Durango Botanic Gardens

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  • 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.

  • 27 Aug 2020 11:19 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Tish Varney does a new, aesthetic take on the increasingly popular use of sheep tanks for vegetable gardening.  She files this report...

    Among the ill effects of our Covid-19 pandemic, some families in our region are also experiencing food insecurity and thus there is an even greater premium this summer for producing fruits and vegetables. My personal effort to address this need includes the assembly of a vegetable-producing sheep tank. Our landscaping doesn’t really accommodate a conventional vegetable garden space so I had to be especially resourceful and mindful of space.  My solution was to convert a tiny patch of irrigated grass in the back yard into a raised-bed garden within a sheep tank.  In order to maximize this small space I followed the Square Foot Gardening technique made famous by Mel Bartholomew which limits each growing space to a square foot parameter. 

    So, I bought a galvanized sheep watering tank for $160 with dimensions of 8’ long by 19” wide by 2’ deep. I opened up the tank for drainage by drilling 10 holes and then placed the tank in the grass plot on 8” x 16” cement blocks. This raised the tank to a convenient height of 2’8”.

    Since veggies don’t require deep soil, I first added conifer mulch to 1/3 then filled with a mixture of top soil, organic potting mix and cotton burr compost. Before planting, I first created a schematic on paper of the tank with one foot by 9” for 12 sections and two curved end caps and then physically laid out string to define the sections in the tank. On May 18, I set out some seedlings (kale, bush beans) and planted the rest with seeds. The garden exceeded my expectations! And my neighbors became the recipients of kale, spinach, and lettuce as well.

    The art of gardening wouldn’t be complete without art in the garden. A galvanized tank isn’t all that attractive, so I commissioned my college neighbor studying graphic arts to create stencils to add a flower design using green spray paint. The result is delightful! Maybe animal water tanks will come into their own as raised veggie beds and not be sheepish any longer! 

  • 26 Aug 2020 3:29 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Melanie Palmer, curator of the Durango Botanic Gardens files (DBG) this report from the recent online Plant Select Annual Meeting.  She represented DBG on a panel discussing the relationship of gardens and their communities.

    The 2020 Plant Select meeting, which was conducted as a Zoom webinar began with a preview of some of the 2021 Plant Select plants:

    • 1.      Blanca Peak Rocky Mountain Beardtongue—this plant is a WHITE version of the common PURPLE Penstemon strictus and was developed by David Salman
    • 2.     SteppeSun Hokubetsi—Helichrysum trileatum, a very xeric South African native similar in appearance to the Partridge Feather, but with more prominent flowers
    • 3.     Drew’s Folly Hardy Snapdragon—Antirrhinum sempervirens, a pink, cold-hardy dwarf snapdragon from the mountains of Spain

    The first keynote speaker was Larry Vickerman, a curator of the Denver Botanic Garden’s Chatfield location.  His prior experience was as a plantsman on the great plains of Kansas, Oklahoma and eastern Colorado.  He highlighted some of the beautiful plants that originate in these areas, particularly the Flint Hills area between Salina and Wichita, KS.  He has planted some of these at the Chatfield location, but they are likely not available in our state as yet, with a couple of exceptions such as the Sorghastrum nutans, an ornamental grass in the Plant select program (and in our own Demonstration Garden) and the Liatris ligulistylis, not a plant Select Plant, but present in our Demonstration Garden. Fires on prairies are essential every 3 years or so for rejuvenation.  In contrast, forest fires in overgrown Ponderosa Forests burn too hot, destroying soils and allowing little rejuvenation. 

    The second Keynote speaker was Kenton Seth, a Crevice Garden expert, and designer of our own Crevice Garden.  The latest recommendation in crevice gardening in our area is that crusher fines work better than masonry sand as the soil replacement for a crevice garden.  He also recommends using larger “tried and true” plants in the Plant Select program as “backbones” of these gardens rather than trying to focus on rare or hard-to-grow plants.  My takeaway was that we are doing a lot of things right especially with respect to continuing to use bareroot planting and overhead sprayer irrigation.  We should probably be bare-root planting all of the new plants in other areas of the Gardens. 

    The last keynote speaker was Mike Kintgen, Curator of Alpine Collections.  The takeaway from his presentation was that we need to take a second look at some of the older “tried and true”, and now overlooked plants in the Plant Select program, and possibly bring some others into the program, e.g.:

    • Clematis scotia (Scott's Sugarbowls)
    • Erigonum umbellatum (Kannah Creek Buckwheat)
    • Penstemon mensarum  (Grand Mesa Beardtongue)
    • Heuchera pulchella (Sandia Coral Bells)
    • Cercocarpus intricatus (Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany)
    • Lonicera korolkowii Floribunda  (Blue Velvet Honeysuckle)
    • Jamesii americana (Waxflower)

    My takeaway is that we still have a very big problem here with availability of Plant Select Plants, especially some of the older varieties like the Waxflower.  We likely need to start requesting/ordering them OR try and get AJ’s to propagate more of them. I don’t believe I have seen any of the 2020 Plant Select plants at local nurseries.  

    Other similar plants that Mike Kintgen would like to see brought into the Plant Select program. He mentioned Chelsea Nursery in Clifton (east of Grand Junction) as a good source of native plants.

    • Porter’s Sulphur Flower
    • Subalpine Buckwheat
    • Crispleaf Buckwheat
    • Golden Eye
    • Scarlet Gilia
    • Barnbeyi Columbine 

    Panel Discussion

    After the keynote speakers there was a panel discussion moderated by Diana Reavis.  The panelists included Bill Pratt of the Treasure Island Garden in Windsor, Colorado; Catherine Moravec of the Colorado Springs Utilities Demonstration Garden, Sonya Anderson of the Denver Botanic Garden, and Melanie Palmer of the Durango Botanic Gardens.  The panelists were asked to describe how their gardens were started, and the impact they have on the community.  In our case, the Durango Botanic Garden was the only one invited from the Western slope, and we have a unique impact as the only public garden in the City with an educational mission.  Our high visibility along the River Trail and Library, our plant signage and our unique Docent program position us perfectly to spread the Plant Select message to the average homeowner and to people relocating to this area. Our strong partnerships with the Library the City are part of the impetus for our expansion plans, and our stewardship has made us the go-to organization for advice on the development of other public demonstration gardens such as the one being planned for the new Water Treatment Plant. 

    The second part of the panel focused on volunteer management. Again, we are unique in having no paid staff, but all gardens use volunteers and have effective ways of scheduling them.  Our Docents and Board are a highly trained corps who can train newcomers and exert leadership in all areas of the organization such as fundraising, marketing, electronic media and educational outreach in addition to weeding the garden. 

    Other takeaways:  Based on the results of the Plant Select survey from last year, nearly 2/3 of gardens water 2-3 times per week, so we are in line with those.

  • 23 Jul 2020 1:04 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

         Bulb Basics was prepared for customers of the Durango Botanic Gardens' 2020 Bulb Sale by Mike Smedley...Read below and/or print out a pdf file here.                         Click the page below to expand for easier reading...                   

  • 16 Jul 2020 10:44 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)
    •  Creative use of bulbs at Chanticleer Gardens, Wayne, PA. Photo by Lisa Roper and from the New York Times, July 16, 2020.

      Caution: When you plant a bulb, you’re handling highly concentrated flower power. There may be no other investment in your garden that will yield as great a return—in color, vibrancy, and pure joy—as bulbs.  And while it’s not essential to your enjoyment of bulbs, many of them have a fascinating history and geographical pedigree. A friend recently discovered that one of his bulbs has its origin in Uzbekistan. We may use the “bulb” liberally but the term typically refers not only to true bulbs, but also plants with tuberous roots, tubers, corms, and rhizomes. The information below can be applied to all or most of these.

      Here’s maybe the most important reason to buy bulbs—with just a little basic knowledge, anyone can grow beautiful bulbs. Why now? Savvy bulb gardeners know that right now is when the selection of bulbs is greatest; otherwise gardeners who wait for fall may find their favorites sold out and unavailable. Here are some other reasons you should consider bulbs—or more bulbs for your garden:

      1. Bulbs are a great way to add color to the garden at a time when little else is in bloom. The spring surprises offered by their emerging foliage and blooms are very rewarding. They can last for years when properly selected and planted at the correct depth. They are by far the most cost-effective perennial there is!  Some types of bulbs naturally multiply, increasing in blooms year after year. 
      2. Since most bulbs need a period of chilling before they can flower, Mother Nature takes care of that here, so our area is ideal. Mid-October to early November is the ideal time to plant because the ground has not frozen and there is sufficient time to allow root development. 
      3. Bulbs have a long and fascinating place in gardening history, art, literature and even speculative economic bubbles. Daffodils, grown by Egyptians and Greeks and brought into English gardens by the 1200’s, are deer proof, enduring, and now unbelievably diverse.
      4. Properly chosen, bulbs can give continuous color for three months, in the drab time between when the snow recedes and other perennials start to flower.
      5. One need not have a garden to try some of these beauties. Many varieties of bulbs are “good forcers”, which means they may be grown indoors in pots. A little patience and some refrigerator or garage space to provide the necessary dark pre-chilling period (8-14 weeks, 38-45ºF) that Mother Nature provides outdoors will brighten February days. 
      6. There is a strong case for planting spring-blooming bulbs as a source of food for bees. As homeowners remove dandelions from lawns, bulbs offer alternatives to bees. 
      7. Bulbs are easily grown in amended garden soil, and many are deer and rodent resistant.  

    Consider visiting our Sale Preview page to see what bulbs are being offered during our online sale period of August 5-16.

  • 25 Jun 2020 4:41 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    While the Durango Botanical Society (DBS) has canceled its 2020 Gardens on Tour out of consideration for public safety, garden lovers can now see stunning photos of many of the same gardens online. DBS has produced a slide show featuring the 2020 gardens on our You Tube channel. View the show by clicking here. These same gardens will be on our 2021 Tour as all the homeowners have agreed to reopen their gardens for next year’s tour! Take a moment to view some of the area’s most colorful and well-designed gardens and we look forward to seeing you in June of 2021.

    Please Consider a Donation

    The DBS Gardens on Tour is one of our most enjoyable AND important fundraisers. While our all-volunteer organization puts in many hours tending the gardens, we still need funds to purchase supplies, plants, etc.  We would be so grateful if you could manage to make a general donation at this time.  If you wish to make a donation, go to our Donate tab.  

  • 20 Jun 2020 10:11 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The following post is submitted by Melanie Palmer, curator of the Durango Botanic Gardens. She will continue to update us on this year's bulb sale.

    As is the case for most nonprofits in the area, the Durango Botanic Gardens have been hit hard by COVID 19 restrictions and have had to cancel all of this year’s fundraising events. However, we have found a way to make the annual bulb sale happen!  This year’s sale will be held in an online “store” on our website: www.durangobotanicgardens.org.  We will be offering the same high-quality bulbs that you have come to expect, from our premium supplier in Holland:  daffodils, crocus, hyacinth, rock garden iris, tulips and MORE! Bulbs are the most cost-effective perennial there is, and they are great for pollinators!

    This is how it will work:  the online store will be open August 1-8.  This is a limited window, so be sure to mark your calendars NOW.  There will be colorful pictures of all of the offerings for pre-order and pre-payment.*   Bulbs will be shipped from Holland and packaged for our customers for pickup at the Durango Farmer’s Market on October 17, in perfect time for fall planting, with all the instructions you will need.   Additional pickup locations are being determined.  

    NEW THIS YEAR!  Due to popular demand, we will be offering peony roots from a premium farm in the US in gorgeous shades of red, coral, white, and pink for immediate fall planting. Quantity will be limited, so you will want to place your entire order as soon as you can. 

    BONUS! Free bulb fertilizer for orders of 50 or more bulbs!

    We appreciate our many loyal customers over the past years.  Your support is more important than ever in helping us to go forward with maintaining our beautiful gardens and our ambitious plans for future development of the areas around the Library. Let your friends know, and DO NOT MISS OUT this year!

    *If a bulb from the online store becomes unavailable from the suppliers, DBG reserves the right to substitute a bulb that is as closely similar as possible.

    Below, clockwise, beginning with upper left:  Cool Crystal Tulips, Candy Princess Daffodil, Sweet Invitation Oriental Hyacinth, Blue Magic Dutch Iris.

  • 28 Apr 2020 12:51 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The Durango Botanic Gardens (DBG) developed and launched a web application, an “app,” in 2019 designed to help visitors tour the gardens on their own.  While there is currently no app icon to load onto your mobile device, members, visitors, and others can either go to dubg.oncell.com or scan a QR symbol (see below).  Since its 2019 introduction, the app has improved in numerous ways, including the recent addition of a Junior Botanist Challenge.  This feature enables youngsters to answer questions about the gardens, collect badges, and earn a Junior Botanist designation.  

    Upon accessing the app, visitors will find each of the gardens listed, including diagrams and a comprehensive list of plants, trees, and shrubs in each garden.  See a plant or other item you like or want to know more about?  With just a few swipes or clicks the visitor will have a photo of the plant and information such as its scientific name, growing zones, sun/water needs, mature height and width.  

    The app was the brainchild of former Executive Director Cindy Smart, who wanted the Gardens to embrace new technology that offered an enhanced experience. She drew her inspiration from the way this technology is used at museums, larger gardens, historic sites, and National Parks. 

    "Cindy also wanted detailed garden information available to visitors outside of regular docent tour hours,” says the Gardens' Curator, Melanie Palmer.  “Especially during this stay-at-home, safer-at-home moment, when our docents are not leading tours, it enables people and families to get out of the house and do something together in our gardens or simply try it at home or in school,” she adds.  While she hopes the app will enhance the garden experience for visitors and encourage support of the Gardens, she and the Durango Botanical Society (DBS) strongly recommend and support current COVID-19 safety measures such as social distancing, wearing masks, and other prudent measures.

    Melanie Palmer, John Anderson, Cindy Smart, and Shirlee Krantz all contributed to developing the app and the team continues to explore ways to improve it.  Krantz, in particular, was instrumental in developing the new Junior Botanist Challenge and cleaning up some technical issues.  “It is still a developmental product,” says Krantz, “but it is already functional, informative, and a major step forward in engaging with visitors and the community.” 

    Palmer encourages DBS members to give the app a try and offer feedback.  “We do understand that it’s still early days for this application so the more we learn about what is working and what needs improvement, the more useful it will be.” 

    While the focus is currently on making the application more user-friendly and easier to navigate, the app team also has its sights set on additional, exciting features that can further customize the garden experience for visitors. The group also hopes to encourage advertising and sponsorships on the app to offset costs.

    If you give the app a test run, the DBS app team would appreciate your feedback.  Go to dubg.oncell.com or use the QR symbol above. Send comments, suggestions to dbgfeedback@gmail.com.




  • 14 Apr 2020 8:36 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    One of the most anticipated events on the 2020 gardens and horticultural calendar, the Gardens on Tour (GoT), produced by the Durango Botanical Society (DBS), is canceled, according to Connie Markert, chair of the tour committee.  Markert says the DBS board voted for cancelation of the 2020 event, rather than postponement, at its April board meeting.  The decision was driven by concern for threats from COVID-19 for both garden hosts and tour attendees.

    “It’s with heavy hearts that we have taken this decision,” says Markert.  “With the pandemic still evolving and its path difficult to predict, the health and safety of our visitors, homeowners, and the community-at-large must be our priority.”  Markert emphasizes, however, that the Durango Botanic Gardens at the library will remain open and remain maintained by its corps of volunteers.  “What better time,” she adds, “to visit our gardens and remember the resilience of nature and remind us that we are resilient as well.”

    While the physical tour has been canceled for this year, the GoT Committee is exploring a variety of ways to connect the community to its public gardens as well as the private gardens scheduled for the 2020 tour.  DBS will communicate those plans through its website and emails.  Images below from the 2019 GoT.


  • 11 Apr 2020 11:48 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    When we planted our bulbs last fall, we did so in a different world than we experience now.  However, just in time to remind us of the promise of rebirth and regeneration, gardens around La Plata County are springing to life with crocuses, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and all manner of bulbs, corms and other harbingers of spring.  Maybe they've been doing this for years or maybe they're new--purchased last fall at the Durango Botanical Society's annual bulb sale.  Whichever, they're back and more welcome than ever!


    Carol Wallace, DBS board member, sent some photos of her newly muscari paradoxum and daffodils, seen on the home page (the first two on left). The red Emperior Tulips on the right are from Bill LeMaire's yard.  If any of our members have photos of their own spring beauties, send them to Bill LeMaire, DBS website administrator, for a possible slideshow.  If possible, please identify the plants and owner's name, otherwise we'll just admire them for their appearance. Send to bill.lemaire@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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