I like awards. And trophies. Even the occasional plaque or certificate can bring a smile to my face.
When I was in second grade, I got a first-place Pee Wee Championship Wrestling trophy, and amazingly enough, I just came across it last week as I was cleaning out some boxes. It’s not like I cherished it, nor was it part of the “collection of wrestling trophies I have in my man cave”; however, I can’t seem to part with it.
On the contrary, my kids have received their fair share of participation trophies over the years, and none of them stick on the shelves for too long. A first-place ribbon from the art show at the La Plata County Fair is one thing – it’s still hanging on the wall. But the third-grade soccer trophy with a star shooting through a ball? Not so much.
So with all that curmudgeonry, one might be surprised that I was taken aback when it was announced that an organization I helped found, the Durango Botanical Society, won the Golden Shovel Award from Colorado’s acclaimed Plant Select organization. Plant Select is all about working with public gardens throughout the Rocky Mountain region that display plants that work in the local environments. There are over 60 Plant Select gardens, but only a select few have received the coveted shovel.
The Golden Shovel recognizes a demonstration garden that “exhibits superior design, care and use of Plant Select plants while providing excellent educational opportunities to visitors.” The botanical society was acknowledged for the Durango Public Library Demonstration Garden, but the it does much more than that, offering classes on everything from painting to creating fairy gardens, promoting pollinators and more. Along with Colorado State University Extension Office, the botanical society organized and hosted a weeklong series about horticultural-related topics.
And now, the society is expanding the Library Garden with the recently installed Crevice Garden Along the Trail and the Miniature Conifer Garden. For plant geeks, these spaces display plants that we don’t see every day. But for the non-plant geeks out there, they are spaces to stop maybe to catch their breath during a run (at least that’s my excuse) or to have their kids watch the butterflies and bees visit the flowers. The gardens also offer an opportunity to see how plants grow in a harsh environment such as ours and to see how big they get, how far they spread or how they do with limited irrigation. They truly are demonstration gardens.
The Golden Shovel made me proud of what a group of people could do with very little money, no guaranteed space for a future garden and a workforce of six. But we did it. And now, the botanical society is doing it. Members have taken that proverbial seed and grown it into something much more. Something that is full of flowers, rocks, leaves, mulch, birds, bugs and bees. Something that is full of love, sweat and the occasional splinter, blister or bloody knuckle.
The Golden Shovel is something that Durango should be very, very proud of. Kind of like a wrestling trophy when you’re 8.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.