Reviews for Durable Plants – A Plant Select® Guide



PlantSelectCover_smZone 4 magazine book review by Susan J. Tweit
Summer 2009 issue

     This oversized, lavishly illustrated volume aimed at Rocky Mountain-region gardeners is lovely enough for coffee table display, but is more likely to end up well-thumbed and dirt-stained. The 74 varieties of shrubs, grasses, and flowers profiled in Durable Plants for the Garden are introductions of the Plant Select program/ this collaborate effort of Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado State Univserity, and regional landscape and nursery professionals aims to introduce plants adapted to our areas’ challenging climates and soils. Many are native to the Rockies and High Plains, others have proved themselves “durable” here. The heart of this beautifully designed book is arranged in four sections: Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines; Perennials; Perennial Groundcovers,  and Annuals. Within these, each plant is profiled on a full two-page spread including close-up and garden photos and botanical illustrations, and narrative sections detailing why each was chosen for Plant Select, plus descriptions, habits, and advantages and disadvantages. Unlike the telegraphic text in many garden guides, these brief stories of botanical exploration and plant lives make compelling reading. The final section of the book is a series of tables summarizing the characteristics of each variety. My only complaint: the book’s title: the plants described are far more than merely durable. ###

Buy this book now
Pennie Magee, The Bloomsbury Review (March/April 2009)

For those of us who live in the Rocky Mountains of the western United States, any book that includes the words “durable plants” in the title will seize our attention. Chinook winds, rocky soils, hot summers, and scarce water are only the obvious challenges the gardener faces. We pore over articles in magazines and newspapers and peer at the back of seed packets, hoping to learn, once and for all, how to choose plants that will survive the demanding climate and also be beautiful – that will both literally and metaphorically bloom where they are planted.
     We now have just the book we have yearned for in this collaboration among Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens, and Green Industries of Colorado. Plant Select® is the happy outcome of many years of research and discussion led by these institutions. The plants showcased in this book thrive in our environment and are lovely to behold.
     You will find the usual, and essential, information about each plant: a color photograph or two, common and Latin names, landscape use, height and spread, botanical characteristics, and growing requirements, for example. Tucked in with this practical information, however, are little treasures to delight and inform: the phonetic pronunciation of the Latin name, the publication in which the plant was first described, why the plant was chosen – selected, if you will – and miscellaneous information such as what a Latin- or Greek-based suffix means and how it is relevant to the plant in question.
      Go to your nearest bookstore and buy this book now. If you live in the Rocky Mountains, you will have your map for this season’s gardening. If you live elsewhere, buy it anyway. You will fain a deep appreciation of the beauty and adaptability of a small slice our plant world. ###

Hug this book

Susan Clotfelter on February 25, 2009,


A co-worker said to me today, “You know, gardeners are weak in February. You can sell us anything.”

But that wouldn’t explain the sell-outs that are happening for “Durable Plants for the Garden: A Plant Select Guide.” I managed to buy the display copy at a class at Fort Collins Nursery last weekend — all the other store copies had been snapped up.

 spread-from-denverpostI’m counting myself lucky because Plant Select exec director Pat Hayward says they’re running out of copies at every event they take it to. ProGreen, the green industry’s big January conference, had sold out of 100 copies by the second day of the weeklong event.

 “Fulcrum (the publisher) has been blown away by the response,” Pat told me over the phone. “Whenever there’s a speaker who brings copies with them, they sell out. I think it’s because it’s so beautiful.”

Pat says it was book designer Ann W. Douden’s idea to intertwine the botanical drawings, generated by Denver Botanical Garden classes, into the wheelbarrow-loads of photographs of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals chosen for their adaptibility in Colorado and other plains and intermountain landscapes. If you’re not familiar with Plant Select, a joint effort of Colorado State University, the Denver Botanic Gardens and area nurseries and plant experts, you can read more here.

The book happened “by committee” over four years, Pat says. From the beginning, there was a push to get photos of every plant, in all seasons, in and out of flower. “David Winger finally went out and shot a bunch last summer.” Other passionate gardeners donated photos to the effort. Editor James E. Heinrich, CSU prof James E. Klett and the Botanic Gardens’ Panayoti Kelaidis and Dan Johnson contributed introductory chapters. But the stars are the plants themselves, each of them profiled in a two-page spread with comments on use, propagation, range, origin, needs, and — gasp — disadvantages (that lovely, salmon-colored “Mesa Verde” ice plant, for example? not as xeric as the other ice plant cultivars). My favorite feature of the book is tucked on the lower left-hand corner of each spread — a little schematic that shows how big — or small — the plant is in comparison to a human.

“It’s supposed to be a whole palette,” Pat says of Plant Select’s picks. There’s even a food plant: a gooseberry that’s been proven hardy as far north and high up as Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“To see these plants become so mainstream, that are so perfect for here,” is what excites Pat about the book. Me, I just want to fall into the pictures. I’m sort of dismayed that it’s so gorgeous, because I know my copy will be well-thumbed and likely coffee-stained in no time.
And oh, yeah — I’ll probably get it dirty.


plantselectcover_sm2Durable Plants for the Garden Review

February 11, 2009 by Tom Throgmorton, © Copyright 2009, KUNC

    Over twenty-five years ago an unselfish cooperative effort to find and distribute durable plants for the High Plains and Rocky Mountains was begun. In the past twelve years over eighty plants have been introduced or recommended through the Plant Select program.      
     The Plant Select plants from 1997 to 2007 have been compiled into an exciting book. Published by Fulcrum Publishing, Durable Plants for the Garden is as much a picture book as a descriptive guide. 
     The introductions to Durable Plants for the Garden are done by some of the people that havemade Plant Select thrive. They are all from different parts of the cooperativegroups that make up Plant Select. This collaborative group includes CSU, Denver Botanic Gardens and the garden center, landscape and nursery industry. The authors give varying perspectives of Plant Select history. These are the folks that have been to hundreds of meetings, been through the discussions and have grown the plants. They have all had the same goal to bring a new palette of plants to High Plains and Rocky Mountain gardeners.
     The descriptions for the seventy-four plants in the book are packed with information. The reasons each plant was selected, its landscape use, its characteristics and best features are all explained. There is geographical range and cultural details including how to propagate most plants. And as all gardeners know, each plant has disadvantages. Durable Plants for the Garden isn’t afraid to let us know what each plant’s disadvantage can be.
     For me, the photos and illustrations are what make Durable Plants for the Garden. I love botanical drawings. The color illustrations in this book are some of the best. All of them capture the key features of each plant. Most of them give a feeling of the plant’s natural form. I think these drawings could be a special collection themselves.
     And the photos in Durable Plants for the Garden are spectacular. Each plant has two or three beautiful color pictures. The photos show the brilliant colors of flowers and leaves. The show contrast and complement of Plant Select plants in the garden. They exhibit the plant’s various seasonal interests. The photos make this book a coffee table book as much as a garden guide.
     Durable Plants for the Garden is a tool for every gardener who wants durable plants for our region’s plant growing challenges.

Perfect book for the beginner gardener

February 3, 2009 by Emily Bone, Denver

     This book is absolutely perfect for someone like me who is a beginner gardener. There is so much useful information and it is presented in a very easy to follow way. Great pictures and descriptions help me tremendously when trying to identify and learn these awesome plants. Thanks for putting together the “Gardening for Dummies” book for me. It is a life-saver!!###

A horticultural symphony for Western horticulture
December 25, 2008 By Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator, Denver Botanic Gardens

Anyone who gardens outdoors in the IntermountainWest (from the Sierra Cascade crest to the Midwest) would benefit substantially from reading and owning this book. I suspect that even keen gardeners who liveon the coasts could grow many of the plants contained herein, and certainly the lavish photography (and graceful paintings) depicting these plants in combination with one another and with similar plants should inspire anyone to create gardens in the brash, new Western style so much more in keeping with our intense sun, low rainfall and changeable climate. As a sometime player in Plant Select® (a cooperative program between Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado State University and the horticultural industry nation wide) you may take my words with a grain of salt. Go ahead!

     Most dishes can use a dash of salt, and frankly this book is not just a platter but a banquet of gorgeous photographic images, concise history and data of each of the nearly 80 plants covered, with charts and data galore for those nerdy to the point of masochism. Yes, I did write one of the forewords, contributed a few pictures and some prose, but this is a truly massive effort with dozens of artists and photographers, and a sizeable village of contributors. Jim Henrich is to be commended (along with Fulcrum) for blending the potentially discordant voices into a resounding symphony of gorgeous art and valuable cultural information. I believe Plant Select® is nothing less than drought insurance for our vast region, promising stunning landscapes needing little supplemental irrigation and fuss. I will treasure this book forever, and havealready bought copies to give to friends across the country and abroad. Viva WaterwiseGardening! Long live Plant Select®!  ###

Best new book for Rocky Mountain gardens

Mary Ann Newcomer, Idaho Gardening Examiner
February 10, 2009


 This may be the book of the year for Rocky Mountain garden lovers. The Plant Select organization has showcased all 74 of their tried and true outstanding plants in one concise, beautiful volume.

 This wonderful handbook includes:

  • multiple color photos of each plant in various seasons
  • plant characteristics and detailed descriptions
  • background on why each plant was chosen
  • recommended landscape use
  • native range of each species
  • exposure, soil, and elevation range recommendations
  • advantages and disadvantages of each plant

 I thought I was pretty well versed in plants available in our area. I have to admit, after reading this book front to back, in a single sitting, I have discovered at least three incredible new plants for my garden.

The delightfully  named Moon carrot  is a chubby looking version of Queen Anne’s lace. Seseli gummiferum will find itself showcased in my garden straight away.

I don’t believe I’ve ever come across the gorgeous Kintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle until reading this book. The flowers open pale yellow, with silver dollar size bracts, fade to pale orange, followed by orange to red berries. 

I can’t get over this shrub: Mock bearberry manzanita. “Extremely tolerant of dry conditions,” and “low-growing glossy-leavedgroundcover shrub sets my hair on fire. Glossy-leaved? Do you know how hard that is to come by in the desert? Hard, I tell you.

Just when you think you can’t ask more of a garden book, several other great features should be noted:  the inclusion of the drawing of a person, next to the plant, showing the relative size of each plant. Brilliant. Easy. Helpful. Included are lovely botanical illustrations for each plant, created by students at the Denver Botanical Gardens. A section on Design Considerations will help every gardener. Last but not least, the reference Table of Plant Characteristics detailing, name, seasons, height, water requirements, and exposure.

One last kudo: the authors repeat, over and over phrases like this: too much water will cause the plant to be straggly; extremely tolerant of drought; very tolerant of drought; dry, not too wet. Ohhhhh, you are going to love this book.

Find this masterpiece at for $16.47 plus shipping. ###


Kevin McGowen, Customer Service & Education Specialist, Midwest Groundcovers
March 4, 2009

 Wow!!!!!!!  So I’m looking through this book and I haven’t closed my mouth yet.  This is one of the best books I’ve seen in some time.  I’m pretty hard to please on books too.  Just like plants, I used to get all the books that I could find published.  Then Google came along and I only need three or four.  This book you guys did is going to be one I have to have.  Here is what I like;


Photography is among the best I’ve ever seen in a book.  Very nice. Watercolor pictures are stunning.  I can’t believe there are more than one person doing those.  I didn’t know there was that much talent in this world.  Wow!!!


The picture of Allan Armitage with the plants next to him showing the height is great.  I don’t know if it’s really Allan or not, but the hat sure does make it look like him.  Anyways, this is the way that I’ve always talked to people and let them know how high things are.  Nobody can picture four feet, but they can picture chest height. It makes so much sense.  I’m so glad that you all did that.  I think it’s a brilliant idea!!!! 


Overall, great work!  It shouldn’t be too long before they slap a gold sticker on the book and make it a classic. 


Superheroes of the Plant Kingdom!

Leslie Holzmann, Mountain Plover blog

If you garden in Colorado, you should own this book. If you garden anywhere in the high, dry west, you should own this book. It’s that simple.

Gardening along the Front Range isn’t for wimps. Rainfall is sparse. Leaves scorch in the harsh sunlight. Weather is capricious. Soils are lean and hungry. And then there are the critters—deer, rabbits, pocket gophers—who come looking for a salad bar.

If you’ve dealt with our high winds, decomposed granite (mixed with studio-quality clay), Saharan humidity, and apocalyptic hail, you know that plants have to be sturdier than Everest and more determined than the IRS to survive.

This book introduces  you to the superheroes of the plant kingdom. It’s a guide to Plant Select® winners.

penstemon-red-rocks-extdemogarden-2008sept25-lah-264The Plant Select® program was developed in a cooperative effort among Colorado State University, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and the green industry. Every year, a procession of hopeful annual, perennial and woody plants marches past the judges, each hoping to make the cut. Winning traits include drought tolerance, insect and disease resistance, multi-season interest, and exceptionally pleasing and/or novel form and bloom. Plus, the plants must be easy to grow and propagate without being invasive. Those cultivars chosen enter the Plant Select®  hall of fame.

Organized by landscape use, chapters include “Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines,” “Perennials,” “Perennial Groundcovers,” and “Annuals.” Each entry includes beautiful color photographs, a physical description, growing requirements, and  a specimen’s best and worst features. I particularly appreciate knowing the downsides of a particular plant, as most catalogs write glowing descriptions designed to make a sale.

An appendix summarizes the information in a handy reference chart, very useful for making selections for one’s own garden.

While other books discuss landscaping we can only dream of, Durable Plants delivers beautiful plants we can actually grow in our own gardens. It is truly inspiring.

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