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Durango Botanic Gardens

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  • 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

  • 22 Mar 2020 10:07 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    If sheltering-in-place, social distancing, and other pandemic remedies are getting you down, look outside.  You'll likely see a smattering of those little harbingers of spring--crocuses or croci if you prefer--braving the last of the winter storms to make their perennial appearance.  

    Mike Smedley, a bulb enthusiast and perennial supporter of our Durango Botanic Gardens, is excited to welcome "peak crocus" to his yard.  Mike writes that crocus are beginning to appear in his yard and now's the time to get out and appreciate this little genus of the iris family.  

    At left, Crocus chrysanthus, also known as "Goldilocks," one of Mike's favorites and one of the first to bloom in early winter. In the evening, as the sun goes down, they exhibit a dark purplish-brown feathering. "The toughness of bulbs still astounds me," he adds.

    This weekend, and most weekends, you'll find Mike at 3090 E. 4th Avenue maintaining vigil over his bulbs and other plants.    

  • 15 Mar 2020 3:58 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    A message from John Anderson, president, Durango Botanical Society...

    Following the guidance of our public health agencies, The Durango Botanical Society (DBS) recognizes the need to increase social distancing at the present time.  This may include the postponement or cancellation of a variety of upcoming DBS events. Those decisions will continue to be guided by public health recommendations. As many of you know, both the Durango Public Library and the Recreation Center are closed at least until May 10.

    Accordingly, we have found it necessary to cancel a number of upcoming events, including "Astounding Plants of the Mediterranean," originally scheduled for March 26 and “Pollinators in the Garden," originally scheduled for April 18.  We will abide by the City of Durango guidance and policies regarding events at these locations. 

    Please check our web site often at for updates that will be shown on the events tab at our web site. If you are currently registered for scheduled events you will receive an e-mail specific to the event as we know more about changes to the City of Durango policy for public gatherings at these or other locations.

    Remember: The Durango Botanic Gardens are open year around to enjoy throughout this pandemic.  Thank you for your support as we continue our work of creating public gardens in the city of Durango.

    John Anderson, President, Durango Botanical Society

    A good source for information on the COVID-19 coronavirus is the San Juan Basin Public Healh website 

  • 06 Mar 2020 3:56 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Melanie Palmer, Curator of Durango Botanic Gardens (DBG), recently attended the Colorado Home and Garden Show, February 28, 2020 AND the Colorado Native Plant Society Conference: Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants, February 29, in Denver.  The Colorado Garden Foundation uses funds raised at the Home and Garden Show for grants to various projects around the state.  The Durango Botanic Gardens has been the recipient of three such grants in the past.  Following is Melanie’s observations on both events…

    The Colorado Home and Garden Show had many themed garden displays, but the highlight was the educational display by Colorado Master Gardeners, specifically Arapahoe County Master Gardeners, with papier mâché displays of  beneficial and harmful insects. (Shown in the photos)     


    CONPS Landscaping with Natives Conference       

        This is the fifth straight year that this conference has sold out.  There were at least 425 attendees.  The presentations will be uploaded to the site.  All registrants received ONE of their 5 regional planting guides.  All of these guides are available on their website. 

    The keynote speaker was Scott Hoffman Black of the Xerces Society, named after the first butterfly genus to go extinct in the US, and dedicated to invertebrate conservation. has many downloadable resources. Many important takeaways from Dr. Black's presentation and four other presentations:

    • Alarming decreases in invertebrates all over the planet: (99% decline of Western monarch butterflies, 70% decrease in invertebrate biomass in Germany over the last 20 years studied, 28% of bumble bee species in North America are threatened, aquatic stoneflies, crabs and snails threatened)
    • 95% of songbirds rear young on invertebrates
    • 85% of flowering plants require insect pollination

    Threats are coming from:

    • Habitat loss
    • Habitat degradation (grazing, mowing, fires)
    • Pesticide use
    • Diseases (esp in bumblebees)
    • Climate change
    • Escaped biocontrols

    Some ideas for helping:  (Includes many ideas from several of the other presenters)

    • Think about the needs of individual animals and their life history, the animals at the bottom of the food chain.  WRT butterfly gardens, plants like lantanas, zinnas, butterfly bush, cosmos, and the like may attract ADULT butterflies, but do NOTHING for critical butterfly egg laying, larvae production etc.  Cater to the CATERPILLARS more than the adult butterflies.  Learn to distinguish between desirable and harmful (CSU Fact Sheets)
    • Restoration is good, but preservation of existing habitat is better—even simple things like changing highway mowing practices. 
    • Maximize the diversity of native flora by managing vegetation in natural areas.
    • Plant bee lawns (low-growing flowers with some bare space for ground nesting bees)
    • 70% of plant biomass in your yard should be native in order to support birds—birds need soft-bodied insects to feed their young, NOT bird feeders, although birdfeeders in winter are very helpful
    • Non-native plants do not support the bottom of the food chain as well; alien ornamentals support 29X less biodiversity than natives.
    • Curb carbon footprint
    • Educate people on the beauty of native plants
    • Provide water for birds
    • Provide a variety of structure:  Trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses.  Group plants that bloom at one time together and have something in bloom for as long as possible. Don’t tidy your gardens in fall (except for removal of diseased plants)
    • Build pollinator meadows for business campuses instead of lawns.
    • Start small – convert 10% of your lawn
    • Educate people about the possibilities that rooftop gardens and rain gardens can have on heat islands 
    • Use multiple strategies

    Locally native vs. native CULTIVARS:  no conclusive research except for some butterflies and caterpillars. Natives are superior to cultivars, BUT AVILABILITY IS A BIG ISSUE.

    There are many free resources available on what to plant, especially at the website, and many resources on the garden design process at

  • 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 



  • 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 or LeMaire at

    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

  • 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

    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...

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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

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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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