Posts Tagged ‘Plant Select’

A friend leaned close to whisper awful words in my ear, words that make many gardeners in the west sad.  “High Country Gardens has closed down,” she said, speaking of the Santa Fe, New Mexico business that has been a class act in our region and leaders in developing and promoting water-responsible plants for over 19 years.

According to an article in The Santa Fe New Mexican, High Country Gardens and its parent company, Santa Fe Greenhouses, could not overcome setbacks caused by the effects of slow consumer spending, drought, fire, and competition from big-box stores.  Attempts to downsize failed to save the nursery.

“I think what David and Ava Salman did was to bring the message of the beauty of water wise garden plants to the country,” said Pat Hayward, Executive Director of Plant Select .  “People fell in love with them; all over the country people wanted that look.  David combined beauty and water wise gardening in ways no one else has done, creating excitement.”

Salman worked closely with the Plant Select, a program dedicated to finding, promoting, and distributing plants that thrive in our harsh, dry Rocky Mountain gardens.  “We’ve been working closely with David since I first came on as Executive Director.  Blonde Ambition blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’) was one of his introductions, and we plan to have more of his work.  The void is huge, but he’ll continue breeding plants and discovering new, beautiful introductions.  He has an amazing eye.” 

The current economy doesn’t seem to favor any business right now, but plant industry is dear to the hearts of gardeners.  When one of our own closes down we feel the loss, especially gardeners in far flung locations that have difficulty finding water thrifty plants in their communities.  Panayoti  Kelaidis, Senior Curator and Director of Outreach for the Denver Botanic Gardens, commented on his December 6 blog, Prairie Break , that High Country Gardens’ 19 years “is a hell of a run for any nursery.”

With many plant introductions of his own, Kelaidis said he was deeply saddened by the closing of the cutting edge business.  “No question, it was the highest caliber of production, the perfect combination of quality plants for the widest market.  Theirs was a magical gift to our industry.”

Kelaidis points to Plant Select for those looking to fill the void in searching for additions to water responsible gardens.  The plants Salman helped that program introduce will continue to thrill gardeners, keeping nurseries in Colorado doing well, by and large, said the esteemed Denver Botanic Gardens’ plantsman.  “Salman helped Plant Select create a pallet of plants ideal for western gardens, plants that are low water.  It’s like our own drought insurance for our industry.  These plants are adapted, tailored to our state and growing conditions.”

Rumors abound as to whether the catalog business of the company will find new ownership, but in the meantime, gardeners, take a moment to ponder where you purchase gifts this season and next year.  Check out local garden centers and nurseries for their stock, and talk to the staff.  Over repeat visits, you’ll find they become like family, and our patronage helps them stay afloat while we all ride out the economy.

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Having a planting plan can really crimp your style, especially if you’re a plant person with a shopping problem.  Though being organized enough to know what you need to go out and get is soothing, there’s little room for disguising the purchases you made on a spur of the moment.

Which is what I’m going to have to figure out how to do now that I’ve seen the new Plant Select plants for 2010.  Old friends and new have made this year’s list of hardy plants that thrive in the Rocky Mountain west.

Developed by the Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado State University, and members of GreenCo (the green industries of Colorado), Plant Select has been testing and offering gorgeous selections from across the globe that are suited for our harsh sun and dry conditions.  Each year several new introductions earn the moniker of this prestigious plant program, with the 2010 offerings arriving in local gardens centers.

If you’re shopping for something to set your garden apart, check out these plants:

Snow Mesa buckwheat (Eriogonum wrightii var. wrightii), is a tough little plant that would do well under the tender care I dish out to the garden – neglect.  Growing 18 to 20 inches tall and wide, the plant tag suggests putting it in lean soil, unenriched by compost or fertilizers.  Keep this xeric plant dry and you’ll be rewarded with blooms from August to November.  As the snowy white flowers age through fall, they turn russet, punctuating the garden with delighterful color.  Zones 4 – 9.

Hockey fans wanting a bit of fun in summer should pop in Red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), a hummingbird magnet sure to give your backyard all the action of the NHL.   Whizzing along at top speeds and bouncing off each other in their haste to get to the blooms, hummingbirds find this native of Texas and Mexico an irresistible draw.

 Arching, evergreen sword-like leaves are topped by towering spikes of brilliant rose-pink flowers.  Plant this in a drier location of your garden where the birds have room to fly; once it’s established it needs and occasional deep watering to keep it thriving.  Zones 5 – 10.

 If you need a plant that stops passersby, look for Red Feathers (Echium amoenum), a petite, four-inch tall plant that knows how to put on a show.  Lifting rust-red flower spires on 14-inch stalks, Red Feathers will bloom over and over if deadheaded after the first spring display.  Zones 3 – 9.

Tow-toned Prairie Lode Sundrops (Calylophus serrulatus ’Prairie Lode’) is a prairie native that lights up drier parts of the garden.  Unfurling from orange buds, the yellow flowers cloak the plant throughout the summer, providing a steady show of color from May through September.  Perfect for sun or part shade, Prairie Lode prefers lean soil and drier conditions.  Zones 3 – 9.

Garden spaces crying out for groundcover are the ideal spot for Partridge Feather (Tanacetum densum ssp. Amani), a silver creeper that slowly but surely will cover a two-foot area.  Soft leaves make petting this plant hard to resist; put it in the hottest sun-filled spot in the yard.  Zones 4 – 9.

These plants and more can be found at local retailers. 

This post was previously published in the Boulder Camera, Longmont Times-Call, and Loveland Reporter-Herald.

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