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Steamboat Magazine

The Crowd Pleaser

06/22/2022 11:03AM ● By Suzi Mitchell

Photograph by David Patterson©

A cluster of fat bees lolls about in a euphoric state on Michelle and Steve Carogal’s deck in downtown Steamboat Springs. A heavy coating of mustard-hued nectar douses their swollen bodies and gives away the cause for their drunken conduct.

“It happens every spring, and it’s absolutely one of our favorite times in the garden,” says Steve, who hoped their worked yard would lure insects and avian wildlife. When the Carogals bought the property in 2014 the garden had a meager display of honeysuckle and lilac.

“Other than that, it was mostly rock and rubble,” Michelle says. Steve salvaged what he could to create the bones of the garden, which includes a ribbon of rock to resemble a stream. “At certain times of the year or after a rainstorm, it will fill with water,” Steve says.

Plant life towers above the rock scape, which meanders through a wooden gate into a side garden. The couple enlisted local naturalist Karen Vail to choreograph their palette of flowers and foliage. Native plants, including bee balm and pine-leaf penstemons, were part of an overarching goal to grow pollinators. Self-heal, Liatris Kobold, blanket flower and Crocosmia add a colorful punch to the display.

Raised beds in the secluded side garden burst with salad greens, vegetables and herbs. The fragrant area is a popular thoroughfare for neighbor cats, who the couple often see sunning themselves among Steve’s handiwork. The pathway leads to the less-tended part of the greenery, where a pocket-sized patch is home to a wildflower-inspired meadow.“

Plants are like children; you need to pay attention to their individual needs, and some of them require more attention than others,” Steve says. Throughout the growing season, the Carogals can often be found on their front deck, which is constructed from trim salvaged from their previous property.

The family home by Sleeping Giant was obliterated by a bolt of lightning. “This place is definitely a calm after the storm,” Steve says. Their downtown haven is a popular stopping spot for passersby who are lured by the kaleidoscope of color and collection of sculptures. An award-winning piece by Leadville-based sculptor Kevin Shaffer takes center stage. “Mountain Muhly,” which won the People’s Choice Award in 2011-2012 for public art on the Front Range, is modeled after its namesake, a native grass, and blends in beautifully.

“We really wanted the garden to feel organic and use what we had wherever possible,” Steve says. The garden is an eclectic mix of repurposed materials, well-planned planting and respect for the natural world. “I’m really glad it turned out the way it did,” Michelle says. “We love it.”