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  • Summer Blooming Bulbs

    Dahlia Bulbs Cactus MixDahlias are native to Central America and Mexico and love the heat. Shown: Dahlia Cactus Mix

    Great flowers the first summer


    Summer blooming bulbs are a great way to color up your garden. Most bloom their first growing season, many can be used as annuals (in colder climates) and as perennials in mild-winter climates and many are heat lovers, excellent for use in regions with hot, humid summers. In general, these are a versatile group of bulbs where many years of breeding improvements (done primarily in Europe) has created a kaleidoscope of colors and flower forms.

    Dahlia Thomas EdisonDinnerplate Dahlias span up to 8 inches across.
    Shown: Dinnerplate Dahlia Thomas Edison

    Dahlia

    Originally native to Mexico and Central America, these showy flowers love the heat. Dahlias make outstanding cut flowers and I recommend finding a spot in your garden where you can cultivate a number of different varieties for an unending supply of late summer cuts. Dahlia Dark Angel® Dracula is a compact single-flowered variety that is excellent for container gardens and will bloom all summer with its nectar-rich purple-red flowers. Engage and amaze your kids by having them plant some Dinnerplate varieties; their huge flowers can be 8 inches across! Many gardeners are unaware that Dahlias can be successfully overwintered in mild winter areas in zones 8 to 10. But I've seen them do just fine in zones 6 and 7 when mulched heavily with 6" of clean wheat straw mulch to keep the ground from freezing.

    Lilies

    These long lived bulbs can be grown across much of the country, but are at their best in cooler climates. Like peonies, the colder the winters the longer they live. And many of them are quite fragrant. I recommend that the taller lilies be planted in among other shorter perennials to fill in around the base of their tall, lanky stems.

    Gladiolus

    These South African wildflowers have been breed for generations to increase their flower size and color range. While most Gladiolus are perennial in zones 8 to 10, the dwarf hardy Glads are suitable for zones 5, 6 an 7 making a gorgeous display mixed into perennial beds. The taller, less cold hardy varieties make superb, long lasting cut flowers. Plant some future bouquets this spring with a nice mix of tall, large-flowered varieties. 'Purple Flora' and 'Raven' are especially striking with their dark, richly colored flowers.

    Canna Tropicana BlackCanna Lilies prefer hot, moist conditions.
    Shown: Canna Lily Tropicana Black

    Canna Lilies

    The hotter the better for these sub-tropical beauties. In areas of the country where mid-summer heat and humidity is too much for many flowers, Cannas will thrive. They can be grown in regular flower beds or large containers with enriched soil and regular irrigation. 'Tropicanna' and 'Tropicanna Black' are especially showy grown in pots with their large, showy tiger-striped leaves. Or they are excellent bog plants for those of you with ponds and areas with damp, boggy soil.

    Calla Lilies

    Not to be confused with Canna lilies (above), these South African native plants are unusual and exotically colored. I like to use Calla Lilies in container gardens where their unique flowers contrast vividly with petunias and other common annuals. Pair up nearly black 'Black Forest' with the glowing golden 'Best Gold' for a dramatic potted combination. In the garden, these are vigorous perennials for mild-winter areas (zones 8 to 10) of the southern states where the rainfall is more ample. I've not had much success with them in the ground in arid climates. I think they are best grown in pots in the drier intermountain West. But in coastal areas of California, they are a great "no brainer" perennial.

    Starflower Mix
    Starflowers grow well in dry conditions and
    poorer soils.Shown: Triteleia Mix

    Triteleia (Starflowers)

    This genus of native bulbs come to us from the Pacific Northwest. Not well known, these early summer bloomers are easy, long lived and color-up the garden with their starry flowers in white and shades of blue. Starflowers are a good addition to the xeric (waterwise) garden as they grow well in drier conditions and poorer soils. I've even seen them mixed into beds of cacti!

    Stretch your horticultural wings this year and plant some unique summer blooming bulbs. Mixed into container gardens, planted to fill in newly planted perennial beds or as part of your cut flower garden, these flowers are a great way to enjoy quick-to-bloom summer color.

    Text and Photos By David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without permission.

  • Top 10 Gardening Websites & Books For Western Gardeners

    Our Favorite Gardening Resources

    Founder & Chief Horticulturist David Salman's Favorite Gardening Resources


    In the ever expanding world of horticulture, it's good to have reference sources to check on plant and gardening information. There are an uncountable number of gardening books, most of which become quickly outdated. But the books listed here have been especially useful to me.

    In the ever expanding world of horticulture, it's good to have reference sources to check on plant and gardening information. There are an uncountable number of gardening books, most of which become quickly outdated. But the books listed here have been especially useful to me.

    A quick work about plant facts on the internet. As with any subject, information on the web is often not fact checked if it's not an official organization, so don't take the first source that comes up as gospel. Always reference a few different sources to make sure the facts are correct.

    These are some of the sources I refer to when looking for information:

    Websites

    Missouri Botanic Garden website - an excellent source for information on individual plants: missouribotanicalgarden.org

    US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Plants Data Base - an excellent source for determining where a plant is native in the US: plants.usda.gov/

    The Southwest Environmental Information Network (SEINet) - an invaluable source of native plant information for Arizona and adjoining states: swbiodiversity.org

    Books

    The Undaunted Garden: Planting for Weather-Resilient Beauty, by Lauren Springer Ogden - an excellent read especially for gardeners new to the western US. Many useful plant lists.

    Plant Driven Design

    Plant Driven Design, by Scott Ogden and Lauren Springer Ogden - a must read book for anyone embarking on a new landscaping project.

    Durable Plants for the Garden, a Plant Select® Guide - a reference text with excellent photos of all the Plant Select (Denver Botanic Garden/Colorado State University) program's recommended plants.
    Primarily focused on the western US.

    Natural by Design: Beauty and Balance in Southwest Gardens, Judith Phillips - an excellent reference book on naturalistic landscape design. The companion book of plants is a favorite reference for information on propagation and cultural needs in the garden.

    Sunset Western Garden Book, Sunset Magazine - an excellent resource for western plant information, especially California. Ignore their confusing zone system (unless you live in CA) as it doesn't jive with the USDA winter hardiness zones used by High Country Gardens and most other horticultural companies. They also have an excellent online version at: sunset.com/garden/sunset-plant-finder

    The Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses: Sedges, Rushes, Restios, Cat-Tails and Selected Bamboos by Rick Darke - an essential guide to ornamental grasses, their classification with descriptions of a huge number of specific species and cultivars.

    Organizations

    Santa Fe County Agricultural Extension Service, New Mexico State University - Most states have Agricultural extension agents associated with state universities. The Master Gardener programs are often associated with the Ag Extension Service where you can meet fellow gardeners.

    Text and Photos By David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without permission.

  • Honey Trumpet hybrid Foxglove (Digitalis 'Honey Trumpet')

    Digitalis Honey Trumpet Honey Trumpet hybrid Foxglove (Digitalis 'Honey Trumpet')

    Stately Flowers All Summer Long


    The genus Digitalis is an Old World group of perennial and biennial plants found across much of Europe, west and central Asia and northwestern Africa. The Latin name Digitalis means "finger-like," perhaps referring to the fact that the flowers fit easily, like a thimble, over the tip of the human finger.

    In the Garden

    Unlike the most the popular and well known of the foxgloves, the biennial Digitalis purpurea*, Digitalis 'Honey Trumpet' is a true perennial. The result of a bee pollinated cross between two dryland species in the Oregon garden of Xera Plants nursery, this spectacular hybrid is destined for greatness. Flowering begins in late spring and continues all summer, with a mature plant boasting six or more tall spikes of plump, speckled flowers the color of amber and honey. Clip off the faded flower spikes where they poke out of the foliage to encourage more spikes to appear. The evergreen foliage is also attractive and resembles that of a lily. The plant is propagated from softwood cuttings, although this is a challenge because the plant is rarely out-of-bloom. Being a hybrid, it won't come true from seed.

    Digitalis Honey TrumpetHoney Trumpet hybrid Foxglove (Digitalis 'Honey Trumpet')

    Pollinators

    In the garden these flowers are a favorite nectar source for bumblebees, who also fit nicely into the large thimble-shaped flowers. I've seen foxglove listed as a hummingbird attracting plant, but have not witnessed this myself here in western gardens, where there are so many hummingbird pollinated plants. Perhaps in other parts of the country, in the absence of better choices, hummingbirds will sip the flowers for their nectar.

    Growing the Plant

    'Honey Trumpet' grows easily in a wide range of soils, including clay-loam, as long as it is well drained and not too rich. It needs a half to full day of sunshine. Leave the stems standing over the winter and clip off any damaged or dead foliage in mid-spring. Water moderately once established and fertilize the plant in fall by top dressing the soil with a mixture of high quality compost and Yum Yum Mix. Scratch it in and mulch with composted bark, pine needles, crushed nut shells or other coarse textured mulch materials to tuck the plant in for winter.

    salvia nemerosa may nightMay Night European Sage

    Companion Plants

    The stately architecture of the flower spikes makes this an exciting perennial to mix into your flower beds. In partial shade, I like to use Golden Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha), Blue Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), pink Kashmir Sage (Phlomis cashmeriana) and coral-pink Westin Pink Coral Bells (Heuchera). In sunny beds, 'Honey Trumpet' is right at home with Purple Coneflower (Echinacea), Sharon Roberts Twice blooming English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia 'Sharon Roberts') and May Night European Sage (Salvia sylvestris 'May Night').

    ⃰ Digitalis purpurea is a biennial (grows vegetatively the first growing season then flowers and dies the second growing season).

    Text by David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without permission.

  • How To Plant A Butterfly Garden

    Butterfly Paradise Pre-Planned Cottage Garden The Butterfly Paradise Pre-Planned Cottage Garden's beautiful blooms will attract pollinators to your yard.

    Tips for Attracting Butterflies to Your Yard


    A butterfly garden can be a wonderful part of your landscape and will make a meaningful difference by creating habitat for our imperiled Lepidoptera friends.

    And gardening for butterflies is something anyone who loves growing plants and flowers can do. A garden that's good for butterflies is also good for other pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds who often share the same nectar plants and utilize the same habitat.

    Liatris ligulistylis with Monarch ButterfliesMonarach butterflies on Liatris ligulistylis
    Photo Credit: Prairie Nursery

    Many years ago, as a kid living in subtropical Houston, TX, I devoted much of my time studying butterflies, moths and beetles and creating an extensive collection of mounted specimens. In fact, my involvement with plants began as part of my insect collecting hobby; I started to raise moth and butterfly caterpillars to adults and needed to learn about their food plants. This was my original introduction to the web of life.

    Collecting butterflies is no longer appropriate with so many species experiencing big declines in their populations. But back then, they were abundant with many species finding a home in the rich Piney Woods habitat of my childhood home.

    The Four Basic Elements of a Butterfly Garden

    Butterfly gardening is easy and, like any horticultural endeavor that creates habitat, depends on providing four basic elements:

    Flowers and food: by planting a mix of flowers that bloom from the start of spring through fall and food plants for caterpillars.

    Shelter: leave bare patches of ground, have small brush piles (in unused corners of the yard) and leave the herbaceous plants standing over the winter to protect overwintering eggs and caterpillar pupae waiting to emerge.

    Water: a mud puddle is ideal for butterflies providing them with a source of water and salt.

    A Safe, Pesticide-free Environment: Don't use chemical insecticides (especially systemic ones), use caution when applying organic pesticides and use herbicides only for a weed emergency.

    Caterpillar on ParselyCaterpillar on parsley
    Photo Credit: Customer Shelley K.

    A Little Butterfly Biology

    Butterflies and moths have three stages in their life cycles before becoming the flying adult insects we recognize.

    • The mother butterfly lays eggs on preferred food plants.
    • The eggs hatch into caterpillars who feed on their food plants. These caterpillars grow to their full size before going dormant as a chrysalis (butterfly) or a cocoons (moth) in preparation for adulthood.
    • Then caterpillars go through metamorphosis and emerge as flying adults.
    • The adults immediately mate, lay eggs, feed and die leaving behind the next generation.

    What to Plant?

    Often the flowering plants that feed the adult moths and butterflies are different from the plants on which their caterpillars feed. For a butterfly garden, the gardener must plant both. Most flowers that attract butterflies and moths will feed a wide range of species. When it comes to feeding their caterpillars, butterflies and moths can either have a need for very specific food plants or have a taste for a wider range of plants. This depends on the species of each moth and butterfly as they will have different requirements.

    • To attract and feed adult butterflies, our 'Butterfly Paradise' Pre-planned Cottage Garden provides a beautifully designed garden that supplies many months of nectar-rich flowers for a wide range of butterflies.
    • Flower shapes that attract butterflies are generally either flat topped (Achillea), flower spikes with lots of tiny flowers (Liatris, Buddleia, Agastache) or cone type (Echinacea).
    • Food plants for caterpillars vary but widely feed upon plants include oak, willow, cherry, poplar, birch, apple, alder, dandelions (NO "Weed-N-Feed" fertilizers!), clover and dill.
    • For widespread migrating species of butterflies like the regal Monarch, various species of milkweed (Asclepias) provides both larval food and nectar for adults.

    To attract and provide habitat for regionally specific species of moths and butterflies, gardeners will need to do some research to discover what food plants the caterpillars need to eat and plant them (see "Xerces Society" below).

    Spotted Swallowtail Butterfly on Agastache Blue BlazesSpotted Swallowtail Butterfly on Agastache Blue Blazes
    Photo Credit: David Salman

    No Chemical Insecticides

    It is important to not spray indiscriminately in your yard and kill caterpillars. Even organic formulations like BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) that you would spray to kill corn earworms (moth caterpillars), are broad spectrum and will kill all moth and butterfly caterpillars.

    It's also essential NOT to use systemic chemical insecticides (absorbed through leaf tissue and distributed through all parts of the plants including flowers). Many of these formulations are Neonicotinoids. Systemically treated plants have toxic flowers which will poison the adult butterflies and moths!

    And if you have tomatoes, you'll have "horn worms", the caterpillar of hawk moths. These are the hovering hummingbird-like moths that pollinate flowers at dusk like Evening Primrose (Oenothera) and Hummingbird Mint (Agastache). So plant an extra tomato plant or two and pick off the horn worms, don't spray, leaving some to mature into adults.

    Listen to an interview with David Salman on Utah Public Radio and Learn More About Butterfly Gardening

    The Xerces Society

    The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates (insects) and their habitat. For over forty years, the Society has been at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs.

    The society has just published an excellent new book:
    "Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies" which is available on their website: http://www.xerces.org.

    It will give you a lot more specific information on what to plant regionally to support native butterfly populations in your garden and landscape.

    Text by David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without permission.

  • Bringing Nature Home: Interview With Doug Tallamy

    Professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and Author of "Bringing Nature Home"

    Monarch butterfly on EchinaceaMonarch butterfly on Echinacea

    Bees and monarch populations are seeing precipitous declines. Why do you think this is happening?

    It’s happening because we’ve taken away what they eat. This is not rocket science. Monarchs are an index of all the other insects that are disappearing. As a caterpillar, they’re a host plant specialist and their food is milkweed. As we eliminate weeds in our farmland and in our roadsides, they find very little to feed on, so their populations are small. On the Monarch’s return to Mexico, they need flowering plants and nectar, and they’re finding brown fields. That’s why they’re disappearing, along with our 4000 species of native bees and countless other insects that nobody is following.

    You will hear that it is because we had a drought, a cold spring or problems in Mexico where monarchs overwinter. But the real cause of the monarch’s decline is the loss of their only host plant, milkweeds. Every year there have been half as many Monarchs as the previous year. As of last winter, we have 3.6% of the population we had in the 70s. Weather fluctuations are not new. It is the tiny population of what they used to be that is new.

    That’s why the small habitat patches that do remain are not enough to sustain the populations of insects and other types of biodiversity. That’s one of the problems with the Endangered Species Act. We don’t do anything to help declining species until their populations are dangerously small.

    Why are insects, not just pollinators critical to maintaining the diversity of other species?

    E.O. Wilson wrote an article in 1987 entitled, “The Little Things That Run The World.” Insects actually sustain life on land. Insects are the basis of food webs and transfer energy to all other animals. If you eliminate insects you eliminate other species. If you eliminate pollinators you eliminate 90% of our flowering plants. Insects pollinate 80-90% of our plants. Plants make oxygen; they regulate our watersheds; they preserve our topsoil. If you take away plants, you take away the eco-system services that humans depend on. We’re creating a world that is not conducive to life.

    What are some simple steps homeowners can take to support insects and pollinators, and encourage wildlife and biodiversity?

    It’s actually quite simple—abandon the age-old concept that humans live here and nature is somewhere else and embrace the concept that we need to share our spaces with nature. We enjoy a walk in the woods; we enjoy seeing butterflies, birds, beautiful flowers, etc. Research has shown that spending time in nature is the very best way to recharge your attention span and deal with the stresses of life. Living with nature is a healthy necessity, not a sacrifice we must endure.

    We have 45.6 million acres of lawns and it is growing by 500 square miles each year. That’s an area 8 times the size of New Jersey from which the species that run our ecosystems have been removed. Now that we see the big picture, homeowners can take action.

    Lawn should be restricted to the areas on which we walk in our landscapes; it is a mechanism for guiding us through our landscapes. Lawn should not be our default landscaping practice. If we cut the area of lawn in half and we could create the equivalent of a new national park that is 20 million acres in size. That alone would create the biggest natural area in the nation, bigger than most of our national parks combined.

    White Eyed Verio by Doug TallamyWhite Eyed Verio feeding young. Photo by Doug Tallamy

    For those of us with established landscapes, how would you suggest we begin to transform our yards?

    Put the plants back! People can add productive native plants that support wildlife back into their yards. In most areas of the U.S. you can plant oaks. Oaks support at least 557 species of caterpillars (think bird food). Most native trees do this, but oaks do it better. Their root system is massive. Oaks, cherries, willows, birches and poplars are great choices. Asian ornamental species don’t do this at all. Every time a homeowner plants a plant from Asia, they have to realize it won’t support the insects that support our birds and viable food webs.

    What advice would you give to new homeowners about landscaping?

    Make a plan. Most people just hire someone, so hire someone with the skills of an ecological landscaper.

    If you get involved yourself, make it a hobby that you can enjoy for years. Pick at it, don’t feel you have to do it all at once. You can simply put trees in your yard and then build beds around those.

    Choose your plants wisely and plant young specimens. Most of the plants in our yard at home started from seeds or very young plants. You get a healthier tree or plant when you start small, because it isn’t root bound or root pruned. People say, ‘but I won’t be there to enjoy them’ about young trees, but in 14 years, our oaks have grown to 30 feet tall and were started from acorns.

    What are your go-to native plants?

    Everywhere they can (or should) grow, oaks would be number one. Native viburnums, solidago (goldenrod), sunflowers and asters are very high on the list. Native monarda (bee balm) is a great choice. (For more info see the Bringing Nature Home Best Bets: What to Plant lists. If you live west of the Mississippi, you can consult the Utah State University's Gardening for Native Bees Fact Sheet. http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/plants-pollinators09.pdf) You want your landscape to support the food web, including insects that are part of the food web and insects that are important pollinators. In the East, button bush, American plum, Clethra, Joe Pye weed, Virginia sweetspire, and native hollies are super pollinator plants. In the west, I recommend planting cottonwood trees and some of the many species of Ceonothus.

    You can target certain species you may want in your yard. I wanted to have Zebra Swallowtails in my yard. They feed on pawpaw, so I planted several pawpaw trees. It took nine years, but the swallowtails finally found our pawpaws. Now we have a healthy population of the butterfly, and we get to eat paw paws.

    If you put a bush or tree in your yard in the appropriate place, you can see a difference, in everything from insects that use that plant, to the birds that eat those insects. You’ll get positive feedback and further motivation. There’s no better way to expose kids to nature than to put it right where you live.

    Try to build a balanced landscape that’s doing more than one thing. I have found that most people don’t get motivated to do this until they get a dose of reality, of how quickly the species we depend on are disappearing. Plants are not just for decoration, plants are vital ecological entities that do so many things.

    Doug Tallamy Bringing Nature Home

    Doug Tallamy is a professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware and author of Bringing Nature Home and The Living Landscape with Rick Darke (published by Timber Press Press June 2014).

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without permission.

  • Announcing Salvia sylvestris 'Little Night' PPAF

    Salvia sylvestris Little Night Oenothera Shimmer
    High Country Gardens 2015 Plant of the Year: Salvia sylvestris Little Night (shown with Oenothera Shimmer in the foreground)

    HCG Plant of the Year 2015


    Every once in a while, there comes a new perennial plant that seems to have it all. And Salvia sylvestris 'Little Night', High Country Gardens' 2015 plant of the year, is one of those rare perennials. It is suitable for planting across much of the U.S. and will quickly become a favorite in your waterwise, habitat-friendly landscape.

    Why You'll Want to Plant It

    The long list of desirable traits that 'Little Night' offers gardeners includes:

    • A neatly compact, mature size (only 10" tall x 12-15" wide).
    • A profusion of tidy, strongly vertical, dark violet-blue flower spikes.
    • A long blooming habit with flowers in late spring (and again in mid-summer when deadheaded after the first flush of flowers).
    • The ability to thrive in heavy clay soil and most other soil types.
    • Excellent cold hardiness and heat tolerance (USDA zones 4-9).
    • Is resistant to browsing rabbits and deer.
    • Being long lived and exceptionally durable, it thrives in all kinds of growing conditions.
    • Is great nectar source for honeybees.

    Salvia Little Night Penstemon pinifolius Salvia Little Night with Penstemon pinifolius.

    Its Origins

    I spotted the original plant in a friend's garden when traveling around Salt Lake City a few years ago. It was early June and his garden was at peak bloom. And growing off to one side of the yard in among a drift of ice plants was a magnificent specimen of Salvia 'May Night'. As I wandered around looking at all the flowers, I noticed that growing right next to it was a pint-sized version of itself. Clearly a seedling with dwarf genetics had sprouted and established itself.

    I was thrilled to see it and asked for a cutting. That very next week, my friend very generously dug up the whole plant and mailed it to me! So it was off to the races as I began to propagate this little beauty and grow some plants to transplant into my test gardens the following year. And it didn't disappoint.

    Companion Plants

    After several years of testing, 'Little Night' is indeed a dwarf version of 'May Night'. And all the wonderful attributes of its larger parent have been passed along to this stunning youngster. 'Little Night' is a superb companion plant whose dark flowers makes all the other flowering plants around it look even better. Because it grows in any soil type, I have been using it everywhere, pairing it up with all my favorite perennials. Of course, the dwarf size of 'Little Night' makes it useful in tight spaces and small gardens. But its use shouldn't be limited by its size, as it is excellent for massing (using groupings of 5 or more plants) planted in front of taller perennials and ornamental grass or as an edging plant to define paths and perennial beds.

    In the past couple of years, I've paired it with:

  • Glowing Embers® Licorice Mint Hyssop (Agastache rupestris)

    Agastache rupestris Glowing Embers®


    Agastache Glowing Embers Agave havardiana-Melampodium Agastache Glowing Embers with Agave havardiana and Melampodium.

    I started gardening and selecting improved Agastache back in the early 1990's, when I purchased a seed packet of Agastache rupestris (Licorice Mint Hyssop) collected from a colony in southwestern Arizona. I had been growing Agastache cana (Texas Hummingbird Mint), a rare native from West Texas and Southwestern New Mexico and come to greatly appreciate both the beautiful and strongly aromatic flowers and foliage and the plant's attractiveness to hummingbirds.

    So it was with great anticipation that I sowed seeds of Agastache rupestris. It didn't disappoint! Once it had grown it to flowering size in my Santa Fe garden, I realized that this incredible, but horticulturally unknown species had great potential. We immediately began to produce larger quantities of seed so it could be offered through the High Country Gardens catalog, which happened in spring 1996.

    Origins of Glowing Embers®

    In the meantime, as I continued to acquire seed and plants of other native Agastache species, I purchased a small quantity of Agastache rupestris seed collected from a different location along the western border of New Mexico in Grant County. When the plants from this New Mexico location bloomed, I immediately realized that they had much darker orange flowers than the Arizona population that I started with. I selected several plants with the darkest flowers for use as stock plants and, after harvesting seed from these glowing orange beauties, gave this selection the name "Glowing Embers®.

    But I lost track of the plants as I worked on introducing other new Agastache species and hybrids. Some years later, I found the seeds and grew it again to plant into my home garden. And after many years of enjoyment at home, I finally decided it was time to get this incredible perennial back into production and onto the High Country Gardens website. So here it is for spring 2015.

    Agastache rupestris Glowing Embers Agastache rupestris Glowing Embers

    Growing Conditions

    Glowing Embers is easily grown when provided with:

    • Arid conditions. (Best in parts of the country that get less than about 25" of precipitation annually.)
    • A "lean" (low nutrient content), well-drained soil and full sun exposure.

    Plant Care

    The plant is cold hardy to USDA zone 5 and is best planted in the spring in zones 5 and 6 so it has lots of summer heat to develop its crown and grow deep roots.

    • Leave the plant standing over the winter for improved cold hardiness and cut it back to the low mound of green foliage at the base of the stems in mid-spring.
    • Fertilize only in the fall with a handful of Yum Yum Mix and compost, which should be scratched into the soil surface and watered in.
    • Mulch with an inch deep layer of small sized 3/8" gravel (crushed is best).
    • Water no more than once a week once established.

    Companion Plants

    These plants look great with Glowing Embers and preferred the same growing conditions.

  • Making "Eco-Friendly" A Part of the Planning and Design Process

    The second in a continuing series of blogs regarding the creation of a sustainable, resilient landscape.


    Forestiera neomexicana NM PrivetNew Mexico Privet provides songbird habitat.

    Our gardens and landscapes can and should be places where we can revitalize our mind and body, expand our appreciation for the natural world and contribute positively to the ecological health of our communities and the planet. It's vital that gardeners understand the principles behind eco-friendly xeriscaping (waterwise gardening) so that we all understand how easily it can be done and recognize the beneficial results of our efforts.

    Planning and Design

    Planning and designing a new landscape or re-doing on old one is an essential but often overlooked part of gardening. So many of us just head out to the local garden centers in April or May with a severe case of spring fever and load up with all the blooming plants we can cram into the car. The frustration sets in when we get home and realize that we have a jumbled selection of plants that may or may not be a good long-term choices for our yard.

    Instead, take the time to walk you property and get to know your yard. And just as importantly, take the time to look out at your yard from inside the house. Late fall, winter and early spring can drag on. And it's important to plant where you can look out and enjoy the dormant beauty of your plants from the kitchen and other rooms where you spend your time.

    Pick a Theme for Your Landscape

    • Do you spend your summer weekends on the lake? Then your design theme should be "low care."
    • Do you enjoy entertaining on your patio? Then your design theme should be "color and fragrance." Always look for especially showy, long blooming and fragrant annuals pallet of perennials when you plant.
    • Do you enjoy hummingbirds? "Hummingbird gardening" is a great theme, especially if you live in the western US where many species of hummers are native. Select annuals, perennials and woody plants that provide them with colorful flowers full of nectar and you'll have lots of hummingbirds buzzing around to entertain you.

    Allium Purple Sensation honeybees
    Keep pollinators in mind when planning your garden. Bees love Allium 'Purple Sensation'.

    Plant for Pollinators

    Our landscapes can provide safe haven and ample food and nectar for pollinators like bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. Provide for them by planting:

    • Flowering and fruiting trees and shrubs.
    • An assortment of perennial plants that includes early spring, late spring, summer and early fall blooming species.
    • Be sure you include lots of fall blooming plants, so pollinators can be well fed heading into winter.

    Plant for Songbirds

    Woody plants and herbaceous annuals/perennials that provide berries and seeds are invaluable food sources for resident and migrating birds. Having a multi-tiered landscape with tall, medium and low growing trees and shrubs provides the best habitat, as different bird species occupy different height zones in your yard.

    Plant for Shade and Wind Protection

    Save energy by planting well-positioned trees to provide summer shade and winter sun. Deciduous trees planted on the south and west sides of buildings reduce air conditioning costs in summer and let in the warming rays of the sun in winter reduce heating costs. In suburban and rural areas where your lot size allows, evergreens that moderate the prevailing winds will increase the comfort of your house and protect your landscape from the drying and stunting effects of the wind.

    Cottonwoods in fall
    Plant diciduous trees on the south sides of buildings.

    Plant Waterwise

    In the arid Western U.S., xeriscaping (waterwise gardening) is an essential principle, as limited water supplies and drought are constant companions. This is especially true when selecting woody trees and shrubs. Plant the ones that can survive with natural precipitation levels, water harvesting and little additional irrigation. A yard full of thirsty plants that perish when the irrigation is shut off is NOT part of a sustainable, resilient landscape.

    The Eight Principles of High Country Gardens Eco-friendly Xeriscaping

    I always use the Eight Principles of Eco-Friendly Xeriscaping as my lens through which to focus and guide my gardening endeavors. They are listed below:

    1. Plan and Design
    2. Create Practical Turf Areas
    3. Use Regionally Suitable Plants
    4. Improve and Maintain the Soil Organically
    5. Use Mulches
    6. Irrigate Efficiently
    7. Practice Water Harvesting
    8. Practice Appropriate Maintenance

    Text and Photos By David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without permission.

  • Inspired Inferno Strips: Santa Fe-Style

    Cordova Road Inferno Strip Garden Native blue grama grass, Rhus aromatica 'Gro Low' (Gro Low Sumac), purple leaf Cotinus (Smoke Bush) and vining Campsis (Trumpet Vine).


    Many years ago, in the mid-1990's, Lauren Springer Ogden coined the term "Hell Strip" to identify that parched strip of land that occupies the space between the sidewalk and street curb. I softened the word and coined the name "Inferno Strip" and began offering a pre-planned garden to help homeowners make the conversion from grass to flowers.

    I knew this was a great concept from the first time I learned of it from Lauren and have been promoting the use of xeric (waterwise), heat tolerant plants for planting these inferno stripes. It's also an ideal way to create pollinator habitat from what is typically considered wasted space.

    Here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, walls and fences often mark the boundaries between street and home, a very Old World way of providing privacy. But for the landscaper, this creates a very hot, difficult-to-maintain strip of dirt to populate with plants. Here are a trio of very nice New Mexico-style solutions to the Inferno Strip conundrum. While these designs have a very Southwestern feel to them, the concepts are widely applicable to all areas of the country and reflect how, with a little imagination, what might be considered wasted space can become a strip of color and beauty that enhances our communities.

    Cordova Road, Santa Fe

    Achillea Moonshine (Yarrow), Nepeta faassenii (Catmint), and Perovskia (Russian Sage) Moonshine Yarrow, Catmint, and Russian Sage.

    The Cordova Road strip (photo at top) is planted with a nice mix of native blue grama grass edged along the foot of the wall with Rhus aromatica 'Gro Low' (Gro Low Sumac), purple leaf Cotinus (Smoke Bush) and vining Campsis (Trumpet Vine). The grama grass is mowed about once a month and the homeowner has not let it produce its graceful and attractive seed spikes. But I would.

    Old Santa Fe Trail , Santa Fe (Yes, the same route used by the wagon trains 140 years ago.)

    The front of this showplace estate is surrounded by an architecturally stunning, brick-capped territorial-style wall planted with simple but gorgeous mix of plants. This photo, taken in late fall, shows the pyracantha (Firethorn), with its bright orange berries shining out from behind the smoky blue flower spikes of Perovskia (Russian Sage) to create an eye-catching combination. While many of the perennials that provide spring and summer color have gone green, the plant selection shows how a succession of colorful flowers and fruit make this planting of year-round interest.

    A mix of groundcovers, ornamental grasses, shrubs and flowering perennials.This planting is a mix of groundcovers, ornamental grasses, shrubs and flowering perennials.

    This hot, south-facing wall demands the use of very heat and sun tolerant perennials. There are only four species planted but they provide months of colorful flowers. The mix includes Nepeta faasseni 'Select Blue' (Hybrid Catmint), Achillea 'Moonshine' (Yellow Yarrow), Penstemon pinifolius 'Compactum' (Dwarf Pineleaf Beardtongue) and Callirhoe involucrata (Poppy Mallow).

    Upper Canyon Road, Santa Fe

    This planting (photo below) is a mix of groundcovers, ornamental grasses, shrubs and flowering perennials that enhance the Old World feel of this house nestled up against the narrow, winding road that leads up the city's primary reservoir at the top of Canyon Road. I particularly like the use of Origanum 'Rotekugel'(ornamental oregano) which was still blooming in mid-October. Evergreen Delosperma nubiginum (Yellow flowered Ice Plant) softens the rock edging as it spills to the street. The pyracantha and Perovskia (Russian Sage) theme is repeated from Old Santa Fe Trail, but has been modified by the presence of Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' (Chinese Maidenhair Grass) adding a nice touch with its bronze flower spikes.

    Upper Canyon Road Inferno Strip
    This inferno strip includes ornamental oregano, yellow flowered ice plant and russian sage.

    Text and Photos By David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without permission.

  • What To Do In Your Garden This Fall (Part 2)

    Our Dry Area Wildflower Mix is perfect for fall seeding.

    Our top 10 list continues with tips 6-10.


    6. Sow Wildflower Seeds

    Many perennial wildflower seeds need a period of cold, moist conditions to be convinced that winter is done and it's time to germinate. So most perennial flower seed mixes are best sown in the late fall.

    - Rake the soil with a stiff bow rake to clean up debris and leave behind shallow furrows to capture the seed.
    - Mix the seed to be sown into a bucket of slightly moist playbox sand (or arroyo/creek sand) that has been inoculated with a three or four of tablespoons of Plant Success® mycorrhizal spores. The sand helps to more evenly spread the seeds over the area to be sown and the mycorrhiza spores will germinate with the seeds and greatly improve germination , the survival of the young seedlings and hasten blooming.
    - If practical, mulch with a thin layer of clean wheat or barley straw or compressed, shredded wheat straw pellets (StrawNet™) to protect the seed from the wind and hold moisture needed for germination.

    7. Make notes on planting for fall color next spring

    Berberis fendleri whole bush in fruit. Berberis fendleri adds a bright spark of color to the late fall landscape.

    The most common missing ingredient I see in American landscapes is the lack of late summer/ early fall flowers and seed heads, shrubs with colorful fall foliage and woody plants with colorful fruit to feed song birds.

    This often happens because we so often do the bulk of our planting in spring and naturally bring home from the nursery lots of spring blooming plants. But by taking a look at your fall landscape, you'll quickly see where some late summer/early fall color would be a welcome improvement. And it's vitally important to provide our precious pollinators with sources of late season flowers to help them build their food stores for winter.

    8. Wrap the trunks of young trees

    In the sunny Western US, the winter sun can sunburn the bark of young shade, flowering and fruiting trees. This is called Southwest Winter Injury and happens when the soil is frozen and the sun heats up the southwest side of the tree's truck causing sunburn of the thin, immature bark. This is easily prevented by wrapping the trunks of your young trees with a truck diameter (caliper) of less than 3 to 4 inches. Using tree wrap, cover the bottom 4 to 5 feet of the trunk in late November and remove it in April.

    9. Make compost with your tree leaves

    Tree leaves are a valuable source of nutrients for feeding the soil. Instead of kicking bags of leaves to the curb for the trash collectors, shred them and use them as fertilizer or mulch. You can rent a shredder or run over small piles of leaves with your bagging lawn mower to chop the leaves into a coarse grind that's ready to use as mulch or pile to breakdown by composting. There is lots of information about composting, so study up and use your leaves; don't throw them into the landfill.

    Zinnia grandiflora seed It's easy to collect and preserve seed for future planting.

    10. Collect seeds

    I'm frequently asked about collecting seeds in the fall. They seem to be ripening everywhere when we look around in our gardens, fields and forests around us. It's easy and only takes some paper bags and a pair of clippers to harvest a bounty of seeds.

    For many annuals and perennials, I cut the flowering stems off just above the leafy base of the plant and place the stems seed pods down into a paper grocery sack to dry and cure. Other plants, the seeds can be pulled from the stems and put into paper sacks. Once dried (it takes a week or so) the seeds can be separated from the stems or shaken from their seed pods and put into envelopes for storage. Sometimes, I just collect the stems full of seed pods and spread them out over an area of my yard where I want them to grow.

    Fall is an excellent time to sow wildflowers, so these seeds can be sown as soon as you've processed and cleaned them. There are many books on seed collecting that will give you specific instructions for various species of plants. Seed collecting can be addicting and you'll find yourself doing more and more of it to provide you and your friends with a great source of new plants. So try your hand at it this fall.

    Read Tips 1-5

    Text and Photos By David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without permission.

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