Gardens are wonderful. Understatement! Gardens (and the plants that inhabit them) provide so much to humanity, a Valentine ode seems appropriate. O, Gardens, I love thee because:
Between now and February 24, the Orangery at Denver Botanic Gardens is hosting the annual Orchid Showcase. In addition to the blossom show being put on behind the glass walls of the collections greenhouses, the transitional space of the Orangery itself is festooned with orchids, mostly hybrids of the genus Phalaenopsis. 
Victoria cruziana
It isn't often that I linger at work until after the sun sets. Tonight is an exception. This evening, our Victoria cruziana plants (also known by the common name of Santa Cruz Waterilies) are coming into full bloom in the Monet Pool. As I sit on a bench beside the pond, the heady pineapple scent of a first night's Victoria blossom drifts my way.
Coryphantha sulcata
Most hardy cacti bloom in spring. Pediocactus simpsonii for instance (our wonderful mountain ball cactus) can open its first flowers in my garden in March. April and May see the peak bloom on various Echinocereus and suchlike. By mid June most cacti are done and seed is ripening. I grant you the cane chollas (Cylindropuntia) often wait till the 4th of July to bloom...
Blue poppies at Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh
The rock garden at Botanics
Two Chinese Roscoeas thriving in Scotland
Purple Roscoea humeana and yellow R. cautleioides
"The blue hepatica blooms now...."
Masses of Hepatica nobilis for acres--mostly bright lavender blue Of course, we were looking for the brightest blue one, and bright pink ones as well--the variation in flower color was refreshing. What a wonderful way to spend a spring day? This was all a short hike from the country home of Henrik Zetterlund, long time horticulturist at Gothenburg botanic garden. Iris winogradowii in Henrik's garden I doubt you could find two...
"Nature's first green is gold"
A cautious Coloradoan would cut branches tomorrow of any forsythias in the garden. The more branches you cut, the less likely the remaining branches you leave behind will freeze (don't ask me why--it's superstition I suspect)... Euphorbia cyparissius This more chartreuse shade of yellow is what I really think of in early spring. The Euphorbias have gotten a bad rap--this and the next have both been declared noxious weeds in many...
They're off and running!
closeup of Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin' If you grow but one reticulate iris, may I recommend 'Katharine Hodgkin'? I tell her full story elsewhere more expansively. Because she is a hybrid between two rather distinct species, she possesses what botanists call heterosis, or hybrid vigor. She has formed wonderful clumps in the O'Fallon Perennial Walk that are in peak form right now. Our horticulturists have planted her liberally throughout both sides...
Bulbs are blooming at Denver Botanic Gardens!
What I enjoy most about early blooming bulbs is the element of surprise. I am not sure why, but each year these early performers seem to bloom intensely and catch me off guard. The flower size seems so large for the small leaves of the plant, and the fact that they naturalize and produce colorful carpets in March is an added bonus. A true delight in any garden is the dwarf...