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Mid-summer Beauty in The Intermountain West

by High Country Gardens

Chatfield Arboretum's Rain Garden.

A Visual Treat and Pollinators Paradise at Denver Botanic Garden Chatfield

On my way home from checking the fall crop for High Country Gardens at our Denver greenhouse, I stopped to tour the gardens at Denver Botanic Garden at Chatfield, nestled against the foothills in the south end of the Denver Metro area. It is masterfully landscaped with native plants that deal with challenging planting situations in an aesthetic manner.

The area around the main office was recently re-landscaped in 2012 by landscape designers and plant experts Lauren Springer Ogden and her husband Scott Ogden. Lauren and Scott have a wonderful feel for designing with native plants and dealing with challenging planting situations in an aesthetic manner. They designed and planted the large area around the office with an imaginative palette of grasses and wildflowers that have now matured with their third growing season in the ground.

Chatfield Arboretum Denver Botanic GardenThe welcome center features a lush Buffalo grass lawn at the Denver Botanic Garden's Chatfield Arboretum.

A Visual Treat and Pollinators Paradise at Denver Botanic Garden Chatfield

The terrain around the office was extensively graded to raise the building above what is considered to be a flood plain. So several of the large bed areas are sunken as a result. Cleverly, a rain garden was part of the plan, making use of a low area to capture and filter the run-off from the building's roof. There aren't a lot of rain gardens in the Front Range of Colorado, but this one's an inspiration for others to be planted.

In the middle of July, many gardens are lacking flowering perennials, having their big burst of color concentrated in late May and June. But not so at Chatfield. The Echinacea (Purple Coneflower) were in full color, as were the Ratibida (Prairie Coneflower), Asclepias (Butterfly Weed), Amorpha (Lead Plant), and Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet®. As you can imagine, the gardens were buzzing with pollinators such as bumblebees, honeybees and native bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. What a joy!

Chartield Arboretum's gardens are abuzz with pollinators.Pollinators buzzed around the wide variety of pollinator plants at Chatfield Arboretum's gardens.

Also of note, are the warm season ornamental grasses, which were also coming into flower. Few designers have the knowledge and enthusiasm for ornamental grasses as Lauren and Scott. And this garden is no exception.

Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition' (Blue Grama Grass) has quickly become one of their favorites. And it is used liberally throughout the garden along with Schizachyrium 'Prairie Blues' (Little Bluestem), various Panicum (Prairie Switchgrass), Muhlenbergia reverchonii (Undaunted ™ Ruby Muhly), and Sporobolus wrightii Windbreaker (Giant Sacaton Grass).

The results are breathtaking and an inspiration for combining herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses. I hope many folks will take these inspiring plant combinations to heart and plant them into their own landscapes.

Text and Photos by David Salman

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