They’re colorful, and they’re not too thirsty

The Durango Botanical Society just returned from its inaugural – and incredibly successful – pilgrimage to visit public and private gardens in and around the Denver metro area.

The group gained inspiration from visits to multiple private gardens, seeing the transformation of traditional yard space to collections of unique and common plants – many of which are available locally. Once established, many of the gardens required little or no supplemental irrigation.

You think that’s important right about now? Based on weather data from the Durango-La Plata County Airport, the last measurable precipitation event was April 2, when we received all of 0.28 of an inch. Some isolated storms at the end of April may have had some appreciable moisture, but for at least the past six weeks, nary a raindrop has fallen. And in case you slept through high school biology or botany, plants typically need water to grow.

While in Denver, we were also able to pick up more plants for Durango Public Library Demonstration Garden.

The plants, offered by Plant Select, are chosen based on their performance in our variable and challenging climate. Do they all work here, in our environment? No, not always, as some of the plants introduced over the past 15 years struggle at higher elevations and cold temperatures. But that is what the library garden is for – to demonstrate what works, and what may not work.

Plant Select is a cooperative program run by Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University whose mission is to “seek out, identify and distribute the best plants for landscapes and gardens from the intermountain region to the high plains.” In 2012, six new plants were introduced as “Plant Select Selections.” Some of the highlights that will be at the library garden:

Fire spinner ice plant (Delosperma ‘P001S’): The newest addition to ever-popular and vibrantly colored ice plants. Fire spinner forms a carpet of purple and orange flowers throughout spring and early summer. This perennial groundcover will take full sun to partial shade and is hardy down to zone 5.

Dalmation daisy (Tanacetum cinerariifolium): I know, another white daisy. But this one is a bit different. It has attractive foliage, produces a profuse amount of white flowers, and doesn’t stink like Shastas.

My nose may be misleading me, but sometimes I think Shastas smell like something died. Whenever I walk by the ones in my yard I look for a present that the cat may have left for me. The daisy should do well in our climate with our dry soils and landscapes.

Weeping white spruce (Picea glauca ‘Pendula’): Spruces can sometimes dominate a landscape, but ‘Pendula’ will buck that trend. The very hardy form will reach a spread of only 6 feet when mature. A tree like this will surely bring interest to any landscape, especially those that are in tight spaces. It is also one of the few Plant Select entries that can work at elevations close to 10,000 feet.

Some of these selections may not be at our local nurseries yet, but come on by to see them at the library garden soon. or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.