Garden Travels: Denver

Most people don’t associate Denver with gardening (I know I certainly didn’t) but just having come back from the Mile-High City, I want to tell you that there’s a lot of great horticulture going on in Colorado.

As usual, I was there on business, giving a series of three new lectures at the Denver Flower and Garden Show on environmentally friendly ways to green your garden.

Here I am pointing out that a single gas mower produces more pollution in one year than 45 brand new cars driving 12K miles a year. Time to go electric with one of the new battery powered mowers! They start with the flick of a switch & mow up to 1/3 acre on a single charge. From Black and Decker, of course! 🙂

What’s interesting about the Denver Flower and Garden Show is that unlike most other home and garden shows, Denver’s is a non-profit organization that devotes itself to providing scholarships for students in the horticultural and building trades. This ethos seems to pay off, as the show was packed all three days I was there, and averages between 60 and 100 thousand visitors each year.

"OK, I heard that Weishan was a honey of a speaker, but how do I get in to see him?" Outside the Colorado Convention Center where I spoke

Denver City Park

It wasn’t all work though, and between talks and doing TV interviews I had a bit of time to sally forth and see the city, and I must admit to being quite impressed both by the beauty of the Denver itself and the warmth of the people I met. I wandered all over the city on foot (the Downtown area is easily walkable)  admiring the many historical districts and parks that make Denver such a pleasant place to visit. Unlike many cities that have entirely sacrificed their past for their future, Denver has managed to combine the best of the old and the new into a quirky mix that really works.

Being a gardener I of course had to see as many horticultural attractions as I could. First off, I toured the Welby greenhouses, home to Hardy Boy plants and one of the largest growers of annuals in the West with over a million square feet under glass. I went there to learn a little more about how bedding plants are raised, and I will admit to being quite amazed by the level of technology and specialization required: from the latest tissue culture techniques, to robotized watering arms, to an automatic machine that pinches seedlings, this ain’t your grandmother’s greenhouse operation.

The production greenhouses at Hardy Boy Plants

Next stop, the famous Denver Botanic Garden, which was just emerging from a long winter’s rest when I arrived, as well as from a considerable amount of new construction.

The conservatory at the Denver Botanic

Over 100 acres in size and consistently rated one of the best public gardens in the country, the Denver Botanic is a real asset for gardener’s in the West, as the climate of Denver and the mountain regions presents considerable challenges to gardeners in the form of wide, almost instantaneous temperature swings combined with strong, desiccating winds. And interestingly, for a major botanical garden, it’s located well within the city limits, making it an easy destination for pedestrian travelers like me.

Finally, a word or two on places to stay. I’ve never been a fan of chain hotels, so wherever I travel, I try to find interesting, reasonably priced boutique hotels, and Denver has a real gem: the Hotel Teatro. Downtown right next to Denver’s theater complex (hence the name) The Teatro is located in the 1910 Tramways building. Restored from top to bottom in the late 90’s, the rooms are lovely, and the staff superb. (Rarely have I seen more “Yes, we can” attitude.)  Possessing many amenities of establishments twice the price, the Hotel Teatro manages to be upscale without being snotty, and luxurious without breaking the bank, at least if you take advantage, as I did, of one of their many Internet specials. (And a culinary tip: try their fresh, handmade macaroni. It is to DIE for!)

So as you can see, there’s a lot to see in Denver, and I heartily recommend the friendly and welcoming Mile-High City as a worthwhile stop on your next garden travels.

Until next time, I’m Michael Weishan, for Old House, Old Garden.



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