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by High Country Gardens

Chatfield Arboretum's Rain Garden.

I was in Denver this past week to be a presenter at the kick-off of Denver Botanic Garden's Bonfils -Stanton summer lecture series. The topic was Habitat Heros: Transforming Your Yard Into A Dream Habitat.

Landscape designer and plant expert extraordinaire Lauren Springer Ogden and I were there to give presentations about the plants and techniques home gardeners on the Front Range of Colorado (and Intermountain West and Great Plains) can use to create a habitat-friendly landscape; also known as the Habitat Hero Garden. These are landscapes that provide all the essentials that will attract a wide variety of wild creatures, including song birds, hummingbirds, and insect pollinators, such as honey and native bees, butterflies and moths.

But before the talks began, the sold-out house of over 250 people enjoyed a social hour highlighting a delicious selection of vegetarian fare provided by Slow Food Denver (my favorite was the pickled watermelon rind).

With everyone well fed, I began the evening by highlighting the wide variety of waterwise perennials and woody plants that will attract wildlife by providing food (seeds and fruit), nectar, and shelter. Lauren followed with beautiful photos of her 1/2 acre Fort Collins landscape to illustrate the various design techniques and plants that can be used to create a Habitat Hero worthy garden (hers was given the official designation several years ago). The audience was engaged and very interested in all the aspects of creating a habitat garden. No doubt there will be many more colorful trees, shrubs, and perennials appearing in their yards that will attract wildlife.

The evening was sponsored by Denver Botanic Garden, Audubon Rockies and Habitat Heroes. The Front Range of Colorado leads the nation in the creation of habitat friendly landscapes as Coloradans have embraced the idea of giving back to Mother Earth and her creatures by sharing our outdoor spaces. In fact just this past week First Lady Michelle Obama has launched the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge to initiate a nation-wide effort to support pollinator health and habitat creation. This concept is really gaining momentum and will hopefully provide millions of more acres of eco-friendly landscapes to help mitigate the loss of habitat due to human activities.

Chatfield Arboretum meadow planting of the garden's star ornamental grass, Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition'.

Our talks were preceded by two afternoon tours of Denver Botanic Garden grounds looking at the plants and design techniques for habitat creation. Then on Saturday, June 21, Lauren gave several tours of the grounds of Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield (in Littleton, CO, a suburb of Denver) where she and her husband Scott Ogden designed and planted a fantastic Habitat Hero garden that surrounds the Chatfield administration offices. The landscape is a treasure-trove of native plants and ornamental grasses. The design also includes a rain garden where all the water run-off from the office and adjacent building roofs is collected. Here the plant roots filter the water as it's absorbed by the ground and returned to the water table below.

It was a wonderful and inspiring evening. Now, let's get busy planting some natural nectar!

Text and Photos by David Salman

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