August 12, 2012

The Unsinkable Denver Botanic Gardens Rises High


Kizuna-West Meets East, is the current exhibition at the Denver Botanic Gardens, featuring two installation artists who work in bamboo, yet in very different ways. This work, by Tetsunori Kawana is one of many which undulate and flow through the open spaces at the Gardens. Check out my post from two years about his work at the NYBG.

All museums today struggle with attracting and retaining an audience, with fierce competition for time, money and repeat visits, cultural institutions sometimes lean on other ways raise money ( mainly tacky gift shop sales of garden flags with sunflowers on them, or tote bags and umbrellas). Not the Denver Botanic Gardens (DBG). They attract people like honey bees on an Agastache.  In our world of budget cuts and multiple distractions ranging from TV, sports and back-to-school sales, the DBG is busier than ever. I don't know what the Denver Botanic Gardens has discovered about doing business, but from what I could tell, they are the brightest shining star on the horizon, and they should be the standard which any botanic garden today measures itself against.  They appeal, attract and seem to retain an ever increasing membership - a membership who is not only engaged with events and attractions, they are also engaged with gardening and plant - Holy cow, what the heck happened in Colorady? Hopefully, they will share their secrets with the rest of the gardening world!

There is something very human about the DBG. Long walks, attractive plantings that are interesting, and many events - enough to attract a crowd even on a 96 degree hot August weekday.

Be sure to 'Like" the Denver Botanic Garden on Facbook, they would like that.

I visited the Gardens four different times this week. In the morning, strollers and moms, often with friends, took advantage of the cool mornings to both look at the many attractive and stylish plantings, and I over-heard many talking about their own garden plants. At lunch on day, while taking photos in the famous rock garden, I watched a couple discuss their plans on how they were just about to tear out their lawn, and plant a xeric garden- they were making lists on how many plants they needed of each species. On Thursday evening, just as the sun was setting over the Rockies in the distance, two older women discussed the benefits of various membership levels ( something about how two can get in for one-deal, even if they are not family). Clearly, this is an institution who is not only relevant and in-touch, they are growing, and it's easy to see why.




Even the gift shop at the Denver Botanic Gardens is stylish. Here are a few images of pottery, and some photos from inside the pavilion.

The Denver Botanic Gardens can appeal to a broad audience. Even one of my designers told me about it while attending a graphic design conference in Denver a couple of years ago. She was a non-gardener, and the still young plantings at the DBG inspired her to start gardening. Today, she has become an active young gardener, and she even texted me to make sure that I checked out the Secret Garden, which she found funny, as it was not planted yet, but the signage was up saying 'secret garden'. Any public garden that inspire young curious people to garden has to be doing something extraordinary.


FLOATING WORLD (2012) - A site-specific installation by contemporary artist Stephen Talasnik, in a lily pool  at the Denver Botanic Garden (until November 3, 2012).



If you love design, either in art, garden design or architecture, the DBG will not disappoint.

At the DBG, the relevance is broad. There are places that will appeal to the most advanced plantsperson, and even the plant nerd. There are beautiful vistas, stunning architecture, thoughtful garden designs with extraordinary care applied to color, texture and plant material. The staff all seems passionate, and simple, you can tell that they care. I met three garden staff members hand picking Japanese Beetles off of some perennials, and I asked them what they were doing. They stopped to show me the jars of detergent, and even took the time to explain to me why they were doing this task. They them continued on their way, chatting about some of their favorite species that they saw blooming in another garden, and teasing each other about it. I think I was in gardening heaven. 

Another massive work by Japanese bamboo artist Tetsunori Kawana

Like any large institution, the DBG augments the draw of what is already an impressive plant collection and garden design, with large super-star art installations and other events like evening concerts. The location is convenient, as the Gardens is located in the city of Denver, and many concert goers can walk to the garden in the evening. Any way you measure it, the DBG is vibrant, growing and and exciting place to visit, no matter what your interest is in plants. But if you are a plant geek, this is one botanical garden that will not disappoint you.



The garden appeals to most every level of gardener. If you are a beginner, of course, inspiration abounds. If you love garden design, each area of the garden offers different, unique and often creative solutions for both new plant material, or how to use more familiar plant material. This is a garden where I think I never used the work cliche once. I can't think of a botanic garden where I could actually say that! If you find yourself in the Denver area, be sure to visit ( I suggest more than once, for just like a major art museum, you can become over-stimulated in just one visit).


 The staff here is large, very professional and as I sat outside of the main horticultural offices in the new Marnie's Pavillion, where bromeliads, orchids and ferns grow amidst a two story high waterfall, I watched interns come and go ( this was their last week before returning to school), and even they were melancholy about leaving such a wonderful institution. Even these main offices are thoughtfull designed, if only for the staff to see - complete with glass-sided pond where I could watch a giant Victoria waterlily grow underwater!) - it made one feel like this was THE place to be, if you are 'into' plants. Shortly after,  Panayoti Keladis met me in the lobby for a meeting ( Senior Curator and Director of Outreach), he said to me quietly "I know...I'm kind of lucky to work here, right?).  He said with a smirk. I think he could tell that I was a little in a 'pinch-me' mode.




THE EL POMAR WATER WAY, FEATURING GRASSES AND FOUNTAINS, AND AN EVENING LIGHT SHOW 
WATER IS AN IMPORTANT AND PRECIOUS ELEMENT IN THE DENVER BOTANIC GARDEN,  THIS CONTEMPORARY STEPPED STREAM REMINDS ME OF A TROUT STREAM HIGH IN THE ROCKIES.


A MONET INSPIRED LILY PONY TOO LUSCIOUS TO NOT PHOTOGRAPH ON THIS HOT DAY

TOPICAL PLANTS ARE NOT OVER-LOOKED - THE LARGE BOETTCHER MEMORIAL CONSERVATORY

THE HERB GARDEN, TRANSPORTS YOU TO EUROPE WITH SCENTS AND THE DRONE OF INSECTS


THERE ARE MANY ROMANTIC AREAS OF THE GARDEN, WHICH FEELS VERY ENGLISH, AND THAT ARE POPULAR FOR WEDDING PHOTOS OR FOR QUIET STROLLS WITH SOMEONE SPECIAL. EVEN ON A HOT AUGUST DAY, SEED PODS MAKE A PERENNIAL BORDER INTERESTING.



Most known for its Rock Alpine Garden, with over 700 species of alpine and rock plants ( as well as a South African garden and a notable xeric garden), I will post about these separately. There are just too many photos on my computer!








9 comments :

  1. These images are great, the most amazing gardens :D

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh wow! Wonderful gardens! Amazing those twirled artworks. You are lucky to have such amazing gardens to view. LT

    ReplyDelete
  3. We were both impressed! I've lost track on how many people who last visited Denver (often they say, "1968", "1976"), tell me how it's a "cow town", so tiring to hear that. It is truly a world class city, and such a classy botanic garden would have to be present for it to be that way.

    You might like the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, too. Worth a visit (but not now - 116 last week).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Love the water features, especially the stair step waterfall and mountain stream.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Funny, I've heard a lot recently about Denver and more so, westerners feeling as if the eastern US gardeners don't understand them - or that they are elitist - particularly from within plant societies. I find this so odd, since Denver has been a world-class city as long as I can remember - as a child of the 60's and 70's, I always associated Denver as being the gateway to the Rockies and posh ski resorts. Today, with its many art museums, history and new airport, even more so. Where does this feeling come from? Maybe it only exists in the minds of those over 70 years of age? Ask any younger person, and I imagine that they would never identify with such prejudice in our inter-connected wired world.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ooooh, if only I lived closer...your photos have me swooning! THANK YOU for such a fab post on a truly wonderful garden. It was a great pleasure to see it through your eyes & pen (keyboard?).

    You have a new blog follower now. And I await your post on the Rock Alpine Garden in a not-so-patient way at all (she says sitting on her hands). Guess I'd say Panayoti is way more than "kind of lucky"...

    ReplyDelete
  7. The photos were lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  8. A wonderful piece about one of my favorite gardens. Magnificent photos, too. Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi, I am the owner of Himalayan Gardens,and I have to say it such an amazing gardens I ever have seen before..Well done..

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Most Popular Posts