Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I've Been Pondering Other Things ...
There are several reasons for the abrupt cessation of my reports from pondside. The day after pond completion, I boarded a plane bound for Denver to join Essence Man for a long weekend in the Mile High City. (EM recently changed jobs and his new company needed his talents in their Denver office for a couple of weeks.) This was my first trip there and only EM's second trip (the previous visit was in the company of his male relatives for their annual "baseball trip", which comprises in effect a few innings of a baseball game and many, many rounds in bars and restaurants. I mention this to explain why he didn't really see much of the area on that first visit). Having several friends who rhapsodize about Colorado and the Rocky Mountains, I was eager to learn for myself what all the fanfare was about. Not only did I come to share their passion for the mountains over the weekend, I found myself fantasizing about ways we could get back there more often. I'd heard from some people who love Colorado but aren't so fond of Denver, finding it too smoggy, busy, whatever. I'm a city girl, born & raised, so I felt quite comfortable there. When a fellow visitor to the Botanic Gardens heard where I was from, she commented that the unseasonable humidity that day probably didn't seem that bad to me. I had to laugh and tell her that no, for someone used to Houston's weather, Denver was anything but humid! More on the amazing and inspiring Botanic Gardens in a future post ... for now, suffice it to say that I spent hours there and feel like I barely scratched the surface. Here's a shot of the native plantings bed near the front of the gardens.
With me being a gardener, obviously the things that got my attention were mostly garden related. We stayed in the Denver Technological Center area and I was absolutely wowed by the plantings I saw around the office buildings, at the hotel, and in the medians. True, they are spiffing things up in preparation for the Democratic convention, but I didn't see so much attention to other areas of Denver, including the convention center. It was a delight to see artfully arranged rudbeckias, verbena bonariensis, salvias, petunias, sweet potato vines and more gracing beds and planters. Kudos to whoever designed them! I'm still ticked at myself for not getting any pictures of them, although it would have been kind of hard to do so from the car.
The most ubiquitous plant in Denver would have to be Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia). On every residential street we traveled, I'd see at least a couple of homes where these plants were growing, more often than not unaccompanied by other plants. They frequently seem to be placed just at the corner where yard meets driveway or sidewalk. I got the feeling they're pretty much have to fend for themselves, and they like it that way. The picture is of one at the DBG.One of our favorite things to do when on vacation is eat breakfast out. Thanks to a recommendation from one of EM's co-workers, we visited Lucile's Creole Cafe on Saturday morning. Although we'd been told to expect crowds, the sheer number of folks waiting for tables was daunting. Since we wanted to drive up to Vail afterwards, we didn't want to spend valuable time waiting for a table. Fortunately, there were two seats open at the bar. Not only did we enjoy a scrumptious breakfast, our fellow diners at the bar were gregarious and entertaining local residents. Our delightful and vivacious bartender was the crowning touch on our experience: she makes an awesome Bloody Mary and is a great conversationalist. (Turned out she was a veggie and herb gardener so it's no wonder I liked her! I encouraged her to join the blogosphere and tell us about her garden adventures at the foot of the mountains.) As for the food, it's authentic as well as excellent: the beignets were every bit as divine as those at Cafe Du Monde. EM is a New Orleans resident and Lucile's has his endorsement. So if you're ever in Denver, go to Lucile's, sit at the bar and take Kia's recommendations on what to order! The picture is from a home you can see from the front porch of Lucile's: I loved the exuberance of all the roses and how they stood out, yet worked with, the house.We also ate at Denver's oldest restaurant, the Buckhorn Exchange. EM being of an adventurous nature, insisted on ordering rattlesnake in a light cream sauce as an appetizer, with buffalo and elk as his main course. I did NOT try even a tiny bite of his rattlesnake. Uh uh, no way (and I made him brush his teeth and rinse with Listerine before I'd kiss him!). A thunderstorm hit Denver just as we arrived at the restaurant and the rain was so torrential that even the wait staff was shocked. On our way back to our hotel, traffic slowed to a crawl on I25: it turned out that the freeway had flooded and traffic had to move left into 2 lanes VERY slowly. This was the first but not the only time I was absolutely stunned by the courtesy and consideration of Denver drivers. There is no way you would ever see Houston drivers moving over hundreds of yards before the lane closure, in polite and orderly succession, no one attempting to speed their way to the front of the line. It was mind-boggling (sadly).
More on the trip later, including pictures from Vail and the Estes Park area. As I mentioned, there were other reasons for my not having reported on the pond status or my trip sooner. Probably due to the changes in climate, I came down with sinusitis shortly after I returned home last week. Within a couple of days, the infection had moved into my chest and I had bronchitis. This is the usual course of things for me, due to an inherited tendency to respiratory problems. Not many people are aware of a disease called Alpha-1 Anti-Trypsin Deficiency. My dad was diagnosed with the disease at age 43 and despite the dire predictions of the doctors at that time, he lived with it until age 66, although not ever easily. Because it is an inherited deficiency, I was tested during my pregnancy with my daughter. Although I did not inherit Alpha-1, I do have a combination of genes that makes me more susceptible to lung problems. I urge y'all to read about it and if you have any reason to believe it might be a problem for you or someone you know, get tested or urge them to do so. Not only did we lose my dad to Alpha-1, we lost my cousin Larry at an even younger age to cirrhosis of the liver caused by the disease. So I have good reason to be emphatic on this particular subject and I thank you for listening. Now, back to my health issues: I've spent most of the last week lazing about on the sofa or bed, or puttering on the computer, but I haven't felt well enough to string more than a few Twitters or Plurks together. I put blogging about my trip and my gardens on the back burner until I felt better. And I do, so I am.
As for the pond, I have yet to make it to Nelson Water Gardens for plants and fish, due to absence and illness as mentioned above. I'll probably wait until next week to pay Nelson's a visit since EM has big plans for us in the days to come. I'm kind of enjoying the anticipation: it's as much fun for me to think about choosing plants and fish for the bog and pond as it will be to actually do it! One thing that I decided last Tuesday morning, the first chance I'd had to see the pond upon my return home: the messy species vitex next to it had to go! The pond and bog were riddled with leaf litter from the vitex ... not a pretty sight. I managed to get all the branches removed and hauled away before the sinusitis, etc. felled me. I still have to saw off the rest of the trunk and then dig out the stump. Here's how the pond looks now that the water is clear.
Oh, yeah, that fiercesome creature pictured at the top is a Colorado native who insisted upon being expatriated from the Rocky Mountains to take up residence here in Texas. Since one does not argue with a piranha, I acquiesced to his demands that he be allowed to reside at pond's edge. He has not yet deigned to tell me his name ... perhaps when I bring in more plants and create a more hospitable environment for him, he will see fit to share that information!