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Denver Lawn - Before And After Native Plant Transformation

Customer Garden: A Neighborhood Native Garden In Denver, Colorado

In Denver, Colorado, our customer Jason B. killed his Kentucky Bluegrass lawn and replaced it with waterwise native plants to attract pollinators, inspired by rain gardens and moonlight gardens. We interviewed him to learn more.

What motivated you to create a wildscape garden?

I created this garden for several reasons. The space started out as about 300 square feet of Kentucky Blue Grass that was difficult to keep looking nice, and wasn’t very functional because it was in the front of the house. I wanted to reduce my water use and create a garden that was unique and would attract pollinators and wildlife.

Our home’s builder provided the original landscaping. Even though the original landscape included the bluegrass that I eventually replaced, the plants in the border between the house and the grass were a great start to my habitat garden and included snowberry bushes, a hawthorn tree, several ornamental grasses, junipers, and spirea. I wanted to create a cohesive space that blended the original plants with the new.

Moon Garden with Lamb's Ear, Joe Pye Weed, and Echinacea
Moon Garden with Lamb's Ear, Joe Pye Weed, and Echinacea

What native and drought resistant plants did you use?

I selected plants that were xeric (drought resistant), that primarily have white or pink/red flowers or have silver foliage. In addition to having a similar color scheme with the home's original plants, I wanted to use white flowers, grasses, and silvery foliage so the garden would also look good at night and attract nighttime pollinators.

Plants include Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana), Miss Manners Obedient PlantWhite Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)Penstemon, and Agastache

I’ve also included a rain garden concept into the design where I’ve planted Joe Pye Weed and Obedient Plant where the downspout empties in the garden.

Get This Look! Shop Jason's Plant List

What steps did you take to replace your lawn?

To kill the lawn, I spread of thin layer of manure and compost over the grass and then covered the area with black plastic.

After about a month the grass looked sufficiently dead. I rented a rototiller and tilled in the lawn, then removed the spray irrigation lines and extended a drip irrigation line into the new garden.

I had a load of wood mulch and a few small boulders delivered and placed in the garden. The boulders provide a little bit of interest in the spring when there isn’t much blooming, and they are also very popular stepping stones for the kids that walk by.

I’ve added to the garden each year but I still have gaps to fill in.

What pollinators and wildlife do you find in your garden?

My favorite pollinators that I’ve found in my garden are the bumblebees. I’ve observed Brown-belted, Yellow, and Hunt’s bumblebees. About a year ago I started photographing my bumblebees for the Xerces Society’s Bumble Bee Watch.

My kids and I also report observations of ladybugs to Cornell University’s Lost Ladybug Project.

I’ve also enjoyed watching the white-lined sphinx moths that visit in the evening.

Last year I planted a Furman’s Red Sage and Texas Red Yucca to provide for the hummingbirds that are around from late July into September.

I also have a spot reserved for a columnar juniper and some milkweed that I hope to get started this fall to support monarch butterflies.

What else are you growing in your gardens?

The part of my yard which I’ve shared in my photos complements my back yard, where I have planted High Country Gardens’ Habitat Hero Birdwatcher Pre-Planned Garden that I won at the Habitat Hero workshop in 2014, and where I maintain a bird bath.

Habitat Hero Birdwatcher Garden - After three months
Habitat Hero Birdwatcher Garden - After three months

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Interview Conducted and Edited by Wendy Hatoum for High Country Gardens. © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens.