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