Friday, February 27, 2009

2009 Selections Announced by Plant Select - the landscape stimulus program for tough climates

Tough economic times may mean that homeowners and gardeners will be spending more time at home and in their gardens in 2009. But limited time and lack of knowledge may result in heavy losses if plants chosen are inappropriate and unsuitable. Plant Select, a regional plant introduction and recommendation program, is working to ensure gardeners successfully invest in their home gardens by identifying and distributing landscape and garden plants especially suited to the Rocky Mountain and High Plains’ gardening conditions.
Plant Select has introduced or recommended 87 plants to date, including 40 trademarked and four patented plants, ranging from tall leafy trees, climbing vines, hardy flowering perennials and creeping groundcovers. The winners for 2009 are as follows:
Littleleaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus intricatus) is a dense twiggy evergreen shrub from the Southwest desert that can tolerate many of the extreme conditions of the region, especially hot, dry situations. A perfect choice for small to mid-sized yards, it grows to 3 to 6 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. The small, inconspicuous flowers transform into attractive, feathery seed pods by mid-summer. It can be used in the landscape as a fine-textured, small-scale hedge plant or as a specimen in the Xeriscape.
Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) is an elegant clump-forming grass that offers a beautiful alternative to the stiffer, more architectural Karl Foerster grass. This graceful grass grows 24 to 40 inches tall and 15-18 inches wide, preferring locations with sun to partial shade, and moderately moist to dry soil. The attractive feathery flowers persist from summer through fall and into winter, offering year round interest to a variety of situations.
Lavender Ice ice plant offers a new color in hardy ice plants with its iridescent lavender flowers and dark eyes, blooming nearly all summer long. This striking sport of Table Mountain ice plant occurred at Perennial Favorites nursery in Rye, Colorado. It prefers full sun to partial shade and moderate to dry soil, and grows to about 2 to 3 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide. The green foliage turns purplish in the winter.
Silverheels horehound (Marrubium rotundifolium) is a vigorous mat-forming ground cover with rounded, fuzzy leaves fringed with a beautiful silver lining that encircles each leaf. This native plant from Turkey thrives in moderate to dry soils, growing to just 2 to 4 inches tall and 24 to 36 inches wide in full sun in a wide range of soil types. The name “Silverheels” comes from the nickname of a mysterious dance hall girl who wore shoes with silver heels in a Colorado mining town in the 1860’s. She ultimately earned the admiration of local miners while nursing them back to health during a deadly smallpox epidemic.
Another new flower color is also found in Coronado Red hyssop (Agastache ‘Pstessene’). This selection has brilliant crimson and maroon spires from July to September, and came to Plant Select from Welby Gardens, Denver. This new cultivar brings a unique and exciting color offering of our native mints. The plant prefers full sun and is quite adaptable to most moderate to dry soils. It’s a little smaller in height and width (15 to 18 inches tall and 12 to 15 inches wide) than many of the other agastaches. This is a magnificent addition to gardens designed to attract hummingbirds and other beneficial pollinators.
Lastly, Plant Select is helping Denver celebrate its 150th anniversary by introducing Denver Daisy Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia). This tender perennial has flowers with a striking dark eye and long-rayed yellow petals. It blooms from May through early fall, growing to 18 to 28 inches tall and 10 to 25 inches wide. Denver Daisy™ was hybridized by Benary Seed Company from the Colorado native Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta). Requiring moderate to dry conditions, these stunning flowers perform best in full sun to partial shade in moderate soils.

Criteria for selecting plants for inclusion in the program include good performance in a broad range of garden situations in the Rocky Mountain region, adaptation to the region’s challenging climate, uniqueness of flower color or plant habit, disease and insect resistance, exceptional performance under low water conditions, a long season of beauty in the garden, noninvasiveness, and the capability to be mass produced.
In addition to the Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University, partners and members of Plant Select are found throughout the U.S. and include seed producers, wholesale propagators and growers, retail garden, more than 80 demonstration gardens around Colorado and neighboring states, and landscape architects and designers.
Gardeners seeking more help with their landscaping investments can turn to Durable Plants for the Garden – A Plant Select Guide, released in January 2009 by Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado. This compendium of the program’s history, colorful and descriptive portraits of the first ten years’ plant selections, helpful tables, and additional references will be a valuable resource to gardeners throughout the region and beyond.

For more information, visit www.plantselect.org. High resolution images can be found in the “Press Area;” the password is “salvia,” and is case-sensitive.

Plant Select is collaboration between Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens and the green industry to seek out and distribute the best plants for the Rocky Mountain Region and beyond.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Community Gardens

What is a community garden? Long before the Victory Gardens of World War II, there were community efforts that date back more than 350 years. A group of English peasants called the Diggers cultivated land belonging to the King in Surrey in 1648. These Diggers of Surrey were English dissenters. This group established a new movement for food distribution. As always, necessity is the Mother of Invention. The driving force for turning to cultivating public land for food was high unemployment, scarity and expense of food and an ailing economy. So history, repeats itself.

Today, community gardens are cropping up everywhere. Again, the unemployment rate sores to a new high with up to 500,000 jobs lost each month since the beginning of 2009. People need to eat. If you have the knowledge and skill to grow your own food, then you can provide for yourself.

People grow their own food today, because they like to know who is growing it and how it is being grown. Locally fresh grown food raised without pesticides are what people are demanding.

In the January issue of the Journal Advocate, an article by Ellen Simon titled, "As Economy stumbles, gardeners grow their produce." explains the concept of grow-it-yourself dining. When you grow fresh food in your own backyard, you can have all your favorite vegetables. You can plan your meals around what you are growing in the garden. It is convenient. You are providing the labor. You do not have to travel to the grocery store as often for most of your food and reduce your carbon footprint.

W. Atlee Burpee & Company, the nation's largest seed company, has sold twice as many seeds this year as it did last year, with half the increase from new customers, the company's president, George Ball, estimates. These new gardeners are getting advice from companies like Burpee on how to raise tomatoes, soil acidity and seed starting.

In northeast Colorado, Extension is holding workshops on composting, seed starting and beginning gardening. Classes will be held at noon on April 3 and May 1 at the Family Education Services Building at 215 North Interocean. Evening classes will be held on March 30 and May 4 at 6:00PM in the Phillips County Extension Office in Holyoke, Colorado. For further information, please call (970)854-3616. The contact for these classes is Linda Langelo.

Do not be left out in the cold. Expand your knowledge, share ideas, share seeds and then go and grow.

Upcoming Events For March 2009

Landscape Seminar 2009
On Wednesday, March 18, 2009 from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM homeowners and professionals are welcome to attend the Landscape Seminar 2009. This will be held at the Sedgwick County Fairgrounds Exhibit Building in Julesburg, Colorado.
The topics and speakers covered are as follows:
Invasive Ornamentals and Invasive Weeds by Fred Raish, Supervisor, Yuma County Pest District This starts at 10:00 AM and runs to 11 AM.
Aesthetics of Ponds by Derk Kailey, Owner of Pine Ridge Gardens, Merino, Colorado
This starts at 11 AM and runs to noon.
Tree Health: An Understanding of Insect & Disease Problems by Norland Hall, Colorado State Forest Service, District Forester
This starts at 1:30 PM and runs to 2:30 PM.
How to Design or Renovate a Perennial Flower Bed by Joanne Jones, Horticulture Agent, Morgan County
This starts at 2:30 PM and runs to 3;30 PM.
The charge of this seminar for preregistration is $35 which includes lunch. If you register at the door, the charge is $45 and lunch is not reserved. If you wish to attend just the morning or afternoon session then the charge is $17.50.
For more information or to reserve a place, please call Sedgwick County Extension Office at (970)474-3479.