The waves of dazzling color in Jane and Bob Hendrix's Breckenridge garden are arresting. The sheer number and variety of brilliant flowers in bold combinations is incredible: thousands of sweet faced pansies—orange, yellow, white, purple and blue—mixed with massed marigolds, pinks (Dianthus), Lobelia, Hesperis, and snow-in summer (Cerastium tomentosum).
But for me, in this chorus of color that gardener Jane Hendrix calls her "alpine color collage style," the banks of stately Delphinium win my heart. Delphinium range from dark blue to white, and are without exception broad and tall, strong and healthy and well-staked. I covet them.
After spending many wonderful summer vacations in the region, the Hendrixes retired to Breckenridge from Austin, Texas in 1985. At the time, they were not gardeners per se, but Jane quickly caught the bug.
Their garden is located in Lodgepole Pine forest at almost 10,000 feet above sea level. The growing season is short and conditions extreme: sunlight, water and warmth are in short supply. "Perseverance and trial and error" have been Jane's best teachers, but she has also completed the Master Gardener program through the Colorado State University Extension program.
After discovering that it was too rocky to dig down, the Hendrixes have now created more than 40 distinct areas by building up—in raised beds, berms and containers. Several tons of soil have been added over the years, "sometimes by 18-wheelers and sometimes by the bag," says Jane.
Favorite plants include New Zealand-bred Delphinium elatum varieties, Campanula medium, C. glomorata, varieties of Lychnis, Oriental and Icelandic Poppy (Papaver oriental, P. croceum), Columbine (Aquilegia), Foxglove (Digitalis), Bleeding Heart (Dicentra), Lupines (Lupinus' Russell Hybrids'), bi-color Aconitum, and several varieties of Asiatic lilies.
Jane's style includes a penchant for contrasting color combinations and careful layering of height and form. "The result is both striking and pleasingly complex against the serenity of the surrounding forest.
Not only is Jane's gardening season short, it is also intense—deadheading, feeding and keeping wildlife from eating too much lasts until the fall, sometimes only six weeks later. But after more than 20 years, she is still "hooked."
Jane begins preparations in mid-January when she gives her basement over to racks of seed trays warmed by lights to germinate. While a thick covering of snow extends as far as the eye can see, her garden is beginning to take shape. Each summer she sells her extra plants in her driveway.
Early in her gardening life, Jane and her friend Susan Snyder founded the Summit County Garden Club and hosted its first annual garden tour. Her garden has been featured on the tour every year since, and will be again on July 21st, 2007.
If you cannot make the tour, however, she receives garden visitors throughout the flowering season—approximately mid-July through early September—for a $1.00 contribution. I plan to visit as soon as plants are for sale in the driveway, but I will try to leave something for you too!
For information on the Summit County Garden Tour visit summitcountygardenclub.org.