Successful gardening in Colorado means choosing plants well suited for our arid climate. Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) maintains two demonstration gardens, featuring beautiful perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees that are adapted to limited irrigation. Many people are aware of the large garden at the CSU headquarters on Mesa Road, overlooking Garden of the Gods. I wrote about it in April. But very few people are aware that there’s a second, smaller garden in front of the Cottonwood Creek Recreation Center at 3920 Dublin Blvd., just west of Rangewood Drive.
While much more limited in scope, this garden provides plenty of inspiration for a homeowner seeking to conserve water and still enjoy a beautiful landscape. When I visited in mid-June, a large swath of Stella ’d Oro daylilies were in full bloom, their bright golden yellow accented by the soft lavender of the surrounding Walker’s Low Catmint. The colors were repeated in lovely deep blue irises, purple Jerusalem Sage, and pastel yellow Moonshine Yarrows and Pineleaf Penstemon.
Elsewhere, Red Valerian was a magnet for butterflies, the flowers almost the same rose-pink as the perennial geranium planted near-by. A variety of grasses will be sending up their plumes at different times during the season. Evergreen foliage is provided by assorted junipers, conifers, and the broad-leafed New Mexico Privet (Forestiera neomexicana).
Not all the plants are as familiar as daylilies, Russian sage, and yarrow. An unusual ground-hugging clematis was adorned with large blue bell-shaped flowers. It’s not on the official garden plant list, so I had to do some sleuthing, finally tracking it down as a new Plant Select® introduction from Mongolia, Clematis integrifolia. Several of the grasses were also new to me; I can’t wait to try them at home.
Quite a few plants were labeled with metal plaques so you can know what to ask for at the garden center. In addition, a map and a plant list are available online, or you can get a hard copy inside the Recreation Center. Unfortunately, many of the flower and grass cultivars that I liked best were neither labeled nor on the list, so I’ll have to figure out what they are on my own.
There are also a couple of large signs explaining xeriscaping principles, encouraging you to duplicate the concept at home. More information on water-wise gardening can be found on the CSU website, and at the free gardening classes they offer throughout the year. This garden proves once again that you can save your water—and your garden too.
Plant photos, from the top: Iris, Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber), Mongolian Bells (Clematis integrifolia), Pineleaf Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius ‘Mersea Yellow’).