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Botanic Road Trips

By Martha Kirk, Colorado Master Gardener

In need of some garden therapy? How about a road trip? Summer is the time to get outside and smell the flowers. Literally. We put together a list of recommended places where you can enjoy the beautiful outdoors and colorful gardens. So, gather the family and get going.

CSU Annual Trial Garden – 1401 Remington St. – Fort Collins, CO 80523


If you’ve never been to the CSU Annual Trial Garden, it is worth the visit. This public garden features a stunning display of colorful annuals from late May through October. Roughly 25 plant companies from around the world send 1000 new cultivars each year to CSU to be tested. Dr. James Klett and his team of research students at CSU monitor and evaluate the performance of these plants in Colorado’s unique environment of high altitude, intense solar radiation, drying winds, severe hailstorms, large fluctuations between day and night temperatures and a season-long need for irrigation.  Also check out new perennials that are tested and evaluated. The perennial garden is located across the street in front of the Center for the Arts.

The Gardens on Spring Creek – 2145 Centre Ave. – Fort Collins, CO 80526


While you’re in Fort Collins, visit The Gardens on Spring Creek. This 18-acre community botanic garden has something for everyone – from the Butterfly House, Children’s Garden, and Everitt Pavilion to the Prairie Garden, Undaunted Garden, and Wetlands Garden. Relax and explore the gardens to your heart’s content. Then finish the day with a stop at the newly expanded Visitor’s Center and gift shop.

The Gardens at Kendrick Lake – 9351 W. Jewell Ave. – Lakewood, CO 80232


If you think xeric gardens are drab, think again. The Gardens at Kendrick Lake are all about drought tolerant plants. This innovative garden is lush and beautiful. It features a wide assortment of flowers, shrubs, groundcovers, trees and roses planted in vast swaths to really show them off. It is a fine example of choosing the right plant for the right place, and matching the soil, water and mulch to the plant’s requirements. Voilà!

Crested Butte Wildflower Festival – 716 Elk Avenue – Crested Butte, CO 81224


If you appreciate wildflowers and the outdoors, you’ll want to visit the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival July 10-19, 2020. Crested Butte is nestled in one of the more picturesque valleys in Colorado, so it is the perfect setting to view nature in all its glory. Festival events have been modified, but they are still on. You can participate in countless of activities such as art classes, garden tours, hiking, workshops, photography and many others.

Betty Ford Alpine Garden – 522 S Frontage Rd E. – Vail, CO 81657


The Betty Ford Alpine Garden is the highest elevation botanical garden in the world at 8200 feet. Its mission is to promote conservation of alpine plants and fragile mountain environments. Mrs. Ford said in 1991, “As someone who has always loved gardening, it fills me with a great sense of serenity. Just walking along these winding paths, with the abundance of beauty so close to the touch, brings an introspection & sense of calm too often missing in our lives.”

Hopefully you will feel that same sense of calm when you visit. The Garden is comprised of an Alpine Display Garden, a Mountain Perennial Garden, a Mountain Meditation Garden, and an Alpine Rock Garden with a stunning 120-foot waterfall. Other gardens include the Children’s Garden and Schoolhouse Garden. Together these gardens contain about 2,000 varieties of plants, including over 500 different varieties of wildflowers and alpine plants.

Or, if you prefer, do your own hike and locate native plants in their natural setting. 

Photos: Lucinda Greene

Here are some good resources to get you started and enjoying all that Mother Nature offers:

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