Cheyenne Garden Gossip

Gardening on the high plains of southeastern Wyoming

Habitat Hero demo gardens get started

2018-07 BOPU-Habitat Hero Demo Garden planting--Don Chesnut

About 50 volunteers planted the Habitat Hero demonstration garden at the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities office June 2. Photo courtesy of Don Chesnut.

Published July 22, 2018 in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Habitat Hero demonstration gardens get started.” Also published at

By Barb Gorges

This spring, my eyes were bigger than my garden. I blame all those luscious Botanical Interests seed packet illustrations (

March 1, a little later than usual for winter sowing (see, I planted 25 cut-open milk jugs with perennial seeds and set them outside.

The seeds included:

Aquilegia (Columbine)

Asclepias (Milkweed)

Coreopsis (Tickseed)

Echinacea (Purple Coneflower)

Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)

Monarda (Bee Balm)

Penstemon (Beardtongue)

Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan).

2018-07Rudbeckia hirta-Barb Gorges

Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan). Photo by Barb Gorges.

There were sprouts in every gallon jug by the end of April. The Rudbeckia seedlings formed a carpet.

I planned to have the front yard ready to plant, but between wet weather and various commitments, that didn’t happen. The seedlings were also too small for the Master Gardener plant sale mid-May.

Then the Cheyenne Habitat Hero committee got a query from the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. Would we be interested in having a Habitat Hero demonstration garden site between the rose garden and the parking lot? I soon realized my winter sowing overflow would be perfect there.

On the other hand, the Cheyenne Habitat Hero committee spent months over the winter planning a Habitat Hero demonstration garden with the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities. It will show how to save city residents and business owners money and water by planting a flower garden in place of a lawn. I wrote a successful grant proposal to National Audubon that funded nearly half of the $1,200 to buy plants, plus another for $3,500 for an interpretive sign.

The BOPU garden area, in front of their office, was measured and plans were drawn digitally by Kathy Shreve from Star Cake Plants. She chose an assortment of drought tolerant species that over time will grow into a solid mass of colorful mounds of flowers attracting birds, bees and butterflies. An order was placed for plants in 4.5 and 2.5-inch containers, plus a few shrubs.

The turf was removed mechanically. Volunteers broke up the hard clay with shovels and mixed in compost. A flagstone garden path was installed as well as an irrigation system that snapped into existing lawn sprinkler heads. About 50 people showed up June 2 and planted 428 plants in two and a half hours—and watered them all in by hand and mulched them with wood chips.

At the CBG site however, rather than decide how many plants are needed to fill the space, Kathy is helping me figure out how to use the 900 seedlings I started and any donations of other native-type plants. At least there is no lawn to remove and the soil is reasonable.

2018-07Monarda fistulosa-Barb Gorges

Monarda fistulosa (Bee Balm). Photo by Barb Gorges.

At home, my winter-sown seedlings go directly into the garden, but water wasn’t immediately available at the CBG site, so they are in the greenhouse waiting.

Seedlings can live indefinitely crowded together. The above-ground parts don’t grow much bigger, but the roots get longer and longer and are harder and harder to tease apart so I started “up-potting.” I claimed all the plastic containers from the BOPU planting and more from the CBG and bought six bags of potting soil at cost from Habitat Hero sponsor Gardening with Altitude, enough to fill 33 flats.

After 10 days the first 200 Rudbeckias Sandra Cox and I transplanted had grown 50 times larger than the ones that were still fighting it out in the four remaining milk jugs. I’d forgotten how my winter-sowing instructor, Michelle Bohanan, had carefully counted out 16 or 25 seeds for each jug rather than spill an unknown number. Later, in the Botanical Interest seed catalog, where it states how many seeds are in each packet, it said the Rudbeckia packet has over 2,000 for only $1.69. Maybe it was a typo. Maybe not.

2018-07Gaillardia-Barb Gorges

Gaillardia (Blanket Flower). Photo by Barb Gorges.

The repetitive nature of potting up seedling after seedling for hours made me wonder how much of propagation is mechanized at large companies. While washing pots I listened to a recorded book, “The Line Becomes a River” by Francisco Cantu, about the U.S.—Mexico border issue. It occurred to me this is the kind of tedious work immigrants gladly do just to be in our country.  These soil-based jobs many of our own citizens disdain, leaving the “green” industry shorthanded.

If all goes well with this latest Habitat Hero project, by late summer—or maybe next summer—you may see 450 Rudbeckia plants flowering brown and gold—maybe in time for the University of Wyoming football season. Also stop by BOPU, 2416 Snyder Ave., on a regular basis so you can see the growing transformation.

2018-07Cheyenne Botanic Gardens Habitat Hero garden-Barb Gorges

The Habitat Hero demonstration garden at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens looks deceptively small from this viewpoint. It is a crescent about 100 feet long and 25 feet wide at its widest point. It took on average six people nine hours to plant 950 plants (including those donated by Kathy Shreve). Photo by Barb Gorges taken July 31, 2018.

BOPU Habitat Hero Demonstration Garden Plant List

Agastache aurantia “Sunlight” (Hyssop)

Agastache cana “Sonoran Sunset” (Hyssop)

Aster alpinus “Goliath” (Alpine Aster)

Aster (Symphyotrichum) novae-angliae “New England Pink” (New England Aster)

Bergenia crassifolia “Winterglut” (Bergenia, Pigsqueak)

Buddleja sp. “Blue Chip” (Butterfly Bush)

Buddleja davidii “Miss Ruby” (Butterfly Bush)

Echinacea purpurea “Magnus Superior” (Coneflower)

Fragaria vesca “Alexandria” (Runnerless Strawberry)

Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Avena Grass)

Juniperus scopulorum “Blue Arrow” (Juniper)

Oenothera macrocarpa (Missouri Evening Primrose)

Panicum virgatum “Heavy Metal” (Switchgrass)

Papaver orientale “Salmon Oriental” (Poppy)

Penstemon x mexicali “Pike’s Peak Purple” (Penstemon)

Prunella lacinata (Lacy Self-Heal)

Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasqueflower)

Ribes rubrum “Red Lake” (Currant)

Sedum sieboldii “October Daphne” (Sedum)

Veronica pectinate (Wooly Creeping Speedwell)

2018-07Echinacea purpurea Cheyenne Spirit-Barb Gorges

Echinacea purpurea “Cheyenne Spirit” (Purple Coneflower) is a cultivated variety that blossoms in a variety of colors from orange and yellow to pink. Photo by Barb Gorges.


Garden Class Roundup


Laramie County Master Gardeners and the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens put on the “Gardening with Altitude” lecture series.

Published Jan. 5, 2014, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Grow your gardening skills this winter. There are many classes in the region to get you ready for the growing season ahead.”

By Barb Gorges

Gardeners are crazy for information and inspiration. Summer may be the time for garden tours, but winter is the time for garden lectures and classes.

Laramie County Master Gardeners and the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens are bringing back their popular series of acclaimed garden speakers—and you would be wise not to wait to buy tickets.

On the other hand, you can sign up for the Master Gardeners training program right up until the first day of class, which is Jan. 13.

Laramie County Community College has been offering a wealth of gardening classes the last three years, but they are hidden in the non-credit “Outreach and Workforce Development” schedules mailed to all addresses in Laramie County.

If you want to head south for a little winter break, check out classes at Fort Collins Nursery in Colorado.

In any case, well before it’s time to start digging in the dirt, you can fortify your mind with new garden ideas and strategies.

Gardening with Altitude 2014

Sponsored by Laramie County Master Gardeners and the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, tickets are $15 each or $50 for all four dates. They may be purchased (cash or check) at the Gardens’ greenhouse in Lions Park.

Call Darcee Snider at 637-6458 or visit (keyword: “Gardening with Altitude”).

The lectures are held Saturdays, 1- 2:30 p.m., in the Cottonwood Room of the Laramie County Library, 2200 Pioneer Ave. Tickets may be available at the door.

— “Edible Gardening in Tough Climates: Using Season Extension Tools, Microclimates and Strategic Variety Choices,” Willi Galloway, Jan. 25. Galloway, an award-winning radio commentator and writer, and native of Wyoming, is the author of “Grow, Cook, Eat.” She currently gardens in Portland, Ore. She’ll explain how to warm up the soil earlier in spring, how to extend the harvest season in fall and what are the best tasting and most productive vegetable varieties for the Cheyenne region.

— “Unique and Functional Landscapes: Creating and Maintaining a Flourishing Outdoor Space,” with Loretta Mannix, Feb. 15. Mannix, of Loveland, Colo., with degrees in fine art and landscape horticulture, and years of experience in many areas of horticulture and landscape design, will show new ways of making your landscape unique, including plants that are underused but can be successful here.

— “Tuning Up the Wyoming Garden: What’s New in Plants and Growing Techniques,” Tom Heald, Mar. 15. Heald and his wife own the Wyoming Plant Company in Casper, with the goal of providing the kinds of plants he found Wyoming gardeners needed when he was a university extension agent. He will talk about how to reflect the high elevation prairie and sagebrush steppe and their extraordinary color and durability, and will also present new ideas in growing plants horizontally and vertically in our challenging climate.

— “Seed, Soil, Sun, Water: All You Need to Grow Food in the West,” with Penn and Cord Parmenter, Apr. 26. The Parmenters have been gardening above 8,000 feet in south-central Colorado since 1992 using sustainable, bio-intensive methods that “rock out food 365 days a year.” Learn to garden like our grandparents, focusing on what already works, how to work with what you have, and be inspired by nature’s ability to feed us.

Laramie County Master Gardener Training

Anyone can become a Master Gardener—no prior experience required. Sign up for the 10-week course that begins Jan. 13. Classes are Monday and Wednesday evenings, 6-9 p.m. Completion of the course and 40 hours of volunteer internship by next fall is required for Master Gardener certification.

The course, held in Cheyenne, is taught by Catherine Wissner, University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service horticulturist, along with other local experts.

The $100 fee includes the 500-page manual, “Sustainable Horticulture for Wyoming.” Sign up at the extension office in the old Laramie County Courthouse, 310 W. 19th St., Suite 100. For more information call 633-4383 or visit

LCCC Gardening Classes

Instructor Jeff Dyer said, “You can garden here despite the challenging environment.”

Laramie County Community College’s Life Enrichment classes in gardening are held on campus. Almost all classes are one session and most are offered twice.

For complete class descriptions, visit For specifics, call Dyer at 421-1176 or email him at

To register, call 778-1236 or 778-1134. Register no later than two days before the class is scheduled, and four days before the Botanical Arrangement class.

Fort Collins Nursery Classes, Ft. Collins, Colo.

This garden center, at 2121 E. Mulberry St., brings in a variety of well-known Front Range gardeners. And for the most part, what they teach is applicable to Cheyenne’s environment.

All classes are held on Saturdays. See complete class descriptions, and more classes, at Register online or call 970-482-1984 or 866-384-7516.

–“50 Shades of Green: Gardening for Sensuality” with Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden. Jan. 18, 10 a.m.-noon or 1-3 p.m., $22. What makes a garden sensual? Play of light and darkness, sound, motion, serenity, fragrance, creation of mystery. The Colorado couple are authors of several garden books.

–“My Favorite Pollinators and How to Attract Them,” with Beth Conrey. Jan. 25, 10 a.m.-noon, $18. Without pollinating insects, most plants won’t produce fruit and seeds. Discover the full spectrum of pollinators. Conrey is president of the Colorado State Beekeepers Association.

–“Even More Secrets from My Grandmother’s Garden,” with Don Eversoll. Jan. 25, 1-3 p.m., $18. How to make super soil, new tricks for growing “killer” tomatoes with heirlooms and other secrets from Coloradoan Eversoll’s new book, “Secrets from My Grandma’s Garden.”

–“Organic Gardener’s Companion: Cool & Warm Season Vegetables,” with Jane Shellenberger. Feb. 1,10 a.m.

-noon, $18. Shellenberger is publisher and editor of the Colorado Gardener seasonal newspaper and author of “Organic Gardener’s Companion: Growing Vegetables in the West.”

— “Raised Bed Gardening 101,” with Bryant Mason. Feb. 1, 1-3 p.m., $18.  The founder of The Urban Farm Company of Colorado covers the basics. “Raised Bed 201” will be held Feb. 15 at 10 a.m.

–“Design Tips for Western-inspired Gardens with Plant Select®,” with Pat Hayward. Feb. 8, 10 a.m.-noon, $18. Plant Select® is a plant introduction program from Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University focusing on unique, adaptable and resilient plants for western gardens.

— “Incorporating Native Plants into Your Landscape,” with Joanie Schneider. Feb. 15, 1-3 p.m., $18. Contrary to their reputation as dusty prickly plants, the native flora around the Rocky Mountain Front Range is truly exquisite, with a great diversity of colors and textures.