Perennial Home

This entry is part 25 of 28 in the series Fall - 2017



by Tony Phifer

Jim Klett could have a negative attitude about having to uproot Colorado State University’s Plant Environmental Research Center (PERC) 36 years after he created the iconic garden “out of a patch of dirt” on West Lake Street at the southwestern corner of the main campus.

Klett, though, sees the move to the northwest corner of the University Center for the Arts, at the corner of Pitkin and Remington streets, as a positive.

After all, when CSU’s Annual Trial Garden – another project overseen by the longtime professor of landscape horticulture, ornamentals, and nursery management – was moved from the same relatively obscure location on Lake Street to its current home in front of the UCA, it became one of the most-visited spots in Fort Collins.

“When we moved the Trial Garden it became much more visible and really brought a lot of positive attention to the program,” Klett said. “I’m hoping the change will have the same impact on PERC.”

Moving PERC’s nearly 1,000 varieties of perennial plants was an enormous undertaking – a process that began last summer and wasn’t completed until November. The new on-campus stadium now occupies Klett’s “patch of dirt.”

The UCA garden is not only a much larger space, it also offers several improvements and amenities not available at the previous site. The garden includes raised and bermed plant beds, sitting walls, benches and gravel pathways. A water feature, an innovative trellis system, a large stone patio, and gazebo are also included. The herbaceous perennial and ornamental grass garden remains an important outdoor classroom for CSU students, faculty, and master gardeners.

While there had been concern that some of the plants – all donated over the past three-plus decades – might suffer during relocation, early signs indicate that most are doing well.

The addition of PERC inspired CSU and city officials to dub the area the CSU/Fort Collins Garden and Arts District. The exterior includes thousands of plants and outdoor sculptures, including CSU’s famous Campbell’s Tomato Soup Can by Andy Warhol. Inside the UCA, visitors will find the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art and the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising, as well as a variety of performance venues.

“I’m very excited that PERC will be part of a really first-class presentation of gardens and the arts in Fort Collins,” Klett said. “It was hard to see something I created move but I’m very pleased with the project and think it will be a good thing for PERC moving forward.”

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