GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - If you didn't put your garden to bed in the fall, now is the time to do it: Cut back the old, dead plants and add mulch.
That's the advice from professional gardener Diane MacKenzie. If you wait much longer you could damage new growth when you cut away the old, she said.
MacKenzie is gearing up for a new season as a professional designer and planter of both flower and vegetable gardens. She also maintains gardens for clients, clears away leaves and stems, and separates plants when needed.
"She does a real good job. She knows what she's doing," Grand Junction resident Paul Jones said.
As an obstetrician and gynecologist, Jones said he simply doesn't have the time to keep up with his property's shrubs, roses, bushes and flowers all by himself. The two often work together tending plants.
MacKenzie buys plants from Chelsea Nursery, Meadowlark Gardens, Valley Grown Nursery and every other nursery in the valley at one time or another.
"It depends on what I'm buying for people," as to which nursery she goes to, she said.
MacKenzie learned gardening first by observation, growing up with a mother and grandmother who were avid gardeners. Then during the 1970s, when she had a family of her own, she planted a vegetable garden and started growing flowers. And she's read a lot of books.
She worked as a professional gardener in Cape Cod before moving to Durango where she operated a business called Mountain Gardener.
Since moving to Grand Junction two years ago, she's gained clients largely by word-of mouth - and has become busy enough to hire an employee, Lainie Hardcastle.
Besides cutting back the old dead plants from last year, MacKenzie urges people to water their trees and bushes - especially if they haven't had a drink all winter.
MacKenzie said she's a gardener, not a landscaper - she doesn't build walkways, lay gravel or mow lawns. She does, however, build raised beds, bring in compost and plant different types of gardens.
Many people want a vegetable garden but are often afraid it won't work, she said.
"I really encourage people to plant vegetable gardens," she said. "Even if it's small."
One can plant a container garden, "in a big pot with a tomato in the center, surrounded by jalapeno peppers, herbs and cucumbers trailing off the side," MacKenzie said.
MacKenzie has also been hired to "spruce up" areas for weddings. That's what she did for Nancy and Bob Hackett who hosted two wedding receptions in their yard last year for their two kids.
"Diane became an indispensable part of my summer gardening ritual," Nancy Hackett said. "Whereas I get bogged down with fixing sprinklers and fighting bindweed, Diane brings a fresh eye to my yard. She'll try new plants in new places and has a superb aesthetic sense which, combined with her knowledge base, makes for a yard I love instead of one always begging for attention.
"She seems one with nature, always talking to the plants and transplanting some little plant friend who didn't quite love the place we had put him."
For more information or to contact MacKenzie, call 970-903-6684.