Photo feature: wild flowers and the SEAS garden at Heller

Photos by Jeff Foster, captions by Judith Rice-Jones.

Photo of Cowboy’s delight, Sphaeralcea coccinea
Cowboy’s delight, Sphaeralcea coccinea usually blooms early but is blooming here due to water in swale. Cowboy’s delight thrives in sunny, open areas and can be found in both the plains and foothills. Orange is a rare color in native wildflowers.


Photo of Gay feather, Liatris punctate.
Gay feather, Liatris punctate. A perennial, gay feather starts easily from seed. The plant appears late in spring and grows unobtrusively throughout the summer then puts forth a spectacular stalk of lavender flowers in late summer. It is hardy and drought tolerant.


Photo of Greenthread Thelesperma spp.
Greenthread Thelesperma spp. It is often called Hopi tea or Navajo eat and is an important plant for ethnobotany.


Photo of Barrel cactus
Barrel cactus, a beautiful miniature native plant that blooms in early summer.


Photo of horseradish
Horseradish, a perennial herb.


Photo of eight raised beds
Eight raised beds produced a bountiful crop this year.


two photos of a Fordhook heirloom acron squash
Fordhook, an heirloom acron squash, turned out to be a prolific and delicious crop.


Photo of dill
Dill was just one of many herbs that grew with abandon in the garden swales.

— Photos by Jeff Foster, University Advancement

Judith Rice-Jones, a retired Kraemer Family Library faculty member and horticulturist, provided additional information about the UCCS Students for Environmental Awareness and Sustainability Garden at the Heller Center for Arts and Humanities.

The SEAS Garden at Heller exists to provide an experiential learning environment to develop and demonstrate food gardening systems and strategies that are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable, and that will strengthen local food systems. We are gardening with and for the environment.

Among our goals:

  • Increasing biodiversity and decreasing bare ground
  • Increasing the effectiveness of the water that falls on our land
  • Limiting erosion and the process of gully and arroyo formation
  • Ensuring that minerals present in our soil are cycling in our ecosystem efficiently
  • Harvesting solar energy in our living plant species
  • Building soil and ecosystem health
  • Applied learning in soil biology, soil chemistry, restoration, building community around gardening.

Practicing land literacy, meaning we understand the dynamic relationships in the ecosystems that house our garden. We are able to observe our impact and alter our actions accordingly.

Raised beds were constructed last year.  Raised beds were necessary as the campus archeology experts had not yet cleared the area of possible significant archeological artifacts.  They have now also cleared the small area to the west of the beds where we are using berms and swales as an erosion mitigation technique.

The garden is a project of SEAS, Students for Environmental Awareness and Sustainability. Is hosted by the Heller Center for Arts and  Humanities.  We particularly appreciate the support we’ve received from Perrin Cunningham, Heller Center director. Students and faculty from many disciplines, especially from GES and Health Sciences have volunteered their time and expertise to make the garden a success.  We’ve also had assistance and contributions from Colonel Joe Dixon of Dixon Irrigation, plants from Good Earth and Kathy Crandall and faculty and students, soil donated from C & C Sand, etc.

This fall we will be combining garden workdays with CC students.  They will help in our garden and  we will help at their farm.  We also plan to hold composting workshops.  A major goal is to establish an ongoing soil building process with compost from student dining facilities.

The Heller Center is rich with native wildflowers.  We intend to maintain a native landscape between the berms and swales.  In addition we are planning a native and a  locally adapted wildflower garden adjacent to the path to the garden.  The founder of our city, General William Jackson Palmer, started a wonderful native plant collection in Monument Valley Park over a century ago to show residents what beautiful native trees, shrubs, and perennials grew well in our area.  As an educational institution we feel this is a worthy effort to emulate to the extent possible at our garden.  Given the issues around water in our environment, it’s important to learn how we can all use it most wisely.

Crops grown this year include:  lettuce (several varieties), tomatoes ( ten varieties but unfortunately the deer ate their way through the netting and destroyed much of the crop), peppers, eggplant, broccoli, potatoes, beets, onions, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, beans and three kinds of potatoes.  The most successful was definitely the heirloom Fordhook acorn squash, an abundant producer and a delicious treat.

Herbs include dill, fennel, horseradish, chives, tarragon, garlic chives, shiso, comfrey, and hyssop.

Perennials which will help build soil as well as return each year include almost all the herbs and also rhubard, Nanking cherries, and yarrow.

— Judith Rice-Jones

1 Comment on Photo feature: wild flowers and the SEAS garden at Heller

  1. We have raised the potato squash all my life but we have about lost our seed. We planted the last we had this year with intentions of saving our seed as we had always done. For some reason the seed didn’t mature in our squash this year.
    Would you be interested in sharing some seed so we dont loose them? Or if not, point me in the right direction to find some.
    Thank you.

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