Springs-Specific Gardening

There is certainly no shortage of advice when it comes to gardening. Everyone has an opinion, and when that fails, there’s the Internet. When you garden in Colorado, however, you quickly learn that much of the advice available doesn’t apply. It’s aimed at gardeners on the coasts, or the Midwest, or even the south—but not a place with harsh winters, false springs, sudden freezes, minimal rainfall, hail, gale-force winds… the list goes on and on. No wonder so many people give up and plant rocks!

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A Public Garden to Visit Now

This is National Public Gardens Week. I was all primed to write about all the public gardens we can visit, but as you know, many (most?) are inaccessible. For example, there are currently ten thousand tulips are blooming at Denver’s Botanic Garden, and no one can go see them. It breaks my heart.

I was feeling a bit despondent—I desperately crave flowers by this time of year—when I considered that not all public gardens are surrounded by walls. I typically drive to Denver because spring comes earlier at  5,280 feet than it does here in Colorado Springs (with our 6,000 – 7,000+ foot elevation). But we have gardens right here in town that I can visit any time.

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Brooms for Colorado

Cytisus scoparius_Scotch Broom_invasive_Tacoma-WA_LAH_0848I’m thinking of planting broom. Yes, one of those small, shrubs with the yellow pea-like flowers. Before you shudder and call me crazy, realize that invasive Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius, right) isn’t the only broom in cultivation, and the characteristics that led gardeners to import brooms in the first place are shared by many other species, some of which are hardy enough to survive drought, hot sun, and cold winters.

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Perennial Sunflowers

Helianthus maximiliani - Maximilian sunflower_DBG_20090915_LAH_0606

It’s January, but my brain is in July. I need to imagine warm breezes, green leaves, and most of all, bright flowers. And what is more reminiscent of a hot, summer day than a bright yellow sunflower? When we think of sunflowers, the image that comes to mind is a large brown disk surrounded by brilliant, sunny petals, kind of like this: Continue reading “Perennial Sunflowers”

PlantSelect® is for Colorado

Last week’s garden post was devoted to All America Selections, a nation-wide program that highlights new cultivars most likely to succeed in your garden, no matter which part of the country you live in. Surprisingly, it seems to work for Colorado. But there’s an even better “seal of approval” for Colorado gardeners to look for, at least when it comes to shrubs and perennials: PlantSelect®.

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Ephedra in the Garden

Ephedra equisetina_Bluefir Jointstem_ColoSpgs-CO_LAH_5027

It’s only November, but when it comes to gardening in a cold weather climate, it may as well be winter. From the first sudden freeze, now months ago, the leaves have been brown. For those of us who have gardened in more mild conditions, we crave green, especially evergreen shrubs, but the choices are severely limited. There are the ubiquitous junipers and other dwarf conifers. Yuccas. Firethorn (Pyracantha). Perhaps some Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia) if you have a sheltered spot so the leaves can avoid desiccation. Even my supposedly evergreen Cotoneaster is brown. But there’s one often-overlooked shrub that stays green all winter—even if it doesn’t exactly have noticeable leaves.

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Pretty Purslane?

Portulaca oleracea 'Toucan Fuchsia'_Purslane_DBG-CO_LAH_7226

What were those vibrant pink flowers? They were definitely show-stoppers, especially as they were spilling out of planters crammed full of flowers in other shades of pink plus various yellows—creamy white Cockscombs (Celosia cristata), pale pink, ruffled Cosmos and darker pink Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena), butterscotch-yellow Lantana, Petunias in either a lush purplish-pink or a pale cream with yellow throats, and finally, bright lemon Flowering Maple (Abutilon). Whoever had designed the display, situated along the walkway in front of the greenhouses at Denver Botanic Gardens, clearly had a good eye for shapes and colors. Continue reading “Pretty Purslane?”

A Collapse of Détente: Russian Sage

Russian Sage @CSUtilXeriscapeGarden 9Aug2006 LAH200r

When Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) first appeared on the scene, I jumped right on the bandwagon, extolling its virtues and recommending it for Colorado gardens. I even planted it in my own yard. And yes, this hardy perennial lived up to my expectations. It was tough, drought-tolerant, and the deer and rabbits left it alone. On top of that, late summer brought a wealth of gorgeous lavender blossoms that covered the plant’s ferny, silvery-gray foliage. What’s not to like?

I’ll tell you. The plant is a thug.

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Sensational Silver

Artemisia 'Seafoam' - Seafoam Sage @CSUtilXeriscapeGarden 9Aug2006 LAH136Ask any 4-year-old what color leaves are, and they’ll confidently proclaim, “Green!” And green leaves are just fine, for the most part. We expect gardens to be basically green, from the verdant lawn to the tops of the trees (at least during the growing season). When it comes to plants, that glowing, chlorophyll-derived green implies life and health.

But one can have too much of a good thing. That’s why our landscaping includes plants with leaves that are a soft silver (that sounds much better than “gray”). No, I don’t want an entire yard full of them, but as accent plants, silvery leaves can make quite the impression.

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Yuccas

Yucca 2 @DBG LAHYuccas are as much a part of the Colorado landscape as red rocks and towering peaks. I admit, I didn’t like them at all when we arrived 25 years ago. Yuccas? Yuck! But in the intervening years, they’ve grown on me. I now acknowledge that yuccas have their place—as long as it isn’t in my yard.

I think my initial antipathy came from driving by a yard in a Colorado Springs neighborhood. The homeowners clearly didn’t want to deal with landscape maintenance; their front yard was mostly rocks. A scraggly Ponderosa sat to one side. The only other plants were a few yuccas stuck between some ugly boulders. It was probably intended to be a xeriscape. I thought it was a “zeroscape”!

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