Creating Comfortable, Beneficial Landscapes

Interview with John Navant, CCNP, Head Horticulturist for Water World & the Parks Dept.

What role does horticulture play in your operations?

It’s important at all of our parks, but especially so at Water World, which is my main responsibility. We have two 100-foot long greenhouses where we grow and hold plants. This includes annuals and perennials as well as a large collection of tropical plants and topiaries, which we place outside for the enrichment of the park experience throughout the season from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

We also grow our own hanging baskets, raised planters and movable planters that we utilize throughout Water World. We maintain a variety of annual beds, and over time, I’ve been converting some of the beds to perennials, which reduces costs and helps our budget go further for other plantings and landscape care. Through better soil management, fertilization programs and water-wise practices, we continue to provide a beautiful landscape while effectively managing our budget.

How does your work enhance the park’s environment?

Our landscapes support a rich diversity of wildlife. We participate in two programs that highlight these efforts. We are a Gold Member of Audubon’s Habitat Heroes program. In addition to a resident pair of great horned owls, our parks also support many other bird species, animals, fish, and even some reptiles. We are also registered with the Monarch Watch program and are committed to sustaining and growing habitat that supports monarch butterflies and other pollinators. Besides our natural park population of native milkweed plants, I’ve introduced other milkweed varieties that provide additional habitat.

What’s one of your biggest challenges?

While it comes down essentially to the quality of labor, the main challenge I face is getting our workers to understand how to water properly. With so many different types of plants, my staff needs to know specific watering details to maintain the proper plant health. It requires vigilance on my part as well as steady communication and training. I want to be prepared and proactive should we be faced with the emerald ash borer or Japanese beetle, though we haven’t experienced either yet—knock on wood.

Do you receive feedback from park visitors?

Absolutely. Our landscape and other park features create a comfortable and appealing setting, which is especially appreciated by parents as they watch and wait for their kids. It’s an easy place for them to kick back and we often receive emails that compliment us on the park’s beauty. They even inquire about the plants, wanting to know their names and if they will grow in their own yards. On one occasion a small child’s temper tantrum quickly dissolved when their parents placed the child in front of a beautiful arrangement of flowers!

How does CNGA help you do your job?

I consider CNGA to be the ‘middle child’ of our family of horticulture professionals. The association helps keep the veteran membership connected to all of the ‘up-and-comers,’ providing knowledge and experience. CNGA also assists younger professionals on their career paths, something that is so beneficial to organizations like ours and other members throughout the state. It’s a great resource for the entire industry.

Hyland Hills Park and Recreation District
8801 Pecos St.
Federal Heights,
Colo. 80260