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The Rocky Mountain Retreat package ($144) from the Center for ReSource Conservation's Garden in a Box program.

Plant the Perfect Colorado Garden

The Center for ReSource Conservation makes beautifying your home—and saving water—easy.

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Have you ever bought a ton of plants, tried your hardest to get them to grow, and then watched as they slowly died? Before you start begrudging my not-so-green thumb, know this: I worked as a landscaper for two years in Oregon. All growing environments are different though, and I admit that I know little about the plants that thrive in Colorado’s high, arid climate. Even if I had some help in choosing what to plant (thank you friendly McGuckin Hardware workers), how do I conserve water? And what about saving money?

Enter the Center for ReSource Conservation, a Boulder nonprofit that formed in 1976 to help the community transition to more sustainable ways of living. In 1997, the center started a small pilot program called Garden in a Box, the goal of which was to get people motivated to make landscape changes to lower their water use. Over the years, that small program has blossomed: Colorado families have planted nearly 1 million square feet of the low-water gardens since it began. This year, starting on March 1, the Center for ReSource Conservation expects to sell around 3,000 perennial and vegetable boxes.

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The Spring Awakening box ($104) will cover 60 square feet with 15 low-water, full sun plants.

“One of the top comments that I get from customers is how easy Garden in a Box makes everything,” says Natalie Sullivan, who runs the nonprofit’s landscape programs. “Each and every plant that we sell was specifically selected by a professional landscape designer who knows what will and will not thrive here. Plus, the gardens come with plant by number layout designs and detailed plant and care info.”

The Cool Connection box ($129) features 24 cool-toned perennials and will fill 72 square feet. 

Kits are equipped with 15 to 30 starter plants, all of which are also 100 percent organic, pollinator-friendly, and locally grown. Once they’re established, the plants need little to no water to thrive—in fact, they use up to 60 percent less water than your typical lawn grass. The boxes are also affordable, because the nonprofit buys the plants in bulk. Plus, a special partnership with 15 water utilities companies, including Denver Water, will get you an additional $25 off.

There are eight gardens to choose from, ranging from full sun to partial shade variations. Prices range from $74 to $144 and sizes from 18 to 156 square feet, depending on whether you get Savory Seasonings (mustard greens, shishito pepper, Thai Basil) or Rocky Mountain Retreat (Rocky Mountain Columbine, Tennessee Purple Coneflower, Native Blanket Flower). Whatever box or boxes you order will be available for pick-up at various locations in the Front Range throughout May (it’s recommended to plant after the last frost date, which typically falls around May 15).

If you plan on buying a Garden in a Box, do it soon, as they tend to sell out in a matter of weeks.

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