Where Are the Gardens?

westy1941(Boulder County, CO)June 22, 2011

We are leaving Northern Illinois for the Denver area. I have a huge perennial garden and my passion is (over 500) hosta and Japanese Maples! I am told to forget it - they won't survive anywhere in CO. I keep hearing however that there are 'microclimates'. I'd give anything to be able to find an already-established garden and to me that means a pretty old house - took me 22 years to get this one right. Does anyone out there know where 'stuff' will grow? Do I neeed to be as 'low' as possible? Daughter is in Boulder, son in Longmont and would love to be near them. I need a realtor who specializes in houses with gardens but I'm told I won't find a garden!


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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

I live on the opposite side of the state now, but I used to live south of Denver. What I can tell you is that the further out you get from Denver, the newer the subdivision is likely to be, and the less likelihood of finding an established garden. There are mature trees (ie. shade) within the city of Denver. The further north (or south) you go, the fewer and younger those trees are likely to be. It's just the nature of urban sprawl.

Hope you will keep us posted on your move.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 3:19PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Westy,

I think the Denver Botanic Garden would be very disappointed to hear you can't have a garden out here! LOL! I was born in Des Plaines and grew up in Arlington Heights! Have been "out here" since '64---and can't imagine ever moving back to the HUMID Midwest again!

You most definitely can have a garden out here---with Hosta---but I think you may need to forego the Japanese Maples! There's a recent thread about them here on RMG -- linked below. Check it out, but I think you'll find they're very difficult to successfully grow out here. There are other threads about them too---go to the bottom of the main RMG page and search just RMG for Japanese Maples to get more local info.

Hosta will definitely need almost full shade, so you may want to look for a place with lots of trees, and they'll do better if you improve your "clay" with a LOT of organic matter, but mine are doing fairly well even in my heavy clay--tho they don't really spread at all.

When looking for a house, I recommend finding one you like with the yard you want--exposure-wise and light-wise, etc., and then plan to slowly put in your own garden rather than looking for an "established" garden and just getting the house that goes with it. I think you'll find there are very few "real gardeners" our here, and any established garden you find will very likely be overrun with weeds and need to be mostly torn out to start over anyway. And I also definitely recommend you check out what kind of watering restrictions the town/city might have when we're in a drought year! I believe the City/County of Denver has some of the worst restrictions, but they vary widely from town to town. I live in Thornton, and really haven't had much of a problem, even in the years where restrictions were in place--tho I pretty much use the Water Deeply and Not Too Often system of watering, which gets you deep roots so you don't need to water every day or two! Longmont is nice and very close and easy to get to Boulder! Definitely worth looking up there!

How much of a garden you have, and what kind, will also be determined by how much money you're willing to spend on water! Put in xeric things and it won't cost you much at all---but it's not gonna look like Illinois! Even with Hosta and other non-xeric plants, tho, you can have a nice garden without breaking the bank if you water wisely and mulch and do other things to conserve water.

I have a very small yard, so have limited space for my perennials, which I love, but here are a few pics of my (very few compared to you, I'm sure!) Hostas, and a shot across the north side of my backyard which is the sunniest spot and is all perennials. When I moved in here, EVERYTHING was covered with landscape fabric with rock mulch on top of it---with badly compacted heavy clay underneath it! The rock and fabric are gone, but most of the soil is still heavy clay which I am VERY gradually improving as I plant/replant/move things. I started removing the rock/fabric and planting the perennials about 6 years ago now!

It's very different out here (gratefully, from my point of view), but with time you can have a beautiful garden, and probably still have many of the things that you love and have now! And you'll probably find other things you never heard of that you'll love, that grow better out here than they would "back there!"

Don't have time for more right now, but I'm sure you'll get lots of other advice too!


P.S. I can almost guarantee you'll have fewer slugs eating your Hostas out here than you do in Illinois! ;-)

Here is a link that might be useful: Once Again...Japanese Maples in Colorado??

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 3:51PM
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Westy, if you come to Wheat Ridge I have two houses on my street for sale. They're not huge, but one (needs TLC) has a pond in the back yard and really nice greenery. A NJ gal used to live there and planted all kinds of stuff.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 6:38PM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

Lakewood has some older houses with nice gardens however you have got 1950-1960's houses. Low ceilings, crap kitchens and baths. In Denver the Washington Park area has some great Bungalo style houses many have great yards a significant percentage have been updated. However, they claim serious bucks. I have driven through the capitol Hill neighboorhood and it looks nice but do not know about the prices.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 11:13PM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

One more point Fort Colins and Loveland have some nice older homes with gardens. I am sure they costs less than the equivalent Denver area home. Still close to your kids.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 11:21PM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

I doubt you can find a realtor that is a garden specialist. You and the Internet can do a better job. If someone has a great garden THEY WILL POST Pictures/virtual tours!!!! I know because we specifically included the garden when we sold our house.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 11:29PM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

OMG you are all so helpful! And- Skybird: I remember you writing to a post I sent at least two years ago when we were just 'thinking' about the move to CO - now it's absolutely necessary with our one and only grandchild there. Your info was always so valuable and I've saved them. And to 'tommysmommy' - I never even thought of Wheatridge. Will definitely check that out. Leaving here in a week (June 30) to spend a couple months with daugher in Boulder so I'll be taking lots of trips around the whole area. And dsieber - I looked around Ft Collins awhile back - it's just 'okay'. We might rent to spend precious time looking around. One thing I am looking forward to is NO humidity! Neither of us can stand it. Thanks again to all of you.....


PS to Skybird: aren't you the one who has a relative in Crystal Lake? That's where we live!!!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 11:33PM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

OMG dsbieber! You and I are online in here simultaneously! I just picked up ur msg about the older areas of Denver and I know exactly what you are referring to - our daughter drove us to Wash. Park and other areas south of Denver. Way over our head for something that is renovated and we are entirely too old to do it ourselves (again). We're 69 and 71. Sick of doing it all ourselves. And then your next msg which you must've sent this very minute -about Ft. Collins, etc. - I've considered that seriously - especially Loveland where there are older homes that may be way more affordable. Our absolute max is $400k and that's pushing it.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 11:40PM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

iGood luck... This os the ultimate buyers mkt!!!! My third belated post is key... you can save a lot of serious time by using the internet!!! If they don't show the garden it is nothing to write home about!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 11:53PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

TWO relatives in Crystal Lake, Westy! A brother with a big greenhouse on Oak Street (he sells bedding plants in spring--used to sell poinsettias at X-mas) and a Wild Bird business, and a nephew & his wife right across the street from him! His wife lived out here in Denver many years ago---and still misses it!

A couple things! There are some really, really cool houses in the older areas of Denver, but when you get into the "Bungalow Era," 20's, 30's, 40's kind of things, a lot of them have really tiny yards, leaving you with very little room for gardening. And then there's the prices like you found in Wash Park! There are more of that era houses on the west side out around Sloan's Lake (on Sheridan), and I'm not sure, but I'm guessin' they're pretty pricy too. Then there are older bungalow areas out along Federal on the west side that would be pretty cheap--but you probably wouldn't want to live there! The older bungalow areas I'm talking about are also all IN Denver---talking about possible watering restrictions again.

Since you're gonna be out here for so long, check out all the "burbs" on the west side of Denver. Closest to Boulder would be Westminster and Broomfield on the north end, then Arvada and Wheat Ridge. Pretty much everything west of Sheridan is out of Denver proper. Lakewood is below that, but that's all the way south of 6th Avenue, so getting a ways south for going up to Boulder without getting on I25 and taking it past downtown--most often NOT a fun thing to do! You could also have a drive around over here in Thornton. Some pretty nice areas north of 120th and east of I25.

With 400K to spend you should easily be able to find something you're really, really happy with in the Burbs! (I think you're used to thinking in Illinois Terms!) I closed on my house (128th & Colorado Blvd.) in early '04, it has four bedrooms and three baths, and it was under 250K---and that was before the crash! (Wish the backyard was bigger, but I decided I really liked the house!) I go up to Boulder fairly often--was just up there tonite--and it's easy for me to "cross over" to Wadsworth on 128th and then hop on 36 straight up to Boulder. It's about 20 miles from me (up to the Foothills exit). The other areas just outside of Boulder, like Louisville and Superior would be worth checking out too--not sure what's up there or what the prices are. And I agree with Dsieber--just go online and google houses for sale and look at all the pics you can find of things that are in any of the places you're willing to move to. I did that when I was looking for this place, and I'd print stuff out and then have my realtor find out the things I didn't find answers for online. And she recommended a lot more that I didn't run into--and sometimes we both came up with the same ones! There are a lot of good pics and virtual tours online now, and once you find the MLS number for something, you can look it up on other realtor sites and sometimes find more pics or info about a specific house. And what you find can help you eliminate a lot of them too, saving you Looking Time!

BTW, I'll be 68 in a couple week--at least that's what my birth certificate would tend to imply! :-) Gardening is a great way to stay young!

I think you're gonna love living out here! When it snows in winter, it almost always melts in 2 days--maybe 3 or 4 if we get a real blizzard! Well, except for the winter of '06--when we got a new blizzard every week for a couple months--and there was somebody on eBay selling Genuine Colorado Snow! Only time since '64 that I've ever seen anything like that! Don't panic! This past winter I think I only ever shoveled snow twice! (Front of the house faces south! That helps!)

Let us all know before you sign a contract---and we all get to vote on if it's the right house/yard!


P.S. We have two swaps out here every year too, spring and fall, and if you decide to come you can pick up some free plants!

P.P.S. Just for fun!

A March '10 snowstorm! The week before this past Christmas, when we hadn't had any snow at all yet and it was so warm I was gardening in shorts some days, I decided it didn't FEEL like Christmas at all, so I made a screen saver with some past snow pics, including this one, and I had been sitting here one nite with the snow pics on the screen, and when I got up to do something one time and walked past a window, I was surprised to see it wasn't snowing outside! At least it did make it feel like Christmas!

The morning after the nite before

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 1:03AM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

I talked to some my work mates that live in Loveland (a long commute). The all say it is a great community !!!!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 10:24PM
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The closer you get to the mountains the more expensive the houses will become (and the winds become stronger too). The home we recently lived in for 14 years (and had wonderful plants) is now up for sale again in Louisville but is a bit above your price point. Old town Louisville (as it is called) has smaller but very well maintained and refurbished houses and some of the gardens are quite nice (just from the curb). Louisville has received the "best small city" in America by Money magazine.

In that yard I had a hosta start that my sister from Illinois gave me along with starts of lily of the valley from Iowa. Both did wonderfully (especially the hostas). Since I was newly married when I left Ill, I don't know what all grows there.

When I visited Fort Collins the first time, I felt a lot like I had stepped back into Illinois. The trees are massive. I loved going there but because of employment etc. we decided it wasn't quite right.

Good luck on this exciting adventure and welcome to Colorado!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 8:06AM
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westy1941(Boulder County, CO)

You guys are all amazing with info! Better than the realtors I've talked to. Skybird - your pics are so pretty! I remember that snowstorm because my daughter sent pics. I'm printing out everything you wrote - all of you. And - Aloha - our daughter actually lives in Louisville so I do know about the award it got. She and her husband love it and live in a gated condo community and they're looking to rent or buy and want to stay in Louisville so we will both be spending time looking. We might have to bite the bullet on the price point - I want what I want....no 'settling' - worked too hard all our lives to 'settle'. And I think I'll give Ft. Collins some more time - didn't really look hard enough. There are some pretty places there, Also need to spend time scoping out Loveland - just drove through once. I did fall in love with Prospect New Town in Longmont but the yards are so small and it's a little too 'tight'. I really want a farmhouse in the country - with a creek - yes, I now - I'm a dreamer. But you are all just so GREAT to spend so much time helping me out! YES - I will let you know where we land - and/or might even be 'consulting' you guys again.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 9:44PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

You can do a lot of shopping on the internet.

Here's a gorgeous home in Boulder:


Just choose "Boulder County" and you'll get Boulder and Longmont.

Here is a link that might be useful: Real Estate Colorado

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 4:13PM
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jnfr(z5b CO)

We picked our house in a Westminster neighborhood from the late 70s especially because houses of that era had much bigger yards (though tiny kitchens/baths to go with that). The newer, more expensive houses are nicer inside, but tend to have fairly small yards (maybe 1/8 to 1/16 acre, with most of that house, where our yard is a full 1/4 acre and the house has a smaller footprint).

But there's a lot of variety to choose from. I spent a year just touring every west side neighborhood from Boulder through Arvada before we jumped. I like your idea of renting for a while so you can check out the area.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 2:56PM
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mstywoods(z5, Westminster, CO)

Westy - we rented in Louisville for 3 years, and it's a very nice town! Old Towne Louisville is very quaint and there are some older homes close to it that you might check out. The whole town has a old-town feel about it, which I really enjoyed. The prices in Louisville are a little high for what you get - but not nearly as high as Boulder, so maybe it will fit your budget.

We ended up buying a home in Westminster - we felt you get more house for your money here compared to Louisville. We live on the border of Broomfield and Westminster (Wadsworth/Church Ranch area). There are many homes with mature trees and established gardens, and some with large yards (that actually was the biggest selling point for us on the house we bought). That's great you are coming out to stay for a little while first, so you can drive around and check out the neighborhoods. This part of Westminster is only about 15 min. from Louisville.

We moved to Colorado 5 years ago from California. Our first winter here was the worst winter in about 20 years - it snowed a LOT and didn't have time to melt completely before the next wave hit! But everytime someone found out it was our first winter, they'd say "really, it hardly ever snows like this!!!" :^D And I can tell you since then, I find they were right. Most times, it does melt after a couple of days - especially on the roads. We do get some really cold spells, though, so you definitely have to bundle you and your plants up!!

I have hostas in my yard, and they are doing very nicely in a semi-shaded area. You will get lots and lots of great advice from the people on this group which will help you when you are ready to get started in your new Colorado garden.

Happy House Hunting!


    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 6:14PM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

mstywoods is correct the winter of 2006/2007 was serious anomally!!!!! But the 2010/2011 season we had very little snow.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 10:09PM
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