On the hunt for great plants | AspenTimes.com

On the hunt for great plants

M.G. Gallagher

We have some good nurseries here, and I certainly recommend a visit to them. Yet sometimes, we can’t find just what we want. Plain and simple, it’s tough for nurseries to carry a huge smorgasbord of plants that they might not sell. Given the downturn in construction, the economy, and the terrorist threats against our state flower, I don’t blame them.

Another great way to obtain plants is to order them. With the advent of the Internet, it is so easy. However, there aren’t many operations that specialize in plants for the southwest.

Well, let me tell you about an absolutely fantastic nursery and greenhouse operation in Santa Fe, High Country Gardens. It started in 1984 as the Santa Fe Greenhouses, and published its first High Country Gardens catalog in 1993.

Over the years, owner and Chief Horticulturist David Salman has dedicated himself to finding and cultivating some fantastic plants, many of which are hardy here, and many that are waterwise. I’d like to share some suggestions from their inventory, which includes some rare and special varieties you might not find elsewhere: Pussy toes (Antennarea) is an interesting rock garden plant in use here. McClintock is a very small variety native to Wyoming, and has evergreen leaves and stems that slowly creep over rocks and ground. It is an interesting alternative to creeping thyme for use in between stepping stones.

We’ve talked about the utility of Anthemis tinctoria varieties, but you should check out Anthemis biebersteiniana, or dwarf silverleaf marguerite daisy. It blooms earlier, and it’s much more compact than A. tinctoria. Dwarf silverleaf also has attractive, feathery foliage like its larger cousin.

Swallowtail columbine is an incredible and rare flower originating in the mountains of Pima county, Ariz. It bears large bicolor yellow and lemon-yellow flowers with 4-inch-long spurs. Incredible! As we can utilize a number of plants designated zone 5 through most of the valley, this is worth trying.

Fendler’s barberry is an underused shrub native to Colorado and New Mexico. After its abundant display of yellow flowers in the spring, it develops bright red berries that remain through the winter. Itis a good choice for part shade and richer soil.

Firewitch garden pink is a dianthus that tolerates drought well. Its sage-blue foliage and hot pink flowers are a good choice for late spring color.

Do you like foxgloves, but are tired of replacing them every two years? Try Digitalis lutea, hardy yellow foxglove. This yellow-flowered beauty is a long-lived perennial for richer soil and a moister garden. If you need a foxglove for sunnier, drier conditions, try “Spanish Peaks.” It’s a pink variety that is specialized to zone 5. This is just a handful of the number of excellent selections offered by High Country Gardens. They also carry some excellent gardening products, including deer repellents, and some special fertilizers for plants that don’t like the common stuff.

The highest compliments are in order to David Salman for his wonderful work at High Country Gardens.