Do you recognize these plant names? Moonbeam Coreopsis. Autumn joy sedum. Blonde ambition.
They may not be well known to most homeowners, but they are examples of aquatic plants that are growing in popularity in Colorado every year.
Aquatic plants rely primarily on what Mother Nature provides and require either no additional water or only a few inches during the growing season.
The plants are an alternative to thirsty Kentucky Bluegrass and thrive in Colorado’s semi-arid climate. Aquatic plants also offer additional benefits such as low maintenance and additional color. Many also attract birds, bees and butterflies.
Denver Water promotes water conservation efforts in customers’ yards and encourages them to educate themselves about incorporating aquatic plants into their landscapes.
Read stories and advice from Denver Water customers who have added Garden In A Box kits to their landscapes.
Good sources of information are Resource Central, which offers the popular Garden In A Box program, and Plant Select, which encourages plants that require less water and thrive in the Highlands and Rocky Mountain regions.
Since 2012, Denver Water has regularly supported Resource Central, a Boulder-based nonprofit that promotes water conservation programs.
One of its programs, Garden In A Box, features a variety of aquatic plants along with plant-by-number garden designs from landscape professionals. The kits also include information about the care and maintenance needs of the plants.
Customers can choose from gardens with names like “Naturally Native” and “Painted Shade,” which indicate the type of plants in each garden and the type of conditions in which they thrive.
Programs like Garden In A Box are important to Denver Water because its customers’ outdoor water use accounts for approximately 50% of their water use in single-family homes. Converting a section of lawn into a water garden is one way to reduce a home’s outdoor water footprint.
“Garden In A Box started in 2003 and we have sold more than 41,000 kits as of fall 2021,” said Elisabeth Bowman, Conservation Engagement Manager at Resource Central.
“Interest in the gardens has grown in the metropolitan area every year, so we’re delighted to see so many people seeking waterscapes.”
Between 2003 and 2021, Resource Central estimates it helped plant 3.1 million square feet of low-water landscapes and saved 228.6 million gallons of water over the lifetime of the gardens sold to customers across the Front Range .
Denver Water pays Resource Central more than $15,000 a year to host four garden pickup events in Denver each spring so that customers who live in and near Denver Water’s service area don’t have to go far to attend to get their gardens.
Since 2014, more than 10,000 gardens have been sold to residents of the Denver area.
“Denver Water has been a great partner for us, the support they provide makes it easy for Denver residents to pick up their kits. Over 1,000 of our gardens go to Denver residents each year,” said Melanie Stolp, manager of Garden In A Box at Resource Central and its Slow the Flow water conservation program.
And the results of customers’ purchases are amazing.
Just take a look at Resource Central’s 2021 numbers for Denver Water:
“The Garden In A Box program helps people start small by converting some of the lawn from lawns to water-stressed plants,” said Jeff Tejral, former water efficiency manager of Denver Water who led the partnership with Resource Central.
“It helps people learn more about these plants, how to care for them and the beauty they can bring to their homes. From there they often convert more grass sections into waterscapes.”
According to Tejral, customer surveys have found that about two-thirds of Garden In A Box buyers have little or no experience with aquatic plants.
That’s why every garden comes with a guide to help clients through planting and the first few years of the garden’s life.
Gardens sold out in the spring and tend to sell out quickly. Resource Central continues to increase the number of kits available each year to meet growing demand. The organization has also been running a fall sale for about four years, increasing its offering by 35% in 2021.
Plant Select helps gardeners find aquatic plants that thrive in Colorado and the retailers who sell them. Check out her top 10 plants of 2020.
The autumn promotion 2021 is sold out. Another autumn is planned for 2022.
Bowman encourages anyone interested in purchasing a Garden In A Box to visit Resource Central’s website and sign up for the newsletter.
In addition to Garden In A Box, Resource Central also offers other water conservation programs through its water supply partners, including: