Labor Day is past, but there’s no reason to sit inside and sulk. Fall means blue skies and more moderate temperatures beckoning us back outdoors. One of the best gardens to visit at this time of year is Hudson Gardens, in Littleton, Colorado. Situated along the South Platte River, you can enjoy 30 acres of flowers, shrubs, trees, and grass—from exotic annuals to water lilies.
Once a private estate, the gardens are now open to a public, and right now, there isn’t even an admission charge. You can’t beat that! (There may be a small fee during the peak summer season.)
I begin visiting the gardens in early spring, aiming for shots of the blooming daffodils and grape hyacinths. As the seasons progress, early perennials are complimented by the blooms of forsythia, serviceberry, viburnum and other flowering shrubs. Annuals are planted, iris burst into bloom, and soon everywhere you look, there’s vibrant color.
The rose garden surrounds a pool and arbor, and is a feast for the eyes, while spray from the fountain offers relief on hot days. Colorado Master Gardeners maintain the vegetable garden, a beekeeper tends the apiary,
If you have children in tow, make sure to allow them plenty of time for the train. This isn’t a train for people, but rather a hobby grown to extremes, with toy engines pulling freight cars running constantly on a track that meanders though a planting of dwarf conifers, succulents, and other miniatures.
On most summer weekends you can even catch a glimpse of a breathless bride or nervous groom; weddings, concerts, and other events take advantage of the beautiful venue.
One of my favorite spots is the Chocolate Garden. No, they’re not growing Theobroma cacao or Tobler bars. Rather, they’ve collect all sorts of plants that remind us of chocolate. You can find Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata, shown here) chocolate-colored bell peppers, chocolate mint, ‘Karma Chocolate’ Dahlia, and chocolate-hued sunflowers, among many others.
And speaking of dahlias, the extensive dahlia garden is right next to the Chocolate Garden. Since dahlias require extra attention in Colorado (they’re not hardy and must be dug for the winter), I enjoy the many colorful blooms with none of the work involved. Pete sits on the shaded patio in front of the coffee shop, Solid Grounds, watching me while I photograph not only the flowers, but some of the more interesting critters living on them as well.
When I get tired of looking at flowers, I turn to the birds. In the riparian habitat along the river, Yellow Warblers and other migrants nab insects in the treetops. Robins hunt for worms, and Canada Geese make a mess of the paths. A source of nature in the middle of the Denver urban area, the gardens attract enough birds to make this an enjoyable birding destination, especially in the spring and fall.
Finally, be sure to browse the gift shop before you head for home. They have a carefully selected assortment of garden-related goodies. I’m sure you won’t leave empty handed.