Tour the Denver Botanic Garden
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on October 13, 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.)
The Denver Botanic Garden (DBG) covers 23 acres of cultivated gardens, pathways, green spaces, gift shops, restaurants, and water gardens. It is worth seeing; moreover it is worth learning from. If you are a gardener in Colorado or the Rocky Mountain region, you are bound to glean so much information on growing conditions and plants that it'll be worth the trip. But if you don't have the time or aren't in close proximity, I'll take you on a brief tour.
The DBG is composed of several themed gardens through which several miles of paths lead you. It'll take a couple hours to traverse the whole garden, unless you stop to smell the roses...or the brugmansias...or the variegated sage...
When you enter the gates at the DBG, to the right you will see the Conservatory and gift shop and to the left the Perennial Walk. The Perennial Walk is about 100 yards of a perennial border garden hedged by evergreen trees. Within the concise stroll, you'll find all sorts of interesting perennials and evergreens of all different shapes, sizes and colors. The walk is specifically designed to showcase the beauty of perennials all year long; From early Spring to late Fall into Winter, the Perennial Walk is an expose of gorgeous colors and textures. In the spring, you'll find hundreds of tulips; through the summer you can find Garden Phlox, Echinacea, Roses, and Lilies; and in the fall you'll see things like Autumn Crocus going to town.
In 1951, the Colorado Forestry and Horticulture Association incorporated as the non-profit Botanical Gardens Foundation of Denver and hired legendary landscape architect Saco R. DeBoer to create a 15-year master plan for the gardens. After several problems and a big move, the first plants were planted at the current location in 1959. In 1966, the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory was finished and dedicated. Inside the large structure, tropical and subtropical plants are maintained providing year round interest at the Gardens. The Conservatory is designed to showcase plant species in each of the lowland tropical rainforests around the world. The collection represents 3,500 taxa representing over 2,400 species from 656 genera and over 120 families.
Huge palms, orchids, ferns, bromeliads, and aroids grow year round within the Conservatory reaching high toward the ceiling of the clear dome (2).
You'll find the Romantic Garden just beyond the Perennial Walk. It is filled with plants with rich names such as 'Powis Castle' (Artemisia) and 'Royal Cloak' (Barberry). Tall roses and Plum trees provide a backdrop to the cottage garden-like assortment of fragrant plants such as Sage, Peonies, variegated Phlox, Gaura, and Lavender. Large False Indigo bushes and impressive stands of Echinacea 'Sunrise' and 'Magnus' move your eye across deep beds. Winding raised beds mixed in with specimen trees lead you through the garden.
A long, skinny lawn leads to a small formal water garden on the edge of the Romantic Garden. The pool contains Lotus and several varieties of waterlily including 'Cynthia Ann' and 'Attorney Elrod.'
Classic architectural elements such as columns and arches leading to covered sitting areas lend a formality to the Romantic Gardens.
Water Garden and Monet Garden
The Water Garden is a large formal pond located near the center of DBG. Within it are nearly 100 different Waterlily cultivars, several Lotus plants, and many different kinds of water plants.
Bordering the Water Garden is the Monet Garden, which is inspired by the French Impressionist painter. Unique trellises as well as winding grass paths can be found in the Monet Garden. A wonderful view of the Water Garden can be seen from multiple spots in the garden. Daylilies, daisies, irises and zinnias are sprinkled across the impressionistic garden.
Rock Alpine Garden
The Rock Alpine Garden, in one of the far corners of the DBG, is a sight to behold if you enjoy rock gardens. A good half acre is devoted to showcasing plants that can survive in the varying conditions and altitudes that encompass the art of rock gardening.
Plants like Agave, Fumeworts, Hens and chicks, Sage, Hawkweed, California Fuchsias, Potentilla, and Rock Jasmine can be found in the Rock Alpine Garden. Over 2,300 species of plants are represented.
The Herb Garden is a wonderful place to rest within the DBG walls. A traditional quadrant is filled with Goldenrods, Lebanese oregano, rue, basil, variegated sage, lavender and echinacea. Surrounding half of the Herb Garden is a trellised pathway covered in large, producing 'Suffolk Red' Grape vines. One could sit for hours under this shade canopy on a hot summer day to enjoy the wafts from the Herb Garden.
The Cutting Garden
A colorful spot at the back of the DBG can be found just behind the Water Garden: the Cutting Garden. A florist's dream, the Cutting Garden contains massive amounts of colorful annuals, lilies, daisies, and grasses. It is divided up into sections with multiple pathways for ease of walking and cutting.
The Japanese Garden is truly a unique place in the DGB as well as in Colorado. This large garden is composed of over 100 meticulously pruned Pinon Pines and a large koi pond. Every traditional Japanese Garden tenet has been followed to make an authentic garden. No matter where you stand around the garden, a beautiful view is yours to have. Random rock placements along with a large Willow Tree provide focal points and add to the charm of the garden.
Shady Lane is part of the main walk into the DBG. Large evergreens and Maples provide dappled shade for large gardens containing hostas, lilies, hellebores, astilbes, windflowers, sweet woodruff, brunneras, and hydrangea. Benches provide a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the shade and plants.
The 9 gardens included in this article are just a scratch on the surface of the nearly 40 different gardens represented at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Denver Botanic Gardens was one of the first gardens in the country to emphasize native plants and to champion environmentally responsible practices, such as water conservation and biological control of pests. The educational value that DBG provides visitors and Rocky Mountain gardeners is immeasurable.
Hope you enjoyed the quick tour!
All photos taken at the Denver Botanic Garden in Denver, Colorado, copyrighted to Susanne Talbert