Posts Tagged ‘Denver Botanic Gardens’

We’re gonna need a bigger watering can!

As a rare flower begins to bloom at Denver’s Botanic Gardens, we think about the role Denver Water played in helping it along.

By Steve Snyder

The large and exceptionally smelly Amorphophallus titanum or corpse flower is almost ready to bloom. (Courtesy: Denver Botanic Gardens)

The large and exceptionally smelly Amorphophallus titanum or corpse flower before blooming. (Courtesy Denver Botanic Gardens)

The moment we heard there was a 5-foot tall flower that stinks to high heaven preparing to bloom at the Denver Botanic Gardens, guess where our minds went? That’s right; we thought about watering that baby!

Yes, we are just as fascinated with the corpse flower as anyone. But we feel a bit more pride. The Botanic Gardens is a Denver Water customer, so it was our product that helped this incredibly unique flower grow to the size it is today.

How much water did the corpse flower require? Not as much as you might think. While they don’t have exact numbers, the horticulturists at the Botanic Gardens tell us that when the flower is actively growing, it is watered by hand once or twice a week. They also sometimes spray the greenhouse floor and plant foliage to increase humidity. Normally, the plant actively grows for only a year and then goes dormant for four to six months. When dormant, it receives no water at all.

The horticulturalists also tell us they rotate between using water straight from the tap and using filtered water from a reverse osmosis process. By using the RO water, minerals from the tap water and the fertilizer the Botanic Gardens provide do not build up and damage the plant’s roots.

If you want more fun facts about the corpse flower, 9News wrote this piece. And we are regularly monitoring the Botanic Gardens’ “stinky cam” to see what the flower looks like now that it’s blooming. After all, we had a part in growing it.

But we will not accept responsibility if your eyes water from the smell, a noted side effect from this most odorous oddity.

How to grow more and use less

This guest blog post from Denver Urban Gardens is part of our Transforming Landscapes series, introducing fresh, new ideas for upgrading your lawn to a more water-efficient landscape. To help you think outside the box when planning for your landscape transformation next spring, also check out:

How to grow more and use less

Denver Urban Gardens is a nonprofit organization that builds and supports food-producing community gardens throughout metro Denver. Founded in 1985, the DUG network now includes 125 community gardens, plus an additional seven gardens owned by DUG.

Denver Urban Gardens only owns a small percentage of the gardens in our network. Working with partner agencies to secure land for community gardens allows DUG to keep the cost of establishing a new garden low, while providing urban gardening space to residents in important community spaces like parks, libraries and schools. One of DUG’s largest landowner partners is Denver Public Schools, which provides land and programmatic support for more than 30 DUG community gardens. As one of the largest landowners in Denver, DPS sites often have turf to spare. DUG works with DPS and school communities to transform many of these highly irrigated, but underused turf areas into productive, educational gardens for schools and communities alike. DPS supports these school-based community gardens for multiple reasons, including educational opportunities, community support, access to fresh produce and reduced water bills.

Garden benefits

Community gardens use less water than an area of turf of equal size. Based on water use during the 2010 growing season at seven of DUG’s gardens, we know that hand-watered community gardens use an average of 9.16 gallons per square foot of water each growing season. This is half of the 18 gallons per square foot that Kentucky bluegrass requires. When a community garden replaces turf, it supports water conservation goals and saves money. For this reason, some landowner partners cover the cost of water in community gardens, which frees annual gardener plot fees to be used for the upkeep of infrastructure and educational programs for children.

While water conservation is a great perk to turning turf into gardening space, most people garden for the vegetables, and for the opportunity to spend time outside and get their hands in the dirt. They soon realize, however, that the benefits of a garden extend even further. A community garden is a common ground where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather, learn and grow, while eating healthy food together. Over and over, we hear from people who say their garden has created personal connections they otherwise never would have established.

A young girls working at Fairview Gardens.

A girl planting at Fairview Gardens.

Converting grass to garden

Home gardeners experience many of the same benefits as community gardeners. Gardens bring people outside of their homes and spark conversations between neighbors about favorite dishes, their grandparents’ gardens, or the best way to get rid of aphids. And because a typical garden plot produces way more food than one family can eat in a season (more than 170 pounds), gardeners share their produce with friends, families, neighbors and local food pantries, deepening their connections to the community and contributing to the health and food security of fellow community members.

Interested in joining a DUG garden, or replacing your home turf with a vegetable garden? Visit or check out the horticulture workshops offered by our friends at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Other DUG resources:

Jessica Romer

Jessica Romer, DUG Community Initiatives Coordinator, supports the school leaders and educational programs at DUG’s school-based community gardens, in addition to coordinating related school district policies. Romer also coordinates DUG’s intergenerational mentoring program, Connecting Generations, and the Free Seeds and Transplants Program.

Abbie Noriega
Abbie Noriega, DUG Development and Communications Coordinator, is responsible for coordinating the organization’s fundraising, development, marketing, public relations and Web and social media activities.

Join the conversation – Landscape 2030

John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, once said, “Anyone who can solve the problems of water will be worthy of two Nobel prizes — one for peace and one for science.”

Landscape 2030Decades later, water is an ever-present issue locally, nationally and internationally. So, what do our local experts have to say? You can find out – and add your perspective – at Landscape 2030, an event that brings together diverse viewpoints from community leaders who will discuss their vision for water in the West.

Enjoy this free event at the Denver Botanic Gardens and join in on the discussion about:

Smart growth: “In addition to the challenges we face, such as climate change, droughts, wildfires, economic uncertainties and more, we are headed toward a Front Range of 5 million people. As the water provider to more than a million people in the Denver metro area, we must plan 50 years into the future. We need to think about the nexus of smart growth – urban densification – and water use. The idea of building up, not out, will only intensify in the future, and will help to stretch the water supply.” —Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO

Agricultural vs. urban water use: “Denver’s water supply system does not operate in isolation from Colorado’s water economy, which has long passed from its ‘expansionary phase’ in which new supplies were abundant and relatively inexpensive into what might be called its ‘mature phase,’ in which few new options exist and development costs are rapidly escalating.  As this situation has evolved, water users, both urban and agricultural, find their systems physically linked and their economic activities interdependent. Both urban and agricultural water use is more efficient now than it was 20 years ago and will be more efficient still 20 years from now. In the future, the links among users will make it possible to share water in ways that to continue to support a growing economy, a vital urban landscape, and a flourishing agricultural sector.” —Dan Luecke, hydrologist and environmental scientist

Replacing bluegrass: “The homebuyer is ready to accept homes and landscaping that feature water demand reduction as part of a water sustainable lifestyle. We have found that landscaping that incorporates sustainable practices is very attractive and acceptable to the new home buyer. Our research is also finding that edible landscaping or home gardening is truly a trend and not a fad and we are seeing it implemented in many venues.” —Harold Smethills, managing director of Sterling Ranch LLC

Climate change: “We’ve been monitoring our climate here in the Denver area with thermometers and rain gauges for more than 140 years and that has taught us a great deal. While our climate follows the basic rhythm of the seasons, no two years are ever the same.  Looking ahead to 2030, if what we think we know about our climate is at all close to the truth, we’ll have more hotter days in the years to come and fewer cold days. Winters will not be harsh, but water supplies will be tenuous at times. Take photos of our landscapes today and then look at them again in 2030. We’ll be surprised at how much things change even with only modest changes in the climate.” —Nolan Doesken, state climatologist

Sustainability: “Water is the critical issue for the next century not just for the Rocky Mountain West but the entire world. We have the opportunity in Colorado to pave the way and show a new type of balance and long-term sustainability.” —Brian Vogt, Denver Botanic Gardens CEO

Be part of the conversation!

What: A discussion facilitated by Denver Botanic Gardens CEO Brian Vogt, with panelists Jim Lochhead, Dan Luecke, Harold Smethills and Nolan Doesken.

When: Wednesday, July 31, 6-8 p.m.

Where: Denver Botanic Gardens, Mitchell Hall, 1007 York Street (Directions)

RSVP necessary: This free event is open to the public, but space is limited. Please RSVP to

Your source for water-wise gardening inspiration


Jennifer Riley-Chetwynd

Jennifer Riley-Chetwynd

Jennifer Riley-Chetwynd is the Director of Marketing and PR at the Denver Botanic Gardens. With sustainability as a core value of the Gardens, Jennifer drives strategic programming, partnerships and communications initiatives aimed at furthering water-wise landscape practices. Prior to joining the Denver Botanic Gardens, Jennifer was a Brand Manager with Rain Bird, where she spearheaded the company’s Intelligent Use of Water initiatives.

Denver has a lot of pull as a city. Whether it’s the 300-plus days of sunshine a year, the easy access to the mountains or the wealth of cultural offerings, the city’s unique combination of attributes seems to have a magnetic effect.

Just last year, nearly 16,000 people moved to Denver, most of them coming from California, Texas, Arizona and Florida. As Denverites are pretty accepting people, we don’t really ask transplants to change much upon arrival — except, perhaps, the way they garden.

Denver’s semi-arid climate certainly won’t accommodate the tropical plants Floridians are accustomed to. But we’re not necessarily succulents-only, as many parts of Arizona are. So perhaps the steepest learning curve for new arrivals is figuring out what to plant and how to care for it.

This is where Denver Botanic Gardens can be of service. As an accredited museum, we have more than 32,000 plants in our living collections. While not all of these are suitable for a typical Denver back yard, our focus is on educating visitors on those plants that are. The Gardens specializes in showcasing the plants that thrive in our climate, especially those requiring relatively low amounts of water. Some examples: the Roads Water-Smart Garden and the Western Panoramas Garden at our York Street location. Several gardens — the Laura Smith Porter Plains Garden, Anna’s Overlook and Dryland Mesa — are not irrigated at all.

Our commitment to educating Denver — newcomers and natives alike — is stronger than ever, especially in light of Denver Water’s declaration of a Stage 2 drought. Just like other commercial and residential customers, we will reduce our water consumption this summer to comply with Denver Water’s restrictions. We are currently developing a plan to reduce our water use by 20 percent from previous years. This will entail reducing the frequency and run times for our automatic irrigation system, watering during cooler times (evening and overnight) and turning off our purely decorative water features, including the misters on the West Terrace and fountains in the Monet Pond.

Many of the water-savings strategies we employ here at Denver Botanic Gardens translate to a home garden. We use a weather-based central control system to ensure that our automatic irrigation system shuts off when it’s raining or windy, or that it doesn’t go on at all if the soil doesn’t need additional water. A variety of manufacturers sell affordable residential controllers that provide the same features for your home. In fact, Denver Water even offers rebates to their customers who purchase and install a so-called “smart” controller with a rain sensor.

Denver Botanic Gardens has completely overhauled our water management system since the last significant drought in 2002, which will go a long way toward helping us exceed our water-use-reduction goals. During this time, we’ve also witnessed the public embrace water-efficient gardening. At our annual Plant Sale (this year’s took place last Friday and Saturday), our Plant Select offerings have become our most popular category. These are plants that are especially well suited to thrive in our semi-arid climate.

We encourage you to visit the Gardens this summer for water-wise gardening inspiration. Between visits, you can learn more about our programs and partnerships to promote water conservation by visiting

Entrance at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Entrance at the Denver Botanic Gardens

The Water Smart garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens

The Water Smart garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens

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