“Profiles in Environmentalism” is a recurring segment on our blog where we shine a light on the dedicated people who are working to preserve the world around them. Big or small, local or national, every environmental organization works towards the same goal: providing a greener world for future generations.

Denver Botanic Gardens is one of the most closely held treasures of the Mile High City. Founded in the 1950’s by a local non-profit group, the Gardens was created to connect people with the local flora of the Rocky Mountains, as well as introduce them to a diverse range of plants from around the world.  The Gardens provide a place for Denver residents and visitors alike to connect with nature and escape from the bustle of the city streets.

One of many examples of the carefully sculpted landscapes of the Gardens.

One of many examples of the carefully sculpted landscapes of the Gardens.

Its main location on York Street, nearly in the heart of Denver, is home to 41 individual gardens that represent a wide variety of climates and garden styles. Examples range from traditional renaissance gardens to Japanese Bonsais sculpted from trees native to the Rockies. Perhaps the biggest attraction is the Boettcher Memorial Conservatory. The Conservatory houses over 11,000 square feet of tropical plants, including 15 examples of carnivorous plants. It is one of the largest conservatories in the United States and boasts one of the most impressive architectural designs in the world of botany. The building is comprised of several interlaced concrete arches with Plexiglas panels filling in the gaps. These help to insulate the conservatory in order to provide adequate heat for the tropical plants within.   

The Gardens also offer a bevy of programs for members and the general public. Visitors can partake in a number of classes devoted to learning new gardening skills, including lessons on caring for drought-tolerant plants. Other classes are focused on more leisurely activities such as tea and chocolate pairings, making your own skin creams, and how to properly photograph holiday displays. For those with an academic bent, there are a number of different lecture series that provide opportunities to learn more about botany and the art of gardening. The Gardens also offer nature hikes throughout the year that afford members and non-members the opportunity to experience the Colorado wilderness as it adapts to changes in the season. 

Though the Gardens is known publically for their beautiful landscapes and diverse plant life, they are just as well known in academic circles for their contribution to biodiversity research. The Gardens maintain several projects devoted to studying plant populations that are unique to the Southern Rockies. Current projects include long-term observations of endangered plant species astragalus microcymbus and penstemon harringtonii. The Gardens research into endangered plant life has proved instrumental in gaining environmental protections for a number of species that are crucial to the ecological stability of Rocky Mountain ecosystems.  

The Denver Botanic Gardens will continue to flourish well into the 21st century with support from its patrons. Conservation and sustainability will continue to be guiding principles for the Gardens, allowing residents of Denver and beyond to experience the great outdoors for years to come.