Municipal & community public gardens become water-wise with Denver Botanic Gardens Horticulture Outreach Program

October 27th, 2020

Plants on Colorado’s Front Range endure intense UV rays from the sun, little precipitation, hail, and extreme temperature swings. Despite these challenges, many plants thrive in CO with the right soil amendments. Denver Botanic Gardens Horticulture Outreach Program offers landscape consulting services to aid municipalities and community projects as they navigate landscaping with drought-tolerant and xeric plants. Annie Barrow, Manager of Horticulture Outreach Programs for Denver Botanic Gardens, helps clients achieve beautiful color, lush texture, and year-round interest with dry loving plants. The resulting public gardens offer a sense of place representative of our unique geographic region. 

In June of 2019, Lakewood Parks Division set out to create a xeric landscape for a one-mile median. The proposed plant material had to withstand regional climate challenges and the harsh conditions inflicted on medians (winter road salting, air pollution, heat, drought, safety concerns, and maintenance access). Lakewood Parks Division Right-of-Way Manager Rick Kobs and Annie began by removing 18″ of the existing median soil. They replaced it with a 1:1 ratio of squeegee and new topsoil to facilitate drainage. Small container plants (quarts for perennials and 1-5 gallon containers for shrubs) were planted to encourage faster establishment. A large portion of the design used Plant Select plants such as Agastache, Manzanita, Fernbush, Baby Blue Rabbitbrush, Apache Plume, and KANNAH CREEK® buckwheat. The median received weekly irrigation for the first season until the water was turned off in November 2019. Irrigation turned on in the spring of 2020 but was only utilized mid-August thru mid-September to ensure plants got a drink before irrigation was shut off at the end of September. Despite no supplemental water from spring until August, all of the plants took root and continue to thrive in the well-draining soil. Observe this xeriscape median project at Kipling and Colfax in Lakewood, CO- head west along Colfax! Keep an eye on the evolution of this harsh four-season Colorado median project filled with Plant Select plants! Email municipal or community project inquiries to Denver Botanic Garden’s Outreach program at! 

Written by Emily Goldman for Plant Select®