Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Planting with Plant Select

I'm reading a wonderful book called "Durable Plants for the Garden" which is made by the Plant Select group here in Colorado. Lovely book. The pictures are outstanding and the illustrations are to die for. I've loved looking through and reading each page carefully. However, something to keep in mind when growing Plant Select. They are a cooperative program through the Denver Botanic gardens and Colorado State University. Just because they say that every plant will work where YOU live, isn't necessarily the case. As a gardener, I love to try new plants to see if they will make it. It hurts when they don't because the first year, the blooms are spectacular, but it also hurts the ol' pocketbook. I'm not knocking Plant Select. Their intentions are superb and God knows we all need help in picking out plants that will work here in Colorado. With the shorter growing time, the conditions becoming more and more arid (although you'd never guess that this year) and the cold winters, it's nice to have a list of plants that are durable and will survive these harsh conditions! I appreciate you, Plant Select, but I'm compiling a list of plants that are iffy that you've come up with.

Salvia darcyi 'Pscarl' Vermillion Bluffs
I fell in absolute adoration with this plant a couple of years ago. I love reds in my garden, and here in Colorado, it's hard to find durable plants that have a red bloom. This particular type of Salvia is RED. Not pink-red, not orange-red, but RED. It also is great for the back of your gardens because it gets HUGE. The first year I grew it, it grew fast and the blooms lasted forever. It didn't come back. I went to my local nursery and bought another one. It did great that year, and didn't come back. So, I bought two more the next spring. One I left alone (I didn't cut it down until I saw growth) the other I did cut down. The one I left alone is growing fine, the other one is dead. Hey, a 1 out of 2 ration isn't too bad! I would suggest mulching it very heavily and leaving it alone until the end of May. The roots are huge, so they are trying to make it, but it's very iffy out here. I just had a customer come in and buy 18 of them from the nursery because it brought the hummingbirds out to Bennett, CO and the customer was overjoyed. His didn't come back in the spring, either.

Bridges Penstemon
I bought three of these three years ago and have lost one each spring. It's another red. Plant Select says this one will last the longest of all of the Penstemons. The first year it didn't bloom (which is pretty normal for Penstemons). The second year, after losing one, the other two bloomed beautifully. The third year, I had lost a total of two. I will say that it takes very dry conditions, and Penstemons are known for not liking wet feet in the winter...and my hubby might have dumped too much of the snow off the driveway on my plants this year. However, it was a VERY dry I'm not sure that was the cause.

Salvia greggii 'Furman's Red'
Are you seeing a red theme, here? This salvia has actually done very well for me, but that might be because I've coddled it during the winter. It's also on it's third year and comes up beautifully. I mulch it all the way to the top and last fall I cut one down and left the other up to see if that made a difference. It didn't...both came back with no problems. However, my dad has also grown this, and had to replace it this year. He lives NW of me. He didn't mulch it like I told him to, so he might try that this year. From what I've heard from customers, they've been treating it like an annual. Hummingbirds also love this plant, and what people will do for hummingbirds!!

Delosperma 'John Proffitt' Table Mountain ice plant
I haven't planted this before, but we lost over half of them in the nursery containers over the winter. Another plant that doesn't do well with wet feet. Not sure what happened, but I'm not happy they didn't survive. Hopefully it does better in the ground.

Plant Select has tons of other varieties (check out their site) that perform wonderfully, though, too. My suggestion is if you see a plant select variety early in the season, grab it, because you won't be able to find them later on.

A list of my favorites:

Buddleja alterifolia 'Argentea'
This is a monster, growing 12-15 feet H. It blooms off of old wood, which is unlike most butterfly bushes. The flowers weep down, and they are PLENTIFUL. Just a beautiful show in the earlier summer-late spring.

Cytisus purgans Spanish Gold broom
It's hardier than any other broom I've seen and seems to be unaffected by alkaline soils, harsh winter conditions, etc. 4-6 feet by 4-6 feet. Evergreen.

Carol Mackie daphne
OMG. I love this plant. The variegated leaves, the smell in the spring. Great speciman plant that performs very, very well. If you don't have one of these, go out NOW and buy one. 3-4 feet by 3-4 feet.

Princess Kay plum
Fall color is exquisite. Smaller speciman only getting 15-20 feet high by 12-15 feet wide. The white blooms in spring are clustered, so they are very noticeable. I love this tree. The aphids love this tree, so protect it.

One I've never tried but will be on the lookout for is the Phlox bifida L.C. Beck Snowmass phlox. The blooms look like little snowflakes.

All in all, Plant Select keeps getting better at producing plants that will work in Colorado. If you haven't enjoyed this book, it's sold through You will love it! Thanks, Plant Select, for trying out new species, and keeping Colorado beautiful!


Tracey said...

Got your comment on my yellow flowers. I love em! Don't know the name of any of my plants, even after coffee. ;) I just read the label of the plants I think are pretty so I know if they need sun or shade...

Anonymous said...

Interesting list Heather. I have trouble keeping salvias going over the winter too and I mulch pretty good. I've added many of these to my garden without luck (the delosperma last year). My motto is not to keep it around if it needs too much "babying" ~ except of course, if it's something really spectacular. The hummingbirds in my garden go wild for Scrophularia macrantha (Red birds in a tree) which comes up reliably year after year. Do you have that?? I've replaced a lot of my annual salvias with it. I haven't seen this book but I'll keep an eye out for it now.