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Sawtooth Botanical Garden Serves Up Signs of Spring, New Life
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Tuesday, May 16, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Judy Wampler stepped up into a large flat decorative rock in the Sawtooth Botanical Garden. Then she stretched out her arms, her hands gripping her yellow shawl. and twirled around.

With her sunflower hat, she looked like the epitome of spring busting out after a long, snowy winter that began the first week of November.

Wampler was among more than four dozen seniors who kicked off the Botanical Garden’s summer season in grand fashion Friday afternoon as they dressed up in flowery dresses and enjoyed chit-chat in the greenhouse over a lunch of chicken salad croissant sandwiches, pasta salad and mimosas prepared by Senior Connection chef Brian Ahern.

It was the second annual Senior Luncheon at the garden held in conjunction with the two-year-old Daffodil Festival. And it was the garden’s first event of the summer season, noted the garden’s executive director Jen Smith.

Smith had been fishing with a reel-less rod in the pool at the Serenity Garden, which was gifted to the garden a few years earlier by Skip and Kim Nalen in honor of their loved ones, when the seniors arrived.

Three- and four-inch brook trout had somehow made their way into the landlocked pond and Smith was trying to catch them to return them to the stream that makes its way through the garden.

“They’re pretty little fish,” she said.

Nancy Van Diver, meanwhile, greeted the guests from the desk where she always sits, selling wildflower guides and other gifts.

“It’s so surprising the people who come to visit us, especially considering how small this community is,” she said. “We had someone from Iraq yesterday and we get other visitors from South America, Europe, South Africa… I counted 120 visitors one Saturday—people say it’s so magical.”

Smith told the seniors that the garden had recently been gifted five new sculptures from Ruth Bloom, a local art collector who owned a gallery in Los Angeles. Her sculptures, which add a million dollars in assets to the garden, have been dispersed throughout the garden, taking their place among other works like one titled “Devil’s Bedstead.”

Others contributors include Jill and David Hitchin, who staked a claim to the Pet Memory Garden; Ali Long, who donated the gazebo in honor of her mother; Peggy Grove, who donated fruit trees and the Dalai Lama who bestowed the garden with the blessing of a prayer wheel.

The garden showcases native and cultivated plants that flourish at high altitude in its varied gardens, which include an Alpine Garden, a Sagebrush Steppe, a Riparian Garden and a Lava Garden.

The five-acre site will host a variety of events this summer, including Boulder Mountain Clayworks’ popular Tuscany in the Garden fundraiser, Walk & Wine (& ART!), Gimlets in the Garden, the weekly Discovery Club for children ages 2 through 5. It will start up its wildflower walks with the blue camas on the Camas Prairie around the first of June with weekly walks following the flowers as they bloom from Carters of the Moon up the mountain side.

And the winter’s Dark Sky Dinners in the greenhouse, which feature an ice bar outside and an astronomer pinpointing celestial objects, have proven so popular that the garden has expanded those.

Nearly 80 percent of the garden’s income is derived from donations, Smith added.

Smith pointed out the garden’s five new sculptures donated by Los Angeles gallery owner Ruth Bloom, who has a home in the Wood River Valley. Those new sculptures take their place among an array of other sculptures, such as the Devil’s Bedstead outside the greenhouse.

Inside, the greenhouse boasts a midnight blooming flower.

The garden is getting so many lovely sculptures it might one day be known as the Sawtooth Sculpture Garden, quipped Kim Nalen. “They really are a nice addition to the garden,” she added.

Jeanne Cassell, who long served on the garden board, leading wildflower walks and tours of the Garden of Infinite Compassion, used the luncheon as an excuse to visit the garden for the first time in months.

“I’ve had not been here since they established the DOVID Memorial Garden so this is exciting—something new for me,” she said. “The daffodils are a sign of spring and a sign of new life and light.”

Smith said the daffodils congregating around the Sawtooth Botanical Garden’s sign direct the attention of passersby on the highway to the garden. Once in the garden, visitors can enjoy other harbingers of spring, such as crocus, snowdrops, glory of snow and purple European Pasque flowers, which she noted are “kind of Dr. Suess-y.’

The daffodils that were planted in the Fall of 2021 will multiply, filling in the spaces they occupy in the garden, she said.

“You can mechanically help them multiply by digging them up and separating the bulbs. But they do that on their own,” she said. “And it wasn’t hard figuring out when they would start blooming, despite the snow we’ve had this winter. Looking back the past five years, they always bloom on Mother’s Day.”

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