HAS Board’s Favorite Performing Plants of 2020

by Erin Eisen
HAS Trustee

As it is February—still winter—and it is too early to do anything out in our gardens, we thought it would be fun to canvas some of our HAS Board members and ask what plant they thought stood out this past year. Some of their favorites just might become yours this next year!

Photo Credit:  Chella DiMenza

Chella DiMenza: This beauty is Eriophyllum lanatum ‘Takilma Gold’ or Oregon Sunshine. It has a wonderful bloom of bright yellow bi-colored flowers over a mound of evergreen woolly gray foliage. It blooms from spring to fall. A native wildflower, it is growing in a Zone 4 environment at 8500 ft. It likes full sun, with low/medium water. Deer leave it alone! The pollinators love the bright flowers. I have been able to divide the root ball of the original plant and move to other areas with great success.

Photo Credit: Krzysztof Ziarnek, KenraizCC BY-SA 4.0,
via Wikimedia Commons

Nancy Taylor:  When arriving in Colorado six years ago, knowing nothing (NOTHING) about gardening here, I learned that Lady’s Mantle can be a good friend, not a nuisance. A local landscaper had planted some in one of our semi-shady flower beds where over time they mushroomed into a gigantic width, encouraging division and donation. 

Interestingly shaped leaves and chartreuse flower bracts are redeeming qualities. The flowers can also be dried for arrangements. Lady’s Mantle Alchemilla A. mollis) grows 12-14″ tall.

Photo Credit: Terry Webb:

Terry Webb: I always thought this was Salvia ‘Heatwave’, a real hummingbird magnet. It survived the light freeze/snow in early September and just bit the dust with this past week’s hard freeze (late October). It has seen several years in my yard, which has poor soil and is windy and dry. I watered it only a couple of times this year although it is planted at the base of a large rock (which retains moisture). I leave it up over the winter, cutting it back in spring when I see a little green coming up. The problem is, it might be an Agastache (my investigation yielded confusion)! It grows to be about 36”x40“ high, and is deer- and rabbit-resistant.

Photo Credit: Terry Webb

Terry Webb: This groundcover, Teucrium cossonii, can be purchased from Perennial Favorites and High Country Gardens. Sometimes it is sold as T. aroanium. I learned from Panayoti Kelaidis, in a blog called ‘A Tangled Tale of Two Teucriums’, that cossonii is the only correct name. This is also deer- and rabbit-resistant, and seems to appreciate dry conditions. It is 2-3” high, and 28” wide at two years. Pollinators love it. I love it too.

Photo Credit: Allexia Arcuri

Allexia Arcuri: My favorite plant this year was my Opuntia Cactus “Peach Pie”, which I bought from Kelly Grummons. It is a cold hardy cactus and did not disappoint. I had five flower blooms, which were like beautiful little apricot jewels shimmering in the sunlight. During winter, the cactus pads develop a purple wash. This plant is truly a diamond in the rough!

Photo Credit: Plant Select

Diane Engles: The plant that has performed splendidly for me this year is Windwalker™ Royal Red Salvia (darcyi x microphylla Windwalker™) from Plant Select. I bought four plants in 2.5 inch pots this spring and they grew in quickly reaching 3′ tall by 2′ wide, blooming repeatedly throughout the summer into September. This salvia is hardy to Zone 5. I was concerned that the color might be hard to combine but it is a crimson, dusky red that looks good with many colors, including pink.  It was fun to watch hummers feeding on the blooms–it truly is a hummingbird magnet! I’m looking forward to an even better show next year.

Photo Credit: Susan Flynn

Susan Flynn: I love my Moonlight Broom (Cytisus scoparius ‘Moonlight‘ ). It is just lovely every single year, no matter what, and it is so fragrant as well. This is a picture I took this past spring. It grows up to 5’x5’ and is hardy to Zone 5b. 

Photo Credit : Erin Eisen

Erin Eisen: My favorite plant, unexpectedly, was an annual that outperformed itself in my front porch containers. This picture is a result of the growth of small 2-3” pots of Begonia Waterfalls Encanto Pink (Beekenkamp Plants), combined with Proven Winners’ Graceful Grasses Toffee Twist. 
I have some serious deer issues, but they stayed off the front porch and didn’t touch my planters (at least until the fall when they started getting hungry). I may have to try for a repeat performance this year!

Go Easy on the Yardwork This Fall and Help Birds

by Louise Conner
HAS Member

birds of colorado
Photo Credit: a/bertoli.org/birds-of-colorado/

Bird and wildlife populations have been taking a hit lately. To encourage more birds in your neighborhood, follow these tips when you work in your garden this fall.

Save the seeds. Seed heads of coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and other native wildflowers provide a helpful food cache for birds. Grasses—not the stuff you mow, but native species like bluestems or gramas—also make for good foraging after they go to seed. And letting other dead plants stick around can fill your property with protein-packed bird snacks in the form of insect larvae.

Leave the leaves. “Those leaves are important because they rot and enrich the soil, and also provide places for bugs and birds to forage for food,” says Tod Winston, Audubon’s Plants for Birds program manager. If a fully hands-off approach doesn’t work for your yard, consider composting some leaves and letting the rest be. You could also rake them from the lawn to your garden beds, or mulch them with a mower to nourish your lawn.

Leaf litter isn’t just free fertilizer—it’s also provides a patch of habitat for a variety of small critters. “If you’re digging in the garden and come upon these squirmy little coppery-brown dudes, and you don’t know what they are—those are moth pupae,” Winston says. A healthy layer of undisturbed soil and leaf litter means more moths, which in their caterpillar phase are a crucial food source for birds.

Build a brush pile. Rather than hauling away fallen tree limbs, use them to build a brush pile that will shelter birds from lousy weather and predators. Juncos, Black-capped Chickadees, and other wintering birds will appreciate the protection from the elements. Rabbits, snakes, and other wildlife also will take refuge there. You’ll find that the pile settles and decomposes over the seasons ahead, making room for next year’s additions. (And it’s a great place to dispose of your Christmas tree.)

Skip the chemicals. In most cases, grass clippings and mulched leaf litter provide plenty of plant nutrition, and you can skip store-bought fertilizers. Generally speaking, native grasses, shrubs, trees, and flowering plants don’t need chemical inputs. Save a few bucks and keep your yard healthy for bugs and birds.

Hit the nursery. Consider creating a bird-friendly backyard by planting native shrubs and trees. (Cooler temperatures also make fall a more comfortable time to tear out some turf grass and expand your native plant garden.) Golden currants, hawthorns, sumacs, and other native flowering shrubs produce small fruits that not only feed birds during the colder months, but can also provide a welcome pop of color when winter gets drab. Planted in the right place, evergreens like cedars and firs give birds something to eat and a cozy shelter. Fall is also a great time to liven up your property with late-blooming perennials such as asters or sages—and to buy spring- and summer-blooming wildflowers at a substantial discount.

To find species suited to your yard, just enter your ZIP code in Audubon’s native plants database. If you plant trees or shrubs this fall, they might not bear fruit this year—but come next winter, you and your backyard birds will be glad you did.

From: “To Help Birds This Winter, Go Easy on Fall Yard Work” by Andy McGlashen. View entire article at: https://www.audubon.org/news/to-help-birds-winter-go-easy-fall-yard-work

Species Tulips, Hardy Little Gems

by Diane Engles, HAS Trustee

Tulipa Kaufmanniana Ancilla
Photo Credit:  Thesupermat / CC BY-SA

When we think of tulips, we tend to think of the tall, showy Dutch hybrids. However, the earliest known tulips were discovered growing wild in central Asia and Turkey.  These showy little natives were introduced into Holland in the 16th century, and careful breeding over generations has produced the hybrids that we see on the market today.

The species tulips deserve their own place in our gardens. They are extremely hardy — some to zone 2; they naturalize well, and open wider than the hybrids to allow pollinators to collect their nectar and pollen. They are shorter than the hybrids and they look great in the front of borders, as naturalized drifts, or in rock gardens.

Species tulips have a wide range of colors and many are fragrant; some have multiple blooms per stem. A bonus with some of them is foliage that is beautifully mottled and striped, lending interest when not in bloom. There are many species readily available including kaufmanniana, batallini, and tarda to name a few.

The Gregii tulip (Tulipa gregii) originated in Turkistan. Many cultivars have been produced since its introduction in 1872. Gregii tulips grow 8-12 inches tall and have beautiful mottled and striped foliage. Some have multiple flowers up to 4 inches wide per stem. When open in full sun they attract pollinators. Gregii tulips are are most effective planted in groups of 10-15 bulbs.   All are hardy to Zone 3.


Pinocchio Public Domain Photo

Pinocchio (Tulipa humilis ‘Pinocchio’has ivory white blooms marked with scarlet flames and a bronze heart. It blooms in early to mid spring and naturalizes readily increasing the show over the years. It grows 6-10 inches tall.


Red Riding Hood Photo Credit:  High Country Gardens

Red Riding Hood (Tulipa humilis ‘Red Riding Hood’) was introduced in 1953. Still very popular, it won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Merit in 1993.  Its purple mottled leaves are beautiful on their own. Red Riding Hood’s bright scarlet blooms reveal a small black heart when open. It grows 6-12 inches tall and blooms mid-season.


Tulip Toronto Photo Credit:  Denver Botanic Garden

Toronto is also award-winning and one of the most popular of all Greigii Tulips. It has multiple flowers on one stem featuring tangerine-red petals tinged bronze-green at their bases Toronto looks great underplanted with Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa luciliae).  It blooms mid-season.


Another species of note with many cultivars is Tulipa humilis, which hails from Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Iran, and the North Caucasus region of Russia. Its preferred habitat is rocky mountain slopes. Many cultivars are lilac and purple as is Persian Pearl.

Persian Pearl Photo Credit:  High Country Gardens

Persian Pearl (Tulipa humilis ‘Persian Pearl’) is diminutive growing only 4-6 inches tall. Its blossoms are showy purple-red with a yellow center. Persian Pearl naturalizes easily and is hardy to Zone 3. It blooms early to mid season.


Blue Eyed Tulip Photo Credit:  High Country Gardens

The Blue Eyed Tulip (Tulipa humilis ‘Alba Caerulea Oculata’) steps outside the purple zone featuring fragrant white blooms with blue eyes. It grows 6-8 inches tall and is hardy to Zone 3. It blooms early to mid season.





Finally I’ll mention Tulipa clusiana, the Lady Tulip. It is an Asian species native to Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and the Western Himalayas. It is widely cultivated and has reportedly naturalized in parts of Europe, Greece and Turkey.

Lady Jane Photo Credit: Thomas Pusch / CC BY-SA

Lady Jane tulip (Tulipa cluisiana ‘Lady Jane’has blooms of rosy reddish-pink, edged in white; the flowers open to a white interior giving this variety a delightful candy cane look.  Lady Jane grows 12-14 inches tall, and blooms mid to late season. It is hardy to Zone 3.


Cynthia Open in the Sun Photo Credit:  Author

Cynthia (Tulipa cluisinana ‘Cynthia’)  has won the Royal Horticultural Society’s award of merit. Her exterior petals are red, edged in chartreuse and open to a chartreuse-yellow interior.  Cynthia grows 8-10 inches tall and is hardy to Zone 3.


These smaller species tulips are well worth adding to gardens large and small to provide beauty and food for pollinators in springtime.

Shop The HAS Fall Bulb Sale!

Where: HAS Cottage backyard, behind the fence — 224 Mesa Road

When:  Saturday September 19  
            9-12 Members Only, 12-3 Open to Everyone

HAS members receive 10% off $100 purchase!

We are holding our fall Bulb Sale Fundraiser in the Cottage Backyard. Shopping this sale will help support the gardens during this difficult time.
We have a selection of alliums with large globe shaped blooms and deer resistant daffodils.  We are also excited that our wholesaler has started carrying species tulips such as greggii and kaufmanniana.  We are offering 3 of these great naturalizers that look good in front of borders and in rock gardens.  

Let’s Stay Safe:

-Face masks are required
-Maintain 6-ft distance from others
-A limited number of people will be let in each section of the garden at a time to maintain social-distancing recommendations

-Pay with a check (preferred) or credit card at the event

Please browse list of bulbs below ahead of time, print, and mark your choices.


Ambassador    Zone 4, up to 4 feet tall,  $7 each

Gladiator    Zone 4 ,  3-4 feet tall,   $5 each 

Globemaster   Zone 4,  2-3 feet tall,  $7 each

Purple Sensation, Zone 3, 20-30″ tall,  deep violet purple, $1 each


Bantam   Zone 4, 18-20 inches tall,  mid season, $1.15 each

Blushing Lady   Zone 4, 16 inches tall, mid – late season, $1 each

Martinette   Zone 3, 14-16 inches tall,  mid season, 75 cents each

Poeticus recurvus   Zone 4, 6-18 inches tall, late season, $1 each

Red Devon  Zone 4, 16 inches tall, mid season, 75 cents each

Iris Reticulata

Katharine Hodgkin   Zone 5, 4-5 inches tall, early spring, 60 cents each


Pinocchio   Zone 3, 10 inches tall,  early-mid season, 75 cents each

 Red Riding Hood Zone 3  10 inches tall,  mid season, 75 cents each

Toronto   Zone 3, 12 inches tall, mid season, 75 cents each

Echinaceas Offer Easy Care Garden Beauty

by Diane Engles, HAS Trustee

White Echinacea with Eryingium
Photo Credit:  DIane Brunjes

Echinacea — bless you!  It does sort of sound like a sneeze, but Echinacea or coneflower routinely blesses our gardens with an easy to grow and hardy group of flowering perennials.  Echinacea has a long bloom season, is hardy, drought resistant, and is a pollinator magnet. If seed heads are left on, they will provide seeds for birds in fall and winter; goldfinches in particular love them. Echinaceas are also excellent cut flowers. Deer and other grazing animals will eat the young Echinacea plants but normally avoid mature plants, unless they are desperate.

Coneflowers are in the aster family and related to daises, asters, chrysanthemums, zinnias, and other members of this large family. There are nine species of coneflowers native to eastern and central North America. The most popular garden coneflower is the eastern purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Others in the genus are narrow-leaf coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia), pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida), Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) and  yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa). All are deciduous herbaceous perennials, and all have a taproot except for Echinacea purpurea. They form a slowly expanding clump that may be divided every few years to maintain vigor.

The wild-type echinaceas are typically 2 ft wide and 3-4 ft tall. Modern hybrids have been selected for smaller stature with some as small as 1 ft high. In the wild, a single plant can live up to 40 years. In the garden, they are best when divided every 4 years. Most are hardy to at least Zone 4. They prefer full sun but can tolerate a little shade; too much will make them leggy and prone to flop over. Coneflowers are not picky about soil type but don’t tolerate wet or mucky conditions.

Echinacea also has medicinal uses, primarily derived from Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia. Native American Great Plains tribes have used Echinacea as a cure-all for over 400 years. These Native Americans introduced European settlers to the plant and they used it to treat many diseases including diphtheria and scarlet fever. Echinacea was once the most widely used plant remedy in the U.S. and Europe until the dawn of the pharmaceutical age when it fell out of favor. Over the last couple of decades, echinacea has once again become a popular herbal remedy.  It is thought to boost the immune system to help fight off illness such as colds, flu and infections although scientific studies have had mixed results.

Photo Credit: Denver Botanic Garden

Narrow leaf echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia subsp. angustifolia) is native to central Canada and the central U.S. It ranges from Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the north to Arizona, New Mexico,Texas, and Louisiana in the south. Its petals are more drooping than purple coneflower and are a paler color. An interesting fact about Narrow-leaved Coneflower is that, in 1805, Lewis and Clark sent Thomas Jefferson samples of it from Fort Mandan in what is now North Dakota. Narrow leaf coneflower grows about 2 ft high and up to 1.5 ft wide. It is hardy to zone 4.



Photo Credit: Oris2012 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) can grow up to 3 ft tall and 1-2 ft wide. Its elegant narrow pale purple petals droop gracefully from a large central cone. It blooms profusely from early to late summer and is a good cut or dried flower. Echinacea pallida looks great in beds, borders and prairie style gardens, combining beautifully with rudbeckias and blue flowering perennials such as geraniums and catmints. It is hardy to Zone 3.



Photo Credit:  Mike Kintgen

Tennessee Purple Coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) was only the second plant to be put on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered List. The rapid expansion and development of the Nashville, Tennessee area and its suburbs in the mid to late twentieth century became an immediate threat to its habitat, which was limited to a 14 mile radius covering 3 counties in the area. A conservation plan was implemented and this coneflower now no longer needs protection. Plant Select®  has introduced it to celebrate its recovery. It holds its purple-pink petals erect and blooms from June to August. Growing to 2 ft tall and 18 inches wide, Tennessee purple coneflower is hardy to Zone 5.


Photo Credit: High Country Gardens

Yellow Coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) gets its paradoxical scientific name because it is the only yellow species. It is also known as Bush’s coneflower and Ozark coneflower. It is native to Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Yellow Coneflower grows 2-3 ft tall and up to 1.5 ft wide with fragrance as a bonus. Its petals are narrow with a large coppery cone. Echinacea paradoxa is the species most often used to make some of the double flowered and brightly colored coneflower hybrids available today.  It combines well with the purple coneflowers and looks great in native plant gardens and naturalized areas. It is deer resistant and hardy to Zone 5.


Photo Credit: High Country Gardens

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is native to moist prairies, meadows and open woods of the central to southeastern United States. Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery calls it  “one of the finest native perennials in the U.S.”  Widely adaptable to different soils and drought tolerant once established, it is hardy in almost every state. Its daisy like flowers can reach 5 inches across, with slightly drooping petals and a brown central cone. Its fibrous root system makes it more amenable to dividing and transplanting than the tap rooted coneflowers. Purple coneflower grows 2-5 ft tall, 1-2 ft  wide and is hardy to Zone 3.

Purple coneflower has given rise to a huge number of cultivars and hybrids. (Hybrids are most often created by crossing with Echinacea paradoxa.)  For instance, Bluestone Perennials offers 31 different echinaceas. I’ll stick to some tried and true selections which are widely available, but searching for the cultivars and hybrids will turn up many single and double flowers with colors ranging from green, white, pink, to various shades of orange and red. Some are also fragrant. It is truly an amazing assortment.

The hybrids need richer soil and more moisture than the species. A breeder of hybrid echinaceas, Terra Nova Nurseries offers a tip for success with the hybrids. Pinch off the blooms their first season to force the plants to form a good root system to get them through the winter. That does requires discipline! Plants in quart- or gallon-size containers won’t need this treatment if their root systems have had a chance to grow to fill the pot. But if you’re working with plants in small, 2-4 inch pots, it’s best to pinch off the blooms or remove the bloom stem.


Much effort has been put into creating double flowered echinaceas. There are new hybrid creations coming to market constantly. They typically have a pompom or “mop” center surrounded by ray petals. I’ve included photos of a few of the multitude of hybrids available. They vary in height and come in a wide range of colors. One thing to keep in mind when Echinacea shopping is that the double varieties produce little or no nectar and are generally not useful as pollinator plants despite being very showy to us in the garden. Most are hardy to Zone 4.

Left to right: Hot papaya, PUFF®Vanilla, CARA MIA™Yellow,  Cone-Fection™ Butterfly Kisses
Photo Credits: Plant Delights Nursery, Terra Nova Nurseries, American Meadows


Two excellent purple echinacea cultivars are Magnus (Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’) and  PowWow® Wildberry (Echinacea Purpurea ‘PowWow® Wildberry’ ). Magnus is a cultivar from Europe that won the Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of the Year award in 1998. This seed strain of our U.S. native was selected by Sweden’s Magnus Nilsson for its vibrant pinkish purple color and strongly horizontal petal formation. Magnus grows up to 4 ft tall and 18 inches wide. It is hardy to Zone 4. PowWow® Wildberry is shorter and has darker red-purple flowers. Growing to 20” tall and 16 inches wide, it will fit into the front of borders or in smaller gardens. It is hardy to Zone 5.

Left to Right:  Coneflower Magnus, Coneflower PowWow® Wildberry
Photo Credits:  Perennial Resource, High Country Gardens


Among the white cultivars and hybrids, PowWow® White (Echinacea purpurea ‘PAS702918’) is a very floriferous single. It sports pure white flowers with a golden yellow cone measuring 3-4 inches across with wide, overlapping, reflexed petals. It is a bit shorter than purple coneflower growing to 18-24 inches tall and 15-18 inches wide. It can be grown from seed. A taller cultivar that was introduced in 2004 is Fragrant Angel (Echinacea purpurea ‘Fragrant Angel’). It grows up to 30 inches tall and 2 feet wide. The sweetly fragrant blooms are up to 5 inches across with a double row of white petals and a coppery center cone. Both coneflowers are hardy to Zone 4.

Left to Right:  Echinacea PowWow® White, Echinacea Fragrant Angel
Photo Credits:  High Country GardensTerra Nova Nurseries


In the orange and red category, Tiki Torch (Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch’) and Tomato Soup (Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’)  stand out. Tomato Soup is a red hybrid single introduced in 2009 by Terra Nova Nurseries — a color break for the genus. The vigorous clumps are topped all summer with large 5  inch flowers of bright tomato red. It Grows up to 32 inches tall and nearly as wide. High Country Gardens states that it does require “perfect” growing conditions to do well in the western U.S. Tiki Torch was introduced in 2004 by Terra Nova Nurseries and has proven garden worthy over the years. Its 5 inch pumpkin-orange flowers are borne on vigorous plants that stand tall without staking. It can grow to 3 ft tall and 2 ft wide.  Both these coneflowers are hardy to Zone 4.

Left to Right:  Tomato Soup, Tiki Torch
Photo Credits:  Terra Nova Nurseries


Photo Credit: High Country Gardens

A standout yellow cultivar which does well out west is from the Sombrero® Series. Echinacea Sombrero® Sandy Yellow (Echinacea purpurea ‘Balsomselo’) is vigorous and fragrant with sandy-yellow flowers that hold their color in full sun. It is shorter in stature, growing to 22 inches tall and wide and is hardy to Zone 4.





Photo Credit:  American Meadows

A uniquely colored purpurea cultivar is Echinacea Green Twister (Echinacea purpurea ‘Green Twister’). The outer edge of the petals are yellow-green and bleed into a pale, lilac-pink in the center, surrounding a bronze cone. Green Twister grows to 3 ft tall and 2 ft wide. This cultivar may be started from seed and is hardy to zone 3. We offered Green Twister at our 2019 Gigantic Plant Sale and it sold out quickly.




Photo Credit: High Country Gardens

To end our tour of the echinaceas, we’ll look at an award winning hybrid that provides you with a ready made mix of colors — Cheyenne Spirit (Echinacea x hybrida ‘Cheyenne Spirit’). It will bloom the first year from seed and produces a mix of flower colors in red, orange, purple, scarlet, cream, yellow and white. Cheyenne Spirit won the 2013 AAS (All-America Selections®) award, Europe’s FleuroSelect Gold Medal award for garden performance, and has gained in popularity ever since. The plants grow up to 30 inches tall and 20 inches wide. Cheyenne Spirit is hardy to Zone 4.


For further reading, I recommend Dennis Carey and Tony Avent’s comprehensive article on Echinacea which was published in 2012. It covers cultivation, taxonomy, history and has detailed information on many cultivars and hybrids.  You can read it here: https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/purple-coneflower-echinacea-purpurea-plant

Plant Select® details the conservation of Tennessee Conflower here: https://plantselect.org/plantstories/a-conservation-success-story-tennessee-purple-coneflower/