Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.
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If the snowfall remains as light through the rest of the season as it is now, we may be in for a dry summer in 2010. Therefore, as you look at the plant catalogues for new flowers to place in your garden, consider some of the more drought-tolerant varieties that have proven hardy here in our zone 4 mountain environment.
Routt County master gardeners compiled the list below based on experience with these plants and research conducted by the horticulture professionals at Colorado State University and other Colorado-based green industry growers.
Artemisias: Silvery gray or while aromatic foliage
Ice plant: Flashy rich green leaves, small white summer flowers
Blanket flower: Brightly colored red and yellow daisies
Lamb’s ears: Fuzzy gray leaves with magenta flowers
Butterfly flower: Small, orchid-like orange, yellow and red flowers
Lavender cotton: Whitish-gray leaves, bright yellow flower heads
Blue grama: Flowering stems with odd inflorescences springing out at right angles
Little bluestem: Clump-forming grass with narrow leaves
Common thrift: Lilac, rose and white-tufted flower mounds
Penstemon: Narrow, bell-shaped flowers in red, blues and pinks
Coneflower: Showy pink, purple and white flowers
Poppy mallow: 2-inch purplish red mallow type flowers
Coreopsis: Golden yellow daisies, easy to grow
Russian sage: Tiny violet blue flowers
Creeping phlox: Showy mat forming pale to deep pink flower clusters
Stonecrop (sedum): Star-like flowers yellow, white pink and red
Gaura: Branching flower spikes bear blooms of white or pink
Yarrow: Flattish flower heads in white, pinks and yellow
Bachelor buttons: Narrow gray-green leaves, button flowers in pinks, blue rose or white
Mexican sunflower: Bold, orange Mexican sunflower
California poppy: Single, satiny petaled flowers from pale yellow to deep orange
Nasturtium: Bright green leaves in long stalks, long-spurred fragrant flowers in many colors
Cock’s comb: Plum flower clusters in brilliant shades
Periwinkle: Phlox-like flowers in white, pink or bright rose
Cosmos: Showy summer and fall blooms in many colors
Portulaca (moss rose): Lustrous petal flowers shaped like tiny roses
Dwarf “morning glory”: Sun-loving mounded plants in red pink and blue
Sanvitalia: Golden trailing zinnia look alike
Ganzia: Silvery-gray foliage, trailing stems flowers are yellow, white orange or bronze
Spider flower: Fluffy clusters of pink or white, flower with long protruding stamens
Globe amaranth: Clover-like heads in white pink, lavender or purple
Sunflower: Giant orange/yellow and black flower
Johnny-jump-up: Original pansies
Sweet alyssum: White pink or violet flower with sweet honey fragrance
To ensure success planting, it helps to first prepare your soil by loosening it down about a foot and amending it with compost. If you apply a couple of inches of mulch between the plantings, you’ll help conserve water in the soil and keep weeds from cropping up and stealing water from your plants. Also to help conserve water, keep fertilizer to a minimum because that causes lush growth requiring the plant to take up more water. Slow-drip and deep-root watering systems also will help keep water evaporation to a minimum.
Deb Babcock is a master gardener through the Routt County Cooperative Extension Office. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.