Tag Archives: Color Guard yucca

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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Voles, Rabbits & Ascochyta Leaf Blight: What’s a Gardener to do?

Long-blooming Rozanne cranesbill edges the border in front of the Autumn Brilliance serviceberry, providing a focal point for passersby.

Long-blooming Rozanne cranesbill edges the border in front of the Autumn Brilliance serviceberry, providing a focal point for passersby.

Last September, I tore out my old landscaping and redesigned my front yard. The voles and rabbits wiped out some of my new plants, but most of the installation survived.

As you may be aware, it takes about three years for a new landscape to come into its own. I’m now almost one year into mine.

The Rozanne cranesbills in front of my Autumn Brilliance serviceberry have been real show-stoppers, blooming bright purple flowers since late May. They should continue blooming until frost. This morning, I cut some of them back because they had grown leggy. They’ll fill back in and rebloom. In the meantime, there are still some blooms for the bees to visit.

The pink and white soapwort groundcovers along my front foundation performed like the stalwarts that they are, and they set seed so for babies next spring. I’m aiming for a sea of tiny pink and white flowers along the foundation next spring.

Xeric plants, such as (front to back) Little Trudy catmint, Mojave sage and Sunset agastache make this arid corner look almost lush. My transplanted Genista Lydia (left) looks scruffy right now, but will eventually be beautiful again. The Pawnee Buttes sand cherry behind it is very happy in its home.

Xeric plants, such as (front to back) Little Trudy catmint, Mojave sage and Sunset agastache make this arid corner look almost lush. My transplanted Genista Lydia (left) looks scruffy right now, but will eventually be beautiful again. The Pawnee Buttes sand cherry behind it is very happy in its home.

In my front, dry corner, my Norbonne blue flax died, so I replaced it with Little Trudy catmint, which is very happy in its location. I also discovered that one of my Genistas Lydia survived the move from Denver, so I transplanted it from the trench in my sister’s yard to my front yard. Although Lydia resents transplanting, she did bloom in June. I’ve pruned her back some, but she’s looking sparse and ragged. Once she recovers, however, she’ll be her usual gorgeous self.

I decided to tear out two of my three existing Peking contoneasters because they were planted too close together. After digging and chopping on one of the stumps for about five hours, I received an offer of help from my neighbor, Teo, who owns a landscaping company. He kindly came over and used his winch to pull the stump out of the ground, saving me another three or so hours of labor. After that experience, I decided to simply recut my other stump and paint it with Tordon so that it will rot away.

Since installing my new plants, I’ve noticed a decided uptick in pollinators. The bees love the Rozanne cranesbill and agastache, in particular. As for the swallowtail butterflies, they were in flight when I spotted them. But given that they like serviceberries, I think it may have been the Autumn Brilliance that attracted them.

Now that I’ve cleared more rock mulch from the far side of my yard and done away with two of my three cotoneasters, I have a swath that would lend itself perfectly to creating a butterfly corridor from the public sidewalk to my serviceberry. I haven’t created a drawing for that area yet, but I already know that it has to have butterfly weed, which is a host and nectar plant for the monarch. So I’ve installed a Hello Yellow variety. Normally, I would have planted the orange variety, but I already have plenty of orange from the orange carpet hummingbird and sunset hyssop in that area.

The Color Guard yucca (foreground) contrasts with the orange carpet hummingbird groundcover. Eventually, the Color Guard will grow about 3 feet high and wide.

The Color Guard yucca (foreground) contrasts with the orange carpet hummingbird groundcover. Eventually, the Color Guard will grow about 3 feet high and wide.

All but one of my Pawnee Buttes sand cherries died from spending eight months in a trench at my sister’s house. With voles, bunnies and a lack of water, it’s amazing that any of them made it. So I bought three more sand cherries, as well as a Regent serviceberry, and gave them a home.

This fall, the reddish-gold foliage of the Regent serviceberry should complement the orange-red of Autumn Brilliance, the reddish-yellow of the Tiger Eyes sumac and the yellow of the Cheyenne mockorange.

The Color Guard yuccas near the front porch have grown more slowly than I expected. They’re only about four inches tall and wide. It’ll be awhile, apparently, before they reach three feet tall and wide.

The Tiger Eyes sumac, too, has grown more slowly than I anticipated. So although it should display outstanding fall color, it’ll likely turn into a brown fuzzy stick again this winter.

I’ve been waiting for my turf to recover from the ascochyta leaf blight brought on by a rainy spring, followed by a drought-like summer. As Gilda Radner used to say, “It’s always something.”

July 30, 2016 update:  Hummingbird sighting!  About 5pm this evening, I spotted a green-and-blue hummingbird feeding on my orange carpet hummingbird groundcover (Zauschneria garrettii).  The little darling chirped as it moved from blossom to blossom.  After several minutes at the Zauschneria, it moved on to the agastache for a brief snack.  It only goes to show that if you plant it, they will come!

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