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  • Best Late Season Blooming Perennials, Grasses and Groundcovers

    Allium Millenium, Callirhoe involucrata, Salvia pachyphylla Allium Millenium and Callirhoe involucrata brighten the landscape with Salvia pachyphylla as a neutral backdrop.

    So many gardens are planted with a predominance of spring blooming perennials. So by the time mid-summer comes around, many landscapes are looking quite green; lots of foliage and not many flowers. In fact, during July and August, it's a good idea to take some walks through your landscape and identify parts of it that could use some summer flowers to brighten it up.

    Here is my short list of favorite summer blooming perennials, ornamental grasses and groundcovers:


    (some lesser known varieties that need to be more widely planted)

    o Millennium Ornamental Onion (Allium 'Millennium') - one of the very best summer blooming perennials, this tough-as-nails beauty comes into flower in July-August with big 3 inch diameter flower heads. The glossy green grassy foliage is very attractive too. Not to be confused with the June blooming Allium that are planted as bulbs in the fall.

    o Gayfeather (Liatris) - Fabulous for attracting butterflies with their long fluffy spikes of pink or rose-pink flowers, Liatris are carefree growers with deep roots. Liatris punctata is best for drier parts of the country. It's roots have been documented to penetrate the soil to a depth of 14 feet!

    o Fame flower (Phemeranthus) - My favorite succulent wildflower, the large quarter sized magenta flowers open in the afternoon. It's a treat to see a big patch in bloom when you get home from work.

    o Native Sage (Salvia greggi and hybrids) - 'Ultra Violet', 'Furman's Red', 'Raspberry Delight' are just a few of the wonderfully long blooming native sages. You like hummingbirds? Plant these beauties to attract them in huge numbers.

    o French hybrid Lavender (Lavandula intermedia) - The English lavender have finished blooming, but the French hybrids are just getting started by July. 'Gros Bleu' is the most colorful and most cold hardy of the many French hybrids I've grown over the years. The flowers are much darker in color and the plant more compact than 'Provence', the best known of this group.

    o Ornamental Oregano (Origanum) - Not the culinary types, these gorgeous perennials are not well known, but are some of our showiest perennials. 'Amethyst Falls' is fantastic with loads of cascading flowers nice for containers and in the ground.

    Agastache Ava, Salvia reptans Agastache Ava in the foreground, stands out
    against the blue of Salvia reptans.

    o Hummingbird Mint (Agastache) - There are no showier perennials than the Hummingbird Mints. Very aromatic flowers and foliage are a nice complement to the long,colorful flower spikes that bloom in colors of orange, pink, blue and lavender-blue. Grow them where there is lots of sun in a well drained, infertile soil for best results.


    o Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe) - Big magenta cupped flowers like a ground hugging hollyhock, Poppy Mallow blooms all summer and attracts loads of butterflies and bumblebees. Tough and long lived. A great re-seeder to naturalize in your landscape.

    o Magenta Iceplant (Delosperma 'Blut') - The best, most cold hardy, longest blooming of the Delosperma, 'Blut' has deep magenta colored flowers and nice evergreen foliage that turns purple in the winter.

    o Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) - Deep blue flowers in August and burgundy-red fall foliage are like no other perennial. Easy-to-grow, Hardy Plumbago grows in full sun or full shade. Amazing!

    o Max Frei Soapwort (Saponaria lempergii 'Max Frei') - A sadly overlooked soapwort that blooms in July and August with thousands of huge quarter sized pink flowers. It lives for many, many years when happy and is excellent to plant around the bases of taller perennials like Echinacea, Solidago and Lavender. Plant it and you'll be amazed.

    Ornamental Grasses

    o Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition') - Unique and eye catching, this native ornamental grass selection is unlike any grass you've grown before. Flag-like flowers / seed heads hold on the plant through winter for months of garden interest.

    o Undaunted Ruby Muhly (Muhlenbergia reverchonii) - outstanding pink misty plumes cover the plant in late summer. One of our showiest cold hardy native ornamental grasses!

    o Mountain Mist Grass (Blepharoneuron tricholepis) - a wonderful Western native species that thrives in sunny, dry sites where the misty bronze seed heads catch the low angled morning and afternoon sunlight. I first saw this beautiful grass growing on west facing slopes in the mountains of northern NM and was smitten. Fantastic!

    o Windbreaker Giant Sacaton Grass (Sporobolus wrightii 'Windbreaker') - The giant of our native grasses, 'Windbreaker' was specifically breed for its huge size. The 7-8 ft. tall flower spikes bloom in shades of pink, bronze and blonde. A great specimen or hedge plant.

    Text and Photos By David Salman

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

  • Introducing Agastache 'Red Happiness'

    (Red Happiness Hybrid Hummingbird Mint)

    Red Happiness Agastache Red Happiness Agastache blooms with red flowers,
    which are very rare in the genus.

    This true red-flowered Hummingbird Mint appeared as a volunteer seedling in one of my xeric gardens several years ago. It came up in a very shady, dry spot under a Desert Hackberry and the plant was struggling. But it's unusual flower color caught my eye and I took some cuttings so I could test the plant in other sunnier, not-so-hostile locations.

    Why the Name 'Red Happiness'?

    Wow! Happiness was the theme of the day when the new plants came into full flower and I could really see what it could do. The plant blooms with red flowers, which are very rare in the genus. Hence 'Red Happiness' was put into production for release this fall 2014. (Note that in really hot weather, the color fades a bit to dusky-red, but deeper red returns as the temperatures cool.)

    How Does it Do in the Garden?

    I'm not sure of the parentage, but I believe it probably involves three native species. (I have a lot of Agastache in all my gardens, so there are many opportunities for cross-pollination.) Here's more about 'Red Happiness':

    o It has excellent hybrid vigor and good cold hardiness (Zones 5-10).

    o Is medium sized, reaching 28-32" in height.

    o Has summer long bloom when deadheaded.

    o Grows mid-green leaves that have a pleasant minty scent.

    o Is very attractive to hummingbirds (Hybrid Agastache seem to have increased nectar production over un-hybridized species.)

    Companion Plants

    'Red Happiness' is adaptable in its growing conditions thriving in lean to average, loamy garden soils as long as the drainage is good. Stay out of the clay! So we have a wide range of companion plants to choose from. The red flowers seem to look particularly nice with yellow flowers. Blue is really nice too.

    I like the following companions:

    1. Sterntaler Tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata 'Sterntaler) - a great German strain of Tickseed (loosely translates "Gold Coin") with deep yellow flowers and a bronze eye.

    2. Evening Primrose (Oenothera missouriensis) - big, bright yellow parasol-like flowers open up in the afternoon and the plants make a nice lower growing skirt around the Agastache.

    3. Butterscotch Baby African Daisy (Gazania 'Butterscotch Baby') - the wonder butterscotch yellow flowers are delight with red. A small perennial, it makes a great low growing companion in front of 'Red Happiness.'

    4. Walker's Low Catmint (Nepeta 'Walker's Low') - big lavender-blue plants go behind 'Red Happiness' and highlight the red flowers for you to enjoy.

    5. English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) - I always plant Lavender with Agastache because blue is such a great combination with all the different Agastache flower colors.

    6. Purple Sensation Ornamental onion (Allium 'Purple sensation') - big purple globes provide a sensational combination with red.

    Fall Planting Agastache

    o I don't like to fall plant Agastache in zone 5 because there is not enough warm weather to grow the crown.

    o Zone 6 and warmer are ideal for fall planting 'Red Happiness' and will help you to establish a bigger plant with more flowering spikes next year.

    o In dry winter climates, be sure there is a nice wide saucer (well) to hold irrigation water.

    o Mulch the saucer with at least on inch of mulch material.

    o Remember to water once every two to four weeks when the day temperatures warm to 45 ° F.

    o Leave the stems standing to increase winter hardiness.

    Text and Photos By David Salman

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

  • Summer Lawn Care

    Summer Lawn Care - Blue Grama Grass lawn in Santa Fe, NM. Even in drought ridden Santa Fe, blue grama grass provides a cool, green patch of lawn.

    Now that it's officially summer (Solstice was June 21), this is a good time to review how to care for your lawn when the heat is on. Lawns act like a natural air conditioner, cooling the air as they transpire water through the grass blades. So a healthy lawn contributes greatly to the comfort of your home.

    Just Say "No" to Chemical Fertilizers

    The first and most important thing to remember is NOT to fertilize. While many fertilizer companies encourage summer "feeding" with their high nitrogen containing formulations, it is a very bad idea for several reasons:

    o Nitrogen forces excessive growth that increases the lawn's need for water.

    o It increases the need for more frequent mowing.

    o Summer fertilization weakens grass and makes it more susceptible to insect and disease attack.

    Chemical lawn fertilizers are a bad idea anytime of the year, but summer use of these high potency chemical salts is especially damaging to the soil and your lawn. Wait until mid-fall to fertilize. And only use organic or natural fertilizers that feed the soil and improve water penetration and deep root growth.

    Watering When Conditions are Dry

    "Water deeply and less frequently" should be your mantra for summer watering of your lawn and all your other plants. Deep watering encourages deep root growth. When irrigating, be sure the water penetrates down to a depth of six to twelve inches.

    Know how much water your sprinkler system puts out. I recommend placing three or four tin cans (or other flat bottomed, straight sided containers) across the section of lawn to be watered. Run the sprinklers for 30 minutes and measure the depth of the water. You want to spray a minimum of 1/2 to 1 inch of water over your lawn per irrigation cycle. So if thirty minutes puts down 1/4" of water, you'll need to keep the sprinklers on for at least an hour. Look at the grass before you water. If the blades are narrow (folded length wise) and grayish-green in color it's time to water. If the grass is nice and green, wait a few days. It all depends on the daytime temperatures.

    Buffalo and Blue Grama grass lawns need about 2 to 3" of water per month during June, July and August. So a once per week soaking is recommended if there's no rain. Get a rain gauge for your house. This way you'll know how much came down and whether you need to add some more water or not.

    Don't Mow Too Low

    When you mow, leave the grass long. The worst thing you can do to your lawn during the heat of summer is to scalp it by mowing too low. Adjust the deck of your lawn mower to leave the grass 3 to 4" long. This allows the lawn to shade its roots and reduce the frequency of supplemental irrigation.

    Summer Planting Grass Plugs

    Summer is a great time to plant Dog Tuff™ and Legacy® Buffalo grass plugs. The summer heat is what makes the plugs grow rapidly and fill in quickly, as both varieties are warm season growers. The key is to have a reliable water source so you can keep the plugs adequately moist as they get established.

    Text and Photos By David Salman

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

  • Western Gardening for Eastern Transplants

    Planting in the west. Dramatic low-care plantings are the reward for using regionally suitable plants that thrive in drier Western climates.

    After thirty years spent in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the retail garden center and greenhouse business, I've come to appreciate the plight of the Eastern Transplant (people that is, not plants). You could always spot folks from Chicago or Connecticut or Pennsylvania. We would find them wandering around the nursery yard or greenhouse with this bewildered "help me" look on their faces as they looked around, overwhelmed by the plant choices, few of which they even recognized.

    Here are some of the essential elements for gardening success when all you know is gardening in the Eastern or Mid-Western US.

    Mulch: It's dry here in the West! In a good year, Santa Fe gets about a foot of precipitation (rain and snow melt). So it is essential to protect the moisture in the soil from the wind and intense sunshine, which quickly steal moisture from the ground.

    Prepare the Soil: When I say "soil" I'm being very generous in describing that alkaline "concrete" we have to dig in. Even for native plants, it is essential to dig into the soil organic fertilizers like Yum Yum Mix and high quality compost to loosen it adequately for roots to grow into. These natural soil builders also inoculate the soil with life giving micro-organisms that are essential for plant health. And don't forget to add earthworms. They are especially helpful in loosening tight clay soils to facilitate root growth and good drainage.

    Inoculate with Mycorrhizal Fungus: Many water-wise (xeric) plants are able to grow in seemingly impossible conditions because their roots are growing with mycorrhizal fungi attached to them. These beneficial fungi help the roots to extract water and nutrients from the soil that roots alone can't utilize. The use of mycorrhizal root inoculants is especially important when you're planting into soils that have been damage and compacted by home or subdivision construction!

    Learn How to Harvest Rain Water onto your Landscape: We need to be sure to capture and use rainwater and snow melt as a supplemental source of water for our water-wise landscapes. Water harvesting can be a simple as taking the water from a rain gutter and using gravity to direct it to a tree or shrub planted near the house. Rain barrels should become a way of life for the western Gardener.

    Water Deeply and Less Frequently: Once established, many water-wise plants do best when watered deeply and less frequently (once every 5 to 10 days) . Roots follow the water down into the depths of the soil. Shallow, frequent water grows plants with shallow roots. You will train your plants to be less thirsty when practicing deep watering.

    Choose Regionally Suitable Plants: There are many annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees that actually thrive in difficult western growing conditions. that's why it is so important to learn about these plants and not just try and recreate what is familiar using plants that grew well where you used to live. Making regionally suitable plants available through a catalog was one of my primary objectives when I started High Country Gardens more than 20 years ago. Western gardens have a dizzying array of native and Old World plants that do well out West.

    These are some gardening basics that will greatly improve gardening success in the West. Take the time to learn these new plants and understand these techniques to create a garden that is more self-sufficient, beautiful and low maintenance.

    Text and Photos By David Salman

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

  • Yarrow - From Small to Tall

    Gold Plate Yarrow with Agastache Achillea makes a gorgeous contrast when planted with Agastache 'Desert Solstice' and its upright flower spikes.

    From my experience gardening for decades in the challenging conditions of the Intermountain West, I have developed a great appreciation for the genus Achillea (Ä kä lee ä).

    • They grow in most any soil type including clay

    • They are deer and rabbit resistant

    • Are xeric (waterwise)

    • Long lived growing for a decade or longer when happy

    • Outstanding cold hardiness

    • Come in a variety of sizes from groundcovers to large specimens

    • Add an invaluable architectural element to the landscape with their flat topped flowers

    • They attract butterflies to their nectar-rich flowers

    But it is important to know the genus and select the best species and cultivars for your garden. There are great ones and there are weedy garden thugs. I only propagate Yarrow varieties (cultivars) that are sterile and must be grown from cuttings or divisions of the crown. Seed grown cultivars like Achillea filipendulina 'Parker's Gold' (or 'Parker's Variety') and many of the Achillea millifolium types (but not all) will take over their space by vigorously reseeding themselves and crowding out their neighbors.

    Here are four of the very best non-seed grown Yarrows that work for most parts of the country.

    Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea 'Moonshine'): a nice medium height variety (18" in bloom) with outstanding gray foliage and bright, light yellow flowers. A consistent re-bloomer, deadheading will keep this beauty in flower all summer long. A winning combination when planted with Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus) and taller Beardtongues (Penstemon).

    Coronation Gold Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina 'Coronation Gold'): A taller cultivar (30-36" tall in bloom) with gray-green foliage. It is a very upright grower that doesn't flop (as long as it's not grown too wet), 'Coronation Gold' is tough and vigorous enough to pair up Russian Sage (Perovskia) for a long blooming combo.

    Red Velvet Yarrow (Achillea millifolium 'Red Velvet'): an improvement on the old standard 'Paprika', 'Red Velvet' holds its deep red color much longer before fading to a pleasing pink. This gives the plant a nice bi-colored look in the garden. It is long-blooming when deadheaded and the foliage has a soft ferny texture. I recommend pairing it with the Old World Sages (Salvia nemerosa cultivars).

    Greek Yarrow (Achillea ageratifolia): a low growing groundcover species with beautiful silver-gray foliage and compact white flowers, Greek Yarrow is very different from the cultivars described above. The foliage is evergreen (ever gray) making it valuable for year-round interest in the waterwise garden. The cheerful white flowers make it an outstanding companion plant for blue flowered Lavender.

    Text and Photos By David Salman
    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without permission.

  • Top 10 Water-Wise Perennials

    Calamagrostis Karl Foerster with Perovskia 'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis acutifolia) with 'Blue Spires' Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia).

    I like lists. That's how I do my grocery shopping and organize the day's "To Do" items. Lists are a great way to boil things down to the basics. Put it in a list and I can read what I need to know in less than a minute. So I find lists to invaluable for gardening. With so many variables to consider when planning and planting a landscape or flower bed, breaking down pages of plants into their own category lists is a great way to organize and sort your potential choices.

    When asked what I recommend as the best low care, grow-most- anywhere perennials, I offer these two lists of cold hardy perennials. All of these plants are:

    • Water-wise
    • Easy-to-grow and are successful in a wide range of growing conditions
    • Long-lived
    • Rabbit and deer resistant
    • Long or repeat-blooming

    Top 10 Old World Water-wise Perennials

    These are ornamental plants that are native to Europe, the Mediterranean and western Asia. They can be grown across most of the US. And these perennials are a fantastic sources of nectar and pollen for honeybees and bumblebees (except Feather Reed Grass).

    Here is my list in no particular order as they are all great:

    1. 'Blue Spires' Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
    2. 'Coronation Gold' Yarrow (Achillea fillipendulina)
    3. 'Dark Knight' Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris clandonensis)
    4. 'Blue Glow' Globe Thistle (Echinops banaticus)
    5. 'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis acutifolia)
    6. 'May Night' Sage (Saliva nemerosa)
    7. 'Moonshine' Yarrow (Achillea hybrid)
    8. 'Powis Castle' Sage (Artemisia hybrid)
    9. 'Select Blue' Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)
    10. 'Vera' English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

    Agastache rupestris with Caryopteris clandonensisLocorice Mint (Agastache rupestris) with 'Dark Knight' Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris clandonensis).

    Top 10 Native Water-wise Perennials

    These are many of the plants that I include when designing water-wise landscapes for the drier parts of the country, west of the Mississippi River. They will do best when planted in a region that gets less than 25 inches of precipitation annually. They are also excellent for feeding pollinators, especially native bees and hummingbirds (*).

    Again, they are in no particular order as they are all winners:

    1. 'Blonde Ambition' Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis)
    2. 'Desert Solstice' Hummingbird Mint (Agastache hybrid) *
    3. 'Gold on Blue' Prairie Zinnia (Zinnia grandiflora)
    4. Licorice Mint Hyssop (Agastache rupestris) *
    5. 'Perfect Pink' Santa Fe Phlox (Phlox nana)
    6. Pineleaf Beardtongue (Penstemon pinifolius & cultivars) *
    7. 'Raspberry Delight' Hybrid Bush Sage (Salvia hybrid) *
    8. 'Santa Fe' Perennial Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliana)
    9. Silver Ironweed (Vernonia lindheimeri v. leucophylla)
    10. Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum & cultivars)

    Remember, these Old World perennials can be mixed in with our native species and vice versa. I just like to organize my recommendations into lists that provide additional information about their origins.

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without Permission.
    By David Salman

  • Matching Plants to Your Growing Conditions

    Paying attention to water, sunlight and winter cold.

    Pay attention to the micro-climates around your home when selecting plants.Pay attention to the micro-climates around your home when selecting plants.

    When planning your water-wise gardening, you'll find it very helpful to become well acquainted with the growing conditions in your yard as well as your area. Even the smallest property will have what are termed "micro-climates" created by the house, outbuildings, slopes, low spots and existing shade trees. By being familiar with your property and its different growing conditions, you can make more informed, successful choice for the plants you use in the various parts of your landscape.


    A microclimate is created when a building, large tree or the topography of your property changes the amount of sunlight, water and wind that the spot receives as compared to an open area with nothing but open sky above.

    North facing walls: A bed along the north wall of a house or garage is always going to have cooler and shadier conditions with moister soil.

    South and West Facing walls: A bed located on the south or west side of the house gets the full brunt of the sun creating hotter and drier growing conditions. In the winter, that bed will also be a little warmer than open areas away from the house, because of the retained heat from the building.

    Low areas: low spots in your yard that collect water after a rain shower or big snowfall will need plants that like moist to boggy growing conditions.

    Sloping or Hilly areas: If you property has a slope or hill, the soil on the slope or side of the hill will be drier than the soil at the bottom.

    • Place the xeric (waterwise) plants on the slope that need well drained conditions. i.e. Lavender (Lavandula)
    • Place moisture loving plants at the base of the slope (where water not absorbed by the soil uphill will collect to create moister growing conditions). i.e. Beebalm (Monarda)

    By identifying these microclimates, you can look for the plants' preferred growing conditions and match them with where they are found on the site.

    Winter Cold and USDA zones

    In the larger picture, it is very important to be sure your plant choices are sufficiently cold hardy for your area. Know your USDA zone designation which tells you the lowest expected winter temperature to expect. The smaller the zone number, the colder the winter lows. A USDA zone 4 plant is sufficiently cold hardy to grow in zones 4 (-30° F) and warmer. But a USDA zone 6 plant is not sufficiently cold hardy to grow in USDA zone 4.

    The most cold tolerant USDA zone 3 plants: Aster (Aster), Soapwort (Saponaria ocymoides), Blue Flax (Linum), Veronica 'Royal Candles' (Veronica hybrid), Oriental Poppies (Papaver), Bluebells (Campanula rotundifolia), Rocky Mountain columbine (Aquilegia caerulea), Yellow Yarrow (Achillea), 'Firewitch' Garden Pink (Dianthus)

    The most cold tolerant USDA zone 3 & 4 bulbs: Daffodils, Crocus, Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa), Bluebells (Hyacinthoides).

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

  • Native Plants and Principles of Waterwise Landscaping

    A collection of colorful native plants.This collection of colorful native plants includes agastache, penstemon, ratibida and nepeta.

    High Country Garden's Principles of Eco-friendly Waterwise Landscaping (Xeriscaping)

    The High Country Garden’s Principles of Eco-friendly Waterwise Landscaping, which emphasize water saving landscapes that use a lot of native plants, also encourage:

    • Use of low water/ low mow lawns
    • Water harvesting and efficient irrigation
    • Organic soil and lawn care
    • Creation of a habitat friendly landscape to feed birds and pollinators and other wildlife

    So regardless of where you are gardening, using the techniques waterwise gardening is always a good idea.

    Native Plants as a Cornerstone of the Eco-friendly Waterwise landscape

    We have an incredible native flora in North America from which to choose for planting into a waterwise landscape (Xeriscaping). Yet it’s important to understand the “one size fits all” philosophy doesn’t necessary work when picking plants for different parts of the country. I recommend choosing plants by:

    • Matching their water needs with the average rain and snowfall of where they are to be planted (See our precipitation map).
    • Knowing your soil type (clay, sand, loam etc.) and be sure the plant’s soil preference matches the soil where they are planted.
    • Matching a plant with its water and soil preferences will greatly increase the longevity and ease of maintenance of your landscape.

    Vernonia lindheimeri v leucophylla Echinacea purpureaNative plants Vernonia
    lindheimeri v leucophylla and
    Echinacea purpurea

    Matching a plant with its water and soil preferences will greatly increase the longevity and ease of maintenance of your landscape.

    There are so many beautiful and useful native plants, that it’s important to educate yourself about them. And like adapted (non-native) plants, natives have the growing conditions that they like best. And one of the most important aspects of native plants is planting them into the soil they like best. Match the native plant to its soil preference and you will enjoy low care beauty from you landscape for many years.

    Clay can be one of the gardener’s greatest adversaries if you don’t know your clay loving plants (and there are quite a few). When planting into clay, I recommend that you initially work ample compost and soil activators like trace mineral fertilizer into the soil to fluff up the soil. This results in long term improvement of drainage and air exchange in the root zone. Choose plants that actually like clay.

    Native Plants for Clay

    Sandy soils also have great challenges for the gardener, especially when trying to establish a new garden.  They dry out so quickly!  So as with clay, seek out the native plants that prefer sandy soils so to insure more successful transplanting  and long term enjoyment. To improve water retention and improve available nutrients, work in ample compost and soil activators like trace mineral fertilizer at planting time.

    Native plants For Sandy Soils

    Kendrick Lake Gardens in Lakewood, CO has a host of native plants, including: Yucca glauca, Eriogonum umbellatum, Echinocereus triglochidiatus, Artemisia 'Seafoam'and OenotheraKendrick Lake Gardens in Lakewood, CO has a
    host of native plants, including: Yucca glauca,
    Eriogonum umbellatum, Echinocereus triglochidiatus,
    Artemisia 'Seafoam' and Oenothera.

    Making a Place for Wildlife

    Habitat creation can be one of the most satisfying results of our waterwise gardening efforts.   And there are some many incredible native plants for this purpose.  I’m a hummingbird gardener, so I place a high value on using native plants as a source of natural nectar and reducing my use of feeders.

    Native Plants to Attract Hummingbirds

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without Permission.
    By David Salman

  • Getting the Most from Ornamental Grasses

    Blonde Ambition Grass at the Denver Botanic Garden entrance.Blonde Ambition Grass at the Denver Botanic Garden entrance.

    Native Ornamental Grasses are In

    The latest horticultural trend in ornamental grasses has been the introduction of many new cultivars of our native grasses. Initially most all the ornamental grasses in the trade were of European or Eurasian origin because the European nurseries were the ones exporting these new plants to the US. But it became apparent that there are also many great grass species native to North America. And the interest in Prairie Switch Grass (Panicum), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium) and Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia) has expanded tremendously. As have the number of selections available to US gardeners.

    Sporobolus wrightii los lunasEchinacea tennesensis with
    Blonde Ambition Grass

    Unique High Country Garden Introductions

    In my efforts to search out unusual native grasses, I came up with two that are unlike anything else currently available:

    ‘Blonde Ambition’ Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis) - has a unique look to its flower spikes and seed heads that makes it a great companion for so many other grasses and perennials. It’s extremely adaptable thriving in heat and cold, grows equally well in all types of soils including clay and provides 5 to 6 months of ornamental interest from mid-summer through into the following spring. And it’s big; twice as big as common blue grama grass giving it tremendous impact in the landscape.

    ‘Windbreaker’ Giant Sacaton Grass (Sporobolus wrightii) is the Paul Bunyon of all the native grasses with its huge size and dramatic presence.

    This strain was Originally developed at the USDA Los Lunas Plant Materials Center in central New Mexico. They wanted a giant grass for use as a windbreak to border vegetable fields in the Southwestern US.
    Sporobolus wrightii los lunasSporobolus wrightii Los Lunas
    But when I saw the field of plants they had been breading for agronomic purposes, their ornamental value was instantly apparent to me. Bred for size, ‘Windbreaker’ is also different because the plants can have flower spikes in shades of blonde, bronze and burgundy. This is unlike the common Giant Sacaton grass which is much smaller and blooms blonde.

    A Healthy Ornamental Grass Needs a Haircut

    Grasses are some of our most low care perennials. They only need three things each growing season.

    • They need to be cut back at the appropriate time.
    • They need to be cut back very low to the ground.
    • They need to be fertilized in the fall. 

    Grass MaintenanceOne of the biggest mistakes I routinely
    observe is that when gardeners and
    landscapers cut back their ornamental grasses,
    they leave standing too much stubble.

    One of the biggest mistakes I routinely observe is that when gardeners and landscapers cut back their ornamental grasses, they leave standing too much stubble. Cut back these grasses hard, leaving only 2 to 3 inches of stubble, not 8 to 12 inches. Leaving the grass stubble too tall smothers the center of the grass and causes them to die out in the center.  And wait until mid-spring to trim them back. Cutting grasses back in the fall robs you of their ornamental interest over the fall and winter months.


    • This advice is for warm season grasses (grasses that green up in late spring and bloom from mid- to late summer into the fall) such as Switch Grass (Panicum), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium), Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia), Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua) and  Giant Sacaton (Sporobolus).
    • Don’t cut back cool season grasses to the ground. These grasses stay semi-green through the winter and wake up early to bloom by late spring. They include ornamental Fescue (Festuca ), Blue Avena Grass (Helictotrichon) and Silky Thread Grass (Nessella).  These grasses should be combed out vigorously with gloved hands in late fall to give the blades room to grow out in the early spring.


    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without Permission.
    By David Salman

  • New Problem Solving Collections

    Monardella macrantha Marion SampsonWildscape Native Collection

    Each year, I participate in a number of speaking engagements, with time reserved for questions at the end. Without fail, gardeners usually ask me about which plants they should use to solve a gardening challenge.

    We decided to make it easy for our customers to address these common gardening dilemmas with a number of newly introduced garden collections.

    Native Wildscape Collection - This is a wonderful collection of native wildflowers with a great prairie grass that will grow a colorful habitat enriching garden. These flowers are essential for attracting butterflies, bumblebees, honeybees and native bees. And they are all good re-seeders, so they can spread into surrounding areas.

    Soil Like A Beach CollectionSome Like It Hot Collection

    Some Like It Hot Collection - If you have places in your landscape where most flowers seem to fry from the heat, these tough, long blooming perennials will solve the problem. They thrive in hot, sunny locations and provide flowers over much of the growing season when kept deadheaded.

    Made For Shade Collection - Who doesn't have some shade in need of some color? These problem solving groundcovers will cover bare soil, replace too thin grass and spread flowers into shady areas of your yard.

    My Soil Is Like A Brick Collection - Here in New Mexico, we make bricks to build our homes out of the clay found here. Great building material but lousy for growing plants. These long blooming perennials are the solution when looking for plants to grow in clay soils. And they are all good bee plants too!

    Soil Like A Beach CollectionSoil Like A Beach Collection

    My Soil Is Like A Beach Collection - Life is a beach unless you like sand. These perennials were chosen to thrive in the sandy soil that seems to kill most plants. All three perennials are long blooming and good at re-seeding themselves to cover even more sandy areas.

    Delosperma (Ice Plant) Collection - Cold hardy Ice Plants are a great choice to carpet your landscape with sheets of shimmering flowers. They are especially useful for planting into beds mulched with gravel; this cools the glare and heat and creates a perfect growing environment for Delosperma. They love growing up ontop of gravel which protects their stems and foliage from wet winter weather.

    Aquilegia (Columbine) Collection - Columbine are the ideal choice for adding color to part and full shade parts of your yard. They thrive in the cool soil on the north side of your house, too. And wherever you plant them they will attract hummingbirds to their nectar-rich flowers.

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without Permission.
    By David Salman

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