes dedication and good note-taking to keep it straight for posting. The enclosed porch in Rob Proctor and David Macke home knocked my socks off: I LOVE it. I could never put together such a stunning cozy outdoor room. It looks amazing. Dan Johnson and Tony Miles's garden have a surprise at every corner. Something for everyone. Two things stayed with me: the painted blue shutter with hanging containers, and painted stucco wall.

  11. Love both of these gardens! I see a lot of plants that'll need to come inside for the winter. Where do they all get stored? So glad I get to enjoy the fling through your posts without having to fly out there and ride a bus all over the place.

  12. All in all, I think I preferred the Johnson-Miles to the Proctor-Macke garden. The Proctor-Macke garden was certainly glorious, but a little overstimulating. The Johnson-Miles garden seemed more connected to place. As for more being more, I tend to agree, though I would not have objected to a less ambitious itinerary.


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