Photos By: Terry Weltmer and Tracey Brostek
Life can sometimes feel so rushed and demanding. Often people search out moments of peace and serenity to compensate for the frustration of work and responsibilities. Once at home you dream of arriving at a sanctuary, and I know for myself that involves a beautiful garden to lose my thoughts in. How, though, does a person go about growing this perfect garden? Where should I start? So to answer this question I sought out my old landlord Terry, who also runs the landscaping company Mountainside Irrigation and Landscaping.
We discussed sustainable practices and the demands of living in an alpine environment where water can sometimes be scarce and sunlight abundant. His first suggestion was to wait on pruning and raking up pine needles and other plant debris until the end of May or later due to spring snow, frosts and drought. Once the time is right, after the end of May or later in most of our mountain region, it is appropriate to start planting. He pointed out the importance of selecting plants for your garden that are native to the area. So in hearing my choices for planning my personal garden, I know I would love some wild mountain lupine. The benefit of this one is that the plants are drought tolerant and more resilient in this climate.
Now the other problem I have encountered with my yard is soil. I find in some places it is dry and rocky and not very nutrient-rich. I tried expensive plant stimulants and fertilizers last year to induce growth, much to my dismay. Had I spoken with Terry a year sooner I could have saved myself some money after he informed me of the benefits of compost (organic plant matter). It turns out the best way to improve soils fertility and tilth is with natural compost.
Since I am the sort of person who never likes to waste, due to my Grandmother who never so much as wasted a rubber band, I inquired more about sustainability. Sustainability is a word you might hear often, but some may not be sure what it refers to. Basically, sustainability refers to reusing available materials instead of buying new ones. Finding ways to save water and money by designing or getting help to design your garden to require less. One example in my own garden is that I have re-purposed all of the boulders and stones from my yard and used them to line gardens, paths, and my driveway.
Irrigation installation was also recommended to reduce water use. See what hidden treasures you have in your yard already that can make the landscape uniquely yours. It can be a lot of work and even some heart break, when something doesn’t survive. So, I plan on making some adjustments this year and hope it works out alright. I know I will probably be calling up Terry again for some help in my own garden.
Finally I would like to quote my friend Terry and his crew “Bringing a garden to life requires time, effort, energy, and money, but once you are able to relax and take pleasure in your well-thought-out garden you will realize that the rewards are priceless.” Hopefully I will end up with my personal sanctuary once all of the initial work is over. Good luck with your green thumbs and I hope your plants grow well!