Durango BOtanic Gardens

Building Public Gardens Committed to Inspiration, Demonstration and Education

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  • 01 Jul 2019 2:40 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Bayard Peake has purchased a bookcase stone for his wife, Nancy, to commemorate the couples’ fifty years of marriage. Nancy, a longtime supporter of the library, is currently a member of the board of the Friends of the Library and is former president of that organization. Many of the couple’s extended family were present for the informal dedication of the stone. Nancy’s name is inscribed on the bookcase stone and displayed on one of the steel shelves holding bookcase stones in the Demonstration Garden. 

    In another personal tribute, Richard Ballantine, chairman of the board of Ballantine Communications, has purchased a tree, a Star Magnolia, in the new Arboretum to the north of the library, as a memorial for Sari Goodman Ross, who passed away in 2015 at age 86. Among those attending the tree dedication were Mr. Ballantine, Reid Ross, Sari’s husband of 65 years, Sandy Irwin, director of the library, John Anderson, president of DBS, and Camilla Potter and Theresa Anderson, DBS board members.

    Sari was a longtime educator and was popularly known, especially by children in Durango, for her “Sari Tales,” enhanced by puppets, costumes, and books. Ballantine remarked: "With her animated and sometimes costumed story telling, her young and old listeners couldn't help but expand their imaginations, to their joy.  Sari's creativity rubbed off on those around her, sending listeners into worlds far away." The tree is now accompanied by a plaque dedicated to Mrs. Ross, which reads: In Memory of Sari Ross, a “Magical Storyteller”.

    Below, left, Bayard and Nancy Peake; below, right, Reid Ross (seated), L-R, John Anderson, president of DBS, Sandy Irwin, director, Durango Public Library, and Richard Ballantine, chairman of Ballantine Communications. Click on photos to enlarge.


    There are many ways to donate to the Durango Botanic Gardens, for more information on donation opportunities, visit https://durangobotanicalsociety.com/page-1513771

  • 26 Jun 2019 2:54 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)
    Unseasonably cool weather and threatening skies could not deter garden enthusiasts as they turned out in record numbers for the Durango Botanical Society’s (DBS) 2019 Gardens-on-Tour. The tour was canceled for 2018 as the all-volunteer DBS focused its time and resources on building the new Arboreta on the north side of the library. That turned out to be prescient considering that the devastating 416 Fire subsequently started on June 1, 2018, just weeks ahead of usual June tour date.  The delay only whetted the appetite of many. At least one tour participant was heard to say: “I really missed the tour last year; this is where I get my gardening inspiration." (Click photos below for enhancement. Photos courtest of Pete Varney.)


    Inspiring it was as a variety of gardens were on tap this year ranging from the smaller, urban sanctuary of Annette and Bill LeMaire in Durango to the expansive properties of Michael and Sandy Bruce at Rancho del Perro Feo and the historic Barr Orchard property owned today by Eric and Alice Foutz. Panoramic views of the Animas valley and a stunning water feature were highlights of the Rick and Jane Anderson property while John and Theresa Anderson showed how a once muddy, new construction lot in Edgemont Highlands could be transformed into a highlands oasis. If you wanted to see how flowers can turn a property into a kaleidoscope of color you enjoyed seeing Kim and Ed Warshauer’s property. Marilee White’s property offered a unique interpretation of the garden aesthetic as “edible landscape,” focusing on fruit trees and other edibles. Much of White’s abundant harvests gets channeled into worthy local causes.

    John and Theresa Anderson summed up the feelings of most garden hosts: “For passionate and avid gardeners there is nothing to compare to a day sharing your plants with friends who are committed to creating their own gardens filled with the beauty and vitality of growing things.”

    Folks registered for the Tour at the library providing attendees with an opportunity to see the work of the new Arboreta, comprising the Arboretrum of larger trees and shrubs alongside the Miniature Tree Garden, both located immediately to the north of the library.

    According to the tour committee of Connie Markert, Carol Wallace, Camilla Potter, Shirlee Krantz, Jill Hoehlein, and Barbara Johnson, 228 people purchased tickets, mostly online but many at the door. In addition to the hours put in by the committee, there were another 27 volunteers working at various gardens.

    Additionally, a number of musicians and artists were sprinkled around the seven private gardens on the tour as well as a number of firemen who made themselves available to discuss fire mitigation strategies with homeowners.

    Thanks everyone: Attendees, Firefighters, Musicians, Artists, Volunteers, and Hosts!

    If the tour whetted your appetite for more gardening inspiration, consider joining the Durango Botanical Society or renewing your membership by visiting our web site’s membership page at https://durangobotanicalsociety.com/page-1513945

  • 17 Jun 2019 7:04 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Seven unique, colorful private gardens around LaPlata County are busy putting final touches on their gardenscapes in preparation for over 100 visitors this weekend. The Durango Botanical Society’s Gardens-on-Tour has returned in 2019 and it promises to be one of the best tours yet. Tour registrants will see some of the area’s most interesting home gardens as well as seeing first-hand how our new Arboreta at the library are evolving. 

    Tour participants will begin their day with registration on the south side portico of the library where they will receive wristbands, in lieu of tickets, brochures and maps and other materials for the gardens they will be visiting.  Hoping to alleviate overcrowding at one or two early stops, visitors will be assigned a beginning garden at random. 

    Durango Botanical Society members have been polishing up their gardens, including the Demonstration Garden, the Crevice Gardens, the Gabbro Miniature Garden and the new gardens comprising the Arboreta on the north side of the library.

    Did you know there are hundreds of varieties of thyme? You'll get a hint of this hardy herb's various incarnations with a new addition to the gardens in 2019--a time-keeping sundial decorated with twelve varieties of thyme, one within each of the hourly segments. Above, members of the Mountain Thyme Herb Society stand in front of the Mountain Thyme Clock they have donated to the Durango Botanical Society. The Mountain Thyme Herb Society will also maintain the clock and plantings going forward, perhaps assuring its keeps perfect thyme.   

    As a tribute to the amazing community service rendered by firefighters during last year’s 416 Fire, DBS will donate 10% of all proceeds to the Durango Fire Protection District. Firemen will be at many gardens to discuss fire mitigation strategies.

    We’re just a few days away from this don’t-miss event. Visit our web site now to register for this annual highlight of the gardening calendar https://durangobotanicalsociety.com

  • 30 May 2019 10:18 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    There’s a little more available space in area garages, attics, and storage units following the Durango Botanical Society’s Yard Sale on May 25. A steady flow of folks found a lot of bargains and DBS raised around $1800 from the efforts of numerous volunteers. T-shirt sales and memberships contributed several hundred dollars more. While funds raised will help enhance the DBS public gardens at the library, the sale also benefited a lot of other folks and organizations.  The Volunteers of America selected a number of items that would benefit their clients and the La Plata County Humane Society sent a truck on Saturday to pick up unsold items.  

    Jenny Nedergaard was the team leader for the sale, ably and tirelessly assisted by DBS members, Barb Johnson, Connie Markert, Melanie Palmer, Camilla Potter, Susan Hannon, Anita Albright, and Lynn Metzlaff.

  • 16 May 2019 4:50 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The Durango Botanical Society interprets the public education component of its mission broadly. While much of our interaction is with adult gardeners, engaging future gardeners and sustainers of public gardens is equally important. DBS docents give numerous tours of our gardens to school groups throughout the year. However, we also go to schools as well. This is exemplified by our long and fruitful connection with St. Columba Parish School, an independent Catholic school for pre-K through 8thgrade. Those who walk by the school may have noticed a number of raised bed gardens, tended by the youngsters. Those gardens also provide a fundraising opportunity for the school and DBS docents are very much involved.

    When the seed growing project begins, DBS docents explain the parts of the seed and what a seed will need to grow successfully. They also guide the children as they plant their seeds. The children learn to experience the thrill of seeing their work produce handsome seedlings, which also raise money to buy items needed at the parish food pantry.

  • 08 May 2019 3:09 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Art has always been an important accompaniment to the Durango Botanic Gardens. Visitors to the Demonstration Garden admire or ask often about the striking blue Puma sculpture or the Thomas Grams Memorial featuring its ravens in flight. Now, visitors to our new Arboreta on the north side of the library are stopping to comment or inquire about our most recent additions to our art program--decorative metal panels. There are currently three metal art panels, fabricated by Bryan Saren of Saren Studios, in the Arboreta. 

    Saren, shown at left, erected the most recent panel, donated by Annette and Bill LeMaire, on Tuesday, May 7. The panel, designed by Annette LeMaire, depicts a girl reading a book in the crook of a tree. In 2018 DBS members, John and Theresa Anderson, donated a panel in the Miniature Tree Garden. John is president of DBS; Theresa is a DBS board member and docent training coordinator.

    The first panel (at left in photo below) to be installed in 2018 was donated by Melanie and Clark Palmer. Melanie is DBS garden curator and docent trainer. The Palmers, representing a family with a long tradition of military service, chose to dedicate their panel “In honor and in memory of United States military veterans and their families.” Melanie adds that she and Clark wanted the panel to honor their military roots. An eagle, soaring protectively over the landscape in the panel, represents the U.S. military guarding our freedoms.

    The Anderson’s panel (above, right) was based on an original painting, titled “Glow,” by Durango artist, Annette LeMaire. Working with an image, Saren will fine-tune the artwork so it can be accommodated by his computerized metal cutting machine. This process uses water, laser or plasma to perform the final cut.

    The decorative art panels are a new and important way to contribute to the growth and beauty of our gardens. The metal panels are available for a donation of $2500, accompanied by a plaque naming the donors and may include any special memorials, quotes, or passages desired.

    For more on donating a decorative metal art panel, contact us at 970-880-4841 or email us at durangobotanical@gmail.com. There are many other ways to donate to our mission of providing amazing public gardens in Durango. For other donation options, go to the Help Us Grow tab. 

  • 02 May 2019 8:42 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    When we succeed in the vegetable garden, there’s nothing like it for wholesome, tasty food and, uh, bragging rights. When we fail, well, we can always blame it on the deer, weather, climate change, or a hungry Yeti. Vegetable gardening is especially challenging here in the Four Corners region with rocky, clay-laden soils, big swings in temperature, and a paucity of rain. The key to success with your veggies, says Darrin Parmenter, Horticulturalist and La Plata Extension Director for Colorado State University, is planning and aligning what you plant with what you most want to eat and have time to grow. (Click Read More for full post)

    Parmenter was speaking to an audience of over 50 people at the first in the 2019 Great GardenSeries,sponsored by the Durango Public Library, the Durango Botanical Society, and the Colorado State University Extension Office.  The next in this Series will be June 5, when Kami Larson talks on “Good Bugs vs. Bad Bugs” at the Durango Public Library, 6:00-7:30pm.

    Before deep diving into frost schedules, soil temperatures, soil structures, and the merits of raised beds, Parmenter noted an overlooked part of vegetable gardening strategy is planning. For example, what does my summer calendar look like? Your garden can take minor stretches of neglect but not a series of extended trips. So either have a reliable, saintly neighbor or reconsider the size and scope of your plantings. Also, simply grow plenty of what you really like; if four items seem to dominate your summer table, then focus on those items. Volume also might depend on your level of interest in canning or other forms of preservation. Or, perhaps simply donate some of your surplus to many local organizations that feed the hungry.

    While most of us keep an eye on atmospheric conditions and temperatures, it is easy to overlook the importance of your garden soil and its condition and temperature, says Parmenter. Sand on the beach, for example, has no structure; veggie gardeners, on the other hand, want soil particles that join together with a kind of crumb-like structure. Adding organic matter is the best way to improve structure. 

    Parmenter also urges gardeners to pay attention to the temperature of their soil. Taking your soil’s temperature does not necessarily require elaborate equipment, a kitchen meat thermometer can do the trick too. He showed a slide with a variety of soil temperatures aligned with a number of popular vegetables. Getting the soil temperature right for planting is a significant aid to quick germination and getting a healthy vegetable crop. Obtain a copy of this slide and perhaps other slides in his Great Garden Series presentation by emailing him at Darrin.parmenter@colostate.edu.  The presentation is also available at http://www.co.laplata.co.us/government/departments/extension_offices_c.s.u.

    Parmenter shares vegetable gardening tips with over 50 local gardeners. The Great Garden Series is a collaboration of the Durango Public Library, the Durango Botanical Society, and the CSU La Plata County Extension Office. The next presentation will be June 5 on "Good Bugs vs. Bad Bugs."

  • 24 Apr 2019 9:55 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The Durango Botanical Society was honored at Durango's 39th Annual Arbor Day Celebration, April 19, 2019, with a plaque presented to John Anderson, president of the Durango Botanical Society. The honor, accorded to Anderson, recognizes him for "Outstanding Service and Commitment to Durango's Urban Forest, 2018." Anderson leads the nearly 100-member Durango organization committed to the advancement of public gardens for the purposes of education and demonstration.  The award will soon be displayed in the DBS bookcase in the Durango Public Library.

    The Durango Botancial Society (DBS) has built and maintained public gardens at the Durango Public Library since 2011. It's most recent project, The Arboreta, enhances its mission with gardens to the north side of the library. A new mobile app will enable visitors to the garden to look up information on plantings and other features in all the gardens.

    In photo below, DBS members join DBS President John Anderson at the city of  Durango's Arbor Day Celebration, April 19, where Anderson received an Outstanding Service Award. Shown here are, L-R, DBS docents Tish Varney and Kate Stewart, Connie Markert, treasurer, Theresa Anderson, DBS board member, and John Anderson, president. 



  • 09 Apr 2019 5:29 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The following, profiling DBS founder and former executive director Cindy Smart, was published in the April 7 edition of the Durango Herald...

    Cindy Smart, founder of the Durango Botanical Society, doesn’t shy away from big ideas. While working in California, she wanted to learn to sail, so she built a trimaran. After she became interested in jewelry, she founded an international gem company. She wanted Durango to have public gardens, so she founded a society to build them.  (Click Read More for full article...)

    “I just never thought there was anything I couldn’t do. So I never see obstacles; I think I always see the end results,” Smart said.

    Establishing the botanic gardens outside Durango Public Library was one of her more recent projects. She founded the Durango Botanical Society to build and run the public gardens in 2010 with four volunteer board members and a $1,000 grant. She pitched the gardens to her prospective board members after filing the paperwork to form the botanical society, so she was pleased when they agreed to join the effort. “The right people came together, and we had a very single vision. ... We were able to produce results in a matter of months that the public could actually see,” she said.

    Smart, 74, led the society as executive director until January, when she stepped down to become the No. 1 weeder, she said jokingly. 

    Before founding the society, Smart was a businesswoman who started working when she was 15 as a telephone operator in California. She worked there full-time in high school to help support her family. The job and a ham radio hobby led her to a communications position on a U.S. Army base in Long Beach during the Vietnam War.

    From her desk, she watched sailboats in the harbor and decided the only way she would get one was to build it herself. When her trimaran was finished, Smart made her maiden voyage to Hawaii with her husband and their friend. “We were just sure the entire way we were lost,” she said. “You don’t really have confidence in yourself till you have hit land for the first time.”

    She sailed quite a bit in her 20s and started selling her handmade jewelry in ports. Someone she met in her travels told her about the Gemological Institute of America, and she later enrolled in the school. Her degree from the institute allowed her to cut gems, appraise jewelry and work with well-known retail stores, such as Tiffany & Co. It also laid the foundation for her business, International Gem Laboratories, a company that imported jewels from Asia. “During those travels, I fell in love with pearls, and that’s what I specialized in,” she said. 

    In 1981, she moved to Durango and opened two jewelry stores – Quigley’s and La Petite Shop – and continued to run her gem-dealing company. In the late 1980s, Smart and her husband, Jim Smart, decided to buy a mobile glass company. She was in the process of selling International Gem Laboratories, but the sale hadn’t gone through, so the couple maxed out their credit cards to make the purchase. She promised her husband they would make their money back in 60 days, and they did, she said.

    Over time, the company evolved into Smart Enterprises, on the corner of Main Avenue and east 14th Street. Smart’s daughter Malaika Mestas now owns the business, which sells glass, spas, hot tubs and other products. Smart continues to run the company’s website and social media, she said.

    After stepping back from the company, Smart decided to take classes to become a master gardener. She learned to love gardening as a child working with her grandfather, who built many public gardens. After finishing the classes, a friend offered her a grant to help start the public gardens.

    For her, Durango’s gardens are a legacy that can thrive forever and help educate residents about the drought-resistant and climate-appropriate plants to use in their own landscaping. The gardens also provide space to test out plants from around the world to see whether they will acclimate well to the area.

    She expects stepping down from the job as executive director will give her more time in the gardens planting, weeding and talking with visitors about the importance of donating to the society so the gardens can be maintained for the next generation.

    “I will be more valuable to the organization as a cheerleader,” she said.

    Cindy Smart strolls the Demonstration Garden behind the library. The area once littered with building debris was reconceptualized by the Durango Botanical Society as a garden featuring trees, plants, and flowers indigenous to southwestern Colorado.

  • 17 Mar 2019 9:17 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The key to success with trees and shrubs in your yardscape will take place before you put a shovel in the ground. Plan, ask questions, and choose your trees and shrubs wisely. The ‘wisely’ factor is best translated into asking questions of yourself: Where is this tree going in my yard; What do I want from it in terms of shade, privacy, flowering, bird habitat, etc., etc. Mistakes at the beginning of the tree selection process can last a long time, cost money, and chew up time. These are just a few of the takeaways from the Durango Botanical Society’s recent workshop “Tips for Trees,” attended by over forty people on March 16 at the LaPlata County Fairgrounds.  (Click Read More for full report)

    Don’t just spray-and-pray

    Not all insects and tree diseases are created equal, advised Darrin Parmenter, Horticulturalist and Extension Director for LaPlata County. The seriousness and solutions to insects and diseases will range from largely annoying (leaf spots, aphids, and spider mites) to highly threatening (oystershell scale, cytospora and bark beetles). The level of response depends on where your insect or disease issue fits on this spectrum. One rule of thumb is that harsh chemical solutions are seldom warranted, “don’t just spray-and-pray,” advises Parmenter. For aphids, for example, the mitigation may extend from doing nothing, as in letting natural controls ultimately take care of things, to spraying with a strong jet of water or a soap and water mixture. Cytospora Canker, Colorado’s #1 canker-causer for cottonwood, aspen, willow, spruce, and fruit trees, usually attacks weak or stressed trees and may require substantial pruning and mitigation. 

    Parmenter advises homeowners first recognize the insect or disease issue they are dealing with, before taking action. In others words, follow the physician’s creed: First do no harm. One of the most misdiagnosed issues is Fireblight, which actually only applies to trees in the Rosaceae or rose family such as apple, pear, and crabapple. A key telltale sign of fireblight is the so-called ‘Shepherd’s crooking’ of leaves (where the tips of the leaf curl inward). While devastating to commercial fruit producers and often treated with a variety of chemicals, homeowners might consider spraying with a 10% bleach solution or by mostly pruning 8-12 inches below the visible infection. Prevention of spreading through timely pruning is the best strategy.

    Parmenter warns that one insect issue that could arise this year, owing to an especially wet winter, is the appearance of the tent caterpillar, which is prone to boom or bust population cycles. This pest can be voracious and is probably best identified by their conspicuous silk tents in the branches of host trees.

    Bourey Advises Patience and Planning

    When locating any tree or shrub, advises Lisa Bourey, landscape designer, horticultural consultant and owner of Passion Flower Farm, consider size, structure, leaves and buds, and the tree’s root system. In practice this means beginning with an evaluation of the mature size of the tree. Unless you’re into high-maintenance, do not plan on pruning to limit a plant’s growth potential. Or, if you’re partial to aspens remember the rhizomatic nature of these trees which can grow into large clonal colonies from a single seedling. Maybe better to enjoy aspens on a mountain hike unless you have a very large yard? Consider, too, the amount of water a tree will require and match that to your situation. 

    Think of a tree purchase on two levels, says Bourey: Above ground and below ground. How much sun will the tree get/require, does the prospect tree reflect an open branching structure, has it been pruned correctly, is the root system exposed? Below ground factors will include soil type, drainage, and rock content. 

    Maybe the best advice, Bourey counsels, is to be patient; it may well take a tree or plant 3-5 years to become established but after that settling in period, most plants are hardier than we give them credit for.  Another thought on patience is: “Be willing to start small.”  Small plants, she says, establish themselves faster and will grow at a more rapid rate than transplanted, larger, more mature plants. And, smaller trees and shrubs are easier to prune. Of course, if a privacy barrier is an important factor, then bigger will be faster and better. 

    The Tree Whisperer

    Few people know Colorado trees as well as David Temple, arborist and owner of Trees of Trail Canyon. Temple is one of the nation’s few board-certified master arborists. The key to a long-lived, healthy tree is training the tree when it’s young and that includes strategic pruning. Pruning is necessary but pruning is both a science and an art, Temple says. “Trees do not heal, their cells only generate, building new cell structures on top of old. Pruning is also ‘wounding’ a tree but with proper pruning, cutting at the right spot, will generate new energy to correct structural problems and produce a healthier, longer-lived tree. 

    One of the hardest things for home gardeners and landscapers to accept is the efficacy of what Temple calls Rejuvenation Pruning, in effect cutting a flagging shrub or bush down to perhaps 3-6 inches from the ground. While that technique is scary for some homeowners, the rewards in terms of regeneration can be amazing.  Temple related a story of pruning a huge lilac with six-inch diameter trunks but fading blooms to just a few inches from the ground; in just two seasons it had burst back to new life with huge, fragrant blooms.   

    After his remarks on pruning, Temple took the assembly into the Fairgrounds parking lot to demonstrate where and how certain trees should be pruned and the anticipated results. We can’t share all of Temple’s pruning tips here so check out Trees of Trail Canyon on YouTubefor some of his tips on growing, caring for trees. Search for Trees of Trail Canyon or David Temple.

    For more information, contact: Darrin Parmenter at Darrin.Parmenter@colostate.edu, Lisa Bourey at passionflowerdurango@gmail.com, and David Temple, trailcanyonranch@gmail.com.

    David Temple of Trees of Trail Canyon demonstrates proper pruning techniques to attendees of Durango Botanical Society's "Tips for Trees" seminar.            

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