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  • 21 Jun 2024 5:39 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Four DBG Docents, (L-R in photo: Tish Varney, Elena Piazzisi, Sharon Matheson, and Maureen Keilty) attended the Plant Select Conference in Denver, June 13. This sold-out conference agenda included a brief look at the new 2024 Plant Select offerings, multiple speakers, a book premiere, and awards.  Tish Varney and Elena Piazzisi submitted the following notes and reports.

    Plant Select's plants for 2024 are Letitia flannel plant, Verbascum ‘Letitia’; Eversilver ™ creeping germander, Teucrium ‘harlequin’s Silver’; Sarad’s Greek mountain tea, Sideritis syriaca ‘P023S’; Crystal Frost ™ Arizona cypress, Hesperocyparis  arizonica ‘Fandango’ (Go here for photos and more information on these selections)

    Among the interesting presentations, one by Mike Lorenc of Utah's Conservation Garden Park, West Jordan, Utah, with an emphasis on waterwise landscaping, was especially noteworthy considering our intent to promote more efficient use of water.  According to Lorenc, the CGP has over 40,000 visitors a year with classes and events to help people understand water conservation in Utah. 

    The CGP has discontinued using the term "xeriscaping," preferring instead, "local scaping".  Local scaping is built on five fundamental thoughts:

    • Developing a central open shape first (the lawn area)
    • Creating gathering areas
    • Developing activity zones such as gardens, playground
    • Creating primary and secondary pathways
    • Developing planting beds

    Among numerous interesting presentations, one by Mike Lorenc of Utah's Conservation Garden Park, West Jordan, Utah, with an emphasis on waterwise landscaping, was especially noteworthy considering our intent to promote more efficient use of water.  According to Lorenc, the CGP has over Local scaping is built on five fundamental thoughts:Lorenc recommends drip irrigation when possible at the rate of 10 minutes twice a day and every 7-10 days.  For a ¼ acre lot he recommended 10 zones. With this formula he noted a decrease in water usage from 196,250 gallons per season to 65,766 gallons per season.

    He further discussed the maintenance of "bland scape" (traditional grass yard maintenance) vs local scape. People hesitate in taking out their grass with the idea local scape will be more work. For traditional maintenance he noted approximately 45 hours per year. For irrigation, traditional yards take 40" per year and local scape 14" per year. 

    Spray irrigation, he noted, was not as effective in providing even coverage. He recommended installation of an inline drip system, in a grid pattern, 18" apart. Overall, he noted local scape maintenance is not more, just different. 

    Lorenc further reminded when using irrigation to set the inline drip for the size of the mature tree. He recommended the grid system for vegetable gardens as well. For local scape the yard maintenance is more forgiving. He reminded us that mulch is your friend. Finally, if you want to seek more information, he has posted video and additional educational information on


    Organizational Partner Award went to Wheeler Loveland Garden Center

    Showcase Garden Award was Red Butte Botanic Gardens, Salt Lake City

    Individual Partner Awards were Jim Boreland and Keith Funk (Weis Guys), Grace Johnson of Chatfield Arboretum and Kirk Fieseler.

    Book Considers Influence of Wild Shrublands and Naturalistic Planting

    One of the highlights of the Plant Select Conference was the excellent presentation given by Kevin Philip Williams and Michael Guidi, two of the Denver Botanic Gardens' rising stars in the horticultural world and authors of Shrouded in Light, an exploration into shrubs and the role they play in the natural world. In the presentation and the book, they explore the patterns that shrublands create which are pleasing to the brain. Shrubs have a multi-stem, intermediate growth form creating multiple benefits by providing shelter for small animals (bunneries) and birds and acting as a nurse plant for new sprouts.

    The coffee table quality pictures demonstrate that shrubs grow in many different climates around the world and illustrate islands of plant type. They further expand on the idea that shrubs can be compared to neo-expressionist paintings and give examples in beautiful photographs from around the world.  The gardener can create naturalistic plantings in the home garden from these patterns; too often we see shrubs relegated to lollipop shearing and intense pruning.

    The authors invite gardeners to “to work, live, play with shrubs by celebrating the shrublands that fill our world in all kinds of climate and growing conditions.”

    The book is for available through the Denver Botanic Gardens and many booksellers. It is well worth the price! You may view their presentation on a British YouTube video available under Garden Masterclass, Shrouded in Light—Exploring the World’s Shrublands.  For more on the book and to purchase


  • 17 Nov 2023 9:18 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    We are proud to publish our 2023 Community Impact Report.  This reflects an ambitious but fulfilling year for the Durango Botanic Gardens.  Click the image below to view, read, print a pdf of the report.

    Community Impact Report.pdf

  • 03 Oct 2023 2:15 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Recently, the Docents of the Durango Botanic Gardens voted on their choice for Plant of the Year. They selected something unusual: the ‘Globemaster’ Allium.  The choice is unusual because it is a plant that grows from a BULB.  This bulb blooms in late spring-early summer with huge purple baseball-sized globes.  After the flower fades, the seed heads remain for a while, providing architectural interest.  Then the foliage disappears, only to emerge the following spring to begin the bloom cycle again. When in bloom in the Contemporary section of the Literary Garden, this plant generated more amazement and questions from visitors than any other plant in the Gardens. Alliums are members of the onion family and come in a variety of other colors and shapes. Generally considered deer-resistant and tolerant of poor soils, they are popular choices at DBG’s annual Bulb Sale.  (Photo courtesy of


    2022:  Midnight Marvel’ Rose Mallow,  Hibiscus moscheutos

    2021:  ‘Undaunted’ Ruby Muhly, Muhlenbergia reverchonii

    2020:  Hummingbird Trumpet Mint, Monardella macrantha ‘Marian Sampson’

    2019:  Kintzley’s Ghost, Lonicera reticulata

    2018:  Hopflower Oregano, Origanum libanoticum

    2017:  Coral Canyon Twinspur, Diascia integerrima

  • 20 Jun 2023 2:04 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Three members and docents of the Durango Botanic Gardens (DBG), Melanie Palmer, Curator and Docent Director of the Durango Botanic Gardens and DBG Docents, Veronica Zanon and Tish Varney, attended the Plant Select® 2023 Annual Conference on June 15 at the Denver Botanic Gardens.  They each prepared a report on their observations and principal takeaways from the event.

    Native Plant Dreaming

    Submitted by Veronica, ‘Ronnie,’ Zanon

    Jennifer Ackerfield, Head Curator of the Natural History Collections and Associate of Biodiversity Research at the Denver Botanic Gardens, has my ‘dream’ job—traveling throughout Colorado searching for native plants to be considered for inclusion in the Plant Select® program.

                Among the advantages of using Colorado native plants is that they are pre-adapted to the Colorado climate, as well as their hardiness, low water requirements, attractiveness to pollinators and visual appeal.  She approached the topic by considering the various growing zones in Colorado, beginning with the Plains (3500 – 5600 ft.) of eastern Colorado.  About 35% of Colorado is shortgrass prairie land. One of the outstanding plants of the plains is the Nebraska Lupine (Lupinis plattensis...see photo), a perennial with striking bi-colored flowers.

                By contrast, the Foothills Zone (6000 – 8000 ft.) contains mainly gambel oak, ponderosa pine, pinyon, and juniper.  Here various species of the Asclepias genus(milkweed) thrive.  Milkweed species are especially beneficial to the Monarch butterfly.

                In the Montane (8000 – 10,000 ft.) one sees Douglas fir, blue spruce, aspen, columbine and the Erigeron genus. Some notable performers of the Montane are Mules Ears (Wyethia amplexicaulis) and Bee Balm (Monardella odoratissimus).

                The Alpine Zone (11,000 ft. and above) contains low growing perennials adapted to cold and wind – think purple fringe (Phacelia sericea) and Penstemmon harbourii – found in rocky scree.

                Moving west are the shrublands of the Western slope, a semi-desert, sagebrush covered habitat.  A couple stars of this area are the Easter Daisy (Townsendia incana) and the Woody-aster (Xylorhiza venusta), with its basal leaves and large daisy flower.

    Some considerations for adapting native plants to common cultivation  are: aggressiveness, rabbit/deer resistance, pest and disease susceptibility, ability to propagate, performance in gardens. 

    So, who knows, in a few years, you may find some or all of these wonderful Colorado natives at a nursery near you!

    Melanie Joins Trial Plant Evaluations

    Submitted by Melanie Palmer, curator, Durango Botanic Gardens

    Chatfield Farms, located in southwest Denver, is a 700+ acre nature preserve, working farm, and historic site that has been an important part of the Denver Botanic Gardens for many years. It includes nature trails, numerous themed gardens, including CSA fields, an herb garden, iris garden, and a Plant Select® Demonstration Garden designed by Lauren Springer.

    It is also a trial site for many plants that are considered for the Plant Select®program.  The Durango Botanic Gardens received an invitation from Plant Select Director Ross Shrigley to participate in trial plant evaluations the day before the annual Plant Select meeting, along with garden center and other nursery professionals. Melanie Palmer participated in the evaluations. Plants including groundcovers, other flowering perennials, shrubs, and grasses were scored on several parameters, and ultimately received YES/NO votes on possible inclusion in the program in future years.

    Fire Mitigation By Zones

    Submitted by Tish Varney, DBG Docent

    It’s Elemental: Water, Fire, Natives was the theme of the Plant Select® Conference that included talks addressing issues that gardeners are facing today.  “Creating Fire-Resilient Landscapes” was the title of a presentation by Andrea Dorman, Horticulturist and Southwest Idaho Program Coordinator of Idaho Firewise.

    Western gardeners require forethought in choosing the plants and placement when designing landscapes. Because of increased fire danger and a warming climate, the risk of fire impacting homes also increases. Idaho Firewise and Plant Select® collaborate in offering a demonstration garden that highlights the principles of creating fire-wise and water-wise space.

    Dorman and other experts discuss plant selection and landscaping in terms of three zones radiating away from a house: Zone 1 = 0- 5’, Zone 2 = 5-30-‘ and Zone 3 = 30-100’ or more. The types of plants and mulch in these different zones are “lean, clean and green”. 

    Zone 1 includes only fire-wise plants and rock mulch. Examples of these include high moisture content cacti, latex and pectin (fruit trees) with compact or low growth form.  iceplant, sedum, veronica are to name a few available from Plant Select.

    Zone 2 uses less dense plantings and manageable turf areas with hardscape such as 6’ pathways. It is best to avoid planting conifers and other high pitch plants while including shrubs containing soap such as mock orange, soapwort, yucca and berries (pectin).

    Finally, in Zone 3, trees are limbed up 6-10 feet high. This will discourage fire from reaching and spreading though the branches. Thin and prune overlapping branches. Irrigation such as drip saves water and at the same time keeps plants from drying out.

    For more information, go to for tips on creating your own defensible space. 

  • 25 Mar 2023 5:28 PM | Annette LeMaire (Administrator)

    Our online conference presentations are accessible to registrants through April 7.

    It is true that our climate has and is always changing.  What our measurements, data, and observations are revealing, however, is that climatic change is now happening faster and in often unexpected ways, giving rise in fact to the term “global weirding.”  What is clear is that the planet, as well our Four Corners, is warming and that has a clear, observable impact on us, our landscapes, forests, and mountains.    

    Reflecting on this phenomenon and its impact on our horticultural world, the Durango Botanic Gardens, in league with the Colorado Native Plant Society, the Mountain Studies Institute, the city of Durango, and the Colorado Master Gardeners program, produced a hybrid conference entitled Envisioning a Changing DurangoScape.  ‘Hybrid’ because the event consisted of eight recorded presentations that registrants could view between March 1 and April 7 and an in-person event on March 16 featuring a keynote presentation by the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Director of Outreach and Senior Curator, Panayoti Kelaidis.

    Panayoti Kelaidis from the Denver Botanic Gardens urged attendees to honor their setting in SW Colorado by adapting the flora that works best in our region while also using less water and less labor.

    One of our conference presentations, by Jake Kurzweil and Scott Roberts of the Mountains Studies Institute (MSI), revealed that mountain regions around the world, including the San Juans, are increasingly reflecting the impacts of warming and climate change. Mean annual air temperatures in Southwestern Colorado have risen almost 20F in only three decades. Even more concerning is that temperatures are likely to increase by an additional 1.5 to 3.50F by 2025 and 2.5 to 5.50F by 2050. Warming temperatures have deleterious impacts that can be seen in the increasing rise of wildfire, falling averages of flow in our rivers, an emerging shift from a cold-water fishery to a warm water fishery, and more, far more. Not to mention, of course, the impact on gardens and landscaping.

    While the MSI presenters produced the background for how changes in the climate are impacting our growing zones, the remaining presenters focused on practical approaches to adapting our yards and landscapes to new climate realities, especially landscaping and plant selection that results in less water usage.  Mike Smedley, for example, issued a plea for reducing conventional Kentucky Bluegrass (KB) lawns, offering a variety of alternatives and groundcovers that could permit, if not the elimination of KB turf, at least reducing its use—while, very importantly, maintaining a great looking yard.  Rock gardens and native plants were among other ideas presented by speakers, all illustrating their messages with examples of great looking yards, landscapes, and parks.

    One takeaway from the presentations is that we seem to be unleashing at chemical warfare on nature rather than working with it.  Some presenters showed home center aisles with shelves groaning under the weight of pesticides and chemicals. Rather than fight nature, speakers encouraged landscape designs that work with nature, that complement or accentuate nature’s strengths.  The result is not only a more resilient landscape but one not only in harmony with nature but also beautiful.

     Mike Smedley’s yard offers an explosion of color and textural interest while simultaneously keeping turf to a minimum, all with potentially less maintenance.  Click on image to enlarge for a better look.

    One term that is gaining traction in our pursuit of a new way of adapting to a warmer climate is regenerative landscaping, a term used by Brooke Safford of Blooming Landscape & Design.  “A well designed, regenerative landscape,” she says, “not only encourages sustainability and biodiversity but can also reduce your water and maintenance costs while creating visually pleasing spaces in harmony with nature.” 

    A “food forest” is a type of biodynamic, edible garden that is designed to mimic systems found in nature.  Much like a forest, the garden is comprised of a hierarchy of different plants that all support each other.  The outcome is a garden that is more resilient and requires less water and maintenance over time.  A food forest will have a better chance of acclimating and adapting to climate change than a series of mono crops. Image from Brooke Safford's presentation.

    The theme of the conference was well articulated by our keynote speaker on March 16, Panayoti Kelaidis.  He urged attendees to rethink the DurangoScape in a way that truly “honors your setting.”  As he explained, “I don’t think we in Colorado take as much advantage of our natural Southwest flora, which are beautiful and almost inherently resilient to climate changes, as well as often needing less. We just need to be shown what is possible and work with what we have, which is very beautiful.”

    Kelaidis added further that, “Most of us don’t bat an eyelash spending five figures to remodel a room, but boy! we get stingy when it comes to our gardens! Why do we settle for less when a cityscape is the stage setting of much of our (and our children’s) lives? Let’s conjure towns and settings worthy of Durango and the Four Corners!,” he concluded.

  • 13 Dec 2022 10:02 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Following submitted by our knower-of-all-things-related-to-bulbs, Mike Smedley.

    It's December 11, late afternoon, and the sun skims low in the southwestern skyline. Winter Solstice comes in 10 long nights. A storm is coming, the weather prognosticators say, with harsh blowing snow and bone-crushing single-digit temperatures as the coup de grace to the tawny, supposedly dormant garden.

    But in the front yard, there is one remaining and defiant hold-out. It's a blooming crocus, the very last flower of the year.

    I didn't know whether to celebrate its resolute audacity or mourn that it is, without a doubt, the very final flower of 2022. Maybe celebrate and mourn simultaneously. 

    A brave lilac-blue Crocus speciosus (autumn-blooming crocus from the Caucasus Mountains) in December is a source of wonder. But I can only pause to appreciate and anticipate that in 10 weeks, this corm's golden cousin Crocus ancyrensis (so called Golden Bunch Crocus from Turkey) will brighten the late-winter world, maybe even poking up through lingering snow with the same insubordination.

  • 05 Dec 2022 1:47 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The Durango Botanic Gardens (DBG) joined the city and business community in celebrating Noel Night Friday, December 2 at the library.  With many parts of the new Literary Garden adorned with lights and the pathways alit with luminaria, it was a festive evening attended by a large number of people from the community—especially children anticipating meeting with Santa and Mrs. Claus.  

    In photo above Santa and Mrs. Claus (Kevin and Patsy Ford) flank the Grinch (Lynn Hughes).  Below, Lynn Hughes reads from How the Grinch Stole Christmas to an enraptured audience. Santa read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.'

    We had incredible help from a number of people but a special shout-out to the principal organizers: Barbara Johnson, Melanie Palmer, and Camilla Potter.  "This was a group effort by our Docents and Board members,” said Melanie Palmer, the Gardens’ Curator.  “We were surprised and pleased with the turnout by people of all ages, but especially young children and their families. We are already collecting ideas for next year!"

    Some of the cold but cheerful board members, volunteers, docents, and elves that helped make our first Noel Night a fun, successful event. Front row (L-R) Gail Lauter, Betsy Iwanicki, Cathy Metz (kneeling), Kandye Dille (kneeling). Back row (L-R), Sharon Matheson, Barbara Johnson, Theresa Anderson (white woolen cap), Melanie Palmer, Hollis Hassenstein, and John Anderson.

  • 18 Nov 2022 9:44 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Thanks to funding from the City of Durango’s Lodgers’ Tax devoted to Arts & Culture projects the Durango Botanic Gardens (DBG) has acquired and will soon install a new metal sculpture along the heavily traveled Animas River Trail (ART).  The project application was reviewed and approved by the city’s Creative Economy Commission. 

    The metal artwork, entitled the Infiniti II Wind Harp, is the creation of Pagosa Springs artist, Ross Barrable (in photo at left).  This stunning work in metal features 18 nylon strings and stainless-steel tuning pins that will capture wind movements in the Animas River corridor and transform them into a variety of natural, pleasing musical tones.  The strings generate different tones and moods depending on the direction and power of the wind; in other words, the wind harp becomes nature’s improvisational musician.  We believe this handcrafted, locally produced piece, will instantly capture the attention and hearts of Durangoans while also becoming one of the city’s signature artworks.

    Ross Barrable is the only acoustical wind harp artist in the United States with installations across the county in a variety of public spaces.  More locally, Mercy Hospital has a similar wind harp by Barrable.  Following is the artist’s web site:

    In consultation with the artist, Ross Barrable, we have determined that the best location for the wind harp is between our crevice garden and our grass garden.  The location and the amazing nature of this work will powerfully reflect Durango’s commitment to public art.  We hope it generates favorable dialogue in the community about the confluence of art and nature, the synchronicity of nature (wind) and the art it inspires in humankind.

    Thanks to the City of Durango and the Creative Economy Commission for support the arts and our Botanic Gardens.

  • 13 Nov 2022 11:42 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Thanks to our nearly 400 members, docents, volunteers, and donors for making 2022 a memorably, transformative year for the Durango's admission-free, award-winning public gardens.  Click on the image to the left for a downloadable copy of the annual report.

  • 01 Nov 2022 9:08 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Melanie Palmer, curator of the Durango Botanic Gardens conducted a survey of our docents to choose the plant of the year for 2021 and 2022. Here is her report on our Docents' Plant of the Year.  Click on images below to enlarge.

          For 2021, Docents chose a perennial grass, Undaunted Ruby Muhly, Muhlenbergia reverchonii ‘PUND01S’, which has been a star in the Dryland Mesa section of the Demonstration Garden for years and is now lighting up the Elevation Grass Collection. This grass is a drought tolerant and cold hardy (to Zone 5) bunch grass that requires little maintenance except cutting back in early spring and periodic division every 5 years or so. The soft green foliage in the spring and early summer is followed by the stunning pink halo of bloom, breathtaking when backlit by autumn sunlight. One of North America’s most beautiful native grasses, it was brought into the Plant Select program in 2014. (Photo by Melanie Palmer)

         The Docents’ Choice for 2022 is the ‘Midnight Marvel’ Rose Mallow, a hardy hibiscus that is in its third season.  Slow to leaf out in the spring, it makes up for lost time in late summer when it is covered with deep red blooms. Although each flower lasts only a day or two, the plant puts out an abundance of flowers, which stand out against the purple-black foliage. Best flower production is in full sun, but the plant will tolerate some shade.  It is best to enrich the soil with some organic matter.  It will do well with average moisture but will even tolerate wet soils. Our experience with deer resistance has been mixed.  (Photo by Springhill Nurseries)


    2020:  Hummingbird Trumpet Mint, Monardella macrantha ‘Marian Sampson’

    2019:  Kintzley’s Ghost, Lonicera reticulata

    2018:  Hopflower Oregano, Origanum libanoticum

    2017:  Coral Canyon Twinspur, Diascia integerrima

    2016:  Mojave Sage, Salvia pachyphylla

    2015:  Hot Wings Maple, Acer tataricum, ‘GarAnn’

    2014:  Horned Poppy, Glaucium acutidentatum

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NOTE: Our physical location is 1900 E. Third Avenue, at the Durango Public Library. The gardens are located to the north and east of the library, along the Animas River Trail.

Mailing Address:

Durango Botanic Gardens

10 Town Plaza, #460

Durango, CO  81301

Phone: 970-880-4841

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Durango Botanic Gardens

Our Location:

The Durango Botanic Gardens are physically located at the Durango Public Library, to the north and east of the library.  The library is located at 1900 E. 3rd Ave., Durango.

There is no admission charge.  Stroll the gardens yourself (there is ample signage in most gardens) or call us at 970-880-4841 to arrange a group tour. See the About Us Tab for more.

Contact Us:

10 Town Plaza, #460
Durango, CO  81301    

Phone:  970-880-4841

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