Tips From an Old Pinery Gardener

by Bill Hames

Buying Perennials

Our climate is harsh and plants must adapt to high altitude sunlight, cold winters, lack of moisture, low humidity, and the hot summer sun. Perennial plants are the way to go and there are many hardy perennial plants that will survive in our Colorado climate.

Here are some helpful suggestions when buying perennials:

1.    Buy plants that have soil around them with their roots intact and undisturbed. DO NOT BUY BARE ROOT PERENNIALS. 

2.    Buy water-wise perennials specifically for the Western garden.

3.    Read planting and growing requirements before buying. Pay specific attention to:
      - Sun and shade requirements
      - "Xeric" (Water wise) plants
      - Attraction to humming birds and butterflies
      - Deer resistance

4.    Many perennials can be planted in the fall of the year - the root system can then develop during the winter with the help of snow.

5.    Remember to refer to the mature plant size (height and width) when planting your perennials. It usually takes two to three years for the plants to fully mature. DO NOT OVERPLANT. 

May I recommend that you call free free (800) 925-9387 to obtain an excellent catalog on Western perennials from Santa Fe Greenhouse, Santa Fe, NM. THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT OF THE SUPPLIER but can be used as a reference offering a wealth of information on native and adapted perennials for the Western garden.

Perrenial Plants that will Grow Well in the Pinery

Here are some excellent perennial plants that will grow very well in the Pinery.

Plant name and mature size:

  • Russian Sage (Perovskia) 4'x 3' wide - Cutting propagated, white stems, silver colored foliage, and blue flowers
  • Compact Pineleaf Penstemon 15" x 24" wide - Tube-type orange flowers
  • Rocky Mountain Penstemon 24" x 36" wide - Easy to grow, deep blue flowers
  • Greek Yarrow (Achillea) 4" x 18" wide - Cutting propagated, a very slow growing plant. Bright white clusters of very small flowers
  • Thyme Leaf Speedwell (Veronica) 1/2" x 24" wide - Excellent ground cover, good for rock gardens, dark green leaves, very small blue flowers

Water Conservation

Water conservation is becoming an ever more important consideration in the Western U.S. In 1981, an environmental planner in the Denver Water Dept. coined the word "Xeriscape" meaning dry, requiring little or no additional water. Following are the main basic principles of xeriscape water-wise gardens:

1.    Plan: Design your garden prior to the planting sequence. Identify different water use areas in your garden and allocate water where it is needed and where it will contribute to the beauty of your garden. 

2.    The appropriate plant: Do not mix plants with high/low watering needs. For hot, dry south or west facing areas, "Xeriscape" planting is the way to success.