CO-Horts Blog

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Demise of a Demonstration Garden

Posted by Linda McMulkin, CSU Extension-Pueblo County

In August, 2014, the Plant Select demonstration garden at the Colorado State Fair was disassembled and the space returned to its former life as a parking lot.  I’m always sad to lose gardens, but the demise of this garden really hit me hard. 

The four raised beds shortly after the 2006 installation.
In 2005, the Colorado State Fair decided to beautify the Acero Street entrance (Gate 2) to the fairgrounds.  Four raised beds were constructed behind the Fine Arts building using landscape bricks and truly awful soil.  That spring, the beds were planted with a mixture of annuals and perennials by the fair staff and watered by hand.  In the fall, the fair approached CSU Extension and the local Colorado Master Gardeners, offering us the beds for an educational garden.  We agreed and started organizing funds and donations, youth and adult volunteers, and a team to design a garden that was heat tolerant, water wise, and would knock people’s socks off when they came in the VIP Gate. 
By April of 2006, the team was removing perennials from the previous planting; many of those plants were replanted as part of the new design.  Over $1,700 worth of plants, amendments, and mulch were donated by local businesses and Plant Select.  By early summer, spigots were installed for each bed, plants were in the soil, soaker hoses were installed, and wood mulch was spread.  

The garden during the 2010 state fair. 
That was one of the good years.
Over the years, the Colorado Master Gardeners and I spent many hours in those beds, evaluating plant health, planting new species, installing an automatic irrigation system and fixing the leaks, transitioning from wood to pea gravel mulch, picking up trash, pulling weeds, hosting tours, teaching classes, having social gatherings, laughing frequently, and whining a lot.  Like any garden, some years the garden was awesome, some years were a challenge. 

But interest waned as the garden matured.  We got tired and maybe a little bored, the fair seemed less supportive (in their defense, we usually had it under control), the location was out of sight and not ideal for an educational garden, and after several years of agonizing, the volunteers and I decided to turn it over to the fair.  It turns out they were okay with us giving up the garden, as they wanted the space back for staff parking during events.
The bed pictured above during
I was on the fairgrounds the first week of August and learned that the beds were being disassembled.  I hesitated to go watch, but could not resist.  It was painful, but in some ways a relief.  Knowing that the fairgrounds maintenance staff had little time to care for the garden, I expected it to struggle and eventually die.  Now I don’t have to watch it deteriorate over time.

One of the newly planted
 beds near Gate 2
On a positive note, many of the herbaceous plants have been moved to other garden beds on the fairgrounds and 2 previously unfilled beds are now planted.  Although the former garden is again a parking lot, the plants we chose can continue to beautify the Colorado State Fairgrounds.

The volunteers and I learned a lot over the years and mostly enjoyed our experience.  While we mourn the loss of this garden, we help in other public gardens in Pueblo County and continue to scout for a new perfect spot to make our own.


  1. I admire you finding the positive in this situation, Linda! I'm happy to see that many of the plants have gone to new gardens. But I'm sure it was tough to see your demonstration garden and the many hours, blood, sweat and tears be turned into a parking lot. Kind of like what Joni Mitchell sang so long ago....

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