Putting People & Plants Together in a Wonderful Place

Interview with Mike Bone, CGG, Curator of Steppe Collections

How old is Denver Botanic Gardens?

In just a few years we’ll be celebrating our 70th birthday. The charter for the Gardens was filed in 1951, and it was formally dedicated in 1954, located inside City Park. Starting in 1959, the Gardens was moved to an old cemetery on York Street, which was eventually transformed into the current 24-acre site. Over the years, Denver Botanic Gardens has grown to encompass 700 acres at Chatfield Farms and about 100 acres at Mount Goliath Nature Center on the flanks of Mount Evans.

What do visitors like most about the Gardens?

Our visitors have diverse interests and they come from almost every part of the world. Some love viewing our architecture, some love the beauty of the Gardens’ designs, others come for the scientific and botanical resources we house, and many come simply to enjoy the magnificent flower displays. Regardless of their reasons for coming, most people leave with a good feeling from this place.

How is the Gardens organized?

At York Street one way is by regional climate type. This includes sections such as the Arid West, Steppe and Alpine Gardens that feature plants common to those regions. We also have many gardens based on plant types such as annuals, perennials, roses, lilacs, and herbs. There are internationally inspired gardens, such as the Bonsai Pavilion and South African Plaza. Finally, we have several water pools for our aquatic plants, some of which showcase artistic sculptures like the Four Towers fountain.

What are some of the lesser known features?

Few people probably know that the Gardens is an accredited museum. It contains seven living collections and several non-living collections that include one of the largest mycological herbariums in the country. We have an impressive botanical library that is used extensively by visitors and researchers. And we are one of only three institutions in the country that has a certified botanical illustration program. We train and certify people who create drawings of plants that must be botanically accurate and detailed enough for use in scientific research and publications.

Do you have many pest problems?

To some degree, but nothing too extreme. For bugs, we apply Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices and incorporate beneficials as much as possible. We strive to grow favorable pollinator habitat, and if chemicals are needed, we follow IPM guidelines closely to minimize adverse effects. Bugs aren’t our only pest problems, though. Nesting geese, a growing rabbit population and squirrels are a constant challenge. It’s amazing how much damage these animals can do, and we really don’t have a very effective control plan in place.

How do events impact the Gardens?

Over the past few years, we’ve had a couple of special events that brought thousands of people into the Gardens — namely the Chihuly exhibition and the blooming of the corpse flower. What these and our many other events accomplish is the fulfillment of our mission: to connect people with plants. As unique as our events may be, so to is the uniqueness of the people that come through our gates. And that is perhaps the most satisfying part of what we do — putting people and plants together in a wonderful place!

Denver Botanic Gardens
909 York Street
Denver, Colo. 80206