Houston Gardens once was part of a large hayfield owned by George Meredith Houston. He moved to Greeley in 1890 to enroll in the newly founded Normal School. During his lifetime he was a teacher, state senator and mayor. He was also an avid gardener, particularly interested in irrigation.
In 1907, Mr. Houston married Gladys Sanborn and three years later, their only child, Phylabe, was born. Phylabe and George shared a vision of one day turning their farmland into a botanic garden.
Phylabe donated the property to the Assistance League of Greeley in 1969, after transforming it into a botanic garden and a nature center. The league dedicated the Gardens to the elder Houston and pioneers who introduced irrigation to semi-arid northern Colorado. In 2014, West Greeley Conservation District took over management of the Gardens, which had become a nature retreat and educational resource center.
In the late 1960s, Phylabe Houston invited neighbors and friends to plant and care for vegetable and flower gardens of their own on a 20,000 square-foot plot known as the Community Gardens. Now under the WGCD management, the Gardens promote self-sufficiency, local foods, and sustainable agriculture with 31 do-it-yourself, 60-foot-by-10-foot garden plots. All have access to flood irrigation. WGCD hopes to convert to drip irrigation in the near future.
Natural Trails and Ecosystems
The Gardens also feature 4.3 acres that demonstrate four Colorado ecosystems: montane, subalpine, foothills and prairie. As visitors progress through each ecosystem, the scenery gradually changes from aspens, to pines and firs, to sumacs and brush, and finally to junipers, cottonwoods and sagebrush. There are two ponds, a flowing creek, handicapped accessible walking paths, an Eagle Scout trail, and countless species of flora. Native mammals and birds — foxes, raccoons, squirrels, northern flickers, blue jays, hawks and more — inhabit the Gardens.
Education and Workshops
The Gardens provide a learning platform for the urban backyard stewards or the small acreage landowners. WGCD offers workshops at the Gardens on irrigation, soil health, tree pruning, xeriscaping and native planting and more.