By Aaron Michael -
Referred by our partner, the Audubon Rockies, we were called into action to help transform the landscape around the Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity Restore's parking lot into a Habitat Hero Garden. This large area, existing with dead grass and weeds, needed some love, and the staff at the Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity were eager to provide it just that, with the assistance of Earth Love Gardens.
We first created the Landscape Design for the Habitat for Humanity Restore. In it were 20 Colorado native plants that provide habitat for pollinators and birds all carefully planned to create a beautiful layout. One of the key features of this Landscape Design was a meandering dry creek. After reading the book Landscape As Spirit by renown Landscape Architect Martin Mosko (who designed and installed the original Japanese Garden at the Boulder Public Library, and commended us on our work for the site's reiteration of the Native Plant Demonstration Garden), we included the quality of creating such a dry creek to call in the aesthetic of the water element. On the southwestern corner of the landscape, there would not be supplemental water, so we created a "rock garden" to give the area a beautiful aesthetic with large boulders.
Acting as Project Manager, we then sourced all the materials for the project, including mulch, rocks, boulders, plants, and more. This service was for the ease of the Habitat for Humanity to then just provide their staff and volunteers to work under our further lead to install the landscape. It was towards the end of the gardening season and the Habitat for Humanity and Audubon Rockies was eager to install the project that year, so in October we got to work.
The first step was to remove the existing grass. Although not supplementally watered, the grass that was left surviving on little water was removed with a sod cutter machine. The old landscape materials, including old colored mulch, broken landscape edgings, and other debris was cleared out for what would become the new Rock Garden. This team was already proving to be dedicated and hard working!
The next step was to start to implement the new landscape! Leading teams providing simultaneous different tasks, much was accomplished with great efficiency. One team would lay down the metal landscape edging that would be the border outline for the mulch, while another team would lay down landscape fabric for what would next be under the rocks, and so on. We did as much work as we all could each day, for the next day to be one step closer to completion. Eventually, it was time to lay down (a lot of) mulch, mindfully lay down the rock cobbles to make the Dry Creek, and carefully place each large boulder in the perfect location with the help of a forklift.
On the final day, it was planting day, organized by the Audubon Rockies. Planting hundreds of plants, volunteers worked hard to get the plants into the ground in their planned positions from the Landscape Design. Within just a few hours, all the plants were planted. This huge transformation happened in just seven days!
We were happy to share about the hard work and dedication that went into this garden, speaking alongside Audubon Rockies Habitat Hero Coordinator, Jamie Weiss, during the Habitat for Humanity Restore's grand reopening the following April.
Since it was the end of the planting season during the original installation, we would have another volunteer planting day in August, organized with volunteer youth mission group Week of Hope Group Mission Trips, to plant Panchito Manzanita spreading ground cover plants among others.
The landscape continues to provide its gifts as well. One of the planting volunteers, Amy Dondale, was so impressed by this project that it inspired her to reach out to the Audubon Rockies about creating the Habitat Hero Garden at the Sexual Assault Victims Advocate (SAVA) Center in Loveland. A visitor to the Habitat for Humanity Restore was so impressed by our landscape that she became a client of ours for her own home. Thousands of cars pass by the adjacent street each day, as numerous pedestrians walk on the sidewalk. We intend that this project continues to inspire all those who pass by and provide as a model for an intelligent, natural example of a landscape (that also always abundantly provides for pollinators and birds)!