First thing’s first. Why are you doing this landscaping? Have you moved into a new house with no landscaping? Are you redoing an old landscape? Are you adding an area of landscaping? Next. What restrictions do you have when doing this landscaping? Does your HOA have requirements on the types or amounts of plants you can put in? Do you have water use restrictions, or will you have water use restrictions at some point during the season? Are there topographical or climatic restrictions? Other things to consider are the aesthetics, water consumption, and site preparation needs. There is a lot of planning that should happen before you go to your favorite garden center to purchase plants.
Speaking of plants. One of the biggest things you should think about when planning a landscape is right plant, right place. Colorado is a hard place to live for most plants, even the ones who grow natively here. Most plants that grow well on the east or west coasts will not grow well in Colorado. Rethinking what constitutes a “beautiful” landscape may be one of the hardest things for transplants moving to the area. Planting an Autumn Blaze Maple because you love the beautiful fall color will become problematic at some point in its lifetime. The alkaline soils in Colorado bind iron, making it unavailable to plants. This will cause your maple to become chlorotic. Other plants that need a lot of water to do well, like azaleas, will not thrive in our climate with the amount of water you will be able to give them.
|Dryland Mesa Garden |
Water in Colorado is the biggest limiting factor for plant growth and survival. We have had a couple years of very dry winters. Looking at the drought monitor for Colorado, the percentage of the state in Extreme Drought conditions has increased three percent just in the last week. (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?CO) Roughly 50% off municipal water is used for outdoor landscaping. This will mean there will be mandatory water use restrictions during the hottest months of the year, creating stress on all the plants on your property. Maintaining a lush, green lawn in Colorado can be difficult if you do not plant the right variety of grass and take care of it properly. Landscape plants that don’t have some degree of drought tolerance will also struggle. When planning your new landscape, strongly consider planting xeric plants that will tolerate drought and native plants. Natives will grow well with little to no additional water once they are established in your landscape. They have adapted to grow in our climate so they will be able to survive, for the most part, on only the precipitation that we receive. Another great resource is Plant Select, which is a program run in partnership between Colorado State University and the Denver Botanic Gardens. These plants are tested in trial gardens to determine whether or not they can grow successfully in our climate.
|Photo Credit: Jim Tolstrup, Summer|
A key thing to note when putting in a new landscape are the needs of the newly planted plants. If you put in a xeric garden, you will still have to water those plants. Xeric and native plants take about three years to get established after planting. If you do not provide supplemental watering during those first three years, you will lose plants. It is also important to note that you will have some plants that will not make it through the first year for a wide variety of reasons. Plan on having to replace some of your plants.
Here are a couple resources to use when choosing plants and trees.
Front Range Recommended Tree list: https://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/garden/treereclist.pdf
Plant Select: http://plantselect.org/plants/find-a-plant/
Colorado Native Plant Society: https://conps.org/gardening-with-native-plants/
Xeric Ground Covers: https://conps.org/gardening-with-native-plants/
Xeric Perennials and Annuals: http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/xeriscaping-perennials-and-annual-flowers-7-231/
Xeric Trees and Shrubs: http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/xeriscaping-trees-and-shrubs-7-229/
Low-Water Native Plants, Front Range & Foothills: http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/native/FrontRange.pdf
Xeriscaping: Retrofit Your Yard: http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/native/FrontRange.pdf