Photo by Melody

Colorado Demonstration Gardens: Xeriscaped Gardens

By Susanne Talbert (art_n_gardenSeptember 3, 2013

Do you cringe at the word “xeriscape”? Does that mean boring, thin-leaved, un-colorful plants to you? Well think again. Xeriscape gardening can look lush, colorful and be a snap to maintain. To help people learn how to have a beautiful garden while being water consious, Colorado Springs Utilities has created two xeriscaped demonstration gardens for denizens to learn about and apply water thriftiness in their own gardens. The display at these gardens provides a lesson for everyone, even if you don’t live in a drought prone area. Can you imagine not having to water much *at all* between rains?

Gardening picture

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 1, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)  

Even if you don't live in Colorado Springs, the Rocky Mountains, or even in a dry climate, the suggestions from these demonstration gardens will help you save time watering and money on your next water bill. Colorado and areas like it have wonderfully dry climates due to low humidity and unfortunately sometimes high winds.  For most gardeners, this means both dry skin and dry soil.  Besides a good moisturizer, here's how to cope.  Plant water-wise plants and irrigate intelligently!  

Once the plants on this list get established (one-two weeks) they don't need much water, if any, at all.  With the growing water shortage in Colorado and many other states, this is an important feature for sustainability in the coming years.  The Mesa Road Xeriscape Garden (one of CSU's featured demonstration gardens) is actually a lush, colorful and peaceful place that requires very little water.  Come along for a tour and a xeriscaping lesson, Colorado style. 

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Why should you xeriscape? 

The biggest and most widely misunderstood lesson of xeriscaping is planting in water-usage zones, or hydrozones.  That is, putting plants that need lots of water next to ones that need lots of water, and putting plants that can don't need any water with the like.  Seems logical right?  If you put an iris next to a nasturtium, you are bound to do one of three things: overwater the iris, underwater the nasturtium, or kill both.  It just makes sense to put your irises with your Blanketflowers and your Nasturtium next to your cannas.  That doesn't sound all that boring, right?  

When you really get down to it though, xeriscaping does mean planting flora that does not require much additional water than the average rainfall of your area.  Once established, they should practically grow themselves.  

CSU (the utilities company, not the university) has created two demonstration gardens to showcase how good xeriscaping can look: the Mesa Xeriscape Demonstration Garden and the Cottonwood Creek Park Xeriscape Garden in Colorado Springs.  Along with some planting tips and the right plants, xeriscaping never has to be humdrum.                                                                                        

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Bee Balm - Monarda  

Blanketflower - Gaillardia 


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Texas Red Yucca surrounded by other colorful xerics  

Lavender and Creeping Thyme

Shrub Rose


Plants you'll find at the Mesa Xeriscape Demonstration Garden (and you should try!)  

  • Silver Blade Evening Primrose 
  •   Russian Sage 
  • Cashmere Sage
  •   Gaura
  • Pasqueflower
  •   Big Bluestem
  • Dwarf Garden Phlox
  •   Rocky Mountain Sumac
  • Blue Speedwell
  •   Mullein 'Southern Charm'
  • Switchgrass
  •   Bridge's Penstemon
  • Grayleaf Cranesbill
  •   Mexican Feather Grass
  • Tatarian Dogwood
  •   Stokes Aster
  • Dwarf Goldenrod 'Goldenbaby'
  •   Blue Mist Spirea
  • Hidcote Lavender
  •   Japanese Bloodgrass
  • Pale Purple Coneflower
  •   Leadplant
  • Gayfeather
  •   Gray Creeping Germander
  • Wood Sorrel
  •   Fernbush 
  • Geum 
  •   Diablo Ninebark 
  • California Fuchsia 'Orange Carpet'    
  •   Desert Olive


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 Dwarf Goldenrod

 Tatarian Dogwood


Some more hardy xeric plants to check out:

  • Heartleaf Bergenia 
  • Mountain Bluet
  • Candytuft
  • Potentilla
  • Knautia
  • Red Hot Poker
  • Autumn Joy Sedum
  • Mock Orange



The Mesa Garden also has a demonstration rock garden, which usually are made up of small xeric plants. Some great xeric rock garden plants are sedums, Penstemon, Dwarf Barberry, Edelweiss, Lamb's Ear, Oregano, Hens and Chicks, Rupturewort, and Cattail Iris. The list of attractive rock garden plants is just about endless.   


For more information on fantastic, hardy xeric plants, here is a great link:


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Xeric gardening does not have to be colorless or boring as you can see from all of these beautiful flowers showcased at the Mesa Xeriscape Demonstration Garden.   Even if you just put in a few xerics, you can benefit from the decreased water usage. 



All photos taken at Mesa Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Copyrighted to Susanne and Kyle Talbert

  About Susanne Talbert  
Susanne TalbertI 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.

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