A Summer Stroll Through Denver’s Botanic Gardens

One of the best things about living in Colorado is the oh-so-abundant access to some of Mother Nature’s most beautiful creations.  Now, it is no secret that my main motivation for moving from Florida to Colorado, back in 2009, was living at the foot of some of the most majestic mountains in the US.  While I frequently venture up into the high country, it isn’t always easy to do so.  You know…being an adult and all, work often gets in the way.

Sometimes, this is pretty problematic.  I have learned by now (I learned the hard way, of course) that I crave nature and solitude to re-energize my soul, and if I don’t get into the mountains at least once a month, I get very cranky and mean depressed  and life spirals out of control.  When things get like this and I don’t have the time to escape west on I-70, I find that the Denver Botanic Gardens is a suitable little urban oasis.  Suitable might be an understatement, because the Botanic Gardens are absolutely beautiful, inspiring, and they offer stressed out individuals the perfect respite from the ho-hum and noise-pollution of urban living.

Located in the heart of Congress Park, Denver’s Botanic Gardens cover approximately two square blocks and are absolutely packed with amazing gardens, water features, sculptures, and a great little amphitheater where they hold concerts all summer long. There is literally something for everyone.

One of my personal favorite areas is the Japanese garden and traditional tea garden (where talking is strictly frowned upon):

Japanese inspired garden

Japanese inspired garden

Not the best of photos (I always forget to bring my SLR) but it gives you an idea of the beauty of the Japanese garden.  All of those pine trees are actually native to Colorado…they are little Ponderosa Pines.  It took me a bit to realize this because my prior knowledge of Ponderosa Pines are of the huge, fire-retardant variety where the lowest branches are a good 30 feet up the trunk.  These aren’t just small Ponderosas though…no, no, no…the gardeners actually use Bonsai techniques to prune and shape these beautiful trees in order to manipulate and drastically slow down their growth.  The result is this absolutely mesmerizing and stunningly beautiful tree, no taller than 8 feet, that looks like it comes from an entirely different continent.  Love!

Right next to the Japanese garden is an area that looks as if it just naturally grew there.  Essentially, it is xeriscaped and bountiful with semi-arid and arid vegetation that is natural to Eastern Colorado.  What I love about this area is how wonderfully beautiful and full of color it is.

Cactii, succulents, and desert stones!  My favorite!

Cactii, succulents, and desert stones! My favorite!

With native vegetation like this, and the severe drought that Colorado always seems to be in, it makes one wonder why so many people waste thousands of gallons of water (per week!) to keep their Kentucky bluegrass green.  Well, not here at Pelham’s residence!  No…I’ve opted for the no-water treatment.  Sadly, I haven’t had the time or the budget to create a beautiful, native, xeriscape like this…so, my yard currently looks like a mound of dirt, some struggling-to-survive crab grass, and rampant dandelions.  I’d rather have an ugly yard than waste our precious natural resources…

One day, hopefully before next summer, I’ll have the time and resources to overhaul the yards…and when I do, I can assure you there will be plenty of this:

An oversized pot of succulents

An oversized pot of succulents

Ground covered in beautiful succulents

Ground covered in beautiful succulents

Succulents!  Oh how I adore them.  Beautiful and lush.  Colorful and unique.  Weird and resilient.  Clearly, a perfect combination for me and my yard.  The Botanic Gardens are literally covered in succulents.  Large areas are dedicated to just letting them sprawl out and cover the ground.  Other areas use them more strategically, like the photo of the pot above, to bring color and texture into more structured landscapes.  If you are a fan of succulents and are ever in Denver, I highly suggest you pop into the Botanic Gardens.

And lastly, my favorite water feature in the Gardens:

One of the many water features.

One of the many water features.

This fountain/sculpture looks like it is straight from the Soviet bloc.  A massive, utilitarian, concrete megalith rising up from a beautiful lily pond.  With the 60/70s era high rise in the background, it’s hard not to absorb the elements and sights here and just feel a sense of awe with the beautiful juxtaposition we as human beings create in Mother Nature’s landscapes.  We are constantly carving up our forests and mountains and grasslands to grow, build, and develop spaces that are useful for us as humans…some places/governments/communities are more aware of our destruction than others.  I’m extremely grateful to live in a state and a city whose citizens are passionate about our beautiful nature and environment and have taken large measures to ensure the protection of it.  It’s also wonderful to live in a city that has a large and well-maintained park system.  Just because we live in a high-density, urban jungle does not mean we can live without nature and green space.

So, next time I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed out by my urban surroundings, I’m heading over to the Botanic Gardens.  If you’re in Denver, you should too!

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