Thursday, January 7, 2010

Think about using Natives over Annuals!

Now that everyone is getting in the mail all the new seed and plant cataloges, think about adding some native choices to your list. The native pictured to the left is Gaura coccinea or scarlet beeblossom. Planting these in mass can make quite a show in the middle to late summer.
Natives over annuals. Annuals need water and fertilizer regularly. An annual by its very nature does what it needs to do in one season. Annuals give us a spectacular show in a very short time. Because annuals have been on the market for a long time they are readily available. We can buy annuals at a reasonable price. However, those prices are now effected by our sluggish economy. Once you purchase an annual that money only lasts a season. With purchasing a native that fits with your environment, it can last for many years.

So where do we find natives. Some of the nurseries have a small supply. Most nurseries carry seed. If you are looking to start from seed, go to a native plant seed company. Those places usually carry a wider variety. If you live in Colorado, go on-line to Colorado Native Plant Society. They can recommend some choices. Every state may have a native plant society.

The American Horticultural Society can help you with information on other societies. You can email them and get information or call.

Here is Colorado, I have used the Rocky Mountain Native Plant Company. They have a wide list and you can purchase plants in different sizes.

I suggest to familiarize yourself with these plants to do some research. Part of your research could be to take our Extension class titled Native Plant Master offered every spring. The deadline for the application is in March. Call your local Extension office for information.

The second thing I would suggest to learn about natives is go visit the nurseries that supply them. That way you can see the plant. Sometimes we see plants in pictures and they look great. Then we get the plant and it is not quite the same color or texture we thought.

Some of the plants that I would suggest in our area of the Golden Plains of Colorado would be as follows:

Coneflower -- Echinacea angustifolia
Aspen Fleabane--Erigeron speciosus
James' Buckwheat--Eriogonum jamessii
Common Gaillardia--Gaillardi aristata
Dotted Blazing Star--Liatris punctata
Rocky Mountain Iris--Iris missouriensis--for moist areas
Cardinal flower--Lobelia cardenalis--for moist areas
Western Coneflower--Rudbeckia occidentalis
Prairie Spiderwort--Tradescantia occidentalis

Along with these there are a list of grasses and other shrubs and trees that would complete your landscape.

I have listed a few choices below:

Trees: box-elder -- Acer negundo
Gambel oak-- Quercus gambelii
Ponderosa Pine--Pinus ponderosa
Southwestern White Pine--Pinus strobiformis
Limber Pine--Pinus flexilis
A word of caution when selecting trees: keep them within their native elevation. If your elevation is up to 4,000 purchase trees that match that elevation. Plants can and do adapt; however, not all plants adapt, and if they do, they still may present a weakness due to less optimal conditions than their native environment.

Shrubs: Mountain-mahogany--Cerocarpus montanus
Golden currant--Ribes aureum
Red berried elder--Sambucus racemosa
Western Chokeberry--Prunus virginian melanocarpa
Apache plume--Fallugia paradoxa
A word of caution when selecting shrubs: again same as above - keep shrubs within their native elevation.

By using natives you will enjoy a lifetime of natural beauty and conserve on water, pesticide and fertilizer. So go out this spring and visit nurseries that carry lots of native plants and see what appeals to you that will grow in your elevation.