Gardening came first at what’s now the Colorado Garden & Home Show. Hence the name.

In 1959, the Colorado Garden Foundation started the show to raise money for the Denver Botanic Gardens, which had just started planting its York Street location.

“For the first 10 years, we were just a garden show. In the late 1960s, they added home products to make money,” said Jim Fricke, executive director of the Colorado Garden Foundation.

In its 60th year, the event has become the largest home show west of the Mississippi, attracting up to 55,000 adults (and about 10,000 accompanying children) over its nine days, Fricke said. It concludes Feb. 17 at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver.

Attendees come mostly from the Front Range, he said.

Fricke has helped organize the show for 25 years. It’s a massive endeavor that produces an economic impact of $55.6 million in Denver and creates more than 600 jobs a year, foundation data say.

It also has a huge philanthropic reach: The nonprofit Colorado Garden Foundation pays for horticultural-related grants and scholarships statewide, to the tune of more than $9 million to date.

“This year, we will hand out $500,000 in grants to 62 organizations in Colorado. We fund things like the Denver Botanic Gardens. In the Springs, we’ve funded High Plains Helping Hands, which helps get homeless people food, and Care and Share Food Bank. Both are getting grants again this year,” Fricke said.

All ticket sale proceeds go to grants and scholarships.

“It’s by far the largest home and garden event in Colorado. At the same time, we just turn around and give all the money away,” he said.

Inside the show

More than 600 companies from 25 states and Canada will promote landscaping, gardening, energy-efficient heating and cooling, window treatments, siding, flooring, lighting, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, patio furniture, gutters, sound systems, storage systems, greenhouses, decks, spas and more.

About 35,000 square feet of gardens are placed on the show floor, too, including 11 landscaped gardens, one of them a 5,500-square-foot entry garden designed for kids.

Presented in partnership with Great Outdoors Colorado, the interactive garden will feature 34 items from its Generation Wild list of “100 Things to Do Before You’re 12,” such as roll down a hill, fly a kite, play in a treehouse, ride on a rope swing and read a book under a tree.

The garden “will be a fun way of illustrating our combined interest in getting Coloradans outside and enjoying all that the great outdoors have to offer,” said Chris Castilian, GOCO executive director, in a news release.

“It has a ‘wow’ factor,” Fricke said.

The Accessible Garden is presented by Broomfield landscaper FRSR, with direction from the horticultural therapy program at Craig Hospital.

“With this, we’re trying to create a garden that educates people on how to do handicapped-access plantings. It will also have a handicapped-accessible grill and signs that talk about horticulture therapy. It’s a great demonstration for people to realize things they could do at their home,” Fricke said.

Complete with meditation space, water feature and plants with “proven healing effects,” the installation shows that gardening is something everyone can enjoy.

“The idea behind this is barrier-free gardening,” said Eric Fuerst, FRSR owner. “Whether because of a disability, age or injury, we want everyone to know that they can still maintain and enjoy their gardens and outdoor spaces.”

There’s also a “hot products” zone, sponsored by 9NEWS, with the latest gardening and home improvement gadgets.

“We have a committee that picks nine hot products that people are interested in. We feature them at the show entrance. They’re really cool. One is the iMow Robotic Lawn Mower. STIHL has made what is in essence a Roomba mower,” Fricke said.

He advises visitors to plan on spending three to four hours at the show.

Fresh flowers

Many of the live plants get replaced midweek.

“We do a flower sale on the Wednesday of the show, starting at noon. The reason we do it is because we’re a nine-day show and want the second weekend of the show to be as beautiful as the first. A lot of the bulbs are replaced that Wednesday and are available for people to buy for $2 per pot. They’re all perennials. People come in and buy them and take them home to plant later,” Fricke said.

Proceeds benefit Arvada Rotary scholarships.

”When the show ends, we actually box up 7,500 flowers and deliver them to 62 area nursing homes instead of us just throwing them away,” he said.

Plan ahead

It’s a big show, and Fricke advises making a game plan and buying tickets online. Go to coloradogardenfoundation.org to search exhibitors by product category and scope out which of more than 50 free seminars and demonstrations you want to attend.

If you are buying tickets the day of your visit, bring a nonperishable food item for the Food Bank of the Rockies and receive $2 off admission. Also, take advantage of $5 parking at Broncos Stadium at Mile High and a free parking shuttle to the convention center.

Features Reporter/Special Sections Editor

Michelle is a features reporter and editor of The Gazette's annual Best of the Springs and FYI magazines. A Penn State journalism graduate, she joined the Gazette in 2015.

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