Cherry Creek 3's Community Garden has grown into a popular place among residents since it started in 2012. More than 40 plots of vegetables are farmed by every type of residents- from novices to experienced gardeners.
Once a section of blue grass that was watered, cut weekly and maintained but rarely used, the Community Garden is now a hub for the community. It also attracts a lot of visitors, who come an sit on the bench outside the garden and watch the progress throughout each spring and summer.
The Community Garden has been praised by people from both inside and outside the community because of the efforts of volunteers who make the garden work successfully. It has been mentioned in local newsletters as well as Colorado WaterWise Magazine and other media. Volunteer gardeners help weed and keep the garden clean in addition to watering and caring for their crops, which range from peas to lettuce, tomatoes and much more. Some of the gardeners even share their produce with their neighbors who aren't involved in the garden.. There are more than 120 community gardens, operated by Denver Urban Gardens, in the city. However, Cherry Creek 3's self-operating Community Garden is a rarity among HOAs in the metro area. Incidentally, hand-watered plots use less water than if the ground had been unchanged and sprinklers were still in use.
NOTE TO PARENTS: The garden is off-limits to children not accompanied by a parent-gardener. Children who trespass and/or play in the garden or with the gardening equipment may be cited and potentially fined. The reason is because the Community Gardeners have invested thousands of dollars on plants, soil, etc. and do not want their plants stepped on or produce stolen. We want children to participate with an adult - but not wander in the garden alone.
The Community Garden was organized by several residents under the leadership of Jenne Lundgren. That first year, 2012, more than 40 plots for adults and several children worked mini-plots, too. Most of the gardeners enjoyed successful growing efforts and celebrated at the end of the season with a pot-luck dinner in the club house.
Gardeners who participate agree to cooperate with basic rules for care and maintenance of their plot as well as respecting the growing area of other gardeners.
If you would like more information, please send an e-mail to garden coordinator Julie Barnes (it may take a couple of days - due to busy schedules - to receive a response): firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, 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.
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.
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