There are many places to look for birds in the Pikes Peak region. Take a hike around a mountain lake. Stroll around a mountain lake looking and listening for returning summer residents. Enjoy a hike in the aromatic junipers and scrub oaks of a foothill riparian area. Go higher in elevation and see what birds call the montane forests their home.
A calm oasis in Monument Park, the Horticultural Art Society’s Demonstration Garden is the perfect summer retreat. Surrounded by mature trees that provide shade for much of the day, and full of flowers, it’s a place to linger and relax. Perennial borders encircle several planted islands, set off by a sea of green grass; the total effect is lovely.
As you enter off Mesa Road (a continuation of W. Cache la Poudre Street) or Glen Avenue in downtown Colorado Springs, the noise of the street fades, replaced by the chirping of birds and the gentle sigh of a cool breeze. Rarely are more than a few other people present.
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.
Most of us are familiar with the same limited assortment of plants—junipers and spirea, oaks and maples, pines, petunias and geraniums. Take a drive anywhere along the Front Range and notice the landscaping. Maybe a dozen plants are repeated over and over, neighborhood to neighborhood. Especially in winter, when annuals are dead and perennials are dormant, the basic theme seems to be rocks, lawn, and junipers. I call it “zero-scaping.”
We live in an area with limited water supplies. Trying to grow the same plants as places with ample rainfall just doesn’t make sense. And there’s really no reason to do so. There are plenty of beautiful, stalwart species that thrive in our climate. They’re a lot more interesting than junipers and rocks. All we need is some inspiration.
One of my favorite places to learn about new plants is at the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, owned by Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU). Located at CSU’s Conservation and Environmental Center (2855 Mesa Road), the gardens occupy several acres in a beautiful setting overlooking the Garden of the Gods.