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.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Monday Mystery

My redtwig dogwood (Cornus sericea) is blooming.  Again. This plant flowers in the spring and then produces clusters of white berries that the birds love.  Dogwoods are not very drought tolerant and this particular plant is a "volunteer" that lives in the no-man's land deep inside back-to-back planting beds along the property line.  You can see by the curled foliage that the plant is drought stressed.  You can also see the under-formed and dessicated berries that tried to develop last spring.

Now here it is, flowering again, making another effort to reproduce.  I'm curious.  Did the extreme heat and drought of June and July force the plant into a false dormancy, tricking it into springtime behavior?  I've seen this before, but never to such a large extent — usually just a random blossom or two (in fact, my quince, Chaenomeles spp) is doing that right now).

And it's not just my dogwood: if you want to see something really crazy, head over to Timberline Gardens and take a look at their wisteria that's covered in (off season) purple flowers!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Missing June

Do you miss your June garden?  Wishing you could turn back the clock and enjoy all your lovely flower faves again? Well, you can!  All you need to do is head up to Colorado's high country. Last weekend we took a day-trip from Denver to Fairplay / South Park (yes, that South Park), on through Breckenridge, and home via Frisco.

In Fairplay (elevation 9,953 feet), a tiny unpaved corner of the old stone county building has a spunky display of delphinium, alpine poppy (Papaver nudicale), columbine, Campanula spp., and snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum).  The discovery of this little pocket garden was almost as exciting as the llama races!

The historic district of Breckenridge (elevation 9,600 feet) puts on a beautiful show for the summer tourists with gorgeous hanging baskets and flower boxes dripping with color (I was too stunned to take photos?  Doh!) Cottage style gardens are tucked into any little space available.  This garden includes blooms of cat mint (Nepeta spp.), larkspur, globe flower (Trollius spp.), foxglove, Veronica spp. and Dianthus spp.

Delphinium, lady's mantle (Alchmilla mollis), and Lilium spp. as well.

 Gardening at high elevations is challenging:  the growing season is very short, the nights are cool, and the sun is intense with a capital I ... but the rewards are huge.

(Frisco is on the shore of beautiful Lake Dillon, an important reservoir for metro Denver and the home of one of our favorite BBQ joints: Q4U.)