Colorado State University and Denver Botanic Gardens Announce 2006 Plant Select List

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The Plant Select choices for 2006 were announced this week by Colorado State University and Denver Botanic Gardens. This program discovers and distributes the best plants for gardeners to grow in the high plains and intermountain regions.

     This year Plant Select’s recommendations include Bridges’ penstemon, woody fernbush, giant sacaton, Kintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle, Panchito manzanita, Platinum sage, ruby moon hyacinth bean and Snowmass phlox.

     Bridges’ penstemon, with the scientific name of Penstemon rostriflorus, is noted for flowering later in the season and for living longer than other penstemons. The orange-red flowers bloom from July to October and are attractive to hummingbirds. The height and width of the plant can range from 24-36 inches. Sunny and dry garden areas with clay or sandy soil are best for Bridges’ penstemon, and it only needs occasional irrigation after establishment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approves this plant for zones 4b – 8.

     The woody fernbush, or Chamaebatiaria millefolium, is a low-maintenance shrub meant for sunny and dry gardens. White flowers bloom from mid-June to August, and foliate buds make the plant look like an evergreen shrub during the winter. The fernbush requires little irrigation after it is established and grows best in average garden loam, clay or sandy soil. The plant’s height and width range from 3-5 feet, and it is approved for the U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 4b – 8.

     Giant sacaton, or Sporobolus wrightii, is a drought-tolerant ornamental grass. The ocher seed heads can reach 6 feet and continue to provide interest through the winter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approves this plant for zones 5 – 8. It grows well in average soil, only requiring occasional watering during the driest months.

     Kintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle, or Lonicera reticulate, was originally brought to Colorado by the family of an early horticulturist, William Kintzley. The honeysuckle was found on his grave in the 1960s. It is easy to grow, spanning from 8-12 feet in length and 3-5 feet in width, and requires average garden loam and moderate irrigation. In June, the vine blooms with yellow flowers surrounded by a silvery-white bract. Kintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle is approved for zones 4 – 8 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

     Panchito manzanita, or Arctostaphylos xcoloradoensis, may be grown as a specimen feature or planted in groups as ground cover. Initial growth is moderately slow, taking about five years to spread 3 feet. It grows best with moderate watering for the first two years, but needs little supplemental water after that. Small flowers appear from February to early April on the shrub that has a height of 10 – 15 inches, a width of 24 – 36 inches and garden spacing of 30 inches. In a home garden, Panchito manzanita thrives in average well-drained loam or sandy soils. It is approved for U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 4b – 8.

     The Platinum sage, or Salvia daghestanica, is a must-have for xeriscape gardeners. The sage provides a stunning picture with deep blue flowers that grow against its silver foliage. The compact size of the plant, ranging from 8-10 inches in height and 18-24 inches in width, allows it a variety of uses in a garden. Sunny locations in well-drained soil provide the best growing conditions for this sage that has proven resistant to browsing by deer and rabbits. Approved zones by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are 5 – 10.

     Beautiful in a garden, the ruby moon hyacinth bean, or Dolichos lablab, can be grown on a trellis, where its height reaches 6-10 feet, and as a rambling ground cover, where its width ranges from 3-5 feet, or in a container. In colder climates, plant after the danger of frost and flowers will appear in mid-June and continue through the summer. This hyacinth bean grows well in average loam and prefers full sun for best flower production. Moderate irrigation and occasional fertilization is preferred to keep the plant in full health until autumn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approves it for zones 7 and warmer.

     The Snowmass phlox, or Phlox bifida, is named for its tight mat of foliage with snowflake-shaped flowers that cover it for a month or more in early spring. The plant, commonly known as sand or cleft phlox, grows well in a rock garden or as edging for borders, and it complements brighter garden flowers like tulips and daffodils. It grows in garden loam, clay or sandy soils in full sun or partial shade with moderate watering. Plant height is 4-8 inches, width is 18-24 inches and it is approved for zones 4b – 9 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

     For more information on these plants and the Plant Select program, visit their Web site at