For me, ornamentals a pretty new development

Southwest Life

For me, ornamentals a pretty new development

Truth be told, I’m a vegetable kind of guy. No, not because my head is as bald as a melon; it’s just that in the horticultural world, my interests tend to lie with edible crops.

While earning my graduate degree in horticulture, my primary focus was not on ornamentals, but on dry beans and potatoes, potentially the two most “ho-hum” crops that we grew at our research station.

In fact, neither is even classified as vegetable, but rather as field crops.

I spent – as did my trusty research assistant otherwise known as my wife – hours upon hours doing mindless research stuff: counting beans per pod, pods per plant, tubers per plant, average weight of tubers, etc. All of this was performed while gazing at the fields of tomatoes, peppers and pumpkin plants, wishing my research was just a bit more romantic.

However, when your “incomes” are derived from a measly stipend and research assistant positions, those bags of potatoes and cans of kidney beans come in quite handy during the lean winter months in upstate New York.

With the next stop in my horticultural career coming as the vegetable specialist in Palm Beach County, Fla., I became immersed in tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn and green beans. Alas, when standing in a field of 250,000 pepper plants, in September, in South Florida, the aforementioned “romance” quickly disappeared, and I realized that this was much bigger than I ever expected.

So La Plata County seemed to fit quite nicely – smaller farms, agrarian lifestyles and no alligators set on attacking the wheels of my truck. But with this new lifestyle came new job responsibilities, one of which was ornamental horticulture.

Who knew you could grow a plant that didn’t have a useful function such as feeding one’s family?

Now, thanks to the Durango Botanical Society, my interest in all sorts of horticulture has been relit.

I started to actually get really excited about ornamentals, and flowers and public gardens. When the society hosted Panayoti Kelaidis from the Denver Botanical Gardens, I rediscovered the emotional, sensory and even historical value of plants. And that was pretty cool.

Durango Botanical Society continues to provide numerous educational opportunities in our community, be it plant walks, lectures or nursery visits. We have also planned an amazing tour in just a couple weeks – June 6-10 – to Denver, calling it “Escape to Urban Gardens.”

Participants will be led on private tours of multiple public gardens (Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Denver Botanical Gardens, Kendrick Lake, Cherokee Ranch and the Nature and Raptor Center in Pueblo), Sunscape Nursery in Pueblo and four private gardens, including that of Kelaidis.

For more information, visit the website at or contact Lisa Bourey via phone at 759-0318 or email at

Act fast – we are closing registration June 1, and there are only 10 slots left.

A registration fee of $150 is all we require, but lodging, dinners, gas/transportation (though a carpool/caravan is planned) and two lunches are on your own.

Who knows, maybe you’ll even see some vegetables on this ornamental trip. But try not to judge. or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.

For me, ornamentals a pretty new development

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