Apr 282003
 
Authors: Adrienne Hoenig

CSU and the Denver Botanic Gardens want to help Colorado residents foster a garden in current drought conditions.

Plant Select 2003 recommends seven drought-tolerant plants for local gardeners. Plant Select, now seven years running, finds and distributes the most adaptable plants for Colorado’s high plains and intermountain regions.

“We’re trying to introduce plants that are more unusual and a little more adaptable to climate changes and soil conditions,” said Jim Klett, CSU horticulture professor and member of the Plant Select committee. “Instead of each of us doing our own thing, we’re a lot more productive as a joint venture.”

The plants selected are not only drought tolerant, they must meet several other criteria, said Panayoti Kelaidis, plant collections curator at Denver Botanic Gardens.

-Plant Select plants must be special-they can’t be clones of what’s out there

-They must be easily grown by gardeners in a variety of sites and soils.

-They must look good and grow well in containers in the garden center.

-They must propagate easily and handle well by wholesale producers.

-They must be viable garden plants (i.e., not weeds or fussy performers)

-They should have good foliage for as much of the year as possible, and a long period of bloom or fruit.”

Al Gerace, CEO for Welby Gardens and member of the Plant Select committee, said the selection is a great way to promote gardening in Colorado.

“The lifeblood of any industry is what it offers new,” Gerace said. “People are always looking for some sort of diversity.”

The 2003 Plant Select plants are:

* Waxflower is a western native. It has fragrant bunches of waxy white flowers that bloom in late spring. In autumn, the green foliage turns to bright orange and pink tones. Waxflower is ideal for dry, partly shady conditions in gravely soil with moderate to dry moisture levels.

* Snow Angel Coral Bells blooms with pinkish-red bells from late spring to summer. Its leaves grow low to the ground and are light green marbled with cream coloring. It does very well in the shade but will also survive in partial sun.

* Crystal River Veronica is an evergreen with tiny blue flowers appearing in solid mass from April to June and scattered blooms throughout the rest of the year. Full sun to partial shade with a moderate to dry watering schedule is ideal.

* Tanager Gazania has dark green leaves that develop a deep purple tone during the winter months. These are paired with fluorescent orange daisies that bloom from earliest spring to late autumn. Sandy soil and full sun exposure help this plant grow to its fullest capacity.

* Mountain Lover also has dark green leaves that deepen to purple during cold months. It is a rare plant that is durable and adaptable for small-scale groundcover. It blooms small flowers in April and grows best in partially shady areas.

* Corsican Violet blooms small bright purple flowers from early spring to late fall. It is a Mediterranean native and can grow well with intense drought conditions and high temperatures.

* La Veta Lace Geranium is native to the Drakensburg Mountains in South Africa. It forms small mounds of evergreen foliage that blends hues of violet and scarlet in winter. Bright purple flowers bloom from late spring into midsummer. Full sun and moderate watering are ideal.

Each of these plants will be available in garden centers around the state. The Plant Selection committee hopes home gardeners will take advantage of this opportunity to grow plants that will prosper in Colorado’s climate.

“These plants will be really promising this year,” Klett said. “These are better plants that are more adaptable for this region and beyond.”

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