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New Plants from High Country Gardens for Spring 2020

By David Salman


Winter is always a great time to settle into your favorite easy chair with a hot beverage and look at all the new plants that your favorite nurseries will be offering.  Here at High Country Gardens, we’ve been growing a great selection of new, as well as “tried and true” perennials for the coming spring 2020 planting season. With 28 additions to our plant palette, I’ve grouped them together in different categories, with comments to help you sort out the ones that might find a place in your garden this coming year.

Read on to learn more about our new Native Perennials, Shrubs, Vines, Ornamental Grasses, Old World Perennials, and Cold-Hardy Cacti & Succulents for Spring 2020. 

Native Perennials

The more native plants you can put into your garden, the better.  Native plants are invaluable for habitat creation and are essential for nurturing beneficial insects and providing natural nectar for pollinators such as hummingbirds, native bees and butterflies.

  • FlowerKisser™ Royal Rose Salvia – Royal Rose Sage is a seedling of one of the very best cold hardy, long blooming native hybrid sages, Raspberry Delight®. This perennial sage is also ever-blooming with spikes of deep rose-pink flowers which are a favorite of the hummingbirds. It also has sweetly aromatic foliage. (Plants in the new FlowerKisser™ brand have been selected by High Country Gardens Chief Horticulturist David Salman. These new perennial introductions are particularly nectar-rich and attract many pollinators, including honeybees, native bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.)
  • Texas Violet Salvia (Salvia farinacea) – a western form of the popular Texas native sage that was selected from the wild for its zone 5 cold hardiness and eye-catching blue and white flower spikes. Eagerly pollinated by hummingbirds and bumblebees.
  • Snow Fountain Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) – an improved form of Gaura with a sturdy, more formal upright habit than other varieties and a non-stop display of large white flowers from spring to fall. It’s also an excellent centerpiece for container gardens. Also called Wand Flower or Beeblossom Grass.
  • ‘Mellow Yellows’ Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) – a vigorous, seed-grown strain of coneflower with large, fragrant flowers in shades of soft yellow. This is a new and distinct German-bred coneflower for attracting butterflies.
  • Prince's Plume (Stanleya pinnata) – a spectacular western wildflower for tough, dry, poor soil conditions in the xeriscape garden. This is an amazingly beautiful perennial that attracts all kinds of native pollinating insects.

Shrubs and Vines

If fragrant flowers are something you like to seek out, these two shrubs should be at the top of your list.

  • ‘Superba’ Littleleaf Lilac (Syringa microphylla) - Native to eastern Asia, this improved selection of the Littleleaf Lilac has darker pink flowers than the species, and a propensity to re-bloom in late summer - after most lilac blooms have passed. Extremely fragrant, this durable, cold hardy shrub thrives in all types of soils, including clay!
  • Cheyenne® Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii) – Recently introduced to the public after growing unattended in the USDA Horticultural Field Station in Cheyenne, Wyoming for many, many decades, this tough-as-nails native shrub has withstood the brutal growing conditions of the high plains. Not only is it low-maintenance and durable, it's beautiful as well. Its abundant, large, citrus-scented white flowers are a spring delight. A plant that truly deserves its place in the High Country Gardens catalog: 2020 High Country Gardens Plant Of The Year. 

Our new vine for Spring 2020:

  • 'Margarita' Gelsemium (Gelsemium sempervirens) – This is a USDA zone 6 cold-hardy cultivar of a native Southern flowering vine. ‘Margarita’ blooms in spring with large golden-yellow flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Let it grow over unsightly fences, or decorate trellises with native flower vines. They attract pollinators and provide vertical beauty in the garden.

Ornamental Grasses

Recently, we have been focusing on getting more native ornamental grasses into cultivation. Ornamental grasses provide texture, structure, and movement in the garden, providing beauty year-round. They are not only beautiful, but have the added benefit of being invaluable for habitat creation. Many butterfly species depend on native grasses as food sources for their caterpillars. And of course, the seeds provide food in fall and winter for our beautiful seed-eating songbirds.

  • Sideoats Grama Grass (Bouteloua curtipendula) – A very tough, drought tolerant native with showy flower/seed spikes that provides outstanding winter interest. A graceful and beautiful addition to the meadow or informal cottage garden, it’s a willing re-seeder.
  • Hairy Grama Grass (Bouteloua hirsuta) – In northern New Mexico, I collected seed from several especially compact-growing populations of this tough ornamental prairie native. This tidy, cute grass is a great choice for meadows and informal cottage gardens, where it will re-seed itself.
  • Great Basin Wildrye (Leymus cinereus) – A large, cool season grower from the Great Basin region of Utah, its early summer flower spikes and stunning blue leaves are a delight in the xeric garden. The huge, grain-like seeds are eagerly eaten by songbirds beginning in late summer.

Old World Perennials

These are perennials that are native to the Old World (Europe, Asia, and Southern Africa).  Old World perennials are essential for providing nectar to honeybees (originally a native insect from the Old World areas of the planet) and providing flower forms and colors not found in our native plant species. 

  • Northern Dragonhead (Dracocephalum ruyschiana) – a short, stout Eurasian wildflower with fragrant blue tubular flowers, make this super cold-hardy perennial a great addition to the perennial border. Excellent choice for cold northern climates.
  • Alpine Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla alpina) – a resilient, long-lived groundcover for shady or partially shaded areas of the garden where it’s attractive foliage and chartreuse flowers are a delight.
  • ‘Mars Midget’ Pincushion Flower (Knautia macedonica) – a compact growing selection of this showy wildflower, the red flowers cover the plant all summer. Perfect for butterfly gardens. A good naturalizing plant for cottage gardens.
  • ‘Fredo’ Garden Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – a dense, compact growing selection of culinary English thyme with showy pink flowers, this perennial herb is at home in both ornamental and culinary gardens. Honeybees loves the tiny flowers.
  • Bristol Cross Oregano – this ever-blooming hybrid oregano is very showy in the perennial garden where its pendulous spikes of nectar-rich pink flowers attract lots of honeybees. The leaves are also culinary with a mild flavor.

Cold Hardy Cacti and Succulents

These plants have been a High Country Gardens specialty since our founding in 1994.  Species from both the Americas and the Old World are excellent additions to our xeriscapes and container gardens (in moister climates where in ground planting is not feasible).

  • Trinidad Yucca (Yucca glauca) – a super cold hardy succulent from the cold, windy plains of southern Colorado. Rosettes of stout, thin gray-blue evergreen foliage bloom with spikes of huge, ivory flowers in late spring.
  • Jewel of Desert® Peridot Ice Plant (Delosperma) – an everblooming, yellow flowered iceplant with a small, compact growth habit that’s perfect for rock gardens and outdoor containers. Also beautiful planted between stone pavers where they won’t be stepped on.

David Salman is the founder and Chief Horticulturalist of High Country Gardens.