In a state where life breathes at 5,280 feet in elevation above sea level, Colorado does not lack in natural beauty. From the seas of pine and aspen that fill the mountain peaks, to the landscape of cottonwoods and columbines in the city, there’s much to behold. Like the transient people from across the nation that find refuge here, the diverse families of Orchids at the Denver Botanic Gardens thrive proudly. Like the rare, native locals who live each day here like it was their first, the Alpine Sunflower, or “Old Man of the Mountains”, has adapted to the cold and dry weather, and tip their heads to the sun each day at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail. And as the some 5,000,000 mixed folk take root in Colorado, thousands of varieties of roses bloom each year at the War Memorial Rose Garden in Littleton. Take a stroll through any of the following, top bountiful gardens throughout Denver and Colorado.
Denver Botanic Gardens
1007 York Street
Denver, CO 80206
Open 9am-5pm daily through April 30
9am-9pm, May 1 – September 30
$12.50 for adults, discounted prices for seniors, students, children and members
Light Displays during winter season
Though it’s everyday mention and always popularity, it’s impossible to not mention the Denver Botanic Gardens in a line-up of the best in Denver—in Colorado, in fact, the nation! The Gardens spreads across 23 acres between Congress and Cheesman Park, along 8th Avenue and York Street, including over 33,000 plant and floral species, 45 designated garden displays, even 1,200 species of orchids at their tropical exhibit indoor. This Spring welcomes drooping Snake’s Head Fritillary, or Chequered Lily, majestic Magnolias, Crabapple Blossoms filling the air, bundles of Korean Spice Viburnum, and so much more.
Over the years, the Gardens have been known to exhibit rotating art sculptures, displayed amongst the lush backdrop. This summer will be, “Native Roots Modern Form, Plants, Peoples and the Art of Allan Houser”, a sculpture display of Native American life, created by modernist Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache Allan Houser, 1914-1994. The art depicts the connection to land and Native ancestry—see it May 1-November 13, 2011. And do also be sure to visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield in Littleton, wide grassy lands, historic farm houses, quaint ponds, and more!
6115 South Santa Fe Drive
Littleton, CO 80120
Open 9am-5pm Monday-Saturday
Tickets $1.50 for everyone, 15-year anniversary
Open 9am-3pm, Sundays June-August
Open through winter, November-February tickets are donation
Nestled along the South Platte River in Littleton are The Hudson Gardens. Tall, yellow strands of grass waving gently in the breeze, with the sparkling and rocky river running below, and shiny blue mountain peaks resting still in the backdrop. You will also see at The Hudson Gardens, 30 acres of various plant-life, including charming ponds, sculpture exhibitions, adventure hideaways, and a lovely and windy mile and a quarter walking path. The Gardens are a fine spot for a wedding destination, amongst the alpine flora, as well as their ‘The Inn at Hudson Gardens’, a year-round log cabin event venue that can fit up to 250 guests. The Gardens are celebrating their 15th birthday this year in 2011, so throughout their peak blooming season from March through October, ticket prices are just $1.50. Be sure to also check out their ongoing summer concerts on the grounds, as well as events for children and adult horticulture classes. The Hudson Gardens call themselves “an oasis of serenity in the midst of the city”, and they are just that, and more!
Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
183 Gore Creek Drive
Vail, CO 81657
Open from “Dawn to Dusk,” from “Snowmelt to Snowfall”
Free to the public, donations accepted
*At high altitude: bring sunscreen, a hat and lots of water!
One hundred thousand visitors reach the 8,200 feet each summer, exploring the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, in Vail. The gardens were named after former first lady Betty Ford, for her contributions made throughout the years to the Vail Valley. Proud for its growth and display of flora and fauna at some of the highest altitudes in the country, you’ll find sidewalks lined with Aspen tress, alpine sunflowers, quaint little bridges and ponds, mountain lilacs, luminous stones displays, and wedding-filled waterfalls. There are six gardens of presentation: Children’s Garden, Schoolhouse Garden, Alpine Tundra Garden, Mountain Perennial Garden, Mountain Meditation Garden, and Alpine Rock Garden. When most locals and visitors to the Colorado mountains are used to filling their eyes with pine and aspen trees, maybe a few wildflowers, it is surely worth a visit to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, in order to look on and learn about how multitudes of flowers and plants can thrive at a high altitude.
Alamo Placita Park
North of Speer Boulveard
Between Ogden and Emerson Street
Open to the public, no admission
While you’re rushing to get from downtown to Cherry Creek one day, driving east along Speer Boulevard, why not stop to smell the roses for a bit taking a turn at Downing Street, to Alamo Placita Park. Tucked between the outer Wash Park neighborhoods, you’ll find a beautiful lined street of grassy areas, places for the kids to play, and carefully manicured rows and rows of happy flowers. You’ll find bushels of black-eyed susans, towering hollyhocks, magenta mums, draping irises, and not to mention many old trees offering a beautiful backdrop and shade. The park is said to mean ‘little place of the cottonwoods’, and that’s representative in many of the standing old cottonwoods you’ll see. And it’s no coincidence the park lies right along Speer, as Robert W. Speer used to own the property and live near the premises. Check out this hidden gem today!
War Memorial Rose Garden
5804 South Bemis Street
Littleton, CO 80120
South Suburban Parks and Recreation
Open to the public, no admission
Contact South Suburban Parks and Recreation for large events
Taking shape for over half a century, the War Memorial Rose Garden in Littleton is a lovely site to see, share and remember. Right near the Littleton Museum and Bemis Library, The War Memorial Rose Garden was placed to honor veterans of World Wars I and II, and has since been dedicated to the city of Littleton itself as well. You can take a stroll through over 1,800 roses in the gardens, stop to sigh at the Victorian gazebo, or look on at the historic sundial. The beauty is so sure, the garden is recognized by local and national rose societies alike. And it’s easy to see why many weddings are held here, seated capacity runs about 75; contact to schedule an event can be made through South Suburban Parks and Recreation. Be sure to also look for events such as a rose pruning workshop, held April 30, 2011, also put on by South Suburban.
– Sarah Carpenter lives in Littleton, where she was born and raised. She spent a decade in Downtown Denver, and its surrounding neighborhoods, going to school for writing, working in the service industry, and getting to know Denver’s diverse culture. She has a passion for travel writing, local and afar, focusing the story on its people, culture and region.