Mountain West Regional Reports

A Visit to Yampa River Botanic Park

This hidden gem boasts a variety of stunning gardens, with a surprise around every corner

Yampa River Botanic Park rock garden
The Members Rock Garden at Yampa River Botanic Park is full of blooms from waterwise plants.

What a long, beautiful fall we had in the Mountain West last year! I was fortunate to be able to explore a bit of Colorado in September and revisit the Yampa River Botanic Park in Steamboat Springs. It’s been over 10 years since my last visit, and it was amazing to see how it has grown and matured during that time. This garden is a true gem.

Crevice Garden at Yampa River Botanic Park
The Crevice Garden uses fieldstone to create pockets for plants that prefer rocky soil, including conifers and spreading ground covers.

Two rock gardens show off alpine plants

One of the first gardens we found was the stunning Crevice Garden, built in 2014 using fieldstone from Wyoming. Nestled among the stones are alpine plants that love the heat that the stones provide. Adjacent to the Crevice Garden is the Members Rock Garden, one of the oldest and largest gardens in the park. Both gardens are on a slope, in full sun, and use rocks strategically to create planting pockets that will help hold water and heat for the plants selected. Seeing these gardens has me thinking differently about a small berm in my landscape in which plants have struggled. I am seeing more rock gardening in my future!

garden in fall at Yampa River Botanic Par
The September Charm Garden is full of fall favorites, with some goldenrods in full bloom while a row of upright sedum flowers are just beginning to open.

We eventually meandered along the wetlands, enjoying watching an osprey fly in and out of its nest. We continued exploring through gardens filled with various conifers and high-country natives. As we made our way around the central lawn and pond area, I came upon the September Charm Garden. As it was September, this garden did not disappoint. The upright sedums (Hylotelephium spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9), asters (Symphyotrichum spp. and cvs., Zones 4–8), and goldenrods (Solidago spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) created a wow-worthy moment for me as I rounded the corner. This was a truly stunning garden on a rather gloomy day. I plan to add a couple of these fall-blooming plants to my garden.

yoga class at a public garden
Visitors do yoga on the lawn next to a scenic pond with mountains in the background.

As many of you have figured out over the past three years that I’ve been writing these regional reports, I love public gardens. I have had the pleasure of leading the Gardens on Spring Creek in Fort Collins, Colorado, for nearly 15 years, I have friends working in gardens all over the country, and I always visit gardens when traveling. The Yampa River Botanic Park is a true Mountain West gem, with a variety of differently themed gardens that won’t disappoint regardless of the time of year.

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—Michelle Provaznik is the CEO of the American Public Gardens Association.

Photos: Michelle Provaznik

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