If you love having a vibrant garden full of eye-catching flowers and foliage… but don’t want to spend every day shovel-in-hand making it happen, the answer’s obvious: plant perennials! Tagawa Gardens can help!
This is National Perennial Garden month which puts the spotlight on plants that survive and thrive from one season to the next, assuming they have good care and Mother Nature doesn’t throw too many curveballs.
Which brings us to “Plant Select”
Plant Select is a nationally recognized program that focuses on plants that thrive in climates like ours here in the Rocky Mountain region. The program includes trees and shrubs, but perennials are often front and center. Tagawa’s has an entire section featuring Plant Select in our Perennial Department, making it easy to shop for plants that are right at home in our semi-arid landscape. You can also check out their extremely helpful website: www.plantselect.org
Plant Select is a cooperative effort of Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University, with the help of representatives from the “green industry,” like Tagawa’s. Some of Plant Select’s priorities include plants that are:
- sustainable with less water (after a couple of seasons)
- tough and resilient
- and habitat-friendly.
These are plants that quite likely make sense somewhere in your garden. Let’s look at a few of my favorites, with sincere thanks to Plant Select for many of the pictures shown here.
Note: Current interest in perennial gardening, including Plant Select varieties, is extremely high and our inventory can change quickly. Please call ahead if you’re looking for one of the specific plants discussed here to make sure it’s currently in stock.
Denver Gold Columbine
As you can see at the top of this blog and here, this Colorado native is as bright and bold as a yellow flower can be!
Unlike other columbines, Denver Gold will thrive in full sun but will tolerate some light shade. With consistent dead-heading (removing the flowers as they begin to fade), the blossoms may continue coming well into summer!
More traits of Denver Gold Columbine
- up to 30″ tall x 15″ wide
- big lemon-yellow flowers with long spurs
- appreciates consistent moisture
- will re-seed nicely in the fall if not dead-headed
- seedlings reproduce true to the color and size of the parent plant
There are a few plants that I would argue should find a home in just about every Colorado garden: garlic (so easy to grow here!) and Denver Gold columbine.
What a workhorse of a plant this is, with purple flowers to boot! It has a lovely, loose mounding habit with its first flush of blossoms.
This tough plant comes back for me every year and begins to bloom and bloom. My flowers aren’t out quite yet, but they’re forming up and will be showing off soon. Come mid-summer, if my plants begin to get a bit floppy, I give them a hair cut and a whole new display of flowers will emerge soon.
Like their relatives, the pansies, this member of the viola family has a smiling face and little whiskers. I know we’re generally not supposed to give plants human characteristics, but how can you resist these sweet blossoms smiling up at you?
More traits of Corsican Violet
- 6 to 8″ tall and wide
- blooms early spring to late fall
- full sun to part shade; heat tolerant
- moderate moisture
- very cold hardy
For those of us who can’t get enough blue in our gardens, Corsican violet is a must!
“Fire Spinner” ice plant
Ice plants are succulents that have truly come into their own thanks in large part to Panayoti Kaleidis and many of his colleagues at the Denver Botanic Gardens. These plant visionaries have traveled the world looking for drought-tolerant varieties that can adapt to life in our Colorado gardens. Fire Spinner comes out of that research, and it’s a dazzler!
The daisy-like flowers of Fire Spinner are an almost iridescent combination of yellow, magenta, and orange. The name suits it perfectly!
More traits of Fire Spinner ice plant
- 2″ tall x ~15″ wide
- blooms April through June; some sporadic flowering over the summer
- requires excellent drainage
- prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade
- pollinator-friendly and deer resistant
Note: I’ve killed Fire Spinner in the past by using shredded mulch which held too much moisture around the base of the plant. It definitely does much better with non-absorbent mulch-like pea gravel.
“First Love” Dianthus
I love plants that shift color as the blossoms mature. The fringed flowers of First Love start out white then morph into a deep rose within days.
The flowers of First Love have an extremely fragrant and spicy aroma that will attract a variety of pollinators, including butterflies.
More traits of First Love dianthus
- 15 to 20″ tall x 15″ wide
- thrives in full sun but will tolerate some shade
- moderate moisture
- blooms are prolific from April to frost
- should be deadheaded consistently to promote more flowers
“Wine Cups” Callirhoe
This rambling ground cover is stunning when it’s allowed to wander, especially on terraces or gentle slopes. The more of these deep wine-colored blossoms, the better!
The individual flowers are about two inches across and will definitely draw in the bees.
Wine Cups has been in the Plant Select program for over twenty years and is a perennial favorite, pun intended!
More traits of Wine Cups Callirhoe
- 5 to 8″ tall x 20 to 30″ wide
- flowers from April to hard frost
- prefers full sun, will tolerate some shade
- moderate moisture to dry
New Plant Select introductions every year!
Well over 100 plants have been studied, tested, and selected for the Plant Select program since it began about 25 years ago. Tagawa Gardens carries a lot of those varieties. Our Perennials Department staff will be happy to recommend specific plants that might be just what you’re looking for to start or enhance a thriving garden in your own yard!
Again, sincere thanks to Ross Shrigley, the Executive Direct of Plant Select, for his generosity with many of the program’s beautiful photos.