Colorado Day 9 - Breckenridge

Note: This series of blogs are now written well after the Colorado trip. It is amazing to find oneself in areas that do not have reliable internet access or where there are better things to do. So I hiked and photographed and explored and put aside my laptop. I will now continue to recount the tale, but at a pace a full time day job and evenings with many projects will permit...

A Visit with Jane Hendrix

When my friend Anne heard I as visiting the Colorado Mountains, she said "You must visit Jane Hendrix and see her garden. She grows great alpines. We hear from her on the NARGS forum quite a bit. She is very knowledgeable. And her pictures are outstanding." So we made arrangements. Jane graciously not only opened her garden to us, but offered to guide us up the mountain from her back yard.

Let me diverge here to offer yet another reason to join NARGS (North American Rock Garden Society): like minded gardeners. When you join NARGS you have access to a list of members who open their gardens in locations around the world. These gardens are all unique as well as being some of the finest gardens worldwide. They range from small private sanctuaries to large botanic parks, with quite a few estate gardens in between. The common theme throughout is great gardeners with a keen interest in plants.

Our first day in Breckenridge started with some sun, but not enough to help us jump start out of bed. I spotted a doe in the back yard as we breakfasted. Ugh, forest rats are here too! But it was hard not to soften at the scene. After all this was the deer's forest. We headed off to Jane's after a quick trip to the market in town. Turned out, Jane's place was a little more difficult to find than usual. There has been so much rain that roads and bridges washed out. And our GPS failed! We arrived a little late, but found her patiently waiting.
Mountain View Experimental Gardens
Clouds were beginning to crowd the sky so we decided not to stop at her garden first. Rather we would take a good look on the way back. Just out her back door was a lush wet meadow. As we trod through
grass, I thought of times long ago in the California mountain meadows. But this was a little different - more moisture. Perhaps the beavers are just more active here. At any rate, the mertensia was very lusty, and even of an all-pink variety.
Mertensia ciliata
We continued along the path. Oh look, it's my favorite Trollius- laxus albiflorus. Do you grow it? I am still trying in my northeast garden. If I lived in the mountains of Colorado, this would be a first choice plant.
Trollius laxus albiflorus
Down and around we curved as we walked, checking out the meadow. The dodecatheons were knee high and prime.
Dodecatheon pulchellum
At last we saw the beaver dam, which kept that beautiful meadow moist. Yes, and we saw there was a little tree damage from the beetles. It looks sad. But I guess beetles get a natural cycle of life too. "Wood from the beetle-killed is scheduled to be used for either board lumber or wood pellets for home heating.  The Forest Service lands that are accessible by road will be cut by commercial loggers.  The rest of the dead trees will stand until they fall in the normal course of nature's cycling.  While they are standing, they will reduce the hazard of a disastrous crown fire by keeping the forest canopy open with their large, spreading, fire-resistant branches...dead trees are not more fire-prone than living trees.  The opposite is actually the truth." Jane noted.
Beaver Pond
We followed our intrepid leader up an old miner's road through the hillside. Imagine the life of miner, working to clear a path through the forest a hundred years ago. Think of the tools with which you had to work. Ok, granted, most of them are a little more substantial than what we have today. But at the very least you had to lug them from where they were sold to your remote forest hill. And be able to repair them. Then as you cleared, you built stone walls through the woods, and moved your wagon and supplies up the hill to the mine. That was all just to get to the source of your dig. Then you spent your time panning icy streams, or digging caverns in the earth. What a life! But these men helped settle the West. My gratitude goes to them.
Miner's road
Last winter's snow level was pretty easy to spot once we saw this tree. A porcupine ate the nutritious bark for a midwinter snack. Jane taught us to id spruce (square) and fir (flat) along the way.
Porcupine munchies
We made it to the hut in record time. What a great place to find on a remote mountain hillside. It was moved here and rebuilt for the winter ski season. How romantic - a hideaway for some winter holiday rendezvous! Lunch was well deserved and very tasty. It was clouding over a bit so we decided to head back instead of continuing to more alpine regions.
Hallelujah Hut
On the way, Jane showed us a little patch of calypso. This is an orchid we also find on the east coast, but not often. It prefers higher elevations and is circumpolar. She showed us a stand of over 30 stalks, but they were all past bloom. Luckily there was a loner at a darker edge of the forest. It saluted us we as strode by.
Calypso bulbosa
Rumblings began in the mountains to the west. Down the mountain we moved quickly and found new miner's trails.
Miner's Road
At last we were back at Jane's back yard. Can you see yourself looking at this in the morning when you get out of bed? What a treat. Even on a gray day like this one, there is an intensity of joy from seeing the castillejas. And for good measure, and a little balance, throw in some purple lupines.
Castilleja miniata
By the time we reached her house, the sky began to drip. I managed to get a couple of shots of the garden- more of that wonderful dodecatheon, mixed with a great collection of primula. Everything in the garden was growing with gusto. Even Chionophila jamesii was blooming, though it was too dark by the time I saw it to get a good photo. What a great grower she is.
Dodecatheon in the garden with primula
Penstemons were blooming very well - especially this hybrid. I have seen it in a few gardens, but none more well grown.

Penstemon 'Breitenbush Blue'
The final pièce de résistance was this outstanding example of senecio. I never knew I could love another yellow daisy quite so much.
Senecio amplectans holmii
Then the weather became overpowering, yielding a full scale downpour. We retreated inside to wait out the worst of it. Jane and her husband Klaus were most hospitable. They regaled us with tea and winter tales of bears checking out the snow to see if it was high enough...looking to jump to the second story bird feeder.

We were lucky enough to purchase some booklets Klaus and Jane had published. It turned out these were my best field guides. Easy to pack and weighing much less than my reference books, they were tucked into the backpacks for day trips.

To see the entire adventure with many more photos of the plants, follow this link A Visit with Jane


Jane and Klaus are really amazing people: they are real treasures of the Rockies! They have a terrific website:

Most of my friends who visit say it is a highlight of their Rockies visit.

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