Ah, summer garden warmth!

royal torchlily by Michael BoneLast night around 10:00, the outside temperatures hit  7 degrees F below zero – our first subzero reading of the winter. And today,  the desk in my office seems to benefit from a natural ventilation pattern that has settled around my keyboard. I suppose it doesn’t help that the office is inside a 60-year old, barely insulated, metal Quonset with single-pane windows, but when you work for a non-profit, free rent is priceless. Unfortunately, there is a price today – freezing fingers.

So when I inadvertently spied this image of a species of  torchlily (Kniphofia triangularis)  by Michael Bone in my photo files, I had to share it with all you other other gardeners suffering through this frigid day. Isn’t it heartwarming?

In 2010, we selected a related plant, Kniphofia caulescens, as a Plant Select® winner. Read more about it here.

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Oh, hail!

Trial and new plants just received that afternoon- never had a chance!

On Wednesday, June 8  at 11:00 pm I was awakened from a dead sleep when the sky exploded and a freight train  crashed onto the new metal roof of my house in northern Colorado. Flying from my bedroom to look out the back door, I couldn’t hear anything but the pummeling of 1″-sized hail crashing at supersonic speeds from the sky to my deck, patio, gardens, cars…  Forget the cars, but what about the gardens???

It lasted for 30 minutes, and it took 25 of those for me to register the enormity of the disaster. By then, it was too late and all I could do was go back to bed and deal with the trauma in the morning.

Anthemis marschalliana in full glory, just days before the disaster
Anthemis the next morning

Of course the worst part was that we’d been preparing the garden for an outdoor dinner party with some “Very important gardeners” from out of town for the past week. Every weed was pulled, every (EVERY!) new plant in the ground, and ALL the containers were brimming with color and strategically placed to impress our guests. I’d also just brought home several trays of trial plants for Plant Select® – ready for placement the next day.

It took me a day in shock to be able to face the mess, but that weekend we got in and cleaned the worst of the shredded foliage out of the beds (completely filled my very large compost bin – shouldn’t be full of GREEN leaves this early in the season, right?). It’s been over a week now, and many of the perennials are springing back to life. Unfortunately, the spruce were in fresh bud, so they’re trashed for another year or two. The pines weren’t flushed yet, so the new growth is strong, though the plants are all a bit thinner. Anything with a wide leaf (Silver sage, viburnums, Crambe maritima – a potential Plant Select® selection) were trashed, and all my Eremurus (foxtail lilies) are now about to bloom, albeit one-sided like apricot and yellow flower flags.

Crambe maritima before the hail

Now that I’ve had time to recover, I’ve found that many parts of the garden have recovered a bit, as well. The fine-foliaged plants fared the best – grasses are tattered but look like they’ll come out of it. Golden storksbill  (a 2011 Plant Select® winner)  looks perfect except for lost flowers. We’ll trim the spruce to shape later in the season, and their adventitious buds will pop new growth in the spring. Bush clematis (C. integrifolia Mongolian Bells®) and Crambe were cut all the way to the ground and are already responding to their “second spring.”

Crambe after - yikes!

Unfortunately, most of the agaves and yuccas are trashed completely, so will have to be replaced (or not).

As all gardeners, however, we are ever the optimists and will be heading to Timberline Gardens this afternoon to replenish and replant this weekend!

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Special care for silver plants

Silverheels horehound
Silverheels horehound- trim out dead or withered stems, cut flowers back to crown when finished.

Recently I received an email questioning how to care for Sea Foam sage (Artemisia versicolor), Silverheels horehound (Marrubium rotundifolium) and partridge feather (Tanacetum densum ssp. amani). Great question, because these three plants all have fuzzy, silver leaves and do require slightly different care than many other groundcovers.

Silverheels horehound tends to mound up on itself over the years, but the only real trimming it needs is to remove any withered or dead stems in late spring. Once the flower stalks start shooting up, the plant’s energy is devoted to reproduction. Since the flowers are relatively insignificant aesthetically, I tend to cut those stalks all the way back to the crown as they emerge to keep the energy flowing to the foliage instead. On the other hand, several species of moths seem to prefer these flowers, so it might be a good idea to leave a plant or two to flower (for the moths) and then remove those stems when the flowers are done.

partridge feather

Partridge feather- snip dead flower stalks back to base.

Partridge feather is much easier to maintain – again, the flowers tend to rob energy from the foliage, and I don’t really care for them much personally, so
I also remove these flower stalks as they appear, and the lovely feather foliage stays nice and dense.



Sea Foam sage

Sea foam sage is the easiest to maintain - simply cut near to ground in mid-spring each year.

Sea foam sage is the easiest of all three, as it looks quite nice in or out of flower. The only care this plant needs is to be cut back nearly to the ground in early spring. I usually wait until I see new little buds emerging, then cut back to as low as possible but making sure I see new growth below the cut. Trim these evenly so they’ll push out in a more rounded mound.

All three of these plants will not tolerate humid conditions, nor very wet leaves. Avoid northern exposures because of lingering winter snow loads. Otherwise, they’re basically pest and disease-free, deer- and rabbit-resistant, and love hot, dry gardens and landscapes. Could hardly be easier!

Please visit our design gallery for inspiring ideas to use these and other Plant Select® plants in your own gardens.

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Low water & xeriscape designs: FREE!

Garden and landscape design can be a daunting process, but sometimes you just need a place to start. We’ve partnered with these two great organizations to offer a variety of residential landscape designs by some of the region’s top designers.
Feel free to use these xeriscape and low-water home landscape designs for your own use. They’re specifically designed to help you create your own beautiful gardens and landscapes that require less water and little care.

Click here for your free, downloadable xeriscape designs for western gardens.

From the City of Fort Collins Utilities Department, “Designs with Water in Mind,” a booklet with 20 designs for a wide range of situations. Many include Plant Select® plants, too!

From the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District near Salt Lake City, a series simple, low-water designs, many including a variety of western native plants.

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New video of trees

We’re having so much fun learning the technology – here’s one of the trees that have been introduced and recommended through Plant Select®.  Most of the trees are suitable for smaller landscapes, and all have been chosen to be resilient to our western climate. To learn more about each one, please visit our website.

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