Select Page

Hail-proof Plants for your Colorado Garden

It’s summer, which means in Colorado and other surrounding states in the Central Plains/Inter-mountain West region of the country, it is Hail Season!

Earlier in the Summer, the Denver area had several sessions of hail that ripped through gardens and landscapes late one June night. Avid gardens who’d been awakened by the cacophony of thunder, torrential rain and hail that night, sleepily rushed out in the morning to find shredded plants and debris scattered everywhere. I myself had many plants I’d been babying from seed and roots all Spring which were severely torn up by the barrage of hail stones.

This horticultural carnage got me wondering what plants are best at surviving the annual severe weather in our region? As I walked around the yard sadly inspecting the damage, it was easy to see that the native and climate adapted plants fared best from the aerial ice-bullet onslaught. So I thought it might be a good idea to create a list of “hail-proof” (or at least “hail-resistant”) plants. The following list of plants is just a cursory look at some possible plant choices that should be better able to handle hail storms:

Ornamental Grasses:

-Many, many varieties. Some of the hardiest, and easiest to grow in our region are Feather Reed (Calamagrostis spp.), Switch grass (Panicum virgatum), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and Giant Sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii)

Korean Feather Reed Grass

Plants with Grass like leaves:

-Daylilies, Bear Grass (Nolina microcarpa), Desert Sotol (Dasylirion)

Trees and Plants that Leaf out Later:

-Catalpa, Gaura, Datura

Datura

Trees and Plants with Small Leaves:

-Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos), Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa), some Hysops (Agastache spp.), some Penstemons, California Fuschia (Epilobium canum), Coreopsis

Pineleaf Penstemon

Plants with No or Insignificant Leaves:

– Cacti (many varities), Ephedra, Broom (Cytisus purgans, Cytisus scoparius)

Cylindropuntia cactus

Plants with Tough Leaves:

– Evergreen trees & shrubs (Pine, Spruce, etc.), Agave, Yucca, False Yucca (Hesperaloe)

Agave

Plants that can be moved or sheltered easily:

-Annual/Perennial pots

Pot planted with perennials

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

Related Posts:

Spring Clean-Up: The Most Important Landscape Maintenance Tasks for Spring

photo of spring landscape

As Spring has arrived once more, we here at Outdoor Design Group have been thinking back to a past post we published, that ruminated on the importance of the annual Spring garden clean-up. We wanted to revisit that post and make some minor updates and add some extra information.

“Spring Clean-Up” includes the spring landscape maintenance tasks that are vital for a healthy and attractive landscape, especially for Xeriscape.  This article is intended to give a simple, easy to follow guide covering the most important spring landscape maintenance tasks.

If  you read our Fall landscape maintenance tips, you know that we are not a proponents of keeping the landscape perfectly tidy over the winter.  Keeping a less tidy landscape over the winter is good for the health of the plants, and good for small wildlife like insects and birds. Now that spring is here, among other things you will need to clean your beds of those leftover leaves, and cut back your perennials and grasses.

Important Timing Dates

  • March to April: Cut back perennials and grasses. Clean up leaf litter and other debris.
  • Early May:  Time to start up that irrigation system.  Resist the temptation to start your sprinklers before May 1st.  In Colorado, we generally get plenty of moisture in March and April so lawns do not generally need supplemental water yet, and it will go to waste.  Many shrubs and perennials are only just beginning to emerge.
  • The average last frost date in the Denver area is May 5th.
  • The rule of thumb for planting new plants in the Denver area (and other Front Range communities) is to wait until Mother’s Day (middle of May) to plant new bedding plants. Consult sources such as NOAA to find the last frost date for your area.
  • If you are starting seeds indoors for warm weather vegetables, herbs or flowers, St. Patrick’s Day is a good date to do so.

Ornamental Grasses and Perennials

cut-back-sage-in-spring

Woody perennials like Russian Sage may not completely die back

  • Cut back herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses so that they will grow back bigger and better than before.  For perennials, cut them back to about 2″ to 3″ above the ground.   For woody perennials, such as some of the sages, some of the old growth will often begin to leaf out and you can leave more of the existing plant to re-grow, or you can choose to cut it all the way back to a few inches above the ground.
  • Most groundcover and other low growing  perennials usually don’t need to be “cut back” but they may need to be cleaned up, with dead areas gently raked out or trimmed off.
  • When cutting back ornamental grasses, a rule of thumb that we like to use is to cut them back to 1/5th (or 20%) of their mature height.  Feather Reed Grass, for example, grows to a height of 4-5′, so you would cut them back to 10-12″ height.

    cut-back-grasses-in-spring

    Cut grasses back to 1/5th of their full height

  • Some ornamental grasses look better if they are not cut back, namely Mexican Feather grass.  It won’t hurt the plant if you do cut it back, but the form of the plant looks better if not cut back.
  •  “Divide and conquer”!  Divide up summer and fall-blooming perennials and grasses and transplant them throughout the landscape.  This gives them time to grow this season, so that in the late summer you will have new plants to enjoy. With ornamental grasses, if the center of the plant is dead, cut this out and compost or discard.
  • Wait to divide spring blooming perennials until early fall.
  • Remove excess mulch and leaf scraps and other debris from around the bases of plants, along with any extra mulch that was placed around plants to protect them over the winter.  Spring is the wettest time of the year along the Front Range, and the mulch is needed the least at this time.  Leaving excess organic material around the bases of plants in spring can cause root rot, mold, and insect damage.
  • Consider saving any seed heads or pods from perennials you’d like to have spread around the yard. You may want to save the seeds and start them indoors in nursery pots, or you can just simply break up the seed pods and sprinkle them in the areas you might want to see new plants.

­ Planting Beds

  • Controlling weeds in bed areas is very important in the spring.  You should to get a leg up on the weeds now, while the soil is soft and easy to work with and the weeds are small.  A great time to pull weeds is when the ground is still moist from snowmelt or a spring rain. If weeds are allowed to “run wild” and set seed  throughout the spring,  you will have a maintenance headache later in the summer.  Weed control can be a quick and easy task when done correctly from the start of the year through the end.
  • For bed areas between plans that may have become uncovered during winter windstorms, add a new layer of mulch.

Vegetable Garden Beds

  • Remove old/dead plant debris from last year. Compost this debris, unless this material was diseased. Tomato plants are very susceptible to diseases so we recommend never composting them, just dispose in the trash.
  • Consider having a soil test done. Many gardeners add more nutrients (in the form of compost) every spring thinking that their soon to be planted veggies will need that extra boost; but if its not needed, it can backfire and cause problems. Ideally, vegetables and some perennials prefer soil that is 4-5% organic matter. Native plants and cacti prefer soil that is only 1-3% organic matter.
  • If you want to add compost to your beds, the best time to do so is in the fall, giving the compost time to break down and ‘mellow’.

Lawns

  • Aerate  your lawn in spring.  Aeration allows for greater movement of water, fertilizer, and air which stimulates healthy turf.  Aerating also increases the speed of decomposition of the grass clippings and enhances deep root growth.  Compacted soil especially benefits from core aerating.  Be sure to mark the locations of sprinkler heads with flags prior to aerating so that they will not get damaged.
  • It’s a good idea to rake the lawn areas once really well in the spring to clean up any leftover sticks, pine needles, etc.  In the summer we use a self-mulching lawnmower that mulches and re-deposits the clippings in place rather than bagging them.  However the first time we mow in the spring we like to attach the bagger to suck up any new clippings and other debris left over from the winter.
  • If there are bare spots in your lawn, consider broadcasting some grass seed after you have aerated, and before a forecasted snow or rain event. The cooler and wetter conditions of Spring are perfect for germinating many popular lawn grass types.
  • You may want to fertilize your lawn in the spring to give it a boost.  Don’t over do it though, because fertilizer can wash off of your lawn and the runoff can be harmful to water supplies and wildlife. Consider timing your application of fertilizer right before a spring snow, so the melting snow can help the fertilizer percolate to the root zone of the grass.
  • Remove or kill any emerging weeds, like dandelions, as soon as possible before they set seed and spread around your yard and into your neighbors’ yards.
  • Early Spring is a good time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide on your lawn to prevent crabgrass. However if you have recently applied grass seed, do not apply a pre-emergent herbicide.
  • Look at the size and shape of your lawn, and how much water you used this year in the battle with our dry climate to keep it green (or, brown?).   Consult with a landscape architect about reducing your lawn area and redesigning  your landscape to make it more attractive, sustainable, and functional.

Trees and Shrubs

  • You can now remove tree wrap from trees. If you also have tree stakes and the tree is mature enough to not need them anymore, Spring is a good time to remove the stakes.
  • For most trees and shrubs, don’t prune them in the spring.  They are budding out and are susceptible to more stress and damage at this time.  I find that it can also be difficult to tell whether a branch is dead or alive without physically checking each one, since the leaves have not yet emerged.  Wait until late summer or fall to remove any dead branches and to do any other pruning.
  • Some shrubs (butterfly bush, barberry, privet, Japanese spiraea) are best pruned in late winter or early spring. Other shrubs (lilac, forsythia, mock orange) and some trees (ornamental pear, redbud, pines and spruces) are best pruned in late spring or early summer. Generally speaking, you should not prune a plant until soon after it has flowered.
  • Trees that are considered “bleeders” (have a lot of sap) such as dogwood, elm and maple should be pruned after the leaves are fully formed.
  • But wait to prune young or newly planted trees and shrubs, until they have had some time to become established.
  • In most Spring times, there is adequate precipitation for landscape trees and shrubs. However, if it’s been a dry winter and continues to be a dry Spring, keep an eye on soil moisture around your plants. Before you start your irrigation system in May, remember to check the soil moisture, and give trees and shrubs extra water if needed.

Irrigation

  • Resist the temptation to start your irrigation system before May 1st.  After May 1st, pressurize your irrigation system and check for and leaks and for proper spray distribution.  Adjust the angle and throw of sprinkler heads.  Check irrigation equipment for clogged nozzles and sprinkler heads for damage.  Realign heads if necessary.   Examine any drip irrigation to make sure there are no leaks or other issues, and plan to make regular check-ups on your irrigation system throughout the season.
  • Stake down and cover with mulch any exposed drip irrigation lines.

Spring Weather Considerations

  • Watch for those late spring snowstorms!  Trees and shrubs that are flowering and/or leafing out can catch the heavy wet spring snow on their branches, often causing serious damage due to limbs breaking off. If you can safely do so, consider gently knocking off any accumulating snow during the wet spring snow events we typically get. This may save branches from breaking during the storm.

Other

  • Check any metal edging to make sure that it is has not heaved over the winter.  If it has popped up out of the ground, you should repair it.  Edging keeps the sod from creeping into landscape beds areas, which can be a maintenance nightmare if it gets out of hand.   Metal edging can also be a safety hazard to pets and children, if not properly seated or capped.  If you have a plastic protective cap on your edging, inspect it and replace it if necessary.
  • If you follow all of the above recommendations you will end up with a lot of organic material and cuttings as a result of your spring cleanup.  If you have the space for it, consider composting ­this material.  Or, rather than throwing the material away to go in the landfill, check to see if there is a local recycling center that will take the material to compost it.
  • If you compost at home, do not include any weed seeds. Home composting does not heat up enough to kill the weed seeds.
  • As you go about your landscape doing these Spring cleaning tasks, you will begin to accumulate quite a bit of organic material and cuttings.  Most of it is very good organic matter that is great for composting. If you have space in your yard for it, consider composting it on site. This will provide you with a free soil amendment. Another option is to take it to your local recycling center where there might be a organic matter drop off location. However you accomplish it, composting is a better option for yard debris as compared to sending it to a landfill.

Spring cleanup is a time honored tradition among gardeners, as an excuse to get outside after the long winter months and to freshen up the landscape as it springs to life.  With Xeriscape, spring maintenance is even more important.   Since Xeriscape requires less regular maintenance through the summer, it is critical to get the summer started off right so that your Xeriscape will require very little maintenance throughout the year.

Regardless of the landscape style that you are maintaining, if you start off on the right foot in the spring you will be well on your way a beautiful landscape to enjoy throughout the coming year.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

 

Related Posts:

Project Highlight: Olde Town Arvada Landscape Makeover

Some of our favorite projects here at Outdoor Design Group are the landscape renovations. These kind of projects can be quite challenging to work on, but they often turn out to be the most rewarding once the project is completed, the site takes on a fresh new look and the plants have begun to fill in and show off.

A recent project for a non-profit organization near our office was completed a couple years ago, and the landscape plants have been looking great ever since. The landscape areas around the entrance to this organization’s building face mostly south and west with ample amounts of sunshine. With this in mind, we knew we could design a xeric planting plan that would look great throughout a long hot summer, replacing the old plants on site that were more water needy.

And because of the south facing entrance, we had the opportunity to utilize plants that are typically a little too frost tender for the Denver area. But that southern entrance to this building gave us warmer micro-climates we could play with to plant more unique varieties of plants for our area, such as Desert Willow and a selection of cacti.

Luckily our client on this project was a wonderful partner in the endeavor and was very open to the idea of a new landscape of low water and native plants for their freshly renovated office building. The before and after photos shown below offer a glimpse of the transformation:

Painted Lady Butterflies enjoying the xeriscape plants at this Olde Town Arvada landscape makeover.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

Related Posts:

New Bill Seeks to Encourage Use of Xeriscape in Common Areas

As water prices rise, and the climate warms, water conservation is becoming even more important. Colorado’s current population is estimated to be 5,695,564, nearly 700,000 higher than in 2010. That 13.2 percent growth is the fourth highest among all states over that time period.

All these new residents continue to put a strain on water supplies. It makes perfect sense then, to encourage Xeriscape, which, as we’ve written in the past (the-7-principles-of-xeriscape-revisited-30-years-later), is a form of landscape design that requires much less water.

We are pleased to hear of HB19-1050, a new bill in the Colorado General Assembly, that encourages the use of Xeriscape in common landscape areas.

Here is a summary of the bill:

Section 1 of the bill augments an existing law that establishes the right of unit owners in common interest communities to use water-efficient landscaping, subject to reasonable aesthetic standards, by specifically extending the same policy to limited common elements, which are owned by the community and available for use by some but not all of the unit owners.

Sections 2 and 3 extend existing water conservation requirements, currently applicable only to certain public entities that supply water at retail and their customers, to property management districts and other special districts that manage areas of parkland and open space.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

Related Posts:

7 of the Best Perennials for Fall Blooms in Denver

After a long hot summer in Colorado, the fall season may seem like a time to forget about your yard or garden and start focusing your attention indoors. But fall is a great time for some low-water perennial plants to look their best and shine in your xeriscape garden. The following list of plants take center stage during the fall season, and keep your landscape looking great beyond the arrival of the autumnal equinox.

Anemone (various species and cultivars)

Anemones are a great plant for the shadier areas of your landscape. While not as drought tolerant as the other plants on this list, they grow very well with afternoon shade and a medium amount of water.

Anemone

 

Tall Sedums, various cultivars

The tall sedums are a classic addition to the fall blooming garden. With low to average water needs, they are perfect for most xeriscape gardens.

Sedum

 

Hummingbird Flower, Epilobium canum latifolum (aka Zauschneria canum latifolium)

This cousin of the popular groundcover plant Orange Carpet California Fuschia (also a good late bloomer) has similar dazzling orange trumpet shaped flowers that pollinators adore.

Hummingbird Flower

 

Furman’s Red Salvia, Salvia greggii (several species and cultivars available in the Salvia genus)

There are so many different and wonderful plants in the Salvia genus that are remarkable additions to your low-water landscape. Furman’s Red Salvia is one plant we have raved about many times, and it never fails to keep us captivated by its lovely and numerous red blooms that drape these plants from summer heat to fall frost. One note of caution on this plant would be the hardiness. It is rated as only hardy to zone 6, so be careful where you place it. A warmer micro-climate location in your landscape would be best.

Furman’s Red Salvia

 

Blanket flower, Gaillardia (various cultivars available)

While the blanket flowers bloom more profusely in the heat of the summer, they continue to bloom into fall, bringing their brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red into the shorter days of autumn.

Blanket Flower

 

Goldenrod, Solidago (various species)

Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ is the plant pictured here. Who wouldn’t mind this kind of fireworks in their fall landscape? This North American native will grace your garden with many panicles of bright yellow flowers. While not as tolerant of drought as some other plants on this list, it is fairly adaptable to most conditions in Colorado. This plant has been unfairly blamed for hayfever and allergies in the past, but scientists now tell us that Goldenrod is not the cause of your fall allergies. It is likely caused by other plants such as ragweed.

Goldenrod

 

Plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Plumbago is an indispensable groundcover. It does well in dry shade, and that is the type of conditions we typically place it in. However, we are finding it seems to be adaptable to sunnier locations as well. The blue-violet flowers that appear on this plant in late summer are eye-catching, as is the red-orange fall color of the foliage as autumn grows cooler.

Plumbago

 

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

 

Related Posts:

Pin It on Pinterest