LYONS – The spring snow that garnished local tulips has vanished, and Colorado gardens are showing off their annual burst of colors.
Gwynne’s Greenhouse & Gardenshoppe, set in the sandstone hillside near Lyons, is a mecca for gardeners. Its vibrant flowers and the wild foothills that rise next to it create a stunning sight for the visitor. Just minutes away from Longmont, Boulder and Estes Park, Gwynne’s Greenhouse carries one-of-a-kind container gardens and hanging baskets, and an unusual and eclectic selection of perennials, annuals, and indoor houseplants, as well as some special vegetables. Pottery, statuary, garden ornaments, garden style gifts and home decor are also featured.
Perhaps the piece de resistance is the ever-expanding Cut Flower Garden, where customers can create their own bouquets with the abundant blooms or simply meander among the paths for pure enjoyment – taking in the beauty of the colorful and spectacular flowers.
Founder and Owner Gwynne Owen has loved gardens and the outdoors since her childhood in Ohio. “We had huge vegetable gardens and flower beds around the house. I also loved walking in the woods with my dogs to explore the wild plants and trees.”
Then she moved to Colorado and was working in a law office as a paralegal when her father died and she inherited his brand new Toro key-start 1983 mower. It inspired her to leave her job and start a lawn mowing business in Boulder in 1983. Her ad in the Daily Camera drew in a customer, Bennigan’s Restaurant in the Village Shopping Center, who asked her to mow their lawn and plant a little garden. It was such a success that it led to more than a decade during which she planted all the beds at the entire Village Shopping Center, and also planted and maintained the florascapes for most of the prominent shopping centers in Boulder.
“I was doing flower planting for so many clients that I wanted to grow unique varieties of plants to make my work outstanding, and to keep my employees busy.” So in 1994 she bought the greenhouse that is the linchpin for her garden center. Today she has a staff of eight dedicated employees to help with the greenhouse and gardenscapes. Every staff member has been with her for at least 10 years.
“We are a small, independent garden center. We design our own container gardens and hanging baskets. We have unique varieties we grow from seeds, plus plant materials. Themes are evident: a high-altitude garden, a Victorian silly garden with dahlias, a theme of color that can be seen across the parking lot to give people ideas. We put the pottery display out front, then the colorful ‘Cut Your Own Bouquet’ garden in front of the Greenhouse.”
The cutting garden
“The key reason I created the cutting garden was because people would see us at the shopping centers deadheading (removing dead flower heads) to increase blooming and then they would ask if they could cut some of the flowers too. Of course I said ‘no,’ but the idea was born to create a public cutting garden. The greenhouse was run down when I purchased it, so it was ripe for creating a cutting garden to brighten it up. We used whatever materials were around – like bricks to make a maze with the flowerbeds. I mainly planted things that would grow tall so they could be cut to make arrangements.”
The popular cutting garden draws people from near and far. It was created mainly for the public to enjoy, but also as an experimental site for unusual varieties of annuals and perennials to test their durability in Colorado weather. “This method of experimentation allows us to consistently provide the best of the new, old and unique plants for our customers,” Gwynne says. The cutting garden lasts until the first frost.
Gwynne’s Greenhouse & Gardenshoppe is fun, economical and conveniently located. People come and cut their own bouquet of fresh flowers. They simply borrow a carton of water and some scissors at the front counter and begin wandering the garden paths. They may cut from whatever is planted in the ground. Most stems are 50 cents, though some specialty flowers are more. They can just ask a salesperson to clarify. “They can also cut from nearby shrubs to add some greens,” says Gwynne.
Perennials, annuals and bedding plants
“Perennials form the backbone of most great gardens, and are a very important part of our own cutting garden here at Gwynne’s Greenhouse,” writes Erica, the Flower Maven (Gwynne’s daughter), on gwynnesgreenhouse.com. “Perennials and shrubs such as lilacs, peonies, irises, and roses bless our bouquets in their stunning yet usually brief period of blooming. Annuals on the other hand live their short lives to the fullest.
“Bedding Plants are mostly… annuals though some are actually temperennials (perennials in temperate climates). Annuals… grow, bloom, flower and die in one season. They are used to give gardens all-season color and dramatic ‘pop.’ Annuals come in many shapes, sizes and sun tolerances … we strive to carry a wide and unusual assortment for every gardener’s needs.”
Gwynne notes, “We have unique varieties of perennials that others don’t carry. By June we have a beautiful selection of bedding plants and perennials, for shade, part sun and full sun. We offer a master list that people can carry. It caters to special needs, like rabbits in their garden or high altitude.
“We are also sensitive to the awareness the public has towards plants that are neonic free. We do not treat any of our plants at this time and are cautious about the plants we purchase from other vendors. Just recently we released beneficial insects to control all the bad bugs, inside and outside the greenhouse. We recently released ladybugs, lacewings and praying mantis; ladybugs can eat 50 aphids a day. We carry the information you need to have these beneficial insects delivered right to your door, too!”
“We grow a large selection of heirloom tomatoes, some for growing at high altitudes, like the Mountain Princess and Siberian, which have a short maturity. The Glacier can last through colder weather. A plum-shaped Italian tomato called Principe Borghese is used especially for drying. We sell tiny 2- to 3-ounce red tomatoes, and tomatoes in various colors: black, green red, pink. We plant 50 to 100 varieties of tomatoes.”
She grows all the typical greens, squashes and peppers, too, and offers a variety of mulches, composts and soils.
Visit Gwynne’s Greenhouse & Gardenshoppe
Gwynne’s caters to both novice and expert gardeners. The knowledgeable staff can help customers make informed decisions about which perennials and annuals work best in their area, based on altitude, drought-tolerance, pest resistance and other pertinent conditions.
The greenhouse and gardens and other parts of the business suffered extreme damage in the floods. During much hard work and dedication to the restoration and improvement of her garden center grounds, Gwynne made wider aisles in all the shopping areas, raised the cutting garden beds and recreated a new maze with display areas to showcase all the fun yard art, statuary and pottery.
Enjoy the beauty, bounty and fun of Gwynne’s Greenhouse & Gardenshoppe near Lyons at Highway 36 and 66, at 4559 Highland Drive, Longmont. Call 303.823.6818. For more information see gwynnesgreenhouse.com. Spring and summer hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
By Judy Finman, At Home. Photography provided by Gwynne’s Greenhouse & Gardenshoppe.