Grow With the Library – Literally!

Seed libraries and gardens throughout the district can help your green thumb

Did you know Pikes Peak Library District is home to several gardens and seed libraries? Learn more about them below, and use the seed libraries to start gardens of your own!


CARNEGIE GARDEN

The Carnegie Garden is located between two historic buildings of the Penrose Library Campus: the 1905 Carnegie Library and the 1928 Knights of Columbus Hall. Once a parking lot, the Garden is now home to a demonstration garden and a lawn that is perfect for public functions and outdoor gatherings.

Designed by landscape architect Carla Anderson, the Garden opened in 2007.

“The Carnegie had just been renovated, and somebody came to a master gardener meeting and said, ‘Here’s a beautiful building that needs a landscape,’” recalls Anderson. “So I said, ‘Here’s my opportunity to volunteer in the community.’”

Anderson took a look at the space and was interested in the location’s unique microclimate.

“It’s on that southern slope. And it’s surrounded by hard surfaces: walls on three sides and the pavement below, so it gets a lot of heat,” explains Anderson. “For me landscape architecture is all about problem solving, taking a challenge and finding a solution to that.”

Terracing the Garden solved one problem: the slope between the Carnegie Library and the wall below. It also made it easier to view the plants selected for the low water demonstration garden.

“I wanted to make sure we paid homage to our native short-grassed prairie, so there are a lot of grasses that honor that,” says Anderson. “It is a plant select garden, a program by Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University. They select a variety of shrubs, perennials, and grasses and make those selected plants available. Then we report back about what did well, what had problems.”

The Garden has changed quite a bit since it opened 13 years ago, and will continue to do so.

“It’s amazing to me how much it’s grown. It’s very much a Darwinian garden in that we plant things, and what grew and thrived deserved to be there. What didn’t survive got yanked out,” says Anderson. “A garden is a process; it’s not an end product. It’s four-dimensional art. You’ve got the three basic spatial dimensions, and then you have time.”


SUSTAINABILITY TEAM GARDEN

PPLD’s Sustainability Team plans, plants, and harvests vegetable gardens and a pollinator garden at Penrose Library along Pikes Peak Avenue. Fresh spinach, lettuce, radishes, garlic, Swiss chard, herbs, and zucchini from three raised beds are regularly donated to the nearby Catholic Charities’ Marian House. The food is harvested in the morning, and they serve it that same day. Composting is done onsite and comes from the Penrose Library’s employee kitchen. Garden markers were made from recycled ceramic tiles at a library makerspace. The City of Colorado Springs provides mulch for the Garden.


HIGH PRAIRIE LIBRARY GARDEN

In the past, the Garden was maintained by staff of High Prairie Library. Starting in 2020, the Fresh Start Center now plants and harvests the garden. Food from the Garden helps support their mission to “fight hunger, poverty, and joblessness through sustainable agriculture, food distribution, employment programs, nursing support, and case management.”


DR. LOOMIS MEMORIAL IRIS TRIAL GARDENS

The Elmohr Iris Society maintains this garden at East Library. It is the only public, high-altitude trial garden in the world and features new hybrids sent from around the globe.


HIGH PRAIRIE SEED LIBRARY

This seed library encourages a thriving community of gardeners, from beginner to expert, through the process of growing, harvesting, and seed saving/sharing. Seeds can be checked out (three packets per family, per month) or donated to the library. High Prairie Library also provides classes and information to help both newcomers and experienced gardeners develop gardening skills and know-how.


MANITOU SPRINGS SEED LIBRARY

This seed library promotes the development and preservation of landrace heirloom seeds and varieties that are well adapted to high-altitude, arid growing conditions. They also promote a body of local knowledge on how to save and pass on those seeds to future growers. It lends seed and seed-saving skills to growers each year in exchange for new seed from regional gardens.