It can be hard to have a green thumb in Fort Collins. Our semi-arid climate receives an average of just-under-sixteen inches of precipitation a year, we have lots of intense sunshine, and I’ve seen many a seedling shrivel up after a day in our dry wind.
Xeriscape is the term for using low-water plants to create a more sustainable landscape in a thirsty climate such as ours. Many decorative native plants require much less water than their food-producing cousins. Once established, a xeriscape garden is drought-tolerant and will need supplemental watering only during the hottest, driest days of summer.
I know what you’re thinking: to be eco-conscious, we must plant only spiny, shapeless blobs of heat-defying hardiness. Not true! Many xeric plants are green, they flower all summer, and they have no needles to pierce your skin as you feel around the garden searching for a lost superball. And they have cool names, such as: Carpathian Harebell, Goblin Gaillardia, Whiplash Daisy, and Creeping Veronica.
The City of Fort Collins has a Xeriscape Demonstration Garden in front of City Hall at 300 LaPorte Avenue. (There wasn’t much blooming a couple of weeks ago; I’m sure there’s more to see now.) The city’s xeriscape website includes lots of tips and a lengthy list of low-water plants.
The Gardens on Spring Creek, also part of the city’s parks department, has beautiful examples of landscaping appropriate to this region, including the Plant Select Demonstration Garden, the Xeric Parkway Strip designed by nationally-recognized landscaper and author Lauren Springer-Ogden, and the Rock Garden (currently under construction).
Keep an eye out for classes in plant selection and garden design offered through the city and local nurseries. Then start planting!