The annual conference will host speakers in the region on March 16
With spring just over a month away, the Durango Botanical Gardens is encouraging residents to flex their green thumb at the annual Durango Scape Conference, which is all about native plants this year.
DurangoScape 2024 is scheduled for March 16 at the Durango Public Library, a press release from the Durango Botanical Gardens said.
The conference will feature several local guest speakers, including Ross Shrigley, CEO of Plant Select, and John Wickman, owner of Pine River Plants in Bayfield and former owner of Native Roots in Durango.
Shrigley will also highlight select plant varieties that will be on the market this year, according to the Durango Botanical Gardens.
“Each year, Plant Select introduces a new collection of beautiful, aquatic and resilient plants to garden centers and wholesale suppliers,” the Botanic Gardens website says. “Plants are tried and tested for 2-5 years at Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado State University, and public and private gardens.”
Their presentations will explore what native plants are and how they can benefit the greater Durango and La Plata County areas, the release says.
Mike Smedley is also scheduled to present the “Plant This, Not That” plant selection guide, which the Durango Botanical Gardens describes as “perhaps the most popular show in our history.”
Smedley will discuss favorites over “the more exotic, sometimes invasive, and non-native plants,” the release said.
Durango Botanical Gardens lists several examples of native plants on its website, including Denver Gold Columbine, Desert Beardtongue, and Mojave Sage.
Before the speakers begin around 1 p.m. on March 16, the Colorado Native Plant Society will be holding a native seed giveaway at the library.
The 2023 and 2024 conferences are about adapting “landscapes and horticulture to changing climate conditions,” said Bill Lemire, president of Durango Botanical Gardens.
Although DurangoScape 2023 focused on a comprehensive look at Colorado’s changing climate over time, this year’s conference will look at individual horticultural and landscape practices in relation to native plants, he said.
About 316 people attended the conference online or in person last year, and Durango Botanical Gardens heard “a tremendous amount of interest in native plants” from attendees, Lemire said.
Hence the theme of DurangoScape 2024. A common idea about native plants is that they may be better adapted to survive changing climate conditions because they have already been adapting to changing climates for thousands of years, Lemire said.
“In many cases, indigenous people use less water and are sometimes less intrusive. They may be a better source of pollinators,” he said.
People also have misconceptions about native plants and there is a lack of knowledge on how to care for them. Lemire said the conference could be viewed as a reintroduction of Durango plants to the native flora of southwestern Colorado.
“(Native plants) are hard to find at a lot of local nurseries and garden centers,” he said.
He said retail plant nurseries often focus on developing plants or hybrid varieties in order to offer customers more market diversity. But native plants haven’t gotten the same kind of marketing push over the past few decades.
“There is a renewed interest in native plants, with a desire to try to help people sort through the thousands of myths and sort through information about native plants,” he said.
The conference is a recognition event for members of the Durango Botanical Gardens. Members can enter for free, and there is a $35 admission fee for non-members.
Durango Botanical Gardens has seen significant growth in membership in the past few years, going from about 80 members to more than 400, Lemire said.