Local Garden Spotlight: Downtown Fort Collins Containers and Planting Beds

by Shannon Moreau

Location: Old Town Fort Collins, CO 80524

Cost: Free!

The flower beds and containers in historic Old Town Fort Collins provide an abundance of inspiration in both their annual plant combinations and the color options they display. Each swath of greenery softens the corners, brings life to alleyways between streets, and reflects the businesses and people of our community. I love the fact that some of the containers have even been painted by local artists, similar to the pianos found around the city. 

Who does it?

The City of Fort Collins Parks Department is the driving force behind The Downtown Flower Project. The department staff does all of the planting and maintenance of many of these beautiful containers and beds throughout the year. Working together with local businesses and organizations is a top priority. For their soil they add compost from Hazel Dell mushrooms and cacao husks from Nuance Chocolate, adding valuable nutrients to the soil. When it comes to the plants themselves, the Parks Department works with the Horticulture Department at Colorado State University on plant selection and design, and all of the annuals are grown locally! Another driving force is sustainability. Drip irrigation is used to provide the plants with just the right amount of water and reduce waste. Once it is time to remove the annuals, they are all composted and the cycle continues! 

We take plants seriously

It’s not a secret that in Fort Collins we take our gardens and green spaces very seriously. Old Town Square and the surrounding downtown area are no exception. Each container is located in a prime area for foot traffic and is brightly lit, providing us with an opportunity to appreciate the plants while running errands during the day or when out on the town in the evenings. They are meant to be appreciated and bring joy–not just fill up empty space. Each container is meticulously designed and filled to the brim with beautiful colors and textures.The designers follow the classic thrill, fill and spill rule which ensures that the plants grow together and leave no blank spaces between your annuals. 

How do we know these plantings are inspiring? Customers often bring in pictures of specific plants they saw downtown containers and beds and want to learn how they can incorporate them into their own gardens. If you find yourself wanting to emulate these incredible plant combinations, the Parks Department shares some of their “recipes” on their website, which can be found here: Downtown Flower Project.

Intersection of Linden St. & Riverside Ave.

These plantings also offer a unique opportunity to learn which pollinators are flocking to certain flowers. This gives gardeners a blueprint for annual designs perfect for high traffic areas. Every planting in the city is unique to its area and you never know which will be your favorite. My favorite this year are the beds just at the end of Linden St where it meets Riverside ave. The rich dark purples coupled with pale yellow is striking and gives a lot of depth to this intersection.

Next time you take a walk through the downtown area, stop and look at these containers, find some inspiration, snap a few photos, and take a moment to appreciate the people who work hard to bring so much life into this urban environment. 

Originally published on August 31st, 2023. Updated on September 7th, 2023.