Diary of a Professional Water Gardener
by Joseph V. Tomocik
Photos by Joe Mascarenas - Click to enlarge
Joe Tomocik and Bob Hoffman
Denver Botanic Gardens . . . Among the Finest
Giant praying mantis watches over the
Botanic gardens are impressive cultural facilities. I often explain
to people that it is great to be a part of something magnificent.
Denver Botanic Gardens is an ever-growing vibrant institution
serving well the Denver community, with tendrils reaching across
the globe. Major departments include Special Events, Development,
Research, Education and Horticulture. The main site (formerly
a cemetery) takes in 23 acres (9.3 hectares) and is a mere ten
minutes from downtown Denver, Colorado USA.
The Boettcher Conservatory is an architectural landmark. Orchids
from our renowned collection are often displayed here.
On the outside grounds are a myriad of expertly designed,
maintained and interpreted gardens. Notable Gardens include the
Rock Alpine Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Romantic Gardens
and the Water-Smart Garden.
Denver Botanic Gardens is a celebrated leader in low maintenance
and low water requirement (xeriscape) gardens. These include
the Ponderosa Border, Sacred Earth, Dryland Mesa and Plains Gardens.
A Water Garden Runs Through It
Traversing the grounds from east to west is an elaborate connected
waterway with two huge pools (Victoria Pool and Monet Garden
Pool) and a number of channels, falls, and smaller pools. Five
of the smaller pools also display aquatic plants.
In all, we maintain sixteen water features at our main site.
We display waterlilies and other aquatic plants in most of these.
Featured plants include Victoria waterlilies, hardy waterlilies,
tropical waterlilies, lotuses and marginals. Fly Trap Feast represents
an assortment of container water gardens showcasing carnivorous
Lair O' the Bear
Often on my off day, I take an easy 35-minute ride to scenic
Bear Creek Canyon. Here, a 392-acre open space park, Lair O'
the Bear (part of Jefferson Park Open Space), includes a number
of superbly maintained and marked trails.
I usually hike the 1.1-mile Bruin Bluff Trail which parallels
Bear Creek (originating from the 14,000 ft. peaks of the Front
Range of the Rocky Mountains), and then heads up the mountainside
before returning again to the churning waters of Bear Creek.
I do not come here to work. I may take a book or newspapers.
I know where all six of the benches are located. My favorites
are the two with backs. I take my binoculars to watch the birds
and other animal life. Last Thursday I spotted numerous brown
butterflies with yellow wings.
I do not go to Bear Creek to study, rather to be there, and
to take in whatever comes my way. Signs along the creek explain
that fly-fishing only is allowed. Yes, I have caught a few. Rainbow
trout must immediately be returned to the water. Two brown trout
may be kept. There are many picnic areas, each having charcoal
grills (I have grilled a steak or two on these) and trash receptacles.
The grills are cleaned regularly, usually by volunteers who are
courteous and official looking. I often see them taking notes
and policing the area.
The information station offers an abundance of information
discussing the history, trails, birds and dangers of the nature
park. Rules and regulations are clearly posted. Signage cautions
against feeding the wildlife and wandering off paths. Dogs must
be on a leash.
I always feel refreshed as I leave Lair O' the Bear, and I return
often. What an excellent example and model of conservation and
environmental stewardship it provides. The chances are good that
our children and future generations will be able to enjoy the
fishing, picnicking, hiking, history, education and solitude
of Lair O' the Bear.
Blue heron, frequent
visitor to DBG
Denver Botanic Gardens too, is committed to environmental
stewardship and is taking various steps in support of this. For
example, the Gardens are a signatory of the Voluntary Codes of
Conduct for Botanic Gardens and Arboreta (Center for Plant Conservation).
Recently I spoke with fellow WGI member Kelly Billing who,
along with Richard (Dick) Shuck, has done work using aquatic
plants for removing pollutants from water. We will demonstrate
this in our gardens, while educating about the dangers of using
destructive invasive plants.
Big Bugs and Carnivorous Plants
Meanwhile, until June 24 WGI Member Denver Botanic Gardens
is displaying the thought-provoking Big Bug Exhibit created by
David Rogers. In the Monet Garden Pond we have fun working around
and with a dragonfly measuring 17 feet (5.2 meters) by 17 feet
(5.2 meters). More Big
Plant-insect relationships are a major theme for us this year.
Our lobby court is divided into four areas. I am designing and
maintaining an area featuring carnivorous plants. Using glazed
containers turned at various angles, we are growing signature
carnivorous plants including the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula),
butterwort (Pinguicula sp.), pitcher plant (Sarracenia
sp.) and sundew (Drosera sp.).
< Pitcher plants More
^ Venus flytrap
At the information desk we have an arrangement where visitors
can activate the "traps" of the flytraps. We have 72-pack
trays with the plants having seven or more traps each. That is
504 chances of fun.
Our carnivorous plant collection is growing and we display
them in different ways. I have long been excited about these
most curious of all plants. This fast-growing area has a boundless
future. With the carnivorous plants we have the umbrella plant
(Cyperus alternifolius), green taro (Colosia esculenta)
and Mexican petunia (Ruellia brittoniana 'Purple Shower').
Yes, we know a bit about waterlilies too!
Through our Waterlily Trials and in conjunction with leading
hybridizers and nurseries, we have evaluated, named and introduced
a host of exciting new waterlilies. Plus there are so many old
favorites that are fun to display.
In our Celebrity Pool this year we display and label Nymphaea
'Mary Mirgon' (Winch), N. 'Shirley Bryne' (Bryne), N.
'Colorado (Strawn), N 'Stan Skinger' (Florida Aquatic
Nurseries), N. 'Foxfire' (Presnell), N. 'Charlie's
Pride' (Winch) and yes, N. 'Joey Tomocik' (Strawn).
of Big Bugs, Pitcher Plants, CWGS Volunteers
Miami Valley Water Garden Society
I had the pleasure in March of being invited to give a presentation
to the Miami Valley Water Garden Society in Dayton, Ohio. I was
treated like royalty from the moment I got off the plane by society
leaders Patricia and Jerry Woodbury. The audience was large,
cordial and responsive. Congratulations to Patricia, Jerry and
the Society on their success and exciting plans for the year!
Colorado Water Gardening Society
Meanwhile, the Colorado Water Gardening Society (CWGS) has
been averaging 16 volunteers now for six straight Sundays at
Denver Botanic Gardens. The society remains vital to our water
gardens program and continues to excel in education and support
of the Gardens and the Denver community. More volunteer photos
See you at poolside, Joe T.
- Joe Tomocik