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Garden tour showcases mid-valley's green thumbs

This Saturday, the Pardon My Garden club will hold its first annual tour of public and private gardens throughout the mid-valley. The self-guided tour showcases both ornamental and edible gardens. Aspen Public Radio’s Rebecca Kruth visited two stops on the tour to learn more about the unique ways Roaring Fork Valley residents are using their green thumbs. 

At Kim Bock’s home in El Jebel, it’s a rare day that something isn’t in bloom.

“The first things that bloom are little tiny bulbs called early snowdrops, and they’re only this tall,” Bock said. “It’s all bare and there might be snow in the corners, but they’ll bloom in the south-facing bed here.”

Bock is a plant health care professional, a kind of doctor for a wide variety of leafy green things. She helps mid-valley residents deal with challenges like the arid climate and limited water supply.

“I have to train the landscape to function on long watering cycles. So when I do water, I water hard, I water well. Some parts of the country can get one or two inches in one event. I try and mimic that, so I put down about an inch of water and let it soak in deep, so we can stretch out,” Bock said.

Alkaline soil is another problem. Some plants, like blueberries, require acidity in the soil. Bock is taking that into her own hands though.

“I’m actually doing an experiment with blueberries out in my vegetable garden. I’ve planted them in pure peat bales, bales of pure peat moss, so that I can control the ph of the soil. If I planted them in our native alkaline soil, they wouldn’t make it.”

She says the jury’s still out that one.

Bock’s garden is one of 11 featured this Saturday on the Pardon My Garden club’s first annual tour.

“We like to say that this is not your grandmother’s gardening club,” said Kathryn Rooney, club president. “We don’t wear white gloves. When we get together, we like to compare the deadheading calluses on our hands and how dirty our fingernails are.”

Rooney said visitors on the tour will find plenty of variety.

“We have a lovely residential garden that grows ingredients for making pizzas, a pizza garden,” Rooney said. “We have a garden in Basalt that’s the home and pride and joy of a gentleman in a wheelchair who handles most of the landscaping and maintenance tasks himself.”

This weekend’s tour will help raise funds for the club’s service projects like planting a garden at the Pitkin County Senior Center and grants for community gardens.

“My other favorite garden on the tour is the former home of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Old Snow Mass which is perhaps remarkable for the fact that in their interior garden, they grow bananas throughout the year.”

Yes, Rooney did say bananas.

Judy Hill Lovins and her husband Amory share their energy efficient home with what looks like a tropical rainforest.

Besides banana trees growing up to the ceiling, visitors will also find papaya, mangos and pineapples.

The Lovins’ gardens are a full time job, and they get a lot of help from Rocky Mountain Institute volunteers.

They’re also getting help from some squirmier assistants.

“All of our waste scraps go into compost or the worms,” Hill Lovins said. “The worms and their tea and the compost that they make go back into both gardens, so that’s pretty fun.”

A koi pond, stream and waterfall give the indoor garden a sense of tranquility. Hill Lovins said a tourist from years ago helped make the environment even more special.

“He came to visit, and he said that he was a professional waterfall tuner, and he took rocks and put them here and there and here and there and tuned the waterfall,” she said. “Ever since then we’ve taken the whole thing apart and put it back together again, so his waterfall tune is long gone, but hopefully we learned something about being sensitive to our space around us.”

You can check out the worm farm, banana trees, experimental blueberry plants and more on the tour this Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. Advance tickets are available at pardonmygardenannualtour.eventbrite.com. Tickets can also be purchased Saturday from 9 to noon at Eagle Crest Nursery in El Jebel.

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