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Best Florist for Bizarre Requests
D'Clement Florists
909 S. Oneida St.

Debbie Clement Holmes of D'Clement Florists has transformed a family dog into a ring bearer (complete with satin pillow) and made tents into Taj Mahals. She's known for personally designing and delivering wedding flowers (no clueless delivery boy arriving with the wrong load on your special day) and shuns the boring carnation/mum fare in favor of tropical, Holland and wildflower blooms. Best of all, she dazzles without pretension.

Best Garden-Supply Shop
Englewood Garden Center and Florist
3446 S. Emerson St., Englewood

Englewood Garden Center is a garden supply for gardeners. Old-fashioned and gracious, it's the place to find unusual plants for indoors and out, as well as the little, unexpected things that give a garden character: patinaed squirrels, hatching-dinosaur ornaments, lifelike cast lizards, costumed lawn geese or a sweet little sunflower birdfeeder you can hang from a fence. There are free handouts offering growing hints for specialty rock, butterfly or shade gardens. Finally, the place is just plain pretty, bursting with showy bromeliads and orchids resting on baby-tear beds, purple-and-black Colorado Rockies pansy gardens, hanging baskets of pumpkin-hued, black-eyed sultanas, cherry-red hibiscus bushes, hardy cacti and variegated bougainvilleas. Color us sold.

Readers' choice: Dardano's

Best Upscale Garden Supply
Smith & Hawken
268 Detroit St.

Smith & Hawken's tony garden wares have long been available by catalogue. Now you can shop for the company's stylish patio furniture, sun hats, spades and pitchforks, angel-festooned clay containers and gardening clothing right here in town. Located in Cherry Creek North, the Denver addition to this California chain fits right into the neighborhood. Check out those Japanese farmer pants.

Best Place to Hear War Yarns While Buying Trees and Shrubs
Good's Discount Nursery
7105 E. Evans Ave.

Seventy-something Hal Good was off in the Philippines on V-J day--and he'll tell you all about it. After the war, Hal, born in Nebraska, came to Colorado and pulled what is now the second-oldest active nurseryman's license in the state. So he'll also tell you all about how to get any of the hundreds of vigorous trees or shrubs on his lot to flourish in our unforgiving climate. Unlike the plants at many roadside outlets, the things Hal has will actually grow here.

Best Cheap Compost Bins
Denver Recycles
Organic gardeners know the value of compost, and certain garden stores know they can charge a lot for the more efficient and neighbor-friendly bins that hold the stuff. The city's Denver Recycles program, however, has a once-a-year sale for Denver residents at which it sells compost bins for 60 to 70 percent less than you'd pay at one of the aforementioned stores. If you missed the 1995 sale (June 23 and 24 at South High School), take heart--you still might be able to nab one if they have any left.

Best Gardening Advice
CSU Cooperative Extension
110 16th St., Ste. 200

Colorado State University's Master Gardeners don't come by their knowledge easily--they receive intensive horticultural training, covering subjects from composting to xeriscaping, before setting foot in the gardening arena. The masters must donate at least forty service hours--answering phones, working garden shows, meeting with walk-ins bearing problems and generally helping people all over the state with their droopy dahlias and wan wax beans. And if one of them doesn't know the answer to your question, he'll probably know someone who does--operators are standing by.

Best Immovable Objects
Judie's Concrete Critters
U.S. Hwy. 85 and Road 18 (north of Fort Lupton)

Forget about those roadside statuary stands in metro Denver. For good prices and choices, take a drive up Highway 85 past Brighton to Judie's Concrete Critters. Look carefully on the northeast corner of the highway's intersection with Road 18, and you'll see a little fenced-in area full of concrete things for your yard. Classically simple birdbaths are a steal, averaging only $40 to $45, and they hold up admirably. Frogs start at $15. Nothing seems to move at Judie's, but give her a chance. She lives in the nearest house and will come strolling out if you honk your horn a few times. Or call before you go.

Best Way to Get to Know Kids in the Neighborhood
Community gardens at Steele School
320 S. Marion Pkwy.

Dig into a ten- by eleven-foot plot of your own for only $20 for the season. Grow a truckload of vegetables and flowers under the watchful eye of K-through-6 kids who couldn't be more delighted by the prospect. At the end of the season, if you leave your plot cleaned and turned, you get $10 of your initial investment back. What a deal. Sure, we've got other community gardens out there, but only a few of them ensure proximity with our hope for the future the way this one does.

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