Durable Plants for the Garden: a Review

durable-plantsIf you garden in Colorado, you should own this book. If you garden anywhere in the high, dry west, you should own this book. It’s that simple.

Gardening along the Front Range isn’t for wimps. Rainfall is sparse. Leaves scorch in the harsh sunlight. Weather is capricious. Soils are lean and hungry. And then there are the critters—deer, rabbits, pocket gophers—who come looking for a salad bar.

If you’ve dealt with our high winds, decomposed granite (mixed with studio-quality clay), Saharan humidity, and apocalyptic hail, you know that plants have to be sturdier than Everest and more determined than the IRS to survive.

This book introduces  you to the superheroes of the plant kingdom. It’s a guide to Plant SelectTM winners.

penstemon-red-rocks-extdemogarden-2008sept25-lah-264The Plant SelectTM program was developed in a cooperative effort among Colorado State University, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and the green industry. Every year, a procession of hopeful annual, perennial and woody plants marches past the judges, each hoping to make the cut. Winning traits include drought tolerance, insect and disease resistance, multi-season interest, and exceptionally pleasing and/or novel form and bloom. Plus, the plants must be easy to grow and propagate without being invasive. Those cultivars chosen enter the Plant SelectTM hall of fame.

cytisus-purgans-spanish-gold-broom-dbg-lah-rOrganized by landscape use, chapters include “Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines,” “Perennials,” “Perennial Groundcovers,” and “Annuals.” Each entry includes beautiful color photographs, a physical description, growing requirements, and  a specimen’s best and worst features. I particularly appreciate knowing the downsides of a particular plant, as most catalogs write glowing descriptions designed to make a sale.

dolichos-lablab-hyacinth-bean-extoffice-demogarden-7sept2005-lah-021rAn appendix summarizes the information in a handy reference chart, very useful for making selections for one’s own garden.

While other books discuss landscaping we can only dream of, Durable Plants delivers beautiful plants we can actually grow in our own gardens. It is truly inspiring.

All of these photographs are of Plant Select winners (from top to bottom):
Penstemon x mexicali ‘Red Rocks’, ‘Spanish Gold’ broom (Cytisus purgans), ‘Ruby Moon’ hyacinth bean (Dolichos lablab).

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