Spring for a Day

LAH_5986The weather has been too nice. One might even think that Spring has come to stay. Usually, this time of year is marked by freezing cold and wet snowstorms. I’m sure the snow will return, but the past week or so has been so gorgeous, it would be easy to be deceived.

While I was thrilled to find some crocuses and a pair of early daffodils in our yard, they weren’t enough for this green-starved soul. Denver is almost 2,000 feet lower than my home in Colorado Springs—surely there would be flowers galore at the botanic gardens. With a storm in the forecast, I didn’t want to delay. I headed north.

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Yet More Bugs…

Popillia japonica_Japanese Beetle_HudsonGardens-CO_LAH_5585It’s the end of the summer, and what’s a nature photographer to do? Most flowers are languishing in the sultry heat, their leaves brown and crispy as the summer monsoon turns to dry autumn. Gardens look battered from a season of hail storms, insects, and the ravages of sun and wind. The birds have had their families, so the males no longer need to impress the ladies, at least for a while. In many cases, they’ve shed their fancy duds in favor of muted colors that predators won’t notice. This year’s crop of youngsters is also hoping to be overlooked, with tan stripes that blend with the fading grass. Some of the most photogenic birds—tanagers and warblers, for instance, are already wending their way southward.

As I learned on Monday, however, this is a great time of year for bugs.

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Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR

Saturday was such a gorgeous day in Colorado, my husband and I headed for the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, just northeast of Denver. There’s something inherently satisfying about taking a place that was once a chemical warfare factory and turning it into a shortgrass prairie abounding in wildlife.

Or at least it was supposed to abound. We’ve been there before, in late spring, when the numerous scrubby areas were full of birds. This visit was quite different.

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Hudson Gardens: A Littleton Oasis

cleome-hasslerana_spider-flower_hudsongardens-littletonco_lah_0603Labor 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.)

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DBG’s New Greenhouse Complex

boettcher-dbg_lah_6645-1Does chaffing wind have you pining for gentle tropical breezes? Do the empty branches of your shrubs and trees leave you starving for bright green foliage? Are you dreaming of the scent of gardenias and orange blossoms?

orchid_dbg_lah_6265You don’t need to buy a plane ticket. Just head over the Denver Botanic Gardens’ new greenhouse complex. Walk through the door and your senses are engulfed by luxuriant growth. Feast on the bright colors and fascinating shapes of plants from faraway places. Inhale the humid air that keeps these exotics healthy and blooming. Pretend you are far, far south of Colorado.

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Light Up Your Winter Doldrums

lights_dbg_lah_5778-1Do you have the winter doldrums? Is your house full of bored guests? If you’re tired of being indoors and need some fresh (if cold) air, here’s a great excuse to get into a garden. Denver Botanic Gardens is worth a visit any time of year, but right now (through January 3), the gardens are decorated with over a million lights—with spectacular results.

We recently braved the cold and plunked down our $9.50 admission. (Entry to “Blossoms of Light” is separate from the $11.50 daily entrance fee. They shoo all the daytime visitors out first, then open the doors again from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.)

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