CO-Horts Blog

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Plants of Summer

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

Co-workers and friends often joke about my landscape. By now you realize that I adore my lawn, but the landscape plants don't get much attention. My gardening philosophy is that you have to be tough to survive in my landscape. If you need a lot of attention, water or regular pruning, forget it. I've killed A LOT of plants in my tenure in Colorado, but those that have survived have my greatest respect.

And right now, it's tough to be a plant. It's hot, dry and everyone just feels sluggish--including the gardener. But a few are standing up to neglect and thriving. Let's review them:

False indigo (Baptisia australis)
False indigo: Awesome on every level! This has been planted for about six years and this is the first time I really noticed it bloom. Pale lavender flowers on pea-like foliage. The great thing about this plant is it's right where Maple the beagle stalks the squirrels who are trying to eat from the bird feeder, so it gets a lot of paw traffic and abuse. The flowers fade to hardened chocolate brown "pea pods." I cut it back to the ground in the spring.

Sedums: I have many sedums in my garden, but I couldn't tell you any of their names, except for the lime green 'Angelina' (not pictured) and 'Autumn Joy' (not pictured). But ground cover sedums are tough as nails, love it hot and dry and fill in gaps. I call them "gentle creepers" and are not at all invasive. I don't really like the flowers, so sometimes I clip them off.

Above and Beyond rose
Roses: For those who don't grow roses because of the myth they are too much work, you should try them! Roses are one of the easiest garden plants, especially the shrub types--a spring pruning job and occasional clipping in the summer. There are several introductions that you can try. 'Above and Beyond' (pictured) is a climbing rose from the Bailey Nurseries First Editions series. It had incredible blooms just a few weeks ago and is ready for another flush. It also has clean foliage and sparse thorns. Other roses I love are 'Paint the Town' and 'Sunrise Sunset'. Some of the shrub roses have great fragrance, so be sure to stop and smell them!

Hopflower oregano (Origanum libanoticum)
Hopflower oregano: This is a wonderful ornamental that can serve as a ground cover or a trailing plant over a ledge. I love the unique flowers tipped in purple. It's in full bloom right now and the flowers will persist through most of the fall and winter, turning a straw color. The foliage is dainty, held on wiry stems.

Smoketree (Cotinus coggygria)
Smoketree: These large shrubs/small trees are very noticeable when in full bloom (pictured above). The flowers look like plumes of smoke. It's versatile, as it can be left as a multi-stem shrub, pruned to a single-stem tree or cut back to maintain the height you want. The first few seasons it died back almost to the ground in winter. I also love the obovate leaves, which are slightly waxy. The best purple color will occur in full sun. Mine is planted under a honeylocust.

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) and threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)
Lavender and coreopsis: I have seen a lot of lavender in landscapes, which is great, since it's a wonderfully fragrant, bee-attracting perennial. It also does very well in dry, high pH soils. Whack it back to the ground in the spring and watch it re-grow. There's a new introduction called 'Wee One' that is pretty much the cutest lavender you've ever seen. As for the threadleaf coreopsis, also called tickseed, it's a reliable bloomer and I love the purple-yellow combination. Tickseed is a no-brainer. After it blooms, cut it back for a second flush.

A world record prickly lettuce plant?
Check out this record-setting prickly lettuce that was growing up through the lilacs! It was nearly five feet tall. It's amazing how I can wear blinders in the garden and not notice these things...

Maple the beagle is off to investigate other summer-blooming plants for the garden!

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