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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Rhus trilobata: A Winner by Any Name

Rhus trilobata_Three-leaf Sumac_DenverZoo_20091007_LAH_3355.nef

All summer, the shrub sat in the back corner of our yard, quietly filling the space between the fence and a dry creek bed. The olive-green leaves were a bit drab, but provided a nice, neutral backdrop for an adjacent Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris). The shrub had been a bit late to leaf out, and I was contemplating replacing it with something more interesting. I’m glad I waited. In the last few weeks, that inconspicuous shrub has suddenly become the star of the garden. Continue reading

(Not Just) Purple Coneflower

Echinacea purpura_Purple Coneflower_XG_ColoSpgs-CO_LAH_5655

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) used to be purple. You can still buy the purple-flowered version of this perennial (actually more of a pink, at least to my eye), but purple is only the beginning. Consider passionate hues such as raspberry pink and florescent orange. On the other hand, perhaps you’d prefer delicate pinks, or even an innocent snowy white. A related species, E. paradoxa, below, is a pure lemon yellow.

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Impressive Pineleaf Penstemon

 

Penstemon pinifolius - Pineleaf Penstemon @SantaFeGreenhouses 20089jun28 LAH 067Looking for a small perennial with a big impact? Consider Pineleaf Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius). True to its common name, this low-growing plant has long, narrow leaves similar to pine needles. They hang on well into winter, and may be evergreen even in some colder climates. But it’s the flowers that steal the show. The dense mass of vivid scarlet red simply takes your breath away!

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Natural Landscaping

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Two years ago, our new home was a blank slate. Nothing grew on our lot, not even weeds. We’re located on a hillside, and the summer rains were eroding the subsoil left by the builder. It could have been discouraging, but I couldn’t wait to get started.

Landscaping is so much fun! It’s a chance to be creative and to express one’s personality. While I had some help with the overall design (the builder provided a voucher for a professional designer), the result is exactly what we had in mind. Our little piece of Colorado Springs reflects my love of birds and other aspects of nature, plus my husband’s desire for a place to relax.

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Going Native

Arctostaphylos x coloradensis_Mock Bearberry Manzanita_CarnegieLib-CoSpgsCO_LAH_9993

We hear that it’s better to choose native plants over exotics for a variety of reasons. They’re perfectly adapted to the soils and climate. They host native insects that provide food for birds and other wildlife. They fit into the landscape, providing a “sense of place” that exotics can never match. But what is a native plant?

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Creeping Mahonia

mahonia-aquifolium-compacta_oregon-grape_dbg-co_lah_4128When you have a smaller yard, you want every plant to earn its keep. With fragrant yellow flowers, blue berries, and green leaves that turn purple in winter, Creeping Mahonia (aka Oregon Grape, Mahonia repens) definitely deserves a spot!

These are low-growing plants, about 12” to 18” tall, with underground stems (stolons) that spread up to three feet in width.  Spring brings an abundance of small, deep yellow flowers, attractively set off by the dark green leaves. By late summer, these mature into clusters of small, dusty-blue berries that are sour but edible. (A similar species, M. haematocarpa, has red berries). The holly-like foliage persists into winter, turning a lovely plum with the advent of cold weather.

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