Q: I want to renovate my garden, and save water too. Where can I go to find some inspiration?

A: The Carnegie Library Garden may be one of downtown Colorado Springs’ best kept secrets. That’s a shame, because it is truly a gem. This is one of several public gardens featuring water-wise plants especially suited for our climate and soils. It was designed by landscape architect and master gardener Carla Anderson, and is maintained by a team of dedicated master gardener volunteers.

Blossoms abound throughout the growing season. When I visited last month, red and yellow ‘Lena’ broom was beginning to fade, while several types of Mockorange were in full bloom. Rosettes of huge, fuzzy, silver Salvia leaves were topped with tall white or purple flower stalks, and brilliant Colorado Gold hardy gazanias were everywhere. An arbor with a built-in bench supports a beautiful pink climbing rose, while honeysuckle grows on up a nearby trellis. By the time you read this, new plants will be in bloom; it’s worth coming back for repeat visits.

Most of the perennials receive little or no supplemental irrigation, surviving on our limited rainfall during all but the most prolonged droughts. (A drip irrigation system keeps some of the larger shrubs and trees alive.) This is particularly impressive when you consider the garden’s orientation—it faces south, and heat becomes trapped against the library buildings to the north and east. If a xeric plant survives here, you can feel confident about adding it to your own yard.

On the other hand, most of the garden is protected from cold north winds, so some plants overwinter that might not survive elsewhere, especially at higher elevations. For example, a Texas Red Yucca is now several years old.

All parts of the garden are easily accessible by paths leading you down the terraced slope. Rock retaining walls provide convenient places to sit and contemplate the surrounding landscape.

This summer, docents are offering free tours of the garden. Tours are at 10 am on Tuesday (July 13, August 10, and September 7), and 10:30 am on Saturday (July 17, August 14, and September 11).

Finding the garden is as easy as visiting the library. The entrance is at 25 W. Kiowa St., hidden between the restored Carnegie Library building on the east, and former Knights of Columbus Hall on the west. (Consider parking in the large lot off Pikes Peak Ave. and entering through the library, or on Sierra Madre St..) The large wrought iron gate is unlocked whenever the library is open.

In you’re researching Colorado-appropriate plant materials for your own garden renovation, searching for flowers to paint or photograph, or simply have some time between downtown errands, make a point to stop by, and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.

Photographs, from top to bottom: Rose hybrid ‘Pinata,’ Salvia, Honeysuckle, ‘Lena’ Broom (Cytsus ‘Lena’)

Article and photographs by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener.