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.
The Fairy Garden is home to individual fairy houses created by local children in the annual Fairy Garden House Contest. Miniature plants and fun artifacts delight both the young and old. Recently, the Fairy Garden was relocated to the Children’s Garden in a specially designed display area. Ram’s Masonry, Inc. donated all the intricate stonework and materials that feature raised rock islands for the fairy houses. This new location moves the houses off the ground and puts them at children’s height to ensure a close-up look from all sides of this magical village all season long.
The Children’s Garden recently sprouted a new look with new and exciting features including a redesign of its play structure into a Steamboat. 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 where fairy houses are now off the ground and at children height. Storytime in the Park with storytellers from the Bud Werner Library is back in the Children’s Garden with new stories and outdoor activities each Friday.
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, Gambels Oak, and Anthriscus Sylvestris, Cow Parsley. In the spring the slope leading up to the Arbor and bench is a sea of purple Lupinus polyphyllus, Lupine. Machaeranthera bigloveii, Santa Fe Aster, aggressive Showy goldeneyeand Rosa woodsii, Western Wild Rose have naturalized on the peninsula and take over in the summer. Penstemon strictus or Rocky Mountain Beardtongue also makes a showy appearance in late spring to early summer. Quercus gambelii, Scrub Oak and Picea pungens, Colorado Blue Spruce shelter the entire peninsula but if you look closely you’ll see a special yellow Rosa harrisonii, Harison’s Rose, growing near the Blue Spruce. This garden is currently under a 3 year 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 a Clematis and grape vine climb and cover 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 has grown over the years with two new crevice gardens, tufa rock, and vegetable beds. The garden is a visitor favorite with its lush plantings of native and specialty plants from around the world. 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 who brought the rocks and placed them overlooking the Yampa River and the Core Trail. This garden features plants from Siberia to Patagonia, Mongolia to Japan and all the way to the Himalayas. The garden features 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. There are two hidden paths that take you to the upper part of the garden. The steps are lined by Armenian Speedwell whose small purple flowers bloom in the spring under the trees. Fujiyama phlox with white bouquet-like white flowers together with balloon flower, Platycodon grandiflorus and echinacea on the top of the garden offer an explosion of color during the month of August. On the river side of the garden is a group of whorl flowers – a Himalayan native with sharp spines as leaves and is very rare In North America.
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, given to us 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 warms up, giving us an attractive display in the spring.
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.
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.
The Pioneer Garden features plants that the early settlers brought across the prairies. Look for Hollyhocks, Foxgloves, Lilies, and Lupine.