The Botanic Park is home to 63 individual gardens. Each garden is in a unique setting with its own slope, sun exposure, soil chemistry, trees, shrubs, and irrigation pattern determining what will, and will not, grow well. Every garden is an experiment. The gardens contain mostly perennial plants with annuals in only a few gardens. Here is a sampling of some the gardens.
Members Rock Garden
Planted in 1997 with help from the Denver Botanic Garden, this is the largest garden in the Park. It gets full sun, but large rocks and gravel trap moisture to permit many interesting rock plants to grow.
The Penstemon Garden features the largest genus of flowering plants native to North America, organized in zones. There are 273 species, of which 60 are native to Colorado. This may be the world’s only garden devoted exclusively to penstemons.
Home to individual fairy houses created by local children in the annual Fairy Garden House Contest, this garden located in the Children’s Garden. Ram’s Masonry, Inc. donated all the intricate stonework and materials that feature raised rock islands for the fairy houses, putting them at children’s height to ensure a close-up look from all sides.
The Children’s Garden features a Steamboat play structure. The Botanic Park’s young guests christened the boat: “The Lilac Queen,” due in part to its location to a nearby Lilac bush. The “Lilac Queen” houses a fabulous new Children’s Library that features books from Growing Good Kids Book Awards collection, National Awards for Children’s Literature About Gardens and Nature. Also featured is a namesake paddlewheel which pays homage to Steamboat Springs, and two smoke stacks! As part of the redesign the Botanic Park’s original Fairy Garden has been relocated to the Children’s Garden in a specially designed display area. Storytime in the Park with storytellers from the Bud Werner Library happens every Friday during the summer months.
Dorothy’s Garden was built to honor Carol and Rick Dowden’s Aunt Dorothy who was an avid gardener. Dorothy’s Garden covers the entire peninsula of the northwest corner of the Park near the Core Trail. The garden consists largely of native plants and trees including Ipomopsis aggregata, Scarlet Gilia, Quercus gambelii, Gambel Oak, and Anthriscus sylvestris, Cow Parsley. Machaeranthera bigloveii, Santa Fe Aster, aggressive Showy goldeneyeand Rosa woodsii, Western Wild Rose have naturalized on the peninsula and take over in the summer. Quercus gambelii, Scrub Oak and Picea pungens, Colorado Blue Spruce shelter the entire peninsula. A special yellow Rosa harrisonii, Harison’s Rose, grows near the Blue Spruce. This garden is currently under a phased renovation.
Doris’ Arbor Garden
Doris’ Arbor Garden is named in memory of Doris Swift, a former Botanic Park Board Member. The garden’s main feature is the arbor where Clematis and grape vines climb providing shade. In front of the arbor is an Eremurus, or Foxtail Lily. The Cushion Spurge, Euphorbia polychroma is an early blooming plant and is incredibly showy when in bloom. The Hopflower Oregano, Origanum libanoticum is a Plant Select plant and is a favorite with the bees! The Orange Avens, Geum coccineum is a prolific bloomer. Other plantings in this garden are: Parry Gentian, Gentiana parryi, Allium schubertii and Ozark Sundrops, Oenothera macrocarpa.
The Windigo Garden was established in 2000 in memory of Nathan Robert Hertzog by his family and friends. The garden was designed by Nathan’s aunt and includes native perennials, shrubs and Aspen trees. Originally the garden was in full sun, but now with the growth of the Aspens, it has become more of a shade garden. Lupinus perennis, Wild Lupine, Perideridia gairdneri, Yampa, and Eryngium amethystinum, Amethyst Sea Holly are just a few of the plants in this garden.
Jeff’s Garden was built by Jeff Morehead next to his home, adjacent to the Park. Jeff hardscaped the area with lichen covered volcanic rock brought in from his family’s ranch in western Colorado. Many of the plants in Jeff’s Garden were given to him by the Denver Botanic Gardens, friends, and visitors to the Park. Jeff’s Garden, a visitor favorite, has grown over the years with two new crevice gardens, tufa rock, and vegetable beds. Some highlights include a Taraxacum kok-saghyz, Russian pink dandelion, Eremurus, Foxtail Lilies, and Paeonia mlokosewitschil, Molly the Witch Peony.
Sascha’s Rock Garden
Sascha’s Rock Garden was the first garden established in the Park. It was designed and built by Bob Enever and Kerry Kaster. This garden features plants from Siberia to Patagonia, Mongolia to Japan and all the way to the Himalayas, and two benches. The upper bench offers views of the Yampa River River. Nearby is a Plant Select Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ shrub which blooms in the spring and again in the fall with very fragrant, pale pink flowers. The lower bench overlooks Peter’s Pond, the Rose Garden and the Green. Because of their location, these benches have been the site of many marriage proposals.
Crevice gardening formally began in the Czech Republic before the fall of the Iron Curtain. This garden was created in 2014 using field rock from Wyoming. It simulates an exposed rock formation where plants have nestled into the spaces between the rock layers. Rocks provide a welcoming habitat for plants since they reduce water loss and provide nighttime warmth. Most of these are alpine plants, provided by Denver Botanic Garden, which provide support for the public gardens around the state. Alpine plants grow at high elevations, above the tree line, and bloom as soon as the temperature warm.
Maddy’s Garden of Light
One of the first gardens that delights you as you enter the main gate of the Botanic Park is a beautiful garden planted with all white flowering plants including white Delphinium, Tulips, Peonies, Balloon Flowers, and Iris. Plantings spread out around a celestial-themed garden with stones depicting the phases of the moon. This garden is called “Maddy’s Garden of Light” and was designed by local landscape designer Kathy Olsen. Maddy’s Garden was planted in memory of Madeline Globe, the daughter of Susan and Alden Globe who sponsor and maintain the garden.
Hummingbird & Butterfly Gardens
High Country Natives
The High Country Natives Garden is thickets of native shrubs and plants from the surrounding mountains and is left to grow fairly wild. Look for Acer glabrum, Rocky Mountain Maple, Polemonium reptans, Jacob’s Ladder, and Rosa woodsii, Wood’s Rose.
The Pioneer Garden features plants that the early settlers brought across the prairies. Look for Hollyhocks, Foxgloves, Lilies, Lupine and three types of Paeonia including, ‘Bowl of Beauty,’ ‘Karl Rosenfield’ & ‘Nymph.’
One of the Park’s original gardens, this garden was established by Mary O’Brien, one of the Park’s first gardeners. The Medicinal Garden emphasizes the use of native plants – such as Chamerion angustifolium subsp. Circumvagum, Fireweed which is an edible and earth-regenerating plant and one of the first plants to reappear after a fire.