Tag Archives: Colorado

Plant Select Videos

Plant Select logo black Plant Select has released three short videos showcasing the plants that have been chosen over the years to receive the coveted Plant Select designation.  If you are looking for plants that are adapted to our harsh climate, bring visual interest and beauty to your landscape, take a moment to watch these videos.  I have long been a supporter of the Plant Select program as a garden designer because they find, trial and market plants that really work hard in our gardens.   Gardening in Colorado can be very challenging and the plants we grew up with back east or down south just don’t thrive at our altitude and intense sunlight.  These plants really give you the most bang for your buck.  When your landscaping dollars are tight, its comforting to know there are some fool-proof, tough-as-nails choices out there.  The videos have been separated into three categories:  

Plant Select groundcovers

Plant Select perennials

Plant Select Grasses, Vines, Shrubs and Trees

If you want to see these plants in person, many of them are planted at the CSU Extension Tri-River office in Grand Junction.  The office and gardens are located on Hwy 50 at the Mesa County Fairgrounds, in Orchard Mesa across from the City Market shopping center.  

Pockets of Greatness

Mojave Sage underplanted with Prairie Zinnia in my garden









Agastache blooms in October.

Agastache blooms in October.


Local garden centers like Bookcliff Gardens, Valley Grown, Meadowlark Gardens and Chelsea Nursery also carry a wide variety of Plant Select plants.

Plant Select Survey Top 20 Plants

Plant Select, a cooperative program between the Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University, has recently published its 2013 Demonstration Garden Surveys.  63 demonstration gardens across Colorado participated in the plant evaluations and 118 plants were rated on a 1-9 scale.   I would like to share the Top 20 Plants by Overall Rating.   You can read the entire report at www.plantselect.org.  

I think we should strive to include as many of these plants into our gardens as possible (with one exception and I’ll explain that later).  These plants have proven to be great performers in many areas of Colorado and could be a beautiful worry-free addition to our gardens.  I have 7 of these special plants in my garden.  How many do you have?

These plants are listed from highest rated to lowest.  All pictures except for the Mojave Sage are courtesy of Plant Select.org  The mojave sage underplanted with Prairie Zinnia is a picture from my front yard.

1.  Buddleia alternifolia ‘Argentea’  or Silver Fountain Butterfly Bush

Buddleia alternifolia Silver Fountain Butterfly bush

2.  Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’  or Blonde Ambition blue grama grass

Blonde Ambition blue grama grass

3.  Acer tataricumGarann‘ or HOT WINGS tatarian maple

Hot Wings Acer tataricum

4.  Fallugia paradoxa  or Apache Plume


5.  Agastache rupestris  or  SUNSET Hyssop

Agastache rupestris

6.  Agastache cana ‘Sinning’  or SONORAN SUNSET Hyssop

Agastache cana

7.  Berlandiera lyrata  or Chocolate Flower

Chocolate flower on wall

8. Penstemon grandiflorus  or PRAIRIE JEWEL Penstemon

Prairie jewel Penstemon

9.  Origanum libanoticum  or Hopflower Oregano

Hopflower Oregano

10.  Zauschneria garrettii  or ORANGE CARPET Hummingbird Trumpet

zauschneria orange carpet2

11.  Salvia pachyphylla  or Mojave Sage

Pockets of Greatness

12.   Sporobolus wrightii or Giant Sacaton

Giant Sacaton grass

13.  Eriogonum umbellatum va. aureum ‘Psdowns’ or KANNAH CREEK Buckwheat

Kannah Creek buckwheat

14.  Prunus besseyi  or PAWNEE BUTTES Sand Cherry

Sand Cherry Pawnee Buttes

15.  Marrubium rotundifolium  or Silverheels Horehound


16.  Lonicera reticulata  or KINTZLEY’S GHOST Honeysuckle


17.  Chamaebatiaria millefolium  or Fernbush

Fern bush

18.  Penstemon x mexicali  or RED ROCKS Penstemon

Red Rocks penstemon

19.  Nepeta ‘Psfike’  or LITTLE TRUDY Catnip

Little Trudy catmint

20.  Rosa Glauca, R. rubifolia  or red leaf rose

Rosa glauca (R. rubrifolia)

As a garden designer, I strive to create gardens and landscapes that are water-wise, interesting year round and colorful.  Many newcomers to our area think that Xeriscaping (or Zeroscaping as its sometimes called) is just cactus and rocks.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  These Plant Select plants show that you can have an inviting and beautiful garden with color, texture and and year round interest without resorting to the barren Zeroscape.  Whether you looking for a special tree, shrub or perennial, there is something on this list that would be perfect in your garden.  And just so you know, there are many more durable Plant Select plants available.  The program has been selecting special plants since 1997.

So now that we have seen the best of the best and what they can do for our gardens, we can talk about the “exception”  included in this list.  Over at the CSU Extension Tri-River area office in Grand Junction, Dr. Curtis Swift, Susan Rose and countless master gardeners have created, cultivated and maintained an amazing arboretum over the last 6-7 years.    The garden contains hundreds of species of trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs, vines, and grasses.  One of the first shrubs planted was none other than Rosa Glauca or the red leaf rose (#20).  To be sure, this rose is beautiful.  The foliage alone is reason enough to plant it but the single fresh pink flowers and long lasting hips make it a show stopper for most of the year.  What the books don’t tell you and what might not be true in other parts of Colorado or the country is it is a vicious re-seeder.  I call it a Garden Thug!  This rose sends out voluminous amounts of suckers and the birds love the hips so the seeds get spread all over the place.  And, to add insult to injury, because this rose is so darn hardy, it will and can grow anywhere!  Unless you plant it in a native area with no additional water, it will take over your garden.  You have been officially warned.

Speaking of beautiful gardens, now is a great time of year to visit the Chinle Cactus garden at the CSU Extension Tri-River area office in Grand Junction.  It looks fabulous any time of year but in the winter, it glows.

CSU cactus garden 4

Here is a sneak peek of the garden covered in snow.  This is a fabulous lesson in planning your garden for all seasons.

Enjoy the Christmas season and I wish all of you a very Happy New Year.  Soon the seed and garden catalogs will fill our mailboxes and we can start planning next year’s garden in earnest.


Garden Tour Highlights

The 22nd annual Western Colorado Botanical Garden garden tour was this weekend and by my count, the wettest on record.  I have volunteered as a master gardener for the last 10+ years for the tour and have seen really hot days, really cold days, really windy days but never quite so wet.  The amazing thing was no one, not the homeowners, the volunteers or the brave souls who came out to see the gardens complained about the rain.  Everyone agreed that no matter what, we need the rain.  It didn’t affect the beauty of the gardens either in my opinion.

For the first time in 22 years, the tour was offered in August instead of the first weekend in June.  I love the idea of seeing our late summer gardens for a change.  So many shrubs and  perennials are just getting started in June we never see their full glory on the tour. But  according to Jon Schler, who is on the garden tour committee, the tour will resume its  rightful place during the first weekend in June next year.
Jon said because of the operational changes that occurred with the WCBG and Strive this year, planning for the garden tour was later than usual.  The hard working committee and volunteers struggled to find a date and homeowners willing to showcase their gardens with little notice and a unconventional time period.  When it is all said and done, I think the garden tour did a good job of presenting interesting gardens and continuing the tradition of one of the largest fund raisers for the WCBG.  Jon Schler was also quick to point out that the tour wouldn’t have been as successful without the help and direction of Susan Rose and the Master Gardener volunteers with CSU Extension.
So let’s start the tour!
WCBG Western Heritage Garden

I brought along two neighbors to see the tour.  One is a garden junkie like myself, the other moved here recently from Michigan and wanted to see how we garden in the high desert of the Rockies.  We started at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens and jumped right into the Plant Select gardens.  What a great program CSU Extension and The Denver Botanic Gardens put together to showcase all kinds of plants that thrive in our challenging climate.  The butterflies were flying in the Butterfly House and the outside gardens were awash in seasonal colors and textures.

Next up was the Arboretum at CSU Extension at the Mesa County Fairgrounds.  Because the BMX group was hosting a large event, we were not able to see most of the gardens that line the parking lot.  We did see the world renowned cactus garden and raised garden beds that surround the Extension building.
Loretta in the cactus garden
Gardens at the CSU Extension

The rain started coming into the Valley at this point in the morning but we were determined to see as many beautiful gardens as we could.  Upon arriving at the Loshbaugh residence, we were thrilled to see such an exuberant display in this suburban garden.  This garden was on the garden tour 10 years ago but it has matured into a rich tapestry of color, texture and interest that made it worth a repeat visit.

The front gardens at the Loshbaugh residence

Wandering through the gardens revealed a perfect pond complete with koi fish swimming in it and statues of herons looking in it.

Loshbaugh pond with herons

The variety of plants and the way they were combined really caught my designer’s eye.  I loved the look of the ribbon grass and nasturtiums.  The bright colors of the zinnias and dahlias also made me smile.

Ribbon grass and nasturtiums
Zinnias, dahlias and butterfly bush

Next we moved onto a serene, quiet reflective garden.  Lenore Donovan has turned her childhood home into a peaceful park in honor of her parents.  While caring for her aging parents, she turned to garden therapy to help ease her stress and satisfy her soul.  The result is an oasis in the middle of the desert.

Primrose Park – an oasis in the desert

Being peaceful and serene doesn’t mean you can’t have a little whimsy in your garden.  Lenore installed this beautiful fountain complete with blue water a few years ago.  She then added a heron statue with a fish in his mouth!  Looks like he just caught it out of the fountain.

A little whimsy at Lenore’s

In addition to being a park, you could also call it a cat sanctuary.  Lenore is known as the Cat Lady because she has a generous heart and takes in cats that need a home.  Some live inside, some outside, some temporary and some permanent.  I will always be thankful for the time she helped me with a lost cat in my neighborhood.  The ecosystem is in perfect balance as well.  Mosquitos that have an eye on her pond are promptly eaten by Mr. Jack the giant catfish in the pond  or the many varieties of birds that live in the surrounding trees. Toads by the gazillion hatch every summer and take care of any other insect that gets too much to handle.

When you think of an urban garden, what comes to mind?  A small patch of grass, a tree or two between the sidewalk and street?  The small backyard might have a patio with a few pots and more grass?   A visit to Judy Hilty’s garden will change your mind forever.

Judy’s Hell strip – a piece of shade heaven

With mature trees and seldom seen in this part of the world plants, this front yard and hell strip is colorful, lush and full of interest.  Jacobs ladder, hellebores and hostas thrive in the rich soil along side coral bells, begonias and angelonias.

Judy Hilty and her bathtub garden

One of the surprises in her backyard was the claw foot bathtub painted bright red.  Filled with tropical plants atop a raised bed, its a sight to see.

Her containers are filled to the brim with flowers of every color, size and shape.

I love the fact that Judy has adapted her garden over the years to accommodate the ever growing shade from her trees and she uses containers and trellises to fill narrow spaces in her gardens.  We were also grateful those large shade trees offered some protection from the steady rain as well.

We missed the three gardens in the Redlands because the rain was coming down too hard to enjoy ourselves.  I hope I get to see the Golden and Murdock gardens someday because my tour booklet says they were designed and installed by Bill Richardson of Dragonfly Gardens.  I’ve known Bill for many years and have worked with him on several of my own garden designs.  He has a good eye for designing with plants and does creative work with rocks, fountains and other hardscapes.  I also want to stop by the fire station on Broadway to see more of their gardens designed by Ann Barrett.  Even whizzing by everyday at 45 mph, the front gardens always look good.

Now that the garden tour is over, the garden tour committee will be working hard to line up next June’s gardens.  If you are interested in working on the committee or you would like to have your garden showcased on the garden tour, please contact the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens at  (970) 245-9030.  You can also visit their website for more information about the tour and events taking place at the lovely gardens throughout the year.  www.wcbotanic.org