Favorite Wildscaping Links…Let’s dream big and create nourishing connections with your own little piece of wild !

Those dark winter days remind you that your garden is just resting, ever awaiting the renewal of life that spring brings.  If you’re up to your eyeballs looking at seed catalogs, then read this blog to find out some reputable sources on wildscaping and let your research rampage run wild!

Over the years, Habitat Hero staff and partners have researched and gathered their favorite wildscaping links and would like to share them with all of you!

1) Lauren Springer Ogden, renowned garden designer, and High Country Gardens carefully selected a collection of 15 xeric plants designed to attract and benefit songbirds, pollinators and other wildlife in the Habitat Hero Birdwatcher Pre-Planned Garden.  This 7’x12’ garden-in-a-box has a great variety of perennials, shrubs and ornamental grasses.  Purchase your garden now with a limited time offer: When prompted use promo code WILDSCAPE15 to receive 10% off.  Coupon is good until June 30, 2015.  In addition to this great offer, High Country Gardens proudly supports the mission of Audubon Rockies by donating some of the proceeds with every garden sold!
http://www.highcountrygardens.com/pre-planned-gardens/habitat-hero-birdwatcher-pre-planned-garden?ref=habhero

2) Betty Cahill, a local master gardener shares her struggles and triumphs in gardening around Metro Denver and writes the seasonal garden Punch List for The Denver Post.
http://gardenpunchlist.blogspot.com/

3) Here is a very informative national blog-zine for wildscapes, plants and wildlife.  The team of wildlife gardeners provide a forum from East Coast to the West Coast and everywhere in between.
http://www.beautifulwildlifegarden.com

3BackslopeJune2013

Photo by: 2014 Designated Habitat Hero

4) Visit Bee Safe Boulder and learn about local efforts to create pollinator safe havens by encouraging the elimination of systemic pesticides and other toxic chemicals and retailers who provide safe plants without neonicotinoids.
http://beesafeboulder.com

bee sunflower

Photo by: 2014 Designated Habitat Hero

5) Follow David Salman, Founder & Chief Horticulturist of High Country Gardens and plant man extraordinaire!
http://www.highcountrygardens.com/gardening/category/blog/

6) Check out Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center as there are over 8,000 native plants in their database coupled with user friendly search icons makes this search engine truly unbeatable: http://www.wildflower.org/plants/
They also have recommended species lists by states and other characteristics: http://www.wildflower.org/collections/

4BackslopeOctober2014

Photo by: 2014 Designated Habitat Hero

7) Receive advice and observations from your CSU Extension Horticulture Agents & Specialists:
http://csuhort.blogspot.com/

8) Denver Botanic Gardens has a “Garden Navigator” that allows you to locate and learn about the plants within their collection.  You can search over a thousand plants based on different criteria including; bloom times or specific plant features.
http://navigate.botanicgardens.org/ecmweb/ECM_Home.html
You can also create a personal tour by putting in certain key words or view generated tours already created by one of their staff.
http://navigate.botanicgardens.org/weboi/oecgi2.exe/INET_ECM_ListTours

Photo Credit - Dan Johnson

Red Yucca Plant photographed by Dan Johnson

9) For a timely and interesting blog check out Panayoti’s and marvel at his collection of colorful photos!
http://prairiebreak.blogspot.com/

10) The National Audubon Society is committed to creating bird friendly communities by transforming our neighborhoods into places where birds flourish.  Stay abreast of featured projects and news:
http://www.audubon.org/conservation/creating-bird-friendly-communities

Agastache_cleome_hesperaloe_hummer

Photo by: 2014 Designated Habitat Hero

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”
-Chinese Proverb

Our daylight hours are incrementally getting longer as we approach the summer solstice this brings promise to our awakening gardens.  In the meantime, conduct some wildscaping research and set your clocks for Daylight Savings on March 7th.

Citizen Science

After asking friends and family what images they conjure up when they hear the term Citizen Science led to some great discussions.  Taking note of these responses – such as, an individual’s view on scientific issues, “wacky Bill Nye the Science Guy”, to pioneers relying on the land to create medicine – sparked me to spend a minute on explaining the gist of Citizen Science.

It wasn’t until June 2014, that the Oxford English Dictionary included the term Citizen Science and defined it as “a member of the general public who engages in scientific work, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions.”  In other words, anybody in the community can observe nature and record and report their findings to scientific institutions.  One person or a team of scientists can’t be everywhere at a specific time; however, the more people that act as the eyes and ears for scientists result in a tremendous amount of data.

What better way for those of you just learning about Citizen Science or seasoned veterans alike than to participate in the first online Citizen Science project that was launched in 1998 – The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).  GBBC is for everyone, from beginner birdwatchers to experts, and anyone can participate from anywhere in the world. Counting birds provides scientists and conservationists with a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Each checklist submitted during the GBBC helps the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird Studies Canada, and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are faring, and how to protect them and the environment we share. Please join us for the GBBC, Friday, February 13 through Monday, February 16, and together we can make our local birds count!

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For those of you interested in participating in year-round Citizen Science projects, check out the Wyoming Biodiversity Citizen Science Initiative (WyoBio).  Here’s what Brenna Marsicek, Project Coordinator, has to say about WyoBio: WyoBio was created by the University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute, Wyoming Geographic Information Sciences Center and Wyoming Natural Diversity Database and was launched in July 2014, with the goal of allowing anyone, anywhere access to information about Wyoming’s biological diversity. Users can upload their own observations of any organism in the state, see others’ observations and explore species range maps.  They can also add various map layers, such as elevation, urban development, vegetation type, and more to begin asking questions about their data.  How many species of Indian Paintbrush are found in my county?  What are the connections between butterfly species and vegetation type in my area?  WyoBio can help answer all these questions and more.  This is a free resource – anyone over the age of 13 can register at www.wyobio.org to begin uploading data today!

A screenshot of WyoBio with multiple map layers turned on.  Users can gather tons of information from these layers.

A screenshot of WyoBio with multiple map layers turned on. Users can gather tons of information from these layers.

WyoBio also offers resources for teachers and classrooms; including, lesson plans that incorporate WyoBio to get kids outside and use technology while meeting science standards.  These lesson plans and recommended supplies to bring on field trips, identification guides, and more are available for download on WyoBio.

A young pollinator enthusiast catches a honey bee to record in WyoBio.  Photo by Brenna Marsicek.

A young pollinator enthusiast catches a honey bee to record in WyoBio. Photo by Brenna Marsicek.

Mark your calendars for this go-to event, BioBlitz on June 13-14 at Heart Mountain preserve outside of Cody, WY.  This event is co-hosted by Audubon Rockies, The Nature Conservancy, and UW Biodiversity Institute.  This is a terrific hands-on opportunity that brings together scientists, teachers, volunteers, environmental educators, and community members to survey, find, identify, and learn about as many local plants, insect and animal species as possible.  Stay tuned for more information and details by visiting BioBlitz website.

BioBlitz2015-HeartMTN (2)

With your new-found appreciation of Citizen Science you now have many opportunities to get involved and let your amateur scientist shine through.  Make science matter!

New Beginnings and Old Friends

Our Mission – Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day.

A New Year often brings about new beginnings, change, resolutions and commitments. As we kick off 2015, we’d like to share our new ideas and growth potential for Habitat Hero!  Habitat Hero was an undeniable success last year reaching out to over 800 attendees at 9 workshops ranging from Casper, WY to Pueblo, CO and awarding 28 Habitat Heroes for producing outstanding wildscapes.

2014 Habitat Hero Winner - Marcia Tatroe's Wildscape

2014 Habitat Hero Winner – Marcia Tatroe’s Wildscape

So what’s in store for the New Year?  Well for starters, the Habitat Hero program is now a project of Audubon Rockies.  In 2010, Audubon Wyoming and Audubon Colorado combined programs and staff to create a unified, highly functioning Audubon Rockies, a regional office of the National Audubon Society.  In addition to sharing National’s mission of “conserving and restoring natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity,” we partner with our 17 independent local chapters to provide on-the-ground conservation efforts and educational programs.  Audubon Rockies’ aspiration is that our educational goals instill a conservation ethic for generations to come.  Habitat Heroes aligns perfectly with Audubon Rockies’ vision of creating open spaces rich in birds and other wildlife, and benefitting the people who enjoy that richness.

Audubon Rockies Staff!

Staff of Audubon Rockies

The second part of what a New Year brings is the “you” factor and making resolutions and commitments.  What better way to make a pledge that benefits the environment, community and you?  To combat the loss of open spaces, a Habitat Hero positively contributes to the community by increasing natural areas, providing homes and food for wildlife, and connecting to larger green spaces.  This helps in restoring a fragmented ecosystem, and offers a welcome place for birds and wildlife through the implementation of wildscaping principles, a form of landscape stewardship.  A tremendous benefit is that your actions are more far-reaching than the confines of your backyard and have global impact!  Now is the time to say “yes” to supporting a diversity of wildlife, creating an outdoor educational environment that stimulates learning all while having fun at the same time!

To help get you started with the transformation of your garden, we have a Habitat Hero Workshop upcoming in Cheyenne, WY on March 28th from 9am til 4:30pm at Laramie County Community College.  Our speakers include; Susan J. Tweit – Plant Biologist and author of “Rocky Mountain Garden Survival Guide”; Jane Dorn – Co-author of “Growing Native Plants of the Rocky Mountain Area”; and Clint Basset – Water Conservation Specialist, Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities.  Learning water-wise wildscaping tips for your yard will be explained further with Susan’s talk on landscape design including use of berms, hardscapes, soils, wind and exposures, water features, micro climates and microsites.  Jane will share some favorite native plants adapted for the high plains and how to grow them incorporating Susan’s more general design approach.  There will also be a panel discussion using local yards as examples, which is an opportunity to see a live demonstration on how your yard could be made over.  For your yard to be considered, please send photos and basic diagram showing dimensions, orientation and features to audubon.habitathero@gmail.com

For more event details and to register 

Our Habitat Heroes New Year’s resolution is to expand our network of Habitat Heroes, creating more bird and wildlife habitat, consuming less water and walking a bit softer on our home planet.

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Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays & Thanks for Being Habitat Heroes!

Our Mission: Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day. 

Happy Holidays! (A wreath can provide habitat too: a house finch nested in this one.)  Photo: Susan J. Tweit

Happy Holidays! (A wreath can provide habitat too: a house finch nested in this one.) Photo: Susan J. Tweit

Thank You For An Outstanding Year….

Thanks to each of you and your enthusiasm for providing habitat in your gardens, yards, and parks and other public spaces, 2014 was a great year for the Habitat Hero project.

Wildscape 101 Workshops

We offered 9 workshops in eight cities and towns throughout the Rocky Mountain region, from Casper, Wyoming, to Pueblo, Colorado. More than 800 people attended our Wildscape 101 programs. Thank you, Lauren Springer Ogden, for headlining our workshops!

Wildscape 101 workshop in Casper, WY

Wildscape 101 workshop in Casper, WY

And thanks to our workshop sponsors: University of Wyoming Extension Service, Natrona County; Southeast Colorado Water Conservancy District; Colorado State University Extension–Pueblo CountyArkansas Valley Audubon; Denver Water; City of Fort Collins Utilities; City of Aurora Water Conservation Division; and Greater Arkansas River Nature Association.

We participated in Pro-Green, the annual “green industry” convention in Denver, thanks to sponsorship from Plant Select®.

Hometown Habitat

Hometown Habitat, a national film about the people making a difference in restoring nature at home.

Hometown Habitat, a national film about the people making a difference in restoring nature at home.

We were filmed for the “Hometown Habitat” environmental film project by filmmaker and passionate habitat gardener, Catherine Zimmerman of The Meadow Project. View the trailer with Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home.

(You can help support this groundbreaking film, featuring Doug Tallamy, here.) Look for “Hometown Habitat” at film festivals in 2015!

Habitat Hero Awards

Thanks to our workshops, vigorous social media campaign, and support from our major partners, Plant Select® and High Country Gardens, applications for our Habitat Hero Awards tripled from last year, the first year of the program.

Habitat Hero Garden sign

Habitat Hero Garden sign

We awarded the coveted Habitat Hero sign (and bragging rights) to 28 projects: public gardens, landscape/horticulture professionals, residential yards, plus a multi-family complex, a schoolyard and a trail system.

We Couldn’t Have Done it Without You

It was a record year for us in so many ways, and you, the passionate gardeners, plants-people, landscapers, and park, golf course, public garden, and trail system managers helped spread the word, and the excitement about restoring habitat for songbirds and pollinators right at home where we live, work and play. Thank you!

Jacobs wildscape, Pueblo, CO, a 2013 Habitat Hero Award-winner

Jacobs wildscape, Pueblo, CO, a 2013 Habitat Hero Award-winner

And to our partners at High Country Gardens and Plant Select®–you helped us grow in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Deepest thanks!

What’s Next?

We’re taking a break for the holidays until mid-January. Next year begins a new chapter for the Habitat Hero project. The staff of Audubon Rockies is taking over the project from the start-up team, and they are already planning events, including a Wildscape workshop in Cheyenne, WY, in late March.

Look for more news here after mid-January. And in the meantime, if you’re looking for a last-minute gift, don’t forget our Colorado Wildscapes book.

Broad-tailed hummingbird on the stalk of a common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) on a formerly industrial property. Photo: Susan J. Tweit

Broad-tailed hummingbird on the stalk of a common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) on a formerly industrial property. Photo: Susan J. Tweit

Winter is a great time to plan next year’s habitat gardens, so “Habitat Up!” and help Audubon Rockies keep the momentum going.

Happy Holidays from Connie, Susan and Sienna. Thank you for being Habitat Heroes!

Join Audubon RockiesPlant Select® and High Country Gardens in promoting wildscaping. Be a Habitat Hero.

Habitat Hero Awards: School Garden & Professional Landscapes

Our Mission: Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day. 

Take a Virtual “Tour” of Inspiring Professional Landscapes & a School Garden

Read on for a virtual “tour” of the landscapes designed by horticultural professionals from this year’s Habitat Hero Awards, plus a growing schoolyard garden. Unlike the public parks and trails, these gardens aren’t open to the public. Still, they’re full of ideas to inspire your own wildscapes and habitat gardens!

Pinedale Elementary, Rapid City, SD–Outstanding School Garden

Center court before planting

Center court before planting

The National Wildlife Federation’s Schoolyard Habitat program spurred this elementary school to reclaim unused space in their central courtyard for ecosystem gardens.

Prairie meadow garden three months later

Prairie meadow garden three months later

With advice from a Habitat-Hero-Award-winning master gardener from the community, the school designed three native-plant gardens that reflect the surrounding landscape: prairie meadow, badlands, and Black Hills forest.

Unused lawn before Black Hills forest was planted

Unused lawn before Black Hills forest was planted

“Kindergarten through fifth grade students helped plan, plant and manage these environments. Every native plant was selected either for its ability to provide food, shelter and a place to raise young for local bird species, or … restoring habitat to our pollinators.” The gardens also save water, and teach kids and parents the importance of using tough and resilient natives for their own gardens.

Black Hills forest garden three months later

Black Hills forest garden three months later

Because the courtyard and its gardens are visible from every hallway in the school, kids can observe the habitats and their wildlife as they walk from class to class, making it a living laboratory.

Pinedale Heath Aster with bee gathering pollen

Pinedale Heath Aster with bee gathering pollen

“Lessons come alive as we step out to observe the sunflower heads and asters covered in different types of bees, legs laden with pollen, busy at work.”

 Hayward Yard, Masonville, CO—Outstanding Landscape

May in the Hayward's "tinaja" or waterhole garden

May in the Hayward’s “tinaja” or waterhole garden

“Why wildscape?” writes Pat Hayward about the extensive habitat gardens she and her husband Joel have created on their nearly four-acre property in the foothills above Fort Collins. “It’s like asking why we breathe. It’s the right thing to do, it’s social, it’s fun, it’s mysterious, it’s educational and it’s fun to share.”

Allium and sunflowers, a beautiful contrast of blue and gold

Allium and sunflowers, a beautiful contrast of blue and gold

The Haywards–she’s a horticulturist and he’s a biologist–chose the hundreds of kinds of plants they planted for beauty in all seasons, durability in Colorado’s challenging weather, and value for wildlife, whether food, shelter or nesting/denning.

Another view of the tinaja garden

Another view of the tinaja garden

Most of their plants are Plant Select® varieties, not just because Pat is Executive Director of the program; because the Hayward’s harsh site demanded resilient plants that would survive with little supplemental water in full sun.

A hummingbird drinks at a Hesperaloe with pink Rocky Mountain Beeplant (Cleome serrulata) and Agastache nearby

A hummingbird drinks at a Hesperaloe with pink Rocky Mountain Beeplant (Cleome serrulata) and Agastache nearby

The Haywards welcome wildlife of all sorts, whether the hummingbirds, bumblebees, tadpoles and orioles that are easy to love, or the skunks, snakes, and song-bird-eating Cooper’s Hawks. Except mule deer, which are fenced out of the main yard area, but have full run of the rest of the acreage.

A natural garden of mostly native species transitions to the "wild" portion of their acreage.

A natural garden of mostly native species transitions to the “wild” portion of their acreage.

Peacock Yard, Lakewood, CO

A prairie-like swath of lawn with woodland edges

A prairie-like swath of lawn with woodland edges

In just four years, landscape designer Marie Peacock transformed a neglected 1960s suburban yard into a water-saving oasis for wildlife, replacing bindweed, scruffy patches of lawn and aging Pfizer junipers with two very different habitats, front and back, picking plants suitable to the very different exposures with an emphasis on long blooming time.

A berm and dry streamed give character to the xeric front yard.

A berm and dry stream bed give character to the xeric front yard.

The front yard, a sloping and sunny exposure, features a berm and dry stream bed, plus xeric plants that provide food for hummingbirds and pollinators.

Cascading water feature and "wild" edges

Cascading water feature and “wild” edges

The back, which slopes uphill to an irrigation ditch, features a cascading water feature that Peacock admits “had a mind of its own and became larger than life.” In that more well-watered site, Peacock used native and regionally adapted plants to create woodland edges with a prairie-like lawn in the middle.

Coyote hunting in the back yard

Coyote hunting in the back yard

Wildlife attracted to the habitat corridor along the irrigation ditch frequent the habitat in Peacock’s yard, including the coyote pair that raised a family in a den nearby!

Tatroe Yard, Centennial, CO—Outstanding Wildlife Garden

Diverse kinds of plants make for beauty and diverse habitat.

Diverse kinds of plants make for beauty and diverse habitat.

When Marcia Tatroe and her husband moved to their covenant-controlled community in 1987, their neighborhood, “an island of 1200 homes with fields on three sides,” supported “all of the usual critters that manage to live in such a place” along with several varieties of snakes. As housing developments took over the fields, Tatroe “watched in horror as wildlife gradually disappeared.”

Two of Tatroe's whimsical birdhouses (note the wren perched on the right-hand one)

Two of Tatroe’s whimsical birdhouses (note the wren perched on the right-hand one)

So Tatroe set out to provide habitat in her quarter-acre lot. After receiving a variance to eliminate the bluegrass lawn, she began a cottage-garden-style wildscape that now takes up every inch of the lot beyond the house. “I hope to provide an… example in my community to demonstrate it is possible to share a garden with the creatures that were here before my home was built on top of theirs.”

A garden that invites wildlife and people

A garden that invites wildlife and people

Tatroe’s garden includes over 2,000 taxa of plants, many native, and is entirely organic, involving no pesticides at all. “Insects are food for the birds and other critters I’m trying to attract.”

Tatroe's "messy" garden in winter, with last year's stalks left for food and shelter.

Tatroe’s “messy” garden in winter, with last year’s stalks left for food and shelter.

Her design alternates open areas with shade and shrubby areas for maximum diversity of habitat, and includes woodpiles and brush piles for shelter, and different types of water, including basins and birdbaths.

A Northern Flicker finds a perch on a garden sculpture in winter

A Northern Flicker finds a perch on a garden sculpture in winter

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Congratulations to the 2014 Habitat Heroes! Thank you for helping grow a network of habitat for wildlife in the Rocky Mountain region.

Join Audubon RockiesPlant Select® and High Country Gardens in promoting wildscaping. Be a Habitat Hero.

Habitat Hero Awards: Residential Gardens, Part II

Our Mission: Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day. 

Continuing Our Virtual “Tour” of Inspiring Residential Gardens

This is post two in the virtual “tour” of our top residential garden Habitat Hero Awards (listed in alphabetical order, no ranking implied). They’re full of ideas to inspire your own wildscapes and habitat gardens!

Engelstad YARD, Rapid City, SD—Outstanding Residential Yard

The front flower bed--prairie for pollinators, a tree to shade and cool the house

The front flower bed–prairie for pollinators, a tree for a perch, and to shade and cool the house

When this Master Gardener moved to a golf-course-and-green-lawn community in western South Dakota, she had already experienced the rich rewards of restoring native prairie in her yard. How to convince the homeowners association to allow her to replace some of her lawn with prairie?

Back yard with formal flower beds featuring native prairie plants

Back yard with formal flower beds featuring native prairie plants

“We requested permission to create a Japanese garden with native plants.” Once permission was granted, they removed all of the river rock in front of the house and their indoor summer temperatures dropped by 10 degrees!

Then came moving plants that didn’t belong where the landscapers had placed them, and planting native prairie plants in their stead. And as the natives took hold, the pollinators and songbirds moved in.

Bumblebee with full pollen "baskets" on her hind legs at Pikes Peak® penstemon

Bumblebee with full pollen “baskets” on her hind legs at Pikes Peak® penstemon

She’s had to “corner” the landscaping company hired by the homeowners association to keep them from spraying her yard with pesticides, and even turned the every-two-days lawn sprinklers off herself a few times. “But I think we’ve had an influence,” she says. “There are more flower beds now and less river rock and even a few native plants.” (She also designed the plantings at Pinedale School in Rapid City, this year’s Outstanding Schoolyard.)

Adult male American Goldfinch (winter plumage) in hawthorn tree

Adult male American Goldfinch (winter plumage) in hawthorn tree

FReudenburg/White Yard, Colorado Springs—Outstanding Wildlife Habitat

A bobcat drinks from the front yard cascade in winter.

A bobcat drinks from the front yard cascade in winter.

Living not far from the foothills and Garden of the Gods, this couple knows their yard is part of a wildlife corridor between the plains and the mountains, so they make a point of landscaping to provide food and water for critters from native bees to bobcats!

The private backyard oasis

The private backyard oasis

Their backyard, mostly fenced to keep out deer, is where the couple’s chickens and edibles live; their front yard is a xeriscape full of food plants for pollinators and songbirds.

The colorful front yard rock garden and perennial bed

“The yard is a work in progress,” the couple admits. But they love to garden and bird-watch, and they are so dedicated to wildscape principles that they are part of a neighborhood group that rents goats to control weeds instead of using pesticides!

A "weeder" goat

A “weeder” goat

Rose Wildscape, Powell, WY—Outstanding Zone 4 Garden

When you live in northern Wyoming’s windy, dry and cold climates, and you have sandy, alkaline soil, you’ve got a serious gardening challenge.

Inside the low wall, an oasis for people and wildlife

Starting in 2005, this intrepid couple created a walled garden around their house for a windbreak, and within it, are growing an oasis for songbirds, pollinators and people. The garden uses little supplemental water and no pesticides.

Layers, color and texture, plus plenty of hiding cover for "little guys"

Layers, fall color and texture, plus plenty of hiding cover for “little guys”

They’ve got layers, color and texture, and plenty of summer and fall food. They admit that they need to add more spring food, and replace bark mulch (which blows away and dries out) with gravel mulch more appropriate to the native and xeric plants.

And they’ve got an array of songbirds, from meadowlarks to hummingbirds. This wildscape is a great example of what our founder, Connie Holsinger likes to say: “Plant it and they will come.”

Apache plume re-blooming in the fall, Maximilian sunflower behind gone to seed.

Apache plume re-blooming in the fall, Maximilian sunflower behind gone to seed.

Stalls/Purner Yard, Denver, CO—Special Recognition for Creativity

The southwest corner of the yard after beginning to remove lawn.

The southwest corner of the yard after lawn removal begins.

Take one ordinary 1950s city lawn-scape plus two guys motivated to do something interesting and water-saving, add a Wildscape 101 workshop, and what do you get?

Prairie-garden in the making with Little Free Library

That same corner as a prairie-garden in the making with Little Free Library on a post

A brand-new front-yard prairie garden in the making (they grew most of the plants from seed this year) with a Little Free Library that has made their corner “one of North Park Hill’s new thriving ‘destinations’ in a matter of months. People point. They stop. They read. They ask questions. They leave inspired,” say the owners.

Backyard: edibles and a pollinator border

Backyard: edibles and a pollinator border

And a back lawn replaced by edible garden with a wide pollinator border. “Our morning back yard coffee is full of birds and their song,” they wrote in their application. “The bees buzz all morning and evening. … Just yesterday I sat and watched four goldfinches finally make their way to our bright and seeding sunflowers too. And all this in just one growing season!

“It’s been such a special journey – for the neighborhood, for the critters, and of course for us.”

Thanks, guys! That pretty much sums up why we wildscape.

Congratulations to all the 2014 Habitat Heroes! Thank you for helping grow a network of habitat for wildlife in the Rocky Mountain region.

Join Audubon RockiesPlant Select® and High Country Gardens in promoting wildscaping. Be a Habitat Hero.

Habitat Hero Awards: Residential Gardens, Part I

Our Mission: Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day. 

Take a Virtual “Tour” of Inspiring Residential Gardens

We thought you’d like see some of this year’s residential Habitat Hero gardens. Unlike the public parks and trails, these gardens are private, so over the next few blog posts we’ll give you a virtual “tour.” They’re full of ideas to inspire your own wildscapes and habitat gardens!

Here are the first three “Outstanding” and “Special Recognition” yards (listed in alphabetical order, no ranking implied):

Alberty/Buschmann Yard, Salt Lake City, UT

What looks green and natural is actually invasive and toxic myrtle spurge.

The slope carpeted by  invasive and toxic myrtle spurge.

This Salt Lake City couple thought their steep back slope, which adjoins City-owned Open Space, was natural until 2010 when they learned from a county awareness campaign that a carpet of invasive and toxic myrtle spurge had choked out all the native plants.

Within days, these energetic restoration gardeners had pulled a “whole carload” of myrtle spurge, leaving them with a bare slope and a “mudslide to be” looming over their house.

The steep slope minus most of the spurge, and with baby plants plugged in.

The steep slope minus most of the spurge, and with baby plants plugged in.

What could they plant that would survive on a hot, west-facing slope with thin soil covering rocks? In order to save water and not introduce the next invader, they chose plants native to the Intermountain West, and created a beautiful naturalistic habitat garden.

Three years late in June--that's a habitat garden!

Three years later in June–that’s a habitat garden!

Not all of the 200 plants they plugged into the slope to stabilize it survived. But some natives–including big sagebrush and rubber rabbitbrush–volunteered once the toxic spurge was cleared away, and over four years they’ve established other native shrubs, including mountain mahogany, Gambel oak, and serviceberry, plus bunch grasses and wildflowers.

Fall view of the restored slope, now an inviting place for people and wildlife.

The restored slope in fall, an inviting and diverse place for people and wildlife.

The unexpected benefit: A “huge burst of wildlife,” including hummingbirds they hadn’t seen before, a host of insect pollinators, and baby owls that grew up in the yard. “Our daughter is growing up with a community in her backyard, not just a mess of weeds dribbling caustic sap.”

Bidgood Garden, Denver, CO

The turf grass "desert" before.

The turf grass “desert” before

When this Denver homeowner moved with his family into their new house in a city infill development in 2009, the front-yard landscaping included foundation plantings and Kentucky bluegrass turf.

The turf at the front corner was hard to maintain, so in 2012, the homeowner decided to replace it with a perennial garden that would build on the existing foundation plantings. He smothered the turf with compost and manure topped with black plastic, and then rototilled the dead grass into the soil and began to plant.

The new garden--complete with small boulders passing kids use as stepping stones--in spring of 2012.

After: the new garden–complete with small boulders passing kids use as stepping stones–in summer, 2014.

He selected plants adapted to the former prairie site with flowers and foliage in tones of white, pink and silver, in part so the garden would look good at night and would attract night-flying pollinators, including white-lined sphinx moths. He also used the runoff from his roof for supplemental water to maintain a few mesic prairie plants, including Joe Pyeweed, a butterfly magnet.

The new habitat garden in summer (Joe Pyweed watered by the downspout in left background)

The front-yard habitat garden–note Joe Pyweed watered by the downspout in left background.

The resultant 300-square-foot patch of city habitat is not only aesthetically pleasing and water-saving, it buzzes with pollinators and hummingbirds. The homeowner now photographs bumblebees for the Xerces Society’s Bumblebee Watch project, and he and his kids contribute ladybug observations to Cornell University’s “Lost Ladybug” project.

Brown-belted bumblebee foraging on Echinacea flower.

Brown-belted bumblebee foraging on Echinacea flower.

Cappel Yard, Brighton, CO

The garden and their blue grama lawn (full of seedheads) in fall.

The garden and their blue grama lawn (full of seedheads) in fall.

When this couple moved to a subdivision in semi-rural Brighton, they knew they wanted a garden that would attract wildlife rather than just an expansive area of turf grass lawn. They also wanted to maintain an aesthetically pleasing yard and not violate their subdivision watering and lawn regulations.

Front garden in June

Front garden in June

They started with a single pre-planned garden from High Country Gardens, and over the years added more plants from High Country Gardens, Harlequin’s Gardens in Boulder, and the Center for ReSource Conservation’s Garden-in-a-Box program.

Perennial border by their porch

Perennial border by their porch

These intrepid gardeners learned by trial and error, through “drought, hail and even a grasshopper plague.”

Now they point with pride to the diversity of wildlife that come through their garden, from songbirds and pollinators to praying mantids, cottontail rabbits, toads, and hognose and bull snakes (both of which are great for keeping the rodent population in balance). “Our garden is our favorite place to be!”

Western tiger swallowtail nectaring on Jupiter's Beard

Western tiger swallowtail nectaring on Jupiter’s Beard

Congratulations to all of the 2014 Habitat Hero Gardens. Thank you for helping us make the places we live, work and play welcoming to wildlife, especially to pollinators and songbirds, for saving water, and for mitigating the effects of climate change. You are truly heroes!

Join Audubon RockiesPlant Select® and High Country Gardens in promoting wildscaping. Be a Habitat Hero.

Habitat Hero Awards: Public Gardens

Our Mission: Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day. 

Gardens for Inspiration in Winter

Monarch Spur Park, adjacent to Monarch Spur Trail, in winter

Monarch Spur Park, adjacent to Monarch Spur Trail, in winter

When an early arctic cold wave puts your garden to sleep, and it’s not yet time for seed and plant catalogs to send you dreaming of spring, what can you do to get inspired?

One way is to visit Habitat-Hero-Award-winning public gardens to look at their winter “architecture.” Study the design of their habitat garden areas, notice the layers and structure, see what natural food is available, and look for lists of what plants they use for ideas for your own habitat gardens.

Tip: Use your smart phone as a garden idea assistant. Snap photos of plants and signs, and also record notes and thoughts as voice memos. If you use a program like Evernote, you can record your voice notes within the program, and store them with your photos in a virtual garden ideas notebook. (Or you can use a real notebook, and make sketches and take notes by hand. Either way works!)

DBG@ Chatfield

The moist meadow in August with the Chatfield cupola. Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

The moist meadow in August with the Chatfield cupola. Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

Even after only two full growing seasons since it was planted in 2012, this naturalistic prairie/foothills/mountain habitat garden is a stunner. Designed by Lauren and Scott Ogden, the Visitor Center gardens at Denver Botanic Garden at Chafield, our Outstanding Public Garden for 2014, incorporate more than 10,000 plants, most native to the intermountain West. One genius of the Ogden’s design is that even though each individual plant was placed by hand, the gardens look like they just grew that way.

A close-up view of that rain garden/ moist meadow two years later in summer.  Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

A close-up view of the rain garden/ moist meadow in summer. Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

Sure, the gardens are DBG@ Chatfield are likely a lot bigger than your garden, and the designers had DBG’s Mike Bone to grow species not available to the public. Still, there are plenty of ideas here for smaller gardens, and then there’s the sheer beauty of the place to inspire you.

If You Go

DBG@Chatfield is located at 8500 W. Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton, CO, just off route C-470. It is open 9-5 daily except major holidays. If you don’t belong to Denver Botanic Gardens, admission fee is $5 per car.

Highlands Garden Village, Denver

Diagonal Walk at Highlands Garden Village in summer

Diagonal Walk at Highlands Garden Village in summer

The formal Diagonal Walk at the busy urban corner 38th and Tennyson in northeast Denver harks back to the original entrance to Elitch’s Gardens, a historic amusement park that was also Denver’s first botanical garden, opening in 1890. In 1995, the amusement park relocated to nearer downtown Denver, leaving the 27-acre site ripe for infill development.

Entrance to the Diagonal Walk at Highlands Garden Village

Entrance to the Diagonal Walk at Highlands Garden Village

Now a public garden maintained by an organized group of volunteers, the Diagonal Walk and adjacent Plant Select garden are landscaped not with the high-water and high-maintenance exotics of yore; they feature hardy perennial shrubs, grasses and flowers that provide color and inspiration in season and year-round habitat for urban wildlife from native bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the foxes and even the occasional coyote.

If You Go

The Diagonal Walk and Plant Select garden are visible from 38th and Tennyson; parking is available off 38th at Utica St, one block west of Tennyson. The gardens are free and open every day. The cupola building once sheltered Elitch’s famed carousel and organ; both are still in use in Burlington, in far eastern Colorado.

If you see the Highlands Garden Village volunteers working in the gardens, stop and say Thank you!

Horticultural Arts Society, Colorado Springs, CO

Heritage Garden in late summer

Heritage Garden in late summer

Tucked into the City-owned Monument Valley Park system just north of downtown Colorado Springs are three demonstration gardens maintained by the 52-year-old Horticultural Art Society, an organization of amateur horticulturists. Over the decades, the gardens have evolved from a more eastern design vision to a reflection of the West, with native and regionally adapted perennial flowers and shrubs flourishing under a graceful canopy of tall Blue Spruces, American Elms, Plains Cottonwoods, and Douglas-fir trees.

If You Go

All three Horticultural Art Society gardens are free and open to the public as part of the Monument Valley Park system. The Heritage Garden is at 1117 Glen Avenue; the Demonstration Gardens is at 222 Mesa Road (a block and a half south of the Heritage Garden, and the Pinetum is across the Monument Creek.

Richardson Wildscape Corridor, Aurora, CO

Richardson Wildscape Corridor, Aurora, CO

Richardson Wildscape Corridor, Aurora, CO

Take one enthusiastic member of Audubon Rockies, add an unused 100 yard long by five- to ten-yard-wide strip of Aurora Water land next to a seasonal urban drainage way, and what do you get? A wildscape corridor Richardson landscaped on his own to provide food and habitat for pollinators, especially native bees and honeybees, right in the midst of suburban Aurora.

If You Go

The Wildscape Corridor is across the street from Apache Mesa Park, at E. 7th Place and Laredo in Aurora, CO. (Look for the wooden bench that says “Ponder Here.” It is open to the public and free.

Monarch Spur Trail, Salida, CO

A former railroad right-of-way becomes popular trail and now, wildlife corridor.

A former railroad right-of-way becomes a popular trail and now, a wildlife corridor.

Faced with invasive weed and fire-control issues along a popular and heavily used 2.5-mile-long city-owned public trail, the City of Salida and its partners turned the challenges into an opportunity to restore the former railroad right-of-way to productive wildlife habitat, while providing education opportunities for local 6th graders and forming a coalition of city, county, non-profit organizations and ordinary citizens to support and maintain the trail system.

Youth Conservation Corps members planting an in-town habitat island along the trail.

Youth Conservation Corps members planting an in-town habitat island along the trail.

If You Go

Monarch Spur Trail runs from the Coors Boat Ramp in downtown Salida, CO, to near US Highway 50. Access is free, and it is open every day of the year. Monarch Spur Park, a public Plant Select® garden, is located where the trail crosses Third Street.

Join Audubon RockiesPlant Select® and High Country Gardens in promoting wildscaping. Be a Habitat Hero.

Habitat Hero Awards for 2014!

Our Mission: Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day. 

Congratulations to the 2014 Habitat Hero Awardees!

Our judges have finished evaluating this year’s crop of applications, which span the Rocky Mountain region from northern Wyoming to southern Colorado, and from western South Dakota to Utah. Applicants included public gardens, schools, parks and trails, apartment/townhouse/condo complexes, professional landscapes (designed by landscapers, horticulturists and garden writers), and residential yards and gardens. Out of those, the judges picked 28 as Habitat Heroes. All represent creative habitat restoration; judges also recognized exceptional examples as “Outstanding” in their categories.

Here are the 2014 Habitat Hero Awardees!

Public Gardens

DBG@ Chatfield–Outstanding Public Garden

The historic Chatfield Schoolhouse surrounded by the mesic prairie garden.  Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

The historic Chatfield Schoolhouse surrounded by the mesic prairie garden. Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

Highlands Garden Village, 38th & Tennyson, Denver—Outstanding Volunteer-Maintained Public Garden

Entrance to the Diagonal Walk at Highlands Garden Village

Volunteers maintain this inviting habitat garden at  Highlands Garden Village on the site of the original Elitch’s Gardens, Denver’s first botanic garden.

Horticultural Arts Society, Glen Ave, Colorado Springs, CO

Painted Lady butterflies on Gallairdia in the Heritage Garden, one of three gardens maintained by the Horticultural Arts Society.

Painted Lady butterflies on Gaillardia in the Heritage Garden, one of three gardens maintained by the Horticultural Arts Society.

Richardson Wildscape Corridor, E. 7th Place & Laredo, Aurora, CO

A strip of unused public land planted with diverse flowers and shrubs to increase pollinator habitat by a neighbor.

A strip of unused public land adopted and planted by a neighbor with diverse flowers and shrubs to increase pollinator habitat.

School Gardens

Pinedale Elementary, Rapid City, SD–Outstanding School Garden

The new Black Hills Garden, one of three habitat gardens in the school's central courtyard.

The new Black Hills Garden, one of three habitat gardens in the school’s central courtyard.

Parks and Trails

Monarch Spur Trail, Salida, CO—Outstanding Park/Trail Project

An old railroad right-of-way provides a corridor for a town trail system and inspiration to restore habitat for wildlife as well.

An old railroad right-of-way repurposed for a town trail system and a habitat corridor for wildlife.

Apartment/Townhome/Condo Complexes

Cherry Creek 3 Homeowners Association—Outstanding Multi-Family Development 

Colorful, water-thrifty habitat gardens replace overgrown junipers for townhouse dooryard gardens.

Colorful, water-thrifty habitat gardens replace overgrown junipers for townhouse dooryard gardens.

Professional Landscapes

Hayward Yard, Masonville, CO—Outstanding Landscape

A naturalistic and stunningly beautiful "tinaja" (waterhole) garden seems to flow right out of this foothills landscape.

This beautiful “tinaja” (waterhole) wildlife garden seems to flow right out of the foothills landscape.

Peacock Yard, Lakewood, CO

Waterwise front yard of pollinator and songbird food plants replaced scruffy lawn and aging pfizer junipers; backyard is a watered wildlife oasis.

Waterwise front yard of pollinator and songbird food plants replaced scruffy lawn and aging pfizer junipers; backyard is a watered wildlife oasis.

Tatroe Yard, Centennial, CO—Outstanding Habitat Garden

Cottage garden meets wildscape in this yard deliberately designed to increase plant diversity and provide a haven for wildlife of all sorts in a "bluegrass desert" suburban community.

Cottage garden meets wildscape in this yard deliberately designed to increase plant diversity and provide a haven for wildlife of all sorts in a “bluegrass desert” suburban community.

Residential Yards and Gardens

(These are simply listed in alphabetical order, no ranking implied!)

Alberty/Buschmann Yard, Salt Lake City, UT–Outstanding Residential Garden

This couple turned a carpet of invasive Myrtle Spurge into a thriving and beautiful native habitat that is home to owls, hummingbirds, snakes, and pollinators of all sorts.

A steep back slope once carpeted with noxious Myrtle Spurge has been transformed into a beautiful native habitat that is home to owls, hummingbirds, snakes, and pollinators of all sorts.

Aslakson Yard, Littleton, CO

A water-thrifty butterfly garden replaces "haggard" lawn and also attracts songbirds and other pollinators.

A water-thrifty butterfly garden replaces “haggard” lawn and also attracts songbirds and other pollinators.

Bidgood Garden, Denver, CO—Special Recognition for Citizen Science

A front-yard pollinator garden replaces 300 square feet of sod and allows the family to observe bumblebees and ladybugs for citizen science projects!

A front-yard pollinator garden replaces 300 square feet of sod and provides an outdoor “lab” for observing bumblebees and ladybugs for citizen science projects.

 Blum Meadow, Silverthorne, CO

A mountain meadow disturbed by house construction was restored with native grasses and wildflowers.

A mountain meadow disturbed by house construction was restored with native grasses and wildflowers to provide habitat.

Bohanan Yard, Cheyenne, WY

A pollinator garden replaces a "tired, water-hungry" lawn in a historic Cheyenne neighborhood.

A pollinator garden replaces a “tired, water-hungry” lawn in a historic Cheyenne neighborhood.

Cappel Yard, Brighton, CO—Outstanding Residential Garden

A vibrant habitat garden developed by "trial and error" brightens a rural subdivision with lawn and watering regulations.

A vibrant habitat garden developed by “trial and error” brightens a rural subdivision with lawn and watering regulations.

Engelstad Yard, Rapid City, SD—Outstanding Residential Yard

Developing this pollinator and songbird habitat garden in a "green lawn" subdivision required permission of the HOA>

Developing this pollinator and songbird habitat garden in a “green lawn” subdivision required permission of the HOA, and lowered the indoor temperature of the house by 10 degrees in summer!

Freudenburg Yard, Colorado Springs, CO—Outstanding Habitat Garden

A winter visitor drinks at the cascade in this urban-rural edge yard.

A winter visitor drinks at the cascade in this urban-rural edge yard.

Gaudet Prairie Restoration, Berthoud, CO

Once a denuded and weedy horse pasture, now a thriving blue grama prairie with woodland edges.

Once a denuded and weedy horse pasture, now a thriving Blue Grama prairie with woodland edges.

Hemenway Wildscape Yard, Fort Collins, CO

Bluegrass sod on its way out; foothills prairie plants appearing in this front-yard wildscape-in-progress.

Bluegrass sod on its way out; foothills prairie plants appearing in this whole-yard wildscape-in-progress.

James Garden, Denver, CO

Black-Headed Grosbeak eyes a nest box in an apple tree.

Black-Headed Grosbeak eyes a nest box in an apple tree.

King Wildscape Garden, Lakewood, CO

Front-yard cottage-garden-style wildscape replaces lawn with thriving and beautiful habitat for pollinators and songbirds.

Front-yard cottage-garden-style wildscape replaces lawn with thriving and beautiful habitat for pollinators and songbirds.

Morland Yard, Denver, CO

Vibrant wildscape borders have become an attraction in a "manicured" city neighborhood.

Vibrant wildscape borders have become an attraction in a “manicured” city neighborhood.

Piombino Garden, Boulder County, CO

Once a bindweed-infested pasture, now a sheltered garden-in-progress that already invites pollinators and songbirds.

Once a bindweed-infested pasture, now a sheltered garden-in-progress that already invites pollinators and songbirds.

Rose Wildscape, Powell, WY—Outstanding Zone 4 Garden

A northern Wyoming wildscape that provides cover, food, and beauty--an oasis for wildlife and humans!

A northern Wyoming wildscape that provides cover, food, and beauty–an oasis for wildlife and humans!

Segrest and Beard Yard, Grand Junction, CO

A profusion of annual flowers provides food for pollinators; sunflowers attract seed-eating birds.

A profusion of flowers provides food for pollinators; sunflowers attract seed-eating birds.

Stalls & Purner Yard, Denver, CO—Special Recognition for Creativity

A sunny stressed corner becomes a habitat-garden-in-progress and a neighborhood gathering spot complete with lending library!

A sunny stressed corner becomes a habitat-garden-in-progress and a neighborhood gathering spot complete with lending library!

Wasko Garden, Englewood, CO

A driveway "hellstrip" becomes pollinator garden with herbs and other perennial plants.

A driveway “hellstrip” becomes pollinator garden with herbs and other perennial plants.

Congratulations to the 2014 Habitat Heroes! Thank you for helping grow a network of habitat for wildlife in the Rocky Mountain region.

Join Audubon RockiesPlant Select® and High Country Gardens in promoting wildscaping. Be a Habitat Hero.

Habitat Hero Awards Sneak Peek: Outstanding Public Garden

Our Mission: Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day. 

DBG@Chatfield: Outstanding Public Garden

The historic Chatfield Schoolhouse surrounded by the mesic prairie garden.  Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

The historic Chatfield Schoolhouse surrounded by the mesic prairie garden in fall. Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

While we finish evaluating the applications for the 2014 Habitat Hero Awards, we wanted to share a look at this year’s outstanding public garden: Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield.

The Vision

The Visitor Center before the rain garden was planted, solving a drainage challenge. Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

The Visitor Center before the rain garden was planted, solving a drainage challenge. Photo: Larry Vickerman

Lauren Springer Ogden, co-designer with her husband Scott Ogden of the acre-plus native plant gardens at Chatfield explained the project. In 2011, after the new Chatfield Visitor’s Center was constructed by the main entry and visitor parking lot, plantsman Panayoti Kelaidis, DBG’s Director of Outreach, persuaded the DBG’s CEO, Brian Vogt, to hire the Ogdens to design entry gardens that would showcase plants of the Great Plains and Mountain West.

Lauren writes,

As designers, we were excited by the public nature of the project and the extraordinarily beautiful site. … It is immensely rich, where foothills meet prairie in gently folding hills that offer many compass aspects and microclimates for diverse plants and animals to thrive. Also a natural creek runs through the property, providing year-round water…. There is some disturbed grassland, and many riparian trees and shrubs.

Challenges

A close-up view of that rain garden/ moist meadow two years later in summer.  Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

A close-up view of that rain garden/ moist meadow just two years later. Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

Of course, there were challenges: money, finding plants not usually available in the trade, and then the actual effort of planting the hundreds of plants, plus ongoing weeding and maintenance. As Lauren puts it,

The process was a collaboration of people taking lemons and making lemonade. Chatfield’s director Larry Vickerman, who is a plantsman and expert on the Great Plains flora, whole-heartedly supported the entire project and got quite dirty himself. I spent a couple of months in 2011 creating lists of plants… and sent my list of several hundred desired taxa to Mike Bone, propagator at Denver Botanic Gardens. He took the project on with great energy and care and hunted down rare seed and found and grew more than three-quarters of the species we requested….

Plant Placement and Planting

A close-up of the dry prairie, showing the naturalistic design. Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

A close-up of the dry prairie, showing the naturalistic design. Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

After the seedlings were grown, Scott and Lauren spent two months in late spring and early summer of 2012 placing every single plant on the site in a naturalistic design:

Our designs are informed by how plants spread and intermingle over time in natural plant communities. We wanted that stable, eternal look fast, so we created repeated matrices and clumps of the same species that fan out and disperse over space. People think it looks so random that it is undesigned, … but [naturalistic planting] is actually the hardest
type of garden design to accomplish with visual and cultural success.
Then came planting, planting, planting by the small team of Chatfield staff led by lead horticulturist Emilee Vanderneut. After the more than 10,000 plug-sized plants plus a few large trees and shrubs went into the ground, they were top-dressed with alfalfa meal, a natural and inexpensive fertilizer, and irrigated. That fall, 14,000 non-native bulbs were added for the early months of the year when the native floral display is, as Lauren puts it, “paltry.”

“Plant it and they will come”

As Habitat Hero project founder Connie Holsinger likes to say, “Plant it and they will come.” And that’s what’s happened at DBG@Chatfield. Even though the gardens are only two years old, the insect pollinators (butterflies, native bees and European honeybees, beetles and others) and birds are flocking in. In fact, says Lauren,Chatfield already uses the gardens for classes to observe the wildlife drawn to the gardens.

Mesic prairie garden at Chatfield, humming with native bees on a summer morning. Photo: Susan J. Tweit

Mesic prairie garden at Chatfield, humming with native bees on a summer morning. Photo: Susan J. Tweit

It is amazing how full the gardens are after only two years, and how lively they are with birds and insect noise and motion. And the colors and textures change dramatically every few weeks. … [The gardens at Chatfield] are living proof that native plants and plant diversity bring creatures. We hope they motivate a lot of emulation so that more such lively and life-affirming prairie and meadow gardens pop up along the Front Range. It has been one of the most gratifying design projects of my career.
Congratulations to Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield and to Lauren and Scott Ogden for these outstanding public gardens! We are proud to announce them as our first 2014 Habitat Hero Award gardens.

If You Go

The moist meadow in August with the Chatfield cupola. Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

The moist meadow in August with the Chatfield cupola. Photo: Lauren Springer Ogden

DBG@Chatfield is located at 8500 W. Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton, CO, just off route C-470. It is open 9-5 daily except major holidays. If you don’t belong to Denver Botanic Gardens, admission fee is $5 per car.

Join Audubon RockiesPlant Select® and High Country Gardens in promoting wildscaping. Be a Habitat Hero.