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BackCountry - Wild at Heart

When it comes to gardening, go native.

by | April 23rd, 2014

As you’ve probably noticed, the landscaping philosophy at BackCountry is one that works with nature, instead of fighting against it. In the common areas you’ll see lots of native flowers, like blanket flower and yarrow, that require less water—instead of thirsty, East Coast interlopers like hydrangeas or gardenias.

While not necessarily native to Colorado, daffodils are extremely drought tolerant. You'll find them throughout the common areas of BackCountry this spring.

While not necessarily native to Colorado, daffodils are extremely drought tolerant. You’ll find them throughout the common areas of BackCountry this spring.

Native plants (and compatible, low-water imports) aren’t just an eco-friendly and budget-friendly choice, they’re gorgeous and perfectly complement our natural foothills-close setting.

So when it comes to planting your own Colorado-inspired garden, you might want to consider going with water-savvy choices, too.

If you have a new home and are seeking the long-term relationship of perennials, you might consider a native groundcover like the butterfly-attracting silver lupine, or the abundantly blooming prairie yellow primrose. The choices are many, and here’s a descriptive list of them all, including bloom time, moisture requirements, and planting tips from the Colorado State University Extension. Find more suggestions and great photos at Plant Select.

Think of annuals as casual dating. No commitment after fall’s first frost—just a summertime fling where you can play with color combinations, heights, textures, and densities. If you have a hot, dry exposure, consider vibrant California poppies and zinnias, and the perky and practically un-killable moss roses. If you have a bit of shade, try pansies and lobelia. Get more ideas here.

Another variety of the daffodils you'll see bloom each spring in the common areas of BackCountry.

Another variety of the daffodils you’ll see bloom each spring in the common areas of BackCountry.

Tips for planting

Besides their natural beauty and economy, another reason to try native plants is that they create a fantastic habitat for birds, butterflies, bees, and other helpful insects. Also, you’re simply not going to have to work as hard to keep them thriving because they’re in a naturally supportive environment. Here are some more tips from the CSU Extension:

  1. Get your weeds under control before planting.
  2. If you plant from seeds, you’ll need supplemental watering until the plants are established. Seeds can be planted from early to late spring or early fall.
  3. If transplanting nursery purchases, a spring or early fall planting is best.
  4. Native plants may not need amended soil—in fact, nutrient-rich soil can be harmful. Some plants will, however. So read up on each plant or seek advice from your gardening center on the soil, water, and fertilizer needed.
  5. If you need to amend a clay soil (which clumps together and doesn’t drain well), add 10 percent compost and 15 percent small aggregate (i.e., pea gravel) by volume and incorporate into the root zone.
  6. To amend sandy (overly fast-draining) or rocky soils, add 3 percent compost by volume.

Want more information? If you live in BackCountry, there’s a lot of help right at hand. Before heading over to nearby garden centers, be sure to check out planting guidelines at You’ll also find information on tree zones listed there.

Residents are welcome to chat with Maintenance Manager Paul Mennigan—whose office is at the Sundial House—as he can provide valuable information to homeowners or their landscapers before they submit their plans to the Architectural Review Committee (ARC). The ARC meets every Friday throughout the year to review submitted residential landscape plans.

Three reasons to follow us on Pinterest.

by | April 17th, 2014

First of all, you do have a Pinterest account, right?

If not, then may we suggest spending just 15 minutes on the site to see what the fuss is about? Pinterest is a simple way to collect, organize, and retrieve all the cool things you run across on the web. (You know, all those amazing ideas that you totally forget where you found them within a day or two?)

If you do already have a Pinterest account, then here’s why you might want to start following BackCountry.

1. You’re deciding whether you want to live here.
Maybe you’re thinking about moving and BackCountry is on your list of contenders. If you need that insider, will-I-really-love-it-here view, our Pinterest Amenity, Grounds, and Seasons boards are great places to start. You’ll see constantly updated photos of the natural beauty and outdoor activities you’d enjoy as a resident—playing at the pool, fishing and hiking, just to name a few. Then check out our Parties boards to get a taste of BackCountry’s fun and highly inclusive community.

2. You already live here.
As a BackCountry resident, you’re familiar with all of the perks of living in our community. But, much like our Facebook page, Pinterest is a great place to visit when you want to stay updated and connected. On our boards, you’ll find photos of our special events and concerts. Find the photos of yourself, your kids and neighbors, and pin them to a family page of your own. Kind of like a virtual scrapbook of your life at BackCountry.

3. You just like cool stuff.
Everyone can collect good ideas from our Pinterest page. Check out our decorating boards, like Kitchen Inspiration, Family Room Spaces, and Kids Rooms for trendy and timeless ways to decorate your BackCountry home. Now is the perfect time of year for planning your outdoor spaces, so gather ideas from our Container Garden or Outside Spaces boards. And families with kids will especially want to see our Family Fun board’s craft ideas. Spring veggie finger puppets anyone?

Hitting the trails, your way.

by | April 10th, 2014

BackCountry South Rim
The perfect remedy for a long winter is a long, spring walk. Or bike ride. Either way, it’s definitely time to get out, stretch your legs and marvel at the season’s most welcome changes—like greened-up grasses, budding plants, and a new generation of wildlife.

BackCountry residents have countless miles of trails to enjoy. And always in a way that suits their lifestyles.

If you have a young family and need a low-key outing, keep to the trails that are delightfully close to home. Take the stroller-friendly Grand Loop from your home to one of the parks for some active playtime, or to the Sundial House for one of its many family-friendly activities. (Later in the season, you can stop by the pool.) If you want to venture a little further, hop on the Sundial Loop (either its .74- or 2.4-mile version), which takes you into the beautiful South Rim area, accessible only to BackCountry residents.

Maybe your kids are a little older, or it’s just the perfect day for a nice, scenic run or bike ride with a friend. Meet up near the Sundial House and take the BackCountry Loop, which takes you deeper into the 467-acre, private South Rim. Enjoy the hills and valleys. Scrub oak and pines. Birds and bunnies. You’ll have plenty of natural beauty to savor on the 3.5- or 2.1-mile path on this loop—which, again, is open only to BackCountry residents.

When you really want to make a day of it, venture off the BackCountry Trail to the Douglas County Regional Trail, which meanders through the Backcountry Wilderness Area—almost 13 square miles of pristine, conserved open space. Relish the great mountain vistas, pine forests, and rolling, oak-covered hills and grasslands that provide habitats for elk, mule deer, foxes, antelope, porcupines, eagles, and many other birds.

And while we’re on that topic, get a bird’s eye view of the trail system here.

Good things to do in April. (And not one of them involves your accountant.)

by | April 3rd, 2014

The only bad thing about the beautiful month of April is, of course, that headache right in the middle: Tax Day. But here in BackCountry, we can think of plenty of fun ways to procrastinate beforehand. And to celebrate afterward—without spending a lot of that (hopefully hefty) tax return coming your way.
Rooftop Coors Field
Rockies Home Opener! – Apr. 4, 2:10pm

Is there any more magical way to spend an April Friday afternoon? Welcome back the Colorado Rockies (and blessed spring itself) with friends—and maybe nachos and a cold one—at this season opening face-off with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Tickets start at $4. Learn more.

Home Expo – Apr. 11&12, 9am-5pm; Apr. 13, 9am-2pm

No need to schlep downtown—there’s a terrific home expo right in our own backyard at the Eastridge Recreation Center.  Ideal for new homeowners, this event (sponsored by Décor and You) offers outstanding ideas for creating a style that’s uniquely yours through paint, window coverings, décor, and more. Meet with and be inspired by a wide range of suppliers showcasing all the latest home products and services.  Prizes and giveaways. Free. Learn more.

Renew the Ranch – Apr. 12, 9am – 12pm

Here in BackCountry, we’re lucky to have gorgeous, natural open spaces right in our neighborhood. Let’s pitch in and keep all of Highlands Ranch looking good as we pick up trash at an old-fashioned, Saturday morning cleanup. Volunteers are needed! Contact Stacy Simonet at or 720-240-4909 for more information or to volunteer.

Easter Egg Hunt – Apr. 19, 10am sharp

Talk about family photo ops. A beautiful, grassy-green park. Brightly colored eggs. And the Easter Bunny himself. Bring your basket (and fast-running tennies) to collect all kinds of goodies to take home. The hunt is exclusive to children ages 1-11 years old. Come early—parking is limited and the hunt begins at 10am SHARP! Rain, snow, or shine, the event is held outside at Northridge Park. Free. Learn more.

Photo by Adam Bouska, courtesy of

Photo by Adam Bouska, courtesy of

An Evening with Jodi Picoult – Apr. 30, 7:30pm

Join author Jodi Picoult at The Wildlife Experience as she regales guests with the stories and inspiration behind her New York Times bestselling novels, such as My Sister’s Keeper, The Storyteller, and Lone Wolf. Picoult will sign books after her presentation. Books will be available for sale courtesy of the Tattered Cover Book Store. Sponsored by Douglas County Libraries, adults only. General Admission: $20; Private Book-Signing, Cocktail Reception, and Priority Seating: $60. Purchase tickets online. Learn more.

What’s blooming at BackCountry. (Plus some tips for getting your own yard spring-ready.)

by | March 27th, 2014

After a long winter, is there anything more heartening than seeing bright yellow daffodils pop up? Even if they are immediately covered, per usual, by a Colorado spring snow?

Whether fleeting or lasting, beautiful flowers do wonders for everyone’s mood. And BackCountry’s abundantly planted common areas are sure to put an extra spring (sorry) in anyone’s step.

Tulip flowers
So if you visit BackCountry in March, what will you see? Definitely crocuses, those tiny, hardy purple flowers that are always the first to brave spring’s raging mood swings. Come back a little later (say, April and May) and you’ll see rivers of tulips—yellow, tan and red—all over Backcountry, numbering 500 to 1,000 bulbs per plot.

Nearing summer the perennials wake up, safe from straggler snowstorms. Like all BackCountry plantings, the community’s perennials are carefully chosen to live in harmony with our often-dry Colorado summers. They include native, water-wise choices such as blanketflower, coneflower, red yarrow, midnight blue salvia, Russian sage, and red-hot pokers. The wide variety adds rainbows of color and texture to the entire community, especially in common areas by the front gate, the Discovery House, Sundial House, pool and parks.

Paul Menningen, maintenance manager at BackCountry, explains why the community favors natural plantings over the traditional water-chugging gardens found in other developments. “You won’t find formal gardens with hydrangeas here. Our whole concept is trying to recreate nature. Sure, it’s a lot easier to just throw in a golf course, but this approach creates a really unique place to live.”

Beautiful native landscape at BackCountry in Highlands Ranch Coloraod

Between preserving nature (467 acres of open space and some 8,000 acres of adjacent wilderness beyond) and recreating natural landscapes, BackCountry serves as a daily reminder to residents of just how lucky we are to call Colorado home.

Paul’s Tips for Spring Landscape Care  

With a bachelor’s of science degree in park management, and 30 years of property management under his belt, Paul knows a thing or two about maintaining a landscape. When asked for ideas on getting ready for spring, here’s what he shared:

  • Clean up old leaf matter in your garden beds and yard. Rot = mold. Not good.

  • Fluff up your matted grass with a rake, especially on the north, shady side where the snow lingers. Again, a mold deterrent.

  • Water your grass and, if your yard is more than a year old, aerate. (If it’s younger than a year, you’ll rip out the tender roots.)

  • Water your trees with a trickling hose. Here’s a simple way if you’re too busy to monitor the watering. Drill four or five ¼ inch holes in a 5-gallon plastic bucket. Put at the base of a tree. Fill the bucket with water. Walk away.

  • If you didn’t do it in the fall, prune your dormant plants. Depending on the type, prune it down to ground level or a few inches above.

  • April’s the perfect time to fertilize your beds and grass.

Spring cleaning: Keeping it green. And healthy.

by | March 20th, 2014

Hand with sponge
It’s that time of year when we’re ready to throw open the windows and give everything a good scrub. But do you know what’s in your cleaning bucket? Or your spray bottle? If you’re like most of us, every time you clean you’re releasing a fair amount of bleach, ammonia, and other nasty chemicals into your home. And into the environment at large.

There is a better way says Landon Harmon, President of Healthy Clean, a Highlands Ranch cleaning service with more than a few BackCountry clients—and a reputation that’s resulted in interviews with USA Today and Better Homes and Gardens, as well as the 5280 magazine Editor’s Choice Award for Home Cleaning and Service in 2012. (Please see bottom of story for a special blog-reader discount.)

“I grew up with Comet, Soft Scrub, and bleach as our household cleaners,” says Landon. “But I think mine is the first generation to really think deeply about all the toxins we’re bringing into our homes.” His cleaning crews use only natural products, which prove just as effective than the traditional bad-boy cleansers. These green products are primarily comprised of hydrogen peroxide and orange peel extract, ingredients so safe they could actually be ingested! Cleaning this way is a smart idea if you have kids or even just pets since, he notes, “the #2 cause of death in domestic animals is cancer caused by household cleaning products.”

Natural Non-Toxic Cleaning Products
If you’re ready to start cleaning green, here are some of Landon’s favorite ideas:

  • First and foremost, empty out your cabinets of all the toxic stuff. You can easily make your own cleansers from simple ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide (which lifts dirt as the oxygen in it expands), and perhaps lemon to leave behind a fresh smell. Get specifics here and here.

  • Skip the wasteful paper towels. Use washable microfiber cloths, which have a fine weave that’s ideal for picking up dirt. Wet and wring out a microfiber cloth, and use all by itself to clean windows with nary a streak.

  • Sprinkle baking soda on upholstery and carpets. Wait 15 minutes, then vacuum to deodorize.

  • Refill your soap dispensers instead of buying new ones, and use eco-friendly trash liners that decompose faster.

  • Avoid products that say “petroleum-based” and dishwashing detergents with phosphates, which can adversely affect the environment. Use original blue Dawn for cutting grease. It’s so gentle, that’s what they use to clean wildlife after oil spills!

  • Clean your microwave by heating up a mug of water and lemon juice for several minutes. Let it steam up the microwave for about five minutes more to dissolve grease, then wipe clean with a cloth.

  • Don’t waste your products by overspraying. Spray on the cloth, not the surface.

  • Know that you don’t need a super-expensive vacuum cleaner. A $100 model, plus HEPA-filter and eco-friendly bags, will work great.

  • Keep a squeegee in the shower if you have glass doors. If your family does a quick squeegee before they exit the shower, come chore day cleaning the shower is a breeze.

Keep in mind that a little consistent cleaning is far easier than playing catch-up with the all-day cleaning sessions everyone dreads. Get your kids involved. Make a game out of it, like “pick up everything that starts with the letter ‘a’” or “a penny for everything you put away.”

Healthy Clean is offering a discount to BackCountry blog readers: 10% off your first clean or a fifth clean free. The company also cleans carpets and is offering $35 off any carpet cleaning valued at $200 and up. Schedule a free estimate online or by calling 720-379-5730.

Have you seen me?

by | March 13th, 2014

Hawk perched on Sundial House at BackCountry
To catch a glimpse of this handsome BackCountry resident, keep your eyes open and looking upward. Especially when you’re near the community center—the Sundial House—where this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk was recently seen balancing masterfully atop the building’s sundial tip.

Spotted near the end of the day, Sundial Sam (as locals have dubbed him) found an ideal spot for a panoramic view of his surroundings—and any tasty prey possibilities. (Our human residents enjoy similar 360-degree views at the Sundial House, but from a much more comfortable perch on the patio.)

While Sam’s post was unusual for its teensy landing strip, he and his fellow hawks, falcons and eagles are not uncommon sights in the BackCountry neighborhood. BackCountry was designed to preserve and celebrate nature—as in the breathtaking South Rim, 467 acres of natural open space exclusive to BackCountry residents. And in the almost 8,000 acres of pristine Backcountry Wilderness Area literally next door. Not surprisingly, because BackCountry is surrounded by so much natural habitat, the neighborhood offers outstanding bird watching opportunities in the parks, open space, and wilderness area. And sometimes, at the very tip top of the community center.

Wildlife at BackCountry in Highlands Ranch
Are you a birdwatcher? Then come take a tour of BackCountry. A Highlands Ranch resident? Go on a long hike in your Backcountry Wilderness Area, open to the residents of BackCountry and greater Highlands Ranch only, or consider taking a Denver Audubon Society field trip to nearby Chatfield Reservoir or Roxborough Park.

It’s March. In Colorado.

by | March 7th, 2014

We’ve earned a little spring fling or two.

Yes, we’ve almost made it through another winter. Well, on second thought this is Colorado so there’s probably a tad more sidewalk shoveling in our future. Which helps make an even better argument for some fun outings to get us over the snow-packed hump. From comedy and talent shows to a mega-consignment sale, BackCountry residents have a fine selection of activities to enjoy this month.

Comedy Night at Southridge – Mar. 7, 7pm

Buckle up for a sidesplitting night of comedy with Chris Voth, who has appeared on Comedy Central, NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and is a past winner of the Miller Lite Comedy Competition of Denver. Called “a name to watch” and “a very funny guy” by the Rocky Mountain News, Voth has worked with some of the biggest names in comedy, including Dave Chappelle, Dana Carvey, Louie Anderson and Kathleen Madigan. Held at the Debus Wildcat Mountain Auditorium at the Southridge Recreation Center. Tickets are $10 or $15 day of event if not sold out. Cash bar. Ages 21+. Learn more.

Stars of Tomorrow Talent Show
– Mar. 14, 6:30pm

Now’s your chance to discover Colorado’s next celebrity-in-the-making. This 10th annual event showcases the “best of the best” in rising talents among elementary through high school students. Music, dancing, acting—you’ll see it all and learn who moves on to the next level of competition. Sponsored by The Kiwanis Clubs of Castle Rock and Douglas County, this event takes place at the Lone Tree Arts Center. Purchase tickets here for $9 or call 720-509-1000. Learn more.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Mar. 15, 9:30am

Are you Irish? Who cares! For one magical day, everyone is Irish and invited to cheer for Queen Colleen, bagpipers, dancers, motorcycle crews and more at Denver’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. But before you go, please note a few changes from previous years.  The parade is starting 30 minutes earlier and has reversed its route (See map.) Learn

Kids Closet Consignment Sale – Mar. 16-17

Parents, don’t miss this blockbuster of a sale featuring gently-used, brand-name clothing, toys, baby gear, furniture, sports equipment and more at 50-90% off retail. Your $1 admission (ages 3 and up) includes free entrance into The Wildlife Experience. The event will be held in the building’s Great Hall, so kids and a parent can play while the other parent shops. Learn more.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Sensory-Friendly Movie for Families Affected By Autism – Mar. 29, 10am

Each month, AMC Theatres and the Autism Society team up to bring families affected by autism and other special needs the chance to enjoy films together in a safe and accepting environment. Movie lights are brought up, sound turned down, and families may bring in their own snacks and move around freely. This month’s feature presentation is Muppets Most Wanted. AMC Highlands Ranch 24, no reservations required. Tickets $6. Learn more.

Stayin’ Alive

by | February 27th, 2014

A BackCountry primer to winter-proofing your landscape.

Thankfully, Colorado winters give us a nice, long break from weeding or mowing. But that doesn’t mean we get off scot-free in the landscape department.

Colorado winters can be a tough on non-indigenous plants — which is what we typically grow in our yards. Our climate’s whiplash changes in temperature can be especially harmful. As can our not-infrequent dry spells.  For those of you who recently moved to our beautiful state, Colorado is considered a high plains desert area. So, because our landscaping choices (thankfully) venture far afield from hardy, but not-very-flashy natives like sagebrush and sandcherry, we need to provide a fair amount of care for them all year around.

Photo from

Photo from

Watering plants

Winter watering is vital to the longevity of our plants. Keep in mind that it takes one foot of snow to give one inch of water to turf and plants. And much of the water that comes from snowmelt will never even make it to the soil in your yard. As it melts, it flows off of the landscape and downstream into our ponds, and then offsite. So it’s very important to properly water your grass and plants and to deep root water trees and shrubs during extended periods when we don’t get any snowfall. This is particularly critical when your landscaping is less than three years old. Remember the 1-2-3 rule for plant survival in Colorado:

  1. The first year is survival. Winter watering is very important during the first winter.
  2. The second year is establishment and root growth.
  3. The third year is when you will notice the most top growth.
Photo from

Photo from

Tree trimming

February and March can be a great time to prune your deciduous trees. Without leaves in the way, it’s easier to see what you’re doing. There are few insects and disease spores to infest pruning cuts. And wounds close more rapidly when pruning is done just prior to the emergence of new shoots.

What should you prune? Cut off any crossing branches that might rub and cause bark damage. These scars allow for places for insects and disease to infect your trees. You should also look for branches broken by snow. Prune lower-hanging branches off now so they are not in your way when mowing next summer. If you have fruiting trees such as crabapples, it’s best to leave the trimming of these species to a professional. They often get a disease known as fire blight. If this disease is not identified and pruned off correctly, it can spread through the host tree and onto other trees. Learn the basics of tree pruning here.

bc feb blog-4 aspenvalley services

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Grass care

If your decorative grasses are looking a bit ragged due to high winds and snow, you can begin to cut them back also. A general rule is to take off two-thirds of the top growth. Also, if you have turf grass in the shady areas around your home, look for white or pink mildew on the blades of grass. This is called “snow mold,” which often happens when snow or leaves remain on the grass for long periods of time. Snow mold can cause unsightly dead patches in your lawn. Catch it early by cleaning off any leaf material and then rake the grass to fluff it and allow air to flow around the grass blades. When you mow for the first time in the spring, cut the grass short, bag your clippings, and dispose of them with your trash.

New to Colorado? The Colorado State University Extension (online and in-person at various county offices) is a truly amazing resource where you can find answers to all your burning questions about everything from choosing water-wise trees to growing tasty tomatoes during our challenging summers.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

by | February 20th, 2014

Expert advice for staying healthy all winter long.

At BackCountry, a healthy lifestyle is as close as the neighborhood trails, open space, parks, pool, and fitness center. But did you know BackCountry also offers a network of wellness professionals who happily offer “house calls” in the Sundial House treatment rooms.  Just in time for flu season, one of these experienced caregivers, acupuncturist Michelle Sauberzweig, shares a few thoughts below on keeping winter’s nastiest bugs at bay.

Flu season is here and has quickly become an epidemic. If you truly want to avoid illness and disease, then it is up to you to take a look at your daily choices and consider what changes you could make to advance your health. Your best “insurance” against illness is to transition from reactive, symptom-based care to a proactive, wellness-driven lifestyle. To help you obtain this lifestyle, consider some of these simple ways in increase your immunity this season.

Wash your hands often.
 Your hands are home to bacteria and potentially dangerous germs from time to time, such as staph, strep, and the intestinal bacteria that cause food poisoning and diarrhea. Public places are notorious for bacteria! Viruses are also able to spread from contact and cause diarrhea and respiratory infections from the sniffles to the flu, so be sure to wash your hands frequently.

hand washing

Take Chinese Herbal Formulas or Homeopathics.
 Herbs are commonly prescribed during a change of season to help a person adapt to the changing weather. By planning ahead and taking herbs accordingly, one can drastically reduce the frequency and severity of catching the common cold or the flu. Engystol homeopathic injections are available during the winter months as well. They work like a flu shot without any side effects.

Homeopathic medicine.

Commit to Acupuncture. Acupuncture is primarily a preventive form of medicine — it makes us stronger so that we can avoid disease rather than dealing with it after it happens. There are specific points that will strengthen your immunity and improve your chances of avoiding the flu this year or prevent a recurrence if you have already suffered through it.

bc feb blog-ac1

Michelle Sauberzweig, L.Ac, is a state and nationally licensed acupuncturist also trained in therapies such as moxibustion, tui na, acupressure, cupping, auriculotherapy, injection therapy and dietary and lifestyle recommendations. For more information about staying healthy this season, contact her at (303) 909-0402. Or visit Living Well Acupuncture. 

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