Lead horticulturist retires after almost 25 years at Yampa River Botanic Park
After almost a quarter century serving the Yampa River Botanic Park, lead horticulturist Gayle Lehman is hanging up her gardening gloves and is retiring from the park she has helped grow from a 6-acre horse pasture into one of the most popular and beautiful gardens in Colorado.
The park is home to 65 gardens and about 500 trees, plantings that Lehman has overseen and nurtured with her extensive knowledge of plants and how to grow them in high altitude. In her role, she also supervised the park’s gardeners and volunteers over the years.
“Gayle has put the ‘botanic’ into the botanic park,” said Bob Enever, park co-founder. “I think her greatest achievement has been her plant selections. They were based on years of experience of what worked and what didn’t. She has friends at Denver Botanic and elsewhere who share plants and knowledge of plants.
“She experimented every year,” Enever continued. “Her arrangements of the plants within the gardens were also based on knowledge gained over the years. She had to study the environment that each plant required. That determined where she could plant each flower, depending on the soil conditions, acidity, sun exposure, irrigation.”
After 24 years, Lehman said she’ll miss the plants, sitting alone on her favorite bench in the Crevice Garden in the early morning before anyone else is in the park, talking with visitors from around the world, walking the park with someone grieving the loss of a loved one and helping them find the perfect tree or shrub to sponsor, her work family and being thanked on a daily basis for doing what she loves.
“I started with a blank canvas and created this most amazing space,” Lehman said. “I’ve watched it and nurtured it to grow into a community gem. I’m very proud.”
Lehman was celebrated during a retirement party Friday evening with the board of directors, staff and volunteers at the Yampa River Botanic Park. Speeches and toasts recognized Gayle’s achievements over the years during a fiesta-themed party complete with a pinata.
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