Boulder Raspberry (Oreobatus deliciosus)

With its ostentatious white flowers clamoring for your attention, Boulder Raspberry impresses like a hybridized cultivar, rather than a native shrub. Growing three to five feet tall and six feet wide, arching, sprawling stems carry bright green, lobed leaves that turn yellow in fall before dropping for the winter. Spring’s blooms develop into small reddish purple fruit resembling cultivated raspberries. While edible, the berries are generally considered unpalatable. However, they will attract birds and other wildlife to your garden. Unlike other raspberries, the stems are thornless.

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Yarrow (Achillea)


achillea-millefolium-paprika-yarrow-dbg-lah-006Common Yarrow might be common, but it’s still a worthy plant for Colorado gardens. Plants form spreading clumps of dark green, finely cut leaves about one foot tall. Flat-topped clusters of tiny flowers that rise above the greenery provide landing places for butterflies, which are attracted in large numbers. Blooms may be white, pale to golden yellow, or various pastel shades; ‘Paprika’ is a cultivar with red flowers the color of their namesake.

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Beautiful Gardens, Low Water

zero-scape-gleneagle-area-18oct2005-lah-016eMost of us are familiar with the same limited assortment of plants—junipers and spirea, oaks and maples, pines, petunias and geraniums. Take a drive anywhere along the Front Range and notice the landscaping. Maybe a dozen plants are repeated over and over, neighborhood to neighborhood. Especially in winter, when annuals are dead and perennials are dormant, the basic theme seems to be rocks, lawn, and junipers. I call it “zero-scaping.”

We live in an area with limited water supplies. Trying to grow the same plants as places with ample rainfall just doesn’t make sense. And there’s really no reason to do so. There are plenty of beautiful, stalwart species that thrive in our climate. They’re a lot more interesting than junipers and rocks. All we need is some inspiration.

echinacea-paradoxa-yellow-coneflower-xg-9aug05-lah-015One of my favorite places to learn about new plants is at the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, owned by Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU). Located at CSU’s Conservation and Environmental Center (2855 Mesa Road), the gardens occupy several acres in a beautiful setting overlooking the Garden of the Gods.

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Japanese Beetle Invasion

Photo: David Cappaert, Michigan State University,
Photo: David Cappaert, Michigan State University,

Stunning in their metallic shades of vibrant copper and emerald green, Japanese Beetles might seem like welcome immigrants to our state. However, anyone who has lived in other parts of the country knows how destructive these voracious scourges can be. Until recently, Japanese beetles were unknown in Colorado. Unfortunately, they are now prevalent both in southern Denver and in locations along the Western Slope. It is only a matter of time before they spread southward to El Paso county. Gardeners here can prepare by learning how to identify these beetles and protect their landscapes.

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Xeriscaping: Just Enough Lawn

What would happen if you turned on the tap and no water came out? We are accustomed to having water on demand, but here in the west, the truth is that we are slowly running out. As communities grow, increased demand on both surface water and aquifers will eventually lead to rationing and other restrictions. In some places, that has already happened.

Since landscapes consume far more water than household use, your yard is the best place to conserve.

Lawns are the thirstiest part of most landscapes, so let’s start there. Frequently, homeowners plant turf because they don’t know what else to do, or because they’ve always done it that way. A wall-to-wall carpet of grass might work in Virginia, but is it appropriate in Colorado?

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Xeriscaping: Watering Zones

In our part of the world, water use is a huge issue. Western gardeners need to take their garden planning one step further, and think of plant materials in terms of their water needs.

Many of our traditional garden trees, shrubs, and flowers come from areas of high rainfall, such as the eastern United States and Europe. They need more water than they will receive naturally in this area. In order to keep them healthy, we have to irrigate on a regular basis. This puts a strain on our limited water resources.

Little water, bright color
Little water, bright color

Instead of buying the same old plants, why not take advantage of our distinctive western climate and grow plants suited for Colorado?

Xeriscaping just means making efficient use of the limited irrigation water we have available. This is done by planting in watering zones. The concept is simple: different plants need different amounts of water to survive and thrive. Just as most familiar plants need constantly damp soil, many of our most beautiful and interesting Colorado species will rot if their roots are always wet. Continue reading “Xeriscaping: Watering Zones”