Written by Aaron Michael -
One of our great projects in 2021 had been the Boulder Public Library's Audubon Rockies Habitat Hero Native Plant Demonstration Garden. As the mission of Earth Love Gardens is in creating a beautiful world where people connect authentically with the Earth, within themselves, and in community with each other, this project checked all these boxes. Here, I will share how this project came to be and all the goodness that has already come from this amazing garden!
Referred by our partner, the Audubon Rockies, the goal of this project was to transform what was a Japanese Garden (originally created in the 1980's by world-renowned Landscape Architect, Martin Mosko) into an Audubon Rockies Habitat Hero Garden. This new garden would offer as an example of an environmentally-friendly landscape for Colorado and beyond, showcasing native plants that require low-water, low-maintenance, and provide habitat for birds and pollinators. Additionally, it would become a beautiful, peaceful space in its own right. This would be no simple task, as the Japanese Garden had not been maintained for many years. Pictured above is how we found the garden!
I created a Landscape Design that would meet the criteria for the new garden in addition to designing it as a "heart-centered" place for visitors to connect, learn, relax, and read. The new design would feature about 25 beautiful plants native to the Colorado region. Additionally, as requested by the Library, a new path (at least three feet wide for ADA-accessibility) would cut through the landscape allowing visitors to further immerse themselves walking through the garden.
With approvals met and funding provided by the Boulder Library Foundation, we started the transformation at the end of June. Working alongside landscape installer, Aaron Carpenter and his great team of workers, years of dead plant material and other debris were moved out of the space in two days. To be as sustainable as possible, all the original landscape rocks were carefully cleaned by pressure-washing to be placed back into the new landscape. Utilizing decomposed granite, a curved path was cut into the landscape. Next, was to add the new plants. Sourced from Harlequin Gardens, Site One/Harmony Gardens, and Little Valley Wholesale Nursery, around 80 plants were planted in their new homes. A layer of mulch was then laid on top. A locally-made birdbath was placed and two cedar birdhouses were mounted, complete with the Audubon Rockies Habitat Hero Garden sign. Finally, reflective stickers were placed on the windows of the library adjacent to the garden, to prevent birdstrikes.
The phrase "if you plant it, they will come" rang as a testament for the new garden. Immediately, it was visited by bees, a Monarch butterfly, a hummingbird, and more. Bird and pollinator-friendly gardens really work! It was also great to receive the countless compliments of how beautiful the garden turned out.
The Boulder Public Library hosted the new garden's opening celebration in September. The event had booths from the Audubon Rockies, Community Food Share, and Wild Ones, Front Range Chapter. This celebration was a great success teaching and acquainting many people with new native plant garden. The Boulder Public Library also featured an exhibit in the nearby indoor library hall showcasing the garden's transformation and qualities in being low-water, low-maintenance, bird and pollinator habitat. Additionally, radio station KGNU covered the new garden as well as an article written about it in bUneke Magazine.
As native plants have the benefit in already being acclimated to their climate, they grow fast! Visiting just under four months later, there had already been abundant growth in the plants. The garden was also being visited by different pollinators and birds, along with library-goers quietly chatting and reading.
In 2022, just one year after planting, the plants grew in mature size even more! Community events are routinely held in the garden. In August, the Butterfly Pavillion's Pollinator Advocates made a tour through the garden. Leading the tour, I shared knowledge of the featured pollinator plants and about connecting with nature. At the end of September, the Pollinator Advocates celebrated their graduation from the program in the garden. The City of Boulder's Mayor, Aaron Brockett, Director of Climate Initiatives, Jonathan Koehn, and Applied Ecological Programs Coordinator, Rella Abernathy, all attended and spoke for the occasion. The Bee Chicas, a bee education group (https://www.beechicas.com/) hosts their children's education events regularly in the garden.
The Boulder Public Library's Audubon Rockies Habitat Hero Native Plant Demonstration Garden will continue to fulfill its mission for many years to come!
I also want to offer a special thank you to Jess Rainy, of the Boulder Public Library and Jamie Weiss, of the Audubon Rockies, and the Boulder Library Foundation for making this project possible.