part 4 of 4

Best Place to Get Free Fertilizer
Echter's Greenhouse and Gardens
5150 Garrison St., Arvada

Echter's has acres of trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials, plus a knowledgeable, helpful staff. Now there's another reason to go--free fertilizer for your houseplants. Next time you stop in, bring along an empty one-gallon milk jug (or buy one there for 50 cents) and fill it up with free fertilizer water from the garden center tank located way in the back next to the Pepsi machine. There's no minimum purchase requirement and no strings attached. Why do they do it? "Because we're good," says one employee. We knew that.

Best Free Seeds
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Seed and Plant Giveaway
Lower-income gardeners can put fresh produce on their tables, thanks to the agrarian scholars of CSU. Working locally in conjunction with the City of Denver, the university's extension service allows applicants to not only receive free vegetable seeds and seedlings but also get advice on how best to grow them.

Best Free Botanical Advice
Denver Botanic Gardens' Helen Fowler Library
1005 York St.

How does your garden grow? They'll know. Knowledge is in full bloom at the Denver Botanic Gardens' Helen Fowler Library. The largest botanical library in the Rocky Mountain region, it contains thousands of books, magazines and videos that anyone can peruse for the price of admission (Gardens members can check them out for free). Even nonmembers can call the library hotline and leave a botanical question; staffers will research the answer.

Best Living Carpet
Applewood Seed Co.
5380 Vivian St., Arvada

An Arvada company has come up with the ultimate sodbuster: After all, why lay down grass when you can instead roll out a Wildflower Carpet? Although several other companies are now fighting over this same turf, it was Applewood Seed that created the concept of studding groundcover with wildflowers. The Wildflower Carpet actually arrives (via UPS, at $65 for five square feet--call 1-800-247-6945 to order) as a mat of densely placed, three-inch-high, three-month-old wildflower plants, fifteen perennials in all, nourished by a thin layer of soil-less planting medium. The carpet blooms within two months of installation and continues to show its true colors through the growing season.

Best Use of a Dead Tree
David Mitchell
The Enchanted Forest

Stumped by what to do with that dead tree in the front yard? Call David Mitchell. Using chainsaw and chisels, he'll carve the remains into a real piece of art for under $2,000. Although he takes requests (specialties include animals, birds and human forms--and don't miss that winged lion on Yale Avenuue), Mitchell can also look at the trunk and find "what's inside the tree," he says. "Some people know what they want. Some people just know they have a tree."

Best Christmas Tree Lot
Rocky Mountain Fireworks
5401 Federal Blvd.

Rocky Mountain Fireworks isn't the kind of place where you'll find a tree worthy of the White House lawn. But the store carries a selection that will warm the cockles of the bargain-hunting tree buyer's heart: little trees, scraggly trees and trees that might look fine stuffed into a corner. Thanks to the fireworks folks, we have't paid more than $8 or $10 for a Christmas tree in the past two years.

Readers' choice: Sears, Cherry Creek

Best Use for Christmas Trees When They're Dead
Treecycle Mulch Giveaway
City of Denver

What happens to your dry, scraggly, shedding tree after you leave it out for the garbage trucks? Denver Recycles turns up to 30,000 of them into Treecycle Mulch, free for the taking every April to anyone who wants to haul the stuff away.

Best Place to Buy Garden Hats
Hobby Lobby
5810 W. Alameda Ave., Lakewood

Hobby Lobby has been lionized by the artsy-craftsy set, but gardeners know it as a cheap-hat haven. To illustrate: A plain straw twelve-inch bonnet costs only 75 cents. And that's not even a sale price. The store also carries all manner of fake flowers, ribbons, paint, sparkles, rickrack and other frou-frou to personalize your cut-rate chapeau.

Best Place to Buy a Cactus
City Floral Greenhouse
1440 Kearney St.

It's a prickly situation at City Floral just peruse the huge selection of cacti and succulents. If you're looking for something big and dramatic, you'll find the right Southwestern statement, but the greenhouse also boasts a good stock of little guys and the pots to put them in.

Best Place to Buy a Grotto
Ruins Etc.
1516 Emerson St.

Need a gargoyle? They've got them in all sizes at Ruins Etc., where a big one sits thinking in the window and little ones cackle from every corner. Also appearing are heavenly cherubs, jumping fish, graceful columns and Roman friezes--just what you need for your own neoclassical backyard pond.