As I viewed the golden trumpets of the daffodils covering the hill above the Cottam Visitor's Center at Red Butte Garden, I could not help but think that they might resemble the Angel Gabriel's golden horn at Judgment Day.
Of course, they had nothing to do with Judgment Day; they were instead gracing one of the beautiful gardens at Red Butte. The specific garden I was enjoying was the lovely Four Seasons Garden in its spring splendor.
I was soon joined by the gardener, Camilla Thygerson Dahle. She cares for this garden, the Children's Garden and the Patio Garden at the Orangerie. The diversity of these gardens quickly reminds me of the need to visit Red Butte throughout the year.
Camilla grew up in West Valley City and credits her passion for gardening to her mother.
"My mom was in love with gardening. She started me with a passion of wanting to know how things grow and to make things pretty."
She completed her horticulture degree at Utah State University and worked for a time at Western Garden Center.
She confesses, "I started out in landscape architecture but soon discovered I wanted to be out in the soil. I have worked here for almost three years, taking care of these gardens."
When I asked her to outline some of the favorite reasons for visitors to enjoy the gardens she willingly complied.
"The viburnum collection is one of my favorites because it has both spring and summer flowers."
"I also love the lilac collection and the crab apple collection," she said. "These have so many different varieties and fragrances. The wisteria collection is also a must-see choice."
The magnolias in the Four Seasons Garden were a spectacular sight to see. She admitted that they sometimes searched far and wide to find the right plant for the specific location.
She explained that location is the key to growing the plants. Some like sun and some like shade.
The delicate, lavender-colored blossoms were 3 to 5 inches across on the striking Magnolia x loebneri "Leonard Messel." These form a small tree or large shrub that eventually gets 20 feet high with a similar width. Magnolia loebneri "Merrill" is a similar size plant with white flowers that have fewer petals.
Magnolia stellata "Waterlily" is more shrublike in its growth and usually gets 10 feet high. The stunning white flowers get up to 5 inches across and have as many as 32 petals. These are among the most common magnolias grown in Utah.
Although magnolias are not common in Utah, these and some others grow well in the right locations. Select an area with good soil that drains well. If you have highly alkaline or salty soils, select another plant for spring color.
Camilla explains the magnolias in the garden are not difficult. "They are totally dependent on the weather. Some years they die back so we have to do some pruning, but other than that we just mulch around them annually. So they are low maintenance if the weather is good."
She also explained her profusion of daffodils.
"We have so many enchanting and so many different kinds. We have so many that are very fragrant as well. We also like them because the rodents (squirrels, etc.) do not eat them."
"We keep the daffodils in place for five to six years. After they bloom, we let them die back naturally so the nutrients go back to the bulbs. Then every year we do a walk-through to determine where we need more bulbs."
Another of her loves is the fabulous Children's Garden. Whether it is the Native American garden, the pond, the snake or any other area, she enthusiastically touts its virtues.
"I love to hear the interaction and conversation between the parents and children. It is fun to hear all the explanations," she said.
Her plans for this summer's beds include a planting with the flowers of every state in the country, a Utah native plant garden and a presidential bed with red, white and blue flowers and signage to indicate significant accomplishments of selected chief executives. What a treat to see these!
Every time I visit, I plan my return visit. The flowers change, the trees change, but the beauty is always there. Go often in different seasons and enjoy this horticulture masterpiece in Salt Lake's foothills.
Larry A. Sagers is a horticulture specialist for the Utah State University Extension Service at Thanksgiving Point.
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