You always want to try new places, but Echter's is the place you keep coming back to, and here's why: There are acres of merchandise, from birdhouses and gifty gewgaws on one end to an endless selection of trees, shrubs, perennials, landscaping materials and more on the other end. And in between, they've got every kind of tool or gardening supply you could ever hope for, an array of the prettiest pansies around town, annuals galore, unusual herbs and fragrant lavenders, Rocky Mountain columbine and zillions of roses (from the picky teas to the hearty shrub varieties), and everything else that grows from the ground. Add in the efficient service, a kids' play area and the park with a lake across the street, and you'll never want to go anywhere else.

Groundcovers Greenhouse is relatively small, tidy and well-stocked -- the perfect place to pick up a few broccoli seedlings or yellow pear tomato plants or a quick packet of regionally friendly vegetable seeds. Offering a good selection of annuals and perennials, and with at least one knowledgeable staff member always roaming to answer questions, Groundcovers also sports a particularly serendipitous selection of the garden ornaments, decorative pots and trellises that make gardening less of a chore and a whole lot more fun.

Tiny and uncompromisingly lovely on the corner of Gaylord and Tennessee (where it hangs out engagingly like a private backyard retreat), the Potted Garden is the place to pick up elegant baskets of bleeding hearts to hang from your eaves, or large, well-established container-grown tomatoes, or a four-pack of snapdragons, or even a $200 designer birdhouse, the kind of splurge you never expected but suddenly can't live without. Or you can just go there for a quick fix of spiritual floriation on your way to eat sushi or seafood down the street.

Brown Palace Hotel Tea Room
There are usually a couple of cabs lingering in front of this Denver landmark, but if not, the Brown Palace hotel doorman will almost always help you get one if you're stuck downtown. Just don't be rude: Doormen can get a little ornery when an obnoxious drunk who isn't a hotel guest starts demanding service. The nice thing is that when the upscale Brown Palace calls for a cab, it'll show up long before it would at whatever dive you were really drinking in.

An immediate lull falls over you as you walk into the Barong Collection; perhaps it's the gamelan music that wafts, trancelike, through the room. But it most certainly has something to do with the peaceful profusion of limestone and lavastone pagodas from Bali, ranging in size from shin-high and delicate to massive and striking. Regardless of size, they're all in some kind of laid-back stasis, just waiting to offset that stand of Japanese iris over in the left corner of your backyard. You can't let the moon rise there without one.

The Pleasant Avenue Nursery in Buena Vista has been specializing in the growing and testing of native and apt species for high-altitude gardening since 1972, changing its focus over the years from mined-land reclamation projects to the lighter-hearted realm of mountain gardening and landscaping. But Pleasant Avenue has became even more of a growth industry this year, starting off the spring with a big retail expansion offering nearly 3,000 square feet of high-country flora. If you choose to live the high life, your plants will have to, too; here's a good place to find the right stuff.

Now you can hear the sound of falling water (a popular reverberation these days because of its calmative powers) all year long, because this class is offered all year long. Everything's provided except the bowl and pump, which you have to buy separately -- but Wildflowers has those, too. And if you're so inclined, once you've brushed up on your trickle-down theory, you can then sign up for a Feng Shui workshop to help you figure out where to put your fountain.

There's a reason humans have been taking advantage of the curative -- and sensual -- powers of herbs throughout the ages. Apparently, they do work, deadening pain and soothing jittery nerves the natural way. Come to Lily's and you're certain to leave a believer, at any rate: The tiny shop seems hell-bent on providing comfort, or at least a momentary island of peace, in people's hectic lives by offering such items as Kneipp health bath products, Moms Ache Oil, delicately scented bath candles, gel-filled thermal compresses, a multitude of tea accoutrements and even herbal ice creams from an outfit called Out of a Flower, including lavender and orchid vanilla flavors. Never underestimate the power of an herb.

You're the kind of shopper who needs products to match your philosophy -- products that bring peace, harmony and love into your life. Or maybe you're just sick of being jarred out of bed by that screeching alarm. Whatever your reasons, Boulder-based Now & Zen can bring you spirituality and help you to maintain a tranquil state. Founded by Steve McIntosh in 1995, Now & Zen's products can be found locally at the Boulder Book Store, Namaste and Nature's Own Imagination, among others, or at www.now-zen.com, which lets shoppers mix and match various finishes and other details of whatever they are buying and even see the product before they buy. Products include the Zen Alarm Clark for $99.95, which plays Tibetan chimes as the volume slowly increases to gradually awaken sleepers. There's also the Affirmation Station for $89.95, an alarm clock with a recording device that lets you record a ten-second personal affirmation like "I love myself." The message plays before you go to bed and as you wake up. And for those who want a little therapy while brushing their hair, there's the Mudra Mirror for $69.95 -- a hand with a circular mirror in the palm, signifying that worry is only an illusion. Finally, a Zen justification for a shopping spree.
Glendale's collection of Russian-language newspapers, books and aids to becoming an American entrepreneur are outstanding, reflecting the Glendale Public Library's commitment to serving a growing immigrant community in the land of singles apartments and strip bars. Pass the English-Russian Business Dictionary, will you, comrade?

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