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 (

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:

Plant Select® details the conservation of Tennessee Conflower here:

Colorado’s Apple Heritage

by Diane Engles, HAS Trustee

Old Apple Orchard in Bloom
Photo Credit:

Recently I came across an article about the rediscovery of the Colorado Orange apple, which was thought to be extinct. I was surprised to find out that in the late 1800’s there was a successful apple industry both along the Front Range including Fremont County and in the Western part of the state.

Though they were told that orchards wouldn’t grow in Colorado due to the high elevations, settlers in 1800’s experimented with different growing techniques and varieties and created a thriving apple industry.  In 1922, there were 48,630 apple trees in Montezuma County, and at least 50 different varieties of the fruit. The apples varied widely in color and flavor and keeping quality. Some apples were bred for cider-making as well as eating. These apples were called “spitters” due to tannins that made them unpalatable, but excellent for making hard cider. Contrast that number with the 10-15 varieties carried by local nurseries today.

Fremont County also had a thriving apple industry which began with Jesse Frazer of Florence who was the first man in the Colorado Territory to successfully raise apple trees. In 1867, he planted his first orchard and established the first Apple Tree Nursery in Colorado. He is also known for discovering and naming the famed Colorado Orange apple.

Other orchards followed and a thriving industry was established which lasted well into the 1930s. An article from the Cañon City Daily Record dated April 14, 1905, documents five boxes of Cañon City’s finest apples being delivered to President Teddy Roosevelt while he was at camp in Colorado, compliments of the Fruit Growers Association.

York Imperial Apple Trees near Montrose
Photo Credit:  Denver Public Library
r a captio

However by World War II period production had declined and commercial orchards started to die out. According to a Cañon City Daily Record article from 1990, the fall of the orchards in the area largely had to do with the climate, with the Western Slope offering more stable spring weather than Fremont County.

On the Western Slope of Colorado, the Grand Valley apple boom occurred about 1895 when promoters planted thousands of acres, in five, ten, twenty, and forty-acre plots. Western Slope fruit won prizes throughout all parts of the U.S. for the fruit’s beauty, color, and taste. In 1908 fourteen varieties of Grand Valley apples won sweepstakes at Cornell University.  Montezuma County apples took three of four gold medals in the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.Two years later, they earned 101 of the 104 ribbons bestowed on apples at the Colorado State Fair.

The Maiden Blush, Chenango Strawberry and Duchess of Oldenburg heirloom apples found in Colorado. Photo Credit:  Adalyn Schuenemeyer /Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project

The Colorado apple industry declined due to several factors. Orchards failed due to poor management by orchard owners from the east who did not know how to manage fruit production in a harsh climate. Over-irrigation in soils with poor drainage allowed salts to build up in the soil, stressing the trees and making them susceptible to disease.

The rise of the Red Delicious apple, which became a national craze in the 1920’s due to its brilliant red color, caused growers to plant only one or two varieties of apple, including Red Delicious. (Red Delicious at one point accounted for approximately 70% of apples produced in the United States). Orchards with just one or two varieties were more vulnerable to diseases and crop-killing frosts. In the past, orchards with many varieties might lose some trees to a freeze, but not all.

Another big contributor was competition from Washington State with its milder climate and focus on producing large quantities of just a few varieties. At some point growing an apple orchard in Colorado became a losing business proposition.

Some of these old orchards still remain, as well as trees hidden in subdivision backyards, sections of hay fields, abandoned homesteads, and open spaces. The Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project  located in McElmo Canyon near Cortez, Colorado, was created to identify and rescue these old varieties. The founders, Addie and Jude Schuenemeyer were running a nursery in Western Colorado and kept hearing from old-timer customers nostalgic for apples they had known as kids. Their interest piqued, Jude and Addie  began to search out old historic trees and learned to graft so that these old apple varieties could be saved. They were able to obtain DNA testing from USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Genetic Resource Preservation in Ft. Collins for assistance with identification. Photo Credit:  Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project

In their own words: “Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project (MORP) works to preserve Colorado’s fruit- growing heritage and restore an orchard culture and economy to the southwestern region.”

“ By searching historical books, reports and records, we have so far documented 436 varieties of apples that were planted in Colorado prior to 1930. Many of the apples on this list we find still growing in our landscape on trees up to 100 years old or older. Others, nearly 50% of the list, are now considered lost/extinct. This great diversity disappeared not because these varieties did not grow well here, rather because many were simply not shiny red apples representing the standard of the time. “  Photo Credit:  Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project

One of the apples they really wanted to track down was the famous Colorado Orange. It is special because of its Colorado origins (Fremont Country), color and flavor profile. Its coloration is yellow with a reddish blush; the flavor profile is complex — tart and sweet with a bit of a citrus bite.

Scheuenmeyer had tried and failed to find a tree in Montezuma County. He knew of its Fremont county origins and managed to get in touch with Paul Telck, the owner of a 40 acre historic orchard.  Telck thought he had a Colorado Orange tree, so the Scheuenmeyers made the trek to Fremont County. The age and location of the orchard added up as did the coloration which matched the USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection’s watercolor representation. Scheuenmeyer submitted samples for DNA analysis and found that the tree didn’t match any other known apples. They then matched the apples to the watercolors’ color, shape, and cavity characteristics. The results were good.

On the left is the historic watercolor used for comparison.  It is from A U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library illustration of a Colorado Orange from Fremont County, in 1909.  On the right is a photo of a real Colorado Orange apple.  Photo Credits:  Courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture, Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project

Another degree of confidence came when MORP was able to match the apples to a wax cast of a Colorado Orange. Scheuenmeyer says:  “We took actual apple samples from the possible Colorado Orange to compare to a wax cast of a horticulture specimen (from the CSU Archives) that grew over a 100 years ago. Yes, there was a Colorado Orange in the box! Its shape and color match to the real life apples. We cannot taste or smell or cut it open for comparison, of course, but this may be as close as we get. Now we are 98% sure give or take 3% we have found the elusive Colorado Orange apple.”

There are now young grafted Colorado Orange trees growing at MORP; I will wait impatiently until they are able to offer them for sale.


Young grafted trees at MORP.
Photo Credit:  Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project


While doing research for this article, I found several excellent resources online that further detail the Colorado apple industry’s history and the search for the Colorado Orange. I highly recommend them for further reading:

An Apple Revival Near Four Corners Is Restoring Hundreds of Historic Fruits — and the Local Ag Economy 

The Comeback of the Endangered Colorado Orange,  an Apple

The Elusive Colorado Orange

A Long History of Fruit Production in Colorado

Penstemons — Tough and Beautiful Natives


by Diane Engles, HAS Trustee


If you are looking to plant more water-wise and pollinator-friendly perennials this spring, a top contender is the penstemon. This North American native plant produces colorful tubular flared blooms on vertical flower spikes — perfect feeding stations for hummingbirds and other pollinators. The shape and color of the leaves vary depending on the cultivar. They can be oval, lance-shaped or needlelike with colors ranging from green or blue-green to deep purple. Penstemons are related to foxgloves and snapdragons as is evidenced by the similarity of their blossoms. There are over 250 species of penstemons native to the U.S. and over 800 cultivars and hybrids.

Cardinal penstemon (Penstemon cardinalis) showing the “beards”
Photo Credit:  High Country Gardens

“Penstemon” is derived from the Greek words penta and stemon, referring to the flower’s five stamens, four of which are fertile and one sterile. They are also known as beardtongues due to the pollen-free stamen (or staminode) which protrudes from the flower and is covered by small hairs.Penstemons are long blooming and do well in a drier climate such as ours. They are especially happy in loose gravelly soil with good drainage. Penstemons tend to bloom in early summer just after the spring bloomers have faded. They come in sizes ranging from dwarfs that tuck nicely into rock gardens, to waist-high plants that can bring color and movement to the back of the border. They have a broad palette of colors ranging from soft pinks, lavenders and yellows, through more intense shades of violet, rose, and orange, as well as being known for electrifying reds and blues. Deadheading can result in a second flush of bloom, but leave one or two stems to set seed as penstemons are short-lived compared to other perennials.

Pineleaf Penstemon (P. pinifolius) comes in orange and yellow and is one of the shorter penstemons. The older variety is a vivid orange-red, and there is a yellow variety called “Mersea Yellow”. Pineleaf Penstemons have green needle-like foliage with loose spires of blossoms reaching about 10-12 inches in height. Plant Select® has introduced a variety called SteppeSuns™ Sunset Glow.  Plant Select® describes it as: “This selection is more than 20 years in the making with each clone and generation an improvement in color and plant size. SteppeSuns™ Sunset Glow is a warming orange color that blooms for a very long season.”





Left to right: Orange, yellow, and Sunset Glow Pineleaf Penstemons
Photo Credits:  High Country GardensHigh Country Gardens, Plant Select


Photo Credit: JerryFriedman
/ CC BY-SA (

Rocky Mountain Penstemon (Penstemon strictus ) is hardy to Zone 4. Native to Wyoming, Utah and western Colorado, it thrives in rocky or gravelly soil but will adapt to others. One of the longer-lived varieties, it has a basal mat of rounded green foliage with bright blue blooms rising 2-3 feet tall. I first saw it growing in the wild and was delighted to find it will adapt to life in a garden.


Photo Credit:  High Country Gardens


Palmer’s Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri)  is a tall penstemon hardy to Zone 5. One of the few fragrant penstemons, It has gray green foliage topped in early summer by honey-scented light pink flowers on spikes 4-5 feet tall. Native to southern California, Arizona and Utah, it thrives in arid climates and dry, sandy or gravelly soils. It will not tolerate clay.   


Photo Credit:  Plant Select®

Carolyn’s Hope Penstemon (Penstemon x Mexicali) is a lovely pink and hardy to Zone 4. It is a Plant Select® variety, a hybrid between Mexican and American wild penstemons. Carolyn’s Hope was developed in Colorado for the purpose of raising funds to support breast cancer research at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. It is of medium height, 14-18 inches tall and 12-15 inches wide. Cheerful pink, white-throated tubular flowers and dark pink buds rise above narrow, glossy green foliage and are attractive nearly all summer long. Deadhead in order to prolong bloom. Seedlings are often not true to variety color, so pull (if desired). 


Photo Credit:  Plant Select®

Penstemon Pikes Peak Purple® (Penstemon- Penstemon x mexicali ‘P007S’ ) is another mexicali hybrid with violet-purple flowers all summer, hardy to Zone 4. It has narrow dark green leaves that form an attractive mound of medium height 14-18 inches tall and 12-14 inches wide. It thrives in a range of soils and will take some shade. I grew Pikes Peak Purple® last year and loved its intense coloration. It looks lovely with yellow flowers as companions.



Blue Mist Penstemon (Penstemon virens ) in the author’s garden

We’ve barely dipped our toes into the wide variety of penstemons that are readily available. You will find these and many others at your local garden centers.


If you want to dive deeper into the world of penstemons, you can check out the American Penstemon Society.  This organization was founded in 1946 and continues their mission of studying, hybridizing and exchanging seed among members today.


It’s Lavender’s Year!

(Published originally in the March 2020 HAS News and Announcements)

by Diane Engles, HAS Trustee

Photo Credit: National Garden Bureau


The National Garden Bureau has declared 2020 to be the “Year of the Lavender.”  Lavender is a deserving plant in any year! With outstanding intense fragrance, silvery foliage and xeric qualities, it is a multi-talented addition to any garden.

Cultivated for centuries, this drought-tolerant member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family has 47 species. It has a wide range of native habitats, ranging from Cape Verde and the Canary Islands, across Europe to northern and eastern Africa, the Mediterranean, and from southwest Asia to southeast India.

In addition to lavender’s floral show, essential oil can be extracted from the blossoms, and dried lavender is used in sachets and potpourris. Lavender is also used as a culinary herb. The blend “Herbes de Provence” is used in soups and roasts; lavender also finds its way into desserts such as lavender shortbread and lavender ice cream.

Most lavenders are actually subshrubs and will develop woody stems over time. They are deer- and rabbit-resistant — many gardeners with deer problems interplant them among plants they wish to protect. While they resist deer and rabbits, pollinators including hummingbirds and native bees find them hard to resist.

Lavender thrives in full sun, heat, and fast-draining, low-fertility soils. Lavenders do not like saturated roots, so avoid planting them in compost-enriched, water-retentive soils. If you have clay soil, amending with inorganic mulches, such as gravel or sand will help. All lavender types need little or no additional fertilizer, and after establishment are xeric. However, during their first growing season in the ground, they need regular irrigation several times per week to establish themselves. Once established, water much less frequently, but deep watering is their preference. In spring, wait until new growth starts to prune. Pruning too early can kill the plant.

Lavender can be grown in containers. Terra cotta pots are good choices since they tend to keep soil on the dry side. Use a soil that provides sharp drainage. You can over-winter lavenders that aren’t hardy in our area. Bring plants indoors before frost arrives and store them through winter in a cool room near a bright window or in a cool basement with grow lights, watering just enough to keep plants alive. Move plants outside in spring when all danger of frost has passed.

The most common types of lavender which are hardy in our area are English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and lavender x intermedia (Lavandula x intermedia) which is a hybrid cross between English Lavender (L. angustifolia) and Portuguese lavender (L. latifolia). Spanish (L. stoechas) and/or French lavender (L. dentata) are only hardy to Zones 7 and 8, but may be container grown in our area.

One of the oldest English Lavenders, Munstead (L. angustfolia ‘Munstead’), was introduced in 1916 by the English garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. It is hardy to Zone 5. Newer cultivars Hidcote Blue and SuperBlue, are hardy to Zone 4. There are over 40 cultivars of English lavender with colors ranging from violet to pink to white. Sizes range from compact at 10-24 inches tall and wide to 2-3 feet tall and wide, so there is an English lavender for every garden! English lavender blooms from late spring into summer. Deadhead or harvest flowers to promote continued bloom.

Photo Credit:  National Garden Bureau

Munstead (L. Angustifolia ‘Munstead’) is one the hardiest and easiest to grow varieties of English Lavender. Hardy to Zone 5, its large blooms mature to a bold, deep blue-purple color. It is a smaller lavender growing 12-16 inches tall and 24 inches wide. It grows well in containers and works great in hedges or knot gardens.

Photo Credit: National Garden Bureau

Hidcote Blue Lavender (L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote Blue’) has deeply colored violet-blue flowers and a compact uniform habit. It is an excellent choice for edging walks and paths, where the aromatic flowers and foliage can be easily enjoyed. It is also a good variety for drying, as it holds its color well. One of the most cold-hardy lavenders, Hidcote Blue is hardy to Zone 4.

Photo Credit:  Plant Select

Wee One (L. angustifolia ‘Wee One’)  is a Plant Select variety, introduced in 2017, hardy to Zone 5. It is a dwarf English lavender with compact heads of lavender-blue flowers and dark blue calyxes. In flower, the mature plant is only about 10″ in height. Slow growing and very xeric, Wee One has excellent heat tolerance as well as  cold hardiness. It is a great addition to a rock garden or small spaces.

The intermedia hybrids (Lavendula x intermedia)  are also known as lavandin. These hybrids extend the blooming season as they flower later than English lavenders. They typically begin blooming in July or August and end in late summer. Two well known and proven varieties are Provence and Phenomenal. They are taller than most English lavenders reaching up to 3 ft x 3 ft.

Photo Credit:  High Country Gardens

The cultivar Provence (Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’ is hardy to Zone 5. Its foliage is silvery green and its blossoms of lavender-blue can reach up to 3 inches long.  It also boasts one of the strongest fragrances of the lavenders.  It reaches 12-18 inches tall by 24-36 inches wide in colder zones. In warmer climates it can reach 3ft x 3ft.

Photo Credit:  National Garden Bureau

Phenomenal lavender is a newer cultivar with violet flowers. It is known for its cold hardiness and tolerance to heat and high humidity and is hardy to Zone 5. The plants grow into a mounded shape, with purple flowers on tall stems in mid-summer. It is a tall plant,  growing 30-32 inches tall and 30-36 inches wide.

Spanish lavender (L. stoechas) is only hardy to Zone 7. You may see it offered at local garden centers, so be aware that we must grow it in containers here and winter it over, or use it as an annual. With its perky “rabbit ear” blooms, it makes a great focal point in a container where the fragrant leaves and flowers can be enjoyed close up. Spanish lavender grows 14-16 inches tall and 15-18 inches wide.

French lavender (L. dentata) is not the same as Spanish Lavender (L. stoechas) although the names are often used interchangeably. French lavender is known as fringed lavender due to its serrated leaves. This lavender forms a bushy shrub of grey-green leaves that is easily pruned and thus one of the best types for forming into topiary shapes.

The flower heads on French and Spanish lavender aren’t useful as a culinary lavender because the flavor has heavy camphor or piney tones. The blooms do make nice lavender wands and potpourris. Harvest flowers for drying before any of the blossoms start to turn brown.

Photo Credits:  National Garden Bureau

Above are Spanish lavender Bandera Purple in a container and a closeup of Spanish Lavender Double Anouk.

We plan to have eight lavenders at our HAS Gigantic Plant Sale this year.  We’ve ordered English  lavenders Wee One, Munstead, Hidcote, Hidcote Blue and Twickle Purple.  We have selected three well known and proven lavender intermedia hybrids: Grosso, Provence, and Phenomenal. We’re excited about lavender in 2020 — come find one or more for your garden!

In the HAS Gardens: Evergreens

Article by Diane Brunjes, HAS Gardener, published in February 2020 HAS Announcements

Photo by Diane Engles

Living in a northern climate as we do, makes one appreciate anything that brings color and life to the garden in the winter. And there seems to be nothing that does that better than conifers. Strictly speaking, the ones we are referring to are evergreens. There are however, conifers that are NOT evergreens, like larches (Larix), the bald-cypress (Taxodium) and the dawn redwood (Metasequoia), which all lose their needles for the winter. But the ones we will focus on now are the ones that retain their needles over the winter – hence, ever-green.
Many gardening experts and designers say that your garden should be composed of approximately 30% evergreens. This figure can be adjusted to suit your tastes, but how many of us can claim that we get anywhere near that percentage? But considering that most of the garden is D-O-N-E by late October, and really doesn’t get going again until April, that leaves at least five full months of drab – unless you plan and plant carefully.
Of course, many perennials bring winter interest, like sedums, opuntias, grasses, agaves, penstemons with its evergreen foliage, hellebores, coneflower seedheads, and artemisias are just a few of the flowering herbaceous plants that we can rely on for winter interest. At least, until that two-foot snowstorm with 40 mile-an-hour winds occurs, and then most of our interest is plowed under until the next growing season.
That’s why adding evergreens to your garden can be the year-round boost that you might be looking for without realizing it. One of the evergreens we will be adding to the sensory garden this year is Pinus nigra ‘Bambino’. The name alone is enough reason to grow it, but its dwarf nature and tight branching certainly are other reasons. Forming a low wide dome over many years, this evergreen eventually becomes so dense, that reaching in with a gloved hand every two or three years becomes necessary to clean out the accumulation of fallen needles. Although it looks very “pet-able”, the needles retain the stiffness of the Austrian pine, and if you do clean, do it carefully. Look for it in the HAS Gardens this spring.
Another evergreen we are excited to be adding is the very narrow exclamation point Juniperus scopulurum ‘Blue Arrow’. A selection of our native Rocky Mountain juniper, this is even narrower and slightly smaller than J. ‘Skyrocket’. Its new growth tends to be slightly bluer, but this varies per specimen, as we have seen some that definitely trend more towards green. We will be adding three of these in the Demo Garden. This kind of exclamation point has several design functions. In one spot it will “stop” the eye, in another, it will be simply a backdrop to other features, and in a third spot, it will be that exclamation mark that is so useful in the garden if not overused. In ten years, these junipers will be 12-15 ft tall x 2 ft wide.
If you are looking for design inspiration for your own garden, be sure to google The Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk, England. Some conifer gardens can feel heavy and even a bit oppressive, but Adrian Bloom makes amazing use of grasses, vibrant-stemmed dogwoods, and deciduous plants to bring lightness and movement to his garden. Be warned, though, if you watch the video on their website, you will think it is just a perennial garden! Bloom used to use, very heavily, heaths and heathers (which we can’t grow) but in the last decade has begun to move to the above-mentioned groupings. This has horrified some conifer garden purists, but makes a very welcome change, we believe, for everyone else.
Happy Gardening, and as always, come visit the Gardens!

Photo of limber pine courtesy of Nebraska Forest Service

 P.S. If you would like to reserve one of these trees that will be offered at the Plant Sale, please click on the links provided below.

Reserve a Hung Hai Tung Crabapple

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