On the last day of the 2019 Fling we visited the Denver Botanic Garden (DBG). Its 23-acres are located in an urban setting, not far from downtown – unlike Chicago’s Botanic Garden, which is located in the far suburbs.


There are at least a couple of dozen individual gardens you can visit at DBG.


However, we ended up spending most of our limited time at the Laura Smith Porter Plains Garden. It reminded me some of the Lurie Garden in Chicago, but it consists entirely of plants found within 30 miles of Denver in grasslands east of the Rocky Mountains.


There are areas with species from short and tall-grass prairies, sand hills, and wetland prairies. Among these was a decent number of stunning wildflowers.


God, this Larkspur! Not sure the species (maybe Delphinium exaltatum?) But just look at that electric blue.


Some kind of Prickly Pear. Would you call those flowers more red or magenta?


This garden gets absolutely no supplemental  watering.


This is called Scarlet Globeflower, but I much prefer its other common name, Cowboy’s Delight (Sphaeralcea coccinea). Apparently it delights cowboys by blooming in places that are otherwise barren, dry, and rocky.


Speaking of water, there is a small pond and wetland prairie. These are rare in Colorado, but they do exist.


Nice waterfall.

On the other side of the pond there is a small woodland garden.


Colorado Blue Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea).


Among the grasses found here are Green Needle Grass (Nassella viridula), Alkali sacaton (Sporobulus airoides – a cousin to Prairie Dropseed, S. heterolepis), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum),


What exactly these guys are doing I couldn’t say. According to one of the signs, they are made of iron embedded with glass rods. The iron and glass is “a metaphor for the inextricable connection between humans and nature”.

OK, if you say so.

In any case, it was good to see, in the heart of a big city, a garden inspired by the grasslands that once covered such a vast area in this region.


36 Comments on “A Prairie Garden in Downtown Denver”

  1. It is always delightful when a city devotes itself to developing a beautiful garden and this one is great. The Larkspur is so vey lovely, isn’t it? And the sculptures….well, they are a little creepy.

  2. That bloom on the prickly pear looks more red in these pictures.
    I used to go to this garden yearly since I had family out there but that was many years ago. I know it has changed a lot but I couldn’t afford two big trips in one year which is why I didn’t go on this SF. It is also why I don’t do many big SF because my DB and I usually take a nice trip together. I travel vicariously through your blog and several others. 🙂

  3. A wonderful Botanic garden and I would love to visit it. So many plants are familiar and it is impressive that the gardens gets no extra watering. We do grow Columbines & they are very rewarding in a garden that survives on unpredictable watering. I have also grow Delphiniums… that Gorgeous blue!

  4. It’s hard to get past that larkspur blue — it is riveting! I was instantly attracted to the sculptures. In the photo which combines them with the inquisitive gardeners, they seemed to me the ghosts of those whose land it once was. To me they appear almost like guardians. Or mourners. Isn’t it interesting how such things are perceived in different ways?

  5. Hello Jason, I instantly recognised the delphiniums as I have then in the garden, but these are really pretty and delicate versions of the cultivated varieties and I like them both – the electric blue is the same in both too. We also used to have that particular Aquilegia in the order garden and it’s awaiting reintroduction into the current one. I’m as impressed with the artwork as you are. In all, it looks like a beautiful garden to walk around and explore.

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