by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
- The best outdoor potted plants.
- Flowers that are hard to kill.
- What are the best low maintenance plants?
- Plants that survive winter.
- What plants are easy to grow outside?
- Plants for people with black thumbs.
A good friend came into the garden center this week wanting guidance in planting a new raised bed that wrapped around her house. She knew a cottage flower garden was her style but was overwhelmed by where to start. As a fellow entrepreneur, she also felt the reality of taking care of delicate plants with her busy schedule, deadlines, and family commitments.
Gorgeous gardens always start with the soil. Can you imagine investing dozens of hours and hundreds of dollars redecorating your bedroom, only to have it crumble into ashes after a year? That is how it can feel to start a new garden that withers away after one season because the soil wasn’t prepared properly.
We started by topping off the bed with Watters Potting Soil to add some freshness and vigor to the garden. Each plant was watered in with Root & Grow to reduce plant stress and encourage fast root growth and more flowers. We then followed up with nutrient-rich 7-4-4 All Purpose Food to promote chubby plants for increased bloom, fragrance, and color.
Not all plants are created to perform equally in all growing conditions. By choosing ultra-vigorous plants that tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, you can be assured that your investment of time and money will bring you pleasure for many seasons to come.
Here’s my list of top performers that are virtually impossible to kill, are good companion plants in the same garden, and are animal proof. You’re going to be happy with any or all of these local mountain-hardy blooms.
Big Ears Lamb’s Ear – Attractive silver-green foliage forms a dense groundcover of thick, soft, velvety rosettes. Highly prized for its foliage, it performs excellently at the edges of containers, raised beds, and borders.
Blue Hill Meadow Sage – Spectacular perennial with 1-foot tall spikes of pure blue flowers that spreads like wildflowers in the garden. Very happy in hot rock gardens, containers, and naturalized areas. Belonging to the salvia herbal family, it is animal proof from deer, rabbits, antelope, and javelinas.
Bronze Carpet Sedum – This beautiful trailing succulent forms a lush, ground-hugging mat that needs little water once established. Stunning pink flower stalks rise above the bronze-red foliage. Useful in borders, rock gardens, and containers to provide contrast to green or gray-leaved plants. Evergreen through most mountain winters.
Butterfly Bush – Gardeners who make room for a Buddleia in a landscape soon discover this bush is a one-stop buffet for many species of butterflies. The long flower panicles are comprised of many individual blooms, each with a rich store of nectar, which is why happy butterflies can be seen lingering over and around the shrub for long periods on warm, sunny days.
Crazy Blue Russian Sage – Plant en masse to add a blue Southwest drift of color to the landscape. The perfect alternative to lavender in cottage gardens or along fence lines of pickets or iron. Its casual character is equally suited for wild gardens, amidst rock outcroppings, and large boulders. Outstanding at edges of dry stream beds with wildflowers. A magnificent container specimen when planted in thick, unglazed, clay pots
Dwarf Daylily – Stella D’ Oro daylilies have become an office park landscaping staple, but daylilies have much more to offer than the popular gold, everblooming variety. Although the color spectrum is limited to the warmer side of the color wheel, astonishing color patterns and flower forms take the available cultivar numbers into the thousands.
Giga Blue Pincushion Flower – The largest of pincushion flowers found with exquisite, honey-scented, violet-blue flowers. The 2-inch full blooms rise on stiff, upright stems above a small, naturally compact mound of finely cut foliage. Cut flowers can be taken from attractive border plants, specimens in rock gardens, or mass plantings.
Jupiter’s Beard or Centranthus – Globular clusters of fragrant, bright carmine-red flowers complemented by sedum-like foliage of blues and greens. Blooms for an extremely long season in poor, dry soils, spreading like wild poppy and penstemon.
Passionate Rainbow Gaura – A profusion of rose-pink flowers from spring to fall on a compact mound of foliage. Hummingbirds love its long bloom season. Because it’s at home in heat, drought and bright sun, it is great for rock gardens, borders, and containers.
Spanish Gold Broom – This fast-growing, naturally rounded shrub boasts bright green stems with bright yellow flowers most of the spring. Thrives in heat, drought, and the abuse of poor garden soils. Excellent for hillside erosion control, as a tall border, or massed in a minimal-care or xeric landscape.
Sunset Celebration Blanket Flower – Perpetual, vibrant red flowers do not fade in the summer heat. Blooms from late spring right up until frost if spent blooms are deadheaded regularly. A showy and easy to grow addition to sunny beds, borders, and container plantings.
Walkers Low Catmint – More than just a little herb for the cat to frolic in, gained cult status when this variety was named 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year. Stunning gray-green leaves complement a natural border, and bees delight in the nectar-rich violet blooms that appear throughout the summer months. Plants grow about two feet tall but have a prostrate habit that looks attractive at the edge of a wall or path.
There are many more perennial choices but this list is comprised of easy-to-grow varieties. Visit the garden center for more companion plants that thrive in mountain landscapes.
Until next issue, I’ll be helping local gardeners pair just the right flowers here at Watters Garden Center.