Flowers make good neighbors

Two gardens - and gardeners - complement each other
Marcia Tatroe

Two adjacent gardens form a tapestry of color that flows across property lines here in Breckenridge, Colorado. In the foreground, Pat Steiner's colorful garden of hardy annuals and perennials was started almost entirely from seed. In this area, the native soil is rich, a rare commodity in mountain gardens. In the fall, when snow was forecast, Steiner simply roughed up the surface with a rake, then broadcast a Rocky Mountain wildflower mix over the ground.

She repeated this process the next spring, just as the snow was melting. All the seeds germinated, resulting in a riot of wildflowers. Since then, Steiner has saved seeds from her favorite flowers for fall sowing to ensure a repeat performance every summer. Blooming here in August are white Shasta daisies, sweet William in shades of pink and magenta, and yellow wallflowers.

The front yard of neighbor Carol Erickson is just to the right of the path. Her property was covered by rocks, so before she could do any planting, several truckloads of soil had to be hauled in. To achieve instant gratification, Erickson set out mostly 1-gallon-size perennials. Just one year later, her garden ― a profusion of delphiniums, foxgloves, Iceland and Oriental poppies, and Shasta daisies ― was featured on the Summit County Garden Club's annual tour.

As they work side by side in their gardens, Steiner and Erickson enjoy each other's company, passing along advice, stories, and plants. Both women mulch around plants with wood chips, which also cover the path that runs between their gardens.