Stop and Smell the . . . Petunias?

There is something aesthetically pleasing about the blast of color that greets you at the CSU flower trial garden in early August when it’s in full bloom.  It’s a gorgeous display of more than 1,000 different varieties of annuals arranged in 20 garden beds.


Flower Trial Garden at Colorado State University

The purpose of annual trial garden, now in its 19th year at this location, is to evaluate the performance of the flowers in under the local environmental conditions – high altitude, intense sunshine, drying winds, periodic hailstorms, large fluctuations between daily high and low temperatures, and scant rainfall that requires supplemental irrigation of most plants.  For 2018, 23 plant and seed companies participated in the program, and the results were evaluated by horticulture experts in early August on four factors:  1) plant vigor, 2) uniformity, 3) flower display, and 4) tolerance to stress.  More information is available on the Annual Flower Trial Garden website.

That’s the background information, now back to the experience.  I spent about an hour leisurely wandering around the garden on a sunny weekday afternoon in August, just taking photos and soaking it in.  It’s cool that the garden is free and open to the public, and because of its visibility and easy accessibility from a major thoroughfare, community residents and tourists do indeed visit.

The majority of the flower garden is used for sun-loving plants, such as those seen in the photos below.  Wouldn’t it be nice if I had taken notes so that I could add appropriate labels?  Maybe next time!

The shade-loving annuals live in a special pavilion that filters the sunlight.

The exhibit lives across the street from the University Center for the Arts, which houses CSU’s music, theatre, and dance programs, as well as the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art and the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising.


University Center for the Arts at Colorado State University

This stately and historic building spent the first 71 years of life (1924-1995) as Fort Collins High School and was vacated when the new FCHS opened in the fall of 1995.  CSU purchased the campus a few years later, restored and expanded the facility, and reopened it in 2008 as the University Center for the Arts.  Bill enjoyed having his office in the UCA for the last few years before he retired, complete with huge windows overlooking the foothills.

In addition to being an interesting backdrop for the annual flower trial garden, the UCA campus is home to CSU’s perennial garden.  Also noteworthy is the presence of a giant Campbell’s tomato soup can that lives in the Center’s front yard sculpture garden.


Giant Campbell’s soup can at Colorado State University

The unique piece dates back to 1981, when CSU hosted an Andy Warhol exhibit and the famous pop-art icon himself visited the campus and autographed the giant soup can.  As you might imagine, there’s more to the story, which was nicely conveyed in a 2016 story by our local newspaper, the Coloradoan: Inside Andy Warhol’s Wonderfully Weird Fort Collins Trip.  I promise it’s worth reading if you can spare three minutes of your time!






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