by High Country Gardens

A Before/After Transformation with homeowner Jason B. of Denver, CO;
A 2014 Habitat Hero award-winner

A beautiful Denver garden.
After: This water-wise Denver habitat garden was created where there was once a traditional blue grass lawn

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 wildlife.

A Denver lawn.
Before: This home's Kentucky Bluegrass lawn was replaced with drought resistant native plants.

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.

What 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 similar color scheme with the original plants, I wanted to use white flowers, grasses, and silvery foliage so the garden would also look good at night and attract night time pollinators.

I’ve enjoyed watching the white-lined sphinx moths that visit in the evening. I’ve also included a rain garden concept into the design where I’ve planted Joe Pye Weed and Obedient Plant where the down spout daylights in the garden. This part of my yard which I’ve shared in my photos complements my back yard where I have planted High Country Gardens’ Birdwatcher Garden that I won at one of the Habitat Hero workshops in 2014, and where I maintain a bird bath.

What steps did you take to replace your lawn?

I created the garden in the spring of 2012. 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, I 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.

Native Plants

What pollinators and wildlife does your garden attract?

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.

My favorite pollinators that I’ve found in my garden are the bumblebees. I’ve observed Brown-belted, Yellow, and Hunt’s bumblebees. They especially like the Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana), Miss Manners, White Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), Penstemon, and Agastache. About a year ago I started photographing my bumble bees for the Xerces Society’s Bumble Bee Watch. My kids and I also report observations of ladybugs to Cornell University’s Lost Ladybug Project.

Habitat Hero Birdwatcher garden.
The Habitat Hero Birdwatcher Garden fills in quickly. This native, water-wise garden was planted in April 2014. This photo was taken in fall 2014.

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