Spring awakens on the inside at Botanical Gardens

GRETEL DAUGHERTY/The Daily Sentinel—The hibiscus rosa-sinensis is in full bloom in the butterfly house at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, which opened Saturday for the season. The gardens are now open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

So much hinted at spring Saturday: the way sturdy wind pushed puffs of white clouds across the electric blue sky before another tide of gray rolled in. The tiny, spiky hints of green pushing through dusty soil, dauntless crocuses forgetting — like they do every year — that this is changeable Colorado.

And inside the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, the occasional tremble of small, unlovely cocoons.

The gardens opened for the season Saturday, and rows of soon-to-be butterflies secured to strings were a sweet reminder of the brilliance and life to come. The plants outside may have been mostly asleep, but inside they were green and blooming and all but proclaiming spring.

A few changes have been made since the gardens closed for the winter Nov. 1, said Margie Frey, horticulture department manager. Many of the food plants were moved so they would be grouped together in an area of the Rainforest Rendezvous — pineapple and coffee and avocado growing deliciously near.

Also, Frey said, the orchid area is being redone, with new benches and lattice planned.

And then there are the butterflies. Currently, the gardens are home to various species of North American butterflies, 100 of which are shipped in from Florida every two weeks, Frey said. Saturday, five species — Zebra, Great Southern White, Buckeye, White Peacock and Julia — were represented in the small, wrinkled cocoons.

Nick and Katherine Boozell stood admiring them with their 7-month-old son, Aricin, who was in a carrier secured across Katherine’s chest.

“He likes anything colorful, anything that moves,” Nick said of Aricin.

Though the butterflies still were a little muted, the enormous orange and pink hibiscus were in riotous bloom nearby, and in the Rainforest Rendezvous red blossoms were dripping off the hula dancer tree.

“The thing I love about these gardens is seeing the kids come in,” Frey said. “They’ll remember this all their lives and if we can get even one kid interested in biology or in botany, then it’s worth it.”

The gardens, at 641 Struthers Ave. in Grand Junction, are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For information, go to wcbotanic.org or call 245-3288.


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