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!


LOL, Huston drivers sound like Chicagoland drivers. I wonder if Russian Sage is the Stella D'Oro of Denver? I love Piranha fish, although I can't tell whether it's grinning or grimacing. Your pond's looking great already. Now that you're feeling better, you can dive in to planting it. (Sorry about the bad pun.)
Annie in Austin said…
Hi Cindy,

What a mix of pain and pleasure, wonderful food, traveling, doctors, and yard art. Denver has never been more than mildly interesting to me as a destination but you're sure making it sound worth a look some day.

I'd have missed you quicker but GBBD got in there along with continued need to water.

The pond looks good and taking a vitex out from the edge seems wise - I like mine but it sheds leaves and seeds. But I'm sorry to hear about your illness and am glad you're on the mend.

I'm still chuckling about the mouthwash after rattlesnake story.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose
Yea!! You got to the Rockies! We always see Russian Sage in Colorado, and it is also pretty in Santa Fe, NM. Sorry you have been sick, hope you are getting better.
The pond is looking great! I love the rocks--how do you like them now that it is finished?
Anonymous said…
We LOVE Colorado (don't all Texans?), and though we haven't spent time in Denver we often fantasize about moving there in the summertime. Ha! I'm so glad you made it to Estes Park, one of our favorite summer destinations. Did you stop in Boulder too?

I'll remember your recommendations for dining in Denver. Your pond looks great, and I'm glad you're feeling better. Welcome back!
Cindy, MCOK said…
MMD, I LOLed re Pervoskia as Denver's Stella: I thought of you & that post while I was there! And I know you well enough to say that you're not a bit sorry for that bad pun ... confess! confess! (or I'll poke you with the soft cushion).

Annie, there's so much to see around Denver that even if you don't care for the city itself, you can find somewhere else that makes you happy. The Botanic Gardens alone were worth it to me! There are 3 other DBG locations not too far outside Denver. Those are on my list for next time.

MT, I've seen Russian Sage flourishing in Santa Fe, too. The gardens along Canyon Road are always lovely. I really love the rocks around the pond ... the big flat ones are just too cool.

Pam, we went through Boulder but didn't stop anywhere good. I'd say Arby's doesn't count! I have this thing when we're traveling: I want to eat at local places, not franchises, so we can enjoy something different. I can only push EM so far, though, so I agreed to Arby's for the sake of marital harmony.

Thanks, y'all, for the well wishes. I'm getting there.
Gail said…

I am so glad you are feeling better! I have been out of pocket with Frances (Faire Garden's) staying here that I didn't even visit plurk much to catch up! Your trip sounds wonderful. When my Mr and I were newly weds I tried to talk him into moving to San Francisco and Boulder...he wouldn't budge from Nashville! I love Colorado...funny thing he is there now hiking!

The pond looks wonderful. ..amazing how fast the water clears!

Robin Ripley said…
What a great report. That Russian Sage is hearty, isn't it? I plunked some in my herb garden this year and have been amazed at how it has thrived. I will definitely plant more--although I probably won't abandon it by the mailbox.

Gardening Examiner

Thanks again for How to Mourn a Kitten. :)
Anonymous said…
Well, I wondered where you'd got off to! I've never been to Colorado, but yearn to go there some day. I've been having lung problems. I'm looking this up, as I don't even have a family history period! So my whole genetic makeup is one big mystery! I took out a small tree last year behind my pond. I get enough leaves off the crepe myrtles.
Lori said…
I have such pond envy now, Cindy. Even without plants around it, it's looking good.

As for Colorado, I'm thrilled to hear about their love of Russian Sage. It's one of my favorite plants, and one that I've never had much success with. Those botanical gardens look like my kind of style.

I hope you're feeling better now. :)
Cindy, MCOK said…
Gail, we've lived in the Houston area all 25 years of our marriage. I told EM that if he were offered a long term assignment in Denver, I'm good to go!

Robin, I'm going to plant Russian Sage this fall in one of the lean & mean zones. Maybe that will make it happy. We'll see.

Brenda, do talk to your doctor about Alpha-1. It's not likely that it's the cause of your problems but it would be good to rule that out.

Lori, I'll look forward to hearing about & seeing what you do with your pond. As much as I want to work on mine, I'm having a hard time getting motivated. We seem to be hitting our stride for heat & humidity. Yuck.
Anonymous said…
The pond looks cool and quiet. I hope to have one by my shed some day soon.

I'm a Colorado fan and have been to some of the places you mentioned. We lived in Colorado Springs for 4 years. I liked the weather--not very much humidity compared to NC. I did see a lot of sage growing and spirea too.