The Pike's Peak Region of Colorado is a difficult place to garden. With erratic weather patterns coming over the Front Range, one cannot predict much more than the skies being unpredictable. A drought-filled summer and a cold, wet winter one year could be followed by a cool, rainy summer and a desperately dry winter. In a climate like this, experimentation in the garden is a must. What better way to see what can thrive in this changing climate than visiting a demonstration garden? The Horticultural Art Society of Colorado Springs maintains a sumptuous demonstration garden for the public to enjoy and evaluate plants. Here is a brief tour and history of the beautiful grounds.
What exactly is a demonstration garden?
A demonstration garden is a place where plants are grown to show what is necessary to keep them alive and to showcase how different plants can be used in a holistic landscape. If the purpose of the garden is to demonstrate xeric techniques for example, then drought tolerant plants will be grown to show the versatility of the chosen plants. Plants that are not usually thought to be xeric might also be grown to test and prove that they can be grown with less water. Demonstration gardens can also illustrate concepts such as sustainability, landscaping, hardscaping, or native planting.
Demonstration gardens can be a great resource for encountering new gardening styles, researching conditions and growth habits, and to discover plants you've never heard of. Demonstration gardens are usually run by local volunteer organizations and are generally free to the public. In this particular article, we will focus on one of the premier demonstration gardens of Southern Colorado, the Horticultural Art Society Demonstration Garden in central Colorado Springs.
Where it all began
In 1962, the Horticultural Art Society (HAS) was founded as a non-profit organization in Colorado Springs.The City Park Department donated land near downtown to be used as their demonstration garden. Volunteers do all of the planting, weeding, and maintaining of the Demonstration Garden at Monument Valley Park. Since 1975, the Demonstration Garden has been a designated display garden for the All-America Selection organization to test and showcase new varieties of flowers and vegetables.
Perennials, annuals, evergreens, vegetables and herbs alike are tested for their water use, longevity, and vivaciousness in the HAS Demonstration Garden.The grounds are planted to demonstrate water usage zones, an important xeric technique, as well as maintain year round interest.With a growing season of only 4-5 months, off season interest is a must in Colorado gardens.
A demonstration vegetable and herb garden is an excellent resource for gardeners who have a very short growing season and less heat than most veggies need to thrive. Squash and chamomile are doing excellent in late July.
The Demonstration Garden is also rich in native and regional plants.On the east side of the garden, a native plant berm project is a site to showcase natives and display native gardening styles to home gardeners.
Plants you'll find at the Demonstration Garden
Penstemon 'Red Rocks'
Feather Reed Grass
Coneflower 'Double Decker'
May Night Salvia
Bluestem Joint Fir
Feather Grass 'Yaku Jima'
A beautiful planting of Hydrangeas in a shady section at the Demonstration Garden called "The Green and White Bed." Hydrangeas can flourish here!
Within the grounds of the Demonstration Garden, century old Blue Spruces and White Firs provide shady spots to sit and enjoy the atmosphere.Plains Cottonwoods, Elms, three species of oak, five species of pine, and many flowering trees also grace the garden.Not only is the garden informational, but it is also inspirational.Just when you think native and xeric plants are boring, this garden will snap you out of it.The garden also boasts a thriving rock and alpine garden, as well as an impressive rose collection.
Trees dating back to the turn of the century provide a wonderful backdrop to the gardens.
Impressive stands of Iris are found throughout the garden. Iris are a perfect plant for the Pike's Peak Region because of their drought tolerance and tough cold hardiness. This particular variety is Iris pallida 'Variegata' shown with bright petunias.
In the spring, a sale is held at the Demonstration Garden offering native and water-wise plants.This provides an excellent opportunity for locals to buy plants that are divided from the collections from both the Demonstration Garden and from HAS members' personal gardens.Because only plants that can thrive in the area are sold, the sale is a dummy-proof way to fill your own garden.Penstemons, Columbines, Poppies, native shrubs and trees, native grasses, and daylilies are featured in large selections at the sale.
With a beautiful view of Pike's Peak in the background, evergreen trees placed in and around perennials make perfect sense. Evergreens such as Blue Spruce, Mugo Pines, and Junipers are popped into mixed beds all around the Demonstration Garden. Evergreens are excellent to include in gardens in mountain regions because of their winter interest and cold hardiness. It is clear at the Demonstration Garden that evergreens can fit in seamlessly with perennials and colorful annuals.
The HAS Demonstration Garden is part of a larger park called The Gardens in Monument Valley Park, which consists also of Willow Pond and the Heritage Garden.
The Heritage Garden contains mostly xeric plants in different sections such as the Plant Select garden, shade garden, terrace garden, and ornamental grass garden.Willow Pond, which is nestled between the two gardens, is a wonderful place to stroll among hundred year old trees and feed the geese.
Visit a demonstration garden today!
If you are struggling to find plants that will thrive in your Rocky Mountain garden, whether it is along the Front Range, in the Pike's Peak region or beyond, demonstration gardens can be an excellent place to start. There is bound to be one close to you specializing in your local climate.
Horticultural Art Society, Inc. pamphlet
All photos taken at the HAS Demonstration Garden, Copyrighted to Susanne Talbert
About Susanne Talbert
I garden in beautiful Colorado Springs, half a mile from Garden of the Gods. Since we bought our first house two years ago, I have been busy revamping my 1/4 acre of ignored decomposed granite.
My garden passions include water gardening, vines, super-hardy perennials, and native xerics. By day, I am a high school ceramics teacher as well as a ceramicist and painter.