Orders $99+ Ship Free - Code: FREESHIP99
If anything we sell fails to meet your expectations, we will replace it or refund your order.
800-925-9387

Blog

  • Talks on Habitat Gardening in Denver, CO

    Rain_Garden_at_Chatfield_blog
    Chatfield Arboretum's Rain Garden.

    I was in Denver this past week to be a presenter at the kick-off of Denver Botanic Garden's Bonfils -Stanton summer lecture series. The topic was Habitat Heros: Transforming Your Yard Into A Dream Habitat.

    Landscape designer and plant expert extraordinaire Lauren Springer Ogden and I were there to give presentations about the plants and techniques home gardeners on the Front Range of Colorado (and Intermountain West and Great Plains) can use to create a habitat-friendly landscape; also known as the Habitat Hero Garden. These are landscapes that provide all the essentials that will attract a wide variety of wild creatures, including song birds, hummingbirds, and insect pollinators, such as honey and native bees, butterflies and moths.

    But before the talks began, the sold-out house of over 250 people enjoyed a social hour highlighting a delicious selection of vegetarian fare provided by Slow Food Denver (my favorite was the pickled watermelon rind).

    With everyone well fed, I began the evening by highlighting the wide variety of waterwise perennials and woody plants that will attract wildlife by providing food (seeds and fruit), nectar, and shelter. Lauren followed with beautiful photos of her 1/2 acre Fort Collins landscape to illustrate the various design techniques and plants that can be used to create a Habitat Hero worthy garden (hers was given the official designation several years ago). The audience was engaged and very interested in all the aspects of creating a habitat garden. No doubt there will be many more colorful trees, shrubs, and perennials appearing in their yards that will attract wildlife.

    The evening was sponsored by Denver Botanic Garden, Audubon Rockies and Habitat Heroes. The Front Range of Colorado leads the nation in the creation of habitat friendly landscapes as Coloradans have embraced the idea of giving back to Mother Earth and her creatures by sharing our outdoor spaces. In fact just this past week First Lady Michelle Obama has launched the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge to initiate a nation-wide effort to support pollinator health and habitat creation. This concept is really gaining momentum and will hopefully provide millions of more acres of eco-friendly landscapes to help mitigate the loss of habitat due to human activities.

    DBG-Chatfield-Arboretum-meadow-planting-with-Bouteloua-Blonde-Ambition-blog
    Chatfield Arboretum meadow planting of the garden's star ornamental grass, Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition'.

    Our talks were preceded by two afternoon tours of Denver Botanic Garden grounds looking at the plants and design techniques for habitat creation. Then on Saturday, June 21, Lauren gave several tours of the grounds of Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield (in Littleton, CO, a suburb of Denver) where she and her husband Scott Ogden designed and planted a fantastic Habitat Hero garden that surrounds the Chatfield administration offices. The landscape is a treasure-trove of native plants and ornamental grasses. The design also includes a rain garden where all the water run-off from the office and adjacent building roofs is collected. Here the plant roots filter the water as it's absorbed by the ground and returned to the water table below.

    It was a wonderful and inspiring evening. Now, let's get busy planting some natural nectar!

    Text and Photos by David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

  • The Planting Season Continues - Plants That Like It Hot!

    Agastache Glowing EmbersAgastache thrive in warm weather. Our newest Agastache introduction: Glowing Embers, a hummingbird magnet!

    Heat Loving Perennials For Planting In Early Summer


    Different groups of plants grow best at different times of the year. In my general observations, I have noted that:

    • Perennials from cold climates (zones 3-4) prefer to grow most actively when temperatures are cool. Oriental poppies are a prime example. They begin growing in early spring as soon as the soil thaws. After flowering in late spring, they will go dormant in the heat of summer. Then they sprout new leaves in the cool of fall to begin the cycle once more.
    • Grosso French Hybrid Lavender Lavender do especially well in warm weather. Featured: Large-growing Grosso French Hybrid Lavender.

    • Perennials from hot summer regions such as the Great Plains and Southwestern US, wait for the warmth of late spring before they begin growing. Leary of frost, these plants wait for the nights begin to warm and the days heat up before their season starts. And flowering occurs during the heat of summer and early fall.

    It's these perennials and warm season ornamental grasses are excellent choices for planting in June. They grow well when the summer heat is on. To ensure success, follow these couple of suggestions:

    • Be sure to water summer transplants regularly. And soak the soil long enough to push the water deep where the roots will follow.
    • Mulch where appropriate. In the Intermountain, California, PNW, Great Plains and Mid-Western states, summer mulching is an effective technique for keeping the soil moister and cooler for roots to grow their best. In hot, very humid, wetter climates, mulching may not be beneficial because of the potential for crown and root diseases.

    Gaillardia Arizona Sun, Blanket flower Gaillardia offer extreme drought tolerance. With minimal deadheading you'll get blooms all season long. Featured: Arizona Sun Blanket Flower.

    Plants That Thrive With Warm Weather Planting

    Here is a list of Plants for June Transplanting:

    Flowering Perennials

    Ornamental grasses

    Cacti and Succulents

    Shrubs and Small Trees

    Text and select photos By David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

  • Shrubs, Small Trees and Grasses that Provide Habitat and Year-Round Interest

    Chilopsis linearis Lucretia Hamilton Chilopsis linearis Lucretia Hamilton is a small, native tree that fits well into smaller yards and under power lines.


    In colder climates, much of the garden disappears in the winter. Annuals are killed by fall frosts, and many perennial flowers go dormant, shedding their above ground stems to retreat below ground. It's the trees, shrubs, and ornamental grasses that anchor the garden, providing year-round interest, as well as shelter for songbirds and other small animals.

    Native Shrubs and Small Trees

    For the western states, many of our native shrubs and small trees are our very best plants for low water use, as their deep root systems pull moisture from the soil that is out of reach of smaller growing perennials.

    Chilopsis Conchas Dam Pink has outstanding cold hardiness and showy, pure pink, fragrant flowers.

    Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) is a native tree that deserves wider use. Its small size allows it to fit easily into smaller yards and under power lines. And the showy, nectar-rich flowers delight humans and hummingbirds alike. Once established these two selections (below) are cold hardy into zone 5, such as the Front Range of Colorado and interior western cities, such as Salt Lake City, Reno, Boise, and Spokane.

    • 'Conchas Dam Pink' Desert Willow has outstanding cold hardiness coming from the northern-most known population near Conchas Lake on the high plains of northeastern NM. Its showy, pure pink, fragrant flowers are sure to please.
    • 'Lucretia Hamilton', with lovely burgundy flowers is equally cold hardy and a compact grower for patios and tight spaces.

    A couple of planting hints for Chilopsis.

    • Excellent for rain gardens, the plants are equally comfortable standing in water for a few days or sitting bone dry for weeks on end.
    • In zone 5 climates (edge of their cold hardiness): plant them in a wide, shallow depression that will fill in with soil after a few seasons. This increases their cold hardiness by gradually sinking the crown more deeply into the soil.

    Fernbush is like a summer-blooming white lilac with fragrant olive-green foliage.

    Our western native shrubs are the Rodney Dangerfields of the plant world, because they "get no respect." This is unfortunate because their tough, xeric constitutions allow them to thrive in challenging climates where they reward us with their beautiful shapes and colorful flowers. Native bees depend on them for nectar, and songbirds utilize them for shelter, food, and nesting sites.

    • Fernbush (Chamaebatiaria) is like a summer-blooming white lilac. Its distinctive olive-green foliage is pleasingly aromatic too.
    • Sand Sage (Artemisia filifolia), which actually grows well in most any dry soil, provides a wonderful backdrop for colorful perennials. Its fine-textured silver foliage has a nice sage fragrance.
    • New Mexico Privet (Forestiera neomexicana) is very versatile. Shear it into a hedge or limb it up to form a graceful multi-stemmed, white barked small tree. Plant both male ('Happy Boy') and female plants ('Berry Girl') to ensure berry-set to feed fruit-eating songbirds like Robins.

    Ornamental Grasses

    Los Lunas Blues Little Bluestem Grass is know for its attractive blue leaves and strong upright growth habit.

    Ornamental grasses often perplex gardeners who are not familiar with their usefulness as flowering perennial companions. Mixing ornamental grasses into the perennial border and combining them into drifts of several different grass species mimics the look of natural meadows and prairies. Leave them stand over the winter so that their ornamental seed heads can brighten the winter landscape.

    Little Bluestem (Schizachryrium scoparium) is a widespread native species extending across the mid section of the country into the western U.S. Little Bluestem has wonderful reddish fall and winter color, and it is conspicuous when snow is on the ground. The leaves are caterpillar food for various butterfly species. Song and ground birds eat the seeds in the fall and winter, and many beneficial insects and butterflies use the stems as shelter over the winter months.

    • 'Los Lunas Blues' is an HCG introduction grown for its attractive blue leaves and strong upright growth habit. Best in drier climates, it has superior use in western gardens.
    • 'Blaze' is renowned for the bright reddish fall and winter color of its leaves and seed stalks. Combine it with tall Sedum 'Autumn Fire' for a winning duo.

    Blonde Ambition Blue Gramma Grass Blonde Ambition Blue Gramma Grass is unique because of its chartreuse flowers that mature to blonde horizontal seed heads.

    Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis) is another widespread native species extending from Texas into southern Canada. Deep rooted and drought tolerant, its unusual horizontal seed heads appear in mid summer and hold through winter, providing many months of subtle beauty.

    • 'Blonde Ambition' is another HCG introduction, unique among all the ornamental grasses for its chartreuse flowers that mature to blonde. Twice the size of regular blue grama, it makes any planting area more eye-catching with its cloud of blonde horizontal seed heads.

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

  • Starting From Scratch – Creating a Drought-Resistant Garden

    After: This native, drought resistant garden was created from scratch by Ft. Collins, CO customer Mary R.


    Q & A with homeowner Mary R. of Ft. Collins, CO

    What inspired you to create your garden?

    My house was built just four years ago, so the garden was a blank slate when I started--lots of dirt and rock with not a green thing in sight.

    When I moved, I sold my lawnmower, so I had committed to not having a lawn. I wanted to do something a little different, water saving and interesting.

    I had been a member and active volunteer for many years at The Gardens on Spring Creek, our local botanic garden. The inspiration for my own garden is the lovely rock garden there.

    Before: Piling up the dirt with the Dingo.Before: Mary's son used a "Dingo" to pile up soil for future garden berms.


    I had the opportunity to take a few classes about how to build a rock garden from the designer of that garden, Kirk Fiesler of Laporte Avenue Nursery. He kept saying that anyone could do it if they just rented a Dingo (a piece of equipment like a mini Bobcat). I thought elevation and berms were just what was needed to make my yard interesting, and I decided to give it a try.

    Stones for the rock garden were put in place. Preparing the rock garden, which was inspired by one found at The Gardens on Spring Creek, in Fort Collins.

    What steps did you take in creating your landscape?

    To have it done was going to be more than I wanted to spend, so I really had to do most of it myself. I drew it out on graph paper, asked my college-age son to help. I asked the opinion of a garden designer friend, who made several suggestions.

    I wanted to start in the spring and plant before it got really hot, but we didn’t get started until mid-June. We got the Dingo and the topsoil and positioned piles of soil for the berms, then took delivery of the rocks. My son was the Dingo operator and we spent 3-4 days positioning rock and soil.

    A local landscaper placed a flagstone path between the two garden beds.

    After the rocks were in place, a landscaper came and placed flagstone between the two major beds. They also put in the basics of the drip system. So I just needed to do the planting and the rest of the drip system myself. At the end of the summer I mulched the whole garden with gravel.

    How did you choose the plants?

    I didn’t really have a good system. I knew I wanted them to be xeric (drought resistant), like the Gardens on Spring Creek. I would go to a plant sale, a local nursery, check out the Plant Select website, or read the High Country Gardens catalog and note what would be good. Lauren Springer Ogden’s book, The Undaunted Garden, is also a favorite resource. I knew I wanted a shade tree, a serviceberry, and dwarf conifers for winter interest. I ended up just adding plants around them. Despite planting in the heat, I didn’t lose a lot of plants over the summer. (See Mary’s summer planting tip below.)

    I have an “inferno strip” that is 43x12, and is not irrigated at all. I chose the plants using the water symbols in the HCG catalog, selecting waterwise plants that I only water by hand a few times a year.

    After: This drought resistant garden includes multiple Salvia and Penstemon varieties, Walker's Low Catmint, Creeping Grey Germander, Sundancer Daisy, Hummingbird Mint (Agastache) and others.


    What are some of your favorite plants?

    I have about a dozen different varieties of Penstemon (dwarf Penstemon virens, Scarlet Bugler which is huge and hummingbirds love it). I love the Grand Mesa, which blooms earlier in the season and the Prairie Jewels, which has varying colors.

    I’ve got lots of different types of Salvia, including May Night and Caradonna. Salvia daghestanica is one of my favorites. It requires almost no water. It is in a spot between the patio and the flagstone walkway. I have two patches, one that gets water and one that doesn’t, and they look virtually the same.

    Walker’s Low Catmint, it’s beautiful all year. And I have lots of Sedum for texture and lots of Ice Plant and groundcover Veronicas, which provide tons of color.

    I have one big Iris and several dwarf Iris (6-10 inches tall) that friends have given me that are sentimental favorites.

    Creeping Grey Germander (Teucrium aroanium) After: Creeping Grey Germander (Teucrium aroanium) with multiple varieties of Penstemon, Salvia and Ice Plant.


    One of my favorite plants is Creeping Grey Germander (Teucrium aroanium--available from HCG in July for Fall 2015 delivery). The leaves are beautiful soft gray with orchid purple flowers. It has the demeanor of a spring plant, but blooms from mid summer to winter. It’s maybe my favorite plant in the whole garden, and it gets asked about the most. It has that same structure as candytuft and is a nice combination with every thing else that blooms in the summer.

    I have planted several Hummingbird Mint (Agastache) right outside my living room window, so I can watch the hummingbirds from in my house. My favorite thing about Agastache is the fragrance.

    One other plant I really like is the Western Sundancer Daisy (Hymenoxys acaulis v. ivesiana). I love that it seeds around a little bit, but is never a nuisance, and has those pretty little daisies. This year I’m trying the Thrift-leaf Perky Sue (Hymenoxys scaposa).

    In the "inferno strip” I have Fernbush, dwarf Rabbit Brush, Apache Plume, Penstemons, Mirabilis, Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum), Woolly Speedwell (Veronica), Prairie Clover (Dalea), Globe Mallow, Salvia azurea, Liatris, and a ton of California poppies. My last act before tucking the garden in for the winter that first year was to throw poppy seeds in the gravel mulch of the inferno strip. They are so prolific that I need to clean out the poppies from around smaller plants like Scuttelaria every year.

    Mary filled the "inferno strip" with xeric (drought resistant) plants that only need supplemental water a couple times a year. Plants include Penstemons, Mirabilis, Woolly Speedwell, Prairie Clover, Globe Mallow, Salvia azurea, Liatris, and lots of California poppies.


    This year in addition to Perky Sue, I’m adding Black Foot Daisy and Salvia Ultra Violet to the “inferno strip”.

    Do you have any advice for other gardeners?

    The one thing that really made the difference, because I was planting in the heat of the summer, was to use a root stimulant to help get the plants established. I really think that made a huge difference in planting during the heat.

    If you’re going to use xeric plants, remember, they’re desert plants. They don’t want to have a lot of rich material. Just plant in topsoil, not topsoil with compost. I don’t feed anything in my garden except for a couple roses that I have close to the house. So skip the compost, and don’t use organic mulch. Use gravel and don’t use weed fabric.

    One example of the "happy accidents" in the garden, where plants have naturally grown together. Shown here are Hens and Chicks with Ice Plant.

    People ask me about the garden all the time. Because my house is in a very public area, and my garden is in the front yard, I feel pressure to keep it looking good. But you can have a beautiful xeriscape with a lot less work than I put into it. But to me it isn’t work. I love every minute I spend out there, even the weeding!

    This summer will be my 4th season. There’s a saying about perennials. First they sleep, and then creep and then leap. It was really true. This is year four and everything is just so healthy.

    What are some of the things you appreciate most about your garden?

    I’ve never had a garden with fewer problems and it turned out better than I ever thought it would.

    It’s full of bees. I have a neighbor that was a retired environmental scientist, just comes to watch the bees. He told be one day that the diversity of the insects in my garden is just amazing, and it’s always buzzing with butterflies, sphinx moths, and hummingbirds.

    The prettiest parts of the garden are parts that I didn’t do. It’s taken on a life of its own. Plants are popping up between flagstones and boulders, and it looks very natural. I can’t take credit for all of it. You have to let it just happen and not be concerned with everything being perfect.

    Ice Plant Mix Mixed Ice Plants (Delosperma) have grown between the boulders, creating a very natural look. Shown here are Lavender Ice, Blut and Firespinner Ice Plants.


    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

  • Shady Characters: Plants for Shade and Part Shade


    Aquilegia chrysanthaGolden Spur Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha) hosts a long display of fragrant yellow flowers in late spring. It does best in partial shade, but is quite sun tolerant at higher elevations.


    I've been gardening in the high desert of New Mexico for more than three decades. And I've gained a healthy respect for the strength and intensity of our sunshine. A shade loving plant in too much sun quickly becomes a puff of smoke. So early on, I found it to be very important to define what sun or shade conditions mean to gardeners here, especially to those who've moved from areas with more benign and less sunny climates.

    The intensity of sunshine varies considerably as one moves across the U.S. This is a huge continent with pronounced regional differences in elevation, heat, humidity, cloud cover, and the resulting intensity of the sun's rays. Full sun conditions in Ohio are radically different than in New Mexico. In Ohio, cloud cover is more consistent. Along with the humid, hazy skies, the strength of the sun's rays are greatly diluted by the time they reach the ground, whereas in the high elevation areas of New Mexico, our 300+ days of cloudless skies and lack of humidity and haze fail to dull the strength of our intense sunshine.

    Elevation generally has a huge effect on the sun's intensity; the higher above sea level, the stronger the sunshine, and the higher the ultra-violet wavelengths. You don't tan at 7,000 ft. elevation; you burn.

    Soapwort (Saponaria ocymoides) Soapwort is an Old World wildflower and an outstanding groundcover for sun and part sun areas.

    Definitions for Sun or Shade During the Growing Season

    In the Western United States:

    • Full sun - all day sunshine or a full afternoon of sun.
    • Part shade - morning sun and afternoon shade after 12 p.m. Or all day dappled shade under small-leaved trees, such as honeylocust (Gleditsia) or desert willow (Chilopsis).
    • Full shade - no direct sun during the day because of dense overhead foliage or buildings.

    In the Eastern United States:

    • Full sun - 8 or more hours of sun.
    • Part shade - up to 4 hours of sun (during any part of the day).
    • Shade - little (morning only) or no direct sun.

    Bottom line: study the light in your yard and become familiar with when the sunlight hits the ground and plant accordingly.

    Coral Bells (Heuchera sanguinea Firefly)Best in part sun and shade in hot climates, Heuchera (Coral Bells) will do well in full sun at higher altitudes with cooler summer weather.

    Favorite Plants for Full Shade

    Favorite Plants for Partial Shade (Morning Sun or Dappled Shade)


    Some Miscellaneous Factors that Affect Plants and Sun Intensity

    Variegated Plants - Plants with variegated foliage will always need less sun that the same species with green leaves. So variegated plants will do best in part sun, dappled, or full shade.

    Hot Summer Weather - When day temperatures begin to regularly exceed 90◦F, many plants will benefit from afternoon shade.

    New Homes - In new housing developments, sunlight conditions will change over time as trees mature. What was once a sunny spot may gradually change to part or full shade conditions. So plant for current sunlight conditions and understand that in five or more years, you may need to change out your plants as conditions become more shady.

    Sunny Winters in Cold Areas of The West - During winter, the sun is lower in the sky, and the angle of the sunlight shifts. This can change a sunny location into a shady location. This is an important consideration for broadleaf evergreen plants in cold climates. Too much sun during Western winters can result in burned foliage. High intensity sunshine combined with frozen soil prevents the foliage from transpiring (losing moisture through the leaves to cool the plant). So be sure plant your broadleaf evergreens and evergreen perennials, such as Helianthemum (Sunrose), in a spot where they are more shaded during the winter.

    Text by David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

  • Easy-to-Grow Perennials for the Beginning or Not-so-Confident Gardener


    Easy-to-grow Maximilian's Sunflower Santa Fe with Russian Sage. Easy-to-grow Maximilian's Sunflower Santa Fe with Russian Sage.

    Easy is good, especially when it comes to growing plants. I'm often asked when customers are buying a plant, "Is this one easy-to-grow?" Of course the answer depends on your experience as a gardener and where the plant is going to be grown. Some places, like southern California, where the climate is mild and the soil rich, most plants are easy-to-grow. Taking that same plant and planting it into the difficult growing conditions I experience here in the windy, dry, hot and cold high desert of Santa Fe, the answer might be different.

    But in general, I would define "easy-to-grow" plants as ones that are:

    • Forgiving as to their soil preference and do well in a wide range of soil types.
    • Don't get "crispy" when they dry out too much and bounce back quickly when watered.
    • Grow quickly and root out vigorously.
    • Are widely growable across a wide area of the country.
    • Have excellent cold hardiness and do well when transplanted in the fall.

    There are a few steps that gardeners can take that will increase the ease with which a plant will grow. The first month in the ground is the most critical time to provide optimum care.

    • Use a root stimulator at least two or three times during the first month in the ground. I have had excellent success over the years using our High Country Gardens Root Stimulator Combo Pack (liquid seaweed and SuperThrive). When these two liquids are used together, there is a synergistic effect that encourages strong root growth.
    • Inoculate with Plant Success mycorrhiza fungal root inoculant. Let these amazing fungal root buddies do the work of helping your plants to grow.
    • Watch the watering, taking care not to over or under water your new transplant. Push back the mulch and check. If the top of the soil is still damp, wait a day; if the plant's foliage is off-green in color, or the soil surface is crusty, its dry and needs water.
    • Mulching the plant is key to maintaining optimum soil moisture, so I strongly encourage forming a nice wide saucer (slight depression surrounded with a ridge of soil) filled with a coarse textured mulch material to hold irrigation water.
    • When watering, do it thoroughly by filling the saucer several times letting the water soak deeply into the planting hole. The warmer the day temperatures, the more often water will be needed. Perhaps every other day to start.
    • Spray all plants with a repellent (we recommend Deer Off), even deer and rabbit resistant ones, to protect from getting eaten.


    Centranthus Ruber Roseus
    Pink Flowered Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus ruber) is easy to grow and blooms all summer.

    The Most Easy-to-Grow Plants


    Select Blue Catmint Catmint grows easily in most soil types, including clay.

    More Experience Needed

    Mark New Transplants

    When planting into an established garden, be sure to mark where you plant your new transplants. I use some flagging tape on a stake. I lose most of my plants because I forget where I planted them!

    The Philosophy of Successful Gardening

    • Of course what you can grow well might be a tough one for me and vice versa. It always surprises me how this works. I think it's mismatched energy between plant and person. But it can also be that my garden conditions and soil are different than yours.
    • Be a positive gardener because no one really has a "black thumb." If you expect failure, it will most likely be a self fulfilling prophecy.
    • Pay attention and be mindful during your time in the garden. Sing or talk to your plants to focus your time with each plant (George Washington Carver did). Your plants will respond positively even if you're a little off key.

    Text by David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

  • Why I Killed My Front Lawn - And Replaced It With Native, Drought Resistant Plants

    Denver Garden - After After: This water-wise Denver habitat garden was created where there was once a traditional blue grass lawn.

    A Before/After Transformation with homeowner Jason B. of Denver, CO;
    A 2014 Habitat Hero award-winner


    What motivated you to create a wildscape garden?

    I created this garden for several reasons. The space started out as about 300 square feet of Kentucky Blue Grass that was difficult to keep looking nice and wasn’t very functional because it was in the front of the house. I wanted to reduce my water use and create a garden that was unique and would attract wildlife.

    Denver Garden - Before Before: This home's Kentucky Bluegrass lawn was replaced with drought resistant native plants.

    Our home’s builder provided the original landscaping. Even though the original landscape included the bluegrass that I eventually replaced, the plants in the border between the house and the grass were a great start to my habitat garden and included snowberry bushes, a hawthorn tree, several ornamental grasses, junipers, and spirea. I wanted to create a cohesive space that blended the original plants with the new.

    What plants did you use?

    I selected plants that were xeric (drought resistant), that primarily have white or pink/red flowers or have silver foliage. In addition to having similar color scheme with the original plants, I wanted to use white flowers, grasses, and silvery foliage so the garden would also look good at night and attract night time pollinators.

    I’ve enjoyed watching the white-lined sphinx moths that visit in the evening. I’ve also included a rain garden concept into the design where I’ve planted Joe Pye Weed and Obedient Plant where the down spout daylights in the garden. This part of my yard which I’ve shared in my photos complements my back yard where I have planted High Country Gardens’ Birdwatcher Garden that I won at one of the Habitat Hero workshops in 2014, and where I maintain a bird bath.

    What steps did you take to replace your lawn?

    I created the garden in the spring of 2012. To kill the lawn, I spread of thin layer of manure and compost over the grass and then covered the area with black plastic.

    After about a month the grass looked sufficiently dead. I rented a rototiller and tilled in the lawn, I removed the spray irrigation lines and extended a drip irrigation line into the new garden.

    I had a load of wood mulch and a few small boulders delivered and placed in the garden. The boulders provide a little bit of interest in the spring when there isn’t much blooming, and they are also very popular stepping stones for the kids that walk by. I’ve added to the garden each year but I still have gaps to fill in.

    What pollinators and wildlife does your garden attract?

    Last year I planted a Furman’s Red Sage and Texas Red Yucca to provide for the hummingbirds that are around from late July into September. I also have a spot reserved for a columnar juniper and some milkweed that I hope to get started this fall.

    My favorite pollinators that I’ve found in my garden are the bumble bees. I’ve observed Brown-belted, Yellow, and Hunt’s bumble bees. They especially like the Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana, Miss Manners), White Swan Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), Penstemon, and Agastache. About a year ago I started photographing my bumble bees for the Xerces Society’s Bumble Bee Watch. My kids and I also report observations of ladybugs to Cornell University’s Lost Ladybug Project.

    Habitat Hero Birdwatcher Garden The Habitat Hero Birdwatcher Garden fills in quickly. This native, water-wise garden was planted in April 2014. This photo was taken in fall 2014.

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

  • The Top Ten Ways Gardeners Can Give Back to Our Planet

    Practice organic gardening techniques as much as possible and use our landscapes to provide flowers for pollinators. Custoner photo of honey bee on Russian Sage.

    Happy Earth Day 2015


    "Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the deluge of gifts earth bestows on us, entirely unearned: water, air, food, the ground beneath our feet... So what should be our response to the generosity of the world? Paying attention to it. Drinking it in. Letting its energy flow into us. Celebrating ... the physical and spiritual things, the tranquil and exhilarating things, prayer and poetry and pancakes alike." -- Robin Wall Kimmerer


    While there is much to celebrate on Earth Day, it is even more urgent that we watch Mother Earth's back (as we say in the vernacular). With over seven billion people currently living on the Earth and using her resources, the days of plenty are gone. Conservation, restoration and resting the Earth's resources so that they can recover needs to become our focus. Here are some of my thoughts for doing so as it relates to us gardeners.

    The Top Ten Ways Gardeners Can Help Give Back to Our Planet:

    Practice organic gardening techniques as much as possible. Protect our soil, our water and all the creatures (including ourselves) that depend on plants. Educate yourselves about alternatives to the chemical intensive techniques and products that predominate in the marketplace.

    Grow some food. Learn to appreciate what a gift it is to be able to plant seeds and harvest delicious, nourishing food. Plants are our direct connection to Mother Earth, pulling the goodness from the soil and feeding our bodies. This is our primordial connection to Earth that nourishes us physically and spiritually.

    Chatfield Arboretum gardens abuzz with pollinators. Chatfield Arboretum gardens abuzz with pollinators.

    Use our landscapes to provide flowers for pollinators and habitat for songbirds and other animals. Tens of millions of prairie and forest have been lost to human settlement, having disappeared under houses, shopping malls, offices, roads and highways. Give back by planting to provide food and shelter so other creatures can share our space. There is power in numbers; Think what a difference it would make If a million gardeners make it their goal to create habitat.

    Don't buy toxic gardening products. Let the stores where you shop for gardening products, know that we want organic and natural products. Tell them we want to learn how we can garden without the poisons that currently stock the shelves in the Big Box stores and many of our garden centers. Tell them we don't want to buy systemic pesticides that poison our pollinators (bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and others). Tell them we don't want to spread damaging "weed-n-feed" chemical fertilizers/pre-emergent herbicides on our lawns and under our bare feet.

    Buy organic food. Agra-business (Industrial agriculture) is destroying the planet, abusing our precious farm animals, poisoning our bodies and polluting the Earth's soil, air and water. We can make our voices heard with our dollars. Seek out organic foods.

    Demand that GMO foods be labeled. The dominance of GMO "Round-Up Ready" food crops directly results in the use of millions of tons of toxic herbicides, pesticide and chemical fertilizers that are poisoning the land, the water and our rural farming communities. We demand the opportunity to vote with our dollars by knowing if our food or food products (i.e. high fructose corn syrup) comes from genetically engineered crops. Again we must vote with our dollars if our need for a safe environment is to be heard.

    Buy food from a Farmer's Market, Groceries or Food Coop that support and sell locally grown produce, food products, and grass feed/free range, non-feed lot meats. California, which supplies much of this country's food is in danger of running out of water this year! The catastrophic drought that is affecting the West Coast will directly affect a huge percentage of our food supply. Grow and buy locally. It only makes sense to de-centralize our food supplies so we can build and support a market infrastructure for local farmers.

    Customer Photo - Girl with anemones. Share the love of gardening.

    Teach our kids to grow plants and learn to garden. Video games won't feed us, and food doesn't just magically appear at the grocery store. Support community and school gardening programs.

    Plant a tree. Planting a tree is an investment in the future. A statement that says we need to look to the future and do something about it today. Plant a shade tree to cool your home. Plant a fruit tree to grow some fruit. Plant a flowering tree to feed the bees.

    Enjoy your garden by leaving your cell phone in the house. Be mindful and give your undivided attention to your plants, your soil, your landscape. Nurture a direct connection without the distractions of someone talking in your ear. Enjoy all that gardening and connecting to Mother Earth has to offer. Make your time spent gardening restorative and let it bring you joy!

    Text and Photos By David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

  • Groundcovers You Can Step On

    Pink Chintz Thyme alternative lawn.


    Groundcovers are some of our most versatile and easy-to-grow perennials. Like a well designed house with floors covered by nice rugs and carpeting, the garden is more beautiful when we use groundcovers to cover bare ground. And as the movement encouraging lawn-less landscapes gains momentum, groundcovers take center stage as lawn grasses are removed. Knowing and understanding their tolerance to foot traffic is a key element in deciding what are the right groundcovers for your needs.

    To Step or Not Step

    Groundcovers are usually defined as plants that spread much wider than they are tall. And they are typically plants that have stems that root, creating a spreading carpet of stems and leaves as they grow. How a given groundcover holds up under foot, is a key consideration when choosing which ones to plant. But even the toughest grass will be worn down by constant foot (paw) traffic. So I always recommend putting down stepping stones, flagstone or slate pieces to provide a hard surface where there are paths in your yard and interplanting with groundcovers that have better durability under foot.

    Levels of Traffic Tolerance

    As you might suspect some groundcovers wear better under foot than others. Here is a list.

    Most Durable:


    Veronica Speedwell Alternative Lawn with Flagstone An alternative lawn created with Veronica liwanensis and flagstone.

    Moderately Durable:


    Not Durable:

    *fastest growing varieties ("galloping groundcovers")

    Remember: Not every area of your yard needs groundcovers that tolerate being walked on. Before redoing any area, study where the paths are and use the most traffic tolerant groundcovers to surround the stepping stones. Elsewhere, being able to tolerate footsteps is much less important.


    Maintenance

    Groundcovers are some of our best low care perennials.

    Deadheading: Keep them looking their best by "deadheading" them when they finish blooming. This can be done by hand with hedge trimmers or with a lawnmower adjusted to a higher setting. It just needs to be done once per season.

    Fertilizing: Groundcovers growing in healthy living soil will be the most resilient, so apply a mix of Yum Yum Mix, compost (or earthworm castings) and granular molasses broadcast over the foliage and watered in. Do this in mid- to late fall (or mid-spring if your forget in the fall).

    Text and Photos By David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

  • Patio Plants: Container Gardening with Perennials

    Perennial Containers Illustration When designing your container garden, make sure pots have a mix of plants: thrillers, fillers and spillers. Perennial plants that appreciate well-drained soil are a great choice for containers.


    Container gardening has traditionally been focused on the use of annual-type plants. But containers are a great way to garden and we can also be using them to grow many perennials and perennial ornamental grasses. In fact, gardeners living east of the Mississippi will find the use of containers as a great way to expand their palette of growable perennials, especially xeric ones that would be unhappy in the ground because of excessive moisture and soggy freeze-thaw conditions in spring. Perennials that may seem impossible to grow in the ground become easily cultivated in pots.

    Planting perennials in bigger pots adds a dramatic element to your patio garden. Planting perennials in large pots adds a dramatic element to your patio garden.

    A Few Container Gardening Basics

    • Use bigger pots. (Note: I use the words container and pot interchangeably.) Avoid using pots that are too small. Plants quickly become root-bound and it becomes difficult if not impossible to keep them adequately watered and fertilized. I always use at least a 14 inch diameter pot. Remember: The bigger the mature plant, the bigger the pot.
    • Always use a soil-less potting mix. Filling pots with garden soil is a recipe for failure. Garden soil compacts and greatly restricts drainage and air exchange. I always recommend a high quality soil-less potting mix. This potting mix can be reused each season and enhanced with new ingredients.
    • Keep the plants well fertilized. Because we must water pots more frequently than plants in the ground, we need to replenish nutrients that are flushed away. If you want to grow your pots organically, top-dress every couple of weeks with earthworm compost and Yum Yum Mix. Compost tea is also excellent. Growing conventionally, use Osmocote slow release fertilizer mixed into the soil at potting time and supplement with water soluble Miracle-Gro (or equivalent) once every week or two.
    • Don't put gravel in the bottom of the pot; this is a useless technique that can actually restrict drainage in the pots. Fill the pots completely with soil-less mix. If the pot has a large drainage hole, I'll put an irregular rock over the hole that doesn't seal the hole and allows for water to flow out.
    • Leaving pots out-of-doors year-round: If you want to leave your containers outside year-round, I recommend using a fiberglass pot or the pot-in-pot strategy to avoid cracked pots and cold damaged roots. For pot-in-pot cultivation, plant in a plastic nursery container and drop this pot into a slightly larger ceramic pot. Fill the empty space in between with small bark nuggets. This insulates the inside pot from heat and cold and allows winter watering without cracking the ceramic pot.

    Monarda Fireball Bee Balm is a petite variety that does well in pots. Fireball Bee Balm (Monarda) is a petite variety that does well in pots.

    Protecting Pots Over the Winter

    We need to protect the pots and their resident perennial plants from the extremes of the winter weather.

    • After several hard frosts, move them into an unheated garage or cold frame.
    • If this isn't practical or you have a lot of pots to protect, make a straw bale enclosure where the pots can be placed.
      Cover with a couple of sturdy pieces of row crop cover (frost blanket) fabric.
    • Be sure to give the pots a drink every month or so on warm day so the roots don't dry out excessively.
    • In spring, cut the perennials back and move them into the outside position.

    Re-potting Perennials

    When using perennial plants, they can remain in the pot for at least two seasons before re-potting them into a larger one. Or the perennials can be divided and re-planted back into the same pot with fresh soil-less mix.

    Arranging Plants in the Container

    Remember the container gardening mantra, "thrillers, fillers and spillers." The tallest most showy plants (thrillers) go in the middle of the pot. The medium sized plants (fillers) go around the center plant. Soften the edges of the pots by planting trailing (spillers). If you're going to place a pot a container (pot) against a wall, put the tallest plants on the wall-side of the pot.

    Recommended Xeric Perennials for Containers

    I can't recount how many frustrated gardeners have asked me how to grow Agastache (Hummingbird Mint) in cold, moist, Mid-Western or Eastern climates. The answer: plant them in pots. The same goes for Lavender, native Sage (Salvia greggii and hybrids) and other xeric (low water) plants. Containers are also a great way to grow perennials that aren't quite winter-hardy enough for in-ground cultivation in one's region. Gardeners in Zones 4 and 5 gardeners, for example, can enjoy Perennial African Daisy (Gazania krebsiana 'Scarlet Tanager, 'Hantamberg Orange'), native Sage cultivars/hybrids (Salvia greggii) and Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas). These are just a few of many cold-tender perennials that make superb potted specimens.

    Hummingbird Containers Supply Natural Nectar

    As a hummingbird gardener, I recommend planting hummingbird attracting flowers and placing them around your outdoor living areas as a replacement or supplement to hummingbird feeders. Pots filled with Hummingbird Mint (Agastache), native Sage (Salvia), Monardella, Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria) and Coral Bells (Heuchera) make colorful, nectar-rich containers.

    Check out The Hummingbird Society's perennial patio garden for hummingbirds:

    Text by David Salman

    © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

Items 1 to 10 of 191 total

Page:
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. ...
  7. 20

Please wait...

Item added to your cart

has been added to your cart.