October 2021 Edition


Gambel Oaks on the western slope

Photo by Brad Wright

The Wild Ones Front Range chapter inspires and empowers people and municipalities to transform private and public landscapes into more native plant habitat to support all people and a healthy planet.


Enjoy all of the great benefits of a membership with the Front Range Chapter of Wild Ones!!! 


For upcoming events, please scroll down!

Designing a Native Garden

By Deb Lebow Aal

Well, it’s October. The window for fall planting this year is closing. If you haven't gotten around to planting everything you wanted to plant, "lit is almost time to "armchair garden," and by that I mean, design for next year.

One of the biggest challenges we face as native plant gardeners is how to design a native plant garden. After all, we are challenging the norm. We are not planting an expanse of turf with two trees plopped in somewhere. We are changing the way we landscape on the Front Range to mimic nature's "norms." But, what are our choices with native plants?

You have many choices. Many like a manicured look, and that is quite possible with native plants. You can draw up a plan for a formal-looking garden. Or you can design a prairie garden, mimicking what nature does, or did, here. Or you can have a "chaos garden,” where you plant as you go with no master plan whatsoever. And there’s everything in between. You can do a combination of the three and see which suits you best.


Chaos garden design

I am no expert on designing a landscape. My landscape is a little like the shoemaker’s children who have no shoes. I don’t have time to do what I want to make my garden look the way I’d like it to look. But, to me, it’s about the function of the landscape and the "ecosystem services" it provides. How is it benefitting the ecosystem or biota? How many insects do I see buzzing around? If it's bustling like LaGuardia Airport on Thanksgiving, we’re good.

If, however, we want to attract more people to sustainable, native plant gardening, garden design also has to also be aesthetically pleasing. Here are a few steps you can take.

Decide What Look You Want

If just starting out, get a sense of different "looks and feels" of native gardens in your area before deciding. I suggest going to Chatfield to see the native gardens there. Or, take a look at a few of the Wild Ones’ Front Range demo gardens: Greenverein (a very urban tree strip, also know as a "hell strip," at the corner of 16th and Clarkson in Denver); Depot Prairie; and the soon to be planted Ekar Farm (6825 E. Alameda Ave). You can also find organized yard and garden tours.


Prairie demo garden (Ekar Farm)

Advantages/Disadvantages of Each

A formal look will require a lot more care. Many, if not most, of our native plants self-seed, so if you like a very manicured look, you will be editing plants out quite a bit. But, it’s still doable. If you like a prairie look, you will not have as much work down the road. You will have to be diligent about weeding for the first few years, but once the plants take, they should crowd out the weeds. And, chaos gardening – which is what I have – requires endless thinking because you (I) are (am) constantly changing things around. 


Formal garden design

Jen and Jonathan Schneider's yard


More of a prairie garden design

Design Tips

Our very own Kenton Seth (Paintbrush Gardens) has designed a sample native plant garden for the Front Range. It is beyond comprehensive. He has a number of tips for the sustainable gardener, and we are very much the richer for his work, including his sample garden plan for the Front Range. We will be highlighting Kenton's design and tips in future Wild Ones Front Range events, so stay tuned. In his recent article in the Colorado Gardener (Harvest 2021), Kenton writes about there being three kinds of gardens: mineral mulch gardens (mimicking desert conditions); organic gardens (wood chips and mulch, mimicking forest conditions); and living mulch gardens (mimicking prairies).


Here are a few "things to think about" from Kenton's sample garden plan:

  • Areas where you will not irrigate at all: (beyond when the plants are establishing). Think about an area you will not be irrigating at all. This area can be your gravel mulch area. Kenton designed the whole front yard to be un-irrigated in the sample plan and has a list of which plants will do well there. These gravel-mulched areas require plants that like lean soils, as you will not be amending with living mulch.

  • Long-term maintenance: Think about maintenance as you plant and decide early which areas will be which. If you place them correctly (e.g., living mulch areas next to and under trees; mineral mulch areas far from trees), you will have less maintenance.

  • No exporting of organic materials. Use everything you can in your landscape rather than exporting to the trash or compost bin. If you employ a chop and drop system, you will avoid many garden chores many of us dislike, like hauling away dead material only to haul material back later as mulch. Kenton talks about a system for tall grasses. When cutting grasses back in early spring, he cuts 2-4 inch inch pieces and drops them around the plants as living mulch. Apparently, larger grass pieces blow away more easily than the small pieces (rather counter-intuitive, I thought). It is a very good idea to think about and limit your future garden maintenance chore time. Your future self will thank you!

  • Plant in Drifts. Clumps, swaths, drifts, or concentrations of the same plants attract pollinators and makes it easier for them to do their thing. As you think about your drifts, think also about bloom times, making sure you have something blooming throughout the season.

Design away! And, have fun. Just remember your purpose is to contribute to an ecosystem that is supporting your local food web. Try to balance aesthetics with ecosystem services, and try not to fight with mother nature. Work with her - she usually wins.

Event Spotlight

Seed Swaps

These events are FREE and OPEN to the public! You do not need to provide seeds to participate. If you have access to native seeds and want to participate, please do the following:

  • Put cleaned seeds in separate containers: paper bag or envelope, or a glass jar; one species per container

  • Label each container with as much info as you can: GENUS AND SPECIES; common name(s); location collected and approximate elevation; date/year collected
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Front Range Seed Swaps this month:

Denver (The Table Public Ho)

  • Sunday, October 10, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

Colorado Springs/Pikes Peak Region (Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center)

  • Sunday, October 17, 10:00 am - 1:o0 pm

Fort Collins/Northern Colorado (Wolverine Farm Letterpress and Publick House) 

  • Saturday, October 23, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
  • Raindate: Saturday, October 30, same time)
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This is a NATIVE (Colorado and regional) seed swap.

If you would like to volunteer at any of these these event or arrange a donation of seeds ahead of the event, please email:

For tips on how to collect and clean native seeds, please read the article by Wild Ones Front Range Chapter Board Member Jan Midgley, found in the September 2020 chapter newsletter.


Stay tuned for more events coming this month,

including our Member Mixer on October 20!

Presentation on the Pocket Prairies at Dutch Creek Open Space

When: Wednesday, November 10; 6:00 - 8:30 pm

Registration: Opening soon. Sign up for our newsletter or check our events page for upcoming info.

Louisville Open Space installed two native species plantings on Dutch Creek Open Space in May 2020. These “Pocket Prairies” contain 23 plant species native to Boulder County. The species mix - a variety of flower colors, bloom periods, and plant architectures - is intended to provide aesthetic beauty throughout the year and pollinator resources for the duration of the growing season.

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Learn more about the native species planted at Dutch Creek Open Space in this Pocket Prairie Guide!  

The Ethnobotany Garden at the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose, CO - A talk with Mary Menz

When: Wednesday, December 1, 2020 6:30-8:00 pm,

Where: Online

Registration: Opening Soon

Featured Volunteer Need

Website Support

We are in need of a website volunteer - someone to update our website with events, our monthly newsletter, and information as our board of directors provides. No experience necessary - we will train you! We use the Wordpress platform, which is easy to learn. If interested, use the link below.



Ekar Farm,ready to be transformed by our awesome volunteers! If interested in this project, please email Deb at

Ekar Farm, A Wild Ones Front Range Native Plant Demonstration Garden

6825 E. Alameda Ave., Denver

We recently added another demo garden (this is our third). Ekar Farms aims to cultivate healthy communities by growing sustainably produced fruits and vegetables. They set aside an area to grow native plants as an educational opportunity, and asked Wild Ones to help design and plant this area. We have cleared the weeds (mostly) and are planting it now. We will have signs explaining the benefits of the plants.


Depot Prairie Park, Englewood 

A Wild Ones Front Range Chapter Demonstration Garden

W. Dartmouth Ave and S. Galapago St

The turf at Depot Prairie Park is being replaced with low-water shrubs, grasses, and perennials in stages to provide wildlife habitat and demonstrate restorative landscaping. To get involved or learn about upcoming family programs, please contact:

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Northeast Denver Native Plant Gardens  

Wild Ones Front Range Chapter is teaming up with Denver Parks and Rec to help weed and plant native plant beds in Northeast Denver. City and County of Denver Park horticulturists Rahman Minhas and Carol Weiss manage natural areas planted with native and pollinator-friendly plants. If you would like to volunteer, please email us and we will get back to you with details on where to meet and what to bring.

When: Wednesdays, 9:30 - 11:30 am 


  • Westerley Creek Park, Montview Blvd 
  • Greenway Park, Central Park Blvd 
  • Beds at 788-798 Uinta Way to 11th Ave
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General volunteer needs 

(in no particular order):

  • Social media coordinator/Facebook group moderator
  • Event registrar
  • Program/event organizers/leads
  • Program/event team members
  • Videographer
  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Demonstration garden designers/leads
  • Garden Tour organizer/Hosts
  • Garden Consult Team Lead and members
  • Seed Library stewards
  • Plant propagation team members
  • Newsletter article writers

Wild Ones Front Range Chapter is run by volunteers. If you are interested in being more active with our chapter, please contact us via email

Wild Ones, Front Range Chapter Board

Wild Ones, Front Range Chapter 2021 Board of Directors


If you want to know more about what is going on with Wild Ones Front Range Chapter, and would like to join us for a Board of Directors meeting (online), we meet every third Wednesday of the month at 6pm. Please email us of your interest and we will send you the zoom link to join. Thank you!

Report Editor: Colleen Lyon

Wild Ones Front Range Chapter |

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