by High Country Gardens

Wasatch slop.
After: Native plants stabilize a rocky slope on Salt Lake City's Wasatch Front.

Native Plants Replace Spurge-Filled Salt Lake City Landscape

Turning a Weed-Filled Backyard Into a Habitat Hero Wildscape: Before/After Transformation

The truth is, we didn't set out to create a wildscape. We live on the foothills of Salt Lake City, at the base of city-purchased green space. We were happy to let the mountain landscape for us. Zero water, zero cost, zero work. Little did we know the mountain was in the thrall of a villain that was carpeting our backyard—myrtle spurge! We pulled a full carload of this noxious weed off our rocky slope. Then we had to stabilize this ridiculously steep, swath of dirt. Plants from the dry mountain west were our only good choices. It turns out the critters like them, too.

Wasatch slope during transformation.
During: Spurge is cleared and the slope is prepped for planting.
Carpet of spurge.
Before: The noxious weed spurge carpeted the slope.

It’s four years later and we've pulled a lot more spurge and put about 200 plants on our back slope. New sage and rabbitbrush emerged after the spurge was cleared. We are coaxing along other shrubs and trees, including Golden Currant, Rhus trilobata, Apache Plume, Serviceberry, Fernbush, and Scrub Oak, among others. Bunch grasses lend texture and cover while the shrubs grow.

Terraces in autumn.
After: Terraces in Autumn - Native plants can span the seasons, adding long-blooming color.

We didn't expect such a huge burst of wildlife. We've spotted up to 14 different bird species in our yard in one day. Hummingbirds, not seen here before, now fight over the flowers. Butterflies, bees, and other bugs set whole patches in shimmering motion. A trio of baby owls learned to fly in our yard. We enjoy the bunnies, squirrels, and deer. Our daughter is growing up with a community in her backyard.

-- Erin A. and Craig B., homeowners

  1. Pink and White Penstemon mexicali Red Rocks, Penstemon mexicali Red Rocks, Red Rocks Hybrid Beardtongue

    Penstemon Red Rocks (Beardtongue) is a superb hybrid variety that blooms most of the summer with large rose-pink flowers. The plants are vigorous and have attractive glossy green fol...

    Learn More
    Red Rocks Penstemon Red Rocks Hybrid Beardtongue Penstemon mexicali Red Rocks
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $10.99 Sale $9.89
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Penstemon Red Rocks (Beardtongue) is a superb hybrid variety that blooms most of the summer with large rose-pink flowers. The plants are vigorous and have attractive glossy green foliage. A 1999 Plant Select winner. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
  2. Worry-Free Bee Balm Collection

    The Worry-Free Bee Balm Collection features three native perennial favorites to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. These Monarda are easy-to-grow, deer and rabbit resistant, and d...

    Learn More
    Worry-Free Bee Balm Collection Worry-Free Bee Balm Collection (Monarda)
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $102.99 Sale $92.69
    Per Collection of 6
    The Worry-Free Bee Balm Collection features three native perennial favorites to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. These Monarda are easy-to-grow, deer and rabbit resistant, and developed for disease resistance. Red, raspberry, and lavender-pink flowers add texture and color to your garden, and will naturalize over time. Glossy, aromatic foliage will look great all season. Collection of six plants.
  3. Zauschneria latifolia Woody's Peach Surprise Close Up

    Zauschneria latifolia Woody‚s Peach Surprise is a low-growing form of Fire Chalice flowering with light, peach-pink flowers, an unusual color in this genus of orange and scarle...

    Learn More
    Woody's Peach Surprise Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria) Woody's Peach Surprise Hummingbird Trumpet (Fire Chalice) Zauschneria latifolia Woody's Peach Surprise
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $12.99 Sale $11.69
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Zauschneria latifolia Woody's Peach Surprise is a low-growing form of Fire Chalice flowering with light, peach-pink flowers, an unusual color in this genus of orange and scarlet bloomers. This perennial colors the garden in late summer and early fall.
  4. Western Native Penstemon Collection

    Our Western Native Penstemon Collection will brighten your garden with jewel-toned blooms from mid-spring to early summer. A favorite of hummingbirds, Penstemons are low-maintenance ...

    Learn More
    Western Native Penstemon Collection Western Native Penstemon Collection
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $138.99 Sale $125.09
    Per Collection of 12
    Our Western Native Penstemon Collection will brighten your garden with jewel-toned blooms from mid-spring to early summer. A favorite of hummingbirds, Penstemons are low-maintenance native wildflowers with abundant blooms, and these four native cultivars are favorites for Western gardens. They’re deer and rabbit resistant, and love hot, dry growing conditions, so they’re an easy-to-grow addition to rock gardens and challenging sunny sites that need a pop of color to attract pollinators. Collection of 12 plants.

Plant Lists

Here is the list of some of the 200 plants we used on both the upper slope and bottom terrace. For a few of the plants listed without a link, High Country Gardens carries other varieties of these plants, including Artemisia; Monardella macrantha; and Yucca. Upper Slope: Bottom Terrace: Agastache rupestris; Fraxinus cuspidata; Kniphofia; Phlox subulata; Salvia pitcherii (similar to Salvia azurea); Schizachyrium scoparium; Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia (similar to Sphaeralcea munroana); Symphoricarpos orbiculatos; and Zauschneria garretti. © 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.
  1. Pink and White Penstemon mexicali Red Rocks, Penstemon mexicali Red Rocks, Red Rocks Hybrid Beardtongue

    Penstemon Red Rocks (Beardtongue) is a superb hybrid variety that blooms most of the summer with large rose-pink flowers. The plants are vigorous and have attractive glossy green fol...

    Learn More
    Red Rocks Penstemon Red Rocks Hybrid Beardtongue Penstemon mexicali Red Rocks
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $10.99 Sale $9.89
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Penstemon Red Rocks (Beardtongue) is a superb hybrid variety that blooms most of the summer with large rose-pink flowers. The plants are vigorous and have attractive glossy green foliage. A 1999 Plant Select winner. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
  2. Worry-Free Bee Balm Collection

    The Worry-Free Bee Balm Collection features three native perennial favorites to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. These Monarda are easy-to-grow, deer and rabbit resistant, and d...

    Learn More
    Worry-Free Bee Balm Collection Worry-Free Bee Balm Collection (Monarda)
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $102.99 Sale $92.69
    Per Collection of 6
    The Worry-Free Bee Balm Collection features three native perennial favorites to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. These Monarda are easy-to-grow, deer and rabbit resistant, and developed for disease resistance. Red, raspberry, and lavender-pink flowers add texture and color to your garden, and will naturalize over time. Glossy, aromatic foliage will look great all season. Collection of six plants.
  3. Zauschneria latifolia Woody's Peach Surprise Close Up

    Zauschneria latifolia Woody‚s Peach Surprise is a low-growing form of Fire Chalice flowering with light, peach-pink flowers, an unusual color in this genus of orange and scarle...

    Learn More
    Woody's Peach Surprise Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria) Woody's Peach Surprise Hummingbird Trumpet (Fire Chalice) Zauschneria latifolia Woody's Peach Surprise
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $12.99 Sale $11.69
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Zauschneria latifolia Woody's Peach Surprise is a low-growing form of Fire Chalice flowering with light, peach-pink flowers, an unusual color in this genus of orange and scarlet bloomers. This perennial colors the garden in late summer and early fall.
  4. Western Native Penstemon Collection

    Our Western Native Penstemon Collection will brighten your garden with jewel-toned blooms from mid-spring to early summer. A favorite of hummingbirds, Penstemons are low-maintenance ...

    Learn More
    Western Native Penstemon Collection Western Native Penstemon Collection
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $138.99 Sale $125.09
    Per Collection of 12
    Our Western Native Penstemon Collection will brighten your garden with jewel-toned blooms from mid-spring to early summer. A favorite of hummingbirds, Penstemons are low-maintenance native wildflowers with abundant blooms, and these four native cultivars are favorites for Western gardens. They’re deer and rabbit resistant, and love hot, dry growing conditions, so they’re an easy-to-grow addition to rock gardens and challenging sunny sites that need a pop of color to attract pollinators. Collection of 12 plants.