Discover what’s new at the garden

Posted 7/6/09

A garden is a living thing, with continual change initiated by the gardener and also by the nature of growing plants, which tend to move over, reseed …

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Discover what’s new at the garden


A garden is a living thing, with continual change initiated by the gardener and also by the nature of growing plants, which tend to move over, reseed and sometimes die for no apparent reason. Changes this season at Hudson Gardens include not only landscape: Rose Garden and Residence Garden, but also hardscape: a new stage.

Evelyn Hudson must be smiling somewhere over the beauty that is found today at every turn in the path at Hudson Gardens, the regional display garden and event center in Littleton that bears her name, and that of her late husband King C. Hudson. In 1941, the Hudsons opted to build a log restaurant, The Country Kitchen, on a five acre site on Santa Fe Drive, just south of Littleton, despite negative advice.

The cozy, antique-filled restaurant drew many loyal customers with its American and international buffet tables, achieving national recognition. Revenue was wisely invested in more land and in securities that increased in value. The couple retired in 1962 to their home on the land and King began to plant many trees, raise prize horses and farm the land before he died in 1984.

After viewing planning department drawings that projected future development on her land, Evelyn set up a foundation in 1986, with the general objective of promoting the cause of beautification and stewardship of the land, not only at her location, but throughout her community, where she had been an advocate for beautification for years. She appointed several local board members and her Minnesota nephew and personally chaired the foundation until her death two years later, when additional board members were appointed and the decision was made that a public garden would best fulfill her wishes.

Board members visited several established botanic gardens, where management was generous with experienced advice. Next, local landscape architect Doug Rockne and internationally recognized horticulturist Andre Pierce were hired to design and plant a regional garden that would illustrate plants that can thrive in Colorado’s high, dry, sunny climate. Hudson Gardens opened in June, 1996 and has been growing and changing ever since. South Suburban Parks and Recreation took over the land and buildings, due to financial necessity and the foundation continued to operate the facility through a professional staff, directed at present by Rich Meredith.

Concerts and weddings were soon deemed essential to generating enough income to keep the 30 acre garden operating, so a stage and two large event tents were included and landscaped.

This year, concert goers find a new, higher stage at the north end and reorientation of the audience area, which increases capacity to about 5,000, with improved sight lines. Lights and sound system are improved also and food service has been out-sourced to offer greater variety. The roster of bands is mostly national acts with a theme of “Back in the Day,” which means a higher ticket price, but they are still in the reasonable range.

The original rose garden, planted with hardy historic shrub roses, has been completely renovated in 2009, displaying 15 new All-America Rose Selections plus a number of favorite Hybrid Tea roses with bright color and stronger fragrance, some Floribunda and Grandiflora varieties and new plantings of climbing roses on the refurbished pergolas. Each year, some varieties will be removed and new ones added to maintain the interest of garden visitors.

Frequent visitors have remarked on the bare bed in front of the Hudson residence, now used for administrative offices. It had contained a “Dry English Garden” designed by horticulturist Lauren Springer when the gardens opened, but not adequately irrigated nor maintained. Irrigation is added and it will be the home for a collection of Plant Select varieties, selected each year as outstanding examples of perennials, and a few trees and shrubs, which are particularly suited to our climate.

The program was developed by staff at Colorado State University and the Denver Botanic Gardens, with assistance from green industry growers. Here too, new varieties will appear each year as they are ready for the market. In the garden shop, one will find a beautiful new book about Plant Select varieties: “Durable Plants for the Garden,” which will be especially valuable for those new to gardening a mile high, but will make any plant collector think “I want one of those!”

If you go:

Hudson Gardens and Event Center is at 6115 S. Santa Fe Dr., Littleton. Open Daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: $5, $3, $2. Members free. Admission free Nov. 1 through April 30. 303-797-8565,


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