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Ultimate guide to mountain plants

John Longhill
special to the daily
Turkish Veronica, Snow-in-Summer, and Rock Soapwort create a luxuriant melding of colors for late spring gardens.
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I don’t often recommend plant books, unless they are exceptional, and there are just two important criteria that elevate a book to this category. The book must be informative, and useful in our planting zone as a continuing resource. Well, I think I found one, and I want to share it with you, it is titled “Durable Plants for the Garden.”

Twenty-five years ago, a joint effort was initiated between the Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University that involved the introduction and promotion of a limited selection of plants that were considered to be the best choices for use in the Rocky Mountains and plains states. In 2006 Plant Select became a Colorado corporation with the mission statement shown below:

Plant Select Mission Statement: Plant Select is a program designed to seek out and distribute the very best plants for gardens from the High Plains to the intermountain region. Plant Select is a cooperative program administered by Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University together with landscape and nursery professionals from throughout the Rocky Mountain region and beyond.

Plants chosen for the Plant Select program are evaluated based on specific criteria. These criteria include how they perform in a wide range of garden situations in the Rocky Mountain Region, ranging from how adaptable the plant is to our challenging climate, the uniqueness of flower color or plant habit, its susceptibility to disease and its resistance to insect infestation, how it performs under drought conditions, does it have a long season of beauty in the garden – including fall color, winter appeal, noninvasiveness, and the capability to be mass produced. Thousands of plants are studied for years in research stations around the state to determine if a plant should be selected for the coveted Plant Select designation.

What does all this mean for the common gardener? It means that the eggheads at CSU and DBG have done all the work for us, and provided us with an exceptional guide that lists and describes these selected plants.

In 2009 a Plant Select Guide was published by Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens, and the Green Industries of Colorado entitled Durable Plants for the Garden. This book lists the first 74 species of plants recommended and introduced through Plant Select. The book is divided into four categories; Trees, Shrubs and Woody vines; Perennials; Perennial groundcovers; and Annuals. This guide is invaluable to the serious gardener because it answers most of the important questions we need to know about plants adapted to our region. Each plant listed in the guide shows several photographs of the plant at different times of the year, a color illustration and two pages of information including a physical description of the plant, why it was chosen as a plant select, its landscape use, form, characteristics, culture, best features and any disadvantages it may have.

Two culture requirements to be aware of when choosing plants from this book, are temperature zones and elevation range. Because this guide is useful throughout Colorado, not all the plants in the book are appropriate for Summit County. Make sure plants that you choose from this book are adapted to temperature zones 3 and 4 and will prosper at 8,000 feet and above, because these are the temperature zones and elevations found in Summit County.

The Book can be ordered through Colorado State University online store at the URL: http://bit.ly/FYGAK – or from Amazon.com or our local bookstore.

John Longhill is the owner of: John Longhill – Landscape Architect (www.john-landscapearcthitect.com) A site planning and landscape design office located in Silverthorne. John can be reached by phone at (970) 468-0924 or e-mail at askjohn@john-landscapearchitect.com.


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