- Pet Pleasers
- Editor's Note Spring 2014
- Read the Summer 2014Virtual Edition
- Read the Summer 2014 Virtual Edition
- Salute to Solar
- Paying the Price
- After the Big One
- Down the Drain
- Resource Directory
- Where to Go, Who to Know
- Parting Waters
- Beautiful Berms
- Build it UP!
- The Queen of Climbers
- 10 Great Containers
- Gardening 101
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A letter from the editor of Boulder County Home & Garden Magazine
This peaceful home has a flamboyant past and hears of warm memories
Lyons is resolved to open for business aftger the devastating Sept. flood
Salute to Solar
Solar myths and truths revealed
Down the Drain
Landscaping techniques can keep floodwater and rain from damaging youre home property.
A treat is the surest way to a pet’s heart. But with tainted treats and poisoning scares, consider making healthy treats from scratch with these recipes.By Ruthanne Johnson
Beagles are known for their love—scratch that, obsession—with food. And Kerry Karamian’s dogs are no different. Adoptees from the Longmont Humane Society, Joey Bagel and Addie are constantly on the hunt for food. But while Joey’s need to nibble has meant an ongoing battle of the bulge, Addie’s food fixation irritated her sensitive stomach, causing her to vomit and lose weight.
The solution for Joey’s weight problem was easy: less food, fewer treats. Addie’s health issues were more complex. Puréed, high-calorie meals twice a day simply weren’t enough. But store-bought treats—meant to provide extra calories—were rough on her digestion. Joey Bagel reacted badly to the treats, too. “He’d scratch and scratch underneath his arms until it was raw and almost bleeding,” says Karamian, who was washing Joey Bagel with allergen-free dog shampoo. “So I knew it was something else.”
She researched dog-food ingredients and found that many commercial treats are chock-full of fat, sugar and low-grade ingredients. “A lot of them are nothing more than gut fillers,” she says. “If I wouldn’t eat it, then my dogs shouldn’t have to eat it.”
While quality pet treats exist on the market, news reports of pet-food recalls and poisonings from tainted food are far too common. In 2013 alone, dozens of pet foods were recalled due to salmonella and other contaminants, including jerky treats with ingredients sourced from China that caused the death of nearly 600 dogs and sickened thousands more. The FDA issued a warning about the deadly jerky treats, but has not forced a product recall. After the poisonings, The Humane Society of the United States issued a statement calling for stronger regulations to protect the safety of pet food and treats. (Visit www.petrecall.com/questions-answers-regarding-jerky-pet-treats for pet-food recall information.)
Ingredients regularly used in commercially produced pet foods can also trigger allergic reactions, and the high calories in some treats can contribute to pet obesity. While most dog treats range anywhere from 10 to 50 calories apiece, one large Milk Bone dog biscuit has 115 calories! According to a 2010 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, approximately 53 percent of cats and 55 percent of dogs in U.S. homes are overweight or obese.
Homemade treats can be a healthy alternative to commercial products, says Jennifer Bolser, chief clinic veterinarian for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. They help pet owners know exactly what ingredients and how many calories their cat or dog is eating, and they can prevent food allergies. Making your pet’s treats can also be a fun, cost-saving activity.
To keep her two retrievers fit, Bolser bakes homemade kale chips (see her recipe on page 58) and cuts up fresh veggies. Occasionally, she’ll make diet doggy biscuits. “Substituting traditional pet treats with foods such as carrots, green beans or a homemade low-calorie treat is a simple way to help reduce caloric intake for our pets,” she says. Around the holidays, she indulges her dogs’ taste buds with mini cinnamon bun bites drizzled with cream-cheese frosting (see recipe link on page 58).
The Itchy & Scratchy Show
Baking for allergies takes forethought. Determining your pet’s allergy source can be tricky, and usually involves an elimination diet under the direction of a veterinarian. “The most common allergens for dogs are beef, dairy and wheat,” Bolser says. “In cats it’s beef, dairy and fish.” Once the harmful ingredients are identified, it’s easy to customize your pet’s diet.
To appease her furry food fanatics, Karamian took to the kitchen. She whipped up a scrumptious low-calorie biscuit for her itchy chubster Joey Bagel, made with garbanzo-bean flour, apples and eggs. Because of his age, she also included blackstrap molasses for its nutritional value and reputation for relieving arthritis symptoms. Addie’s high-calorie biscuits include real peanut butter, pure molasses, whole-wheat flour, rolled oats and apples. While Addie has filled out nicely, Joey’s weight and scratching are under control. The biscuits were such a big hit that Karamian started a business called Kerry’s Canine Cookies from her home in Erie. “Dogs go nuts over these treats,” she says.
Like Karamian, Furry Friends Biscuit Bakery owner Karen Benker in Longmont began her journey into the dog-biscuit business after researching pet-food ingredients and wanting healthier options. “Good food is linked to good health for people,” Benker says. “It’s the same for dogs.” She looked up treat recipes on the Internet and visited pet stores to note popular flavors. She experimented in the kitchen and came up with a liverwurst biscotti based on a human recipe she’d found. The biscuit is her most popular seller to date.
While Benker has graduated to treat flavors such as buffalo pumpkin and elk blueberry, she suggests keeping it simple at the beginning and focusing on tantalizing aromas. “A dog’s scent ability is at least 100 times greater than ours,” she says. “I think about the meat, herbs, spices, and other flavorings that will appeal to their sense of smell and taste.”
Because of additives in many human foods, Karamian suggests choosing organic products, if possible, and ones with wholesome natural ingredients. “Some peanut butter has a lot of sugar,” she notes. She makes her own applesauce, sans the sugar found in most store-bought brands.
For the biggest cost savings, make large batches and portion them into airtight bags before refrigerating or freezing for freshness. Also, check the ASPCA poison-control website beforehand (www.aspca.org) to make sure you don’t feed your pet something harmful.
The six easy recipes on pages 58-59 will get you started!
Funny how the time passes.
Last fall, we were all reeling from the flood. Then winter came and went, with many of us spending those months fixing our basements and repairing our homes. Now spring is here, my favorite season in Colorado.
But after last year’s flood, I feel a little uneasy about this spring. Spotting my first crocus is always a delight, and getting in the garden is always a shock, given the amount of work required to get things up and growing again.
My garden will be particularly time-consuming, since I literally abandoned it after the flood destroyed our basement. Now the house is restored, but the process has left me a little unsettled about spring and its ensuing runoff.
So many people were affected by the flood, with many still trying to get their lives back to normal. For those of us wrestling with flood issues, I think we all harbor a little paranoia about the future after going through such a life-altering event.
But the best way to combat that is to live by the old Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared!” I know we’ve done a lot to mitigate future water events at our home, with much more still remaining.
As many of us continue to work on flood-related hassles, we’ve prepared stories in this issue to help you, too. You’ll find articles relevant to the flood, including how to landscape to prevent future damage, how berms can help channel floodwater and rain (and make gardens more interesting!), how Lyons is coping after the flood (they could use some help from you!), and how the flood will mean more work for us in the garden this spring (oy!).
We’ve also got tips on how to recover losses when wrangling with your insurer. And, if you still need work to help your property recover from the flood, please look over our Resource Directory and Advertiser Index to help you find a professional who can get that job—or any other—done right for you.
This issue is just as dedicated to helping homeowners move forward, with stories on solar energy, raised beds for growing vegetables, how to grow showstopping clematises, and a chart on when to plant and harvest so you don’t have to remember dates. Just clip and tape it to your refrigerator door.
These pages cover plain fun, too, like how to grow flowers in rain boots, hats, desk drawers, purses and other crazy containers.
And you’ve got to admire our feature home. Anna Marie and Joe Robb’s historic bungalow went through several incarnations after being the sole cabin in its now suburban west-Boulder neighborhood.
The Robbs took on a handful when they bought that house. But with dedication, hard work and the help of their son, David Robb, they’ve turned their home into a peaceful retreat overflowing with good times and warm family memories. We thank the Robbs for letting us share their home with you.
As always, visit www.homeandgardenmag.com to catch up on articles you may have missed, as well as sign up for our free e-newsletter. And please let me know of any stories you’d like to see in these pages. We love your input into this magazine, which is created exclusively for Boulder County residents!
Enjoy the rejuvenation of spring, be thankful for a roof over your head, and in the words of Thad Johnson of Yatahai Gardens, “Get to weeding!” (Read “Parting Waters” on page 30 to find out why.)
Carol S. Brock
The Summer Boulder County Home & Garden iMagazine is out! We've made it easy for you to read it right now with our online edition. All the same great content with the click of your mouse! Read about things to do in Boulder County, new and noteworthy plants, patio styles for summer, a tree house tribute, learn how to keep insects in check and much more!!
The Summer Boulder County Home & Garden Magazine is out! We've made it easy for you to read it right now with our online edition. All the same great content with the click of your mouse! Read about things to do in Boulder County, new and noteworthy plants, patio styles for summer, a tree house tribute, learn how to keep insects in check and much more!!
Thinking about going solar? Then you probably already know Colorado is an ideal location for it. Our 300-plus days of sunshine are a source of pride for natives and a big draw for transplants and tourists. But they’re also important when it comes to solar panels. Going solar in Colorado is so popular that there are now more than 300 solar companies in the state employing nearly 4,000 people, and a new solar system gets installed every four minutes.
Going solar makes perfect sense for most Boulder County homeowners, and it’s never been easier. But with such an evolving industry and changing regulations, sorting it all out can get confusing. So we asked these solar experts to help us distinguish between the “myths” and “truths” you might encounter when you’re starting your research: Roger Alexander, executive director of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society; Bill Giebler, customer-care manager at RGS Energy (formerly Real Goods Solar); Kyra Coates, marketing director at Endurance Solar; and Blake Jones, President of Namasté Solar. Here’s what they had to say:
Myth: The longer you wait, the more it’s going to cost you.
The fact is, prices keep dropping.
Twenty years ago, solar panels were for living completely off the grid, like in a remote cabin somewhere or on a boat, and there were numerous costs associated with equipment, installation and maintenance.
Ten years ago, solar finally made it to the big city. “Solar customers were tied to the grid, and utility companies played along nicely,” Giebler says. “The market really started to open up, but it was still expensive to pay all the costs up front.” Although the price of solar panels had plummeted from $75 per watt to about $10-$12 per watt, the costs were still out of reach for most folks.
Then, about five years ago, financing plans and solar-loan programs arrived on the scene, allowing more home and business owners to install solar panels without spending cash. As a result of financing, rebates and tax credits, the price of solar panels dropped significantly again, to around $3.50 per watt.
Today, with the price per watt down to about 77 cents, there are numerous options for going solar, including a solar lease. In this option, you lease the equipment and then pay a monthly fee for 20 years. When the lease expires, the lease company will remove the panels or you can buy the system at a cost that factors in depreciation. If you sell your home in the meantime, the lease can be transferred to the new owners, provided they have good credit.
Another option is a power purchase agreement. As with a lease, you pay monthly for 20 years but you’re buying the power, not paying for the equipment. “PPAs are mostly used by business owners, not homeowners,” Coates explains.
A bank loan is another financing option. “Long-term unsecured solar loans have become increasingly popular,” Jones says. “These loans often have terms as long as 12 to 20 years, with fixed-interest rates as low as 1.99 percent. They have no prepayment penalties and they require no money down, so they’re a great alternative for homeowners who would rather own their solar system than lease it.”
“If you finance through your bank,” Coates adds, “you still get the rebates and the 30-percent income tax credit. The credit applies to everything you paid, including installation and finance charges.”
New construction is another way to go solar. With most new-home loans, the cost of solar can be rolled into your mortgage.
Financing a system with cash isn’t likely for many people, but still possible, though you wouldn’t see a payback on your investment for at least 10 years, Giebler says.
Myth: Anyone in Boulder County can go solar with $0 down.
If you’re an Xcel customer with the right kind of roof (sloped and sunny) or decent yard space, and if you have good credit, it’s true that you can go solar for little or no cost. The rebates and tax credits available keep the costs low. You start saving right away, because in most cases, your monthly payment is lower than your electric bill was in the past.
However, things are a little different if you live in Longmont or Lyons. Most Longmont residents get their electricity from the city’s municipal utility, Longmont Power & Communications, not Xcel. Lyons also has its own utility, getting its power from the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. Neither city offers rebates, so a homeowner wanting to install solar panels would not be eligible for financing. However, you could participate in net-metering after going solar, so you’d see a reduction in your monthly electricity bill, and you’d still be eligible for the 30-percent federal tax credit. But you’d have to purchase everything up front (at least $20,000 out of pocket), and you wouldn’t see a payback of any kind for at least 20 years.
Truth, but: Going solar is a complicated process.
“With all the groups we have to bring together, like the finance company, Xcel—as both utility and state-rebate agency—and our suppliers, plus the building permits, inspections and other hurdles to go through, yes, it can be complicated,” Giebler admits. “Luckily, though, your solar company does all the work for you. All of it. You just have to be patient, because even though installation itself takes only a few days, the process as a whole can take four to six months from start to finish.”
Myth: Once you go solar, you can kiss your electric utility goodbye.
Even when you go solar, you’re still tied to the central grid—not off the grid, storing power in batteries, like in that remote cabin 20 years ago. You generate the power you need, and any surplus you produce is transferred back onto the grid for others to use. However, when your system isn’t generating enough of its own power, like on very cloudy days or at night, you get the power you need from that same central grid, and you have to pay for it from Xcel, at regular retail rates.
Truth, but: that’s not the whole story: If your solar system generates excess power, your electric utility buys it back from you.
Under its Solar*Rewards program, Xcel pays you for any excess power you produce. If you need more power from the grid, you pay them. It often evens out, but if it doesn’t, Xcel gives you credits you can roll over from year to year and use in the future, or you can take a minimal payout. This is called net-metering, and utilities are required by law to participate.
However, during public hearings in the first week of February, Xcel Energy appeared before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission asking for permission to reduce the net-metering credit from 10.5 cents to just 4.6 cents per kilowatt-hour. At the hearings, proponents of solar outnumbered supporters of Xcel by a ratio of 16 to 1. Although the PUC was expected to hand down a decision in February, it ruled “to sever the issue of the costs and benefits of net metering into a separate proceeding,” says Terry Bote, external affairs manager for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. So far, no schedule has been set for the proceeding, and a final decision “is likely at least six months away,” Bote says.
As solar has gotten more affordable and more accessible, “Xcel has gotten concerned,” Alexander says. “It cuts into their business model.”
Truth: The future of solar is cloudy.
The future of anything is cloudy, really, and solar is no different. But with all the changes the industry has seen in just the last 20 years, it’s natural to assume that things will look very different in 20 more years. Here are a few ways the solar industry might change, according to our experts:
A recent study by Greentech Media Research predicts that the price of solar will continue to decline steadily, to about 36 cents per kilowatt-hour by the year 2017. That’s half of what it is today.
Colorado Senate Bill 13-252, signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper in June, 2013, doubles to 20 percent the percentage of renewable energy that rural electricity cooperatives must provide by the year 2020. “This will likely result in beneficial solar programs in Colorado’s remaining utilities,” Giebler says. “Maybe even in Longmont and Lyons.”
In 2011, voters gave the city of Boulder the go-ahead to explore options for breaking away from Xcel and creating their own municipal utility, which the city hopes to have up and running by 2017.
One of the hurdles is agreeing on a price for the city to acquire Xcel’s equipment; it’s an ongoing battle that could last another several months at least. “Exploring the opportunity for Boulder to start its own municipal utility is very exciting, and in my opinion, it can only lead to a beneficial outcome,” Jones says. “I believe it will translate into better reliability, more renewable energy and similar or lower costs relative to Xcel’s.”
“Boulder is going to be able to do things that the existing utilities think can’t be done,” Alexander adds. “Boulder wants to be 50-percent renewable to start with, with goals of going even higher than that in the future.”
And, Coates points out, “Boulder wants to set a precedent of being mostly renewable by 2026. That’s pretty impressive.”
After the flood, many homeowners discovered that recouping losses from their insurance was frustrating and often futile.
Their experiences may help you with future claims.
By Kate Jonuska
In an ideal world, a successful resolution to a disaster would be when what was damaged is either repaired or replaced by the homeowner’s duly paid, rightly trusted insurance company.
After the flood of September 2013, though, affected Boulder County homeowners who paid and trusted their insurance are defining success much differently: Victory is when you get back even a fraction of your out-of-pocket expenses, and don’t lose your mind in the process.
“I have a $500,000 flood policy,” says Boulder resident Barbee James of her flooded investment property. “I thought we would get the entire policy, because we had to rip out the bottom 4 feet of every wall due to water damage and sewage contamination. That meant drywall, phone lines, doors, cabinets, bathrooms; everything but the art hanging on the wall is below 4 feet.”
James’s fire-insurance policy is worth $2.4 million, so she thought $500,000 was still rather low, but the insurance adjustor first came back with a much lower reimbursement amount of $177,000. “We were told it would be $70 per foot to rip out and repair,” James says. “The insurance sent us $177,000, and that was $11.64 per foot for a 15,200-square-foot building, so there was no way that amount would cover our damage.”
“Insurers are great at their ‘peace-of-mind’ advertising. They’re very good at selling the idea that insurance is a security blanket that will be there for you when you need it,” says Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders (UP), a nonprofit that educates and advocates for insurance consumers. “The reality is that an insurance policy is a legal contract written by lawyers. Particularly with large claims, such as people are dealing with now in Colorado, it’s much more a business negotiation than a security blanket.”
Education, Bach says, is the key to engaging in those negotiations. To that end, UP has conducted several public workshops for flood victims in Colorado and plans several more. The first lesson they teach: Flood insurance is not the same as other types of homeowner’s insurance.
“The difference between homeowner’s insurance and flood insurance is that there’s very little choice with flood insurance. Most people only have one place they can buy it,” Bach says. That’s through the National Flood Insurance Program, a partnership between the federal government and private insurance companies.
“Also, flood-insurance policies only cover ACV, or actual cash value, on your personal property,” Bach says. “They will only give you the depreciated value of your stuff at the time of the loss, so you’ll collect a lot less for your damaged or destroyed property.”
Persistence Is Key
“I wound up having to do a lot of stuff in order to ‘present my case’ to the insurance company,” says Boulder resident Judy Amabile, who did carry flood insurance on her property. Her damage included a flooded basement, a damaged sewer-line system and a large sinkhole beneath the driveway. “I was looking at $50,000 worth of work needed, and the insurance company was going to pay some. They cut a check for about $7,500,” she says, or about 15 percent of her losses.
Such underestimation is extremely common, says Bach, who calls some flood-insurance adjustors “road warriors” who travel the country from flood to flood, often under pressure to err on the low side when estimating loss. “A lot of our focus in our program is to make sure people get a second opinion on the damage and the cost to repair. It’s up to the homeowner to see that the damage has been investigated and fully priced.”
Thanks to her persistence—and a trusted insurance agent who went to bat on her behalf—Amabile eventually saw her remuneration shoot up to $37,000, or 74 percent of the $50,000.
Unfortunately, other homeowners discovered their agent was not similarly dedicated.
On the night of Sept. 11, “I talked to a national-branch insurance representative,” says Stacey (who preferred not to give her last name). “The woman I spoke with was rude, snotty and uncaring. She outright told me we were not covered for flooding and that ‘I should have read my policy more closely.’”
Only after Stacey’s Small Business Administration disaster-loan officer called her insurance agent to verify her homeowner’s coverage did she procure $1,500 for sewage backup and $5,000 for mold mitigation. “The loan officer is the the one who told me I was entitled to this under my policy—not my agent, although I’d called her and left several messages after the flood, none of which she returned.” The $6,500 didn’t cover her $50,000 in damage, “but at least it was something,” Stacey says.
“At least it was something”—that’s the conclusion for many affected by the flood. After months of phone calls, second opinions and retaining a lawyer, James was promised several different amounts above the original $177,000. She thinks the total will now be closer to $300,000, but after so many broken promises she can’t be certain.
Still, “that’s a big difference,” James says, though the revised payout is nowhere near what she’s spent in savings and charged on credit cards to get her building back to making money instead of costing it—and the work is not yet complete six months into it. James eventually asked the adjustor if she could tape-record their conversations, but he refused. So she asked her lawyer to listen in on their conversations via conference call. “If another disaster ever happens,” she says, “I’ll never let a national adjustor survey any damage without an attorney present.”
She also says “appeal, appeal, appeal” an offer until it’s in line with your policy’s coverage, and be sure to document all damage before, during and after any repairs, “because the adjustor will tell you they need proof of the work you did in order to reimburse you.” Her best advice: “You’ll need patience, perseverance and drive to not let corporate America screw you over.”
Getting as much as you can, rather than all that you need, is sadly the best-case scenario in a lot of flood situations, says UP’s Bach. However, she adds, “One of the few silver linings about disasters is they certainly make people aware of the risks they face, and the importance of tailoring your insurance to your needs.”
And, Bach adds, don’t count on FEMA to swoop in and save you. FEMA assistance tops out at $32,000, no matter the damage or the property’s value.
“The message is to pull out your insurance policy and look at it closely. Have a conversation with your agent or broker, and if you don’t like them, get a new one,” Bach says. “Anyone who has been through something like this will tell you that insurance is anything but boring after you’ve had a loss.”
These tips from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners can help you recover losses incurred from disasters.
Find out if your possessions are insured for the actual cash value or the replacement cost. Actual cash value is the amount it would take to repair or replace damage to your home and its contents after depreciation. Replacement cost is the amount it would take to rebuild the home or repair damage with materials of similar kind and quality, without deducting for depreciation. “Many consumers are not able to recover after a disaster because they don’t realize how depreciation can impact their assets,” says Sandy Praeger, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the Kansas Insurance Commissioner. “It’s important that consumers understand the implications of purchasing an actual-cash-value policy, versus replacement-cost insurance. In the event of a disaster, the difference could mean thousands of dollars in payout.”
Inventory valuables and belongings by photographing and making a video of each room in your home. This documentation will provide your insurance company with proof of your belongings and help to process claims more quickly in the event of disaster. Remember to inventory items you rarely use, e.g., holiday decorations, sports equipment, tools, etc. Keep sales receipts and/or canceled checks. Note the model and serial numbers of the items listed in your home inventory.
As you acquire more valuables—jewelry, family heirlooms, antiques, art—consider adding a “floater” or “rider” to your policy to cover these special items. These types of items typically are not covered by a basic homeowner’s insurance policy.
Store copies of all insurance policies in a safe location away from your home, like a safe-deposit box. Leave a copy of your inventory with relatives, friends or your insurance provider, and store digital pictures where you can easily retrieve them.
Know what is and isn’t covered by your insurance policy. You might need additional protection depending on where you live.
Make sure your policies are up to date. Contact your insurance provider annually to review and update your insurance policy, and keep a readily available list of 24-hour contact information for each of your insurance providers.
Find out if your policy covers additional living expenses for a temporary residence if you are unable to stay in your home due to damage.
Appraise your home periodically to make sure your insurance policy reflects home improvements or renovations. Contact your insurance provider to update your policy accordingly.
For more tips and information, visit www.insureuonline.org.
—Source: National Association of Insurance Commissioners
Lyons is resolved to open for business after the devastating September flood.
Loukonen Bros. Stone has struggled to reopen after literally being under water. Although the business is now open, there’s still a ton of cleanup to do. “We’ll do it. It will just take time,” says Mike Loukonen.
By Debra Melani
On the night of Sept. 11, 2013, Jay Hodge assessed his options as the incessant rain continued. The river abutting his Rock n River Resort, a few miles above Lyons in the North St. Vrain canyon, was rising. Every half hour, Hodge braved the deluge to check the river level, which slowly inched higher.
By 1:30 a.m., the crest had reached within 8 inches of his bridge—the only way out. He, his wife and the inn’s five guests fled, leaving behind the Hodges’ livelihood and home, and the massive damage it was about to incur.
In Lyons and the extended community, no business was left unscathed by the September flood, which devastated mountain and foothill communities throughout the Front Range and plains. Every business in Lyons was shut for weeks, as the raging river wiped out the town’s entire infrastructure, leaving it uninhabitable and cut off from society. Today, as “closed” signs slowly give way to “open,” a determination to get the town’s businesses up and running again exists among most commercial owners.
“It’s who we are,” says Mike Loukonen of his company, Loukonen Bros. Stone, one of Lyons longest-standing family establishments. Founded in 1890, and still run by Mike and his siblings, the company’s physical losses could hit $1.5 million. Brushing aside rumors that the business would fold, Loukonen says that was never a thought. “We’ll do it. We’re like a bunch of bulldogs. It will just take time. I feel we’ve made great strides already, and just to be open is truly amazing.”
Of Lyons’ 150-plus businesses, most are home-based or true mom-and-pop establishments run by families who have strong roots in the town or are passionately committed to the community.
Whether their losses were relatively minimal or catastrophic, these small-town business owners are driven to recover. It’s not just a job; for many, it’s a way of life.
When the overflowing river came through the Loukonens’ property at the east edge of town, it carried what it gathered from above and took nearly everything in its path, including a 48-by-80-foot steel maintenance building and $30,000 worth of stone. “It pretty much destroyed all of our operations,” Loukonen says. “The entire property was under 5 to 10 feet of water. It’s just been very labor-intensive.”
Pointing to a stark, massive chasm of mud and dirt that was once part of a meandering, tree-lined riverbank, Loukonen says floodwaters claimed about 6 acres of his property on either side of the river and 117,000 cubic yards of soil and rock. “It’ll probably take 10,000 tons of material to rebuild just on this side of the river,” says Loukonen, whose stone graces the CU law and business schools.
At the opposite end of town, Planet Bluegrass’s historic buildings and owner Craig Ferguson’s home were also swamped. The flood devastated Planet Bluegrass Ranch at the base of the North St. Vrain canyon, home to the renowned RockyGrass and Folks festivals. The picturesque acreage that hosts about 25,000 “festivarians” each year, along with an additional 20 weddings and 20 smaller concerts, gave way to a bleak construction zone dotted with numerous 20-foot piles of silt and sand.
Although the stage withstood the torrent, every building needs repairs, and anything sitting below the 4-foot watermark was a loss. Totals could reach up to $1 million, Ferguson predicts.
“I’ve had to convince people for months that the festivals are even going to occur again,” says Ferguson, noting that the dramatic video of the submerged Planet Bluegrass stage went viral after the flood, attracting both dismay and bookings. “Ironically, we’ve seen a heightened interest in weddings. It’s given it a special aura.” Despite the damage and cancellation of about $50,000 worth of weddings so far, Ferguson remains optimistic, and his website asks people to help the town. “Once we get past the shock and awe, Planet Bluegrass will be just fine.”
Ferguson’s crew is toiling nonstop to ensure a return to business by the crucial months of May through October. The first Planet Bluegrass wedding is set for May, and July’s RockyGrass is nearly sold out, with Friday-only tickets remaining.
Throughout town, stories of spirit, support and perseverance abound, leading John O’Brien to predict that most businesses will survive. “Lyons is resilient,” says O’Brien, chair of the town’s Planning & Community Development Commission. “But it’s going to be a long spring in more ways than one.” He notes that while many downtown businesses remained dry, every business suffered economic loss, from absent sales to ruined inventory. The town estimates a $3.5-million loss in gross sales just through the end of 2013.
As soon as the waters receded enough for them to get into their property, the Hodges constructed a makeshift bridge, stairs and boardwalk to reach their inventory: 500 cases of wine. While most of the once-charming property was destroyed—most of the inn and the entire bridge floated away shortly after they fled—the wine survived, despite some damaged labels. With the help of volunteers, the Hodges set up a temporary wine shop at Twin Peaks Mall in Longmont. Liquidating the wine has been all encompassing, says Hodge, whose discounted damaged bottles have often been bought as keepsakes.
Similarly, other businesses rented space in Longmont or Boulder while Lyons remained off-limits for two months. A few businesses, including the St. Vrain Market and the Dairy Bar, opened early on without utilities and with no hope of profits to support their neighbors as they dug out.
“It was extremely important to us to be able to open our doors again, because this is our town and this is our community,” says Juli Waugh, who owns the Dairy Bar with her husband. The couple opened the store shortly after the flood with a portable potty and hand-washing station, and food items packaged elsewhere and brought in each day.
“We wanted to say, ‘Hey, we are here. We want you guys to come back,’” says Waugh, who is also president of the Lyons Chamber of Commerce. “We wanted to show people that it could be done, and our town is not dead, and we’re going to thrive.”
Donations, financial support and volunteers (who have logged 35,000-plus hours so far) have aided stricken businesses. “What really helped was people jumping in to be active,” Waugh says. “It gave us some hope.” Even with smaller losses than many, Waugh estimates she’s already down at least $30,000.
Few businesses got any insurance help, as many had no flood coverage, and those with umbrella policies for “economic loss” found a tiny “act of God” clause that voided it. But other resources came from a resident-organized Cash Mob to an Oskar Blues’ CAN’d Aid drive that disbursed up to $10,000 in grants to individual businesses, O’Brien says.
On the town level, loans, guidance and fundraisers have helped owners get back on their feet, including Julie Thongsoontorn of Julie’s Thai Kitchen, a popular restaurant that withstood major damage. “It was almost like starting over again,” says Thongsoontorn, who runs the small eatery with her husband and son. But little things, such as Waugh encouraging her to apply for loans and Oskar Blues giving her a stove, coupled with a large volunteer response, pulled her through. “Oh, we are blessed,” she says. “We love this small town.”
The Lyons Economic Development Commission has two revolving loan funds—one specifically for businesses affected by the flood. The loans are for up to 10 years at prime rate-less-1-percent, and interest-free for up to three years with no balloon payment. “You could never get help like that anywhere,” O’Brien says.
Support from Gov. John Hickenlooper—who attended a Christmas Eve event at Planet Bluegrass, Christmas shopped in Lyons and toured the town more than once with political leaders—brought more than just photo-ops; it brought hope. Some business owners, particularly if they lived on their property, got FEMA grants; others applied for Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loans. “I’ve been amazed at their relative sensitivity through the whole thing,” Ferguson says. “And I’m not a government guy.”
Despite community spirit, it’s not all rosy in Lyons. Some businesses must absorb major costs. Loukonen predicts his business won’t recover for another two years. Hodge and his wife, who bought the Ciatano winery at Rock n River Inn only a year ago, aren’t sure about their future. They want to rebuild, but “it’s still just too much,” Hodge says of future plans.
Other businesses (GearSPOT, Valley Bank & Trust, Mama’s Café) left town immediately after the flood, and some remain unsure about reopening, although most businesses closing or struggling “had issues” before the flood, or looser ties to the community, O’Brien says.
While Ferguson booked the Lyons’ Bohn and Meadow parks for festival camping and parking come July, currently both parks remain closed to the public. “Our parks are gone,” Waugh says. “It makes me cry.” The town predicts a 70-percent loss in park-related revenue this year, which will affect the business community as well.
Major volunteer support is still needed this spring and beyond, as the town turns to restoring its natural beauty. For now, O’Brien asks people to visit Lyons’ businesses whenever possible. And he remains confident the community will survive.
“Absolutely. No question. You can’t keep these entrepreneurs down.”
Playing the Numbers
Total estimated damage in public infrastructure alone in Lyons:
• $50 million (20 percent of the town’s housing was also damaged)
Donation estimates as of Jan. 1, 2014:
• $10,000 from Chamber of Commerce
• $1 million from Lyons Community Foundation
• $535,000 from Oskar Blues
• $50,000 from Lyons Economic Development Commission
• $30,000 from Lyons Elementary
• $15,000 from miscellaneous donations
To donate, volunteer or organize a fundraiser, visit www.lyonsfightsback.org.
New businesses that have joined or indicated they’d be joining the community include:
• Button Rock Bakery
• Lyons Cinema and Photography Art Center
• Lyons Love, an indoor market
• Haven, a home-décor retail business
• Local: Eat + Drink, a restaurant and bar
• Red Fox, an outdoor sports-equipment chain
—Source: Town of Lyons
How to keep floodwater and heavy rain at bay.
By Maria Martin
When discussing the flood that devastated so many areas in Boulder County last September, Scott Deemer says hindsight wouldn’t have helped in a lot of cases.
“The reality is that many people who were affected by the flood were either in a river basin or floodplain, like those in Lyons or Longmont,” says Deemer, the owner of Outdoor Craftsmen, a landscape design and construction firm based in Erie. “No matter what precautions they took, they would have lost their homes or been greatly impacted. That was an act of God, and that’s beyond human control.”
But what may have been avoidable were flooded or damp basements. “Many homes flooded because of improper drainage,” he says, “but there are fixes that will help a house avoid damage, especially from water coming off the roof.”
Many people “think from the top up” when they landscape, says Larry Elmore, business manager at Wild by Design landscapers in Lyons. “You should really work from the bottom up,” he says. “You should consider what’s under everything, from soil to drainage, and then start thinking about where plants should go.”
Site It Right
Elmore knows firsthand how flooding affects lives. He and his wife, Mimi, owner of Wild by Design, live in Lyons and were displaced from their home. “When we left Lyons, we stayed in an east-Boulder subdivision that was also greatly impacted by the flood,” Elmore says. “It was a great big flat area and streets became rushing rivers. The homeowners who had minimal damage or escaped it altogether had built berms out front or had somehow landscaped their property to move water away from the house.”
A minimum 2-percent slope is essential if you want to move water away from a structure. Most landscapers recommend something along the lines of 4 to 6 percent. “I like to see 4 percent or more positive slope away from a home’s foundation and window wells—and for at least 6 feet out,” says Tom Sunderland, owner of Native Edge Associates Inc. in Boulder. “But in some cases, there’s no choice but to settle for less without substantially increasing the scope of work.”
It’s sometimes necessary to re-grade a landscape, especially if the foundation has settled. “When installed, foundations are often not backfilled and compacted properly,” Sunderland explains. “Raising grades and re-compacting the surface is often necessary.”
But adjacent lot lines, fences and trees often make grading improvements “not so easy, or perhaps impossible,” Sunderland says. “In such cases, when fixed points need to be worked around, the water should be diverted underground and piped away from the home.”
Elmore says he worked on a house near Devil’s Thumb “where the slope actually ran into the house, not away from it.” But the problem was solved with clever drainage and other techniques and the house was spared during the deluge, as was a neighbor’s home the Elmores also had re-landscaped. “In that case, the house was lower than the street, so the water was moving into their home,” Elmore says. “We redid their entire front yard, put in a drainage sump where the water pooled, and installed a drain underneath the yard and ran it into a dry creek bed we installed. They were over-the-top happy when their home remained dry.”
Gregg Oetting, who owns the neighboring home the Elmores re-landscaped, said they avoided a re-grade by considering drainage instead. “We wanted to do this without a really expensive re-grading,” Oetting says, adding that the drainage system was completed only four days before the flood. “It worked perfectly, and we ended up with no damage. For us, the story was in the timing.”
While not every homeowner was as fortunate, the pros say the trick to diverting water is taking the proper measures for your site. Although it has an exotic name, a French drain is simply a perforated pipe covered with filter fabric that’s placed in a trench filled with gravel or rock to direct water from a home. The Oettings’ drain was diverted to a dry rock channel. In other cases, water is diverted to a back or front yard. It’s important, landscapers say, to ensure you’re not diverting water onto a neighbor’s property.
Bill Melvin, of Ecoscape Environmental Design in Boulder, says he’s installed French drains 2 feet wide and 3 feet deep to divert water. “You can landscape over them, so you don’t even see them, and they’re incredibly effective,” he says.
Artificial swales, channels, trenches and troughs are other options.
Gutters and Drains
Before considering laborious measures, like digging swales around a home, most homeowners would be better served looking for an easier fix like gutters, Deemer says. “Depending on the age of your home, there may be building practices in place that were inferior for long-term viability,” he says. Older homes often lack gutters in critical areas where water can run off the roof and collect near the foundation. Inspect your gutter system to make sure you have adequate coverage.
Another thing he frequently sees is black corrugated-plastic tubing attached to downspouts and buried in the ground, intended to carry water away from the house. These tubes easily clog, Deemer says. “Because these tubes are flexible—and corrugated instead of smooth—leaves from the roof often plug up the tubing. As a result, rainwater backs up inside the tube and eventually backflows against the house, which can cause damage to the basement and crawl space.” The solution is simple, he says. Instead of tubing, install a system that’s easy to clean and maintain, like smooth PVC pipes “that won’t have the probability of failure,” Deemer says.
That said, digging swales around mountain homes may be a necessity. In the mountains, you have to work around Mother Nature. “With homes in mountain settings, you need multiple layers of protection, which might mean French drains, swales to transport water around the house and plantings,” Melvin says.
Berms and Boulders
Extending downspouts and correcting grades sounds more practical than pretty, but Melvin says other drainage improvements actually enhance the look of a landscape. “Plant life makes a difference toward slowing the flow, especially in the mountains,” he says. “Ultimately it can create a barrier. I was in Fourmile Canyon during the flood, and I saw dense rosebushes catching so much organic matter that they then deflected water away from a structure.”
Shrubs and bushes can also stabilize slopes that might otherwise erode in heavy downpours. Melvin says dogwood, creeping juniper, native grasses and creeping cotoneaster are plants with tough roots that can take a beating. Boulders and berms also divert water toward thirstier plants or away from soggy areas.
Melvin worked with a client who placed 25 tons of boulders to redirect potential water flows. “I said, ‘That would do the trick, but if you spend a bit more, we can also add a berm integrated with the boulders with new landscape plantings that will enhance the view and improve erosion control, and also help filter and slow future water flows.’” The client agreed, and the project is both pleasing to the eye and gives the owners confidence their home will withstand the next downpour.
Sump pumps are very effective at draining water—“if they’re plugged in and in proper working condition,” Melvin says. “Many found out during the flood that theirs were not, and it could have saved them thousands of dollars, many sleepless nights and many lost family photos, in some cases.”
Be sure to install exterior sump pumps in the lowest point of the landscape and interior sumps in the lowest point of the floor, where water could potentially pool. The pump will need an electrical outlet and if possible a separate circuit breaker.
Melvin has used a combination of sump pumps with catchments and ejection lines, French drains, troughs, swales, and drain boxes to protect homes from flooding. “A sump pump was the sole reason my house stayed dry,” he says. “That and clean gutters with proper drain boxes to get the water away. I cleared the trapped gutter parts Tuesday night when I saw the storm-cell system setting up.”
In the final analysis, your home might require a combination of these techniques, too, if you want to stay high and dry in future water events.
Boulder Creek Events
Boulder Home & Garden Fair
303-443-0600 ext. 106;
Strawberry Festival Antique Show,
St. Vrain Historical Society Benefit
MQ Architecture & Design
Better Business Bureau Serving
James A. Cooke, PC
The KB Studio
Parrish Construction Co.
McDonald Carpet One Floor & Home
Mila Tibetan Carpets
Front Range Community College
Closet & Storage Concepts
Contractors/Custom Builders/Remodeling Services
Cottonwood Custom Builders Inc.
McCrerey Fine Homes LLC
Parrish Construction Co.
Petersen Construction • Remodeling
RGM Construction Company Inc.
Advantage Stone Fabrication
ECOS Environmental & Disaster Restoration Inc.
Energy Audits/Energy Conservation
Farm and Education Center/Wedding Venue
Food Bank for Boulder and Broomfield Counties
Community Food Share
The Flower Bin
Sturtz & Copeland Florists, Greenhouses and Fine Stationery
A-Ability Glass Co. Inc.
Slade Glass Co.
Table Mesa Hardware
Home Furnishings/Collectibles & Antiques
Fabulous Finds Upscale Consignment
The Fuzzy Antler
Greenwood Wildlife Consignment Gallery
Lafayette Collectibles & Flea Market
3rd & Vine Design
Closet & Storage Concepts
Details Design Studio
3rd & Vine Design
Kitchen & Bath Design/Remodels
The KB Studio
Parrish Construction Co.
Ecoscape Environmental Design
Garden Art Landscaping
J & S Landscape
Napp Landscape Services Inc.
Native Edge Associates Inc.
Sustainable Landscape Design
Vicke Batzner Landscape Designs
Wild by Design
Lee Hill Peat
303- 443-8572; www.leehillpeat.com
Loukonen Bros. Stone
Organic & Hydroponic Gardening Supplies
Way to Grow
Women Who Paint
Patio Furnishings/Outdoor Rooms
Christy Sports Patio Furniture
Aloha Mechanical Inc.
Loukonen Bros. Stone
KGNU Community Radio 88.5 FM & 1390 AM
Colliers Hill Community Marketing Association LLC
Colorado Landmark Realtors
RE/MAX Alliance, Greg Smith
Fabulous Finds Upscale Consignment
The Fuzzy Antler
Greenwood Wildlife Consignment Gallery
Lafayette Collectibles & Flea Market
The Savvy Hen Urban Farm & Feed
3rd & Vine Design
Advantage Stone Fabrication
The KB Studio
Loukonen Bros. Stone
Berkelhammer Tree Experts Inc.
Taddiken Tree Co.
UpHolstery & Wood Restoration
The Upholstery Shop
Urban farm And Feed Supplies
The Savvy Hen Urban Farm & Feed
Vegetable Growing Systems and Planters
Farm Tub LLC
Window Treatments, Coverings & Shades
A-Ability Glass Co. Inc.
Slade Glass Co.
Here’s a roundup of the top spring events, including classes, tours, home shows, plant sales and unusual opportunities like live alpaca shearing.
Ongoing: Classes at Sturtz & Copeland
Sturtz & Copeland at 2851 Valmont Road offers classes on a variety of topics, like orchids, flower arranging, herbs and roses, and fairy gardening. The nominal class fee also gets you a discount on purchases. Check the schedule at
www.sturtzandcopeland.com or call 303-442-6663.
Ongoing: Classes at The Savvy Hen
The Savvy Hen is an urban farm and feed store that offers products and resources related to backyard chicken-keeping, beekeeping and gardening. The store is at 1908 Pearl St. in Boulder.
Ongoing: Backyard Composting Workshops
Free two-hour workshops around Boulder County teach how to start and maintain a backyard compost pile, including which bins are best, what to feed your pile, and tips and troubleshooting. Participants can also purchase the recommended SoilSaver bin for $50. See locations/times on select weeknights and Saturdays at www.bouldercounty.org/env/sustainability.
Ongoing: Classes at Three Leaf Farm
Three Leaf Farm in Lafayette offers garden-related classes and the nominal fees get you a discount on purchases. Upcoming classes include Planning a Medicinal Herb Garden (April 5) and Blending Herbal Teas (May 10). The farm is at 445 S. 112th St. Visit
Ongoing: Aquaponics Tours
The Aquaponic Source, a Longmont store that stocks everything aquaponic, which means growing fish and plants together, offers free tours every Saturday at 1 p.m. The company also offers occasional fee-based courses. 1860 Lefthand Circle, Suite E, Longmont.
March 14-16: 2014 Denver Home Show
This annual event showcases innovative home and garden products, plus free interior design consultations, cooking demonstrations, and sessions with PBS’s Kevin O’Connor, host of This Old House. At the National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt St., Denver. www.homeshowdenver.com.
Ongoing: Classes at Lyons Farmette
Lyons Farmette, a working organic farm and sustainability center, offers a variety of spring classes, including Composting (March 25), Fermentation (April 15) and other topics. See the website for registration and class info. The Farmette also hosts farm dinners and art events. 4121 Ute Highway, www.lyonsfarmette.com.
Ongoing: Classes at Harlequin’s Gardens
This sustainable nursery and garden center offers low-cost classes for children and adults on topics like succession planting, building topsoil, beekeeping, chicken-keeping and drip irrigation. The spring/summer schedule was not available at press time; check www.harlequinsgardens.com for updates. 4795 N. 26th St.
Through April 27: Illusions in Glass:
Magic-Lantern Slides from Helen Fowler Library
See enlarged reproductions of magic-lantern slides from the Denver Botanic Gardens’ special collection. This historic medium was the precursor of the slide-show projector. 1007 York St. Visit www.botanicgardens
.org or call 720-865-3500.
March 22-April 22: Free Days at Denver Botanic Gardens
April 1, May 5, June 3: Free Days at DBG at Chatfield
Free admission days at both locations let you explore the gardens, tropical conservatory and greenhouse complex at the Denver location, 1007 York St., or the nature trail and historic farm at the Chatfield location, 8500 W. Deer Creek Canyon Road in Littleton. Visit www.botanicgardens.org or call 720-865-3500 (Denver) or 303-973-3705 (Littleton).
April 13: Taste of Pearl
Downtown Boulder’s signature event always sells out, so get tickets early. From 2-6 p.m., enjoy Boulder’s culinary arts scene and Colorado wines as you stroll through galleries and shops. A portion of proceeds benefits the Emergency Family Assistance Association. www.tasteofpearl.com.
April 26: MMMMMBoulder
The five M’s stand for movies, music, movement, monologue and modern art, and there’s also a sixth “M” this year—magic. This unique celebration of the arts also features food trucks, wine and beer, and vendor booths showcasing natural products. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. at Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St. www.mmmmmboulder.com.
April 26: Bee Earth Day Celebration
This annual celebration, in its third year, connects children and families to fresh food, local honeybees and gardening. The free event at the Children’s Peace Garden features seed planting, exploration of the worm-composting system, honeybee education, garden-art projects and an obstacle course with a garden maze. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at 1630 Hawthorn Ave. 303-443-9952; www.growinggardens.org.
April 13: Sustainable Greenhouse Design Workshop
Learn how to design a sustainable greenhouse from the ground up using salvaged or new materials, or find out how to improve an existing one. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St. DBG also offers a variety of other classes on topics like plant-based remedies, mountain tomatoes and building your first garden. Visit www.botanicgardens.org.
Beginning April 5: Boulder County Farmers’ Markets
Weekly (and twice-weekly) markets are great places to buy local produce, naturally raised meats, artisan cheeses and bread, honey, and eggs.
Boulder: Saturdays 8 a.m.-2 p.m. beginning April 5 and Wednesdays 4-8 p.m. beginning May 7. 13th Street between Canyon Boulevard and Arapahoe Avenue. 303-910-2236; www.boulderfarmers.org.
Lafayette (JAX Farmers’ Market): Sundays 9 a.m.-1 p.m. beginning May 11. Lafayette Marketplace, 400 South Boulder Road. www.lafayettecolorado.com.
Longmont: Saturdays 8 a.m.-2 p.m. beginning April 5. Boulder County Fairgrounds, Hover Road and Boston Avenue. 303-910-2236; www.boulderfarmers.org.
Louisville: Saturdays 8 a.m.-1 p.m. beginning May 31. 824 Front St. 303-902-2451; www.farmersmarketlouis.com.
Lyons: Check the Lyons Outdoor Market Facebook page.
April 26-27: 2014 Dream Kitchens Are Cooking!
Gather ideas for updating your kitchen at this annual tour featuring local kitchens newly remodeled by designers and builders. Proceeds benefit the I Have a Dream Foundation of Boulder County.
April 15, May 10: Photography Workshops
Molly Steele of Steele Photography in Boulder offers two workshops to cover the basics—what to do with your fancy new digital camera and how to take better pictures. The 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. workshops are at Steele’s studio, 2039 11th St. Register early to score a discount. www.msteelephotography.com.
April 27: Wild Earth Day 2014
Boulder County’s largest Earth Day event features a full day of free activities and entertainment celebrating the planet, including live music, educational exhibits and hands-on projects like seed planting and ecological crafts. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at Central Park, Broadway
and Canyon Boulevard. www.wildbear.org.
April 27: Tulip Fairy and Elf Festival
Spring officially arrives in downtown Boulder when the beautiful Tulip Fairy and her pint-sized fairies and elves parade around Pearl Street Mall to “welcome” the tulips—more than 15,000 brightly colored beauties. Children can enjoy special activities after the 3 p.m. parade. 303-449-3773;
May 3-4, 10-11, 17-18: Growing Gardens Plant Sales
On three full weekends in May, browse hundreds of organic veggie and herb starts, all grown in the Growing Gardens greenhouse, plus heirloom tomatoes, annuals, perennials, water-wise plants, grapes, vines and grasses. 8 a.m.-4 p.m. each day at 1630 Hawthorn Ave.; proceeds benefit Growing Gardens’ many programs. The organization also offers adult classes in gardening and beekeeping, children’s summer programs, and a CSA program (contact Growing Gardens to get on the wait list). 303-443-9952; www.growinggardens.org.
May 10, Rain date May 17: Boulder Home & Garden Fair
This annual fair, sponsored by Boulder County Home & Garden Magazine, showcases everything for the home and garden, with more than 75 booths featuring the latest trends in landscaping, gardening, solar, home improvement, interior design and sustainable living. Included are demonstrations, plant sales, live music and children’s activities (like live alpacas to pet). 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Twenty Ninth Street Retail District. 303-443-0600 ext. 106; www.homeandgardenmag.com.
Beginning April 29; June 16: Gardening Programs for Kids
The Children’s Peace Garden, a program of the nonprofit Growing Gardens, offers after-school classes two days per week for ages 4-10 beginning April 29. Activities include building insect and bird habitats, bottle-feeding baby goats, and dressing as beekeepers. Half-day and full-day summer camps begin June 16; weekly themes include Urban Safari and Green Thumb Detectives. The garden is at 1630 Hawthorn Ave., 303-443-9952; www.growinggardens.com.
May 9-10: Spring Plant Sale
Denver Botanic Gardens kicks off the spring season with more than 85,000 plants for sale, including rare and unusual plants from all over the globe. Horticulture experts will be on hand to help you choose plants for your landscape. Free admission during the sale at Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St. Hours are Friday 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday till 5 p.m. Visit www.botanic gardens.org or call 720-865-3500.
May 10: Washington Park Home Tour
Tour historic and contemporary homes in Denver’s Washington Park area during this fundraiser for Steele Elementary School and the DPS Education Outreach for homeless children. There’s also a plant sale, raffle, barbecue and live performances at the school, 320 S. Marion Parkway. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. www.washparkhometour.org.
May 1-4: Boulder Potters’ Guild Annual Show/Sale
Fifty local ceramic artists exhibit and sell their works at this annual four-day sale. At the Boulder County Fairgrounds, Nelson Road and Hover Street in Longmont. www.boulderpottersguild.com.
May 3-4, 10-11: East Boulder County Artists’ Studio Tour
A diverse array of artists in Longmont, Lafayette, Louisville and Superior open their studios to visitors for two weekends in May. It’s a great opportunity to see the artists at work and perhaps purchase a piece or two. Get details about the self-guided tour at
May 12-13: Spring Tree Walk at CU Boulder
Join CU arborist Vince Aquino on a leisurely stroll through the always-beautiful University of Colorado campus to learn about the many native, rare and unusual trees growing there. The free 5-6:30 p.m. walk departs (rain or shine) from the south entrance of the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History at 15th Street and Broadway in the Henderson Building on campus. Call 303-492-5524 or visit
May 17-18: Strawberry Festival Antique Show
Enjoy strawberry shortcake topped with freshly whipped cream as you shop for antiques and collectibles at this community festival, a tradition since 1970. Proceeds benefit the St. Vrain Historical Society. Hours are Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m. in the Exhibit Building at Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road in Longmont, 303-776-1870. www.stvrainhistoricalsociety.org.
June 7: Whittier Garden Tour
This 12th annual self-guided walking tour offers a rare opportunity to stroll through “secret gardens” of select homes in a unique Boulder neighborhood. The tour runs 10 a.m.–3 p.m., with garden hosts, designers and Master Gardeners on hand. Proceeds benefit Whittier International Elementary School. Visit
June 7: Home on the Grange
This event was so successful last year, they’re doing it again. A fundraiser for Altona Grange #127, it features music on two stages, local food and brews, children’s activities, vendors selling vintage and handmade items, and more. Festivities run 10 a.m.-7 p.m. at Altona Grange #127, corner of North 39th and Nelson Road in Longmont, 303-494-0668.
June 5: Wool Day at Lyons Farmette
This new event, held in conjunction with Fancy Tiger Clothing and Crust mobile pizza oven, features an education session about wool, a spinning/knitting class, a cocktail hour and a farm dinner. 4121 Ute Highway. Visit www.lyonsfarmette.com later in spring for more details.
June TBA: Old Town Garden Tour
Walk, bike or drive to the gardens on this Lafayette tour that runs from
10 a.m.-4 p.m., then meet the garden artists at a reception afterward until 6 p.m. Check
www.oldtownlafayette.com for the date later in the spring.
June 7: Mapleton Hill Rummage Sale
This huge annual yard sale spans several blocks and usually more than 60 homes, in the historic Mapleton Hill district. The sale normally runs 8 a.m.-2 p.m., but verify details on the group’s Facebook page closer to the date.
June 7: Herb Walk
Herbalist Brigitte Mars leads this two-hour walk around downtown Boulder as she teaches participants to identify local plants for their edible and medicinal properties. Register for the 10 a.m.-noon walk at www.brigittemars.com.
June 13-14: Festival of Flowers Garden Tour
Enjoy a self-guided tour of stunning gardens in Longmont as you gather ideas for your own yard. Proceeds benefit the Longmont Symphony Guild. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. both days. For ticket outlets, visit www.longmontsymphony.com/html/guild.html.
In the Bath of Luxury
Interior designer Kelli Walden of Niwot Interiors won the first-place 2013 Colorado Award for Remodeling Excellence in the Luxury Bath Category for an upscale bathroom she designed. The award was presented in October by the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver. Niwot Interiors is a full-service firm at 240 2nd Ave. in Niwot. Visit the store to browse the large selection of art, accessories, rugs, window coverings, furniture and more, or call 303-652-1727 to schedule an in-home design consultation. www.niwotinteriors.com.
Packs of Alpacas
For David and Carol Hinrichs, what started in 2009 with one pregnant alpaca grew into Edelweiss Alpacas, an alpaca farm in Erie that now boasts a herd of 25, plus a faithful livestock guard dog named Cassidy and a guard llama named Piper.
Edelweiss Alpacas, at 1598 Old Highway 52, breeds their animals to provide high-quality fleece to the fashion and textile industries. Their farm store and website sell raw alpaca materials to the public, plus alpaca sweaters, scarves, hats and rugs. The Hinrichses also work with 4-H kids, teaching them about the business aspects of raising alpacas.
Watch for Edelweiss Alpacas at the Boulder Home & Garden Fair on May 10 (rain date May 17) at Twenty Ninth Street Retail District. They’ll have a pen of friendly alpacas for everyone to pet, plus an assortment of products. They’re also planning a public alpaca-shearing event at the farm in May; check
www.edelweissalpaca.com or call 303-932-2816.
Architect Dale Hubbard of Boulder’s Surround Architecture won Best of Show in the 2013 Marvin Architect’s Challenge. The international competition, sponsored by Marvin Windows and Doors, showcases the best projects from around the world that incorporate Marvin’s products. Hubbard won the award for the Folly Farm in Boulder, described as “contemporary casual meets rustic historic.” Visit www.surroundarchitecture.com.
Neutral & Modern
At a ceremony on Feb. 11, CU School of Environmental Design student Michelle Harrison became the winner of the 2014 Haertling Home Design Contest. For this local competition, graduate students designed concepts and plans for the renovation of the Menkick House at 165 Green Rock Drive in Boulder. The home, built in 1969, was designed by famous Boulder architect Charles Haertling. Stephen Sparn Architects helped sponsor the contest and selected the winner. Other sponsors included Emily Gadacz of Colorado Landmark Realtors and the CU School of Environmental Design. One challenge was “bringing the exterior character of the house to the interior with a neutral color palette and a modern touch,” Harrison said of her winning submission. CU’s Rob Hollis was runner-up.
By Lisa Marshall
The water has retreated. The basements have dried. For many homeowners, the catastrophic flooding of September 2013 is becoming a distant memory. But chances are, your landscape hasn’t forgotten. “When you get nearly a year’s worth of moisture in a week, there are bound to be lingering effects,” says Thad Johnson, owner of Longmont-based garden center Yatahai Gardens. “I’m already starting to see them.”
For those whose flower beds and garden plots survived, last fall’s heavy rain, unusually wet soil, potential exposure to flood-borne contaminants, and thick layers of silt and sand could pose unique challenges this spring, says Dr. James Self, Ph.D., director of the Soil, Water and Plant Testing Laboratory at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. And those who saw parts of their landscape wiped out have a unique opportunity to start fresh and create a more flood-resistant one.
Here’s a look at how things might be different in the wake of the flood, and what you might want to do as spring gets under way.
Walls of Weeds
Among the greatest beneficiaries of the 2013 flood were perennial weeds and grasses, including bindweed, brome, knapweed and foxtail barley. Typically, Johnson says, weed seeds drop in fall and lie idle on the ground—or are scattered far and wide via wind and birds—awaiting spring rains to help them germinate. Last fall’s torrential downpour enabled them to germinate early where they lay and get a head start on taking root.
By mid-January, the swaying golden strands of foxtail barley, a perennial grass that can be lethal to pets if the barbed seed heads lodge in their ears or digestive tracts, was already growing around Boulder County. Whatever unwanted grasses are on your property, you’ll likely have more of them this spring, and they’ll be firmly established. “The longer they have to take root, the harder they are to get out,” Johnson says. “That is going to be the big battle that people face this spring: weeds.”
His advice: “Put down that magazine and get to weeding.” And be sure to pull up grasses by the roots. The good news: Some annual weeds that would normally just be germinating, like amaranth and thistle, already bloomed and died last fall. So you won’t be pulling as many of them.
Rot or Not?
Some plants and trees accustomed to semiarid climes may have taken a beating from the rare autumn torrent, which was followed by a series of unusually wet snows. “The root-zone moisture level is definitely higher than normal,” Johnson notes. Aspen and pine trees, and perennials like columbine, heliopsis (oxeye sunflower) and gaillardia (blanket flower), are particularly susceptible to root rot and other diseases related to excess soil moisture. Browning needles, branch dieback, visible fungi, or wilted or yellowing leaves could be signs of root rot. When moisture-saturated ground freezes and thaws, it can also pitch perennials out of their beds, says Michael Morris, hard-goods manager at The Flower Bin in Longmont.
Both men advise surveying your landscape for diseased plants in early spring. You might save moderately affected plants by replanting them (after pruning off diseased roots) in well-drained soil mixed with compost. Using clean shears, prune a third of the top growth, which will give the roots a better chance to regrow. Be sure to disinfect pots and tools used on or around infected plants with a solution of 1-part bleach to 9-parts water.
There’s not much you can do to bring a seriously root-rotted plant or tree back to life, but if you’ve lost some, it’s better to replace them this spring than later in summer, when the heat will take its toll on new plantings.
In the weeks following the flood, gardeners were warned not to eat their vegetables if floodwaters had passed through them because they may have been exposed to contaminants from leach fields and septic tanks, or residues from mine tailings or household chemicals. By now, the winter chill has probably gotten rid of most of those nasty microorganisms, Self says.
But if you’re still concerned, you can kill them yourself by solarizing your garden soil. After normally prepping your garden—removing sticks and rocks and turning the soil—cover it with a large sheet of black plastic held down by bricks. “The sun will heat the black plastic and the soil underneath it up to 160 degrees to really sterilize the soil,” Self says. Stick a meat thermometer in the ground to check the temperature after three to four days. If it’s not quite hot enough, leave the plastic on longer. Solarization also kills a range of soil pests, including wilt and root-rot fungi, as well as noxious weed seeds.
If you live downstream from an old mine site, notice a foul smell or strange-colored oily residue in or near your garden, or are concerned about chemical residue in your garden, take a soil sample to the CSU Soil, Water and Plant Testing Laboratory and get it tested for $25. (For information, call 1-970-491-5061.) So far, Self says the lab has seen very little contamination as a result of the flood. “This isn’t something people need to be really concerned about.”
Of greater concern, Self says, is the amount of sediment or silt dumped on lawns and gardens by the rush of flowing floodwater.
“We’ve seen people with anywhere from a few inches to a few feet deposited on their property.” If you have only an inch or so on your lawn, you may be able to rake it out, add compost, peat moss or other organic material and work it into the ground with a core aerator, and then sprinkle grass seed on thin lawn areas.
If your lawn was buried in more than 2 to 3 inches of sediment, it may be time to reseed or re-sod. “Think of it as an opportunity to start over and do it right,” says Morris, noting that today’s grass seed is much more drought-tolerant and hardy than what was available five years ago. If your garden was covered in sediment or inundated with water, add more organic material this year than you have in the past, Morris says, to replace what was depleted.
This spring might also be a good time to think about better drainage for your property (see “Down the Drain” on page 86 for more information). Larry Elmore of Lyons-based Wild By Design landscape design firm recommends creating dry creek beds or swales seeded with native grasses to absorb excess water during heavy rains.
Strategically placed rocks and berms or a French drain (a perforated pipe running along a trench lined with crushed stone) also channel water from high spots on a property to places (like the garden) where you want more water.
“This event has been a great lesson in where water comes from,” Elmore says. “It’s an opportunity to take a good look at your property and see what can be done to mitigate future damage.”
Berms do more than screen noises. They make a garden interesting.
By Panayoti Kelaidis
Almost a quarter-century ago, the great garden designer Harland Hand was wandering around our new garden in east Denver. We told him we intended to install some rock-garden beds in the backyard. He gazed at us intently and said, “They’d better be really big and really high.” We subsequently put in some very tall—it seemed to us—berm mounds. What we learned was that no matter how high you build it, a berm settles. Gravity prevails.
“Berm” derives from the French word berme, used to describe a mound built up for fortification. Many Americans are unfamiliar with the word. There are many synonyms—hummock, mound, drumlin, hillock, ridge, knoll, stack, drift, tumulus—but locally, a berm describes the multiplicity of ways we can add relief and drama to the horribly conventionally flat gardens most of us have.
Why do we berm (it can be a verb as well!)? There are many reasons. I have a friend who created a large berm between her home and a busy road because substantial fencing wasn’t allowed, but the ordinance said nothing about building mountains. For plant lovers, berms provide various microclimates for growing plants with different needs. That’s because you control the soil that goes into a berm, and depending on how your berm is oriented to the sun, it can have a shady side for cool-loving plants and a sunny bank for succulents. Plus, a berm’s top is always much drier than its bottom, where you can grow thirstier plants.
And then there’s the matter of drainage. As we learned only too well last fall, Boulder receives the highest rainfall of any Colorado Front Range city. Although drainage is not as great a problem here as in perpetually rainy places, we can experience amazing episodes of torrential rain. Berms are extremely effective at channeling rainfall, and keeping plants out of floodwaters’ way. One classic way to create drainage is to excavate a swale and use the removed soil to make a berm to retain and direct rainwater.
But the most compelling reason for berms is purely aesthetic: They create a third dimension of interest on your property. Most gardens are dreadfully flat. It depresses me to drive through Front Range cities and find for blocks on end the same old lawn, junipers and the occasional edging of annuals or ground covers. We are sadly in need of Harland’s boldness and panache. He wouldn’t hesitate to excavate a deep hole in many gardens to generate soil to berm up into high and ever higher mounds.
My first berm encounter was in the garden of T. Paul and Mary Maslin, on the Hill in Boulder, when I was growing up. Back then, perennials and the unusual tree and shrub were even more rare in gardens than they are today. But on my way to junior high school, just a few blocks away, was a veritable fairyland of exotic and wonderful plants in the Maslins’ yard.
I planned my route to and from school to veer by this amazing garden. Eventually I came to know the owners, and in time they became my very best friends. I was enthralled when Paul would tell me how he constructed his home and garden by himself. He did get help from heavy machinery in the early phases, and hired a front-end roller to contour the property and create a lower-level patch for the house, unearthing hundreds of enormous boulders in the process (the city is aptly named!).
Tractors moved these to the garden’s periphery and Paul bermed the soil into wonderfully sinuous beds. What had once been a very level, rather boring lot now had almost 10 feet of differential from end to end.
In the end, the bermed island beds and banks Paul created around the garden provided several microclimates that allowed him to grow an amazing range of flowers. The overall effect of Paul’s garden, which had a dramatic central pond and waterfall, was very restful.
Paul valued his berms for their horticultural potential and for the way they made the garden so much more complex and interesting. He boasted to me that you could get lost in it—and his garden was not huge—and that you could never see more than a fraction of it from any single viewpoint because the berms blocked some views and framed others.
To this day, the Maslin garden remains the most magical and beautiful garden I ever hope to know—and I’ve visited thousands.
Demo & Drainage
Each and every berm garden is unique. One of the most influential in our region is the xeriscape demonstration garden at Kendrick Lake in Lakewood.
Designed over a decade ago by Greg Foreman, a designer of true genius, this many-acre garden consists of a dozen or so individual flower beds, each of which is mounded with specially mixed topsoil and native subsoil, and amended with gravel and compost. These may be only 2 feet or so higher than the surrounding paths—although the more recent ones are definitely a meter or more to ensure drainage, provide a better soil matrix and, above all, give this flat site mystery and interest.
Greg has told me that the main reason he used berms in the way he did was to provide better drainage, and to allow him to bring in more soil to improve what was there—and lots and lots of sand and gravel to help make that soil even more porous and amenable to xeric plants. Anyone who has walked through this garden will tell you that it’s almost miraculous how enormous and beautiful every single plant seems to be. They would all win first prize in their category if there were a county fair for xeriscape perennials!
Greg attributes the vigorous growth and the fact that every plant seems to have exceeded its potential to the aeration provided by creating a deeper, more porous soil, and to the gravel mulch that helps keep in moisture and keep down weeds. In 2013, the maintenance crew neglected to turn on the water until most of the summer was underway, and though the garden was virtually unwatered, Greg told me it looked better than ever. Deep roots and careful planning are the garden secrets we should all learn and emulate.
Sandy and Bill Snyder were faced with a dilemma: The road alongside their house kept getting busier and the street noise filtered into their house. They decided to build a high fence to screen the noise. City ordinances prohibited anything solid enough that would make a difference, so they could only have a low see-through fence at best. But the city had not proscribed the building of berms.
So build one they did—a veritable mountain of a berm I christened “Mount Snyder,” that must have been 10 feet tall or higher when first installed. The Snyders used large lichened boulders to create an artistic, Western-flavored butte, and planted sun-loving rock-garden plants on the south “Wyoming” side and various heathers and cool-loving plants on the north “Alaska” side.
I was a bit dubious about this mountainous experiment at first, but over the decades I have come to love it more and more as the plants mature and the landscape mellows. The berm easily sank to almost half its original size over the last 20 years. A lesson for berm builders: If you want to keep your berm a certain size, you’ll have to have firm soil at its heart—or perhaps even boulders to provide a sort of “skeleton.”
More importantly, make sure you mound it considerably higher than the height you want it to ultimately attain—I suggest at least a third higher. Truth be told, no one ever builds a berm big enough; we are such timid creatures! But the bigger the berm, the more important it is to have an artistic eye help place, shape and plant it.
Over the years I’ve watched some of the tiny shrubs on Mount Snyder mature. At one point Sandy had what had to be the largest specimen of spiny broom (Genista horrida) outside of Spain. It was nearly 2 meters across before she removed most of it because it was swallowing up too many other gems.
Superb succulents line the sunny side, including a large Chilean cactus (Maihuenia poeppigii) that most people find challenging to grow. This very primitive cactus, which actually has leaves year-round (most cacti dispense with them altogether), blooms prolifically over an ever-expanding mat of verdure. On the north side, various peonies have thrived and self-sown, along with many bulbs and new ground covers, like the rare herbaceous Clematis fremontii.
As mentioned previously, the word berm comes from a French word signifying a sort of soil barrier around a castle. The Snyders certainly used this element as part of the justification for creating their berm, although the opportunities it provided to grow unusual plants supplanted its original functional motive.
There are times and places, however, when berms as bulwarks are essential. I know people who have created large berms to screen not just traffic noise, but also an unattractive neighboring garden or an ugly view.
My neighbor recently created a rather bold berm, which I believe was designed to screen passersby from the view of his dog. As long as the lawn was flat, the dog would run to the edge of the fence and yip incessantly (ask me how I know this) at any creature that walked by—no matter how far off.
Now a sizable berm completely masks the road and the view from the rather simpleminded dog, and the yipping has virtually ceased. Somehow, it’s not as fun to bark when constrained between a fence and a berm.
I loved berms even before they quieted my neighborhood, but now I must paraphrase Robert Frost and say that “good berms make good neighbors.”
Panayoti Kelaidis is senior curator and director of outreach at Denver Botanic Gardens.
Raised beds let you grow a LOT in less space.
by David Wann
photos courtesy David Wann
Raised beds are a common sight in local yards, as more and more people discover the joys, savings and benefits of growing their own vegetables.
These local gardeners join millions worldwide who use raised beds, a technique practiced in Greece as early as 3,000 B.C. Raised beds are typically plots less than 4 feet wide with reachable access to plants from paths on either side. Beds can be any length, but are often 6 to 8 feet long, with frames of wood, stone or concrete.
Raised beds can deliver much higher yields per square foot than conventional growing techniques because the elevated soil warms up earlier in spring and drains better, reducing waterborne diseases and making more air available to the plants’ root zones.
By design, this structural and biological way of growing gives plants what they need: loose, rich soil with a high percentage of organic material that enables deep root penetration and good nutrition. Raised-bed soil remains loose and aerated, because it’s not compressed by being walked on.
Typically, raised beds have fewer weeds, which means you’ll spend less time maintaining them. Spacing plants close together in a raised bed crowds out weeds, and the reachable access makes it easier to weed, harvest and control insects. The framed walls of a raised bed double as a low bench to sit on while working, and the higher soil level grants easier access to those in wheelchairs and walkers. The frames also prevent soil erosion and provide a physical barrier from pests like rabbits and mice. Many growers build hoop houses made from plastic sheets or chicken wire over their raised beds for additional protection from hail, frost and critters.
Raised beds have psychological benefits, too: Besides the physical and mental profits of gardening, the finite beds aren’t overwhelming to maintain, so you have more time to pamper and fine-tune them.
Here’s a brief guide to creating a raised bed in your yard:
Location, Location, Location
For best results, choose a location that gets at least six hours a day of direct sunlight. Try to pick a site that’s also visible throughout your landscape, because you’ll likely get nice growth that you’ll want to highlight.
Site the bed away from trees (whose roots will compete for water) and close to a water source. In hot summers, a drip-irrigation system with a timer will make your beds far more self-sufficient.
Before planting, many gardeners lay down cardboard-sheet mulch or plastic sheets to kill grass and weeds. Lay the mulch several weeks before digging the soil, then loosen the dirt and remove rocks and any hardpan soil to improve drainage.
Build, Build, Build
Wood, brick, stone, recycled plastic lumber and cement blocks are popular materials for framing raised beds. If using wood, choose naturally rot-resistant wood such as cedar, redwood or locust. Never use chemically treated wood, because it will inhibit plant growth.
If using concrete blocks, pour an 8-inch foundation beneath them to prevent heaving and cracking. Three layers of blocks (about 2 feet tall) is a good height that provides protection from rabbits and creates a place to set tools and beverages. Finish concrete blocks with stucco to moistureproof them.
Mulch paths around the beds with wood chips, burlap bags or crushed rock to keep down weeds.
Amend, Amend, Amend
Don’t scrimp with amendments, since good soil is what makes a raised bed successful. A mixture of garden soil, compost and topsoil will get your bed off to a good start.
The perfect garden soil resembles a moist sponge that won’t drip a lot of water when squeezed, yet holds water in the root zone where it’s needed. In other words, it drains but also absorbs water. If buying soil, pay a little extra for a product with high-quality organic content and a high percentage of essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
To figure out how much soil you’ll need, multiply your bed’s height by width by depth and purchase amendments by the cubic yard. You can tailor the soil in your beds to meet the needs of the crops growing there. For example, potatoes and tomatoes prefer slightly acidic soil, so the addition of elemental sulfur will yield better results. Root crops like carrots, beets and potatoes thrive with generous supplements of rock phosphate or bonemeal.
Plant, Plant, Plant
Now comes the fun part: planting and nurturing your favorite vegetables toward harvest. Plant greens closer to the bed’s path sides, and place longer-season crops in the center. Pay attention to the sun’s angle though. Taller crops like tomatoes and corn should be planted on the bed’s northern end to avoid shading shorter crops. Crops with deep roots, like carrots, should be planted next to shallow-rooted crops like lettuce, and both would benefit from the nitrogen supplied by beans.
Place plants close together in a triangular or staggered pattern throughout the bed so their leaves will overlap slightly at maturity. This allows for more plants per square foot and produces a continuous leafy canopy that shades the bed, moderates soil temperature, conserves moisture and discourages weeds. To maintain a rich soil, add 2 inches of compost to the surface of the raised bed at the beginning of each crop cycle.
Intense, Intense, Intense
John Jeavons, a guru of the biointensive growing technique and author of How to Grow More Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine, prefers raised beds because they boost yields.
“I’ve always been curious about just how small an area could provide enough food for one individual,” Jeavons says. In Boulder County’s short, four-month growing season, Jeavons believes 200 square feet of raised-bed gardens could provide all the vegetables the typical American consumes, with as little as 30 minutes of labor a day.
So start planning your raised beds now for big yields this summer!
David Wann has gardened for 30 years in various zones in Colorado and has written 10 books, including Affluenza, The Zen of Gardening and The New Normal. He currently coordinates a neighborhood garden in Golden.
Whether you pronounce it CLEM-a-tis or cle-MAT-is, these pretty plants climb and shine.
By Mary Lynn Bruny
During a garden tour years ago, I found myself in the magical backyard of an elderly lady. “Oh, my!” I gushed to her, “Your clematis vines are wonderful!” She looked at me with disdain and said icily, “It’s ‘CLEM-a-tis,’ dear, not ‘cle-MAT-is,’” imitating my nasal Ohio accent.
But according to Linda Beutler, president of the International Clematis Society, curator of the Rogerson Clematis Collection outside Portland, Ore., and author of Gardening with Clematis: Design and Cultivation (Timber Press 2004), that old gardener was wrong. “Either pronunciation is acceptable,” Beutler states. That being said, Beutler and other serious gardeners pronounce it “CLEM-a-tis.”
No matter what you call the queen of climbers, it’s hard to resist adding a few of these beauties to your garden, and spring is the best time of year to do so. Most folks are familiar with the dark-purple ‘Jackmanii’ variety growing on countless mailboxes, but there are hundreds of types of the mainly deciduous vines (not to be confused with herbaceous perennial clematis) that range from 3- to 20-feet tall and come in just about every color but orange.
The standard clematis flower form is a large, flat blossom with six or seven sepals (petals), measuring from 3- to a dramatic 11-inches across. There are also wonderful cultivars with puffy double blooms and others with graceful bells, teeny stars and windsock shapes. Flowers are followed by bursts of attractive fluffy seed clusters.
Natural companions to roses and herbaceous perennials, clematises add color, texture and vertical interest to a garden. Most clematis vines are not difficult to grow, but they do have specific requirements to help them thrive and produce spectacular blooms. Once established, they can live for decades, some up to 50 years.
Choosing a Vine
It’s easy to have your head turned by the pretty flowers of a blooming clematis at the garden center. But before making a purchase, you’ll want to consider a few factors in addition to vine size, flower form, color and bloom period. Some cultivars require very simple pruning, while others need more attention. Although most clematises are fairly easy to grow, some cultivars are more vigorous growers with longer bloom times. (For plant specifics, see the Pruning Group 1, 2 and 3 entries on page 64.)
When buying a plant, look for multiple stems with healthy foliage and roots coming out of the pot’s drainage holes, rather than a spindly plant with lots of flowers or buds. It takes several years for a clematis vine to mature, so if you buy a bare-root or young plant you’ll need to baby it and wait a couple of years for blooms.
“The hardest thing is when you buy them at a garden center like Home Depot and they come in little square boxes with hardly any roots and one stem coming out of the top. That is just a touch-and-go time for them,” says Thad Napp, owner of Napp Landscape Services in Hygiene. “Nurseries sell older plants in larger containers so you’ll get a much more established plant and have a lot better success with it. You’ll pay more, but you’ll be happier in the long run.”
If you buy bare-root or very young plants, Beutler suggests putting them in a 1-gallon pot and letting them grow until roots exit the drainage holes before planting them. However, there are planting situations in which only small or bare-root clematises will work, such as in between flagstone pavers on a patio. In this circumstance, make sure to keep the vine moist for the first season and apply root stimulator.
How to Plant
Although a few clematises grow in partial shade, such as ‘Nelly Moser’, most require six hours or more of sun each day. Plants are happiest with “feet in the shade and head in the sun.” In other words, the roots like to be shaded while the foliage gets the sun. Plant vines behind a small bush or other plants, or use hardscape materials to shade the roots.
“I use 1- or 2-inch-thick flagstone pieces and put a 3-foot diameter grouping at the base of the plant to keep the root systems cool,” says horticulturist and public speaker Merle Moore, former executive director of Denver Botanic Gardens. He advises against using anything thicker, or it will conduct heat.
Like many plants in Colorado, clematises grow best when planted in spring. They prefer well-drained, rich soil. But before planting, Beutler advises cutting the foliage back by half—something many gardeners are loath to do. “You do this to reduce transplant shock,” she explains. “No matter how careful you are, you damage feeder roots when you transplant. The plant doesn’t have the ability to support top growth when its roots are damaged. And then the top growth will collapse and you’ll feel like a bad parent.” If the plant is flowering when you buy it, wait until after it’s finished to cut it back and plant.
For large-flowered hybrids, dig a hole twice as deep as your pot; these clematises have long roots that need room to grow. Plant the hybrids 2- to 3-inches deeper than where they sit in the pot. This allows buried nodes to make new growth.
For all other clematis types, plant them level with where they sit in the pot. Be as gentle as possible when planting your vine; the roots, crown and emerging vines are all fragile. Backfill the hole with rich soil mixed with organic compost, and then cover with mulch. For the first season, water as needed—about twice a week—to keep soil moist and to get the plant well established. Don’t overwater; clematis roots can’t handle being waterlogged. After you get a plant through its first year, it will usually continue to do well. But don’t pull it out if it appears to die; it may surprise you by popping back up next spring.
Give your new vine something to grow on, like a trellis, fence or arbor. A handy product at local nurseries is a downspout trellis—a tall, curved, green, plastic-coated grate that fits over a downspout. Or join two downspout trellises to cover a pole. A born climber, clematis will start looking for something to wrap its leaf stem around, a rather fascinating thing to observe. Keep in mind anything over a half-inch is too wide for a leaf stem to twist around. The more things there are to grab onto, the better for the vine.
If you have a trellis with big, wide-open gaps, add twine, fishing line or wire to the gap areas, or simply back the trellis with chicken wire. As the vine grows up the trellis, guide stems to open areas to provide wider coverage and flower display. Secure stems with reusable green Velcro gardening tape, available at most nurseries.
Once the clematis has a well-established root system, it can be transplanted fairly easily. Make sure your hole is ready before transplanting, and cut back and plant the same way you would for a new vine.
Well-established clematises put out an amazing amount of foliage and flowers each season. To keep a vine healthy, apply a good organic fertilizer, such as those with a 5-10-10 or 4-6-2 combination (the numbers represent the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, respectively). “Clematises generally are heavy feeders. If you don’t fertilize you’ll get fewer blooms and very lanky growth. It will be spindly and not very strong,” Beutler says. “But don’t use a lot of nitrogen because you want flowers, not leaves.” Any fertilizer mixture for roses also works well for clematises. If potted vines have yellowing leaves, your plant has a magnesium deficiency; use a tomato fertilizer.
In spring, fertilize before the plant blooms, but stop when the flower buds are maturing. “If you fertilize after this point, you’ll overtax the vascular system and the whole plant may collapse,” Beutler says. “It’s pretty dramatic and scary for a gardener to see this happen when they think they’re helping the plant. Often people think the plant has a disease, but basically they’re poisoning it.” If this happens, cut back the collapsed part, water well and the vine should recover.
After the vine finishes its initial bloom, fertilize monthly during the growing season, stopping again if it re-blooms.
Pruning helps clematises achieve large amounts of flowers on a nicely shaped vine that’s controlled in size. Pruning may seem intimidating, and gardeners are often overly cautious about it, but it’s actually fairly easy. Established clematises are tough, rapid growers—and forgiving, so you really can’t go wrong. If you can’t get to pruning one year, there’s always the next.
Clematises are divided into three basic “pruning groups.” If you know your vine’s species or cultivar, you can identify its pruning group online. If you don’t, observe when it blooms and the flowers’ attributes, then reference the “Clematis for Beginners” section on www.clematisinternational.com for photos and descriptions. If you prune at the wrong time for a given vine, you risk cutting off future flowers. When all else fails and you can’t identify a vine, simply prune it after its initial bloom.
If you have clematises from different pruning groups, you’ll need to keep track of this. Some gardeners tie ribbons or tags to trellises or stick plant identifiers in the ground; others rely on garden maps.
‘Clematis fargesii’ group 1
Pruning Group 1:
Clematises in this group, such as alpina and macropetala clematises, bloom in spring on old wood from the previous season. These vines do best in cooler temperatures, such as in the mountains. Although it’s nice to have a spring bloomer, Colorado’s late-spring snowstorms can freeze their buds.
“You can help avoid this by planting them where they get shade in early spring to delay their bloom period,” Moore says. This group needs only the barest pruning after its initial bloom period: Remove dead wood and shape or cut to manage size. They’re more likely to re-bloom if you fertilize after the first flowering.
Pruning Group 2:
This group contains the very showy, large-flowered hybrids that put on a spectacular display in early summer on vines that grow 10 feet tall or less. “Flowers measuring 10 inches across are not uncommon for certain varieties. If flower size matters, this is the group you want to grow,” Beutler says.
These clematises are considered the most demanding; they need rich soil and regular watering and fertilizing. The flowers grow on old wood from the previous summer with a second flowering on the new season’s growth. Pruning is done in the spring, about the same time as roses, and there are two options.
The first is to cut the entire plant back by a third or half. “You start at the top and follow each cane back until you see really fat, new buds. And you cut back to that point, about half an inch above that new bud,” Beutler says. “I look at a whole plant and judge it. If it’s gotten really tangled, I’ll be more ruthless and take it back by half. The more you prune, the more flowers you get.” After the initial bloom, you can prune again as desired. Fertilize again to promote a second bloom. This method is preferred if you want to keep some woody growth and height on a trellis or arbor, and prefer an earlier bloom with the possibility of a second flowering.
The second option is to cut the entire vine down to 12 inches in spring, leaving two sets of leaf buds per stem. “If you do this, the clematis will replenish its whole height during the season, but bloom later,” Beutler says. If you also grow Pruning Group 3 clematises, it keeps things simple, as they require the same method.
Pruning Group 3:
Summer & Fall Bloomers
This group contains late summer/early fall blooming vines, including large-flowered hybrids as well as several species groups such as viticellas, texensis and tanguticas. “These have smaller flowers, not quite as flashy as the large-flowered hybrids, but they’re very sophisticated, charming and vigorous. When you have them in your garden you love them,” says Panayoti Kelaidis, senior curator and director of outreach at Denver Botanic Gardens.
Moore highly recommends cultivars from the viticella group as they’re durable, come in a wide range of colors and flower forms, and grow at high altitudes. Best of all, they bloom profusely from early June to frost. (For a good online selection, see
Some vines in Pruning Group 3 are overly vigorous: “There are some that once established are totally indestructible. They self-sow and pop up all over,” Kelaidis says. “If you plant the white-flowered ligusticifolia, stand back—it will take over! But it has a more refined cousin, the popular ‘Sweet Autumn’.”
Pruning Group 3 vines flower mainly on new growth. “Hard” prune all stems to 12 inches from the ground in late fall/early winter, after a freeze, or in early spring, leaving two sets of leaf buds per stem. Napp advises spring pruning due to winter dieback on plants. But if you prefer a tidy garden, follow Moore’s practice: “In the late fall or early winter after a frost, when the foliage dies back, I cut mine to 3 feet. I tie the stems together to help protect the crown of the plant and let snow accumulate to insulate it from winter winds. Then in spring I cut it down again. So it’s an easy cleanup,” he says.
If you don’t prune plants in this group, you’ll end up with long, bare woody “legs” devoid of foliage or blooms.
Don’t pull out old tangled clematises in any pruning groups that don’t seem to bloom; they most likely can be revived. Cut back all growth in early spring to 12 inches, water and fertilize well, and the vine should rejuvenate within the season.
Once you understand the basic pruning principles, you can alter your practices to meet your gardening goals. For instance, if you want a ‘Jackmanii’ (Pruning Group 3) to grow to the second story of your house, it will never reach there if you cut it back to 12 inches each spring. Instead, knowing it will grow about 10 feet a year, let it grow until it’s where you’d like it.
Conversely, for Pruning Group 2, the more you cut back these plants, the more you delay the bloom period. “This gives you a chance to manipulate the plant combinations and the flower combinations in your garden,” Beutler says.
My own pruning practices are a bit inconsistent, despite the fact that I’ve grown several-dozen spectacular clematises and should know better. Yet they all bloom profusely and are showstoppers in my garden, so why change now? What I’m really working on is trying to call my vines “CLEM-a-tis!”
Think outside the pot when it comes to planting flower displays. Anything from hats and drawers to colanders and pails can become a container. Here are 10 “pots” to consider.
By Mary Leigh Howell
photos courtesy www.digdropdone.com
This growing season, swap out pedestrian flowerpots for more fanciful fare. Flowers don’t care about their container, as long as they have water, drainage and proper light.
“Anything from birdhouses to rain boots to discarded dresser drawers can play host to flowering bulbs,” says Amy Dube, flower bulb expert for www.digdropdone.com. And there’s no need to purchase something new. Shop your garage, attic and garden shed for potential items.
Summer-flowering bulbs like dwarf lilies, calla lilies and dahlias fare well in container gardens and prefer full sun. Dahlias are typically thought of as taller flowers, but for container gardening, low-growing series dahlias like Gallery, Melody and Karma are best. Begonias, caladiums, elephant ears and pineapple lily are also good container-plant choices, but prefer partial shade.
Tall or straight flowers will look best in the middle; ones that cascade are better near the perimeter. When combining different plants in one container, select those with similar bloom times for the greatest visual impact.
Create a balanced look by using complementary colors like yellow and purple. Adding annuals with your favorite summer-flowering bulbs will create a full container and provide instant color.
Here are 10 containers to consider for spring. Happy potting!
1. Recycled Jug
‘Lemon Pixie’ daylilies happily grow in a recycled plastic jug. Saw or cut off the jug’s top and drill a hole in the bottom before planting. ‘Lemon Pixie’ is a dwarf Asiatic hybrid that reaches 12 to 18 inches in height.
2. Straw Hat
‘Candy Prince’ tulips bordered by anemone windflowers are a delightful spring surprise to pull out of a hat. Use a plastic plant liner with a drainage hole to keep in moisture and protect the hat, which will also need a drainage hole to prevent water from rotting the fibers.
A tripod of posts suspends this hanging basket in a meadow. This is a perfect container for a very sunny area. Dwarf pineapple lilies stand tall in the center, and trailing annuals spill over the side. Pineapple lily nectar is especially attractive to bees.
4. Rain boots
Spring-flowering bulbs, including daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, sprout from these colorful rain boots. Make sure to drill a hole in the bottom of the boots. Otherwise, bulbs will become waterlogged and rot. No liner is necessary.
5. Straw purse
Two colors of calla lilies share this “tote-able” container. Place a plastic planting liner in the bottom of the tote, but make sure it and the tote have drainage holes. When planting calla lilies, the “eyes” or growing points should face upward. Callas do better if they don’t get hot midday sun.
This cluster of sand pails (be sure to drill drainage holes) is filled with low-growing pink and white dwarf gladioluses. Unlike their full-sized cousins, dwarf gladioluses only reach 16 to 32 inches tall and don’t require staking. They like full sun and plenty of water. If deer or other pests roam your patio, fear not: Gladioluses are critter-resistant.
Shallow file drawers are a fine option for begonias, which prefer to be planted right beneath the soil surface. Use a power drill to create several drainage holes in the drawer bottoms. No liner is necessary.
8. China Bowls
These spring-flowering iris, hyacinth and muscari bulbs were forced to bloom indoors in winter. When forcing bulbs indoors, use containers without a drainage hole. When planting any forced bulb, it’s best to cover the bulb with soil up to its “shoulders” but leave the “nose” exposed. Keep the soil moist but not wet. And don’t fill the bowls full with soil. Leave room for watering, so the pot won’t overflow.
This birdhouse pulls double duty and is a unique way to repurpose an existing item in the garden. A “roof” of flowering bulbs provides cover for the feeding area below. Using moss as “mulch” is a colorful touch, and it also retains moisture. This house will need plenty of water as it’s in direct sunlight all day.
‘White Splendor’ windflowers trail from the sides of this enamel colander. Colander holes provide great drainage, but also more air exposure, so line it with a coco liner to keep plants moist.
Agriculture program takes high schoolers out of the traditional classroom and into the greenhouse.
By Heather Riffel Ridge
Austin McDougal was in a rut. As a high school junior, he wasn’t sure where his future was headed. “I was struggling with the lack of connection between what I was learning in class and life after graduation,” he says.
McDougal loved being outdoors and considered a career in construction, but he wasn’t sure it was the right fit. After taking a botany class at New Vista High School, his teacher recommended he explore the topic further by signing up for the agriculture program at the Boulder Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC).
“The program gave me an opportunity to explore my options before committing to a degree, and to see what this career would feel like day to day,” McDougal says.
After getting his agriculture-program certification and graduating from high school in 2009, McDougal and another program graduate spent almost a year working in New Zealand in the horticulture industry. “It was a great opportunity to make some money, travel, and experience other places in the world to see how they run their agricultural systems,” he says.
Upon returning to Colorado, McDougal started taking horticulture classes at Front Range Community College to learn more about soil science while working at a local organic farm. He had found his calling, he says.
Established in 1964 as the district’s vocational school, the Boulder CTEC has undergone a transformation. Where before it was seen as a place to pick up a skill or trade for students not planning on attending college, it now offers college credit to high school students in a variety of different career paths.
Often described as one of Boulder Valley School District’s best-kept secrets, CTEC classes are sometimes too secret, says Andrew Tucker, BVSD’s director of counseling services and student engagement, who wishes more students would avail themselves of CTEC offerings. “Career and technical education is an ideal way to provide students with real-world educational experiences that help them find relevancy in their learning,” Tucker says. “Few courses that I’ve encountered have engaged students more than CTEC classes, including the agriculture program.”
“I had no idea what direction I wanted to go in college,” reflects Morgan Briggs (pictured at far right), a 2012 agriculture-program graduate. While her mother always had plants in the house, Briggs didn’t discover her own love of gardening until enrolling in the greenhouse-management class on the advice of a friend.
Intrigued by the “processes of living things,” Briggs is finishing her biology degree at Colorado Mountain College before transferring to Colorado State University next year. “I’ve realized my love for the plant kingdom. I frequently use the knowledge I obtained from the (CTEC) class in my college biology, microbiology and environmental-science classes.”
CTEC’s agriculture program is open to any Boulder Valley School District junior or senior and currently offers two semester-long classes in greenhouse management and urban agriculture. Both courses count for credit at Front Range Community College. Agriculture-program students study subjects such as plant anatomy, propagation and soil science. Outside in the CTEC greenhouse, orchard and chicken coop, students apply their knowledge learning how to grow plants, make floral arrangements and tend chickens.
They also supply flowers and eggs for fundraisers that help them understand the industry’s business management and entrepreneurial sides. Students develop leadership skills through participation in Future Farmers of America, and hone professional skills through interview competitions and résumé-writing workshops.
Now an undergraduate at the University of Hawaii, Leo Louis can’t remember a time he didn’t love gardening. “I always tell people that if they haven’t eaten a carrot freshly pulled out of the ground, then they don’t even know what a carrot is supposed to taste like.” A 2012 agriculture-program graduate, Louis is majoring in ethnobotany and frequently stops on his way to classes to photograph the island’s tropical plants. “I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do in the plant world; there are so many possibilities,” he says.
But Louis feels sure his gardening passion will lead to a variety of career paths. According to a recent Purdue University study, an average of 54,000 job openings occur annually in agriculture, from plant propagation, organic gardening and nursery management to food science, plant pathology and natural-resources conservation. Agriculture is one of Colorado’s largest industries, and more than 60 unique degree programs are offered at colleges and universities across the state.
“This industry is booming and there are a lot of different opportunities out there,” says an enthusiastic Mark Frey, who supervises several thousand square feet of growing space as assistant grower for Gulley Greenhouse & Garden Center in Fort Collins. Frey enrolled in the CTEC agriculture program as a junior in 2008. “I saw a career path ahead of me and figured, why not get a head start?”
After graduating from Boulder High School, Frey worked a summer at Sturtz & Copeland and interned at Denver Botanic Gardens. He then enrolled in the horticulture program at Colorado State University. “I saw so many students change their majors several times, which often set them back a year,” he says. With the high costs of tuition, Frey wanted to graduate in four years or less, and credits his time in the CTEC program as a chance to explore a career before committing to college.
McDougal went on to become maintenance foreman for Ecoscape Environmental Design in Boulder and recently decided to pursue a teaching career in agricultural education. He still finds time to give back to CTEC, though, by serving as chair of the advisory board. “It’s really a win-win situation,” he says. “I feel like I get to leave a mark on the future of our industry.”
A Vision and a View
- Published on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 13:02
- Written by Karen Mitchell
By Karen Mitchell
For Joe and Colleen Bammann, the eleventh remodel may be the charm.
Over the years, the DIY couple has remodeled several previous homes. With no prior construction skills, the Bammanns started off merely painting but quickly graduated to installing skylights, kitchen counters, cabinets, flooring and landscapes, and even designing and constructing rooms.
Their latest project is a total remodel of their 3,400-square-foot ranch home that has taken them five years. With three grown children and artful pursuits, the couple says working on their home is a labor of love—literally.
“Joe is a photographer and stained-glass artist, whose pieces are around the house and garden,” Colleen says. “I make fiber cards and art quilts. We both have lots of interests, but renovating is what we do together, so we loved the time spent together remodeling this house.”
The Bammanns found their home by a fluke. “We were having a hard time finding just the right new place,” Colleen says. “We wanted a ranch-style house on at least an acre, with a view and a garage.” Joe, an IT professional and former IBM project manager, had been scouring real estate listings and stumbled across a farm listing. The 5-acre property near Erie backs up to 200 acres of state-owned land with endless prairie and mountain views. It also has a large garage for the couple’s car collection, which includes a 1965 Ford Mustang fastback and a Shelby Cobra replica that Joe built by hand.
But the home was woefully outdated and in need of repair. The Bammanns were the perfect match for the place, Colleen says, because “it felt good, and we didn’t see the work ahead.” Although they only added a 120-square-foot sunroom and enclosed part of the back porch, the Bammanns’ hard labor throughout completely transformed the home and the landscape.
Big Room, Big Heart
Before moving in, Joe ripped out the carpeting and discovered subfloor underneath. “We scattered Oriental rugs around until we installed the flooring,” Colleen says. The couple eventually installed ¾-inch oak hardwood floors by themselves, and then painted all four bedrooms, three in a light gray. “I wanted something neutral and calming, especially since I quilt in one of the bedrooms,” Colleen says. They opted for beige in the master bedroom and main living areas, similar to a shade they’d seen in show homes.
The Bammanns say “the big room”—a 900-square-foot family room—is the heart of their home, and they opted to fully remodel it. They realized they needed advice, so the DIY couple enlisted Gerry Karnish of Karnish Interiors LCC in Boulder. “Gerry had great ideas and listened to our needs. He understood our budget and the fact that we were doing it ourselves,” Colleen says. “We can’t thank him enough.”
With western and southern exposures, the big room was perfect for capitalizing on passive solar, Colleen says. So they took the fireplace surround down to 5 feet and installed a large rectangular Pella window above it for a direct view of Longs Peak. They also replaced the windows on either side of the fireplace with larger, energy-efficient models to bring in the views and sunlight, and repurposed part of the original kitchen’s oak floor into the fireplace mantel.
The 26-foot-long galley kitchen was boxed off and had only one window over the sink. “You had to lean to see out of it,” Colleen says. They installed skylights, new lighting, granite countertops and an island with a range. They purchased the granite at Costco and had Denver’s Front Range Granite & Marble cut it to fit. They also reconfigured the kitchen by moving the refrigerator and cutting a hole in the wall where it had stood to make a doorway to the new sunroom they added on. Joe designed the room with west-facing windows to let in views and light, and a peaked roof to lend interest to the profile.
Far as the Eye Can See
Perhaps the most visually significant improvement is the home’s siding. The Bammanns replaced the original rusty metal siding with new wood siding in “prairie dust” hues. “Sometimes it looks gray, sometimes tan, according to the weather,” Colleen says. “It changed the whole look of the house.”
The landscaping was another major project, as the lot had only one tree in the front yard and the entire acreage was simply dirt and weeds. With help from daughters Lindsey and Amanda, and support from son Josh, “we put down grass seed and gravel, and planted trees, bushes and flowers,” Colleen says. “We dug holes and planted 50 shrubs and 50 trees from the CSU Extension in Longmont. If you have more than 2 acres, you can get seedlings there for about a dollar apiece.”
The Bammanns got landscaping rocks by scouring Craigslist, and hauled off a lot of free ones from folks who just wanted the rocks off their property. Joe added an outdoor deck and recycled the big room’s old windows for the patio’s glassed-in porch. “We tried to reuse or repurpose everything we ripped out,” Colleen says, including the oak flooring in the original kitchen, most of which they sold on Craigslist. “Someone bought it to install in their kitchen, so it got reused,” Joe says.
Throughout the remodel, they gathered inspiration at every opportunity. “Each time we looked at Boulder County Home & Garden Magazine and got an idea from it, we said, ‘If they can do it, we can do it,’” Colleen says. “We took so many little ideas from each issue, including how to plant to attract the good bees—not wasps—and other ideas about furniture placement, rugs and window treatments.”
Although their cozy remodeled home makes the work look easy, remodeling is always a challenge, the Bammanns admit, with all the research, searching for deals, thinking and talking, and heavy lifting and moving. “I have to say it was the hardest five years of my life,” Colleen says, “but the best five years working with my partner for life.”
The secret, Joe says, is to keep pushing forward. “Whatever it is will still be waiting for you tomorrow,” he says. He’s already at work remodeling the master bath. He plans to install new flooring, walls and cabinets, and add a new shower. He’s fixed the leaky skylight and refinished an 1890 nickel-foot cast-iron tub they bought to be the room’s centerpiece. But he’s taking it slowly, he jokes, because “the house will be done and then it will be time to move again.”
You’d think that after all that work, moving would be the last thing on this couple’s mind, but, “we may live here for 10 years, or sell next year,” Colleen says with a shrug. “You get a feeling in your heart when it’s time to go.”