Durango Botanic Gardens

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  • 14 Oct 2021 2:13 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    John Wickman, owner of Native Roots, a longtime mainstay of retail nurseries in the Four Corners, is retiring from Native Roots but will maintain his wholesale grower business, Pine River Plants in Bayfield.  The retail business of Native Roots is currently for sale but, with the lease expiring on that property next to Home Depot, a new owner will have to relocate.  For his part, John will focus anew on native plant propagation but selling wholesale only.  John was one of the founding board members of the Durango Botanic Gardens. Following is his letter to our community of gardeners...

    "Time does fly by.  It's been seventeen years since Karen Mee and I started Native Roots on a small lot on East Animas Road.  I have thoroughly enjoyed interacting, educating, and providing locally grown plants to both beginning gardeners and seasoned pros.  Durango is a very difficult gardening environment and I am always impressed with the determination of local gardeners to beautify their space or put food on the table.  You all are awesome!

    I'd like to thank all of you for your patronage and support these past years.  I am semi-retiring this year and will continue to grow plants at my Bayfield wholesale greenhouse but plan to sell Native Roots which will be relocated to a soon to be announced location.  I look forward to growing colorful plants and baskets for the Colorado market and returning to my first horticultural interest, native plants.  So look for Pine River Plants material at local garden centers and HAPPY GARDENING!"

  • 14 Jul 2021 7:40 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    An explosion of flowers now adorn what was formerly a brown, utilitarian wall between the library and the Riverside Professional Building.  A botanically-themed mural, painted by local artist, Nia Sturr, entitled "Wall Flowers," was dedicated with nearly 100 people in attendance on July 15.  The mural depicts plants and flora common to our region’s microclimates and elevations.  To reflect this amazing horticultural and climatic diversity, plants common to lower, dryland elevations begin at the left of the mural and ascend to plants, trees common to higher, montane and alpine elevations.  

    Because the common names of plants can vary from region to region, horticulturists and nurseries reference plants using what is called binominal nomenclature, using both the common name and the scientific name, the latter expressed in Latin.  

    Look for these plants on your next hike or when strolling through our public gardens.

    The mural is a project of the Durango Botanic Gardens with support from the Durango Creative District and funding from the Creative Economy Commission.  Other funders or in-kind providers include 1st Southwest Bank, the LeMaire Family Fund, Shelly Oxhandler, the Library Advisory Board and Friends of the Library, Handcrafted House and Kroegers Hardware.

  • 21 May 2021 7:02 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

                Panayoti Kelaidis, senior curator and director of outreach at the Denver Botanic Gardens, was in Durango May 15 in conjunction with planning the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) conference, which will be held in August in Durango.  Kelaidis has designed plantings for many of the gardens at the Denver Botanic Gardens, especially the South African Plaza, the Rock Alpine Garden, and has been a valuable resource and friend of our own gardens in Durango. He has introduced hundreds of native ornamentals from around the world to our region and beyond, essentially transforming the horticulture of the American West. He has just been elected president of the North American Rock Garden Society.  Our Melanie Palmer, curator of the Durango Botanic Gardens, spoke with him and enjoyed his comments and praise of a number of our plants.  Following is her report...

    Panayoti Kelaidis visited the Durango Botanic Gardens during regular Saturday maintenance and took some time to speak with volunteers and Lisa Bourey, garden designer and part of the NARGS organizing committee. 

                While the Durango Botanic Gardens is a valuable resource for the average homeowner, guiding choices at local nurseries, it DOES contain some rarities. It is the Durango Botanic Gardens’ willingness to trial plants donated by legendary plant collectors from the Denver Botanic Gardens that allows our Gardens to add some unique interest to our own collections.   

                In his walk-through with us, Kelaidis zeroed in on a couple of plants in the garden and told us some fascinating information about these two plants.

         One plant, the Atlantic Daisy, Leucanthemum atlanticum, at left, was collected by Denver Botanic Gardens' curator Mike Kintgen in Morocco, propagated, and then donated to our gardens in the Gardens’ early days.  It has proven difficult to grow in other gardens but seems to thrive here.  Panayoti pronounced it “one of the finest specimens he has seen anywhere”.   He even went so far as to say there are few to equal it outside of Morocco itself.  This fairly non-descript small white daisy shines AFTER blooming, with its pink architectural seed heads.  Seed will be collected by Lisa Bourey for distribution to NARGS conference visitors and propagators.  

         The second plant (at left, click image to enlargeof southern African origin, is found in the Alpine section of the Garden. It grows natively in the mountains of the small country of Lesotho. It is a mat-forming perennial with gray-green tiny foliage, covered in tiny pink-white flowers. Called Helichrysum pracurrens, it is rarely cultivated in botanic gardens.  In southern Africa, it is found covering hillsides there.  Donated to the Durango Botanic Gardens by Mike Kintgen, it has increased in size every year.  The flowers close up in shade but are tiny and daisy shaped. Lisa Bourey is going to collect seed from this plant as well for distribution to NARGS participants.

                      Mr. Kelaidis was extremely impressed with the appearance of the gardens, and the new areas which have been added since his last visit—the Crevice Garden, the Wind Garden, the Arboreta, and the soon-to-be-planted Elevation Grass Collection.  He is certain that the Gardens will be a source of excitement and appreciation by NARGS attendees who come from many parts of the United States and even some foreign countries.  Although small, our diversity is simply amazing. 

                Our hard-working volunteers deserve a huge THANK YOU for many years of dedication to making our Gardens the gem that they are. The Gardens are getting the recognition they richly deserve from some very important and internationally recognized giants of Western horticulture far and wide and will long be remembered by NARGS attendees.



  • 13 May 2021 3:58 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The following is from Melanie Palmer, curator of the Durango Botanic Gardens.

         After a hiatus of a couple years, partly due to Covid-19, the DBG Docent program brought back the Docents’ Choice Plant of the Year.  At Docent refresher training this year, the first gatherings of Docents in two years, Docents voted for their two favorite plants.  

      The votes are in and the choices are:  for 2019, Kintzley’s GhostLonicera reticulata, (below, left) and for 2020, Hummingbird Trumpet MintMonardella macrantha ‘Marian Sampson’.  The ornamental grass Undaunted Ruby Muhly, Muhlenbergia reverchonii, was a close runner-up. 

    Both plants garner a lot of attention from passersby. The Kintley’s Ghost covers the fence not far from the entrance to the Demonstration Garden.  The Hummingbird Trumpet Mint makes a stunning groundcover in the Wind Garden.  The Kintzley’s Ghost is also the subject of an article in the Member Portal of the Durango Botanic Gardens website.  

         Both of these plants are in the Plant Select ® program, and detailed information about them can be found on the Plant Select ® website, plantselect.org 

         Pollinators and hummingbirds will soon be buzzing around both of these plants.  

         In our experience, the Monardella can be somewhat touchy to grow.  It appreciates a little afternoon shade and very good drainage.  We have also sheltered this plant with a layer of pine needles in mid-late fall, removing this mulch in late spring when the plant starts to leaf out.  We think this has aided its ability to come through our winters.  

    Previous Docents’ Choices are

    2018:  Hopflower Oregano, Origanum libanoticum

    2017:  Coral Canyon Twinspur, Diascia integerrima

    2016:  Mojave Sage, Salvia pachyphylla

    2015:  Hot Wings Maple, Acer tataricum, ‘GarAnn’

    2014:  Horned Poppy, Glaucium acutidentatum


  • 01 Apr 2021 2:40 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Our Bulb guru, Mike Smedley, always has interesting things going on in his yard. In his part of town the other night the temperature got down to 23F at night but that means nothing to determined daffodils and tulips. Here's his account of an early bloomer that demonstrates the incredible geographic range history of many of our favorite bulbs. Here's Mike's account...

    "This tulip has a great story. It’s Tulipa dubia ‘Beldersai,’ which I picked up on a whim at Denver Botanic’s bulb sale a couple years ago. Being a Steppe region native, this tulip been a colorful and dependable addition, with red and yellow petals and purple-stained foliage, in the dry crevice rock garden. Then, in 2019, Amy and I went to Uzbekistan to tour the Silk Road. Part of that trip was to the eastern mountains and a place called Beldersay, a Soviet-occupation-era ski resort. There, we went on botanizing hikes and saw wild tulips growing naturally just below melting snowfields in the Chimgan Valley. When we got back home, I finally put it together. THIS tulip was grown from seed collected right there in that valley of Uzbekistan. It’s a small world.

    But even before the Beldersai tulip bloomed, one of the earliest wee daffodils sprang up. This is Narcissus 'Little Gem,' a specialty selection from the Durango Botanic Garden's bulb sale last year. Not only does Little Gem bloom in late March, it’s as small as a Dutch  crocus, shown paired with purple-striped Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick,’ which also was a purchase from the sale. Grown together, they are a smashing combo. Little Gem is lucky to reach 5 inches tall, but the flower offers that “traditional” daffodil look, with an outsize trumpet and bright yellow hue. Yellow Gem is also more drought tolerant than most daffodils, an added bonus."

    Durango Botanic Gardens will conduct it's annual bulb sale online from August 6-17.

  • 28 Feb 2021 8:55 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The season has begun! The first crocus is up and blooming, despite lows of 14 degrees at night and blustery days of late winter. Meet the species Crocus korolkowii 'Brown Tiger,' putting on a show in Mike Smedley's crevice rock garden on Feb. 27. Mike says the outsides of these large, golden flowers are heavily striated and mottled in dark maroon. The bulb (actually, it's a corm but no one really cares about that detail) hails from the steppes of Central Asia -- notably the "stans": Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and north to the Kara Tau Mountains of Kazakhstan. So that tells you just how tough-as-nails this spring ephemeral is. At night, the petals collapse around the stamen and stigma to protect until the next morning. The next earliest blooming crocus will be C. ancyrensis 'Golden Bunch'.  These should make a showing in a week or two, followed by the various Snow Crocus, C. chrysanthus, along with Iris reticulata (snow iris), Galanthus (snowflakes), Eranthus (winter aconite) and the usual suspects who brave the cold.

  • 25 Nov 2020 11:50 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Mike Smedley, our resident bulb authority, took these gorgeous photos of one of the bulb world's most notable late bloomers, Crocus specious.  We typically see this fall blooming crocus around Halloween but Mike thinks that our October frigid snap pushed back the bloom time. He shot this photo, for example, this Thanksgiving week.

    Fall-blooming crocuses are a distinct breed, Mike says. Typically the very last bulb to bloom, this unusual crocus offers gorgeous violet-blue petals with pumpkin-orange anthers, a combination that goes incredibly well with the tawny hues of late autumn.  They send up their white-striped grasslike foliage in spring, just like “regular” crocus.  But they don’t bloom.  Instead, the foliage ripens and fades. In late fall, the flowers emerge by themselves.  Thus, they need a groundcover foil for best display.  Here, they thrive in a xeric buffalo grass. C. speciosus is native to the mountains of central and northern Turkey, the Caucasus Mountains, northern Iran and the Crimea, hardy to zone 3.  So far, Mike adds, he has not seen any last-minute pollinators.  It might be too late in the year for bees.  But just in case, there’s a Thanksgiving feast waiting in the front lawn.

  • 18 Oct 2020 12:42 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The following is a letter to members from BIll LeMaire, newly elected president of the Durango Botanic Gardens.

    Since 2010, our lovely public gardens at the library and along the Animas River Trail, have been identified as the Durango Botanical Society.  In August of this year, the board of directors took the decision to change our name to the Durango Botanic Gardens—with the accompanying new logo, seen here on this letterhead.  After considerable discussion about our future, and as we embark on a new decade, it was decided that our communications and branding will be better served by focusing on our actual product—gardens.  The gardens are the same, the people are the same, the mission to build gardens that inspire, demonstrate, and educate, remains the same--only the official name of our endeavor has changed.  

    We have come so far since 2010.  Our founding members looked upon a weed-infested wasteland behind the library and did something remarkable with that space.  And, we have continued to add to that vision, with additional gardens and themes.  However, the next decade for our gardens will be equally exciting.  We intend to develop additional space at the library, add outdoor art, and make our gardens the envy of Colorado and an even more remarkable destination.

    So thank you members, thank you partners and supporters.  We could not have built the Durango Botanic Gardens without all of you and we cannot build this future without you.    

    In further news, the DBG board recently elected new officers.  Bill LeMaire is our new president, replacing John Anderson, who accomplished so much in the past three years.  Drew Currie was elected vice president which fills a position that had remained vacant.  Theresa Anderson was elected secretary, replacing Drew Currie in that position.  Connie Markert remains our treasurer.  Annette LeMaire was elected to the board.

    We will begin work this fall on the new Elevated Grass Collection, between the Crevice Garden and the Rosie-the-Riveter Garden, and this work will be completed in the spring. 

    We intend that 2021 will be a very active year with a number of events planned, as pandemic restrictions permit.  

    Thank you for your membership, exciting times and benefits lie ahead which will add further value to your membership.

    Thanks for your support and stay well,

    Bill LeMaire

    President, Durango Botanic Gardens

  • 26 Sep 2020 11:20 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The Following are the dedication remarks offered by Melanie Palmer on September 22 in recognition of the service to our gardens by long-time board member, Nancy Wallace.

                From the very beginning of the Durango Botanic Gardens (DBG), Nancy has been a tireless worker, advocate and financial supporter. In 2012, Nancy became a member of the Board of Directors. She quickly assumed the mantle of Garden Maintenance Director and worked tirelessly with Lisa Bourey and others to improve the infrastructure of the Gardens and mold into its present form with different mulches to delineate specific gardens. She was always instrumental in managing the garden irrigation, working with Library staff and irrigation companies to make sure that the irrigation was adequate and in good repair and overseeing the transition from drip to overhead sprinklers. 

                Nancy procured, had delivered, and then hauled by wheelbarrow untold tons of rock, gravel, and wood mulches through the years—the cobble in the Dine, the rock mulch in the South African, the gravel along the garden path, the pea gravel in the Alpine and the wood mulch in the other areas. Many of these were in-kind donations from Nancy and her husband Jim.  


    Above left, Nancy and Jim Wallace stand next to the planting area dedicated to Nancy and her service to the Durango Botanic Gardens.         Above right, Melanie Palmer reads dedicatory remarks.

    As Garden Maintenance Director, she was present in the garden EVERY SATURDAY for many years, directing volunteers, always being the last person to leave. She always provided homemade cookies and treat for the volunteers every Saturday. She was assisted by her husband on many of these Saturdays. She was instrumental in getting the weeds in the Dine and other areas under control, trying a host of organic methods. 

           Nancy was kind enough to be a guinea pig for the first Docent training and for another year after that and was always very appreciative and supportive of the Docents in every way possible.  

    She opened her home for volunteer appreciation parties and hosted world-renowned visiting horticultural experts at elegant dinner parties on several occasions—where we were all green with envy at her own amazing garden.  

                The Gardens and DBG simply would NOT be what they are without her over these many years of hard service.  

                Instead of a single tree, we dedicate this planting bed with its shrubs and flowers to Nancy, with the hope that it will be expanded with more plantings to show several seasons of interest throughout this year and for many years to come. 

                The Board and docents give Nancy their heartfelt thanks and appreciation.

  • 19 Sep 2020 5:54 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    By Carol Chicci

    Hello to all of you in Durango from Flagstaff, AZ.  I usualy write about roses, but I want to share with you what has been going on with general gardening in Flagstaff during this time of social distancing, economic challenges, and travel restrictions.

    When we are under restrictions, we can feel that our lives are not as full as we would like. However, I am privileged to know gardeners who live every day to the fullest and who do not wait for “better times.” Our two excellent family-owned nurseries led the way last spring with websites allowing you to order online and then pick up at their curb side or have your plants and amendments delivered to your door.

    Many people planted vegetable gardens for the first time, adding needed food to their tables while showing their children the joy in observing new life sprouting and then ripening into edible produce.

    More leisure time since we were not commuting allowed many of us to finally finish landscaping the front and back yard. This was another worthwhile activity for our children to help us with, broadening their knowledge of the outdoors and helping them experience the satisfaction of a job well done.

    Bartering with neighbors for gardening equipment and supplies has increased. These same people will probably look throughout their yards and neighborhoods this fall for leaves and pine needles to use for mulch. 

              Meilland's 'Eden' at left, David Austin's 'James Galway' at right

    In the Hospice garden where I have volunteered all summer long for the past seven summers since I became a master gardener, we have replaced three of our climbing roses which were either diseased or had not bloomed for several years. Attached are pictures of these roses, two of Meilland’s ‘Eden’ and David Austin’s ‘James Galway.’

    Hopefully we in Flagstaff, as well as you in Durango, will carry over all that we have learned in our gardens during this unusual summer and add it to each of our future gardens, ensuring that a very difficult time was also one of our most productive times.

    Carol Chicci, a certified Master Gardener of the Coconino Master Gardener Association, has grown roses in Phoenix for 15 years and for 16 years in Flagstaff. She is a member of the Denver Rose Society, the American Rose Society, and the Durango Botanic Gardens.  If you'd like to reach Carol, do so at mtngardener07@gmail.com.

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NOTE: Our physical location is 1900 E. Third Avenue, at the Durango Public Library. The gardens are located to the north and east of the library, along the Animas River Trail.

Mailing Address:

Durango Botanic Gardens

10 Town Plaza, #460

Durango, CO  81301

Phone: 970-880-4841
Email: durangobotanic@gmail.com

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Durango Botanic Gardens

Our Location:

The Durango Botanic Gardens are physically located at the Durango Public Library, to the north and east of the library.  The library is located at 1900 E. 3rd Ave., Durango.

There is no admission charge.  Stroll the gardens yourself (there is ample signage in most gardens) or call us at 970-880-4841 to arrange a group tour. See our Information Tab for more.

Contact Us:

10 Town Plaza, #460
Durango, CO  81301    

Phone:  970-880-4841

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