A bee buzzed its way through the neighborhood. It looked for flowering plants and stopped by some gardens. Finally it found some early dandelions and Blue Mist spirea on a corner lot. Deb Hoffman heard a knock at her door. An employee of Denver Forestry followed his pet bee to her garden. Hoffman received a lot of visitors at her garden over the last ten years.
“One commonality, no matter where people are from, is that they can have a garden.” Hoffman said. Her garden is an exemplar of xeriscaping. This type of garden requires little to no irrigation, which is convenient for the dry climate in Colorado. Hoffman has not watered her garden since 2015. That same year she won the award for best xeriscaping from Aurora Water. The new term Aurora Water uses for xeriscaping is “Waterwise”.
“A lot of perennials in Colorado do not need a lot of water.” She said as she looked admirably out at her back lawn and talked about her experience with xeriscaping. “It takes a little dedication at first. A number of people when I tell them about the [Aurora Water Waterwise] program, they look into it, and I tell them what plants worked well for me.”
Transforming an arid, weedy lawn into a presentable Waterwise lawn can cost thousands of dollars. It is a lot of work too, but options do exist.
Diana Denwood, senior water conservationist of Aurora Water, recommended using the offseason to do the planning. This will help reduce costs. By building a scaled diagram of where plants will go, what types of plants will be used, as well as hardscapes the gardener can make a budget to fit their desired lawn. Aurora Water has a program for people incapable of affording the lawn transformation.
“A few years ago we introduced a program called Greatscapes.” Denwood said. “This is for income-qualified households. They can get a free waterfree landscape.” In order to qualify for Greatscapes the homeowner must have a front lawn no more than 1800 square feet.
Aurora Water provides a rebate up to $3,000 to people who replace no less than 500 square feet bluegrass lawn, which requires a lot of water, with a Waterwise lawn. They also help people design their Waterwise lawns free of charge.
Check out AuroraWaterColorado on YouTube.com for more information.
What if you are a renter and do not have permission to grow a garden where you live?
North Aurora is home to many community gardens. Most of these have plots accessible to the public at a low cost, and can be attained by contacting Denver Urban Gardens (DUG). Aurora Water started its own garden in 2002 on the northwest corner of Alameda Parkway and Chambers Road. This garden was created to be used as a class setting for people who want to learn about the seven principles of Waterwise landscaping. Classes held at this garden are free and include instructions on how to best start your own Waterwise landscape, how to decorate the landscape and what types of plants will grow best in a low water environment taught by a master gardener.
A step-by-step guide to making your own Waterwise lawn follows these seven principles:
- Planning and design
- Practical turf areas and turf alternatives
- Plants that require low water
- Soil improvement
- Efficient irrigation
Here is a list of some of the locations for community gardens in the area:
Aurora Mental Health Center
Spencer Garrett Park