As part of the city’s “Water is Our Future” campaign, Cortez recently hosted a horticulturist from the Denver Botanic Gardens who discussed how the city could incorporate water-wise plants and strategies into landscaping.
Specialist Annie Barrow gave presentations to the community and City Council on Monday and Tuesday. She focused on how the city could use appropriate drought-resistant plants to beautify Cortez, educate the public, and possibly even boost tourism with the addition of unique or unusual plants.
Water conservation is a necessity, she said, noting both environmental dangers posed by climate change and drought, along with state water conservation legislation.
However, aesthetics are also important to any city and its economy; they attract prospective residents, businesses and tourists.
She emphasized that she was proposing “xeriscaping,” not “zeroscaping” – while zeroscaping implies a landscape lacking in plants, xeriscaping focuses on using plants that require little or no irrigation.
“People just think OK, it’s all or nothing,” Barrow told councilors and staff on Tuesday. “I’m either going to put rocks in and give up, or you’re going to have to have lawn and turf and trees. We have a lot of options in between that.”
Cortez has a semi-arid or steppe climate, similar to Mongolia, Patagonia and South Africa, Barrow said.
So the city could focus its efforts not only on selecting appropriate regionally native plants, but also on incorporating more “exotic” plants into the landscape. Regionally native plants are beneficial because they would require minimal maintenance and water usage, in addition to attracting and supporting native bees and pollinators, she said.
But using plants from distant locales with similar climates could be a water-conscious way to give Cortez a “unique flavor.”
“I think it’s important that you really think about what’s your palette, and what are your favorite plants,” Barrow said.