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Seven out of every ten sick, injured and orphaned critters that limp into Jack and Penny Murphy's nonprofit animal-rescue center walk out again. As a result, this husband-and-wife team -- also known as Coon Papa and Bat Lady -- are sought out by veterinarians, animal-control officers, police and homeowners statewide. For the past ten years, they've rescued and rehabilitated everything from bats to raccoons, coyotes, foxes, squirrels and practically anything else that slithers, flaps or crawls. He got his nickname for his kinship with raccoons and she got hers for her kinship with the flying mammals. From an impossibly cluttered home in Aurora, Jack and Penny have shown that there are more humane ways of handling wild creatures than traps, gas chambers and trips to the pound. The couple nurtures the animals back to health and releases them into the wild. And if you need help getting squirrels from your attic, they can do that, too. Just tune the radio to Rush Limbaugh, Jack says. "That clears the room real quick."

Readers' choice: 911

Ever wonder why it's so hard to keep grass green in Denver? Erratic weather, freezing winters, burning summers, high winds, bad soil and a miniscule amount of rainfall may have something to do with it. Enter Xeriscape, a word that was invented and trademarked by the Denver Water Department in 1981 to help frustrated Denver gardeners save water and keep the areas around their homes lovely without having to fight Colorado's naturally dry climate. The key is to let go of the American ideal of a green lawn. Just try it for a moment: It's not easy, but it helps to have some direction, which is why the folks at the water department run a series of seminars in the late winter and early spring to teach people the principles of Xeriscaping and give them ideas of what to plant and how to landscape. They also have a ton of free pamphlets and other information, a hotline and a demonstration garden located at department headquarters. And if they sometimes sound a little defensive, it's hard to blame them. Many people have the wrong idea about Xeriscape. "[It] is NOT ugly, brown, rocks and cactus. A properly-designed Xeriscape is lush, colorful and easy to care for," according to departmental information. "It's good to bring attention to the fact that we basically live in a semi-arid desert," adds Liz Gardener, conservation manager for the water department. "Especially this year. We've been lucky for the last decade, but I don't think it's going to stay like that."

And, yes, that is her real last name. Gardener says that after a divorce, she didn't want to keep her married name and she didn't want to take back her old name, so she chose a new one. "I asked myself, 'What makes sense for me?' I love to plant seeds of thought in people's minds almost as much as I like to plant seeds in my garden," she says, "so it's perfect." And "Xeriscape" just didn't work -- as a last name, that is.

Readers' choice: 16th Street Mall shuttle service

Once you graduate from the Denver Water Department's free seminars, how about its Xeriscape handbooks? These will set you back a few bucks, but the series gives all the skinny -- rootstock and barrel -- on how to conserve water and still have a beautiful yard. Four books -- Xeriscape Plant Guide, Xeriscape Color Guide, Xeriscape Handbook and Waterwise Landscaping With Trees, Shrubs and Vines -- cover just about everything, from what to plant to how to plant and maintain it; there's also a video on how to convert a grass lawn to a Xeriscape garden. Quit doing a rain dance and just get smart -- all you need is the right equipment.

You always want to try new places, but Echter's is the place you keep coming back to, and here's why: There are acres of merchandise, from birdhouses and gifty gewgaws on one end to an endless selection of trees, shrubs, perennials, landscaping materials and more on the other end. And in between, they've got every kind of tool or gardening supply you could ever hope for, an array of the prettiest pansies around town, annuals galore, unusual herbs and fragrant lavenders, Rocky Mountain columbine and zillions of roses (from the picky teas to the hearty shrub varieties), and everything else that grows from the ground. Add in the efficient service, a kids' play area and the park with a lake across the street, and you'll never want to go anywhere else.

Groundcovers Greenhouse is relatively small, tidy and well-stocked -- the perfect place to pick up a few broccoli seedlings or yellow pear tomato plants or a quick packet of regionally friendly vegetable seeds. Offering a good selection of annuals and perennials, and with at least one knowledgeable staff member always roaming to answer questions, Groundcovers also sports a particularly serendipitous selection of the garden ornaments, decorative pots and trellises that make gardening less of a chore and a whole lot more fun.

Tiny and uncompromisingly lovely on the corner of Gaylord and Tennessee (where it hangs out engagingly like a private backyard retreat), the Potted Garden is the place to pick up elegant baskets of bleeding hearts to hang from your eaves, or large, well-established container-grown tomatoes, or a four-pack of snapdragons, or even a $200 designer birdhouse, the kind of splurge you never expected but suddenly can't live without. Or you can just go there for a quick fix of spiritual floriation on your way to eat sushi or seafood down the street.

Courtesy Brown Palace Hotel
There are usually a couple of cabs lingering in front of this Denver landmark, but if not, the Brown Palace hotel doorman will almost always help you get one if you're stuck downtown. Just don't be rude: Doormen can get a little ornery when an obnoxious drunk who isn't a hotel guest starts demanding service. The nice thing is that when the upscale Brown Palace calls for a cab, it'll show up long before it would at whatever dive you were really drinking in.

An immediate lull falls over you as you walk into the Barong Collection; perhaps it's the gamelan music that wafts, trancelike, through the room. But it most certainly has something to do with the peaceful profusion of limestone and lavastone pagodas from Bali, ranging in size from shin-high and delicate to massive and striking. Regardless of size, they're all in some kind of laid-back stasis, just waiting to offset that stand of Japanese iris over in the left corner of your backyard. You can't let the moon rise there without one.

The Pleasant Avenue Nursery in Buena Vista has been specializing in the growing and testing of native and apt species for high-altitude gardening since 1972, changing its focus over the years from mined-land reclamation projects to the lighter-hearted realm of mountain gardening and landscaping. But Pleasant Avenue has became even more of a growth industry this year, starting off the spring with a big retail expansion offering nearly 3,000 square feet of high-country flora. If you choose to live the high life, your plants will have to, too; here's a good place to find the right stuff.

Now you can hear the sound of falling water (a popular reverberation these days because of its calmative powers) all year long, because this class is offered all year long. Everything's provided except the bowl and pump, which you have to buy separately -- but Wildflowers has those, too. And if you're so inclined, once you've brushed up on your trickle-down theory, you can then sign up for a Feng Shui workshop to help you figure out where to put your fountain.

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