Category Archives: Plant Select

Planting in Summer’s Heat

Without fail, every year I find myself adding plants to the perennial garden during the hottest part of the season. Sometimes the plant is  a gift from a friend’s yard, other times it’s a couldn’t resist variety at the garden center. Given this spring’s quarantine, trips to the nursery were delayed and even now are limited, somehow making the visits even more special.  

I seem to always be able to find room for another perennial, telling myself it is the one that will complete the garden (are gardens ever really finished?). Or perhaps it will perfectly fill an empty space, bloom when others have faded, add the ideal color, or supply needed texture.  Whatever the rationale, how could it not come home with me? 

Here are a few pointers for successfully establishing herbaceous perennials when summer’s heat, arid conditions and drying winds present challenges. While these best practices are important, equally critical is the gardener’s diligence and consistency. Plants are less forgiving at this time of year and may not recover if ignored.  Conversely, they’ll respond well with a little extra TLC.

  • Choose plants that love the heat and adapt to our semi-arid climate. Native plants and Plant Select® offerings are good bets.
  • Plant in the evening so plants have the cooler nighttime and early morning temperatures to acclimate.
  • Prior to planting, coat  the roots with mycorrhizae (my cor rye zay), a fungus which stimulates healthy root development and improves absorption of moisture and nutrients. Several companies market this ingredient under different names.
  • Remove buds and blooms, which allows the plant to put more energy into establishing roots and foliage.  Admittedly, sacrificing the blooms is hard, but it does help reduce transplant shock.
  • Unless there has been a soaking rain, water daily for the first week or two to avoid dehydration and transpiration.  Watch the plant for the remainder of the season to determine good watering practice. 
  • Apply mulch around the plant, stopping within a few inches of the crown. Mulch will cool the soil and reduce evaporation.
  • Tent the plant with shade cloth during the hottest part of the day.
  • Transplant the plant a temporary home in a large container until late summer or early fall, when adapting to a new home may be less stressful.

Are you adding to your gardens this summer? 

 

References:

https://www.waytogrow.net/blog/mycorrhizae-improve-your-yield-part-1/

CMG GardenNotes 212: The Living Soil

Help, My Garden is Wilting!

Text and photo by Linda McDonnell, A Denver County Master Gardener

A Denverite Visits New Orleans in July, Leaves in Awe That Anything Grows in Colorado, Like, Ever.

Image by McKenna Hynes

I recently returned from a little summer vaca in the South. New Orleans in July (a questionably timed vacation, albeit) is showy and fragrant; the ferns suckle lovingly to any crack and crevice providing green brush-strokes and blots everywhere, palms fill beds and pots alike, all of my houseplants are thriving in the wide open, the sun is scorching, and as our pilot reminded us as we prepared to de-plane, its humid enough to confuse a frog. I was constantly amazed at how effortlessly everything seemed to grow.

While in New Orleans, I was frequently amused by how the rest of the country (mis)understands Colorado living conditions. For the most part, folks think we spend most of the year dreaming of gardens as we stare out our frosty windows waiting for the snow to melt, visiting floral places abroad, and wearing multiple layers of socks at all times. Soooo… basically gardening at 10,000+ feet? While these perceptions are laughable, I started thinking that even though we don’t live in perpetual wintry wonder, the challenges we face to make anything grow aren’t necessarily less surmountable than our fam in the lofty-actual-mountains.

We were welcomed back to Denver with a remarkable storm featuring lightning, torrential rains, booming thunder… and hail. Of course, the very next day was smokin’ hot with nary a whisper of the siege.  Maintaining a vibrant garden in the Front Range is an extreme sport with our baffling daily fluctuations; the entire notion of keeping anything alive here seems impossible at times, but we’ve gotten pretty good at strategizing. Here are a few resources I’ve tracked down this year to help us all maintain beauty, build our skills, and be stewards to our land and community.

Image by McKenna Hynes

Resource Central is a nonprofit organization based in Boulder that helps communities conserve resources and build sustainability efforts simply and cost-effectively. Their water-saving initiatives include native plant sales with simple designs for home gardens and often include low water perennials. They also have a tool library in Boulder where you can borrow for a couple of bucks per day so you don’t just buy the tamper, hedge trimmer, turf roller, or post hole diggers you need so infrequently. 

The cities of Boulder, Lafayette, and Louisville partnered with Resource Central to give customers a Garden In A Box for turf-removal. Their Grass to Garden initiative is available to all communities with tips and resources to convert high water-consuming turf to low water garden areas. For the North Metro area, they have resources for assistance removing and disposing of turf, landscape architect recommendations, and more.


Denver Water coined one of our most successful water-wise strategies with xeriscaping. And to keep sharing the good water word, Denver Water also partnered with local landscape architects to provide us mere civilians with some FREE! FREE! FREE! creativity. For those of us who are new (it’s me) who struggle with vision (all me), and are easily overwhelmed by the thought of starting fresh with a blank canvas (still, totally, all me), they’ve curated a bunch of plans for a variety of situations. They have plans for sloped xeriscaping, budget-friendly xeriscaping, narrow bed xeriscaping, year-round beauty designs, and many more. July is also Smart Irrigation Month! Head to Denver Water for tips on maintaining irrigation systems, watering rules, and efficiency strategies.

And for the grand finale top-notch gardening game-changer, check out Plant Select for all your future dreaming. Plant Select is a nonprofit partnership between Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens, and professional horticulturists to identify smart plant choices for the Rocky Mountian Region. Their mobile-friendly site has a tool to help you find plants that will suit the conditions you’re facing. I tend to challenge the tool to see how obscure or specific I can get, and it always provides me with something unique and gorgeous. Plant Select: taking “right plant right place” to an accessible and fun platform. Say So Long! to the multiple Google tabs researching the same plant with contradicting information on each site; Goodbye! Big Box Store swindlers promising “You REALLY can’t kill this one!” and go get yourself some good, wholesome, ACCURATE information quickly and easily from Plant Select. They also feature some garden designs and ideas.

By McKenna Hynes

Apprentice Colorado Master Gardener since January 2019