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.
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.
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.Enjoy!