Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Labor of Love - the gardens at Saratoga Spa State Park

At the entrance to Saratoga Spa State Park on Route 9, there is a spectacular garden. The first time I noticed it, I thought, boy, somebody is really having a good time with that!  On Tuesday morning, I finally got to meet that somebody.
Dan Urkevich is a wiry guy with a quick smile who proudly shares his garden with others. I say "his" garden because he is the one who plans and cares for this year round splash of color. Dan does have an assistant - just one - to help him care for all of the flowers and grounds of the state park. For him, it is clearly a labor of love.
On Tuesday morning, Dan was meeting with interested gardeners at the entrance to the Avenue of the Pines to talk about the late summer blooms and to answer questions. 

In the photo below, Dan has used a New York native, the tall hearty purple Ironweed, to shine at the back of the border.

The gardens, we learned, are a mixture of about 75% perennials and woody shrubs and about 25% annuals.

This lovely rosy plant, above, is an annual amaranth. Dan's gardens include at least two varieties of amaranth, which he says   re-seed themselves readily. I think this variety is called "Molten Fire".

In the photo below, the maroon tassels are from another variety of amaranth called "Love Lies Bleeding".  These plants are tall and bring a lot of color to the late summer border. I love how Dan has tucked in some corn plants among the castor bean and sunflowers to give even more height to the back of the border.

Dan told us that he works with local garden centers, primarily the folks at Sunnyside Gardens in Saratoga Springs, who provide many of the plants for the Spa State Park.

The bright orange zinnias, below, are from the profusion series, a favorite of Dan's, which he buys as bedding plants, not seeds.

Dan also uses a lot of these blue "Hightide" ageratum, below, also purchased as bedding plants.

A combination I really liked were these dark ornamental peppers, below, mixed with the yellow flowers of what I think is helianthus. Notice the green-leaved plants emerging from the back of the peppers? Those are milkweed. They are "volunteers" (AKA, weeds) that Dan allows to stay where they emerge. The monarch butterflies love them and Dan says they produce a vanilla-scented flower earlier in the summer.

I wish I could remember what the plant below was. It was full of  wispy leaves and dark pink blooms. Anybody recognize it?

Oh, well. If I can't figure it out, I can always go back for the next garden talk. That will be on Saturday morning, August 25, from 8:30 to 11:00. Dan Urkevich and his assistant Joan will be back talking about the Spa gardens. If you go, be sure to ask for a copy of the brochure they've made up. It lists most of the plants used in this year's garden.

For day trippers, there are two pleasant places to eat lunch in the Spa Park: Catherine's, next to the vintage Victoria Pool (bring a swimsuit!) and Putnam's Patio at the Gideon Putnam hotel. 



  1. Hi Barbara,
    Thanks for visiting my blog :)
    I think the pink flower might be Globe Amaranth, but not sure.
    It's a pretty area where you live. I am south of Utica.
    Hasn't it been wonderful to get some nice rain...finally?

    1. Yes, indeed, rain! My own garden was looking rather "crispy" this summer.
      My mystery plant might well be globe amaranth. The blossoms look right, but the leaves aren't like the globes I am familiar with. Perhaps it's a different variety.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. P.S. I meant to also say, thanks for sharing those beautiful gardens. They are certainly a labor of love with so many colorful plants.

  3. So many great pictures, I don't even know which is the best. There are just so many great ideas in those garden photos. Thanks for leaving the comment on my blog, I wouldn't have found (and joined your blog as a reader)your blog otherwise. Thanks!!

    1. Thanks for visiting. Nice to meet you, El Gaucho!

  4. Hi Barbara, nice to meet you! It's always nice getting to see other people's gardens and being inspired by their great ideas.

    1. Rosemary, what a perfect name for a gardener! Thanks for visiting here.

  5. Hi Barbara, thanks for visiting my own blog and leaving a comment. It is nice to meet you, and I look forward to exploring your own blog. Could your mystery plant be monarda? The garden is gorgeous! What a wonderful way to spend a day. Dan is a gifted gardener. Those long borders are a dream!

    1. I don't think it's monarda. It was more "branchy" than monarda usually is. I'm just going to have to go back and ask. Such a hardship! ;~)


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