Tour 8 private gardens Aug. 24-25 in a benefit for botanical gardens

Sharon Sullivan
Paula Loshbaugh and her husband, Ed (bending over to pull a weed behind the lily pond), built their garden from scratch on an empty lot next to their home.
Sharon Sullivan / | Free Press


WHAT: 22nd annual Grand Valley Garden Tour — a benefit for Western Colorado Botanical Gardens

WHERE: Eight Grand Valley locations

WHEN: Sat.-Sun., Aug. 24-25, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

COST: $10; tickets available at the botanical gardens, 655 Struthers Ave. or any City Market store

INFO: 970-245-9030

Twenty years ago, Ed and Paula Loshbaugh bought an empty lot next door to their house and began transforming it into paradise.

A huge patch of vibrant zinnias, plus dahlias, day lilies and more than 50 other species of flowers, ivy, shrubs and trees thrive in the Loshbaugh’s garden lined with flagstone pathways. Basil grows among the snapdragons; roses, hollyhocks and geraniums surround sprawling honeydew, cantaloupe and pumpkin plants.

On the other side of their house, a huge vegetable garden of corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, carrots, beets, potatoes and rhubarb — started in 1961 when they moved to their Grand Junction home — provides sustenance through the winter.

It’s the empty lot-turned lush landscape, however, that people will tour Aug. 24 and 25 during the 22nd annual Grand Valley Garden Tour, a fundraising event for the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens. The Loshbaugh’s garden is one of eight around the valley that people can browse, and where master gardeners will be on hand to answer questions.

“It does take a commitment,” Paula said. “I used to work eight hours a day (in the garden) after I retired.”

Visitors often ask Paula, “Doesn’t the heat bother you?”

“I found many years ago if you go out and warm up with the day you don’t notice how hot it is,” she said.

These days Paula, 73, and Ed, 82, have cut back to six hours a day weeding, dead-heading plants, pruning and watering. They rise at 5 a.m., and have their coffee and breakfast on the back patio next to a potted “sacred” begonia grown from a start of a plant that Ed’s aunt gave to his mother before he was born.

“We don’t go to work; we wake up surrounded by it,” Ed said.

It’s just this year that Garden Genie landscaper Georgia Schmunk started helping the Loshbaughs a couple days a week. “They work beside me for four hours,” and then keep working after she leaves, Schmunk said.

Plants, artists and music

Another featured garden in next week’s tour is one that Angeline Barrett, owner of Meadowlark Gardens, designed for one of the valley’s fire stations.

“They wanted a colorful look year-round,” Barrett said. “They wanted native grasses, something that was low maintenance, because they’re busy!”

Barrett said she thought it would be fun to come up with plants with names including words like “fire, burn and smoke.”

She planted smoke bush, burning bush, Morden fire shrub rose, diablo nine bark, golden rain tree, redspire pear and firecracker penstemon.

“It worked,” she said.

An amazing cactus garden on Orchard Mesa is another featured site on the tour.

And if you’re tempted to remove a thirsty lawn for something more interesting and water efficient, check out the work of Bill Richardson, who owns Dragonfly Gardens. His client, who’s on the tour, wanted a xeriscape landscape including various features like a dry streambed with a small bridge across it.

“It’s really cool,” Richardson said.

And yet another featured garden is one that has been tended for 52 years by a woman born on the property.

Artists and musicians will be present at many of the gardens during the weekend tour. Grand Junction artist Sandy King, known for her luminous watercolors of flowers and nature, will set her easel up at the Loshbaugh’s home.

First time in August

The money raised from the garden tour supports the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens’ purchase of butterflies for the greenhouse, and helps pay for the upkeep of its 12 different gardens, including the heritage rose, children’s and tropical rainforest gardens.

“There are more than 2,700 different plants at the botanical gardens,” said Doug Sorter, director of business development at Strive, the nonprofit organization that manages the botanical gardens.

The $10 tickets can be purchased at the botanical gardens, 655 Struthers Ave., or at any City Market store. Ticket holders will receive a brochure explaining each garden and a map of their locations.

This is the first year the tour has been scheduled in August. Paula Loshbaugh said she was reluctant at first when asked if her garden could be included.

“I’ve always considered my garden a spring garden. I wasn’t sure if flowers would be left with the heat,” she said. “It’s absolutely breathtaking in the spring.”

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