Garden Photo of the Day

Gardening in Northern Colorado

Embracing a dry climate

red flowers next to plant with red foliage

Today’s photos are from Bryan Fischer, who gardens in northern Colorado and embraces the dry climate there to create beautiful gardens.

large prairie gardenVolunteers help Bryan keep the shortgrass section of his prairie garden in shape. Using lots of native, locally adapted plants makes for a beautiful, water-wise garden. Notable plants here include Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feather grass, Zones 6–9) Oryzopsis hymenoides (rice grass), Gutierrezia sarothae (broom snakeweed, Zones 6–8), Liatris punctata (dotted liatris, Zones 4–9), and Lupinus argenteus (silvery lupine, Zones 3–9).

very tiny small shrub with tiny pink flowersErica carnea (Zones 5–9) is a super-early spring-blooming miniature shrub that looks delicate but is actually quite durable. It is one of the few members of its family that will thrive in the alkaline soils of Colorado.

plant with burgundy foliageMahonia repens (Zones 5–8, aka Berberis repent) is a beautiful little ground cover. Bryan grew a bunch of it from seed, and this individual seedling had these beautiful leaves with extra-long spines on the leaf margins, giving it an unusual texture.

large meadow garden with mountains in the backgroundBig sweeps of wild Antennaria (pussy toes, Zones 3–8) make a beautiful display in this meadow. Wild scenes like this are a great inspiration for creating beautiful gardens in this climate.

cluster of small white flowersA closer look at the antennaria shows the individual clusters of tiny white flowers rising above the mats of tiny foliage.

purple flowers with yellow flowersYellow Physaria and a purple-blue Penstemon make a simple but intense combination of plants. These are native plants that thrive in well-drained, dry conditions and reward the gardener with pretty wonderful displays of spring flowers.

butterfly on pink flowersA monarch butterfly lands on Liatris ligulistylis (Zones 3–8). All species of Liatris are great for butterflies, but this one—which isn’t as commonly grown in gardens—is an absolute magnet for monarchs, and quite beautiful as well.

mass planting of spiky pink flowersAn over-the-top wild stand of Castilleja (probably Castilleja miniata, Zones 4–9). This beautiful plant is a hemiparasite—meaning that while it does photosynthesize and produce its own food, it also attaches to the roots of plants around it to siphon off extra water and nutrients. That unusual growth pattern makes it a little difficult to cultivate in gardens sometimes, but it has to be one of the most beautiful wildflowers of western North America.

red flowers next to plant with red foliageThe genus Epilobium (formerly Zauschneria, Zones 5–9) has wonderful displays of intense red flowers and is a great choice for dry gardens. This particular individual is an exceptional seedling that blooms earlier and heavier than most other varieties.

prairie garden in fallPrairie gardens often peak in the fall. Here, this one is full of blooms and the tawny colors of fading grasses before the onset of intense winter cold.

To see more from Bryan, check out his instagram: @b.w.fisch


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View Comments


  1. nwphilagardener 04/20/2022

    These photos communicate a loose and free garden, but it seems as though some judicious additions of plants are adding extra drama and richness. Bryan seems to have well navigated the limited water available while still orchestrating colorful seasonal events. Inspiring!

  2. giardiniera 04/20/2022

    Looks fabulous. I'd love to see more. A true work of love! Gorgeous plants!

  3. margotnavarre 04/20/2022

    Beautiful natural drifts. . . how large is your prairie garden? Thank you for sharing your beautiful garden views.

  4. User avater
    simplesue 04/20/2022

    So different from the land & climate in Pennsylvania, I haven't been in Colorado since I was very young, so I'm amazed- now as an adult- at how any gardener could create such a beautiful garden with so many challenges!
    I just love your prairie garden...I've read about Penstemon thriving in climates that tend to be dry and yours is fabulous!
    The Mahonia you grew from seed - oh wow- you should collect seed from it and try to cultivate more like it!
    I love the garden photo with the winding path and the volunteers- it's a garden yet it's so natural, it's almost as if "mother nature" placed everything perfectly.

  5. btucker9675 04/20/2022

    This is so stunning!

  6. user-7008248 04/20/2022

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for showing this beautiful garden! As someone who also gardens in the northern high plains (semiarid, zone 3-4, alkaline clay) I salute you.

    Do you have a website?

  7. foxglove12 04/20/2022

    So many beautiful vibrant colors. Excellent job.

  8. user-5117752 04/20/2022

    MY OH!!! We so rarely get to see pictures of this part of the country and yours are simply marvelous! Certainly a different kind of lusciousness and vibrancy of colors. Thank you so very much for taking the time to share with us all!

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