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 Agastache Ava

    Agastache Ava is one of High Country Gardens very best plant introductions, renowned for its tall spikes of deep rose-pink flowers held by raspberry-red calyxes. This vigorous hybrid...

    Learn More
    Ava Agastache Ava's Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache Ava
    As low as $11.99 Sale $10.19
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Agastache Ava is one of High Country Gardens very best plant introductions, renowned for its tall spikes of deep rose-pink flowers held by raspberry-red calyxes. This vigorous hybrid Hummingbird Mint blooms for many months beginning in mid-summer. 2005 Plant of the Year.
  2. Orange Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet, Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet, Creeping Hummingbird Trumpet

    2001 Plant Select Winner 4-6" tall x 15-18" wide. Orange Carpet® is a vigorous perennial groundcover that blooms in mid- to late summer with a profusion of bright orange trumpet ...

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    Orange Carpet® Creeping Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria) Creeping Hummingbird Trumpet Orange Carpet® (Fire Chalice) Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet®
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $10.99 Sale $9.89
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    2001 Plant Select Winner 4-6" tall x 15-18" wide. Orange Carpet® is a vigorous perennial groundcover that blooms in mid- to late summer with a profusion of bright orange trumpet shaped flowers. Spreading with underground stems, this beauty is perfect for slopes and cascading over the edges of raised beds.
  3. Yellow Helianthus maximiliana Santa Fe, Helianthus maximiliana Santa Fe, Maximilian's Sunflower

    Exclusive. Santa Fe is a selected form of Maximilian's Sunflower chosen for its huge, bright yellow daisies that tightly pack the 6 foot tall flowering spike. A tough perennial for d...

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    Santa Fe Maximilian's Sunflower (Helianthus) Santa Fe Maximilian's Sunflower Helianthus maximiliana Santa Fe
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $11.99 Sale $10.19
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Exclusive. Santa Fe is a selected form of Maximilian's Sunflower chosen for its huge, bright yellow daisies that tightly pack the 6 foot tall flowering spike. A tough perennial for difficult growing conditions, it blooms in mid-September. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric). A High Country Gardens introduction.
  4. Echinacea purpurea Pow Wow White Photo Courtesy of Walter's Gardens Inc.

    16-20" x 14-16" wide. Pow Wow® White Echinacea is an outstanding, seed grown cultivar that blooms all season with a profusion of white flowers over a compact plant....

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    PowWow® White Echinacea PowWow® White Coneflower Echinacea purpurea PowWow® White
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $9.99 Sale $8.49
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    16-20" x 14-16" wide. Pow Wow® White Echinacea is an outstanding, seed grown cultivar that blooms all season with a profusion of white flowers over a compact plant.

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 Agastache Ava

    Agastache Ava is one of High Country Gardens very best plant introductions, renowned for its tall spikes of deep rose-pink flowers held by raspberry-red calyxes. This vigorous hybrid...

    Learn More
    Ava Agastache Ava's Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache Ava
    As low as $11.99 Sale $10.19
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Agastache Ava is one of High Country Gardens very best plant introductions, renowned for its tall spikes of deep rose-pink flowers held by raspberry-red calyxes. This vigorous hybrid Hummingbird Mint blooms for many months beginning in mid-summer. 2005 Plant of the Year.
  2. Orange Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet, Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet, Creeping Hummingbird Trumpet

    2001 Plant Select Winner 4-6" tall x 15-18" wide. Orange Carpet® is a vigorous perennial groundcover that blooms in mid- to late summer with a profusion of bright orange trumpet ...

    Learn More
    Orange Carpet® Creeping Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria) Creeping Hummingbird Trumpet Orange Carpet® (Fire Chalice) Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet®
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $10.99 Sale $9.89
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    2001 Plant Select Winner 4-6" tall x 15-18" wide. Orange Carpet® is a vigorous perennial groundcover that blooms in mid- to late summer with a profusion of bright orange trumpet shaped flowers. Spreading with underground stems, this beauty is perfect for slopes and cascading over the edges of raised beds.
  3. Yellow Helianthus maximiliana Santa Fe, Helianthus maximiliana Santa Fe, Maximilian's Sunflower

    Exclusive. Santa Fe is a selected form of Maximilian's Sunflower chosen for its huge, bright yellow daisies that tightly pack the 6 foot tall flowering spike. A tough perennial for d...

    Learn More
    Santa Fe Maximilian's Sunflower (Helianthus) Santa Fe Maximilian's Sunflower Helianthus maximiliana Santa Fe
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $11.99 Sale $10.19
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Exclusive. Santa Fe is a selected form of Maximilian's Sunflower chosen for its huge, bright yellow daisies that tightly pack the 6 foot tall flowering spike. A tough perennial for difficult growing conditions, it blooms in mid-September. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric). A High Country Gardens introduction.
  4. Echinacea purpurea Pow Wow White Photo Courtesy of Walter's Gardens Inc.

    16-20" x 14-16" wide. Pow Wow® White Echinacea is an outstanding, seed grown cultivar that blooms all season with a profusion of white flowers over a compact plant....

    Learn More
    PowWow® White Echinacea PowWow® White Coneflower Echinacea purpurea PowWow® White
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $9.99 Sale $8.49
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    16-20" x 14-16" wide. Pow Wow® White Echinacea is an outstanding, seed grown cultivar that blooms all season with a profusion of white flowers over a compact plant.