Monday, December 1, 2014

A regional gem: Colorado Springs Xeriscape Demonstration Garden

Grand Larceny vista
 They say gardens should have stolen vistas: the Colorado Springs Xeriscape Demonstration Garden on Mesa road commits Grand Larceny: the views in all directions are melting and superb--so that you almost forget to look at the stunning horticulture practiced throughout this several acre site. Colorado Springs is Colorado's second largest city: although it is not called a botanic garden, it performs many of the functions of such gardens through education and horticultural experimentation. Hundreds of plants are grown to perfection here, mostly selected for their low water needs and utility. I regret my photography skills are such that I couldn't capture the towering hulk of Pikes Peak in the background (the furthest shadowy eminence), but the backlighting on Apache Plume [Fallugia paradoxa] behind Jan Fahs (my companion in life) comes through loud and clear.

Rock garden in May
 The garden features a variety of garden styles: their rock garden--designed and built by Scott Winter (one of Colorado Springs Utilities many extraordinary talents) is one of the finest examples of rock gardens in any public garden. Of course, it helps that I'm showing at its very peak of May bloom!

Rock garden in June
 But the color and interest in this garden continue throughout the growing season, here a month or so later...

Closer view of the Delosperma madness!
 The hardy ice plants obviously like this garden a great deal--perhaps a tad too much!

Late summer
 But even when the flush of summer bloom is over, the cushions, mats and textures are outstanding. This is one of the first examples of the Czech crevice garden style in Colorado.

Rock garden in autumn
 As you can tell, I'm rather fond of this garden: I rarely drive through Colorado Springs (and I go through a lot every year) without taking the mile or so detour to visit this garden throughout the gardening year: it's always open and always rewarding. The Russian hawthorn in early fall color is one of my favorites, alongside the prairie planting.

New rock garden slope
In addition to the more intimate rock garden, there is wonderful rock work throughout the site: this brand new slope, designed to feature a collection of xeric dwarf conifers, is at the very opposite side of the site from the previous gardens.

 And there's a lovely cactus garden section next to the rock garden (I hold desert gardens near and dear to my spiny, prickly heart!)

Nasella tenuissima
 Everyone grows Mexican hair grass nowadays in Colorado, although I've never seen it quite so charmingly sited elsewhere...

Penstemon pinifolius 'Mersea Yellow'
 The staff and volunteers at this garden have a wonderful eye for siting plants--like this glorious planting of the yellow pineleaf penstemon. They scour the local rare plant nurseries and sales for special plants--each year you are apt to find something new and wonderful here.
Sporobolus wrightii
 Not everything in this Garden is compact--here a fine clump of Giant Sacaton stands proudly out from the crowd...
Pelargonium endlicherianum and Eriogonum jamesii var. flavescens

I was charmed by this combination of our native buckwheat below and the contrasting magenta Pelargonium from Turkey--a dramatic contrast if there is one!

Symphyandra armena
 Not many public gardens will have this unsual monocarpic Campanula relative from the Caucasus...

Campanula trogerae
 Or this spectacular Turkish campanulad, that blooms through the middle of the summer.

Chaenorhinum origanifolium
 At one point this Chaenorhinum had  self sown throughout the rock garden--blooming for months at a time...

Amsonia jonesii and Dracocephalum botryoides
I doubt you will ever find another garden that combines this dryland Amsonia from Western Colorado alongside the alpine dragonhead from Western Asia--a perfect vignette that illustrates the sophisticated gardening going on here.
Diascia integerrima 'Coral Canyon', Tanacetum densum ssp. amani, Penstemon x Mexicali
 And here there is a wonderful reunion of plants from disparate parts: the twinspur (Diascia) from the Drakensberg in South Africa, the tansy from the Amanus mountains of Syria and Turkey, and the hybrid Penstemon from Western America and Mexico! Each and all of them proving durable and hardy in this exposed, southern slope.

Ann Seymour
This garden owes its existence to many, many people I know: the many wise people at Colorado Springs Water who approved and funded the project in the first place. To the outstanding Landscape Architect, Fawn Bell, who did the overall design (I would have included her picture, but can't find it in my files!). Scott Winter, mentioned earlier, who designed the rock garden area--and to the horticulturists who still oversee and manage this garden, including Catherine Moravec who oversees the garden at present, and the small army of volunteers who maintains this garden with great finesse and skill: below I have copied the data on this garden included in the Plant Select Demonstration Garden pages (which I have linked to in the previous sentence)...alas, that link will only take you to the generic page including nearly 90 gardens--click on the lefthand yellow dot representing this garden where it says "Colorado Springs" on the map and you'll access the information below--but also some more great pix altogether different from the ones I show.

Colorado Springs Utilities Xeriscape Demonstration Garden (Colorado Springs)

Address: 2855 Mesa Road
Colorado Springs, CO80904
Mailing Address:

Contact Name: Catherine Moravec

Driving Directions
From I-25 and Fillmore Street: Travel west on Fillmore Street for 1 1/2 miles Turn right on Mesa Road The garden is approximately 1/2 mile on the right.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Featured Post

A garden near lake Tekapo

The crevice garden of Michael Midgley Just a few years old, this crevice garden was designed and built by Michael Midgley, a delightful ...

Blog Archive