Favorite Bushes and Flowers in Denver Like Climate

aloha2009March 12, 2012

With the nice weather, my mind keeps wandering to what I want to plant this year.

We have quite a lot of area to begin new plantings. I feel like a kid in a candy store with so much to choose from. For now, the areas are mostly sunny to sun/part shade. Most are in flat areas but I have a sloped area too. We've already got the trees planted, but now need shrubs and flowers. I did plant a little dead nettle and a few Annabelle Hydrangeas (under a tree) but besides that, I have a yard and not a garden.

If you were starting over (which I am), what plants would you just have to have in your garden?

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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Hmmm ... tough question. The things that I was attracted to when we started our garden from scratch 6 years ago, are not necessarily the things that performed well, or survived.

One suggestion I have is to make the flower beds bigger than you think they need to be. I way underestimated the amount of space that shrubs and perennials needed once full grown.

One category you didn't mention is ornamental grasses, but in this climate they do very well, and add to the winter interest in the garden. I've tried several, and my two favorites are Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Overdam', and Helictotrichon Sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass). Neither takes over like some grasses can.

I haven't had a lot of luck with shrubs. ALL of the Hydrangeas I planted died, along with ALL of the Hibiscus, Viburnum, Weigela, and even the Buddleias (Butterfly Bush) that I tried. The only shrub I have kept alive is Physocarpus opulifolius 'Coppertina', which has beautiful foliage. It is a bit of a sprawler though, so give it plenty of space.

Perennials I have faired a little better with. However, not everything has been successful. Thought I loved all of the pretty hybrid Echinaceas that were coming out when I started my garden. Most only did well for a year or two. Same thing with all of the shade loving Heucheras. Coreopsis is another that tends to shrink every year till gone. Very prone to root rot over the winter. Maybe in another climate I would have success with those. Here is what has done well for me:

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)

I'm not saying these are all my favorites, but they are things that come back reliably for me.

Hope this helps some.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 11:54AM
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david52 Zone 6

Peonies work very well. If your color scheme allows, I'd go for the deep red varieties, they just seem to work better. I have Karl Rosenfeld and like it a lot -


Thats a pretty standard variety, and should be easily available.

And I'd also suggest clematis vines. My favorite, and the one that out-performs everything else I've tried, is jackmanni and also a standard variety

And for long-blooming perennials, you can't miss with Salvia May Night, Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna', and Salvia Blue Hill - this latter will bloom all summer.

Check those out at high country gardens - http://www.highcountrygardens.com/Salvia

Here is a link that might be useful: link to pic of clematis

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 10:18AM
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kvenkat(5a Colo)

I will add a couple more to the shrubs list...

Old-fashioned lilac. Heard Miss Kim was okay too.

Potentilla. The yellow one does best. Some of the other colors fade in our strong sun.

Shrub roses. Persian Yellow, Harrison's Yellow, Austrian Copper Rose, Canadian Parks series and more.

You might want to check your library for the book "The Undaunted Garden" by Lauren Springer. She lives in Ft. Collins and the plants she grows in her gardens there are listed (with photos) in the book.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 11:38PM
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Hey David (or anyone else who knows),

Do rabbits tend to eat jackmanni, or clematis in general? They are so beautiful, but before investing in them I'd better find out if I'd just be feeding our neighborhood rabbits. The other vines I've tried have been nibbled up!


    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 1:28PM
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Bonnie, sorry to hear about all your plants that didn't take. Most of those I thought were fairly hardy. I do know that I will only plant the Annabelle Hydrageas here in Colorado. I dug some up in my old yard in the LATE fall since I knew we'd be moving the spring and planted in our retirement home. I literally dug a hole and placed the 3-4" root in the dirt. Almost every one was still there in the spring. With so much going on the next year though, I neglected to water them for quite some time and lost them all :(. I saw a few on your list I've been curious about so it's nice to know that they do well here.

David, I loved my old pink peony by the front door and was intoxicating scented! I didn't realize the red ones were the hardiest. I'll keep that in mind during selection. I was going to use the clemetis around the deck posts. We first have to get our patios layed before I can plant those. It should soften the area a lot by having those there. Since we only use that area during the summer, the clemetis should work perfectly. I don't care for the winter dry vines).

Kvenkat, I remember my old neighbor's lilac bush was to our West. Oh how we loved opening our bedroom window as the breeze blew the aromatic lilac our way. Thanks for the book recommendation. I think I remember getting that book many moons ago while planting my previous yard. I'll be sure to check it out.

FlowerGarden. My neighbor and I both had clemetis and had no problems with rabbits. We both had yorkshire terriers though so most rabbits didn't dare to come in our yard ;)

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 10:13PM
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david52 Zone 6

I haven't noticed any problem with clematis and critters - the deer will eat the roses where they're mixed together, and not touch the vines.

I know horses won't touch them either. But bunnies, I'm not sure. But it should be fairly easy to put a small-mesh fence or something around the base - not a bad idea anyway if there is a week whacker around.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 2:53PM
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kvenkat(5a Colo)

In the last place I lived before Colorado, several of my neighbors grew jackmanii clematis. Bunnies were bountiful but they did not seem to touch the vines so I think you will be okay.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 8:48PM
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There are so many beautiful viburnum varieties that do well around here. I have an American Cranberry Viburnum that I purchased for the fall foliage color, and it also has nice blooms and berries. I've seen Viburnum Juddii, Mohican, and many others around here.

I have a couple of Burgundy Lace Hydrangeas that grow beautifully and are some of my favorite shrubs, with soft, rich foliage (they leaf out pretty early in the spring) and a nice structure that doesn't die back at all in the winter. I grow clematis through them.

Those are a few that come to mind for me, in addition to the other great suggestions on this thread.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 2:02AM
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Thanks almondstriations for your very specific recommendations.

I had viburnums planted in my last yard by the PO and never knew specifically what they were. They flowered some but I don't think they ever looked like they were suppose to because of the shade. I have seen some in others yards and they are spectacular. I googled the names and I will place at least a few viburnums in the yard per your recommendation.

I'd love to have other colored hydrangeas but I had never heard of anyone have success besides with the annabelle's. Do you have any problems with the cold? Do you cover it in the spring if the temps dip down? I don't want a lot of fuss but these shrubs can be so spectacular a little extra love now in then is fine. With the clematis vining through the shrub, that must be quite the display! Sounds like your yard must be spectacular all around.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 9:47AM
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My 'Limelight' hydrangea just sits there. It's been the same size for three years and blooms stingily. Sigh. My oakleaf hydrangea keeps coming back - I'm hoping this year it takes off.
My mockorange is gorgeous - it's like a lilac, only wonderful for a few short weeks, but oh-so-worth-it for that time!
My weigela do pretty well, as do my boxwood, dogwood and the neighbor's viburnum that hangs over our fence. My Austin roses are the best - I absolutely love them.
As for perennials, we live in the middle of Bunny Estates and they leave 95% of my xeric plants alone - catmint (nepeta faassenii), hyssop (agastache), sundrops (oenothera), twinspur (diascia), valerian, daylilies, veronica , vinca and salvia all get ignored. They all have long bloom times (I have plants in bloom April-snowfall) and are low maintenance.
I am also a huge fan of ornamental grasses - miscanthus and chasmanthium are musts!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 10:37AM
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Aloha- I have never done anything at all to fuss over my Burgundy Lace Hydrangeas, BUT they are planted in a pretty protected area between our house and garage (an 8 foot wide space with a walkway running the length of it). Years after planting them (in 2005), I read that they like full sun. They definitely don't get that in my yard sandwiched between 2 structures, but I guess the strong CO sun they do get is enough to make them thrive and bloom well. They bloom in the late summer/fall, later than Annabelle I think. I have to prune them to keep the walkway usable, but they are so easy to prune and once every spring is enough. I never "box" them off, but rather prune each branch so it grows up instead of out into the walkway. Of course if you have plenty of space you wouldn't need to prune them at all. I will look to see if I have a picture of them handy.

I was hoping to add a couple of Limelight or Oakleaf Hydrangeas to my yard (which still has a lot of "blank canvas" areas), but have never seen them planted around here so am nervous that they won't do well. Would love to hear from anyone else who has tried them. I saw some at a garden center a couple of days ago and was especially attracted to the Oakleaf ones... Maybe someday.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 2:27AM
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Here's a picture from last summer showing a B.L. Hydrangea planted next to our garage with a couple of clematis vines winding through it. It's hard to tell where the hydrangea ends and the vines start because the foliage looks similar from a distance, but if you look closely you can see the brown stems of the hydrangea. They bloom in late summer/fall with cream colored flowers that fade to a dark pink/burgundy color. I like their velvety foliage and handsome structure as much (maybe more) than their blooms.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 1:56AM
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