Category Archives: Plant Geekiness

Does Plant Trenching Work? The Story 2 Years Later

The transplanted Veronica pectinata has grown to four times its original size and is now 3 inches high and 2 feet wide.

In February 2015, I moved from my home in Denver to my sister’s home in Windsor, Colorado for a temporary stay while waiting for the closing on my house in Fort Collins.

I brought plants with me from my Denver home, as I wrote in a March 2015 blog post on trenching plants. I dug a trench and used it as a temporary parking spot for the plants. I had intended to replant the plants after three months or so. But that three months stretched into seven.

One Genista lydia (foreground) survived. It’s now 10 inches high and 28 inches wide. In a few weeks, it will be smothered with bright yellow blossoms.

Now that two years have passed, I would like to report how those plants fared. The plants included two Genista lydias, one Veronica pectinata, three Pawnee Buttes sand cherries (Prunus besseyi ‘Pawnee Buttes’), two Meidiland fire roses, one Cheyenne mockorange (Philadelphus lewisii ‘PWY01S’ Cheyenne), one bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum), one regent serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia ‘Regent’), two Corydalis ophiocarpa, and three Isanti dogwoods (Cornus sericea ‘Isanti’).

Keep in mind that the ground was frozen when I dug the trench and installed the plants, so there were undoubtedly air pockets around some of the roots. Backfilling a trench with chunks of ice-encrusted clay soil is never a good idea, but I was desperate. During the 2 ½ months that I stayed at my sister’s place, I watered the plants every other day. But once I moved out, the plants received no water other than rainfall until September 2015, when I transplanted some of them to my new yard.

Also, the plants suffered high winds and blasting sun, as well as munching from horses and rabbits.

In other words, I would have been hard pressed to find more miserable conditions for preserving plants.

So, which plants survived this ordeal?

One Pawnee Buttes sand cherry survived in spite of repeated munchings by rabbits and horses. This plant is now 11 inches high and 30 inches wide, and is fast approaching bud break.

Survivors: One Genista lydia, one Pawnee Buttes sand cherry, one Meidiland fire rose, one Cheyenne mockorange, one bloody cranesbill, and one Veronica pectinata.

Decedents: One Genista lydia, two Pawnee Buttes sand cherries, one Meidiland fire rose, one regent serviceberry, two Corydalis ophiocarpa (shade-loving plants), and three Isanti dogwoods.

Concerning the survivors, the Genista lydia still looks straggly, but is gradually filling in, as is the Pawnee Buttes sand cherry. The Meidiland fire is small, but it looks happy. I ended up giving the Cheyenne mockorange to my sister. She divided it into three clumps. Two of the clumps survived. The bloody cranesbill and Veronica pectinata are performing like champs.

Plump buds on the Pawnee Buttes and cherry look as though they’ll burst open within the next week or so. The foliage of this drought-tolerant Colorado native turns a brilliant red in the fall.

As for the decedents, the Meidiland fire rose lived and was transplanted in my new yard. But I didn’t have a sunny spot to park it. So I planted it in a shady spot, which hastened its death. And in fairness to the dogwoods, I have to say that they were in the ground for almost two years because I didn’t have a place for them. But they stuck it out for months until death. The rest of the decedents just conked out over the course of seven months.

So from all of this, I conclude that trenching works well for moving plants, as long as you have decent planting conditions and can take care of the transplants. My plants experienced horrible planting conditions and neglect, yet some of them have survived it, and a few have even thrived. Interestingly, with some identical plants, such as Genista lydia and Pawnee Buttes sand cherry, one plant lived while one or more died. I expected the Genista lydia to transplant much easier than it did, given that it’s drought-tolerant.

If you want to improve your chances of success when trenching, backfill your trench with a mixture of good topsoil and compost, such as two parts soil to one part compost if you have heavy clay soil. Avoid planting in areas with strong western afternoon sun, if possible, so you won’t stress the plants while they’re vulnerable. And keep your plants watered without over-watering them.

Once you’re ready to move the plants to a permanent home, make sure you install them so the plant’s crown is even with or slightly above ground level. If you install plants too deeply, the crown and roots may rot from water accumulation.

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Asclepias: Mother’s Milk to Monarchs & 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year

Perennial butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, serves has a host plant for the monarch butterfly by creating a site for the mother to lay eggs and for the larvae to feed. (Photo courtesy of Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service - retired, Bugwood.org.)

Perennial butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, serves has a host plant for the monarch butterfly by creating a site for the mother to lay eggs and for the larvae to feed. (Photo courtesy of Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service – retired, Bugwood.org)

If I wanted to attract butterflies and had room for only one nectar plant, I would choose butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Butterfly weed is not only a terrific nectar plant for many butterfly species, but is also the sole host plant for the monarch butterfly, whose numbers have been decreasing so steadily that they’ve reached “Near Threatened” status with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). In cold weather, monarchs migrate between more than 1,000 miles between the U.S. and Canada to forests in central Mexico, where they hibernate until it’s warm enough to head back north. Earlier this week, Omar Vidal, CEO of WWF in Mexico, issued a statement urging the eradication of illegal logging in Mexico’s forest cover and asking that habitat loss be tackled in the U.S. and Canada, as well.

In the meantime, the Perennial Plant Organization has selected Asclepias tuberosa as its Plant of the Year for 2017. Shoot, they’re even selling tee shirts to promote this North American native!

With its striking, deep-green foliage and vibrant orange blooms, butterfly weed is a real showpiece in the garden. It grows 12 to 30 inches tall. There’s a newer, yellow variety called ‘Hello Yellow.’ I planted one in my garden last summer, and it lasted till frost, when it went dormant. I’ll see if it emerges this spring.

Several Colorado gardeners have told me they’ve been unsuccessful in growing butterfly weed in our heavy clay soils. Anticipating problems but being curious, I bought a #1-sized plant from a local nursery about five years ago. I amended the soil with organic matter before installing this beauty, and, surprisingly enough, the plant seemed very happy. It popped up reliably the following season.

For those of you who haven’t had luck with butterfly weed, I have a few suggestions:

  • Install a healthy, #1-sized plant from a reputable nursery. Smaller plants don’t seem to establish as well, according to some of my fellow gardeners.
  • Be aware that butterfly weed has a tap root, and if you damage it in any way, the plant will die.
  • Amend the soil if you have heavy clay. I used compost. Another experienced Colorado gardener suggested using sand or gravel for amending. Good drainage is critical.
  • Wait until drier weather to plant it. In other words, don’t plant it in the spring, when there’s more rain. Wait until a summer month.
  • Plant your butterfly weed in full sun.
  • Keep a close eye out for yellowing leaves. If you see a lot of yellowing, you may be over- or under-watering the plant. Over is more likely. Asclepias tuberosa doesn’t like too much moisture. If you can nurse your butterfly weed through its first growing season, you may be home free. Fortunately, the plant spreads nicely, once established.

    Annual butterfly weed, Asclepias incarnata, offers stunning pink, mauve or white blooms. Be careful where you plant it, though, because it reseeds prolifically. (Photo courtesy of Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org)

    Annual butterfly weed, Asclepias incarnata, offers stunning pink, mauve or white blooms. Be careful where you plant it, though, because it reseeds prolifically. (Photo courtesy of Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org)

There’s an annual butterfly weed, Asclepias incarnata or swamp milkweed, which also serves as a host for the monarch. Swamp milkweed grows four to five feet tall and produces white, pink or mauve blooms.

If you would like to learn more about butterfly gardening, you’re invited to attend my free program, Butterfly Garden Basics, at the Loveland, CO public library, 300 North Adams, on March 29. The program begins at 1pm. Arrive early, though, because I’ve been told that 50 or more people often attend the gardening presentations at this library.

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Transform your Shady Rock Meadow into an Ocean of Color

Plumbago's gentian blue flowers, copper seed heads, deep green leaves and red fall foliage add up to a winner in a shady garden area.

Plumbago’s gentian blue flowers, copper seed heads, deep green leaves and red fall foliage add up to a winner in a shady garden area.

Last month, I wrote about ground covers you could use for covering sunny areas in a rock meadow. This month, I’m focusing on ground covers for shady, rocky areas. Growing ground covers among rocks will not only add color, but will help suppress weeds.

Here are several shade-tolerant ground covers that will grow tall enough to cover river rock:

  • Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides). The first time I saw a photo of this plant, I thought that the brilliant, gentian blue flowers couldn’t possibly be as gorgeous in real life as they appeared in the picture. But when I later spotted this ground cover in bloom, I realized its flowers really are that spectacular. When you add deep green leaves and copper-colored seed heads to the mix, the plant is downright startling. And if that’s not enough, the plant’s leaves turn bright red in the fall. Because it spreads readily when regularly supplied with medium water, it’s a good choice for covering a shady rock meadow. In Colorado, plumbago will grow eight to 12 inches high and two feet wide or more. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that plumbago is very slow to green up. So don’t assume that you’ve killed it if it doesn’t start popping up with your other plants in the spring.
  • Spotted dead nettle (Lamium maculatum). Years ago, a neighbor gave me some spotted dead nettle, which I planted in a moist, shady spot. Within days, slugs had decimated that plant. I haven’t grown it since. However, slugs are less likely to be a problem in a rock meadow, so I believe this plant would be worth a shot in these conditions. Dead nettle boasts lovely green leaves frosted with gray, and it grows 6 to 9 inches high by 2 to 3 feet wide. This groundcover likes medium moisture in well-drained areas. Although its flowers are relatively inconspicuous, dead nettle will produce clusters of tiny two-lipped white, pink or purple blooms in late spring or early summer. Popular varieties include Nancy, Wootton pink and orchid frost.
  • Creeping Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia repens). Talk about a plant you can just throw in the ground and forget—creeping Oregon grape holly will just take off on its own and envelop an area with its evergreen foliage. Once it’s established, it’s extremely drought-tolerant. I like this plant because, in addition to being outrageously tough, it’s always doing something. In the spring, Oregon grape sends up intensely yellow flowers, followed by clusters of deep blue berries, which mature in late summer. Although the berries are quite sour, they can be used in jellies. Then in the fall, the foliage turns reddish and provides a show throughout the winter. An individual plant will grow 12 to 18” high and about 24” wide, but it spreads quickly because of underground runners. If you want to control erosion, this plant is a great bet. The only down side is that Oregon grape’s leathery, spiny-toothed leaves tend to catch and hold onto litter.
  • Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum). This plant has the most adorable whorled leaves and fluffy, fragrant, white spring flowers. It grows about 6 to 12 inches high, and it spreads like crazy if it likes its environment. Although sweet woodruff prefers part to full shade and medium to wet conditions, I’ve grown it successfully in some dry, sunny spots. Pair this little darling with periwinkle (Vinca minor and Vinca major), which also grows 6 to 12 inches high and blooms at the same time as sweet woodruff. Seeing vinca’s purple blooms surrounded by woodruff’s fluffy white blossoms is a springtime delight.
  • Rozanne cranesbill (Geranium ‘Gerwat’ Rozanne). I mentioned Rozanne in last month’s post about ground covers for sunny areas. But this versatile plant will grow successfully in part shade, as well. Rozanne’s cousin, bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguinium) will thrive in both part shade and full sun, too. Whereas Rozanne generates large purple blooms all summer long, bloody cranesbill produces fuchsia blooms in the spring.

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11 Lively Lovelies Can Turn Sunny Sea of Rocks Into Show-Stopping Meadow

Magenta prairie winecups, with runners extending up to 30 inches, are ideal for covering rock. They're also one of the longest blooming plants you'll encounter. (Photo courtesy of Plant Select)

Magenta prairie winecups, with runners extending up to 30 inches, are ideal for covering rock. They’re also one of the longest blooming plants you’ll encounter. (Photo courtesy of Plant Select)

“Water, water everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink.”

You’ve probably read this verse from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It’s an apt description of the river rock mulch in my yard.

This year, I spent weeks digging rock out of the soil in my back yard so I can begin planting next year. I still have more to go. On top of that, I spent about 10 days last September expelling tons of rock mulch and landscaping fabric from my front yard.

There’s also a sea of rocks along the west side of my house and all the way to the back property line. It’s ugly. Am I going to remove that tonnage, as well? Not a chance. I may develop a small area for a vegetable garden, but the rest of the rock will stay. Life is too short.

Ralph's Creeper ground cover rose, nestled here in pink soapwort blooms and deep-cut prairie winecup leaves, is a drought-tolerant repeat bloomer that explodes with color. Use it to keep dogs from pooping in your beds.

Ralph’s Creeper ground cover rose, nestled here in pink soapwort blooms and deep-cut prairie winecup leaves, is a drought-tolerant repeat bloomer that explodes with color. Use it to keep dogs from pooping in your beds.

If you, too, find yourself drowning in a sea of rocks, what can you do?

You can create a meadow of spreading ground covers and other perennials. Just move some of the rock out of the way, cut a hole in the landscape fabric, amend the soil with a little compost, and install seeds or baby plants.

If your area has a western or southern exposure with lots of sun, you can use plants such as these 11 lively lovelies:

  • Prairie winecups (Callirhoe involucrata). This long-blooming ground cover, a Plant Select winner, sends out runners up to 30 inches long. Because it grows about five inches high, it’s tall enough to hide rocks. Plant this puppy, and it will reward you with stunning magenta blooms from early summer till frost. In the fall, prairie winecups will produce small wagon wheels of seeds. Spread the seeds around, and you’ll have lots of babies by the following spring.
  • Soapwort (Saponaria ocymoides). When this evergreen ground cover is happy, it spreads far and wide. I have one exceptionally happy pink soapwort in my front yard that has grown into a plate that measures 40 inches wide and four inches high. After blooming in the spring, soapwort produces hundreds of seeds, which you can pull off and scatter to produce baby plants. Or you can simply wait for soapwort to self-sow and produce babies on its own for transplanting. Soapwort comes in both pink and white. I’ve found that the pink variety is more robust than the white.

    To install plants in a rock reservoir, simply move some rock aside, cut a hole in the landscape fabric, work compost into the soil, and transplant a small plant, such as this rugged little candytuft. It's still trying to bloom in December. Candytuft loves sun, but will tolerate some shade.

    To install plants in a rock reservoir, simply move some rock aside, cut a hole in the landscape fabric, work compost into the soil, and transplant a small plant, such as this rugged little candytuft. It’s still trying to bloom in December. Candytuft loves sun, but will tolerate some shade.

  • Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens). This tough, evergreen beauty erupts with masses of tiny white flowers in early to mid spring. It will spread 12 to 18 inches. If you sheer it after it blooms in the spring, it may rebloom in the fall.
  • Rozanne cranesbill (Geranium ‘Gerwat’ Rozanne). Another long bloomer, Rozanne grows about 18 inches wide and 24 inches tall. This ground cover’s purple blooms are simply stunning. You may have to cut it back in late summer if it becomes leggy, but it will rebloom till frost.
  • Sedums. Some of our beloved sedums, such as autumn joy, have been reclassified as the genus Hylotelephium for ease of pronunciation. Autumn joy (Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’ Autumn Joy) produces pink blooms and grows 18 to 24 inches high. Low-growing Angelina sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’) is one of my favorites, with its lime green summer color and orange/red fall/winter color. At three to six inches high, it’s tall enough to cover river rock.
  • Orange carpet hummingbird (Zauscheria garrettii). If you like neon orange, you’ll love orange carpet hummingbird. The plant explodes with tubular flowers in July and keeps pumping out blooms till frost. It grows four to six inches tall and 15 to 18 inches wide. Hummingbirds went gaga over this ground cover in my yard last year.
  • Ground cover roses. Some are hardier and more drought-tolerant than others. I’ve found that seafoam, a gorgeous white ground cover rose that grows about 30” tall, tolerates all kinds of abuse. One disadvantage is that white roses tend to turn brown in intense sun. So you might get away with a white rose in southern exposure, but I don’t recommend one in a western exposure unless it gets occasional shade, especially in the afternoon. Ralph’s creeper, on the other hand, produces vibrant red blooms throughout the summer. No brownout problems with this guy. I planted one in my west-facing tree lawn in Denver and rarely watered it, yet it bloomed like a banshee. If you have an area with lots of foot traffic nearby, ground cover roses will keep dogs from pooping in your yard.
  • Irises. With their strong upright form, irises provide a welcome contrast when you surround them with low spreading ground covers. The same goes for snapdragons. I’ve seen irises grow in the most godawful conditions, so a rock bed isn’t likely to intimidate them.
  • Snapdragons. These colorful biennials already populate my future rock-based meadow, thanks to the efforts of the previous homeowner. I just let their seeds drop in the fall and wait for new plants to emerge.
  • Mojave sage (Salvia pachyphilla). One of my newest favorites, Mojave sage is sometimes described as having silvery green foliage. Maybe my soil is different, but the Mojave sage in my garden has wonderful silvery foliage that happens to be blue. Although the plant displays showy mauve brachts surrounding violet-blue flowers, I actually prefer the foliage to the flowers and regard my Mojave sages more as small shrubs than as perennials. They grow 18 to 24 inches high and 24 to 30 inches wide.
  • Color Guard yucca. For drama and architectural form, it’s hard to beat evergreen Color Guard yucca. With its variegated, yellow-and-green leaves and masses of creamy white flowers on stalks, this plant is a showpiece. In Colorado, the plant grows in a clump two to four feet tall and two to three feet wide. However, its spikes can shoot up five feet or so. In late fall, the leaves take on a rosy hue.

There are, of course, many other worthy perennials, and even shrubs, that you can use to disguise a rocky area. If you see one that you like at the nursery next spring, give it a try, as long as the plant tag indicates that it’s full-sun and drought-tolerant. Because light-colored rock reflects sunlight, it creates a great deal of heat for plants, and dries out the soil. You can, of course, irrigate your rock bed, but where’s the fun in that?

Next month, I’ll tell you about perennials that you can use in shady rock beds.

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The Evergreens No One Talks About

In late November, evergreen color guard yucca is beginning to take on red tones. My tabby, Steve, normally takes no interest in this plant unless I'm photographing it.

In late November, evergreen color guard yucca is beginning to take on red tones. My tabby, Steve, normally takes no interest in this plant unless I’m photographing it.

Is there someone in your family that relatives don’t talk about? The crazy aunt, or the cousin with three drug convictions?

Well, it’s a similar situation with evergreens. Everyone talks about stately firs and majestic pines. But no one mentions the no-needle plants that, year in and year out, quietly add color to the winter landscape. Unlike weird relatives, these stalwart performers are good guys.

Take soapwort (Saponaria ocymoides), prostrate speedwell (Veronica prostrata) and woolly speedwell (Veronica pectinata), for example. These ground-hugging plants remain attractive all year round. Soapwort and prostrate speedwell display medium green foliage, whereas woolly speedwell turns slightly purplish in cold weather. Then when flowering bulbs peek out of the ground in early spring, these ground covers provide a carpet to showcase crocuses, snowdrops, daffodils and the elegant miniature Iris reticulata.

Robust soapwort retains its healthy green color throughout winter.

Robust soapwort retains its healthy green color throughout winter.

Taller, more woody evergreen ground covers include creeping Oregon grape holly (Mahonia repens)and kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). Oregon grape holly ground cover grows about a foot tall, and it will take over an area quickly, if you let it. Kinnikinnick is a cold-weather-loving plant that will reach about eight inches in height. This berry-producing native prefers northern and eastern exposures in Colorado.

Mojave sage's appealing foliage lends a soft blue tone to the winter landscape.

Mojave sage’s appealing foliage lends a soft blue tone to the winter landscape.

Mojave sage (Salvia pachyphylla) lends a subtle blue hue to the winter landscape. Its leaves may eventually turn yellow as winter progresses, but even then, this perennial subshrub provides winter interest with its gently upright form. Lavender, too, is a praiseworthy choice for providing blue tones in winter.

Other evergreen beauties are Manhattan euonymus (Euonymus kiautschovica ‘Manhattan’) for protected areas, manzanitas, yuccas (such as the variegated Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’), and brooms, including my favorite dwarf broom, Genista lydia.

So if you want to create year-round color in your landscape, consider some of these cold-hardy choices.

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Harbingers of Fall Finally Show up

Tiger eyes sumac takes center stage with its fiery orange display. Eventually, this little treasure will grow five to six feet high.

Tiger eyes sumac takes center stage with its fiery orange display. Eventually, this little treasure will grow five to six feet high.

Normally, fall lasts about two weeks in Colorado.  We go from the heat of summer in August to freezing temperatures in September and October.

This year, however, is different, and the foliage is taking its time to put on its annual autumn show.

I’m seeing hints of the beauty to come, though.

Autumn brilliance serviceberry is gradually turning red against the backdrop of my neighbor's yellow honeylocust.

Autumn brilliance serviceberry is gradually turning red against the backdrop of my neighbor’s yellow honeylocust.

My tiger eyes sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’), for example, has been gracing my front yard like a burst of fire  for the past two or three weeks.  This little gem is currently only 29 inches tall, but just imagine what it will look like when it grows up.

And my Autumn Brilliance serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’) is beginning to turn its trademark red-orange color.  Eventually, this tree will grow 15 to 25 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide.  It may take 15 years or so, however, because serviceberry is a slow grower.

Sweet potato vine does double duty--first as a backdrop for my flowering container annuals and then as a nest for an autumn pumpkin.

Sweet potato vine does double duty–first as a backdrop for my flowering container annuals and then as a nest for an autumn pumpkin.

My flowering container annuals have bitten the dust, so the sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) that normally serves as the backdrop for those blossoms now has been converted to a nest for a fall pumpkin.  The vine’s gorgeous lime-green leaves make this darling a versatile companion for all kinds of plants.

Before long, my Pawnee Buttes sandcherry (Prunus besseyi ‘Pawnee Buttes’) grouncover will turn bright red, and my Regent serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia ‘Regent’) will transform itself with its rich golden hues.

Happy Autumn!

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Proven Winners’ Purple Pillar, Zinfin Doll Survive Tough Summer

Purple Pillar rose of Sharon displays toothy leaves that make the plant attractive even when it's not in bloom. But boy, when it blooms, the flowers are remarkable.

Purple pillar rose of Sharon displays toothy leaves that make the plant attractive even when it’s not in bloom. But boy, when it blooms, the flowers are remarkable.

Last spring, Proven Winners sent me plants from its Spring 2017 Preview Collection. After growing them this season, I’ve settled on a few favorites.

  • Purple Pillar Hibiscus syriacus. This spunky little rose of Sharon is still a baby and is nowhere near its mature size of 10 to 16 feet tall and two to three feet wide. But I’ve developed a fondness for its attractive, toothy, medium-green leaves and spectacular lavender blooms with deep red centers. I also like the shrub’s columnar growth habit, which is ideal for hedges or for backdrops along fences. Purple Pillar began blooming in August and is still pumping out flowers in late September. It looks somewhat comical right now, though, because it’s currently just 16 inches tall and 10 inches wide, yet it produces these 2 ½-inch blooms. I guess the little thing will have to grow into its blooms the way a baby grows into its nose.

    Zinfin Doll hydrangea performed admirably in Fort Collins' hot, dry conditions. Although it didn't bloom this year, this plant shows definite potential.

    Zinfin Doll hydrangea performed admirably in Fort Collins’ hot, dry conditions. Although it didn’t bloom this year, this plant shows definite potential.

  • Zinfin Doll Hydrangea paniculata. This is one hardy hydrangea, as far as I can tell. At least, it has survived Colorado’s hot, dry summer. I planted it in my experimental garden area, where it gets blasted by southern and western sun. Yes, there’s a little sunburn on the leaves, but this perennial produces a beautiful mound of leaves that currently resembles a groundcover. Right now, it’s only seven inches high and nine inches wide, and it hasn’t bloomed yet, but I have high hopes for this shrub for next season. Zinfin Doll is supposed to grow six to eight feet tall and wide, and produce flower clusters that emerge pure white and gradually turn bright pink from the bottom up.
  • Superbells Tropical Sunrise Calibrachoa. This is my favorite of all the annuals from Proven Winners this year. Tropical Sunrise bloomed its head off all summer long, even though it was shaded during part of the afternoon. The plant displays a uniform, luxuriant growth habit and striped flowers with orange, pink and coral hues.
  • Superbells Hollywood Star Calibrachoa. Striking colors—those are what characterize this glamorous annual. Fuchsia pink petals on the outside give way to a neon yellow throat. It’s a stunning combination.
  • Supertunia Vista Fuchsia Improved Petunia. If you like electric colors, you’ll appreciate this showy annual. Fertilize it every couple of weeks, and it will reward you with lush foliage and blooms. It’s a good idea to cut it back or dead-head it occasionally.

As for other 2017 Proven Winners, the Graceful Grasses Prince Tut Cyperus looked like it had potential as an impressive container plant. It’s supposed to grow 2 ½ to 4 feet tall with finely textured plumes. Unfortunately, the little guy apparently experienced a tough time during the shipping process and died shortly after transplanting.

Let’s Dance Blue Jangles Hydrangea macrophylla is a big-leaf, compact, reblooming hydrangea that reportedly produces blue flowers in acid soils and pink flowers in alkaline soils. Unfortunately, Hydrangea macrophylla isn’t suited to Colorado’s growing conditions the way Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens are. So this baby plant succumbed to permanent wilt fairly quickly. However, Blue Jangles would likely be a showpiece under more moderate growing conditions.

Rabbits showed no interest at all in any of the Proven Winners plants. That’s a huge advantage in my yard.

All of the annuals will pass on once we get a freeze, but I’ll let you know how Purple Pillar and Zinfin Doll perform after another of our harsh winters.

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