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One question we often hear this time of year is ďwhatís that yellow flower blooming on Hwy 165? Itís tall and willowy.Ē The answer is Stanleya pinnata, Princeís Plume. As you might guess from its locationóa steep south-facing slopeóit is very drought tolerant, able to survive and bloom with no irrigation water. Super tough!
Penstemon auriberbis, known as Colorado Beardtongue, has stolen the wildflower show around here. Yes, Indian paintbrush is having a great year, and our other local penstemon, Pagoda Penstemon has been lovely, but Colorado Beardtongue has been blooming singly and in big drifts all over the hills nearby. This little plant has big lavender flowers with a gold beard over tufts of narrow leaves. Itís been blooming for at least a month and I see it everywhere. Note to self: grow Penstemon auriberbis next year!
The garden here at the nursery, like so many gardens in our valley, has had a great spring. Itís been in bloom since April and is still a rainbow of color. Soon, though, when the early spring bloomers wane and the later summer flowers have not yet come into their own, the garden will be more monochromatic: mostly green. Thatís why Iím adding annuals, here and there, for extra color and interest.
Annuals can be very helpful for new gardens, too. While you wait for your perennials and shrubs to fill in, a few annuals can make the garden look less blah. It doesnít have to be one or the other, thereís room in gardening for petunias and poppies, or iris and snapdragons. Last year I had such great luck with a cucumber plant that volunteered in the flower garden, this year Iím planting vegetables among the flowers on purpose. A true cottage garden was always that sort of combination in Victorian times, with herbs and vegetables flourishing among the flowers, both annual and perennial. If nothing else, it confuses the deer!
Mulching the vegetable garden helps keep down weeds and conserve water, but it can also be a water barrier. Make sure the soil is nice and moist before you mulch, and when you water use drip irrigation or water by hand, directing the water under the mulch to reach the plantsí roots.
I plant most of my garden in June, often Iím still planting in late July, because itís when I have the time. Over the years Iíve found that planting during the hottest part of the summer can be very successful, as long as you pay attention. Get a bucket of water and soak the plants as you dig the hole, that way you know the roots are moist. When you have the planting area ready, set the plant in the hole and fill it half full of water. When the water drains away, fill the hole with soil and gently tap it around the root ball. Water again. I like to put a rock next to my new plantings, it helps keep the soil cool and moist under the rock, and it helps me remember where the new plants are. I check every day for the first week, and water if dry. After that I check less often. My goal is to get the new plants established and able to survive on a weekly watering schedule. If youíre planting natives and xeric plants, you want to get them to a point where you are watering only during extreme drought. Hereís an interesting quote:
If you're an average user of water in the home landscape, by watering only when you need to and only as much as your plants require, you will reduce your water consumption around 25 percent, or by an average of 11,000 gallons of water per year for each household. If all U.S. homeowners do this, it will reduce national water consumption by about 700 billion gallons per year. (Joe Lampíl in The Green Gardenerís Guide.)
Itís so important to only water when needed, not just set an irrigation system on automatic and forget it. If we do that, we can save water and have lovely gardens, too.