In the spirit of the Olympics, we've come up with some tried and true plants that have performed exceptionally well this season and deserve a medal or two. They have proven to be able to take the heat, drought and general climate of Colorado Springs. We will have these plants available for next season.
Gold Medal: Blond Ambition Blue Grama Grass
(Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition' P.P. # 22,048)
From: Western Prairies of North America
Previous awards: Plant Select 2011
The Gold Winner comes to us from the short grass prairies of Colorado. By contrast with the native blue grama, 'Blonde Ambition' produces chartreuse flowers (instead of purple) that grow
2-3 feet tall and is unlike any other ornamental grass in cultivation. This grass is
tough and beautiful, growing in a wide range of soils from sandy to clay, dry to medium moisture and full sun. Its profusion of big, showy blond seed heads, held horizontally above blue green leaves,
persist even after snow and will remain standing through fall and winter, providing texture for all seasons. As a native, it’s extremely cold hardy and is not bothered by
Silver Medal: Firespinner Ice Plant (Delosperma 'P001S')
From: South Africa
Previous awards: Plant Select 2012
Look out HOAs, there's a new plant in the neighborhood and it's loud and outrageous! Firespinner Ice Plant is one bright plant that will cover that poor, dry soil beside the driveway, or along a curb where the hose won't reach. Spreading 2 feet wide in 2 seasons, it forms a dense, colorful mat that chokes out weeds and retains soil moisture. This plant, another introduction from Panayoti Kelaidis of Denver Botanic Garden, has excelled in this hot, dry summer, flowering non-stop with two-tone flowers of orange and magenta. Resistant to heat, drought and deer, and happy in poor, sandy or infertile soil, it is a dream come true for many a Colorado gardener. Gets the Silver Medal until we see how it survives a few winters.
Bronze Medal:Sarah Bernhardt Peony (Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt')
From: China, Eastern Tibet
Previous medals: Award of Garden Merit, Royal Horticultural Society
Introduced in 1906 by the renowned French nursery Lemoine, ‘Sarah Bernhardt' is one of the classic Peonies that helped make this spring flowering perennial a garden favorite. We award it the Bronze Medal because it performs consistently well in Colorado, despite some pretty harsh conditions. Flowers are large, fragrant and double pink and make great cut flowers that last days after cutting. It also tolerates our full sun, is pretty care-free once established and is fairly drought tolerant. If that’s not enough, it attracts butterflies, but deer and rabbits will leave it alone! It’s been around for 106 years for a reason - beauty with fortitude.
Gold Medal: Eva, or Black Lace Elderberry (Sambucus nigra Black Lace)
Size: 8'tall x 3-4' wide, but can be pruned to fit any space
Previous medals: Silver, Royal Horticultural Society
This plant wins the Gold in Ornamental Shrubs because it has performed so well in the excessive heat, and dry conditions of this summer. Beautiful dark leaves that are finely cut give the appearance of a Japanese Maple, but outperform them by a mile. Pink flowers contrast against the dark leaves and produce fruit later in the season for the birds to enjoy, it's cold hardy, easy and so elegant. It has shown no signs of trouble from the heat or sun this summer, is not troubled by bugs or mildews, needs supplemental water, but oh the drama it provides. Plant in alone or as a group for a great effect. Can be pruned every year to keep small or let alone to grow 6-8'tall. This plant will not let you down and will keep performing years to come.
Silver Medal: Pinky Winky Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky')
From: Eastern Asia (China, Korea, Japan)
Previous awards: Award of Garden Merit, Royal Horticultural Society
Despite it's delicate sounding name, this shrub is as tough as can be. It has not suffered under the extreme heat and sun conditions this summer and is just starting it's show right now. Delicate but large flower spikes start out white then change to pink as they age, making it an interesting two toned shrub. Flowers now until frost, is drought tolerant once established, and is not bothered by pH. It can take full sun, but will require less water with some afternoon shade. Overall, Pinky Winky is hunky dory.
Bronze Medal: Rose of Sharon, Blue Satin (Hibiscus syriacus)
From: Asia (Korea)
Previous awards: Award of Recommendation, Royal Horticultural Society
Wow what a color! How can this not be planted in the garden? It adds a touch of tropcial, but it's winter hardy, tough and drought tolerant! Plus, it actually prefers it hot! This plant has shown no signs of struggle this year, so it is awarded the Bronze Medal. (We haven't over wintered this shrub for long enough to qualify it for the Silver or Gold position). It's major attributes are: flowers later in the season when there tends to be a lull in the garden, flowers until frost, and it can take some pretty dry conditions once it's established. Plus, it loves the heat! Deer resistant, attracts butterflies and oh, that flower color makes it a must have.