A Winter Garden Experience

March 5, 2010 at 10:57 pm Leave a comment

Not many visitors make it to the outdoor gardens or nature trail in the winter, and really, I can’t blame them.  Why go outside in the frigid wind or slippery snow, when one can bask in the tropical warmth and colorful blooms of our butterfly conservatory?  Is there really anything to see outdoors between November and March?

Well, hold on to your earmuffs, everybody.   Outdoor gardens during the winter months can be exciting, inspiring, beautiful places, if a visitor knows what to expect.  A sunny day in Colorado can be crystalline, or as one of our members told me once, “severe clear”.  On days like that, our habitat gardens are a symphony of blue, white and gold.  And as dormant as it may seem, there is a lot going on underneath the surface.

If you make the chilly trek to the Butterfly Pavilion gardens anytime soon, here are some things to look for.

Unleash your inner tracker.  We get a lot of bunny tracks throughout the garden (no big surprise there), but an observant visitor may also see different bird tracks, prairie dog tracks and even coyote tracks.

They aren’t dead, they’re waiting.  Most of our garden plants are busy gearing up for the spring explosion, but many contribute subtle hues to the winter garden.  Look for bluish evergreens, golden grasses, and silvery rabbitbrush.  Red twig dogwoods and coppery sedum add even more interest.   We wait to clean up our gardens in spring, so that standing shrubs and perennials provide valuable habitat for garden wildlife during the cold season.

Spot some winter wings.  Insects need a certain temperature to be active, but on a warm winter day, you may see a mourning cloak butterfly, which overwinters as an adult and feeds on tree sap.  You might also see some clusters of ladybugs searching for aphids, which can reproduce at 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

We don’t just sit around and drink cocoa, you know.  The horticulture staff and volunteers are busy getting the grounds ready for the growing season- adding compost and mulch, fixing paths and pruning trees.  They’re always happy to answer your gardening questions!

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