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  • 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.

  • The Top 10 Things To Do In Your Garden This Fall


    1. Feed the soil

    Chilopsis with Muhlenbergia grass Chilopsis with ornamental Muhly grass

    The most important thing we can do for the health of our landscapes, lawns and vegetable gardens is to keep the soil healthy and well fed. I'm dedicated to following organic gardening principles as best I can, so when gardening organically, I feed the soil to feed my plants. And I use a blend of 1/2 Yum Yum Mix (or Yum Yum Mix Winterizer) and 1/2 high quality compost. Spread 1/4 to 1/2" across the top of the soil, either scratched or watered into the surface of the soil and covered with mulch. (Spread the fertilizer mix first, then mulch.)

    The soil has a vibrant and complex underground ecology of flora and fauna that will digest this organic food and release it into the soil for plant roots to absorb when they need it.
    And most importantly, swear off the use of chemical fertilizers and herbicide laden "Weed-n-Feed" fertilizers, as they are harmful to the soil, damaging to the environment and detrimental to the long term health of your plants!

    2. Mulch

    Mulching is an essential practice in arid climates. In parts of the country where natural precipitation is more than 25 inches annually, mulching is not as important. Long-term use of mulch in moist climates may actually create problems by providing moist habitat for slugs, earwigs and root diseases.

    But in dry regions, mulching will:

    • Protect the soil's moisture from being evaporated by the sun and wind.
    • Provide a more favorable root growing environment by insulating them from extreme temperatures.
    • Act as a passive rain harvesting mechanism to help hard, fast rains be absorbed by the soil (especially true when using gravel mulch).

    I favor pine needles, small diameter crushed gravel, coarse composted bark, crushed nut shells (if locally available) and clean wheat or barley straw in my vegetable garden. Mulch should be replenished in the fall and again at the start of summer. And don't forget to put down some compost and Yum Yum Mix before you mulch.

    3. Plant spring flowering bulbs

    A drift of daffodils at the Denver Botanic Garden A drift of daffodils at the Denver Botanic Garden

    To enjoy a beautiful display of tulips, daffodils and other spring blooming bulbs, you need to plant these bulbs now. I like to wait until the leaves are starting to come off the trees and there has been a frost or two to plant my bulbs. So now is an excellent time over much of the country. Keep a bucket of soil mixed with Yum Yum Mix Winterizer (or regular Yum Yum Mix) and high quality compost by your side to put a handful of nutrients into the planting hole for each bulb. Water in thoroughly and apply a one-inch thick layer of mulch to tuck them in for the winter.

    And don't forget to take some photos of your bulbs in the spring to create a photographic map to help you remember where to plant more bulbs the following fall.

    4. Wait to do clean up until spring

    I know many tidy gardeners grit their teeth when I say "wait until spring to cut back your perennials and ornamental grasses." But neatness aside, it's important for your garden's ecology to leave the stems and leaves standing until mid-spring.

    Sedum with frost on seedheads Sedum with frost on seedheads

    • Beneficial insects, butterflies and moths have laid their eggs on the stems and grass blades of your plants and need to be undisturbed until they hatch in spring.
    • Many perennials and ornamental grasses provide beautiful winter color and texture with their seed heads, leaves and faded flowers.
    • Leaving the stems on improves the cold hardiness of perennials and improves their ability to overwinter without damage.
    • In windy climates, standing stems help to capture blowing snow and improve the soil's moisture levels for next year's growing season.

    5. Plant perennials

    Fall is an ideal time to plant and get a big head start on next year's growing season. - For regions of the country that have mild winters (USDA zone 7 or warmer) and hot summers, this is especially true. In fact, for the Southwestern US, TX. the Southeast, the West Coast and the Pacific NW, now is THE BEST time to plant. And it saves water too.

    • In colder climates (USDA zone 6 and colder) fall is also excellent for planting.
    • Perennials with good cold hardiness usually prefer cooler weather to transplant successfully (Oriental Poppies, Columbine, Thyme, Speedwell, Garden Phlox, Catmint, Yarrow and many others).
    • For zones 3-6, a general rule of thumb is to finish your fall planting 6 to 8 weeks before the soil begins to freeze. In USDA zone 5, the soil begins to harden with frost around the end of November/mid-December, so fall planting needs to be done this week! But in zones 6 and warmer, you can keep going later in the fall.
    • But not all perennials like fall planting. Those that need a long stretch of hot summer weather to mature their crown and grow deep roots (such as Lavender, Agastache, Salvia greggii (and greggii hybrids) and Desert Willow) should ideally wait until spring.
    • Read Tips 6-10

      Text and Photos By David Salman

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

  • The Resilient Garden

    Crabapple Trees In Fruit, Chicago Botanic Garden Crabapple trees in fruit; Chicago Botanic Garden.


    Our planet is in crisis. And no matter how you slice the argument, mankind is right in the middle of the problem. Being a life-long naturalist, it pains me to my heart what is happening to the natural world. And yet I have often asked myself, what can I do so not to succumb to despair. My answer is, in a word, "gardening". And over the last 20 years my vision of how gardening can help to improve ourselves and our precious planet has been expressed through High Country Gardens.

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

    The premise on which these principles have evolved for me is that garden can make a positive contribution to all aspects of what we do as individuals, as a community and our beneficial interactions with the planet. It's important to note that both ornamental gardening and gardening for food share these foundational principles.

    When we discuss ecologically important concepts of human activity, the word "sustainable" is often used to frame the conversation. But the word is used so often and so broadly, its meaning has become unclear and its impact diluted. As sustainability relates to gardening, I prefer the word "resilient". When using sustainable, eco-friendly practices in the garden, the results of our work is the creation of a resilient garden.

    For example, when our organic soil care has restored vitality to its underground ecology, when our plant pallet is well matched to our region and needs little care, when we're encouraging deep root growth by less frequent, deep watering, we're creating gardens that are more resource efficient and more in tune with nature. And being more resource efficient and in tune with nature are cornerstones of sustainability as it relates to gardening.

    Collectively, the power of knowledgeable, caring gardeners and our gardens can make a huge impact on our planet. And we gardeners are the ones who can educate and show the world, the healing power of plants, one garden at a time.

    Text and Photos By David Salman

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

  • Gardening For Four Season Interest

    Garden In Winter It's the skeletons of winter that become the armatures for winter sculptures. Customer Photo: Janice Hedges

    Gardens in winter have their own kind of beauty.


    One of the most enjoyable challenges of gardening is working the landscape with an eye toward winter. There's nothing more dispiriting than looking out a window on a cold blustery day only to see snow blowing every which way. Especially if nothing out that window catches your interest. But with a little ingenuity, that same view can turn into a wonderful winter panorama.

    Usually all our concerted gardening efforts focus on color and intrigue for summer pleasure. However, many plants noted for adding texture and shape to gardens during the warm months can also prove gratifying during the winter as well. You want to look out that window and see a delightful feast of contour and form.

    It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said: "The leafless trees become spires of flame in the sunset, with the blue east for their background, and the stars of the dead calices of flowers, and every withered stem and stubble rimed with frost, contribute something to the mute music."

    It's the skeletons of winter that become the armatures for winter sculptures. With hoarfrost and ice clinging to bare deciduous branches, all kinds of designs will appear—and change as they melt and freeze again.

    Against the sky, the dark outline of a leafless tree can also look like intricate pen scratches, providing long moments of attentive gazing. Some of the more common deciduous trees for planting in the western region that show great arrangements of bare branches include maple, willow, elm, alder, aspen, poplar, cottonwood and all the fruit trees.

    Of course evergreen foliage always breaks up a bleak view, and in the harshest of winters pines, junipers and cedars withstand long drying winds. They are most resilient. How delightful to spot icicles dripping from tufts of needles. Then when snow lands on the feathery branches of cedars, it often looks like delicate lace filigree. Some great conifers include the Austrian Pine, Colorado Blue Spruce and Pinon Pine.

    Junipers provide good winter foliage also with a more popular one being Blue Chip Juniper.

    Ornamental Grasses Provide Winter Interest

    Ornamental grasses add delicate designs in winter.

    Then a little closer to the ground are the ornamental grasses. If you don't cut back dead blades and shoots, they'll continue waving in the winter winds. Some of the grasses that naturally drape toward the ground will often sweep delicate designs in new powdery snow like they do in the sands of dunes.

    From tufted and short to upright and arching, grass heights range from one to fourteen feet and are often used for ground covers, erosion control and screens. But if you've ever seen frost caught on the heads of pampas grass, you'll want them in your garden just for winter viewing.

    The list of ornamental grasses in the west is numerous. Following are some of the more common types.

    "Silver Feather Maiden Hair (Miscanthus sinensis 'Silverfeder'); Hardy Pampas (Erianthus); Prairie Sky Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum 'Prairie Sky'); Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'); Boulder Blue Fescue Grass (Festuca glauca 'Boulder Blue') and Mountain Mist Grass (Blepharoneuron tricholepis Mountain Mist Grass).

    Some of the semi-evergreen grasses include: Sea Urchin Blue Fescue (Festuca ovina 'Glauca'); Blue Avena (helictotrichon sempervirens); Tufted Hairgrass (Deschampia caespitosa) and Autumn Moor Grasses (Sesleria).

    Finally, beyond the grasses are the weeds—those nameless things we all try to get rid of and out smart. But you just might want to leave a fringe of them on the outskirts of your garden. Again, with frost and snow clinging to branches and twigs these normally irritating wild things can look just fine through a long winter.

    Often the dried leaves and stems of perennials and annuals add a subtle color to the barren landscape. So why not leave them until spring? And of course instead of deadheading spent roses, allowed the fruit to form into rose hips. These can be a source of food for birds during the winter as well as adding attractive color to winter landscapes.

    Certainly, some people will argue that the open space of a dormant garden is attractive. But for the rest of us who want something a little more enticing while looking out on a bleak winter day, a garden planned with winter in mind is just what we're hoping for.

    Text by Cindy Bellinger

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

  • Forcing Bulbs for Early Indoor Color

    Tips on selecting, starting, storing and planting early-blooming bulbs in containers indoors.


    Hyacinth are easy to grow (force) indoors.Hyacinth are easy to grow (force) indoors.

    Aside from Poinsettias, two signature flowers, Amaryllis and Paperwhites, are favorites for the winter holiday season. These bulbs are easy to grow with spectacular results. They need no chilling, and once planted can bloom in as little as 3-5 weeks for Paperwhites, and just 6-8 weeks for Amaryllis. But once these blooms fade, many other bulbs can take their place and provide spots of indoor color just when winter winds are their coldest. Forcing bulbs to bloom early, indoors, is not difficult.

    Getting Started by Selecting Bulbs

    A few of the possibilities for forcing include the following: Iris reticulata, Crocus, Hyacinth, Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Tulips, Daffodils, and other unique fall bulbs such as Scilla and Chionodoxa.

    Planting

    • Use a container with a drainage hole. Simple plastic pots can be inserted in a decorative container or basket once the bulbs are ready to bloom.
    • Use a container deep enough to hold a 2-inch layer of good potting soil topped with enough soil to cover the bulbs.
    • Bulbs may be closely spaced, even touching on the sides.
    • Fill loosely with soil allowing a little space below the rim for watering.
    • Water bulbs well immediately after planting.
    • Label the containers with the bulb name, date planted, and the approximate date they can come out of cold storage.

    When forcing bulbs for indoors, they need to be chilled for many weeks prior.When forcing bulbs for indoors, they need to be chilled for many weeks prior.

    Cold Storage

    Bulbs need a period of dark, cold storage to simulate being in the ground. A cold frame, unheated garage, or refrigerator will work. If using a cold frame, mulch the containers so they remain in the dark. Likewise, in a garage or refrigerator, cover the pots loosely with foil so they are not exposed to light.

    The temperature should remain fairly constant at about 40 to 45 degrees. They should not be allowed to freeze. Check the bulbs regularly and water when dry. Keep this period of cold storage from 10 to 16 weeks, depending on the type of bulb. Use the following chart as a guide; but the best way to determine if bulbs are ready to come out of the cold is when growth is visible on top and roots are emerging from the drainage holes.

    The Warm-Up Period

    Once top growth is visible, it's time for the bulbs to come out of cold storage. If necessary, it's better to leave them in cold storage a few days too long rather than bring them out too early. The growth will be very pale but it will turn green after being exposed to light.

    For the first week or two, bulbs should be kept at about 60 degrees in bright, indirect light. Soil should be kept evenly moist. Once the growth is about four inches high, the pots can be moved to a sunnier and warmer location. Most bulbs will start to bloom two to three weeks after they come out of cold storage.

    Before the bulbs bloom, place the plastic pot in a decorative container. You can hide the top of the plastic pot with moss. Once the bulbs bloom, it's a good idea to move them to a cooler location at night to prolong the bloom period.

    When the blooms fade, cut off the flower stalks but not the leaves. Apply a little fertilizer and continue watering until the foliage completely dies down. Remove the bulbs from their pots and store them in a mesh bag in a cool dry place until planting time next fall.

    Forcing bulbs is an inexpensive way to have indoor blooms for a month or two. The only cost is the bulbs themselves and some inexpensive plastic pots. On a cold day in February you'll be glad you did.

    Text by Mary Ann Walz

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

  • Amaryllis: Get Big, Beautiful Blooms Indoors

    Amaryllis Red LionAmaryllis Red Lion is a favorite variety for indoor holiday blooms.


    Amaryllis bulbs produce wonderfully showy and long-lasting blooms, with the individual flowers as large as six-to-eight inches across. They are a favorite of gardeners and non-gardeners alike—they’re that easy to grow! Amaryllis make wonderful gifts and will produce showy, magnificent blooms in as little as 6-8 weeks. If you stagger the plantings, you’ll assure yourself weeks and weeks of stunning blooms. If you want blooms for the holidays, plan ahead and get them potted in mid-October.

    Follow these tips for growing amaryllis, and whether you’re a novice or expert gardener, soon you’ll have big, beautiful indoor blooms.

    Growing Amaryllis Indoors

    The Amaryllis bulbs we sell are the largest available, and are similar in size to a very large onion. Our bulbs are likely larger than those you might find in a “big box” store. Our customers prefer the larger bulbs because they produce more stalks and bigger blooms.

    Amaryllis Bulb Blossom Peacock Amaryllis Bulb Blossom Peacock

    When planting your bulb, select a pot that allows about one inch all around, and at least two inches below the bulb. Don’t worry, they don’t mind crowding! You can use a good quality soil-less potting mix or a blend of one part peat moss and one part coarse sand for planting. Make sure to not plant too deep and leave the top of the bulb ("shoulder') just slightly above the soil.

    Water in your newly planted bulbs thoroughly, but don't water again until the new sprout is well out of the bulb. Once you have a sprout a few inches long, water regularly and soon your amaryllis will produce its spectacular, huge flowers. Remember to turn the pot regularly to make sure the stalk grows straight, as these bulbs have a tendency to grow towards the light.

    Planting Amaryllis Outdoors

    In most of North America, amaryllis are only grown indoors in containers. Amaryllis are native to the Southern Hemisphere (South America and southern Africa), and can be grown outdoors in warmer, frost-free zones. If you live in the southern U.S. (zones 9-11), you can plant these bulbs in September or October. If well cared for, the bulbs will continue to flower for years.

    Re-Blooming Amaryllis

    Amaryllis Christmas Gift Amaryllis Christmas Gift is a pure white variety with a light green center.

    Once your amaryllis flowers have faded, cut the flower stalk back to the top of the bulb. Keep watering and fertilize through the spring/summer. You can move the potted bulb outside in a semi-shade spot or grow it indoors in a sunny window. There are two ways of preparing the bulb to re-bloom.

    - Let them continue to grow until them begin to turn yellow (around early fall). Cut the stem and leaves back and dig your bulb up to refrigerate it. Clean the bulb off and store in a cool refrigerated place (ideally 40-50 degrees) for a minimum of 6 weeks. After the 6 weeks bring them out, re-pot and they should bloom again within 8 weeks.

    - Or leave them outside into the fall, but stop watering in early September and cut off the foliage as it dies back. Bring it inside just before the first frost, and repot the bulb if it has grown to fill the old pot using the measurements above. But keep it dry until late October. Then begin watering the bulb in November to bring it back to life and start the winter bloom cycle yet again.

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

  • The Garden in Fall


    Salvia Raspberry Delight contrasts nicely with Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass

    I think fall is often the most overlooked and under-appreciated time in the garden. Maybe it's like downhill skiing in April. People figure the ski season is over and it's time to pull out your hiking boots. Yet, true "powder hounds" (skiers) know that here in the Rockies, the biggest, deepest powder days arrive with water-laden April storms. Well, the analogy is the same for the fall landscape; some of our most incredible and showy ornamentals are at their best after summer has passed when many gardeners have hung up their trowel.

    Summer Rains and Fall Blooming Native Plants

    Fall is a glorious time in the Intermountain West, Great Plains and the Southwestern US. Many of our native plant species are responsive to the mid-summer rains that bring much needed moisture in July and August (affectionately known as the "monsoon season," when cloud bursts dump rain by the inch). Native plants respond to the monsoons with a burst of fall color, some of which are actually re-blooming after their late spring flush.

    Arizona Honeysuckle VineArizona Honeysuckle Vine

    Plants Provide Fall Habitat

    These fall blooming native plants have always been a focus of High Country Gardens perennial selection. Not only do these plants delight us with their brilliant flowers, but they are integral to the habitat garden, providing:

    • Precious nectar and pollen to migrating monarchs and hummingbirds migrating south to their winter habitats in Mexico/southern most Arizona & New Mexico.
    • Seeds and fruits for songbirds.
    • Nectar and pollen for butterflies, native bees, honey bees and bumblebees so necessary to build winter food reserves.

    While the spring garden is full of smaller, compact flowering perennials and bulbs, the fall garden is the realm of big perennials and ornamental grasses that have been growing all summer before coming into flower.

    Perennial Highlights for Fall

    Garden mums and ornamental cabbage/kale have become a fall flowering cliché', a big box store give away for no-thought gardening . Double flowered mums are of no value to pollinators. (If you're going to plant a fall blooming mum, look for heirloom, single flowered varieties which are nectar-rich.) Take a walk on the wild side and put your funds and labor into more sustainable perennials.

    Yellow Twig Rabbit Brush
    Yellow Twig Rabbit Brush

    Text and Photos By David Salman

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

  • A Bad Rap: Garden Plants That are Misunderstood

    Perovskia 'Blue Spires' Perovskia 'Blue Spires'


    Having spent my career gardening in challenging climate and growing conditions here in Santa Fe, at the intersection of the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains and the Colorado Plateau. I have planted, ripped out and killed thousands of different kinds of plants in my quest for gardening success. But my expertise and understanding of what different plants can and can't do, has become extensive. Based on my experiences, I now understand that it's easy to make assumptions about what we expect them to do for us without really knowing their true nature.

    Many years ago, when I first saw some of the first plantings of beautiful Russian Sage (Perovskia) in summer bloom, I was smitten and made the assumption that it could be used where ever I needed a big blue, ever-blooming shrub. I decided that it would be a perfect fit in the corner, right next to my favorite chair on the front portal. But two growing season later, I cursed it because it has suckered and spread, running over my favorite clump of Pineleaf Beardtongue (Penstemon pinifolius).

    I now know that if I'm going to plant Russian Sage, I don't want to place it where it needs to stay compact and confined to a small space. Plant it where it has room to be itself. I also learned that its spread can be controlled by annually digging the suckers out in late spring. I'm also sure to only buy 'Blue Spires' because I know it won't reseed, suckers only mildly and has a great deep blue flower. I have observed other Russian Sage plants that sucker so vigorously that no amount of late spring maintenance will keep it in bounds. So there are garden-friendly selections of Perovskia and there are garden thugs.

    The lesson of this blog is that we don't want to lump all the varieties of an ornamental plant into one basket, assuming that the characteristics of one "bad boy" variety are true for them all. And often the cheap, commonly available generic plant is the weedy one, because it is easy-to-propagate. (An unfortunate occurrence in the nursery industry as a whole.)

    Below is a short list of perennial genera that have good and bad plants. Avoid the "bad boys" and seek out the garden stars.*

    Nepeta faassenii Nepeta faassenii Select Blue

    Nepeta (Catmint):

    • Buy- 'Select Blue', 'Walker's Low', 'Six Hills Giant'
    • Avoid - Nepeta racemosa, N. grandiflora, any seed grown Catmint

    Achillea (Yarrow):

    • Buy - Achillea ageratifolia, 'Moonshine', 'Cornation Gold', 'Terra Cotta', 'Red Velvet'
    • Avoid - Achillea filipendulina 'Parker's Gold' (seed grown), A. millifolium 'Colorado Mix' (seed grown), any seed grown Yarrow

    Perovskia (Russian Sage):

    • Buy - 'Blue Spires' , 'Lacy Blue'
    • Avoid - Many un-named varieties (especially if grown from seed)

    Salvia (Garden Sage):

    • Buy - Salvia nemerosa 'May Night', 'Marcus', 'Blue Hill', 'Caradonna'
    • Avoid - 'East Friesland' (vicious re-seeder that crosses and reseeds with other Salvia too)

    Stachys (Lamb's Ear):

    • Buy - 'Helen von Stein' (sterile)
    • Avoid - Stachys byzantina (seed grown)

    ⃰ Remember that plants will sometimes behave very differently in different parts of the country. One gardener's weed is another gardener's star. But in general, the recommended perennials below are the best of each genus.

    Text and Photos By David Salman

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

  • The Ease and Beauty of Spring Blooming Bulbs

    Easter Joy Hyacinth MixHyacinth bulbs are fragrant and deer resistant. Shown here: Easter Joy Hyacinth Mix.


    Few garden plants give some much delight to the gardener in return for so little care. I consider planting bulbs to be a present to myself; you plant them in the fall and of course by spring you've forgotten about it. Then comes the surprise gift when they awaken and bloom.

    Maximizing the Impact of Your Bulbs

    The key to creating a really great spring show with bulbs is plant lots of them in "drifts" or big groups of the same plant. This is especially important when growing the smaller ones like crocus, miniature daffodils, wildflower tulips and miniature iris. When six are good, 12 or 18 is better. And I find these drifts of bulbs are more visually impactful when you mix the drifts of separate colors rather than mixing the different colors of individual bulbs together in the bag before placing them into the ground. Although this is a personal preference I find that the eye is able to relax and enjoy larger patches of color more readily than trying to visually sort the colors in a mixed planting of random colors.

    Bulb Planting Techniques

    Bulbs are relatively easy-to-plant when you have the right tools. For planting several dozen bulbs, the bulb planter is a good way to go. But if you have hundreds or more of them to plant, I recommend a bulb auger. This special drill bit lets you use a cordless electric drill to dig the hole quickly and easily. (But bulb augers aren't for rocky soil; a small trowel is best in these situations.)

    When using an auger or a planter, be sure the soil is moist (not wet or soggy) as this will help the hole to hold its shape and not fill in right away with dry dirt. I keep a bucket of blended Yum Yum Mix and good quality compost (half and half) alongside me so I can drop a handful of the mix into the bottom of the planting hole. This enriches the soil and gets the bulbs off to a good start.

    Companion Plants For Spring Blooming Bulbs

    Bulbs and perennials are great companion plants. Mixing bulbs in with taller, late spring/early summer blooming perennials will also help to camouflage the bulb's foliage as they go dormant. Groundcovers like Thymus and Veronica are also excellent bulb companions. Imagine a carpet of color with lots of colorful bulbs popping through!

    New and Unusual for This Fall

    Lycoris radiata (Naked Ladies)Lycoris radiata (Naked Ladies)

    Lycoris radiata (Naked Ladies) - This incredible bulb has been cultivated for centuries and originates from China, Korea and Nepal. These deer, rabbit and gopher-proof bulbs require a couple of growing seasons to re-establish themselves and bloom. But the wait is worth it when these spectacular plants come into fall flower. The foliage follows the following spring, hence the common name "naked ladies", blooming without their leaves.

    Hyacinth orientalis (Fragrant Hyacinth) - These fragrant beauties are a mid-spring delight blooming in shades of blue, pink and white. Deer, rabbit and gopher resistant too.

    Fritillaria rubra (Red Crown Imperial) - A impressive specimen in flower, this orange blooming Crown Imperial thrives in rich, well drained soil and blooms in mid-spring. They are deer resistant and a great companion plant with mid-spring daffodils.

    Fritillaria lutea (Yellow Crown Imperial)Fritillaria lutea (Yellow Crown Imperial)

    Fritillaria lutea (Yellow Crown Imperial) - an equally impressive yellow flowered species of Crown Imperial.

    Ipheion (Spring Starflower) - Native to South America, this fabulous genus of spring flowering bulbs is often overlooked in favor of more familiar names. Having enjoyed these care-free, critter resistant spring bloomers in my Mother's garden for the past 25 years, I can recommend them without hesitation. They live forever and bloom for many months beginning in early spring. 'Alberto Castillo' (white) and 'Charlotte Bishop' (pink) are two newer selections that are a "must have" in your garden.

    Tulipa 'Golden Apeldoorn'Tulipa 'Golden Apeldoorn'

    Tulipa 'Golden Apeldoorn' (Darwin hybrid Tulip) - 'Golden Apeldoorn' shines in late spring with its glowing yellow flowers. Because 'Golden Apeldoorn' and the other colorful Darwin cultivars are perennial, there's no need to re-plant them each year like the common annual bedding tulips. Plant them deep (eight inches) for years of enjoyment.

    Text and Photos By David Salman

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


  • Enjoying the Tall Grasses of Late Summer and Fall


    Stipa gigantea Stipa gigantea

    The Spring garden usually consists of smaller growing plants; those that wake up early, grow and bloom with the cool conditions of the start of the growing season. The fall is the time for the big plants to take center stage, having had the whole summer to reach flowering size. Many of the most dramatic plants in the late season garden would have to be the ornamental grasses. With their large size and interesting flowering spikes, these grasses have no equal when it comes to reflecting the glow of sunlight late in the day. And the grace of their swaying stems in the slightest breeze brings movement to the landscape.

    The Warm and Cool of It

    All of the ornamental grasses are good candidates for fall planting and you'll get a head start on next spring. Know that the warm season growers won't show a lot of top growth, as their energies will be spent growing roots. The cool season growers will show both above and below ground growth.

    Grasses are loosely divided between cool season growers and warm season growers.
    The cool season clan includes:

    Bouteloua Blonde Ambition Bouteloua Blonde Ambition

    The warm season growers include many of our native prairie grasses like:

    The warm season growers include many of our native prairie grasses like:

    • Prairie Switch Grass (Panicum)
    • Indian Grass (Sorghastrum)
    • Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium)
    • Muhley Grass (Muhlenbergia)
    • Giant Sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii)
    • Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis)
    • Chinese Maiden Hair Grass (Miscanthus gracillimus)

    Combinations with Ornamental Grasses

    When considering the addition of warm season grasses to your landscape, it's nice to know that they are outstanding companion plants to a variety of herbaceous perennials and smaller flowering shrubs. Their presence with perennials immediately captures your attention.

    • I like to pair up Perennial Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliana) with Sorghastrum and Sporobolus.
    • Asters and Goldenrod (Solidago) are a great combination with Schizachyrium and Panicum.
    • Tall Sedum ('Autumn Fire') and Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida) look especially nice with Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition'.
    • Hummingbird Mint (Agastache) with Muhly grass is always stunning combination.

    Muhlenbergia Pink Flamingo- Muhlenbergia Pink Flamingo

    The warm season growers include many of our native prairie grasses like:

    When planted with smaller growing shrubs such as summer blooming Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris) and fall blooming Rabbit Brush (Chysothamnus), Maiden Hair Grass is especially showy. In fact, many of the large growing ornamental grasses are great shrub companions for creating an interesting but very low care landscape. They're a great choice for the casual gardener.

    Care of Ornamental Grasses

    Don't cut them back in the fall! The most common mistake I see with ornamental grasses happens when they're cut back in fall as part of fall garden clean-up. This robs you of their beauty over the fall and winter months which is a big part of their usefulness, especially in climates with long, dreary winters.

    • For warm season growers, wait until mid-spring and cut them back HARD (leaving only 2-4" inches above ground).
    • For cool season growers, trim off the faded seed heads and comb out the foliage to rid it of brown foliage. But whenever possible avoid cutting them back near ground level like their warm season cousins.
    • Fertilize in mid-fall with a top dressing of Yum Yum Mix and compost around the base of the grass. Scratch it in, re-apply some mulch and water thoroughly.

    Text and Photos By David Salman

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

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