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The 2007 choices are in for Plant Select, a program administered by Colorado State University and Denver Botanic Gardens together with nursery and landscape professionals. Plant Select identifies and distributes the best plants suited for growing in Colorado’s high plains and intermountain regions.
The Rocky Mountain region has become known for horticultural innovation where the bright sun and crisp air can be a benefit rather than an obstacle. This year’s recommendations are: Hot Wings Tatarian Maple, Vermilion Bluffs Mexican Sage, Shadow Mountain Penstemon, Purple Winter Savory, Kannah Creek Buckwheat, Red Mountain Ice Plant and Clear Creek Golden Yellowhorn. All plant names are trademarked.
Hot Wings Tatarian Maple, known scientifically as Acer tataricum, is a sturdy, attractive tree which grows 15-18 feet high and 15-18 feet wide. It prefers full sun to partial shade and moderate soil moisture. Spring blossoms are followed by brilliant red fruit, and its showy fall color is ideal for home landscapes. Its brilliant red samaras look like flaming flowers all summer long. This maple performs best on garden loam. The USDA has listed this plant for zones 4-10 (up to 7,000 feet in elevation).
Vermilion Bluffs Mexican Sage, or Salvia darcyi, is a perennial that grows 35-40 inches high and 20-30 inches wide and performs best in loamy soils. It prefers sun to partial shade and blooms August to October. Hummingbirds are attracted in late summer and fall to its brilliant cardinal-red spires. It has proven hardy under protected conditions in Denver over the past five years. The USDA has listed this plant for zones 5b-10 (up to 5,500 feet in elevation).
Shadow Mountain Penstemon, or Penstemon x mexicali, is an adaptable perennial that is a lavender-blue cousin to Red Rocks Penstemon, growing 18-24 inches high and 15-18 inches wide. It prefers full sun to partial shade, moderate to xeric soil moisture once established and garden loam, clay or sandy soil. The USDA has listed this plant for zones 4b-8 (up to 7,000 feet in elevation).
Purple Winter Savory, or Satureja montana v. illyrica, is a perennial that grows 4-6 feet high and 12-15 inches wide. It flourishes best in moderate to xeric soil moisture once established. Preferring full sun to partial shade, this popular garden herb is purple-blue flowered and prostrate in form. The trim, evergreen mounds are covered with showy flowers from August to October. USDA has listed this plant for zones 3b-8 (up to 9,000 feet).
Kannah Creek Buckwheat, or Eriogonum umbellatum v. aureum, is a perennial that grows 12-15 inches high and 12-24 inches wide. It grows best in full to partial shade with moderate to xeric soil moisture and garden loam, clay or sandy soil. It blooms from May to July with masses of yellow flowers that turn orange as they age. The spreading green foliage changes to a vivid purple-red in winter and is considered a vigorous and adaptable Western native. USDA has listed this plant for zones 3-8 (up to 10,000 feet).
Red Mountain Ice Plant, or Delosperma dyeri, is a perennial that grows 2 inches high and 15-20 inches wide. This trim, succulent ice plant prefers garden loam, clay or sandy soil with moderate to xeric soil moisture once established. The glowing, burnished red carpet of flowers will span from April to September. USDA has listed this plant for zones 5-8 (up to 6,000 feet).
Clear Creek Golden Yellowhorn, or Xanthoceras sorbifolium, is a large shrub or small tree that grows 18-22 feet high and 10-15 feet wide. It requires full sun to partial shade and blooms from April to May. Its masses of white flowers bloom in spring with yellow eyes surrounded by a maroon color. The unique leathery seedpods form in summer and persist into winter. It has vase-shaped habit with attractive, ferny leaves. It thrives best in moderate to xeric moisture and garden loam, clay or sandy soil and is an especially hardy strain developed at Green Acres Nursery in Golden, Colo. USDA has listed this plant for zones 5-8 (up to 6,000 feet).
Plant Select is a Colorado non-profit corporation established in 1996 that has been introducing plants for 11 years, operating 85 experimental gardens around Colorado. For more information, visit online at www.plantselect.org.