The stakeholders at Denver Botanic Gardens stated their overarching goal for their family garden quite clearly: “Make it about Denver.” Educators on the committee, guided by Dr. Catherine Eberbach, added, “ . . . and make it happen authentically and through natural play.”
And so we did. The Mordecai Children’s Garden showcases the incredibly rich and diverse ecosystems of Denver and the southern Rockies. The region’s towering geological formations, amazing trees and crystalline streams are offered for interpretation through a young child’s eyes. Their experience begins on the two-story parking deck for the Gardens, which has been transformed at its roof level into a high meadow. Marmot Mountain and Pika Peak amplify the drama of the high country. Glacial seeps, geothermal springs and mountain streams inspired the creation of Mist-ery Forest, where families splash in Headwaters Seep and float pine cones down Springmelt Stream. This mesic environment transitions into the Glorious Grasslands, which celebrates plant life adapted to dry, foothill conditions. Finally, the snow melt rests in Pipsqueak Pond, which is adjacent to the Morrison Discovery Center and its surrounding Backyard Gardens.
While the garden galleries of the Mordecai Children’s Garden are child-sized, there is plenty for adults to enjoy as well. Caregivers are invited to play, but they are also given cues to query their young charges about what they are seeing and doing so that their experiences become meaningful and transcend the garden gates.
- Catherine Eberbach, Ph.D.
- Mundus Bishop
- Tryba Architects