Are ‘Bullet-Proof Plants’ Really Bullet-Proof?

A tiger eyes sumac, similar to the baby shown here, will be the centerpiece of my new garden.

A tiger eyes sumac, similar to the baby shown here, will be the centerpiece of my new garden.

Snow currently shrouds the carefully selected plants in my newly landscaped front yard. Bunnies have been chomping on some plants, even on so-called rabbit-resistant ones. I’m curious to see which plants survive the wildlife assaults and Fort Collins’ harsh winters to prove that they are, indeed, bullet-proof.

As promised in last month’s post, I’m sharing my plant selections with you, in case you’re looking for plants for tough growing conditions.

Trees

Autumn brilliance serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’).This multi-stemmed beauty is one of my all-time favorites, with its white spring blooms, tasty blue berries and flaming red-orange fall color. I wouldn’t have a garden without it.

Shrubs

Cheyenne Mockorange (Philadelphus lewisii ‘Cheyenne’). Cheyenne produces fragrant, lush white flowers each spring. This stalwart anchors a front corner of my house and will eventually reach 6 to 8 feet tall and 5 to 8 feet wide.

Hedge Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lucidus). The home’s previous owner installed two of these shrubs, which turn an eye-popping red each fall. The shrubs are currently overgrown, but I’ll cut them to the ground this winter so they’ll emerge at a more appropriate size.

Pawnee Buttes Sand Cherry (Prunus besseyi ‘Pawnee Buttes’). I installed this woody groundcover for its hardiness, white flowers and red fall foliage. It’ll grow about 18 inches tall and 6 feet wide. The thing is, rabbits like to munch on Pawnee Buttes’ new shoots, so I’ve placed protective cages around these plants for the time being.

Regent Serviceberry ( Amelanchier x ‘Regent’). Like its cousin autumn brilliance, regent serviceberry boasts spectacular fall color. But instead of red, regent shows off stunning golden-coral autumn color. Regent also has a more compact and delicate growth habit than autumn brilliance. This colonizing shrub is a slow grower that will eventually stretch 6 feet high, but it can easily be pruned to a lower height.

Tiger Eyes Sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’). I’ve had my eye on this stunner for years, and finally I have a spot for it in the garden. Tiger Eyes is the centerpiece of my landscape because it’s so showy. Unlike other sumacs, Tiger Eyes doesn’t sucker insanely in Colorado unless it’s installed in heavily amended soil. I dug a circle 3-foot circle around it and shoveled in lean clay soil to discourage suckering. The shrub has lacy yellow and chartreuse foliage on rosy pink branches. Each fall, the leaves turn orange-red. Don’t over-water this baby. Right now, it’s an ugly brown fuzzy stick with buds on it. But as it matures, it will keep its branches over the winter to provide architectural interest.

Angela sedum? It's drought-tolerant and beautiful, but rabbits ate mine to the ground.  Try lemon coral sedum instead.

Angela sedum? It’s drought-tolerant and beautiful, but rabbits ate mine to the ground. Try lemon coral sedum instead.

Perennials

Angelina Sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’). Rabbits decimated this yellow/chartreuse groundcover as soon as I plunked it in the ground. So I took the crumbs from their feast and planted them elsewhere in the garden. The crumbs have taken root. But I’m concerned about this plant’s long-term survival with so many rabbits around. Last spring, Proven Winners sent me some new plants to try. One of them was lemon coral sedum (Sedum reflexum ‘Lemon Coral’), a splashy, tough Angelina sedum look-alike that stands three inches high. The rabbits never touched lemon coral. Unfortunately, this new plant is an annual in Colorado, but I’m hoping that lemon coral self-sows so that more of this wonderful plant will emerge next spring.  You’ll find lemon coral in garden centers next spring.

Valentine Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Valentine’). This newer, more compact variety of the traditional bleeding heart is a show-stopper. It will grow about 2 feet tall and wide with lovely reddish-pink flowers and the usual, attractive, deep-cut foliage. Rabbits nibbled on the bleeding hearts some, but not a lot. I’m hoping that, unlike the traditional bleeding heart, valentine will resist going dormant in mid-summer.

There are 10 more perennials in my garden. I’ll describe them in my next post.

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