MONTROSE – Take a walk through the Montrose Botanic Garden with Cindy Youngstrom, and you’ll learn a lot about what’s there — and what’s not.
Youngstrom, a boardmember of the Montrose Botanical Society, knows all the plants in the garden intimately, and said plans are underway for expansion into a large area along Pavilion Drive that will include “pods,” or covered patio areas, where people can gather and sit on one-of-a-kind benches created by local artists.
The floor areas of the pods will be made of donor bricks, where patrons can have their names inscribed or dedicated to a loved one, and the retaining walls will be crafted from 40 tons of Shavano sandstone, recently donated and stacked in neat piles at one end of the new Valley Garden, a work in progress.
Designed by the society’s horticulture chair, Sara Ungrodt of Landscapes by Sara, the garden will reflect the area’s heritage, including a water feature to reflect the Gunnison Tunnel, Youngstrom said.
The botanical society gets no money from the city, although it has a 50-year lease on three-plus acres just south of the Montrose Pavilion, and the city provides water.
But without an irrigation system for the new addition, water is of no use, so the society is trying to raise $10,000 to put in a system. A big fundraiser will be the annual Botanical Society Plant Sale, on May 22 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Pavilion lawn, Youngstrom said.
Hundreds of annuals, perennials and shrubs will be offered for sale along with vegetables and herbs, she said, and master gardeners will be on hand to answer questions for shoppers. A silent auction will also be held, she said.
Anyone can contribute to the Montrose Botanical Society, to help them buy plants for the sale, Ungrodt said. “We need sponsors for the plant sale, because we have to buy all the plants that we sell.”
Nurseries where the society buys plants frequently make contributions as well, she said. All contributions are tax deductible, with details on the society’s website, www.montrosegardens.org.
Once it’s completed, the Valley Garden will be designed to give visitors a glimpse into the horticultural history of the area.
“It will feature historic plants brought to the valley by early settlers, plants that grow well in our area, as well as featuring some new and exciting plants as they are introduced to the market,” the website states.
A rose garden is planned at one end of the Valley Garden, and a topiary lilac was just planted nearby, donated by a brother and sister in memory of their mother.
As Youngstrom strolls through the garden, she points to a vine that will be trained on a trellis near a covered bench and walks over to ask its correct name from the society’s only paid employee, advanced master gardener Larry Wobeter.
It’s called a Kinsley’s ghost honeysuckle, he said, and then gave the plant’s history.
“It came from a horticulturist at Iowa State University, who found it on his brother’s grave,” he said.
The plant has been tested by Colorado State University and the Denver Botanical Gardens and identified as a “Plant Select,” Wobeter said, meaning that it is a plant that does well in Colorado.
“We are a Plant Select demonstration garden,” Youngstrom said.
Education is a big part of the botanical society’s mission, Youngstrom said, and volunteers who come to work on Wednesday mornings, the Weed Warriors, often learn something, like when they put in 550 pansies last week under Ungrodt’s leadership.
“She is very good at explaining, like how to amend the soil, or when it’s time for actual planting, and 10 people learned something they might not have known,” Youngstrom said.
The Weed Warriors meet every Wednesday at about 9 a.m., and anyone is welcome, Youngstrom said.
“You don’t have to be a member, and most people bring gloves and a pair of pruners,” she said.
The botanical society has completed a few major sections of the garden, including the Entry Garden and Promenade, and the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, but future plans call not only for the Valley Garden, but a large central pond with wetlands, more water features and several more gardens, already named the Children’s Garden, Wildflower Meadow, Montane Garden and Meditation Garden. An Administration and Education Center is also planned, according to the botanical society’s brochure, “with gardens and a reception lawn.”
But those grand plans will all take time, since the Botanical Society’s budget for the public garden is funded solely by private donations and grants.
“We’ve been raising money for two years,” Youngstrom said. “We got $10,000 from the Colorado Garden Show, and used it for grading, purchasing soil, some trees that had to be moved, and contouring, but we have to get irrigation in.”
Montrose Botanic Gardens is located just south of the Montrose Pavilion.