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7 of the Best Perennials for Fall Blooms in Denver

After a long hot summer in Colorado, the fall season may seem like a time to forget about your yard or garden and start focusing your attention indoors. But fall is a great time for some low-water perennial plants to look their best and shine in your xeriscape garden. The following list of plants take center stage during the fall season, and keep your landscape looking great beyond the arrival of the autumnal equinox.

Anemone (various species and cultivars)

Anemones are a great plant for the shadier areas of your landscape. While not as drought tolerant as the other plants on this list, they grow very well with afternoon shade and a medium amount of water.

Anemone

 

Tall Sedums, various cultivars

The tall sedums are a classic addition to the fall blooming garden. With low to average water needs, they are perfect for most xeriscape gardens.

Sedum

 

Hummingbird Flower, Epilobium canum latifolum (aka Zauschneria canum latifolium)

This cousin of the popular groundcover plant Orange Carpet California Fuschia (also a good late bloomer) has similar dazzling orange trumpet shaped flowers that pollinators adore.

Hummingbird Flower

 

Furman’s Red Salvia, Salvia greggii (several species and cultivars available in the Salvia genus)

There are so many different and wonderful plants in the Salvia genus that are remarkable additions to your low-water landscape. Furman’s Red Salvia is one plant we have raved about many times, and it never fails to keep us captivated by its lovely and numerous red blooms that drape these plants from summer heat to fall frost. One note of caution on this plant would be the hardiness. It is rated as only hardy to zone 6, so be careful where you place it. A warmer micro-climate location in your landscape would be best.

Furman’s Red Salvia

 

Blanket flower, Gaillardia (various cultivars available)

While the blanket flowers bloom more profusely in the heat of the summer, they continue to bloom into fall, bringing their brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red into the shorter days of autumn.

Blanket Flower

 

Goldenrod, Solidago (various species)

Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ is the plant pictured here. Who wouldn’t mind this kind of fireworks in their fall landscape? This North American native will grace your garden with many panicles of bright yellow flowers. While not as tolerant of drought as some other plants on this list, it is fairly adaptable to most conditions in Colorado. This plant has been unfairly blamed for hayfever and allergies in the past, but scientists now tell us that Goldenrod is not the cause of your fall allergies. It is likely caused by other plants such as ragweed.

Goldenrod

 

Plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Plumbago is an indispensable groundcover. It does well in dry shade, and that is the type of conditions we typically place it in. However, we are finding it seems to be adaptable to sunnier locations as well. The blue-violet flowers that appear on this plant in late summer are eye-catching, as is the red-orange fall color of the foliage as autumn grows cooler.

Plumbago

 

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

 

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Project Highlight: Gateway Village General Improvement District

The city of Denver uses various improvement districts to construct, improve, and maintain neighborhood and commercial areas. One such General Improvement District (GID) has been created for a section in the large Northeast Denver neighborhood of Montbello, and is called the Gateway General Improvement District (GID). We are happy to have been contracted by The Gateway GID in hopes of helping to revitalize the neighborhood by updating the current landscape and introducing more drought-tolerant, colorful plant varieties for areas around the neighborhood. These areas include street tree lawns, detention ponds, a large drainage channel, and the monument sign area. The nearby green space study, as seen below, analyzes the nearby park spaces, most of which are too far from most homes in the GID to be within walking distance. This posed a great opportunity for us to not only revitalize the outdated and rundown landscape around the neighborhood, but to help create community green spaces, by utilizing the barren and unused detention ponds.

 

 

The streetscapes throughout the neighborhood contain endless amounts of water-guzzling bluegrass, along with landscape beds overflowing, overgrown junipers and bare spots where other shrubs have died. Our design has these streetscapes being updated to replace the existing sod and desolate landscape beds with drought tolerant shrub varieties and rock mulch to reduce irrigation requirements while also providing a cohesive and interesting landscape year-round.

 

 

In the detention ponds around the neighborhood, our landscape designs aim to incorporate a more usable lawn space with pedestrian access, as well as add colorful, xeric varieties of shrubs and trees to the perimeter of the pond at street level to increase passerby interest and beautify the area. These ponds present a huge opportunity to provide nearby families with accessible parks. Two of the detention ponds are located directly across the street from two elementary schools in the neighborhood. These particular ponds presented us with a huge opportunity to not only turn these unused areas into park spaces, but educational learning landscapes as well.

 

We collaborated with Denver Public Schools to incorporate interesting educational elements and various ecosystems that will coincide with lesson plans made by teachers. Ecosystems include a wetland ecosystem where students can do water testing and observe the various birds and insects, as well as a dryland ecosystem featuring drought tolerant, native Colorado plant varieties. Other educational elements include a pollinator garden that will feature colorful shrubs and perennials attractive to bees and butterflies, demonstrating the importance of pollinators.

 

 

A boulder garden can also be found in the new educational landscape designs with an array of boulders showcasing Colorado’s diverse geology. To offer a more structured outdoor classroom, we have designed the detention pond slopes to incorporate an amphitheater with siloam stone slab seating. To top it off, children can follow a concrete pathway painted with the planets from our solar system, down into one of the amphitheaters.

 

 

With the Gateway Village General Improvement District being large in scope, we hope to reach a vast majority of the community at and positively impact them with all of these desired improvements.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects. For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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Project Highlight: Multi-family Community Pool Area Renovations

As the Denver metro area continues to grow in population and our real estate market experiences growing pains, many existing multi-family housing properties have become golden opportunities for renovation and renewal. Here at Outdoor Design Group, we have recently been contracted by several clients to not only bring a fresh look to these common area landscapes, but to incorporate various outdoor amenities and create an extension of usable outdoor living space.

A couple of notable landscape renovations we have been fortunate enough to design were two properties owned by a California real estate company. They appointed us to help redesign the landscape to compliment their building renovations, giving each outdated property a much needed face lift.

The first property, located in Federal Heights, Colorado, is a large complex comprising of several units and a separate leasing and fitness center building. The leasing and fitness center was to be completely remodeled, and the entrance reconfigured. Our landscape design incorporates hardscaping like retaining walls and unique paving surfaces that compliment the updated architecture, and guide users toward the new entrance. Additionally, the numerous low-water plant species were selected and placed throughout the beds to create interest with their distinctive structural forms and colorful habits, which molded with the new modern style the client was striving toward.

 

A 3D rendering of the modern style entrance landscape helped our client to better visualize the space.

 

Attached to the East side of the leasing and fitness center is the community pool area, which was also overdue for a fresh look. In our design, the existing pool was to remain as is, but the surrounding pool deck was modified to be larger with a sleek, colored pool deck coating. A striking modern style gas fireplace was incorporated at the west end and amenities like shade structures, grilling stations, LED landscape lighting and picnic tables provide the finishing touches on the new design.

 

Original concept design.

 

Digital rendering of the final design.

 

The second multi-family property Outdoor Design Group provided landscape design services for is located in Lakewood, Colorado. Its existing pool area was drab and outdated with no extra amenities. Our design integrated a large turf area for games, outdoor kitchen with a pergola, and a gas fire pit, all alongside a brand new decked out pool house designed by a Phoenix based architecture firm. The large bi-fold doors were designed to fully open toward the pool, and create effortless indoor/outdoor living. We welcomed the opportunity to design a space that allowed us to really visualize and get excited about how the space would be used. Additionally, the low-water use plantings surrounding the pool were chosen to provide year-round interest as well as screening from the nearby road.

 

Concept design.

 

Construction on these projects is currently underway, and we can’t wait to see the final results! Multi-family housing projects, both new development and site renovations are a hot commodity here in Denver, and the demand is ever increasing. We love being involved on projects like these, and we look forward to more to come.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects. For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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Spring Planted Flower Bulbs Provide Bright Flowers in Summer

Whether you’re an experienced or an inexperienced gardener, you’re probably aware of fall planted flowering bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, crocus, alliums, hyacinth and other “fall planted/spring blooming bulbs” have become very iconic harbingers of the advent of spring season. However, there’s a large assortment of flowering bulbs that make a spring-time appearance in garden retail stores, providing their own form of welcoming the passing of winter and the arrival of a new gardening season. The so-called spring planted flower bulbs may be lesser known to the novice gardener, but can be almost as valuable as the fall planted bulbs. These summer blooming plants can be used to place spots of color in-between perennials and shrubs in your landscape. Planted in Spring, these bulbs emerge to provide beautiful flowers throughout summer and fall, with exact flowering times varying per species and cultivar.

In fact, the spring planted bulbs are not all true bulbs. Some may be corms, rhizomes or tubers, which are all different types of storage organs that plants have evolved over time. It is these clever little storage devices that have allowed people to dig them up during plant dormancy, and package them up to be shipped to garden center stores around the world. Some of the spring planted bulbs are perennials, but most are not, at least in the USDA hardiness zone that Denver finds itself in.

Crocosmia corms.

Out of the many types of spring planted ornamental bulbous plants available in your local garden center, I cover three common types here in this post.

Perhaps the best known spring planted bulb is the gladiolus, which hails from South Africa. Botanists consider the gladioli to actually be corms, not true bulbs. Corms are underground plant stems that function as storage organs, whereas true bulbs are underground storage organs made up of layers of fleshy modified leaves. Most gladioli are hardy only to zone 8, which makes them annuals in Colorado. But there are some gladioli that are hardy to zone 5, if well mulched in winter. Gladioli come in many colors and sport bright blooms on upright stems with strap-like leaves.

Like the “glads”, dahlias are another very popular summer bloom that is not hardy in Colorado. Dahlias are placed in the spring planted bulb category because they form tuberous roots which are dried and then sold. The pre-cultivar dahlias are native to Mexico. There tubers were used as a food crop by the Aztecs. The trick to buying dahlias in dry form is that they must have a stem attached to the tubers, because only the stems produce buds, which then produce stems and flowers. There is a huge variety of dahlia cultivars to be found in garden centers. In springtime, the dahlia tubers are sold in bags along with the other spring planted bulbs. But in summer it is common to see the dahlias sold as potted plants. Buying them as tubers is cheaper than as potted plants. Because the dahlias are hardy only to zone 8, if you want them to return to your yard next summer you must save the tubers (with a bit of the stems attached)  in a cool but not freezing space, to be replanted in a successive season. Or simply just buy new ones each spring. Dahlias are popular because the blooms come in a multitude of shapes, colors and sizes. If you’ve never seen a 12 inch wide “dinner plate” dahlia flower in bloom, you are missing out on a fascinating sight.

Canna Lilies are another spring planted “bulb” that bring an air of the tropics to your landscape.  These flowering plants are often used in annual pots, providing tall, colorful focal points in the center surrounded by lower annuals. Cannas are native to Latin America and are grown as annuals in Denver’s hardiness zone of 5. But if you find the right micro-climate, they may over-winter just fine. I know of one house in Denver, where cannas are planted at the base of a south facing wall on a house, and have become perennial in this residential landscape due to this warm micro-climate spot. Cannas are not true bulbs, but are “rhizomatous.” A rhizome is an underground horizontal stem that can send out shoots and roots from nodes. A ginger “root” is an example of a rhizome that you’ll find in a produce section. Cannas are closely related to ginger and also bananas! Another familiar rhizomatous plant are irises, which have above ground rhizomes. Although canna lilies are often available as potted plants throughout summer, if you purchase them as rhizomes in spring, you get the plants for a fraction of the cost of potted ones. As mentioned previously, cannas develop tropical-like flowers and leaves, giving your patio an island vibe.

Canna rhizomes.

Head on down to your local garden center this spring gardening season and pick up some spring planted bulbs to brighten your landscape this summer!

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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Project Highlight: The Gardens at Columbine Memory Care

Located in Littleton, Colorado, The Gardens at Columbine is a memory care/assisted living facility on which Outdoor Design Group provided landscape design services. This site was an expansion of an existing assisted living facility onto adjacent property. This new building provides a space for adding memory care services to the facility’s roster of other existing services for senior citizens.

As the new building was being planned for this recently acquired property, we designed the outdoor spaces, walkways and landscaped gardens to surround this new structure. Because the site was not terribly large, and the proposed building sizable in scope, this provided several challenges. From how to fit parking spaces into a small space to designing safe and sound emergency exit pathways, this project was a challenging but satisfying endeavor.

One of the first challenges we had to face was how to provide a working landscape at the east entrance to the building. This entrance is near the other existing building, and is the preferred access point for employees traveling between buildings. The difficulty here was adding an entrance walkway that would transition from a higher elevation parking lot then drop down to a doorway that sits slightly below grade relative to the parking lot. Retaining walls were necessary in this area so we added built in benches at the walls to provide useful amenities along this path. Step lights in the walls provide a soft illumination for this well used pathway.

Prior to construction, the original site was filled with trees, as it had been a large lot with one single family home on it. While some of the existing trees could not be saved due to the scope of the proposed building, we worked with the city and the owner to save as many trees as we could. For example we spent a significant time working and re-working the landscape plan with the civil engineer on the project to reconfigure the entrance drive and parking areas to save several existing trees on the north and east sides of the property.

The namesake gardens are located in the internal courtyard of the project. These outdoor spaces give residents of the facility a charming scene that invites them to go outside and get some fresh air amid the trees, shrubs and raised bed gardens.

Stepping out of the building and into the courtyard, the first of the raised planting beds one encounters is a large circle comprised of  a poured-in-place concrete seat wall that is chock full of colorful perennials, wispy ornamental grasses, low growing shrubs and scraggy boulders.

As you step further into the courtyard, you encounter wooden raised bed gardens where residents of the facility can indulge their gardening bug and get their hands dirty in the soil. These two beds are situated on opposite sides of the courtyard, connected by a concrete walk where the residents can circumnavigate to achieve fresh air and exercise, ensconced in the protective calm of these hidden gardens.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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