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Why Plenty of “Plant Select” Perennials are Right at Home in My Garden!

My dogs garden with me…. most of the time.  Just recently, the newest member of the pack, Gus, (pictured below) could not contain his enthusiasm at the site of new pots of annuals coming into the yard.  He dove right in.  Most of the annuals survived.

Because of “the crew’s” eagerness to participate, I tend to plant a lot of perennials that can tolerate being trampled now and then.  High on my list of favorites are many of the Colorado-tough perennials from Plant Select.

Plant Select is a collaboration of experts from Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens and professional horticulturists, like some of the folks at Tagawa’s.  The group’s goal is to research, select and promote plants that are especially well-suited to growing in our semi-arid climate.  Tagawa carries dozens of the plants that have won a spot on the Plant Select list.

I wanted to share some of the Plant Select perennials that I especially like, starting with a plant that is frequently visited by another member of the pack, Dooley (pictured at the top of the blog).

Partridge Feather

This lovely silvery ground cover is a lot tougher than it might look. It tops out at about six inches tall and thrives in dry, unimproved soil. It’s extremely drought tolerant after a couple of seasons.  It has short tiny mustard-yellow flowers in early- to mid-summer.

Partridge Feather prefers full sun but will tolerate bright shade. It definitely doesn’t want to be over-watered. My Partridge Feather always stands up to occasional duties as a doggie hangout, even in past years, when the dog hanging out was a ninety-pound black Lab.

Furman’s Sage and Wild Thing Sage

These two lovely perennials are listed as “autumn sages,” but they’re already beginning to flower in my garden now. They’re very similar in appearance and height… 18 to 24″ tall. Furman’s blossoms are decidedly red, while the blossoms on Wild Thing are a deep, hot pink.

The flowers on both varieties are a ready magnet for hummingbirds and bees. Furman’s and Wild Thing prefer full sun and well-drained soil.

Carolyn’s Hope Penstemon

Carolyn’s Hope is one of the loveliest flowers in my garden. The dark pink buds open into lighter pink blossoms with white throats.

The flowers will begin putting on their show in early summer. With regular dead-heading, the blossoms keep coming for several weeks.

Carolyn’s Hope prefers full sun but will tolerate some light shade. It’s especially impressive planted in clumps of three or more.  Part of the proceeds from the sale of Carolyn’s Hope benefit research at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

Coral Baby Penstemon at Tagawa Gardens, Denver

Coral Baby Penstemon 

Plant Select offers a wonderful array of penstemons for this area. They’re all well worth considering, but it’s Coral Baby that caught my fancy a couple of years ago.

The stunning flowers on the perennial are beautiful in their own right.  But if you can plant it so that it’s back-lit by the setting sun, you’ll love it even more!  The flowering begins in late spring and continues into mid-summer.  The hummingbirds will love these blossoms, too!

Coral Baby responds well to consistent deadheading.  It grows best in full sun and well-drained soil.  My plant is still getting “established,” sending out new roots.  It seems to appreciate an extra deep watering or two early in the season.  I think I under-watered it last year, its second season. The plant was much smaller than during its first year.  I won’t make the same mistake again!

Denver Gold Columbine

I think every gardener who has even a little bit of room should grow columbine.  While the blue form is our state flower, this big, beautiful yellow is native, too, and deserves its fair share of respect!

Denver Gold is much taller and more vigorous than other forms of columbine.  It can grow upwards of 30 inches tall and 20 inches wide.  And best of all:  the color is stable!  Denver Gold won’t cross with other varieties of columbine and start producing faded, disappointing blossoms after a couple of years.

Denver Gold doesn’t need to be pampered in shady, wooded areas.  It thrives in sun or light shade.

Deadhead consistently, and Denver Gold will produce an impressive stand of bright yellow blossoms from late spring through summer.

Chocolate Flower

Let’s end on a fun…. a fragrant note.  Chocolate flower is a hoot, not only because it’s pretty…. but in the morning and late afternoon, it smells just like a Hershey bar!

The warmth of the sun seems to release the lovely chocolate aroma.  I can often smell my Chocolate flowers just by walking within a few feet of them.  Give them a light rub and then smell your fingers, and you’ll be craving chocolate before you know it!

When the petals fade, they leave behind a cute little green button.  I’d say leave a few for visual interest but deadhead the rest to keep the flowers coming all summer.

Chocolate flowers are not stand-up-straight kind of plants. They like to sprawl and lean in a pleasantly-lazy kind of way, so plant accordingly and give them room to be themselves.  Be careful not to over-water, which can make them downright floppy.

They do the best full sun and with plenty of admiring chocoholics!

Plant Select at Tagawa Gardens

Plant Select has its own dedicated area in our Perennials Department.  Terrific trees and shrubs from the program are also available in our Nursery. The plants are well-marked with signage that includes all the information you’ll need.

Bring your wish list… and perhaps your dog… and see if there aren’t some Plant Select winners that would be purr-fect in your garden, too!