Durango BOtanic Gardens

Building Public Gardens Committed to Inspiration, Demonstration and Education

  • 02 Mar 2020 3:22 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    DBS Members Save on Visits to AHS Gardens

    Camilla Potter, Durango Botanical Society (DBS) member and president of the Mountain Thyme Herb Society, is just one of a number of DBS members who have taken advantage of DBS’ membership in the American Horticultural Society(AHS).  Camilla and her husband, Dave, a former president of DBS, recently visited the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix for free, a savings of $50, thanks to AHS’s reciprocal admissions program. This program permits DBS members to visit any of AHS’s 333-plus member gardens across the country for either free or greatly reduced admission.  

    Scenes from the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix


    Learn more about the American Horticultural Society and its reciprocating benefits here

    And, you can only make use of this perk if you have your DBS membership card.  Join or renew here 

    American Public Gardens Conference, June 22-26, Portland, OR

    “Crafting Gardens for a Changing World,” is the title of the 2020 conference of the American Public Gardens Association, of which the Durango Botanical Society is a member.  The conference will take place June 22-26 in Portland, OR and include 72 sessions, 11 workshops, and 17 tours. Presentations will focus on the role and future of public gardens, especially in urban environments. 

    For more on the conference, registration and hotel information, visit the APGA website 


    Take the Durango Public Library Online Survey

    DBS members have an opportunity to help its library partner by taking an online survey.  The library staff, supported by the Library Advisory Board and the Friends of the Library, is seeking public input on usage of the library.

    The results of the survey will be especially important in helping Durango City Council decide on extending library hours and reopening the library on Sundays.  “A little over ten years ago, during the 2008-2010 economic plunge,” says Bill LeMaire, chair of the LAB, “the library agreed to sacrifice being open on Sundays to help city finances.”  He adds that the board members of that time tell him this was considered a temporary measure to be restored within a few years.  Ten years later, however, the library is still closed on Sundays with restricted hours on some weekdays.  

    DBS members can help provide input that will guide the library and the city council on reestablishing Sunday hours.  The more people visiting the library the more opportunity for people to see our gardens, learn from them, and hopefully considering donating.

    The survey is live on Durango's virtual city hall, March 4 at https://bit.ly/3a6jgEy 



  • 09 Feb 2020 9:15 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Mike Smedley, vice president of Bank of the San Juans, Action Line columnist for the Durango Herald, winner of the Durango Chamber of Commerce's Ultimate Participation Award, and strong supporter of the Durango Botanic Gardens shared this item with us about a late January surprise in his yard... 

    Something gardeners might be interested in...blooms in January! Here is a shot from the last day of January.  I was outside looking around, being grumpy because gardeners are grumpy in January, when I spied something in the tawny buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides). I thought it was some trash. Think again. I had a fall blooming crocus in January!

         This is Crocus speciosus, from northern and central Turkey, the Caucusus Mountains, northern Iran and Crimea. I don't know why this is not grown more. It's a great corm. In any case, in normal conditions, this geophyte blooms around Halloween or a week later. This year was not normal. Spring was incredibly cool. Summer came late. We had hard freezes very early, and this was probably one of the shortest growing seasons in history for a place that has normally short growing seasons. In any case, the later blooming fall crocus didn't bloom this year. I shrugged it off. But when the weather started warming as it did in late January, I'll be damned. They bloomed. What a treat. Nature always finds a way. 

  • 12 Jan 2020 3:19 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Durango Botanic Gardens to Produce Conference on Climate Change

    The Durango Botanic Gardens (DBG) will produce a landmark conference on May 16 at the Durango Public Library entitled Adapting Landscapes in the Four Corners to Changing Climates.

             A full program and registration form will be emailed to DBG members in mid-February, says Bill LeMaire, chair of the conference. Among the current headliners, he says, are former state climatologist, Nolan Doesken, and Ross Shrigley, executive director of influential Plant Select program. LeMaire says the program will examine recent climate science to project what the Four Corners can expect in terms of changing climates as well as providing practical strategies and ideas for homeowners who wish to adapt their gardens, yards, plant selection, and irrigation techniques to these evolving and often unpredictable climate shifts. 

             Barbara Johnson, Carol Wallace, Melanie Palmer, Hollis Hassenstein, and Annette LeMaire round out the conference committee. The committee is currently pursuing corporate and other institutional sponsors for the meeting.  For more on sponsorships, contact Barbara Johnson at bjohnson283@msn.com or LeMaire at blemaire@icloud.com

    Increase in fees at Denver Botanic Gardens

             Next time Durangoans visit the Denver Botanic Gardens they will pay a little more for admission, according Denver’s ABC affiliate Channel 7 News.  The increase—a little over 10%--will, for example, boost the ticket for an adult to 15.00 from the current $12.50. Similar increases will impact ticket pricing for students, seniors, and children 3-15 years old.  This is the first time the Botanic Gardens has raised its ticket prices in 10 years.  Denver City Council approved the change.  

             The price increase was necessary, according to the Botanic Gardens, to pay down debt resulting from the building of a new parking garage.

    American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Program

             The Durango Botanic Gardens (DBG) is a member of the American Horticultural Society which, in turn, enables our members to visit and tour other AHS member gardens either free or at substantial discounts.   

             We recently updated our information at the AHS website.  So whenever you are traveling around the country and wondering if there is an AHS garden in that area, check out their website at https://ahsgardening.org/gardening-programs/rap/

  • 06 Dec 2019 11:36 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    This post submission is from Carol Chiccia certified Master Gardener of the Coconino Master Gardener Association. She, has grown roses in Phoenix, AZ, for 15 years and for 16 years in Flagstaff, AZ. She is a member of the Denver Rose Society, the American Rose Society, and, we are pleased to say, the Durango Botanical Society. We expect to be carrying other articles from Carol in 2020. She can be reached via email at mtngardener07@gmail.com.

    I have had the privilege of volunteering in the Olivia White Hospice Garden here in Flagstaff since I became a master gardener in 2014. I supervise the care of the 70 roses, 45 varieties, within this beautiful perennial garden which lies at 7,000 feet below the San Francisco Peaks, just 60 miles south of the Grand Canyon.

    We face many of the same challenges you do gardening at high altitude: an arid climate, a late and cold spring, and a short growing season. I reach out to other southwest gardeners in Denver and Santa Fe who also raise roses at almost 7,000 feet and in arid climates, sharing what I have learned in my 16 years of growing roses in Flagstaff. I seek what you have learned also.

    My husband and I visit Durango yearly, and have seen your ‘Rosie the Riveter’ floribundas. You have planted them, I understand, to honor American women for all the good they have done over the decades. May they flourish for you.

    It has been a very exciting year for me. Our drought abated, with a very wet and late spring. However, our monsoon, which generally occurs between the Fourth of July and mid-September, produced no rain. This absence of moisture during the height of our growing season is very unusual, and it affected the roses. The hospice roses and my roses, most of which are repeat blooming, bloomed weeks late, and then all at once with only a scant repeat bloom. 

    Also, the deer browse the roses more severely during these extremely dry periods. They even dig under the water rings around the hospice roses for the moisture that has soaked into the mulch.

    Rose gardening is challenging, but doable, here in Flagstaff. Many of the hospice roses are over ten years old. I look forward to sharing what is happening in the rose gardens of Flagstaff, and learning what is new with your roses. Seen below is the hospice’s ‘Falstaff’ rose, which displayed an extremely heavy bloom, but with flowers that had fewer petals and open hearts, instead of the usual David Austin frilly inner petals.

       The Falstaff Rose in full bloom

  • 21 Oct 2019 5:55 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The Bulb Sale Committee ordered nearly 11,000 bulbs this year and sold over $7,000 worth of bulbs for a big, successful effort. The sale took place at the County Fairgrounds this year on Saturday, October 19, and was preceded by the pun-laden, highly informative remarks of Mike Smedley, an executive with the Bank of the San Juan’s, but perhaps better known around town as the author of the Herald’s popular Action Line column. 

    Now that you’ve purchased an armful of bulb packages, make sure you visit our web site tab, Bulb Sale Tips for suggestions on how to plant them.  

    Want more bulbs? The Bulb Sale Committee and others will be selling some surplus bulbs at three locations this week: Pine River Library (Tuesday, October 22, beginning at 5:45pm), Aztec Farmers’ Market (Wednesday, October 23, beginning at 4:00 pm, 1409 W Aztec Blvd) and the Durango Farmers’ Market (Saturday, October 28).

    Congratulations to the Bulb Sale Committee: Bett Clark, Melanie Palmer, Jill Salka, Jill Hoehlein, Julie Cummings, Donna Albright, Connie Markert, Anita Albright, and Barb Johnson.  And check out our Bulb Sale slide show on the home page...

  • 13 Oct 2019 9:44 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The Durango Botanical Society (DBS) dedicated its 2019 Gardens on Tour to local firefighters for their work in taming last summer's 416 fire.  As part of this dedication, DBS announced it would donate 10% of its tour proceeds to the Durango Fire Protection District (DFPD). During the tour, a number of firefighters were available at tour gardens to answer questions on fire mitigation or simply provide general information on home fire protection and safety.  

    In fulfillment of that dedication, John Anderson, President of DBS presented a check in the amount of $526 to DFPD Fire Marshall Karola Hanks on October 11, 2019.  Anderson thanked Hanks, the DFPD and all of those who participated in the DBS Gardens on Tour, allowing DBS to recognize local firefighters with this donation. 

      John Anderson, DBS President, presents a donation check for $526 to  Karola Hanks, DFPD Fire Marshall. 

  • 18 Sep 2019 10:16 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The Durango Botanical Society (DBS) was founded by a woman. The DBS board of directors is almost entirely comprised of women.  On any given Saturday morning in the spring, summer, and fall dozens of DBS women can be found tending to the Durango Botanic Gardens surrounding the Durango Public Library.  It’s only natural, then, that DBS’s newest partnership is with another group of can-do men and women, the National Spirit of ’45/Rosie the Riveter Memorial Rose Garden campaign, an organization dedicated to recognizing the contributions and influence of women in American society through that cultural icon of World War II, Rosie the Riveter. (Be sure to see photos below.)

    On Saturday, September 14, 2019 the Durango arm of the Spirit of ’45 officially dedicated a new rose garden in a section of the Durango Botanic Gardens near the new Mountain Thyme Society Sundial.  The rose garden, currently comprised of five Floribunda rose plants, was planted-by and will be maintained by a team of Spirit of ’45 volunteers, including four Master Gardeners certified by Darrin Parmenter, director, CSU Extension Office.  Speakers said the garden will remind and reflect upon the contributions and influence ofwomen in the WWII war effort; it will also act as a reminder to current and future generations of young women that they have more social and cultural power than they might imagine. 

    Approximately 25 people, including Durango Mayor Melissa Youssef, Chair of the LaPlata County Board of Commissioners Julie Westendorff, DBS President John Anderson, local girl scouts, and gardeners joined in the dedication event. The ceremony was led by Judy Winzell, Co-Chair along with husband Jim Winzell, of the National Spirit of ’45 and Rosie the Riveter Memorial Garden of Colorado Congressional District 3.  The Spirit of ’45 Durango is described as a coalition of organizations that currently includes the Durango Public Library, DBS, Durango Girl Scouts, Colorado Girl Scouts, Blue Star Mothers, the Durango Herald, and a number of local businesses and individuals. 

    Judy Winzell says the goal of the Rosie the Riveter program project is to have a “Rosie” garden located in every congressional district in the United States. Durango is the second city in Colorado to establish a garden, the other located in Fort Collins.  A third garden is planned for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  

    John Anderson, president of DBS, said in his dedication remarks that DBS believes strongly in the transformational power of gardens. That is why, he added, when Judy and Jim Winzell approached DBS with their idea for a Rosie rose garden,the board of directors was delighted to make the space available for the Rosie garden. 

    There are other, personal connections between DBS and Rosie the Riveter. Noelle Bryant, currently a sophomore at Durango High School, is the granddaughter of one of DBS’s most steadfast volunteers, Gail Lauter.  When attending Miller Middle School Noelle produced a project for National History Day with Rosie the Riveter as her focus. Noelle won special distinction for her work, which culminated in a performance, with Noelle portraying a WWII factory worker. She won a regional competition and then represented Miller Middle School in the state finals in Denver, the first time the school had a student reach that level.  Noelle says the project helped her gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the role women played in the WWII war effort as well as the central role they continue to play in our society.

    Upper left, Judy Winzell leads garden celebrants in flexing "Rosie" muscle; upper right, Winzell greets a local "Rosie," Shelly Hartney. Below left, the Rose Garden team, (l-r), Sara Carver, Winzell, Katie Killinen, Al Springer, Maddy Marquardt, and Jim Lyman. Below right, Noelle Bryant presents her award-winning characterization of Rose the Riveter. (Click on any photo above to enlarge)

  • 14 Sep 2019 3:13 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    A number of members of the The Friends of the Library (FOL) joined a special ‘thank you’ tour of the Durango Botanic Gardens on September 10, 2019. The FOL, with nearly 600 members, has been a generous benefactor in support of the gardens, most recently donating $15,000 toward the development of the new Arboreta. 

    Bett Clark and Theresa Anderson, Durango Botanical Society docents, led the tour. Clark was the resource for the Demonstration, Crevice, and Gabbro Miniature Conifer Gardens. The tour group was especially intrigued by her comments about the Plant Select® Crambe Maritima, commonly known as Curly Leaf Sea Kale. All of this plant is edible, including the flowers, leaves, and roots; it was listed in Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book from 1809 and was known to be eaten by sailors on long sea voyages for its vitamin C content, an antidote to scurvy.

    Theresa Anderson was the tour guide for the Mountain Thyme Sundial, The Rosie the Riveter and the Arboreta Garden, which includes the Gabbro Miniature Conifer Garden, The Cindy Smart Miniature Tree Garden and the Arboreta. Anderson described the gardens as not only as a beautiful place to visit, but as a place where the community can go to see trees of all sizes that could be suitable for their home landscapes. DBS worked with the City Arborists to choose trees that are underutilized in our area. The “Tree Guide for the Arboreta”, which is available in the DBS display case in the library is a great resource, she explained, for homeowners to find the trees that they might like in their own landscapes.

    Shelly Oxhandler, president of FOL, was impressed with the all-volunteer effort that has built and maintained the gardens. "We had a great time, all of us learning things we didn't know about the gardens, plants and trees. The DBS has done such a wonderful job and should be very proud of their hard work. They have brought so much beauty to our Library and to the City of Durango. There is something for everyone here! Thank you Bett and Theresa for an amazing tour."

    Bett Clark (far right) discusses the Demonstration Garden. She is joined here by (l-r), Theresa Anderson, DBS docent, FOL board member Judy Griffiths, Jan Turner, Jill Turner, FOL President Shelly Oxhandler, and FOL board member Debbie Fry.

  • 11 Aug 2019 4:45 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The following appeared in the Durango Herald, August 10, 2019 reporting that the Durango Botanical Society had dedicated and named its new gardens the Cindy Smart Miniature Tree Garden.  The new gardens are just north of the library. Ms. Smart retired as executive director of DBS in 2019. The article was written by Bret Hauff of the Herald.

    Cindy Smart credits her passion for plants to her grandfather.

    The man loved gardening, she said. So much so that he roamed the southern coast of Lake Michigan cultivating property in and around Beverly Shores, Indiana, that he did not own. He called his creations “public gardens,” Smart said.

    She remembers helping him one day – she was 6 and her arms were covered in blood from working with rose bushes – when a man approached and said, “‘Hey, you can’t do this. This is my property.’

    “My grandfather said to him, ‘Well, you’re not using it,’” Smart said on the patio of Durango Public Library. The Durango Botanical Society on Saturday dedicated the Cindy Smart Miniature Tree Garden flanking the library to the north.

    “It’s created a welcoming outside environment,” Sandy Irwin, director of Durango Public Library, said of the Botanical Society’s work in the last eight years. “Libraries and gardens go so well together.”

    Durango Public Library, which the Durango Botanical Society wrapped with gardens, didn’t exist where it does now in 2007, when the idea sparked in Smart’s mind, she said. 

    And she wasn’t afraid to ask for help. Smart sold dozens of talented and eager people on her public garden idea and, in 2011, they got to work. If you asked her, she may deflect the credit to those who supported her throughout creating the Botanical Society.

    “An idea took possession of her,” board president John Anderson said of Smart’s early work to start Durango Botanical Society. “This dedication is in honor of her work, vision and commitment.” 

    She recognized others’ talents and was candid about her need for help, “and you know what, that works,” Smart said. When people joined, she gave them “free rein to use their talents without micromanaging,” she said. 

    But she kept things organized – keeping people invested by giving them a goal without telling them how to achieve it. It empowered people, she said. 

    “They are very invested,” Smart said. “We picked these plants.”

    Her grandfather was more of a creative and a risk-taker – planting what he wanted, where he wanted, she said. 

    Smart said she’s more organized and orderly, and that shows in how she adopted and adapted her grandfather’s “public gardening” concept though legal and institutional means rather than defiant and rebellious ones.

    “I’m getting older – I’m in my 70s now – and I just need to take care of some things. This was a full-time job,” she said of forming and running the Durango Botanical Society. “Part of it was being a teacher, but then I became part student. That’s when I know it’s time to let them do their thing.”

      Cindy Smart addresses the DBS  Membership and Community  Appreciation Party on August 10.

  • 03 Jul 2019 10:27 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Melanie Palmer, Durango Botanic Gardens Curator, and Patsy Ford, one of the Durango Botanical Society’s newest docents and board member of The Garden Project of Southwest Colorado attended the Plant Select® annual meeting June 11, 2019 at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Plant Select, a consortium of Colorado State University, the Denver Botanic Gardens and cooperating commercial nursery partners, the program sources and promotes plants designed to thrive in high plains and intermountain regions. There are currently 60 Plant Select Demonstration Gardens in Colorado, including the Durango Botanic Gardens.  DBG was recognized for its outstanding work in the program with the Golden Shovel award in 2016.  DBS has planted 70 new plants this year in the gardens, some Plant Select plants as well donations from DBG Alpine Curator Mike Kintgen.

                Palmer and Ford remarked upon several presentations, including those of David Salman, chief horticulturalist and founding member of Plant Select, who emphasized the importance of songbirds, hummingbirds, and pollinating insects in a landscape design. Salman shared a variety of strategies aimed at how to keep these pollinators working in your yard all season. 

                An especially topical message came from Scott Denning, Monfort Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University. Denning reduced the climate change discussion to its barest essentials: When earth absorbs more heat than it emits, the climate warms. With a steady depletion of planet’s ozone shield which protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation, entire regions of the earth could face catastrophic changes in climate and, therefore, growing conditions. 


    In photos above, at left Scott Denning delivers his presentation on climate change, at right, Patsy Ford, Melanie Palmer of DBS with Ross Shrigley, director of Plant Select. 

                For example, warmer average temperatures, the kind we are experiencing almost annually now, are associated with dramatic increases in the frequency of extremely hot weather.  Warmer air evaporates more water from soils and vegetation, so even if precipitation doesn’t change, the demand for water will increase with warmer temperatures, according to Denning. Policies that realistically confront what the science of climate change is revealing to us is essential, says Denning, because the consequences of unchecked climate change to the global economy are simply unacceptable.  Foremost, those policies must require the development of energy efficiency and the rapid deployment of non-fossil fuel energy systems.

                Economically, says Denning, the clean energy transition required to address climate change will almost certainly be expensive, perhaps involving roughly one percent of the global economy.  (Ed. Note: Many estimates of the size of the world economy place the number at $87 trillion or roughly $87 billion.) But while that financial commitment is large, Denning points out, it’s not that much out of line with previous economic transformations and dislocations, noting that previous investments in indoor plumbing, rural electrification, the global internet and mobile telecommunications also paid huge dividends to society. “Our descendants will live better lives if we develop and improving their infrastructure just as our ancestors did,” says Denning.

                Melanie Palmer says what impressed her about the Denning remarks was that he was not preaching deprivation, shaming, or the demonizing of fossil fuel producers and users, but simply urging the expanding use of technologies we already have to begin a transition from burning fossil fuels.

                For more on Denning’s thoughts, strategies for dealing with climate change, to go www.Simple.Serious.Solvable.org

                For more on Plant Select®, including soon the Plant Select® items for 2020, visit https://plantselect.org 

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