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Gardening Mama: Gwen’s Garden a flowery summer treat!

Happy First FULL Day of Summer! June 22 brings us fully into the summer season. All winter we have planned our plantings, waited for the warmth to return, hoped for regular, light rain without hail. Here it is! We are fully in the season! Spring was simply a preview while summer is the main attraction. Time to bask in all the joy that is the first day of summer!

To celebrate the colors of summer, I took a visit to Gwen’s garden. Her house is now an empty nest and she works in the garden on her own with occasional help with big projects. Gwen is known for her calm, her innate grounded sensibility, and her love of flowers – especially the iris.

Gwen’s iris garden blooms mid-May and last only one short month. The leaves of the iris are the first bit of green that erupt through the sleepy soil. Gwen’s garden is dotted with the pinks, yellows, blue and deep purple of the iris rainbow. She’s been in her home for over 10 years and has been adding perennial flowers each year with a few annuals scattered around to fill in open spaces. The iris is clearly her favorite with top billing in the very visible front drive and large expanses in the back.

Through the years Gwen has dug up parts of her lawn in favor of the dazzling display of flowers in planting beds. The lawn is much harder to maintain in comparison to a flower bed and she feels the lawn ends up costing more with the amount watering it requires. She does scatter the grass clippings around her flowers to provide nourishment and moisture retention. In the fall she prefers to dig out and prepare the new planting spaces so flowers can go in as soon as the soil has thawed for the spring.

The flower garden “stimulates all the senses: sounds, smells, sight, touch. They suit my spiritual nature and nurturing nature. It’s wonderful to see the season change.” Says Gwen.

Gwen has collected her iris’s with an eye to bringing a new color into the garden. Her favorite place to not only see iris’s in bloom but also to purchase is Iris4U in Southwest Denver. Filled with each and every color of iris you could paint in your imagination it is a flower-lover’s playground! Most of her iris’s have been gathered there during her annual visit – even those years when she swore she would only look but not buy!

Over the years, Gwen has tapered back on the amount of vegetables and fruits she grows in favor of the flowers. As she and her garden get older the flowers allow for less intensive work and that fits her life just fine. With a flower garden, she doesn’t have to work in the yard every day and can spend more time enjoying it.

This year, strawberries and rhubarb are in the veggie patch and the apple and pear trees are growing strong. Few berries make into the house as the birds are much quicker. Gwen cooks up large batches of rhubarb sauce that goes on top of ice cream, yogurt, cakes. Rhubarb sauce keeps well in the freezer.

Gwen has created spaces throughout her backyard for the pleasure and beauty of being in the garden. With a hammock in the shade of the maple trees, next to the small pond she has built a small patio with a white picket fence where she places chairs and an umbrella, and a large patio next to the large fish pond where she can view the koi.

Two ponds in one yard sounds like a lot of work, right? The large pond was in the yard when she bought the house and soon after moving in, she put in the small pond with the help of her family. Each year she drains down the ponds and cleans them. A shaded pond will not develop very much algae and can be kept clean with a small amount of annual maintenance. Water plants can help to keep algae down to a minimum.

Gwen had to replace the liner of the large pond a few years back after it developed a crack. “Now that was a lot of work to drain out 500 hundred gallons a water, replace the liner then fill it back up. We put on a double thik liner so it shouldn’t happen again. I don’t want to do that any time soon.”

Gwen brought out some fish food to lure the bright orange lovelies to the top of the water. The big pond is three feet at the deep end with a heater to keep their gills warm in the winter. Three fish have grown to a group of 10. In early June, the big pond will get rather green with algae until the water lilies bloom and restore balance. Three pots of water lilies lay hidden in the water and too enjoy the winter snuggled up with the heater along with the company of their amphibian friends.

After a long day at work Gwen loves to sit in the garden taking in all the sounds, fragrance of the flowers, movement of the plants, and watching the stars and moon reflecting in the ponds. She soaks up the calm, soaks in the beauty, and appreciates her many years of work.

Her favorite times in the garden are both the crisp, cool early morning and the warm summer nights. At these times she can really relax and enjoy the garden instead of working in it all the time. “Things change daily in the garden. You never know when you’ll get a storm. Each day ifs different. Get out and appreciate it.”

Fourth of July Rose

An Artist Rose lives just on the edge of her patio given to her by a friend of over 20 years. The Mr. Lincoln rose is a dramatic presence in deep red which planted for her mother who loved history and roses. The most revered plant in the garden is The Fourth of July Rose planted for her son who passed a few years ago. He was her Fourth of July baby. For Gwen, the plants are filled with sentimental value. They are a gentle, living reminder of the love and joy these people have brought and shared with her.

In the shade of the maple, clematis climbs the fence with its deep purple blooms and day lilies bring their bright flowers along with plumbago, mums and daffodils. The roses are just beginning to bloom and will last through the summer.

Sharing her garden with friends and family is Gwen’s inspiration. My own iris garden is filled with yellow and purple flowers from Gwen’s garden. Each year as the iris grow strong and show their colors I’m reminded of Gwen’s warm heart and I send her good wishes. As Gwen tends her garden she delights in thinking about the friends who have gifted her with flowers. They are little reminders of the people for whom she is thankful.

She is thrilled when neighbors take a moment from their walk or to have a chat over the fence and let her know how much they enjoy seeing her garden and appreciate all the blooming colors each year.

Thank you, Gwen, for sharing your garden and your passion for flowers! To see all the photos from my visit to Gwen’s Garden click here.

Coming up next week, I’ll visit the Denver Urban Garden’s GreenShoots2. Billed as an evening event celebrating urban agriculture, gardening, and community, I’m sure I’ll learn something new and I’ll share it here with you next week. Happy gardening from The Gardening Mama!

If you could plant any flower in your garden what would it be?

Heather Ruch
Author: Heather Ruch

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  1. This article makes me want to go out and buy an Iris!!! Hmmmmm….I think I will! Flowers in leau of grass…love that! Keep up the good work gardening mama…am really enjoying these articles. (Also love the link for all the pics)

  2. I am enthralled with the way Gwen describes a flower garden as such a sensual and spiritual thing. You’ve made me look at flower gardens in a whole new way!

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