New! High Country Garden 2014 Plant of the Year
It is interesting to note how some really great plants seem to hang around my greenhouse and gardens for a long time before I get around to introducing them. And I’m not sure why I keep them to myself, but this is certainly the case with Eriogonum umbellatum ‘Poncha Pass Red’ (Poncha Pass Red Sulfur Buckwheat).
I don’t even remember the exact year I found this fantastic plant in its native habitat, but I do remember my excitement when I saw the colony of these plants growing along a Colorado roadside. I came upon the plants in full seed, which might sound boring, except for the fact that the seed heads are bright orange-red.
Eriogonum (Sulfur Buckwheat) is a totally under-appreciated native plant family that finds its sweet spot in the Western US where there are many dozens of species and subspecies. And many of the Buckwheats are actually small evergreen shrubs. Such is the case with ‘Poncha Pass Red’, although it is a very small shrub that has woody stems and evergreen foliage. The plant blooms in late spring with showy umbels of bright yellow. Then as the flowers mature to seed set, they turn brilliant orange-red.
And as if this weren’t enough to convince you to plant it, Eriogonum is a fantastic genus of wildflowers when it comes to attracting and feeding bees and butterflies and many species of beneficial insects. These insects prey on injurious insects like aphids, spider mites and other garden pests.
They are wonderful companion plants to pair up with Lavender, Penstemon, and smaller growing ornamental native grasses like ‘Blonde Ambition’. These are plants that appreciate ‘Poncha Pass Red’s’ love of full sun and “lean”, well drained soils.
Eriogonum umbellatum ‘Poncha Pass Red’ (Poncha Pass Red Sulfur Buckwheat) is a plant that is hardy for zones 3 through 7 and comes in 5” pots. To learn more, visit our website: www.HighCountryGardens.com
Text and Photos by David Salman
The disappearing pollinator population is a phenomenon that affects our ecosystem in a huge way. Many know that the dwindling population is a problem, but few realize that gardeners can help pollinators in a BIG way, simply by planting a wildflower or perennial garden!
What are Pollinators’ jobs in nature?
There are a variety of different pollinators: Bees (including Honey Bees), Butterflies, Moths, and several species of flies and beetles. These important species move pollen from a male flower to a female flower, eventually resulting in fertilization. Many plants require this fertilization to reproduce and grow, meaning pollinators are essential to the stability of our ecosystem.
What Crops Need Pollination?
There are too many to name, but many of our most popular crops need Bees and other pollinators to grow and produce. A recent study showed that at least 80% of the world’s crop species require pollination to set seed, including: Kiwifruit, Cashews, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Pumpkins, Gourds, Zucchini, Passion Fruit, Cocoa, Vanilla and many, many more.
Recent Decline of Pollinators
In the most recent decades, many pollinator populations are considered to be in decline and some (such as several varieties of Bees) are even in danger of extinction. This is not only devastating for the fact that we are losing an entire species from our planet, but this could bring forth dire circumstances for global food webs and human health.
How You Can Help
One of the best ways gardeners can help pollinators is by planting a flower garden! This helps create a larger diversity of nectar and pollen sources. Putting pollinator-friendly plants together in one area helps to make their work a little easier, consequently reducing stress.
If you are planting Perennials, try to group a dense amount of plants in close proximity to one another, all with different shapes, colors and bloom times. This helps to attract a variety of pollinators all season long. It is also important to try to grow plants that are native to your area. Several varieties that are especially attractive to pollinators are Penstemon, Foxglove, Peonies, Black Eyed Susans, Echinacea, Sunflowers, Bee Balm and more.
Looking to help, but don’t have the time to design a perennial garden? We offer a Pollinator Paradise Pre-Planned garden and we’ve put together several Wildflower Mixtures to help pollinators. Each mixture is designed with a variety of annual and perennial Wildflowers that are all different colors, shapes and bloom all season long, to attract a wide variety of pollinators to your garden. Try our Honey Bee Wildflower Seed Mix, Hummingbird & Butterfly Seed Mix, or plant a Native Mixture for your area.
Planting for pollinators can help benefit their depleting population and add extra color to your landscaping. If every gardener decided to plant their own “pollinator garden,” we could really help make a difference for the disappearing population!
Guest blog by “The Seed Man” Mike Lizotte
Now that fall is officially here (September 22nd, 2013 was the Fall Equinox), and your landscape plants are dropping their leaves, this is a great time to take a stroll through your yard because it’s easier to see the details. Fill up a mug of hot tea (or grab a bottle of beer) and take a leisurely look around. Enjoy some quiet time in your yard. And direct a critical eye toward what areas and plants were the standouts this year. Where are the places and plants that didn’t do well or were lacking color and texture? Take a note pad and write it down. Make some sketches. Get inspired for next year.
Take a list of plants you’re interested in planting along with you and identify where they would do best. And while you’re walking around thinking about putting some polish on your garden, I’d like to make a few suggestions that would help.
Look where the afternoon light shines into your landscape. This low angled sunlight defines the fall and winter garden. Are there places where some ornamental grasses could be planted to catch that light? Here are some warm season grasses (those that bloom in mid-summer into fall) to mark down to order for next spring:
Shrubs with colorful fall foliage, like late blooming grasses, are commonly forgotten when planting in the spring. But a lack of them in your fall landscape is readily noticeable. My favorite native shrubs for colorful leaves are:
- ‘Pawnee Buttes’ Sand Cherry (Prunus besseyii). ‘Pawnee Buttes’ is a groundcover shrub and makes a nice “skirt” when planted around the base of a taller shrub like New Mexico Privet.
Fall blooming perennials, like shrubs with colorful fall foliage, are also overlooked during the frenzy of spring planting. But again, their absence now is very noticeable. Write these down and get them in your spring 2014 plant order:
- Hummingbird Trumpet or Fire Chalice (Zauschneria arizonica) with its blazing orange flowers is required planting.
- West Texas Grass Sage (Salvia reptans, West TX form) is fabulous with its cobalt blue flowers.
- ‘Raspberry Delight’ Sage (Salvia hybrid) is a non-stop bloomer from late spring until hard frost in October or November. Superb!
- Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is a fantastic groundcover that blooms in August and September and then turns to burgundy-red in October as its foliage changes color from glossy green.
- Giant Silver Germander (Teucrium cussonii) with its silver, evergreen foliage and fragrant pink flowers that go through summer into late fall is a fantastic groundcover for covering large areas and anchoring sloped beds.
-Re-blooming English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a great season extender blooming in late spring/early summer and again in August and September. ‘Sharon Roberts’, ‘Buena Vista’ and ‘Pastor’s Pride’ are three excellent re-bloomers.
Text and Photos by David Salman
Boo! Halloween is always a marker of the winter to come. Here in the high country of New Mexico, the tallest mountain peaks are starting to collect some snow and the frosts down in town become harder and more frequent. This is also the time of year when the action in our gardens moves underground.
Still time for Planting Bulbs
Planting bulbs are the best way to follow in nature’s footsteps by going underground and finishing our garden chores for the year.
- The key to a great display of the small bulbs is to plant a lot of them. Planted in drifts (or patches) of 48 or more so their small flowers become a huge pool of color when they come into bloom together.
Layering a Bulb Planting
Layering your bulbs is a great way to maximize your spring bulb displays. In nature, different bulbs establish themselves at different depths in the soil, so we can imitate nature by doing it ourselves. I like to plant a large bulb and a small bulb (or two) in the same planting hole. It’s a great labor saver and makes the spring display that much longer and more colorful.
- For example, the large garden daffodils or Darwin perennial tulips need to be planted at a depth of about 8 inches. So after dropping a daffodil or tulip into its hole and covering it with a few inches of dirt, you now have a 4 inch deep hole into which you can drop a couple of Crocus, miniature Iris or Muscari. Then fill the planting hole to ground level and it’s done.
- When planting bulbs be sure to have a bucket or wheelbarrow with a mixture of Yum Yum Mix (or Yum Yum Mix Winterizer), compost and soil ready. This way you can enrich the soil by simply filling the holes with the soil/compost/Yum Yum Mix blend.
- Water in your new bulb transplants with a good soaking and where appropriate, apply a couple inches of mulch to tuck them.
These bulbs will live together harmoniously and multiply themselves to make even bigger showier patches over time. In places of great bulb diversity like South Africa (the world’s epicenter for bulb species) there are often hundreds of bulbs and dozens of species in every square yard of ground, all growing at different depths in the soil.
The above ground plants are also moving underground. Woody plants are busy transporting accumulated nutrients from the stems and leaves down into the roots, which are actively growing with the onset of the short days of fall. Perennials are doing the same thing, moving their stored nutrients from the dying stem and leaves down into their roots and crowns. This is, in part, why fall planting of many plants is so ideal. All of their energy goes into growing and expanding their root systems. So don’t cut back your perennials until spring and wait to do pruning of woody plants until December or next year.
1. Feeding the Soil (Fertilizing)
One of the most basic principles of organic gardening is the need to “feed the soil”. The web of life depends on the soil’s ability to break down fallen leaves and other organic materials and recycle the nutrients into the soil. After the first hard frost is a good time to mix-up a wheel barrow of high quality compost and Yum Yum Mix Winterizer and top dress your flower beds, shrubs and smaller trees. Just scatter the compost/Yum Yum Mix over the top of the soil and scratch it in lightly. Then set the sprinkler and water it in.
In the drier parts of the country like the Great Plains and Intermountain West, mulching is an essential tool for conserving precious soil moisture and building the soil. For those living in regions that get more than 25” of precipitation or have a lot of winter rain or slushy snow, mulching is NOT recommended. It will help attract slugs and cause disease from excess moisture around the crowns of perennials and ornamental grasses.
- For Xeric Plants use: 1 to 2” thick layer of pine needles, crushed pecan shells or crushed gravel.
- For Plants that Like more moisture and richer soil: 1 to 2” thick layer of composted bark (not bark chips or nuggets), shredded wood or leaves and clean straw (for your vegetable beds only).
3. Garden Clean up
Not so fast. Just let the perennials and ornamental grasses stand over the winter.
- Helping beneficial insects and pollinators. The eggs and cocoons/pupae of beneficial insects, butterflies and moths are often attached to the dormant stems of your garden plants so let them stay and hatch next spring. Clean-up in mid-spring.
- Enjoy the winter beauty of many plants, especially ornamental grasses.
- Hold off pruning trees and shrubs until late winter/early spring
Dry fall and winter weather is tough on plants, especially perennials and ornamental grasses.
- Make sure the ground has ample moisture by watering a last time before the ground begins to freeze (mid-November in Santa Fe and Denver)
- Winter watering is essential for all new perennials, shrubs and trees planted this past growing season. If there is no snow or rain, water when day temperatures are above 45⁰ F, once every three or four weeks.
5. Planting spring blooming bulbs
Plant yourself a wonderful surprise. Spring blooming bulbs must be fall planted to bloom next spring. Bulbs are a bargain and a great way to wake up your garden in spring. And if you have the winter blues, a colorful drift of early crocus is a great way to lift your mood.
6. Planting perennials and ornamental grasses
- Fall is the very best time to plant if you live in the Southwestern US, Texas and other regions with very hot summer temperatures and mild winters.
- There is still time to plant in zone 6 & 7 but it’s getting late too in zones 4 and 5 (except for bulbs)
7. Fertilizing your lawn
Fall is the best time to feed your lawn. A top dressing of fine textured compost and Yum Yum Mix is ideal. Forget the chemical fertilizers and “Weed ‘n Feed” as they are detrimental to the soil and grass.
8. Apply Mycorrhiza to inoculate the roots
If you live in a recently built subdivision or have a new house and the construction damaged your soils, be sure to spread Plant Success Mycorrhizal inoculants around your plants and over your new lawn. This will greatly improve plant health and vitality.
9. Raking leaves
Never mulch with whole leaves as they will mat and starve the soil of oxygen (those earthworms need to breathe). If possible, rent or buy a shredder that will grind up your leaves into a coarse pieces. Coarsely ground up leaves are a superb mulch and a great soil builder.
10. Relax and spend time in your garden doing nothing
Hop on your hammock or sit out on your patio with a good book and enjoy the soothing beauty of the fall garden.
Sedum, commonly known as stonecrop, is a group of succulent plants native across much of the Northern Hemisphere. They are excellent garden plants because they are:
- Waterwise and cold hardy
- Colorful with flowers in shades of pink, white and yellow
- Excellent for fall and winter interest with their ornamental seed heads
- A favorite of insect pollinators like bees and butterflies
The stonecrops are very versatile with different varieties that can be used as durable, evergreen groundcovers or taller specimens in the perennial border. The larger growers are known as the Tall Sedum and may be a little less familiar to folks than the groundcover types (which have been used extensively for many years). The Tall Sedums typically bloom from mid-summer into early fall. And their architecturally interesting seed heads should be left standing over the winter months to catch the morning frost or snow like tidy ‘snow toadstools’. And the Tall Stonecrops provide pleasing contrast with the finely textured ornamental grasses that also grace the winter garden.
Some of my favorite cultivars include:
- ‘Purple Emperor’ which has eye catching burgundy foliage which contrasts so beautifully with other perennials especially if they have gray or silver foliage. (Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ or Artemisia versicolor ‘Seafoam’ are particularly showy companion plants. )
- ‘Matrona’ is my favorite and perhaps the tallest of the genus with clouds of pink flowers held on 30” tall mahogany stems. ‘Matrona’ is an impressive sight especially when attracting numerous butterflies. I particularly like it standing next to Little Bluestem grass (Schizachyrium).
As a showy groundcover variety, I am very fond of Chinese Mountain Stonecrop (Sedum middendorfianum). This Oriental native blooms in late spring and early summer with hundreds of bright yellow flowers that age to reddish-orange and are held overhead by short burgundy stems. When not blooming the carpet of fresh looking bright evergreen foliage is really nice. Landscape designers Lauren Springer Ogden and her husband Scott Ogden introduced me to this uncommon beauty.
Because of their cold hardiness and vigor, Sedum are on the top of my list for fall planting. And you’ll enjoy larger, more floriferous plants during next year’s growing season.
Text and Photos by David Salman
The Bearded Iris are, for much of the country , a reminder of Memorial Day, as this is usually the time of peak bloom for this showy group of perennials. I enjoy these beauties for their easy care, their tough constitution and their large, colorful flowers in a huge array of solid and bi-colored combinations.
Bearded Iris are very dependable in the garden when you provide them with
- plenty of sun
- a well drained planting site
- well amended soil (go heavy on the compost and soft rock phosphate as Iris are heavy “feeders”)
Fall is an excellent time to plant Iris, so you can enjoy their flowers next spring. But don’t feel you need to isolate Iris or plant them apart from the other flowers in your garden as is often done. (Roses often suffer this same fate.) Iris mingles nicely with other perennials, especially because their attractive, sword-shaped leaves provide a nice contrast with the other foliage, much like a thick bladed ornamental grass might do. And the wide range of flower colors allows them to be inter-planted with other perennials to provide a rainbow of complementary flower colors.
The big news about Bearded Iris is that many new varieties are “re-bloomers” flowering in late spring and re-blooming in August (with prompt deadheading of the old flower spikes). This has reinvigorated interest in the Bearded Iris and kept the breeders busy expanding their offerings.
In terms of maintenance, the best time to divide your Iris clumps is in August. When they stop blooming or the flowers are sparse, this is an indication that they are crowded and the soil is low in nutrients and needs to be enriched.
Just dig the plants out of the ground, shake off the soil and cut the rhizomes (fleshy roots) into pieces with a sharp clean garden knife. Be sure to include a fan or two of leaves on each piece of rhizome. If you have some dusting sulfur, dip the cut ends into it and let the rhizomes dry for a day or two in the shade so the cuts callus over.
Before you replant the divisions, dig a 3 to 4 inch thick layer of compost and a few handfuls of natural soft rock phosphate and Yum Yum Mix into the top 8-10” of the soil. Plant so that the shoulders of the rhizomes are just above the surface of the soil. Don’t plant them too deep.
One of my favorite Bearded Iris would have to be Iris pallida ‘Variegata’. The soft purple flowers are wonderfully fragrant and the boldly striped green and white leaves enliven any bed where they are planted giving the plant season-long garden interest.
Text and Photos by David Salman
Daffodils, also known by the Latin genus Narcissus, are named after the vain youth of Greek mythology who broke Echo’s heart and succumbed to his own reflection in a pool of water. Well, Daffodils have the right to be a little vain, as they are a superb group of beautiful flowers. There are many groups of daffodils that categorize them by size, flower shape and flower count.
But to the average gardener, the most important things to remember about them is;
- They are deer proof (above ground) and gopher and mole/vole proof (underground)
- Different cultivars bloom at different times in spring.
The different bloom times help you to extend the show of flowers in spring by planting early spring blooming, mid-spring blooming and late spring blooming varieties. (Bloom times are mentioned on the web and in the catalog as part of each daffodil’s description).
Daffodils grow well in sun and part sun and are not fussy about their soil, as long as it has good drainage and modest fertility. They are an excellent choice for planting into the dappled shade under tall shade trees in amongst other shade loving perennials.
Other Deer Resistant Flower Bulbs
There are also other equally beautiful spring blooming bulbs that resist browsing by deer.
- Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides)
- Star flower (Ipheon)
- Snowdrops (Galanthus)
- Ornamental Onions (Allium)
- Grape Hyacinths (Muscari) are generally deer resistant, but not always.
- Crocus (Crocus) are generally deer resistant, but not always
Some of my favorite combinations are to mix;
- Spanish Bluebells with Daffodil ‘Primeur’ and ‘Petrel’ to create a colorful glade of spring flowers.
- Grape hyacinth with ‘Fortissimo’ and ‘Professor Einstein’
These Narcissus listed below are some of my favorites.
Early spring blooming
- ‘Tete-a-Tete’ ; a special heirloom miniature variety
- ‘Brackenhurst’ ; showy yellow and orange-red flowers
- ‘Quail’ ; a vigorous naturalizer that makes colorful colonies of pure yellow
– ‘Jamestown’; with lovely white and lemon-yellow flowers
Late spring blooming
– ‘Primeur’ ; huge bright yellow flowers
- ‘Petrel’ ; graceful pure white flowers on vigorous colonizing plants
For larger, more colorful plants next year
Over the many years I’ve been in the retail nursery and greenhouse business, it has been an uphill chore to convince my fellow gardeners that fall is an excellent time to plant. Spring has always been a more traditional time to plant because I think we have taken our cues from farmers who wait until after the last spring frost to plant. (Except for winter wheat which is fall planted!)
But for ornamental plants, spring is not always the best time. This is especially true for areas of the country, especially the Western US, where spring is windy, unsettled and gives way to summer’s heat with little warning. Our plants don’t have much time to get their roots into the soil before summer’s baking temperatures.
In cold winter regions like Santa Fe, it is my impression that many folks are afraid that winter’s cold will kill their fall transplants and so they are reluctant to plant.
This has not been my experience when you follow a few simple steps;
- Get your plants into the ground about 6 to 8 weeks before the first hard frost of the fall.
- Select the most cold hardy perennials when planting in USDA zones 4-6 (*see detailed list below)
- Prepare a wide, generously sized planting hole enriching the soil with Yum Yum Mix and some good quality compost.
- Mulch with a generous 1” to 2” thick layer of mulching material
- For waterwise (xeric plants) use crushed gravel, pine needles or crushed nut shells.
- For plants that enjoy richer soils and more water use composted bark, shredded bark or coarse textured compost.
- Water once every three to four weeks if the winter snows are sparse and the weather is dry.
And be sure to plant some spring flowering bulbs while you’re out planting your perennials. Bulbs and perennials are a winning combination and help to color up your garden early with the bulbs.
Here is my list of very cold hardy perennials that are a sure thing when transplanted in fall. And they get a big jump on spring-planted plants with lots more flowers and foliage. Fall planting is like gaining a planting season’s advantage over spring-planted perennials!
- Beardtongues (Penstemon)
- Beebalm (Monarda)
- Catmint (Nepeta)
- Columbine (Aquilegia)
- Golden Rod (Solidago)
- Hummingbird Mint (Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’)
- Maximilian’s Sunflower (Helianthus)
- Missouri Evening Primrose (Oenothera)
- Perky Sue (Hymenoxys scaposa)
- Phlox (Phlox) – tall and groundcover types
- Salvia nemerosa/superb types
- Speedwell (Veronica)
- Stonecrop (Sedum)
- Bearded Iris (Iris)
- Cottage Pinks (Dianthus)
- Yarrow (Achillea)
To say pollination is an important process would be an understatement. A large number of the Earth’s edible plants create their fruit and seeds with the help of pollinators moving pollen from plant to plant. And we humans, along with the rest of the world’s animals, depend on this essential food cycle for our survival.
Pollinators (such as native bees, bumblebees, honey bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds) need flowers for pollen and nectar. And the flowers need them, to help accomplish the pollination process that sets the seeds and fruits so the plants can propagate themselves. A healthy pollinator population means the area of the Earth on which they live is also healthy. Pollinators are the pulse of the planet.
As gardeners, we are involved in the pollination process even if we don’t think about it. And that’s because we love planting flowers! So when we plant an abundant garden or landscape and care for these plants in an organic environment, it provides for us humans too. This helps to complete the web of life.
To plan and plant a nectar garden for pollinators, we need to provide three basic elements:
- Shelter – buildings and gardens provide places where insects and hummingbirds can live
- Water – a source of water is essential.
- Food Source – the plants that feed themselves and their young.
- Herbs – provide an excellent source of leaves for caterpillars. Always plant extra so there is enough for you and the caterpillars. And don’t forget Milkweed (Asclepias) for Monarch caterpillars.
- Flowering perennials, shrubs and trees – provide nectar-rich flowers for adult moths and butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.
I am an enthusiastic hummingbird gardener, so I’m always planting flowering plants to attract them.
Some of my favorite hummingbird plants in this category include:
- - Beardtongue (Penstemon) – a large diverse group of wildflowers especially for western gardens
- - Beebalm (Mondarda) – dazzling flowers in shades of pink and red
- - Hummingbird Mint (Agastache) – beautiful flowers and aromatic oils in flowers and foliage
- - Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria) – wonderful orange flowers
- - Sage (Salvia) – this includes our many native species and hybrids
- - Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) - especially in the Mid-West and Eastern US
Some of my favorite plants for butterflies, moths and all kinds of bees, I recommend:
- Ornamental Onions (Allium) – bees!!! Fall-planted bulbs are some of the best for bees.
- - Beebalm (Monarda) – butterflies
- - Yarrow (Achillea) – butterflies
- - Lavender (Lavandula) – bees and butterflies
- - Oregano (Origanum) – bees and butterflies
- - Catmints (Nepeta) – bees and butterflies
- - European Sage (Salvia) – Salvia nemerosa and superb varieties
- - Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) – especially attractive to bumblebees
- - Evening Primrose (Oenothera) - especially attractive to hawkmoth