By all accounts, these are trying times. So last week when the CSU Extension Boulder County Demonstration Garden received a Plant Select ™ Showcase Garden Award, it felt extra sweet. The Plant Select™ program is a collaboration between Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens and professional horticulturists. Their goal is to “create smart plant choices for a new American Landscape inspired by the Rocky Mountain Region”. The plants are trialed and chosen based on eight attributes: flourishing with less water, habitat friendly, tough and resilient in challenging climates, one of a kind/unique, resist disease and insects, long lasting beauty, and non-invasive. These are all important qualities in plants that we invite into our spaces.
Our demonstration garden at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont is one of several such gardens across the state. You can glean a good amount of information from plant tags and online research, but it is helpful to see with your own eyes how plants perform after establishment, or to see plant combinations growing side by side. Many demonstration gardens are in public areas and therefore always open to visitors. They can provide inspiration, a moment of outdoor respite during a busy day or a change of scenery when you want to get some fresh air.
Our demonstration areas include a Colorado native plant garden and the, now award winning (excuse me for tooting our own horn), Plant Select ™ garden which features perennial beds, a rock garden and sidewalk pockets (like the tough, unirrigated strip of ground you might have in front of your house between the sidewalk and the curb). These spaces are a mix of Plant Select™ plants and others found in garden centers and nurseries.
Our gardens do not have irrigation systems but do receive supplemental water periodically during hot, dry spells. We regularly have loads of honeybees, native bees, butterflies and we even get hummingbirds visiting throughout the summer. Some of the Plant Select™ species featured in our gardens that are both water thrifty and attract pollinators are Wild Thing sage (Salvia greggii) and chocolate daisy (Berlandiera lyrata). Wild Thing is a woody perennial with bright pink flowers. It can be a little tender during harsh winters, but with an extra layer of mulch, ours have been going strong even in tough, clay soil. The chocolate daisy is so called because when the sun warms the yellow blooms, they truly smell like a milk chocolate bar! This cheery plant is tough as nails, needs very little water once established and blooms all summer. Other showstoppers include grasses that provide beautiful fall and winter interest once the flowers are done. Among these are UNDAUNTED® Ruby muhly. A bunch grass that grows 20-inches tall and 24-inches wide. In the autumn it has brilliant tiny red flowers (yes, grasses bloom!) that en masse look like delicate pink-red clouds. Standing Ovation little bluestem is another grass that is stunning in fall and winter. During the growing season it has upright, spiky blue-green leaves that transition to shades of red, orange and deep purple in the fall. We leave it standing all winter and seeing those warm colors kissed with frost and surrounded by snow can be stunning.
We are honored to have our gardens recognized and would love for you to stop by and visit them (9595 Nelson Road in Longmont). Offices are still closed due to pandemic and employees are working remotely. You can also visit www.plantselect.org for more information on Plant Select™ plants, get design ideas and find other demonstration gardens in your area.
By Deryn Davidson. Deryn is an Extension Agent – Horticulture at Colorado State University Extension Boulder County. For more information contact CSU Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road, Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6386, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit boulder.extension.colostate.edu.