Think of stars, fallen from the sky to land on green leaves. In April to June, flowers with five pointed petals, in shades of white to a pale sky-blue, appear in clusters on one-foot plants. The subtle hues give this perennial a peaceful presence in the garden.
Continue reading “Blue Stars for Your Garden”
Yuccas 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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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 “Rhus trilobata: A Winner by Any Name”
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.
Continue reading “(Not Just) Purple Coneflower”
Looking 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!
Continue reading “Impressive Pineleaf Penstemon”
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.
Continue reading “Natural Landscaping”
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?
Continue reading “Going Native”
When 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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Sometimes I think of leadplant (Amorpha canescens) as the ugly duckling of xeric shrubs. It’s just not appreciated. Consider this quote from the Missouri Botanic Gardens (MBG) webpage:
A somewhat ordinary looking, small shrub with an attractive bloom but otherwise with no particularly outstanding landscape features. Good plant for naturalizing in a native or wildflower garden, prairie or meadow.
Continue reading “Applauding Leadplant”
In a field crowded with contenders, I have a new favorite wildflower. This plant is incredible—large, flashy, tough, gorgeous. What more could you want? Best of all, it’s thriving in my yard. I’m in love.
Most four o’clocks are sedate, old-fashioned garden flowers, something you’d see surrounding a cottage, combined with hollyhocks, old roses, and other grandmotherly plants. The Desert Four O’clock (Mirabilis multiflora) is like the grandma who dies her hair brilliant pink, wears short skirts with black fishnet stockings, and rides a Harley.
Continue reading “Fabulous Four O’clocks”