More than 90 Plant Select recommended varieties are planted in the neighborhood, including trees, shrubs, perennials and ground covers.
Panayoti Kelaidis, senior curator, Denver Botanic Gardens: "This HOA is the only one I am aware of in Colorado (if not the West) that has undertaken such a systematic and comprehensive approach to water conservation: the results are stunning! Enormous savings on water and sewage costs. Conservation of precious resources into the bargain! But dollars and cents are nothing compared to the camaraderie that has been fostered in this group through the creation of a community garden, by neighbors planting more interesting, more beautiful flowers in their gardens. People who never knew one another now chat together on a first name basis as they admire the beauty! Can you put a price tag on that?"
Ross Shrigley, executive director, Plant Select:
“My first visit to Cherry Creek 3 HOA opened my eyes to the efforts this HOA has put forth to make positive landscape changes. It was inspirational enough to recognize that Plant Select® needed to offer a category for an HOA award. My research of other HOAs made it obvious that no other HOA deserves an award more than the Cherry Creek 3 Townhouse Corp. They have gone far above, making the required significant, measurable changes in their landscape to earn this award - and they are not planning to stop. Their years of making changes and promoting the mission of Plant Select® reflect a forward-thinking leadership that recognizes that Colorado needs to change what is planted in our landscapes. Those needed changes include increasing water conservation, creating habitat-friendly plants and using sustainable landscape practices (irrigation) for our semi-desert steppe climate. Cherry Creek 3 is one of the few HOA's in Colorado that has put forth the grand effort of bringing everyone in their association together and on board with these changes. That is no small feat!
The past decade has been a world of dramatic changes outside the neighborhood homes. Built in 1965, Cherry Creek 3 used landscaping of that era, which included juniper bushes and lava rock outside fronts of homes, plus an estimated 345,000 square feet of Kentucky bluegrass turf area.
In 2010, at the request of former President Don Ireland, the Board of Directors decided to give the community a brand-new look, launching the multi-year Landscape Improvement Program (LIP).
One of the first areas targeted was the landscaping surrounding the pool. New trees, bushes and perennial flowers were added to give pool visitors a pleasant look to the area.
After the LIP was approved, about 50 front planting beds (owned in front of each home by the HOA) were changed annually. It took 6 years to complete the initial do-over because of second-stage drought alert in 2013.
Today, with the majority of the work done, Cherry Creek 3 strives to be the model of water efficiency with native and xeric plants - many recommended by Plant Select - that provide beauty throughout the growing season and help our pollinators survive. Xeriscaping is not landscaping using rocks and cactus plants. A well-developed xeriscape uses wood mulches (rather than rocks) and a colorful array of plants suited for the region. Our neighborhood has greatly added to bio-diversity with the addition of more than 100 plant and tree species since 2010!
Cherry Creek 3's transformation has been dramatic for long-time owners. Gone are the dying old poodle-sheared junipers and outdated lava rock outside home fronts. Although smaller landscaping improvements continue annually, anyone who lived here a decade ago will notice the vibrant, colorful landscape changes as the various plants bloom from early spring through late fall. These changes have positively impacted the Association's water bills and have made a positive environmental change for pollinators who visit the neighborhood. The design scheme is called "Wildscaping" because it gives the feel of plants being allowed to thrive naturally, as opposed to looking like a "paint by number" design. Wildscaping has become popular throughout the western U.S. in recent years - partly due to water concern and also to show concern for pollinators.
FYI: Plant Select ( www.plantselect.org ) is a cooperative, non-profit organization comprised of Colorado State University and Denver Botanic Gardens in cooperation with several growers' associations, garden centers and nurseries
* In approving the LIP, the Board listed three goals for the effort:
* Improve the beauty and look of Cherry Creek 3
* Increase property values
* Conserve water
These plants thrive in the ever-changing weather of the Front Range and are drought tolerant. When first planted, residents can help by keeping children and pets away from the news plants. Dogs should not be allowed to urinate on new plants, either. Patience is another necessity since it takes several years for the new plants to adjust to their new soil and environments. Once that occurs (each plant is different), it begins to grow. Plants were also selected to avoid becoming giant-sized.
* Unlike traditional landscapes, Cherry Creek 3 utilized a "Wildscaping" plan to showcase plants in a more natural setting. This landscaping style is vastly different from the look of, for example, an English estate. Nationally, the establishment of pollinator-friendly landscapes is a hot topic. Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology, has worked with the Nature Conservancy to create a Habitat Network online. In its July 2018 newsletter (read the story on the Awards & Honors page), HOAs and their participation in preserving nature in urban areas, was a featured topic. Cherry Creek 3 was among the HOAs listed for its efforts.
Denver Water estimates as much as 55% of all water purchased by their typical residential customer annually is used in outdoor irrigation (54%) and toilets (13%). The Association partnered with Denver Water and CC3 residents in 2008, replacing more than 425 old toilets with water-efficient models.
As part of an outdoor irrigation agreement between Third Cherry Creek and Denver Water from 2010-15, the Association replaced more than 1,500 old sprinklers with more efficient MP Rotar Head models and made changes to some of the neighborhood's irrigation clocks. In return, Denver Water promised rebates based on water savings during the summer watering season.
So far, the results have been great. The HOA used nearly 36 million gallons of water in 2008 but now uses much less - approximately 20-22 million gallons a year. Most of the savings have been realized by controlling outdoor water costs. Denver Water issued more than $40,000 in rewards for its irrigation efficiency (2010-15). The rewards, in addition to HOA budget funding, helped pay for the LIP progress annually.
The HOA strongly monitors water consumption each month and constantly urges residents to conserve water because water and sewage costs are among the Association's highest annual expenses. (The monthly HOA maintenance fee would be significantly higher if water-conservation practices didn't occur.) In fact, the Association offers owners incentives for replacing water devices in their homes with more efficient ones. (See water-conservation page for additional details).
A new philosophy: "If you don't walk or play on it, you probably don't need it in bluegrass!"
The expense and availability of water in Colorado and the west is an ongoing topic. Many municipalities are now limiting the amount of bluegrass that can be installed in new housing developments while other places are offering home owners money to rip out bluegrass and replace it with low-water planting alternatives.
Keeping with that theme, Cherry Creek 3 has replaced many unused blue grass sections. The largest such example was the removal of a turf area where the Community Garden was installed. (Gardens do not require as much water as a lawn because of regulated self-watering).
Instead of replacing a turf area with sod at the conclusion of a sewer and water-repair effort, a "Conservancy Area" was planted.
In several other places, flowers and bushes have replaced unused lawn areas.
Cherry Creek 3 also has planted several dozen trees since 2015 to add to the beauty of the neighborhood as well as provide shelter for birds and pollinators.
Tours of Cherry Creek 3's landscaping changes and water-saving efforts have been the subject of tours by Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado Native Plant Society, City of Westminster HOAs and others. If you have questions, please e-mail former Board President Don Ireland: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dog Tuff Grass: In summer 2015, the HOA began experimenting with Dog Tuff grass after receiving some of the grass from Plant Select and Colorado State University. The Dog Tuff grass (at lower right in photo section above) is planted next to fences by 9086 and 9146 E. Nassau. Some people claim this new species could be a trend-setter for yards throughout the state in the future. The reason? Dog Tuff grass uses little water, needs mowed less frequently, Is soft on bare feet and doesn't yellow when dogs urinate on it (hence the term, "dog tuff.") Dog Tuff grass was named as an official Plant Select recommendation for 2016. The web site for this new grass is at www.dogtuffgrass.com
Award-winner horticulturalist Kelly Gummons of Denver cultivated the Dog Tuff grass. See his video on this new turf grass on the Plant Select web site (click here): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7TgG7AS1tY&feature=youtu.be