Xeriscape gardening and House Bill 22-1151

By Mary Harris

Gardening is a personal passion of mine. As a sign business owner, I have a special interest in the way monument signs are landscaped. It has been a long-time pet peeve of mine when the wrong plants are placed in front of signage. Planting that are too tall at maturity can block your beautiful (and sometimes costly) monuments. That’s just one factor to consider. Our dwindling water supply is another. As of August 2021, 99 percent of the United States west of the Rockies is in drought, as severe a measurement as any in the historical record. The Denver metro area is in slightly better shape, but still has troubling drought concerns.

The term Xeriscaping first began appearing in landscaping circles in the early 1980s around Denver when the area was experiencing a severe drought and water was being rationed. The idea revolved around using as little water as possible and still maintain interesting and attractive landscapes. Fast forward to 2022. In early February of this year, the bi-partisan bill HB 22-1151 was introduced to the Colorado State House that would create a fund to pay residents statewide to tear out their lawns and replace it with more drought-friendly, also known as xeriscape alternatives.

Common area landscaping is expensive to maintain. Plant, weed, feed, water, mow repeat. Let’s focus on the cost of irrigation. Across the Denver metro area, water bills are getting larger and larger. As a resident of Castle Rock, I’ve seen the water rates climb year after year. Here are the average percent of usage that Castle Rock Water attributes to each resident:

• 54% outdoor use
• 13% toilets
• 10% clothes washer
• 10% showers
• 7% faucets
• 5% leaks
• 1% dishwasher and cleaning

Just imaging the impact it would have if you could reduce the outdoor water usage in your community by 10, 20, or even 50%! Less water (and water bill) and less maintenance. That, itself, is a big win. Add in the aforementioned bill, and now you have a win-win scenario! The bill would be just what a community would need for motivation to ditch the grass and plant water friendly, low maintenance foliage. Although the bill does not outline how it would disburse the funds, be it a one-time payment or tax credit, or an ongoing, yearly incentive, in my opinion, any financial help would be well received.

Some might imagine a xeriscape garden as a harsh, rock laden, cacti profuse desert island, but it doesn’t have to be. Xeriscape landscapes can be eye-popping beautiful! Trees, bushes, and perennials all have species that are considered xeriscape friendly. The right combination of height, color, and bloom time can offer a lush and appealing backdrop to any community.

We have compiled an extensive list of water-wise, xeriscape plants. The plants on our list are zone 5 or lower (Metro Denver is zone 5 on average). This means that the plants should be able to withstand the average weather conditions in our area. Other factors can influence the zone. The amount of sunlight the area receives and the close proximity to surrounding buildings or man-made structures such as monument signs to name a couple. I suggest consulting a horticulturist about what is best for your area before embarking on your project.  We have also included vital information such as color and plant height at maturity. Additionally, we have noted bloom time; spring, summer or fall and any special features such as Hummingbird friendly, deer resistant, etc. To download this list click here.

Here are some additional helpful attachments to aid in your upcoming xeriscape projects. Happy planting!

Colorado HB 22-1151


Colorado State University xeriscape Tree and Shrub listing


Colorado State University xeriscape ground cover listing


Colorado Native Plant Society Low-Water Plant Listing


The Fundamentals of Updating Community Signage

By Mary Harris

Your HOA Board has asked you to get quotes for “updating the signage” but no other instruction. Where do you go from here? What exactly
do they mean by “update?” Here is some basic information that will help you look like a knowledgeable rock star.

First and foremost, enlist the help of a professional sign person. This person needs to be someone that has experience in all types of signs, not just banners from a quick sign shop. If you do not have a good sign resource, ask your co-workers or companions in the management industry for referrals. On the first contact with the sign professional, do not hesitate to interview them as you would an assistant. Ask for years of experience and projects that they have worked on. Take a look at their website. This can save you from headaches in the future.

Once you have chosen your sign professional, provide them with a
budget. You do not want to waste your time or theirs, so knowing the budget is key. Now that a budget has been established, ask to do a walkthrough of the property with them. This allows you the opportunity to see what they see, affording you better insight into the sign needs of the community.
The common types of signs in a community are monuments, street signs, stop signs, building signs, pedestrian crossing, community information kiosks, miscellaneous pools signs, and clubhouse signs.

Of course, each community is unique and may have other types of signs. In this article, we’ll discuss a few of these.

Monument signs are typically at the entrance of the community and create the first impression of the neighborhood. Although a monument can last upwards of 30 years, it may look dated. This type of signage will typically use the bulk of your budget. An update to the monument sign can be as little as cleaning off dirt and graffiti all the way to full replacement. Monument signs are most often constructed of some form of masonry, such as brick or stone, and metal faces or individual letters and/or logos. Some less costly, and less permanent monument signs are merely constructed of posts and panels. Ways you can update a monument are panel and letter replacement, adding lighting (currently, solar is particularly popular), re-painting the lettering/panels, and of course full replacement.

If the community’s streets are privately owned and maintained,
the street signs will need to be evaluated. Are they faded, missing street names, leaning, or just plain ugly? The MUTCD (The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) requires the sign faces to be fabricated in high-intensity reflective material; are yours? In my opinion, although private communities are not required to comply with the MUTCD regulations, it is wise to do so. It could reduce the community’s liability in the event of an accident. From an aesthetics standpoint, replacing the typical u-channel post and aluminum blades with decorative posts and sign blades can really improve the look of the community as a whole.

Community information kiosks can be custom built to meet the specific needs of the neighborhood. They can be free-standing
structures or mounted to the outside of a building such as a
clubhouse. They can be as simple as a glass front box with a cork board interior for posting flyers about a missing kittycat, or as sophisticated as an electronic LED display that can be controlled by one of the Board members. You will need to have your sign professional check with your local governing entity and establish what types of kiosks are permitted in your area.
Regulatory signs, and more specifically, pool rule signs are extremely important to keep clean, readable, and up to date. These signs need to be legible from a distance. Pool rules can change yearly.

New legislation is the most common reason to review your sign annually. You will need to check with your insurance carrier as well to find out what verbiage they require on the sign. While we are on the subject of pool signage, you’ll need to make sure that the water depth markings surrounding the pool are
in good, readable shape and accurate, as well as any other markings,
such as “No Diving,” etc.

Those are just a few thoughts on community signage. Your sign
professional should be able to educate you and your Board on all of
your sign needs. I will leave you with one final piece of information:
Do not feel compelled to purchase all of your signs at the same
time if your community needs to spread out the expense over time.
The only difference in price should be additional trip charges and
possible increases in material and labor costs (which in most cases,
should be nominal).


Mary Harris, Managing Member of Architectural Signs, has been a professional in the sign industry for more than 30 years. Architectural Signs offers custom dimensional signage locally and nationwide. Contact Mary with questions at mary@architecturalsigns.com

In the Spotlight!

Candelas Exterior Monument made the television commercial for David Weekly Homes!
Brooklyn Veterinary Clinic Monument Sign made it in their Ad!

Monument renovation – Before & After

Sometimes a sign has great “bones” but has lost it’s luster. That’s when a cost efficient monument refurbishment is in order. High pressure wash, new paint and vinyl can take a tired sign and make it look new again. We can also re-set stone and retro fit LED lighting. We were able to help this beautiful community by renovating their four monument signs.

Spectacular Monument in Downtown Denver

Our newly completed crown jewel is in the heart of downtown Denver and steps from the 16th Street Mall. This 10′ tall monument sign has 4′ tall halo lit polished stainless steel numerals. The polished stainless steel stands out durring the day reflecting it’s beautiful surroundings. At night this amazing monument sign glows with it’s halo lit numbers.  The text on this monument sign is illuminated push through acrylic dimensional letters. This fabulous monument sign is located at the 300 East 17th Apartments in beautiful downtown Denver. They offers richly appointed residences that deliver everything you desire. 300 East 17th features studio, one and two bedroom floorplans to fit your lifestyle. Take in the gorgeous views of downtown Denver. If you have been looking for apartments in downtown Denver, 300 East 17th, professionally managed by Maxx Properties, is waiting for you.

Recently installed monument sign

This recently installed monument sign was completely manufactured in our shop then installed at the clients corporate headquarters. The brushed aluminum blades are set off by the matte finished textured background. The logo is cutout acrylic with etched grooves to add visual interest. For more information about Blindshine, visit their website at: http://www.blindshine.net/

Walt Spader Memorial Plaque

Architectural Signs is proud to have produces this dimensional bronze plaque to honor Walt Spader in Broomfield. The park and ball fields were dedicated in Walt’s memory.
This plaque is cast from bronze, and Walt’s portrait was hand carved and then cast into bronze as well to add more dimension to this plaque. This timeless memorial will last for several generations of ball players to remember this great citizen by.



How to Increase Property Value Through Signage Improvements

By Mary Harris

The Denver metro housing market is like we’ve never seen before. Some home values are increasing annually by 10% or more, while others are a steady 6% or less. Why? You might say location, and that would be true, but what other factors play a roll on this hot market? Consider the overall appearance of the neighborhood.

According to the Community Associations Institute, the number of community or homeowners associations has grown from 10,000 in 1970 to 342,000 in 2016. That’s a lot of competition. Now more than ever, it is imperative that your community signage leaves a lasting positive visual impression, conveying a sense of pride in the community.

Is the signage in your neighborhood antiquated and tired? Are street signs faded, leaning, broken, or beat up by the landscaper’s weed whacker? Are the flower beds over grown and covering your neighborhood entrance monument rendering them un-readable? All of these things can have a negative impact on the perception of property values.

Once you’ve determined that your neighborhood signage needs attention, where do you start? How do you improve your signage without draining your reserves and how do you determine where to focus your attention?

First, walk your neighborhood and determine what signs need repaired or replaced. If you have a trusted sign vendor, ask them to join you. A professional sign vendor will help guide you and essentially help you work within your budget. Once you have a list of sign “issues”, you can and prioritize based on need and budget.

Addressing the needed safety issues should be priority number one! Missing stop signs, illegible street signs, and cross walk signs need to be maintained in pristine condition. Communities can suffer large financial losses due to lawsuits because of negligence in sign maintenance. The Department of Transportation requires that street signs and stop signs are constructed with high intensity reflective material. This adds night time visibility and safety.

I would then focus on the community entrance signage. Can visitors easily find the neighborhood? Does the signage convey the message the community would like to emulate? When you look at it, does it scream 1960? Keep in mind that monuments are built to last for decades, but the style can make the community look outdated. If you have an entrance sign (aka. monument sign) that was built decades ago, you may want to consider refurbishment.

Monument refurbishment is a cost effective way to modernize and revitalize the neighborhood. Consider the photos featured in this article. The existing monument was non-illuminated and a little dated. The original background was replaced with a stucco finish and halo lit, LED channel letters were added in a high contrast color. Now the monument sign is visible day and night, guiding residents and visitors alike to the neighborhood. The cost of a refurbishment verses a full blown replacement can save a community thousands of dollars.

A community message board is something that would be considered a community amenity. Either a box that houses paper posted notices or an LED electronic message board can lend to a sense of community and a perceived added value to the community as a whole. Posted near an entrance, pool or club house, this offers residents neighborhood information and a place to communicate.

Pool, tennis court, amenity signage should be updated for community liability purposes. It is imperative that regulations are posted in a clear manner and in compliance to ADA regulations. Outdated information or rules can have a financially negative impact on a neighborhood, leaving the community vulnerable to legal action.

If you take the time to address the signage in your community, keeping all up to date and in compliance, and modernized, your community can and will benefit. Property values will increase, as well as the communities overall satisfaction.

Enhancing Community Value through Signage

By Mary Harris

Signage is a very effective way to not only update, but add distinction and beauty to a neighborhood community. Research compiled by Newton Graham Consultants, a national economic forecaster, showed that the 1981-82 housing downturn proved that the best-looking neighborhoods had the highest resale values for its homes. The same data applies to the recent housing downturn, which is evident when looking at homes in well maintained areas because they show a greater retention of home owners and a greater return on investment.

This is where the community entrance signs can make a difference. A well thought out and aesthetically pleasing entrance sign can convey a certain type of community for the homeowners, while also providing direction to visitors. Like a park entrance sign, a community entrance sign should be bright, clear and informative as it embodies the personality of the community it signifies. Monument signage is essential to a residential development. Monument structures add a professional look in addition to assisting individuals to find their location.

Because a monument sign is one of the first items that a newcomer notices upon entering the neighborhood, it is very important to make an impression. Stone and brick monuments are popular and long lasting, and it is recommended that faces and letters be made of aluminum. There are different coatings that can be applied to aluminum (powder coating, baked enamel or regular paint) which all have different life spans, so be sure to understand the maintenance costs associated with the different coatings. 

Another popular option for entrance signs is sandblasted or routed signs. Typically, this type of sign will need to be repainted every five to seven years to keep them looking fresh. These signs can be made from Cedar, Redwood or a resin composite material, which can be a less expensive, more durable alternative depending on the situation.

Older HOAs often have signs that have outlived their usefulness and that have become dilapidated. A good way to start the talk about beautifying the neighborhood is to survey the community and ask which signs should be replaced or refurbished. Sometimes it is possible to refurbish existing signage to freshen up or completely change the look. Clearly defining HOA signage can help maintain a manicured and uncluttered look.

A wonderful way for a community to provide a prestigious and well maintained look is to use decorative traffic control signs. Many options exist including a variety of finial tops, different wraps around the base of the poles, and even scrolls and brackets. The size of the pole also makes a difference, as typically the larger the pole is, the more pronounced the sign looks. Sign pole sizes range from 2.5 inches to 8 inches in diameter. Keep in mind that consistency within the community is key, particularly with logos, colors, styles, scrolls, bases and finials.

Most decorative traffic control parts are powder coated, and thus should have a lifespan of five to ten years. They do not need to be repainted occasionally, and signs also may need to be replaced over time due to wear. If a neighborhood has any DOT style (galvanized metal) street posts, it is highly recommended to upgrade to a decorative style post. The new look will quickly upgrade the appearance of the neighborhood.

Message boards are very popular right now with associations and self-managed neighborhoods. Slide in frames, cork board, white boards or any kind of sign that allows changeable copy is a great way to display information and keep the community up to date. An LED message board is another option which offers endless messages and can be controlled online. As always, a uniform look and feel to match other signs is encouraged and can easily be accomplished.

Regulatory signs range from identification to instructional, including “No Trespassing,” “No Fishing” or “No Parking.” This type of sign isn’t the most appealing visually, but important none the less. The keys are determining how many are necessary, where they are placed and keeping them maintained consistently.

It might be rare to hear a compliment about a community sign, but good-looking and well-maintained signs can be eye catching and make a statement about that neighborhood. It might be valuable to take some time and think about what the community signs are saying about your neighborhood or those that you manage, and bring it to the attention of the board of directors.

Pradera Monument Sign

Back in 2003, operating as “The Signtist”  I sold DR Horton the entire sign package for Pradera, which was the Parade of Homes in 2004. To my pleasant surprise, 15 years later I was called to help them with a new sign at the entryway for Pradera.

Working with the mason, we created this halo lighted sign to match the signs we had built in the past. This gives a nice entry from the east side of the neighborhood.

Pradera Halo Lighted Letters Monument Sign

If you need a dramatic sign for your neighborhood, contact us at Architectural Signs!