Colorado is widely—and rightfully—recognized as one of the most beautiful states in the nation. With four incredible national parks, the Rocky Mountains, and ample beautiful landscapes across the state, the love that many Coloradans feel for their land is remarkably profound.
While many of the state’s most impressive landscapes exist on quite the grand scale—the Great Sand Dunes, Long’s Peak, Black Canyon at the Gunnison—it is still quite possible to capture the beauty of Colorado on a much smaller scale, as well. In fact, recently, there has been a growing appreciation for native landscaping all across the state.
Native sustainable landscaping focuses on plants and wildlife that are naturally found within the area. One of the priorities of the broader native landscaping movement is focusing on creating ecosystems that can be ethically (and affordably) sustained for many years to come. It is a movement that spawned from both necessity and from the recognition of the delicate relationship between humankind and nature.
In this article, we will discuss the most important things for you to know about native landscaping in Colorado.
The native landscaping movement has noticed a considerable amount of growth, with many high-end landscapers defaulting to using plants and other natural features that are entirely native to the area. A few of the reasons the native landscaping movement has been growing include:
- Sustainability: native plants exist for a reason and, naturally, will be much more sustained by the local environment than other alternatives. Native plants have a much smaller impact on the local ecosystem and, in most cases, actually help sustain healthy life in the surrounding areas.
- Costs: because native plants require less water (they can usually exist on rain alone) and because they do not require “winterizing”, they cost much less to keep alive over time.
- Reduced Maintenance: native plants look beautiful and, at the same time, do not require consistent upkeep. While you might want to trim or otherwise care for these plants on occasion, they require far less maintenance than a tropical alternative.
- No Need for Fertilizer or Pesticides: indigenous plants, as you might expect, have typically evolved to live cooperatively with the fungi and insects that are native to the area. This reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides—saving you more money and also reducing the impact you have on the local environment.
- Non-Invasive: as many people have unfortunately discovered, planting even just one non-native plant can have a negative impact on your entire yard or garden. With the introduction of only indigenous plants, however, you can allow your garden to grow freely as your plants continue to live in harmony.
What Are The Best Plants For Native Landscaping In Colorado?
Colorado (the 8th largest state) is a very large state that also has an incredibly diverse array of environments. However, generally speaking—especially within the Front Range and Greater Denver region, where most Coloradans live—the Colorado climate is noted for its distinct four seasons, its general dryness, snow in the winter, and volatile weather. This makes Colorado one of the more difficult places to create a truly sustainable garden. Nevertheless, there are many beautiful plants that can survive the Centennial State’s somewhat brutal conditions.
According to the American Arbor Core, some of the best native plants for Colorado (specifically, Denver) include:
- Blue Flax
- Bee Balm
- Cacti and succulents
- Rocky mountain maple
- Rocky mountain juniper
- Pinion pine
- Ponderosa pine
Take some time to compare the different native landscaping options that might work in your area. Despite the need to withstand harsh weather conditions, you’ll quickly find that you have many different options currently available to choose from.
How Can I Ensure That My Garden And Yard Are Sustainable?
Generally speaking, for a garden or a yard to be considered truly “sustainable’, it will need to be able to maintain its health without any human involvement. It will also not have a negative impact on the local ecosystem, including your neighbor’s yard (including underground) and other nearby areas. Choose plants that require a minimal amount of water and, furthermore, create a system in which water can be “passively harvested” and directed as needed. One of the most useful functions of landscape architecture is redesigning spaces where water can be efficiently distributed.
Additionally, try to select plants that will not require any chemicals, pesticides, artificial fertilizers, or anything that’s considered inorganic. Limiting waste and positioning plants where they can access much-needed sunlight will also increase your garden’s sustainability. Furthermore, it will not be enough to simply choose native plants—you will also need to choose the appropriate amount of plants. Overstocking a space will cause plants to compete for limited resources which, ultimately, can have some notably destructive effects.
When Should I Hire A Colorado Landscape Architect?
In response to the need for sustainable—and aesthetically pleasing—landscaping solutions, there are currently many different Colorado landscape architects available to choose from. These individuals can help you create intricate and intimate outdoor spaces that are designed with your specific preferences (including the need for native landscaping) in mind.
Hiring a Colorado landscape architect can help you choose the right plants for your space, along with the appropriate places for these plants to be placed. They’ll blend aesthetics, sustainability, and other conservation goals in order to help you craft an outdoor area that you are truly proud of. Additionally, they will also help you restructure your yard in a way that minimizes (or even completely eliminates) the need for additional water. In a relatively dry climate, as you’ll find throughout Colorado, this is very important.
The native landscaping movement has helped reshape the way we think about the relationship between nature and humankind. In Colorado, as you will quickly discover, there are many excellent native landscaping plants and features available to choose from. While a native project is certainly something that many experienced gardeners can handle on their own, you may want to consider hiring a Colorado landscape architect.