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Transforming Turf to Native Plant Oasis at CPES

District staff, families, and community members landscaping native plants at Cottonwood Plains Elementary School
Volunteer adult and two students stand in front of new landscaping at CPES

In an effort to reduce outdoor water use and increase the visibility of low-water native plant landscaping, Thompson School District redesigned unused turf areas in front of Cottonwood Plains Elementary School in June 2023. Thompson School District received a design from Denver Botanic Gardens and funding through a grant with Northern Water. Additional funding came from a Colorado Water Conservation Board grant, Cottonwood’s parent-teacher organization, and the District. The site preparation, drip irrigation, and plants were provided by Elite Industries. Volunteers made up of CPES families and staff, TSD staff, and community members helped with the planting on the rainy Saturday morning of June 3, 2023.

Volunteers plant native species in front of Cottonwood Plains

The design transformed the approximately 3,000-square-foot space of Kentucky Bluegrass into a low-water native plant oasis complete with walking paths and sitting rocks. The over 300 plants offer year-round color variations and support local biodiversity including hummingbirds and butterflies. This space is intended to serve as a place for students to connect with nature and for the community to learn more about the possibilities of landscaping that is adapted to our local climate.

Design

Design sketch maps the locations of native plants within Cottonwood Plains landscaping

Native Plant List

Plant SelectGenusSpeciesCultivarCommon NameWater UseAnnual Maintenance5-10 years Maintenance
noAchillea  ā€˜Moonshineā€™Moonshine Yarrowmoderate to xericCut back/shear to base every spring Follow annual maintenance
noAchilleamillefolium ā€˜New Vintage Violetā€™New Vintage Violet Yarrowmoderate to xericCut back/shear to base every spring Follow annual maintenance
noAchilleaageratiflia Greek Yarrowmoderate to xericRake out dead leaves in spring if any. Follow annual maintenance
noAgastache  Blue Fortune Hyssopmoderate to xericCut back to base/shear down to ground every spring. Then rake up.Replace plants that may die every 5-10 years.
noAgastacheaurantiaca Apricot Spritemoderate to xericCut back to base/shear down to ground every spring. Then rake up.Follow annual maintenance.
noAnemoneƗ hybrida ā€˜September Charmā€™Anemone ā€˜September Charmā€™moderate to dryCut back to base/shear down to ground every spring. Then rake up.Follow annual maintenance.
yesAquilegia chrysanthaDENVER GOLDĀ® DENVER GOLDĀ® Columbine moderate to xericHand trim back dead stems in spring. Follow annual maintenance.
yesAquilegia  REMEMBRANCEĀ® REMEMBRANCEĀ® Columbinemoderate to dryHand trim back dead stems in spring. Follow annual maintenance.
yesArctostaphylos Ć— coloradensis ā€˜Chieftainā€™Chieftain Manzanitamoderate to xericNever touch unless there is damage to branches and  only prune those branches out in spring.Follow annual maintenance. This can be a long lived woody shrub if growing conditions are correct.
noArtemisiaschmidtiana Silver Mound Sagedry to xericHand trim back dead stems in spring. Follow annual maintenance and allow to go to seed. Thin out any undesireable seedlings.
noArtemisia tridentata Big Brush Sagedry to xericNever touch unless there is damage to branches and  only prune those branches out in spring.Follow annual maintenance. This can be a long lived woody shrub if growing conditions are correct.
noAstertataricus Tartarian Astermoderate to xericHand trim back dead stems in spring. Follow annual maintenance.
yesBerlandiera lyrata Chocolate Flowerdry to xeric Hand trim back dead stems in spring. Follow annual maintenance and allow to go to seed. Thin out any undesireable seedlings.
yesBoutelouagracilis ā€˜Blonde Ambitionā€™Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grassdry to xericCut back every early spring.Divide or remove old plants and replace with new plants.
yesCallirhoeinvolucrata Winecupsdry to xeric Cut back/shear to base every spring No maintenance, long lived plant that is well behaved.
yesCercocarpusintricatus Little Leaf Mountain Mahoganydry to xericShear once a year from much tighter growth.  Can also be sheared in the spring to shape into a short hedge if desired. Follow annual maintenance.
noCercocarpusmontana Curly Leaf Mountain Mahonganydry to xericShear once a year from much tighter growth.  Can also be sheared in the spring to shape into a short hedge if desired. Follow annual maintenance.
yesChamaebatiariamillefolium Fernbushdry to xericShape/Shear 2ā€³-6ā€³ off all branch tips every early spring into a nice round mound. This will promote a great branching structure for a nice dense shrub, while deadheading each year.  Leave the short branch tips on the ground as ā€œmulchā€.Follow annual maintenance.
yesChrysothamnusnauseosus var. nauseosus (baby blue form)Baby Blue Rabbitbrushdry to xericShape/Shear to small mound or just enough to remove seedheads EVERY late fall or very early spring. This will maximize late summer blooming.Follow annual maintenance
noEphedraminimia Mormon Tea Shrubdry to xeric Install steel edging around this plant to limit spreadingNo maintenance
yesEpilobium canum ssp. garrettii ORANGE CARPETĀ®ORANGE CARPETĀ®  Hummingbird Trumpetmoderate to dryTrim back in spring to promote spreading the plant into a wider size.  Follow annual maintenance. This is a long lived perennial and continously spreads out from center at a resonable rate, but divide if it grows too large.
yesHesperaloeparviflora Red Yuccadry to xericTrim flower stems back to base of plant every early spring.Follow annual maintenance.
noPrunuspumila var. besseyi PAWNEE BUTTESĀ® PAWNEE BUTTESĀ® Western Sand Cherrymoderate to xericAfter its mature, select a few larger branches and prune them off to about 6ā€³ above ground and let plant rejuvenate. Follow annual maintenance.
noRhusaromatica ā€˜Gro-lowā€™Gro-Low Sumacmoderate to xericNo maintenance. If it out grows space trim it back hard in spring.Follow annual maintenance.
yesRudbeckiahirta Denver Daisymoderate to xericHand trim back dead stems in spring. Follow annual maintenance.
yesSaturejamontana var. illyrica Purple Winter Savorymoderate to xericPrune back/shear to ground in spring.Follow annual maintenance.
yesSchizachyriumscoparium ā€˜Standing Ovationā€™Standing Ovation Little Bluestemmoderate to xericCut/shear back every spring. Follow annual maintenance.
yesScrophulariamacrantha  Red Birds in a Treemoderate to xericCut/shear back every spring. Follow annual maintenance.
noSedum  Vera Jamesonmoderate to xericCut/shear back every spring. Follow annual maintenance. This can be a long lived perennial if growing conditions are correct.
noSolidagorugosa ā€˜Fireworksā€™Goldenrodmoderate to xericHand trim back dead stems in spring. Follow annual maintenance. This can be a long lived perennial.
yesSporobolus wrightii Giant Sacaton Grassmoderate to xericCut/shear back every spring. No maintenance, long lived plant that is well behaved. Will not die out in the center.
noStachysbyzantina Lambā€™s Earmoderate to xericHand trim back dead stems in spring. Follow annual maintenance.
yesVeronica  ā€˜Reavisā€™CRYSTAL RIVERTM Veronicamoderate to dryHand rake or run hand over to remove any dead foliage in springTrim out any dead, divide over grown areas and add plantings where desired. 
no   PBSI Native Lawn Mix (blue grama and buffalo grass mix) ā€“ Seed Mixdry to xeric