Cherry Skullcap. Penstemon and Horehound. Queens Crown.
They all grow at the Durango Library Demonstration Garden, a labor of love for both the Durango Botanical Society and its volunteers.
On Saturday, about 10 gardeners – 20 green thumbs in all – were busy weeding, raking, pruning and pulling about in the garden behind the Durango Public Library, the first of a season of Saturday gardening activities that will run all summer and into fall.
Located on the Animas River Trail, accented with the glistening light and subtle sound of the river, the scene was tranquil, but much work was getting done by busy hands.
“We’re the worker bees of the DBS,” said DBS board member and garden committee head Nancy Wallace. “Our goal is to show people what they can do in Durango. The city said, ‘you can have this garden here, so take care of it.’”
Wallace said the demonstration garden is a showcase for a variety of plants – native and foreign – that grow in wildly different environments. There is a Prairie Passions area, Xeric Annuals, South African Gems, Alpine Tundra, Montane Forest, Dryland Mesa and Diné Treasures, all home to thriving species, but a testing ground for other plants, as well.
“It’s a trial garden for some plants, to see how well they do,” Wallace said.
Many are species sent from the non-profit plant-cultivating organization Plant Select based in Denver, a group that promotes high plains and mountain region plants needing less water but provide ascetics and diversity.
“We’re really trying to show people you can put plants in that will survive with little water,” she said.
Plants in the Diné Treasure will get no irrigation at all.
The local green thumbs call the minimal watering style water-wise.
Hollis Hassenstein, director of horticulture for the DBS, said the location on the busy river path plants the perfect seed that grows interest.
“We have a lot of people who ask questions,” she said. “Hopefully they go to local nurseries and find the plants they like because they saw them here and they put them in their yards. That’s the kind of thing we hope for.”
Three more gardens are in the planning process on library grounds, but for now the garden committee is busy mulching, placing boulders and tinkering with a new sprinkler irrigation system for the garden they do have. Volunteers are welcome.
“This is a lot of work,” said Wallace, a master gardener in Houston and now Durango.
For a young garden, she said they’ve had tremendous success.
“We get more thanks than you could ever imagine,” she said.
Wallace hopes to inspire other gardeners, to show them what is possible.
Some spring bulbs already are blooming, bursting in brilliant yellows; other bulbs will bloom in fall.
“It’s the right plants in the right place,” Hassenstein said. “It’s a great way to see the artistry in nature. I love that aspect of it.”