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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.

 

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Project Highlight: Gateway Village General Improvement District

The city of Denver uses various improvement districts to construct, improve, and maintain neighborhood and commercial areas. One such General Improvement District (GID) has been created for a section in the large Northeast Denver neighborhood of Montbello, and is called the Gateway General Improvement District (GID). We are happy to have been contracted by The Gateway GID in hopes of helping to revitalize the neighborhood by updating the current landscape and introducing more drought-tolerant, colorful plant varieties for areas around the neighborhood. These areas include street tree lawns, detention ponds, a large drainage channel, and the monument sign area. The nearby green space study, as seen below, analyzes the nearby park spaces, most of which are too far from most homes in the GID to be within walking distance. This posed a great opportunity for us to not only revitalize the outdated and rundown landscape around the neighborhood, but to help create community green spaces, by utilizing the barren and unused detention ponds.

 

 

The streetscapes throughout the neighborhood contain endless amounts of water-guzzling bluegrass, along with landscape beds overflowing, overgrown junipers and bare spots where other shrubs have died. Our design has these streetscapes being updated to replace the existing sod and desolate landscape beds with drought tolerant shrub varieties and rock mulch to reduce irrigation requirements while also providing a cohesive and interesting landscape year-round.

 

 

In the detention ponds around the neighborhood, our landscape designs aim to incorporate a more usable lawn space with pedestrian access, as well as add colorful, xeric varieties of shrubs and trees to the perimeter of the pond at street level to increase passerby interest and beautify the area. These ponds present a huge opportunity to provide nearby families with accessible parks. Two of the detention ponds are located directly across the street from two elementary schools in the neighborhood. These particular ponds presented us with a huge opportunity to not only turn these unused areas into park spaces, but educational learning landscapes as well.

 

We collaborated with Denver Public Schools to incorporate interesting educational elements and various ecosystems that will coincide with lesson plans made by teachers. Ecosystems include a wetland ecosystem where students can do water testing and observe the various birds and insects, as well as a dryland ecosystem featuring drought tolerant, native Colorado plant varieties. Other educational elements include a pollinator garden that will feature colorful shrubs and perennials attractive to bees and butterflies, demonstrating the importance of pollinators.

 

 

A boulder garden can also be found in the new educational landscape designs with an array of boulders showcasing Colorado’s diverse geology. To offer a more structured outdoor classroom, we have designed the detention pond slopes to incorporate an amphitheater with siloam stone slab seating. To top it off, children can follow a concrete pathway painted with the planets from our solar system, down into one of the amphitheaters.

 

 

With the Gateway Village General Improvement District being large in scope, we hope to reach a vast majority of the community at and positively impact them with all of these desired improvements.

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

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Photo of the Day: Echinocereus Cactus at Kendrick Lake Gardens

June is finally here, which gets me thinking about cactus flowers. I wanted to share these photos I took of a gorgeous flowering cactus that was growing in a park called Kendrick Lake Park, located in Lakewood, Colorado.

The xeriscape gardens at Kendrick Lake are quite impressive. June is a good time to visit for the chance to see the various cacti  that dot the gardens, blooming in their early summer glory. On an interesting botanical note, I recently learned from cactus expert Kelly Grummon’s website (coldhardycactus.com) that in order for these cacti to bloom, one of the criteria is a cold enough winter. “If a cactus doesn’t get enough cold weather, it will not flower normally in the spring”, he says.

At first I thought the cactus in these photos was Echinocereus ‘White Sands’. But upon further inspection of the flower color and the size and density of the spines, I am guessing it might possibly be some variety of Echinocereus reichenbachii. Whatever species of cactus it happens to be, it is stunning to see it when blooming.

I recommend visiting Kendrick Lake in June to enjoy the cactus blooms, as well as many other stunning flowering xeriscape plants on display.

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

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Photo of the Day: Ghost Ranch and Yuccas

A few months ago, on a trip through New Mexico, I stopped by Ghost Ranch for a short visit and hike. Ghost Ranch is a beautiful area in north central New Mexico. It is a retreat and education center that belongs to the Presbyterian Church, but is open to the general public (all visitors must register with the visitor center). Though there is a long history to the Ranch, perhaps it has become most well known due to its links with the artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who once owned a home on a small portion of the Ranch.

Near the Ghost Ranch Visitors Center.

Chimney Rock

There is an easy and rather popular hike to a rock formation called Chimney Rock, not far from the Ghost Ranch Welcome Center. As I ambled along the trail to Chimney Rock on that cool and windy Spring day, I was delighted to come across what I believe to be Yucca harrimaniae, occasionally dotting the sides of the trail. This small and very charming yucca was quite numerous on areas along the hike.

Cluster of Yucca harrimaniae (or are they Yucca angustissima?)

In the limited research I did, I discovered that there is also a possibility that the yuccas I saw at Ghost Ranch might also be Yucca angustissima. And it seems that there is disagreement among botanist about these two species of Yucca, and what distinguishes them. For the sake of simplicity, and at the risk of being wrong, I will refer to these yuccas as Yucca harrimaniae. Some people call Yucca harrimaniae by the common name Harriman’s Narrow Leaf Yucca.

I have seen these in the Denver area, planted in gardens, but I had never before noticed them in the wild, as I am usually accustomed to only seeing Yucca glauca, which is quite common in natural areas of northern and eastern Colorado. That is why I was so excited to see them. The Yucca harrimaniae leaf color is less blue-grey than Yucca glauca (glauca or glaucous translates to “blue-grey” in Latin), and I think Y. harrimaniae exhibits more of the curly white “side hairs” than the Y. glauca. Like all other yuccas, these will sport a beautiful flower stalk in spring to early summer.

My 11″ shoe as a size comparison.

 

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

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Photo of the Day – Firecracker Penstemon

Penstemon-eatonii_IMG_2049_430PX

I took this photo of a Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) in my garden back in early June. We here in the Denver area were enjoying spring like weather at the time, and so the vivid red blooms of this beauty were still captivating the pedestrians in my neighborhood who passed it by. Despite its namesake, these blooms do not make it to July 4th, as this plant usually begins flowering in early to mid Spring. Behind the penstemon, you can see a blue salvia providing a lovely blue-purple counter note to the penstemon’s brilliant warm red. This particular plant is looking a little leggy. The bed where it resides gets a bit more moisture than the plant should be receiving. It is my understanding that many (if not most) of the penstemons do better on the drier side. For useful information on how best to care for penstemons, please see the list of penstemon growing tips on the High Country Gardens website. One characteristic I appreciate about Firecracker Penstemon is the foliage can be evergreen throughout our Denver winters. And, if you have hummingbirds visiting your yard, they might be happily feeding on the tubular flowers this gorgeous plant produces.

I started this plant indoors, from seed. Many of the penstemons are very easy to acquire this way. This ease of starting from seed obviously translates to the the plants reseeding themselves in the garden. However, I find they are only mild re-seeders, and not nuisance re-seeders like lamb’s ear or blanket flower.

I highly recommend you add a splash of red to your landscape with Firecracker Penstemon. If red is not the color you are after, there are several other penstemon species and hybrids to choose from that offer diverse flower colors on plants that are perfect for low-water landscapes.

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

 

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