Friday, August 24, 2012

Tough Guys — my top 5

yellow flowering pine-leaf penstemon, Penstemon pinifolius 'Mersea Yellow'
The Denver area has been in a Stage 1 Drought  this summer due to a low winter snow pack, low spring and summer precipitation, and higher than average temperatures.  I decided it would be a good year to test the durability of my garden plantings — I wasn't interested in knocking myself out (or using potable water) to provide supplemental water to my ornamental gardens on a regular basis.  My gardens are not on an automatic irrigation system so I either use a hose-end sprinkler attachment or  hand-water with a "wand."  I usually wait until my plants are in a prolonged wilt (no nighttime recovery) for 4-10 days before I give things a good soak.  This year I've watered the gardens about 6 times, total.  They look pretty sad, and we may finally lose a beauty bush (Kolkwitsia amabilis) that has never thrived.

The good news is that many of my plants have come through quite well, flowering profusely for long periods of time.  It may be no surprise to you that they're the same plants that I always brag on - the tough guys that put on a spectacular show during the "good" rain years, and keep on truckin' during the drought years, too.

The penstemon above, and its red flowering "parent" looked terrific mid-summer for weeks on end .  These next three — the horned poppy, Russian sage, and hummingbird trumpet — are planted in a side garden that got NO supplemental water this summer. They're going like gangbusters.

horned poppy, Glaucium flavum
Zauschneria arizonica with Perovskia artiplicifolia in the background
lower growing, groundcover form:  Zauschneria garrettii
the colorful, fuzzy bracts of Russian sage
This coneflower, too, has bloomed endlessly!
prairie coneflower, Ratibida columnifera
We're coming in to prime planting season now, so if you're looking to supplement your gardens with some xeric perennials, I hope you'll consider trying one of these.


Desert Dweller said...

Interesting what's tough for you vs down here. Tough is so important!

Equally tough - Russian Sage (though reseeds badly here, am now listing it as invasive and state might soon), and both Zauschneria species (with some irrigation, but not more than moderate).

Wimpy here - Pineleaf Penstemon especially the Mersea Yellow, and the Coneflower, without serious water.

Not sure on the Glaucium flavum, as I've not seen it here, but it looks like it would also thrive. Like globemallows, it looks like it means business!

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

David, thanks for your comment --- I was hoping you'd add your perspective from Albuquerque!

The Glaucium is a biennial the seeds around the garden (I know some folks don't like that in a plant), so you may have to find a friend with a seedling or start some yourself from seed. Give it a try and report back!