Panayoti Kelaidis, Outreach Director, Denver Botanic Gardens

Panayoti Kelaidis, Outreach Director, Denver Botanic Gardens

Panayoti Kelaidis, Outreach Director, Denver Botanic Gardens.  That is quite a job title.  It could mean a lot of things.  My translation is this:  Panayoti is a guru who has guided horticulture and Denver Botanic Gardens for decades.  There are now a number of skilled and knowledgeable horticulturists on staff at DBG.  Panayoti started the ball rolling, and now there is considerable help.  Nevertheless, Panayoti is the big voice of outreach for the gardens.  He is known to thousands of horticulturists.   He is our “go to” guy when a plant question comes up or we find a new cultivar.

I won’t just fawn the whole article, I think I’ve been clear enough.  I am that “go to” guy for many people in our community, but my level and depth of knowledge is definitely the shallow end compared to Panayoti who has devoted his entire life to plants and gardens and education about them.  

Some of the bamboo I bought to DBG is now forming this tunnel.

When Panayoti and I toured DBG in November, I was struck by the number of times my mark on the gardens showed up.   I went to the garden to bring some new plants for consideration by Plant Select for their propagation program.  Delosperma ‘Alan’s Apricot’ is one of my plants, the only one I ever named for me.  I did not know how it was planted, or if it was planted at DBG.  Panayoti also has one Delosperma named for him.  In their main Steppe Garden where these plants are displayed, his is missing.  Panayoti lamented that ‘Alan’s Apricot’ covered an entire slope (by far the biggest planting there of any of the delospermas) and his was only a small plant in a rather distant bed.  That is one mark of mine on the garden.

It was sort of funny, but we were talking with two horticulturists who were just polite but not that interested in my visit.  Then Panayoti made the connection for them that this is the Alan of ‘Alan’s Apricot.’  It was almost humorous how they lit up with interest in response.   We gardeners do sometimes care more about a good plant than some old coot visiting a garden.

This hillside is ablaze with apricot flowers all summer. This is ‘Alan’s Apricot’

The sudden smile and recognition when Panayoti mentioned the connection between me and the Delosperma with my name.

Then we went through PlantAsia.  Tower Perennial supplied the bamboo for DBG.  At the time I brought it I wondered if the Denver climate would be kind to it.  The bamboo looks perfect and has grown really well.  A path  has formed a tunnel through the bamboo.  Check it out.  That’s another mark on DBG.

Next, while walking around I noticed a tall Cupressus ‘Raywood’s Weeping’ and recalled that it too came from us.  A few conifers such as Picea ‘Gold Drift’ etc. have also made the trip.  

I brought DBG a new form of Zauschneria that I suggested  be named for Panayoti.  Zauschneria garrettii ‘Panapink’ is the pink flowered form of this amazing plant.   This is my most exciting new plant, but I also brought Eriophyllum lanatum ‘June Joy’ and Centranthus ruber ‘Neptune’.  A novelty succulent with curly leaves turned heads, too.  

All these plants I’ve brought to DBG are the direct result of my friendship, respect and admiration for Panayoti Kelaidis, Outreach Director, Denver Botanic Gardens.   There are a bunch of programs that introduce new plant material.  I choose DBG and the Plant Select program because they are leading the way on waterwise gardening.  Water conservation is essential, and with good plants such as these, we can conserve and maintain beauty.  The service and assistance plantsmen get from Panayoti is the personal face of the garden.   He is the interface for the plant collectors such as myself.   

The tall conifer is Cupressus ‘Raywood’s Weeping’ from Tower

 Mike Bone and other DBG staff are stepping into the forefront.  They give such great hospitality and instruction for visitors like me.  Mike dug around under a batch of Quercus turbinella and found the acorns for me that I requested.  I love my live oak, but it is too big to move, so I am going to start a new one for my retirement garden in Santa Fe.   It will be ready to go when I am.

Here’s the plant I want to name for Panayoti. Zauschneria garrettii ‘Panapink’.

Watching Panayoti walk through the garden, it is like seeing history in motion. I think he’s been there 39 years. Wow!