The Hero Part of Habitat Hero

Our Mission: Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day. 

... Is You!

Water-saving front stoop gardens provide food and cover for pollinators and songbirds. Photo: Susan J. Tweit

We've talked before about what the "habitat" part of Habitat Hero means. But who are these heroes?

They're you, your neighbors, the people who planted the pollinator garden at the community garden or CSA farm, the designer of the wildscape at the nearby park, the volunteers who replaced the unused lawn or overgrown shrubs at the community building with hummingbird plants....

Jim Ray in his Habitat Hero garden, which is entirely watered by hand.

Habitat Heroes are all around, and most of them are ordinary folks like all of us, gardeners who have a vision of making their bit of earth not just more beautiful, but also healthier.

We hope you'll help us find more Habitat Heroes. Please encourage the habitat-gardeners you know in the Rocky Mountain region to apply for the Habitat Hero Award so we can recognize and thank them.

Unsung Heroes

Here's an example of a group of volunteers who are transforming the landscaping at their townhouse complex in southeast Denver to save a lot of water, improve property values by beautifying their neighborhood, and add habitat for pollinators and songbirds.

The Cherry Creek 3 volunteers in the community garden they started as part of their landscape improvement work. (Don Ireland, Julie Barnes, Lynn Ireland, Mary Paschal, Brian Barnes) Photo: Susan J. Tweit

These aren't experts: The group includes a couple who relocated from Pittsburgh and found that gardening in the Rockies is well, challenging. So they started taking classes at Tagawa Gardens.

Lynn's demonstration garden five years ago. Courtesy photo

It started with water-saving....

A series on water-saving landscaping that introduced them to Plant Select®'s line of regionally adapted plants, and the encouragement of an HOA board member inspired Don and Lynn to plant an experimental garden at the end of their building using shrubs and flowers that were adapted to the clay soil and difficult climate.

Lynn's demonstration garden this July. (The wood edging of the original garden area is visible in left center.) Courtesy photo

One thing led to another, as happens with gardening, and eventually the Homeowner's Association entered into a five-year water conservation agreement with Denver Water that paid for new landscaping throughout the complex using rebates based on annual savings on water use.

It didn't all happen at once

Poodle bush and lava rock landscaping, ala 1965.... Photo: Susan J. Tweit

Fast-forward five years, and volunteers at the town-home complex have replaced 200 of the 250 front-stoop gardens in front of each unit, removing "poodle bushes" (1960s-style junipers pruned into bulbous shapes) and lava rock, and replacing that with a variety of perennial ground covers, flowers, grasses, and shrubs.

A row of water-saving and beautiful habitat gardens. Photo: Susan J. Tweit

Habitat right at home

The effect is not only lovely, it provides rows of front-stoop habitat for hummingbirds, native bees, and seed-eating songbirds. (The group also attended our Wildscape 101 workshop sponsored by Denver Water this summer, and came away further inspired.)

Habitat in the hell-strip between a parking lot and a building. Photo: Susan J. Tweit

The group has also renovated hell-strips between the parking lots and buildings, replaced unused sod areas with water-saving habitat areas, and set up a community edible garden with individual and group plots on what was underused lawn.

These unsung heroes' creative vision and hard work has not only beautified the complex, their water use has dropped from 36 million gallons a year to 22 million, and their property values are at an all-time high.

A Hunt's bumblebee feeding on Caryopteris on a breezy afternoon. Photo: Susan J. Tweit

It's made some hummingbirds, butterflies and bumblebees pretty happy too.

That's what heroes do: create habitat right at home, save water, and make their neighborhood--and our world--a healthier and more beautiful place.

Apply for the Habitat Hero Award....

That's why we at the Habitat Hero project want to recognize the work of these dedicated habitat gardeners. For all you heroes out there: apply today!

Join Audubon RockiesPlant Select® and High Country Gardens in promoting wildscaping. Be a Habitat Hero.

How you can help, right now