Habitat Gardening In Colorado


A Q & A With Larry G. about his wildscape in Fort Collins, CO

What makes your wildscape special?

The pond and rock work was present when we purchased the property in 1998 from the original owner and builder, but he had no flower beds or water plants. Developing the gardens and pond has been deeply satisfying and, as with most gardens, is a continual work in progress.

I’m a birdwatcher, and you need to provide them food, water and protection. We do have a bird bath. I don’t feed the birds in the summer, but I do in the winter. Our pond attracts ducks, herons and kingfishers, because they like the fish. We have flathead minnows in our pond and they’re great for mosquito control.

We like to keep a diary of our visitors. From inside the sunroom one day this past winter I photographed a Northern Goshawk feeding on a rabbit, 50 feet from the house. We leave seed heads of Echinacea and Rudbeckia over the winter, which goldfinches, siskins and other seed eaters enjoy.


Describe your garden and your favorite plants?

It’s not highly organized as gardens go. We find a plant we like and pop it in without much thought to plants around it. As we go, we improve it. We have over 200 perennials, which I keep on a database.


We have many plants which attract hummingbirds and butterflies such as Agastache, Scarlet Gilia, Monarda, Zauschneria, and Penstemon. There is nearly always some wildlife present out there to enjoy from our sunroom (“observation room”) overlooking the backyard.

We have a quite a few favorites. Salvia caradonna has dark purple stems and purple flowers. It’s a very handsome plant. We also have a variegated false sunflower, a Loraine Sunshine Heliopsis. It likes a little more water than xeric. One favorite plant is a penstemon from High Country Gardens, Penstemon barbatus, a red one that reseeds itself. It gets leggy occasionally, but it’s trouble free and a real pleasure.


Are there any special challenges gardening in your area?

We’re in zone 5/5b, so every year we lose some plants and try a few new ones.


We have a Hosta bed with a dozen varieties. The deer love those. Deer favorites also include Scabiosa, Columbines, Roses, Hostas. We have 10-11 acres that are completely wild and wooded, where the deer congregate. I cover the Hostas with bird netting or use Liquid Fence spray to keep them away.


Do you have any recommendations on deer resistant perennials?

Plants that are aromatic, they don’t seem to bother those, such as perennial Geraniums, Penstemon, Oenothera, Nepeta (Catmint). Salvias, they don’t bother very much, or Veronicas.

What strategies do you use to conserve water?

When I’m using my sprinkler system, it’s on automatic, but I’m always aware of what the sky has produced for us and always adjust based on what we’ve received. I don’t water when we’ve gotten good water from the sky.


If someone wanted to create a habitat garden, what advice would you give them?

Don’t try to overdo it. Take it at your own pace. I would encourage someone not to take on more than they can handle. Plan for the future and take it year by year, rather than try to do it all at once.


What motivated you to create a wildscape garden?

The motivation comes from our lifelong love of gardening and wildlife, especially for birds, which I share with Janie, my wife. We have had NWF Backyard wildlife habitat certification since 2005, and we were on a Fort Collins Audubon Society Wildlife Garden Tour in 2007. We’ve seen 166 species of birds on or from our 2 ½ acre property over 18 years here.


It’s just the pleasure of having our daily garden tour. It’s a wonderful escape from the world around us. It’s very relaxing and gives us great satisfaction.


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4 thoughts on “Habitat Gardening In Colorado”

  • Pat

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful habitat -- absolutely inspirational! We always try to do too much at once, so I appreciate your advice and plan to follow it.
    I did have a question about your pond. Is it self contained or does water flow through it? How do you control pond weeds? We are trying sterile carp with limited success and don't want to use chemicals. Any advice on that?
    Again, thank you so much for the lovely views.

    • Larry Griffin
      Larry Griffin 06/20/16 at 9:07 am

      Thanks for your kind words.

      Our pond is self-contained. Unfortunately, we do have to fill it from the tap.

      We have a lot of water lilies and also use a black dye to darken the water, both of which help to lower the water temperature and nutrients to help control weeds and algae. The dye also gives the water a beautiful reflective look. It does not affect fish or plants. The Denver Botanic Gardens use it in their aquascapes. It is Lochness SS Super Strength Black Lake and Pond Colorant, from Clean Flo of West Chester, PA.

      I can't comment on the use of sterile carp. Our only fish are flathead minnows for mosquito control. They have multiplied and seem to do a great job with mosquito larvae.

  • L. Nelson

    Wonderful writeup and lovely photos --- and lots of good ideas! Thanks.

  • Crickets

    Wow, very inspiring! Thanks for sharing. I love your relaxed and holistic approach.
    We are at the very, very beginning of our gardening adventure. :)

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