Carol O'Meara, Colorado State University Extension
Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension

Gardening in Colorado is not for wimps. Our semi-arid, windy, intense solar environment has gardeners and plants shriveling from exposure.  If you want success, pause and ponder what our area really has to offer in beautiful gardens. You’ll find that western landscapes are breathtaking. Yet getting that tough, low water beauty in your yard takes a change of mind and outlook.

A good place to find that enlightenment is at the annual High Plains Landscape Workshop, March 9 at the Drake Centre in Fort Collins. With a lineup of speakers well versed in the uniqueness of western landscaping, you’ll get a fast-track on gardening with our climate, instead of against it.

Kenton Seth wonders how far is too far when reducing water to the landscape in his talk “Going All the Way: Surprising Results and Lessons from Going Totally Un-Irrigated.” And after five years of trials, he’s come up with a list of plants that need no supplemental irrigation. “Walking around, we see plants growing without irrigation all the time, in parking lots or gravel areas. So, I’ve wondered what will grow entirely without water?” Owner of Paintbrush Gardens in Fruita, Seth brings his list of low water plants for beauty to the workshop.

Establishing the plants is key to success, Seth says, as well as changing the gardener’s mind on what xeriscape in Colorado can look like. “In Denver, folks think xeriscape is an open area with not a lot of plants covering the gravel.  This is inspired by landscapes around Tucson, Arizona.  But our Front Range isn’t the Sonoran Desert; it’s a grassland, a prairie.”

If you want to harness native grasses for your lawn, Dr. Tony Koski brings his expertise in telling you how.  The Colorado State University Turfgrass Specials gets back to his roots in exploring how prairie grasses grow and can be used as lawns.  His talk, “So You Want a Native Lawn?” is a step-by-step tutorial on the ins and outs of going native.

Included in Koski’s advice is a call for gardeners to approach the conversion to native grasses with a healthy dose of reality: they can be hard to establish, aren’t carefree, and weed control is challenging. “People think native lawns are easy, but it’s not always as smooth as they envision. There are limitations, it won’t look like bluegrass, and you’ve got to change what you’ve always done – what your vision of a lawn looks like.”

Supersizing the event is Pamela Berstler, CEO of G3, Green Gardens Group in Los Angeles, California.  Sharing her concept built in a land that imports much of its water, she discusses “The Watershed Approach: Landscaping Like the Earth Depends On It.”

Berstler, also Executive Director of the Pacific Horticulture Society, is changing the way regulators view private landscapes with her innovative approach to treating home landscapes as individual watersheds. “We take basic, understandable, healthy principals and apply them to every property: where does water land, how do we move it around, hold it, and where does it drain.” This is a must-see talk for every gardener who wants to understand the impact their own property has on our water.

The event includes lunch, book sale, silent auction, and a chance to talk with other gardeners. Registration is $65 for members, $75 for non-members, includes lunch (after Feb. 21 registration is $85) at or by calling the Gardens on Spring Creek at 970.416.2486.

By Carol O’Meara. Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Colorado State University Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, e-mail or visit


What: High Plains Landscape Workshop

When: Saturday, March 9, 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: The Drake Centre, 802 W. Drake Rd., Fort Collins.

Cost: $65 for members, $75 non-members, $85 after Feb. 21.

Registration Information: Visit or by calling 970.416.2486