Letters to the Editor

From the week of June 28, 2001

The Verdict Is In

Waiting can be murder:I am very impressed with the current "Penalty Zone" series. Steve Jackson has captured the very essence of the trials. Even though we know the outcome, I was as excited reading his work as I would have been reading a new novel. I can't wait for the next installment.

Mary Casey
Longmont


Growing Pains

Weed it and weep:I read with great interest Julie Jargon's June 14 story on the Denver Botanic Gardens, "The Secret Garden," because just today I mailed a letter to the executive director and copied Mayor Webb. I attended the first Gardens concert, and, to put in mildly, it was a disaster. The rain alone should have been enough to cancel the event; however, the band was an hour and a half late and played for only about thirty minutes, leaving those of us in the audience saturated, cold and $31.50 poorer. As a member of the Botanic Gardens, I am appalled that they did not cancel the concert, reschedule, refund money or take some other appropriate measure.

I have never seen the Gardens look worse than this year. The peony bed was a huge disappointment. A sign says it's under construction, but the weeds are growing sky-high, and we stumbled across a dead squirrel! I hope the board of directors is sitting up and taking notice of what was once a great cultural attraction. Above and beyond their staff problems, they have an image problem with a hundred or so brave souls who waited for two hours in the rain for a half-hour concert. Not what I would call a bed of roses.

Lisa Sigler
Denver

Excessive pruning:I worked at the Botanic Gardens for two or so years and resigned because no positive action was being taken about the working conditions. I certainly agree that the turnover is extremely high (I would guess over 50 percent) and that people are either fired, forced into positions that cause them to resign or treated in such a way that they can no longer tolerate the conditions, or their jobs are abolished.

Name withheld on request

New growth:I am writing a personal response to Julie Jargon's peculiar little piece on the Denver Botanic Gardens. I am the curator of plant collections at the Gardens, entering my 22nd year of service at that institution. I was interviewed and contributed to a much more expansive Westword piece twelve years ago; perhaps if you had been as thorough this time, you would have spared yourself embarrassment.

It is true that the DBG has seen an enormous growth and change in the last two years under Brinsley's management. Brinsley may be many things, but an ogre and a tyrant hardly fit his scholarly, British persona. He has transformed the DBG from a pleasant, provincial park into a dynamic and far more formidable enterprise with much higher standards and a vastly greater scope. There are those who like things small and tame; every knowledgeable gardener I know is thrilled with the changes at DBG, and so are our first-time visitors.

What are the changes? Our much deteriorated physical plant has been refurbished dramatically. An enormous emphasis has been placed on customer service, and, most important, Brinsley hired Rob Proctor as director of horticulture. Rob has brought in a team of outstanding regional designers (and empowered existing staff to join that team) to bring a new and much higher level of artistry -- and integrity -- to all facets of our collections. I have never been privileged to work with so many highly motivated, highly effective and brilliant people as presently serve in our horticulture department. I am professionally and personally offended by John Starnes's assertion that "there's a staggering level of waste there." What waste? We have a fraction of the carpet bedding that comprised most of the horticultural display when I first arrived at the Gardens. We no longer plant vast expanses of bulbs and annuals that are trashed in huge heaps, as they were for decades. We naturalize our bulbs, and all but one of the 24 gardens planted last year feature hardy plants, and the largest new gardens feature native plants and naturalistic design. Despite planting hundreds of thousands of hardy perennials, trees and shrubs last year and the driest July in years, our overall water consumption at the Gardens was actually reduced by nearly a quarter. Where is the waste in that, Mr. Starnes?

People resist great and unfamiliar new things; when these things are of the grandeur and excellence of what has come into being at Denver Botanic Gardens, one can expect some resistance. I do not deny that there has been some confusion from time to time, especially early in the process. But Jargon's article seems to suggest we throw out the baby and save the bathwater. For shame!

Panayoti Kelaidis, curator, plant collections
Denver Botanic Gardens

Perennial problems:As a longtime community gardener, I have seen this before. After promising us in 1996 that the community gardens would be left alone for the next ten years, then-director Richard Daley departed for greener pastures. Then a new director comes along, and the new projects' wish list remains the same $40 million. The already rejected parking garage is back in.

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