Magazine article Sunset

Rocky Mountain High

Magazine article Sunset

Rocky Mountain High

Article excerpt

ARTIST ISA CATTO has a hard time staying focused in summer. She should be in her studio, painting watercolors, but she only wants to be "out in the garden, ogling seedlings," she says. "I used to freak out about it, until I decided to count it as my studio practice-it's professional development."

There's every reason for her to bolt outdoors during the summer months in Woody Creek, Colorado. That's when large swaths of lupines and poppies burst into bloom in Catto's garden, for a landscape that looks like it's been painted in brushstrokes.

It's a scene that was almost impossible for Catto to imagine when she moved onto the property after relocating from Manhattan with her husband and child in 2004. Back then, the property was 17 acres of wild, untamed plants and unworkable hardpan clay soil. A longtime gardener, Catto studied up on soil science, then dug in, amending the ground over several years rather than excavating it (a more sustainable move because it prevents the dirt from ending up in a landfill). "I can bore anyone to tears with my obsession with compost," she says.

As she started thinking about the design, Catto realized she needed a pro's eye. Working with landscape architect Sheri Sanzone of Bluegreen (bluegreenaspen. …

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