[July 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage] By Kathryn R. Burke
SUMMERTIME. YOU LOOK FORWARD TO IT with great expectation. After a cold, snowy winter (especially like this last one), you can’t wait to get outside and relax in sunshine and warm weather. But do you?
Maybe. More likely, maybe not. Wintertime’s wistful visions of summer relaxation fade in the reality of summertime activity: so much to do—places to go, people to see or people to come see you. Visitors, family, kids, their kids, grandparents, and grandkids. Vacations to plan, execute, and recover from. Summertime. It’s so busy!
Whoah! Summer is supposed to be a time to relax. To find some time in quiet spaces and special places that offer peace and tranquility. Where you can just sit and listen to the quiet and smell the air.
How—where—do you do that? These two busy women found the answer rests in their gardens. Melanie Kline of Montrose and Nina Rea of Ridgway know that stepping away from the constant demands of work and responsibility into a bower of blissful blooms and cool, green shade restores sanity and serenity. “I spend all the time I can out here,” said Nina. Melanie echoed the sentiment. “It’s just amazing!” she said with a deep breath and a smile.
For Melanie, the journey began a little over six years ago. She visited an estate sale of a home that had been owned by Fred and Lorraine Maxted. Well-known in Montrose for their beautiful gardens, they were also world travelers whose exquisite collection of iris was shared annually on Memorial Day complete with a home tour and chamber music. At one time they employed three gardeners to maintain the property. By the time Melanie saw it, the garden was sad: overgrown and less well-tended. “Even so, I fell in love immediately. I just sat down in that garden and told Craig (her husband), ‘We’re going to buy this house’!”
Since then, Melanie has thinned some of the trees, lifted the canopy to allow in more light, and planted many of her favorite perennials to augment the Maxteds’ original plantings. “I can’t say I’m restoring the garden,” she said, “so much as bringing it back to life.” Or maybe, with the enhancements she’s made so far, “giving it new life.”
The garden, with its varied plantings and special seating spots for different seasons or times of the day, is a work in progress. Melanie has added more bright color—roses, poppies, and peonies (both just past bloom now), a whole range of blues—delphinium, wisteria, clematis, and lavender; and pretty trees, including flowering almond and Japanese maple. Curving pathways, some lined with hostas, lead to different areas of shade and sun, with cozy seating and plenty of places to just ‘be’. And, of course, there are bunches of bright-blooming geraniums. A visit to this garden is an exercise in relaxation. It takes a minute to unwind after you walk through the entry arbor into her cool, shady bower. But then, find your spot (there are many to choose from) and just sit … just ‘be’ … and enjoy the quiet and soft scents of this enchanted garden.
Montrose Botanical Gardens
Best of all, you don’t have to plant and maintain your own garden. We are fortunate enough to also have public gardens, like the Botanical Garden in Montrose, where you can also sit and enjoy the silence and breathe in lovely, soft, summer breezes. Montrose Botanical Gardens, open dawn to dusk and free to all who visit, is located across from the Montrose Pavilion and Community Center, close to several senior housing and assisted living facilities and an easy walk from neighboring English Gardens and Altrusa Park. More information: https://www.montrosegardens.org/
But now, it’s high summer, and the gardens are in full bloom, filled with expectations of enchantment.
The story is much the same for Nina’s garden in Ridgway, although the growing season is shorter, the air cooler, and the garden more open to take advantage of the spectacular San Juan Mountain views, visible from many of Nina’s favorite ‘sitting’ spots. Like Melanie, Nina has several lovely spots to relax and enjoy the gardens at various times of the day, but in all seasons. Melanie’s garden rests in winter. Nina’s offers her respite all year round. “I love sitting outside here in the winter,” Nina said, “in a sunny spot with my cup of hot tea. It’s heavenly.”
Nina and her husband, Bryan, moved to their present address in Solar Ranch 12 years ago, just a block or so from their previous home. It was a bare lot. While her husband was building their home, Nina was using the excavations to build berms and pathways, designing a garden that just ‘flows’ around the house, which nestles in the middle of it.
“We brought our ‘wedding tree’ with us,” she said, pointing to it, “and replanted it here. Look how it’s grown!” And, her garden has grown along with it. The back garden surrounds a lush green lawn and blooms with seasonal flowers. Spring is a colorful showcase of tulips and flowering trees. Then come the shady blues and purples, interspersed with soft pinks, and accents of bright orange and yellow. Leaves darken in the fall, blending with the region’s beloved aspens. Then the garden rests, waiting for spring again, but still welcoming as a place to sit and contemplate nature and the mountains.
Nina also grows food. Raised beds in the front garden teem with a healthy variety of greens, and other vegetables and herbs, all organically grown. “I don’t spray with anything,” she said. “But we do have to keep the front gate locked or the deer will come in and eat everything.” She grows flowering chamomile there, too, ready-picking for a soothing tea.
Spring Creek Chalet
Heidi’s Spring Creek Chalet in Montrose is a lovely, retirement home. Owner, Heidi Seelhof, has a life-long love affair with flowers. She grew up in Germany, with a mother who was a gardener. After moving to the US as a young woman, she met her husband (a fellow German) in Chicago, where they raised their five children. The children were frequent skiers in Telluride, and enticed their parents to visit SW Colorado. The family decided to make a move, and eventually, all ended up here. Heidi brought plants and seeds with her.
They wound up in Montrose, with a view of the mountains, just not in them. In 1988, the family bought a 20-acre property on Sunnyside Road that had a natural hot spring. “There was just one tree on it,” Heidi remembers. “A big cottonwood. Everything else was sagebrush and low desert bushes.” But she had seeds. And she had determination and a green thumb. And she started planting and tending.
Thirty years later, the property is a showcase for her gardens. The spring was opened up allowing for a reflecting pond. A food garden, fenced to avoid pesky deer, grows fresh produce for their restaurant. The Chalet has 30 apartments, all with summertime decorative, flower baskets. Half face the pond and back gardens, the other, the front gardens. Pathways wind through the gardens and out to a summer house on the pond. Everywhere you look offers a tranquil view.
When the time comes, and independent living is no longer attractive, Spring Creek Chalet is the perfect solution for those who love water, flowers, and mountain views— all in a valley setting conveniently close to everything you might need, but just remote enough to offer a rural setting.