It’s officially gardening season! For the next several months, many of us are spending a lot of time digging in the dirt, planting new annuals, watering our vegetable gardens, and taking weekly trips to the nursery to adopt more plants. And throughout this season, it’s so inspiring to see the handiwork of expert gardeners in our midst.
We have plenty of botanical gardens blooming throughout Northern Colorado, packed with stunning displays bursting with flowers, shrubs, grasses and trees of all kinds — many of which are native to the area. They provide an excellent opportunity to get inspiration for what grows well in our region, whether you’re planning a xeriscape garden or one that’s a bit more traditional.
To help you track down the many gardens in Northern Colorado, we mapped them all out! And if you’ve already visited once, you might consider another tour — as the beauty of a garden is its ever-evolving inventory.
First and foremost, we must address one of the region’s most beloved botanical gardens: The Gardens on Spring Creek. This 18-acre site in Fort Collins is packed with stunning blooms and greenery, plus a tropical Butterfly House home to more than 300 North American butterflies. Take a look at the various themed gardens throughout the property, including the Children’s Garden, the Foothills Garden, the Prairie Garden, the Rock Garden, Wetlands, Xeric Strip, and more. Their mission is to enrich the lives of people and foster environmental stewardship through horticulture, and they’re continually expanding their programs and their site! In fact, in 2019, they opened brand new gardens and facilities. The Gardens on Spring Creek is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and tickets may be purchased in advance!
The property that contains the Houston Gardens was once a large hayfield owned by George Meredith Houston, who moved to Greeley in 1890 and later became a teacher, state senator and mayor. He was also an avid gardener interested in irrigation. George and his daughter, Phylabe, dreamed of turning their farmland into a botanic garden, which came to fruition when Phylabe donated the property to the Assistance League of Greeley to be transformed into a botanic garden and nature center. Today, the property encompasses 4.3 acres with four distinct ecosystems you will find throughout Colorado: Montane, Subalpine, Foothills, and Prairie. You’ll see the scenery change as you travel throughout the gardens, from aspens to pines, and firs to sumacs, and finally, to junipers, cottonwoods and sagebrush. The gardens also contain two ponds, a flowing creek, handicapped-accessible walking paths, an Eagle Scout trail, and more. The Houston Gardens open in early April and close at the end of October each year.
The High Plains Environmental Center is an urban environmental park open to the public on 76 acres of land in Loveland’s Centerra community. The center works to educate communities to become replicable “living laboratories,” which demonstrate restorative examples of land stewardship, native plants and wildlife habitat. They achieve this through educational events and programs, their Native Plant Nursery, and other environmental efforts. Explore the grounds along the 3.6-mile mixed pavement and gravel trail system, which surrounds two lakes covering an additional 200 acres. Explore the many demonstration gardens focused on different themes, including Native Plants, Wetland Ecology, Heirloom Fruit Orchard, and more. The gardens and trails are open to the public daily from dawn to dusk!
Just outside CSU’s University Center for the Arts, you’ll find a beautiful garden with more than 1,000 different cultivated varieties of annuals blooming May through October. The Annual Flower Trial Gardens were established “to allow students, researchers, industry representatives, homeowners and extension personnel to learn, teach and evaluate through horticultural research and demonstration projects conducted in the unique environmental conditions of the Rocky Mountain/High Plains region.” The end result is a stunning kaleidoscopic arrangement of color, allowing visitors to see a wide variety of flowers side by side, almost like paint swatches on a wall. The Annual Flower Trial Gardens is completely free and open daily!
Open for the first time in May 2021, the Rocky Mountain Botanic Gardens is a brand new addition to the garden scene in Northern Colorado! Open to the public daily from dawn to dusk, the gardens are just a half mile from Main Street in Lyons, near the intersection of 4th Avenue and Prospect. The garden features native plants that grow in the foothills surrounding Lyons, as well as plants from the mountains above Lyons, riparian areas along rivers, grasslands to the east, and the southwestern portion of Colorado. As the first botanic garden in Boulder County, the Rocky Mountain Botanic Gardens allow visitors to learn more about native plants that will do well in their yards with little watering or special care. Each plant is accompanied by a small sign with both their Latin and common name — it’s like “nature with name tags!”
If you think “dry desert with rocks and cacti” when you hear the term “xeriscape,” the Greeley Xeriscape Garden is here to change your perception of this unique landscape! The gardens mix perennials, annuals, ornamental grasses, bulbs, trees and shrubs — and even four kinds of turf! The gardens were established by the City of Greeley Water Department in 1997 to showcase a water-conservative garden, while still maintaining color and beauty. According to Colorado Water Wise, xeriscape gardening is “a combination of seven gardening principles that save water, time and resources.” Click here for more information about the Greeley Xeriscape Garden — but of course, visiting is the best way to witness this ingenious water-saving landscaping technique!
Spanning several acres of their Berthoud headquarters campus, the Northern Water Demonstration Garden was designed “to provide public education on various plants, turf and conservation techniques that can achieve water savings in landscapes.” Guests can observe more than 700 plants and 60 turf grasses that all thrive in our semi-arid climate, and learn about efficient irrigation methods to implement in their own gardens. The property contains various demonstration areas for native alternative grasses, irrigation technologies, soil preparation, a xeriscape plaza, and more. Check out the map to see the various garden sections!
Tucked into the mountainside on the western edge of downtown Estes Park is a secret garden called Mrs. Walsh’s Garden. After entering through the grand entry gate, you’re welcomed by a spacious reception area, which leads to natural pathways winding through the gardens along a stream flowing to a serene pond. Along the way, rest on park benches and read the signage that gives more information about the plants and trees. Mrs. Welsh’s Garden exists “as a source of pleasure, education and inspiration by demonstrating the use of plants native to Estes Park and the surrounding Rocky Mountain Region.” This wheelchair-accessible garden is open daily from dawn to dusk and admission is free!
Supported and overseen by the Town of Windsor horticulture staff and volunteers, Treasure Island Demonstration Garden encompasses more than an acre in Windsor. Situated next to Lake Laku along the Poudre River Trail, the garden has a distinct and simple purpose: “to exhibit plants that grow well in the area.” You’ll find a variety of drought-resistant plants and a xeriscape demonstration area. If you’re inspired during your visit, pick up a brochure to learn how to implement xeriscape principles in your own yard!
What botanical gardens in Northern Colorado are on your bucket list this spring and summer? Let us know in the comments below!