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Durango Botanic Gardens

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  • 15 Jan 2022 9:41 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    For gardeners, winter is that interlude when you plan your spring garden, flip through seed catalogs, buy too many seeds, and dream of a healthy, lush garden coming spring and summer.  But savvy gardeners know that often what you do—outside in winteris just as important.  Here are a few conventional—and unconventional—thoughts some of our friends said they would be doing this winter in their gardens.

    Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow 

    Winter is all about harvesting water, the frozen kind. It’s the cold-season equivalent of installing rain barrels. When it snows, I get up early before the plows arrive and blow or shovel fresh snow from the street onto the front lawn and hell strip side garden. (Don’t ever harvest street snow after the plows come; those frozen slush chunks are filled with salts/ice melt that will poison your garden. Learn from my mistake!)  Move snow from your walkways, driveways, and decks to the dripline of trees. Redistribute “avalanche” snow that comes off the roofs. Each snow harvest will buy you a couple of days of not having to water in spring. Best of all: It's free for the taking. (Mike Smedley, DBG Benefactor)

    O’Tannenbaum, OTannenbaum

    You may have already disposed of your Christmas tree but try this next year.  Cut off the branches and put them over rock gardens, sunny exposures, or newly planted areas. The point is not to “warm” the area with insulation or some sort of mulch. Rather, the point is to shade the soil, keep it evenly cool and prevent the harmful freeze-thaw cycle during mid-winter or the usual January 50-degree heat wave. Think of how snow persists in shady areas on a ski mountain. Same with your garden. Durango’s harsh sun can coax some plants out of dormancy too soon. Pine boughs help keep snow layers from melting.  Remove boughs in March and add them to the compost pile.  (Mike Smedley)

    Forcing Those Bulbs for Your Indoor Garden

    The snow is deep at my house after the Christmas storm and gardening thoughts are far away.  Recently, at the grocery store, I saw pots of tulips in bloom and I thought “Aha! Those were FORCED”, meaning they were pre-chilled in the dark for a number of weeks and then brought into more heat and light where they promptly grew and bloomed.  At my house, I set aside a few hyacinth bulbs from DBG’s fall bulb sale for forcing, using vases designed for this purpose.  I added water to the vases just enough to “tickle” the root plates and set them in the refrigerator, adding small amounts of water as needed. In another 3 weeks, I will start to bring them out and hopefully have blooms by Valentine’s Day, weeks before those planted outside will emerge.  (Melanie Palmer, curator, Durango Botanic Gardens)

    Why Winter Watering?

    Many of our landscape (and native) plants have had to endure years of drought, higher than normal temperatures, and long periods of a combination of both. Over time, that stresses plants, making them more susceptible to disease, insects or other environmental conditions.

    A potential result of this drawn-out weather pattern could be death to the parts of the plant’s root system, especially with newly planted or stressed plants. Woody plants typically have shallow root systems and require supplemental watering. Herbaceous perennials and groundcovers, especially those in exposed sites, can be subjected to cracking in soil that exposes roots to cold and drying.  Even recently established lawns have a shallow root system and can quickly dry out.  One of the ways to moderate this stress is to water during the winter months, as long as these guidelines are followed:   (Darrin Parmenter, LaPlata County Extension Director)

    Good Time for Tree pruning

    Although it may be cold and snowy outside, winter is actually one of the best times to prune your deciduous trees and shrubs. Dormancy pruning provides a number of benefits, such as decreased disease and insect movement, more readily visible structure, minimized sap and nutrient loss, quicker healing of pruning cuts, increased spring growth, and increased sunlight availability to understory plants.

    From late-fall to late-winter, you can prepare your deciduous trees and shrubs for the spring. However, evergreens, in most situations, should be pruned during the growing season, since they never become fully dormant and might suffer tip burn if pruned during dormancy. Pruning during warmer months can have advantages: slowing growth by reducing the total leaf surface area and proper thinning of blooms can create sweeter and more mature fruit in the fall. It is always a great time to care for the trees you love!  (Moses Cooper, ISA Certified Arborist MI-4220A, Owner of Momentum Tree Experts, Durango CO

    Always prune just outside the branch collar--the point where one branch leaves the larger one (or trunk).

    For tips on pruning visit: website:

    More Reasons Spring is the Best Time to Prune Wood Plants
    Eva Montane of Columbine Landscapes offers additional thoughts on pruning: "With few exceptions, early spring is the best time to prune your shrubs and trees. Pruning stimulates growth, and what better time to bring on new growth than spring? The key is to do your pruning before buds start popping for four good reasons:

    1. You don’t risk damaging the delicate new buds and sprouts
    2. You can easily see the branching structure enabling you to select for the best architecture of your shrub or tree
    3. By pruning while it is still dormant (meaning it hasn’t pushed out new growth yet, so should still be brown twigs – no green) you avoid stressing the plant
    4. Wounds from your pruning cuts heal faster in late winter/early spring 

    By removing old, unhealthy branches and congestion, branches benefit from more sunlight. You can expect more flowers as a result of a healthier vibrant plant."  (Eva Montane, owner, Columbine Landscapes)

  • 02 Dec 2021 1:23 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    You may have thought your garden watering duties were over for awhile.  However, our maintenance team reminds us that homeowners often forget that watering on appropriate days through the fall and winter is an important step in maintaining a healthy landscape.  Due to our dry climate here in Colorado, especially here in the southwest corner of the state, supplemental watering during the colder months can be important, if not vital, to a more successful spring flowering and growth.  Repeated freezing and thawing of the ground can create cracks in the earth and flower beds, exposing root systems to more severe drying.  So winter watering, along with mulching, can help curb dehydration, fill ground cracks, and prevent plant damage. 

    Our good friend Mike Smedley shared this fact sheet on fall and winter watering from the folks at Colorado State University Extension.  Learn how to do fall and winter water the right way...


  • 29 Nov 2021 10:24 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Read our most recently newsletter recapping an exhilarating 2021

  • 14 Oct 2021 2:13 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    John Wickman, owner of Native Roots, a longtime mainstay of retail nurseries in the Four Corners, is retiring from Native Roots but will maintain his wholesale grower business, Pine River Plants in Bayfield.  The retail business of Native Roots is currently for sale but, with the lease expiring on that property next to Home Depot, a new owner will have to relocate.  For his part, John will focus anew on native plant propagation but selling wholesale only.  John was one of the founding board members of the Durango Botanic Gardens. Following is his letter to our community of gardeners...

    "Time does fly by.  It's been seventeen years since Karen Mee and I started Native Roots on a small lot on East Animas Road.  I have thoroughly enjoyed interacting, educating, and providing locally grown plants to both beginning gardeners and seasoned pros.  Durango is a very difficult gardening environment and I am always impressed with the determination of local gardeners to beautify their space or put food on the table.  You all are awesome!

    I'd like to thank all of you for your patronage and support these past years.  I am semi-retiring this year and will continue to grow plants at my Bayfield wholesale greenhouse but plan to sell Native Roots which will be relocated to a soon to be announced location.  I look forward to growing colorful plants and baskets for the Colorado market and returning to my first horticultural interest, native plants.  So look for Pine River Plants material at local garden centers and HAPPY GARDENING!"

  • 14 Jul 2021 7:40 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    An explosion of flowers now adorn what was formerly a brown, utilitarian wall between the library and the Riverside Professional Building.  A botanically-themed mural, painted by local artist, Nia Sturr, entitled "Wall Flowers," was dedicated with nearly 100 people in attendance on July 15.  The mural depicts plants and flora common to our region’s microclimates and elevations.  To reflect this amazing horticultural and climatic diversity, plants common to lower, dryland elevations begin at the left of the mural and ascend to plants, trees common to higher, montane and alpine elevations.  

    Because the common names of plants can vary from region to region, horticulturists and nurseries reference plants using what is called binominal nomenclature, using both the common name and the scientific name, the latter expressed in Latin.  

    Look for these plants on your next hike or when strolling through our public gardens.

    The mural is a project of the Durango Botanic Gardens with support from the Durango Creative District and funding from the Creative Economy Commission.  Other funders or in-kind providers include 1st Southwest Bank, the LeMaire Family Fund, Shelly Oxhandler, the Library Advisory Board and Friends of the Library, Handcrafted House and Kroegers Hardware.

  • 21 May 2021 7:02 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

                Panayoti Kelaidis, senior curator and director of outreach at the Denver Botanic Gardens, was in Durango May 15 in conjunction with planning the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) conference, which will be held in August in Durango.  Kelaidis has designed plantings for many of the gardens at the Denver Botanic Gardens, especially the South African Plaza, the Rock Alpine Garden, and has been a valuable resource and friend of our own gardens in Durango. He has introduced hundreds of native ornamentals from around the world to our region and beyond, essentially transforming the horticulture of the American West. He has just been elected president of the North American Rock Garden Society.  Our Melanie Palmer, curator of the Durango Botanic Gardens, spoke with him and enjoyed his comments and praise of a number of our plants.  Following is her report...

    Panayoti Kelaidis visited the Durango Botanic Gardens during regular Saturday maintenance and took some time to speak with volunteers and Lisa Bourey, garden designer and part of the NARGS organizing committee. 

                While the Durango Botanic Gardens is a valuable resource for the average homeowner, guiding choices at local nurseries, it DOES contain some rarities. It is the Durango Botanic Gardens’ willingness to trial plants donated by legendary plant collectors from the Denver Botanic Gardens that allows our Gardens to add some unique interest to our own collections.   

                In his walk-through with us, Kelaidis zeroed in on a couple of plants in the garden and told us some fascinating information about these two plants.

         One plant, the Atlantic Daisy, Leucanthemum atlanticum, at left, was collected by Denver Botanic Gardens' curator Mike Kintgen in Morocco, propagated, and then donated to our gardens in the Gardens’ early days.  It has proven difficult to grow in other gardens but seems to thrive here.  Panayoti pronounced it “one of the finest specimens he has seen anywhere”.   He even went so far as to say there are few to equal it outside of Morocco itself.  This fairly non-descript small white daisy shines AFTER blooming, with its pink architectural seed heads.  Seed will be collected by Lisa Bourey for distribution to NARGS conference visitors and propagators.  

         The second plant (at left, click image to enlargeof southern African origin, is found in the Alpine section of the Garden. It grows natively in the mountains of the small country of Lesotho. It is a mat-forming perennial with gray-green tiny foliage, covered in tiny pink-white flowers. Called Helichrysum pracurrens, it is rarely cultivated in botanic gardens.  In southern Africa, it is found covering hillsides there.  Donated to the Durango Botanic Gardens by Mike Kintgen, it has increased in size every year.  The flowers close up in shade but are tiny and daisy shaped. Lisa Bourey is going to collect seed from this plant as well for distribution to NARGS participants.

                      Mr. Kelaidis was extremely impressed with the appearance of the gardens, and the new areas which have been added since his last visit—the Crevice Garden, the Wind Garden, the Arboreta, and the soon-to-be-planted Elevation Grass Collection.  He is certain that the Gardens will be a source of excitement and appreciation by NARGS attendees who come from many parts of the United States and even some foreign countries.  Although small, our diversity is simply amazing. 

                Our hard-working volunteers deserve a huge THANK YOU for many years of dedication to making our Gardens the gem that they are. The Gardens are getting the recognition they richly deserve from some very important and internationally recognized giants of Western horticulture far and wide and will long be remembered by NARGS attendees.



  • 13 May 2021 3:58 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The following is from Melanie Palmer, curator of the Durango Botanic Gardens.

         After a hiatus of a couple years, partly due to Covid-19, the DBG Docent program brought back the Docents’ Choice Plant of the Year.  At Docent refresher training this year, the first gatherings of Docents in two years, Docents voted for their two favorite plants.  

      The votes are in and the choices are:  for 2019, Kintzley’s GhostLonicera reticulata, (below, left) and for 2020, Hummingbird Trumpet MintMonardella macrantha ‘Marian Sampson’.  The ornamental grass Undaunted Ruby Muhly, Muhlenbergia reverchonii, was a close runner-up. 

    Both plants garner a lot of attention from passersby. The Kintley’s Ghost covers the fence not far from the entrance to the Demonstration Garden.  The Hummingbird Trumpet Mint makes a stunning groundcover in the Wind Garden.  The Kintzley’s Ghost is also the subject of an article in the Member Portal of the Durango Botanic Gardens website.  

         Both of these plants are in the Plant Select ® program, and detailed information about them can be found on the Plant Select ® website, 

         Pollinators and hummingbirds will soon be buzzing around both of these plants.  

         In our experience, the Monardella can be somewhat touchy to grow.  It appreciates a little afternoon shade and very good drainage.  We have also sheltered this plant with a layer of pine needles in mid-late fall, removing this mulch in late spring when the plant starts to leaf out.  We think this has aided its ability to come through our winters.  

    Previous Docents’ Choices are

    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


  • 01 Apr 2021 2:40 PM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Our Bulb guru, Mike Smedley, always has interesting things going on in his yard. In his part of town the other night the temperature got down to 23F at night but that means nothing to determined daffodils and tulips. Here's his account of an early bloomer that demonstrates the incredible geographic range history of many of our favorite bulbs. Here's Mike's account...

    "This tulip has a great story. It’s Tulipa dubia ‘Beldersai,’ which I picked up on a whim at Denver Botanic’s bulb sale a couple years ago. Being a Steppe region native, this tulip been a colorful and dependable addition, with red and yellow petals and purple-stained foliage, in the dry crevice rock garden. Then, in 2019, Amy and I went to Uzbekistan to tour the Silk Road. Part of that trip was to the eastern mountains and a place called Beldersay, a Soviet-occupation-era ski resort. There, we went on botanizing hikes and saw wild tulips growing naturally just below melting snowfields in the Chimgan Valley. When we got back home, I finally put it together. THIS tulip was grown from seed collected right there in that valley of Uzbekistan. It’s a small world.

    But even before the Beldersai tulip bloomed, one of the earliest wee daffodils sprang up. This is Narcissus 'Little Gem,' a specialty selection from the Durango Botanic Garden's bulb sale last year. Not only does Little Gem bloom in late March, it’s as small as a Dutch  crocus, shown paired with purple-striped Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick,’ which also was a purchase from the sale. Grown together, they are a smashing combo. Little Gem is lucky to reach 5 inches tall, but the flower offers that “traditional” daffodil look, with an outsize trumpet and bright yellow hue. Yellow Gem is also more drought tolerant than most daffodils, an added bonus."

    Durango Botanic Gardens will conduct it's annual bulb sale online from August 6-17.

  • 28 Feb 2021 8:55 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    The season has begun! The first crocus is up and blooming, despite lows of 14 degrees at night and blustery days of late winter. Meet the species Crocus korolkowii 'Brown Tiger,' putting on a show in Mike Smedley's crevice rock garden on Feb. 27. Mike says the outsides of these large, golden flowers are heavily striated and mottled in dark maroon. The bulb (actually, it's a corm but no one really cares about that detail) hails from the steppes of Central Asia -- notably the "stans": Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and north to the Kara Tau Mountains of Kazakhstan. So that tells you just how tough-as-nails this spring ephemeral is. At night, the petals collapse around the stamen and stigma to protect until the next morning. The next earliest blooming crocus will be C. ancyrensis 'Golden Bunch'.  These should make a showing in a week or two, followed by the various Snow Crocus, C. chrysanthus, along with Iris reticulata (snow iris), Galanthus (snowflakes), Eranthus (winter aconite) and the usual suspects who brave the cold.

  • 25 Nov 2020 11:50 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

    Mike Smedley, our resident bulb authority, took these gorgeous photos of one of the bulb world's most notable late bloomers, Crocus specious.  We typically see this fall blooming crocus around Halloween but Mike thinks that our October frigid snap pushed back the bloom time. He shot this photo, for example, this Thanksgiving week.

    Fall-blooming crocuses are a distinct breed, Mike says. Typically the very last bulb to bloom, this unusual crocus offers gorgeous violet-blue petals with pumpkin-orange anthers, a combination that goes incredibly well with the tawny hues of late autumn.  They send up their white-striped grasslike foliage in spring, just like “regular” crocus.  But they don’t bloom.  Instead, the foliage ripens and fades. In late fall, the flowers emerge by themselves.  Thus, they need a groundcover foil for best display.  Here, they thrive in a xeric buffalo grass. C. speciosus is native to the mountains of central and northern Turkey, the Caucasus Mountains, northern Iran and the Crimea, hardy to zone 3.  So far, Mike adds, he has not seen any last-minute pollinators.  It might be too late in the year for bees.  But just in case, there’s a Thanksgiving feast waiting in the front lawn.

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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 our Information Tab for more.

Contact Us:

10 Town Plaza, #460
Durango, CO  81301    

Phone:  970-880-4841

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