All too often we hear the issue – “I wanted more color.” The problem being when this complaint is filed days after laying out and planting a garden. Patience and longevity are the values to embrace here. Sure, annual flowers can fill a space with immediate pink and purple hues, but the true gardener finds value and satisfaction in seasonal color, texture and form.
Operating in a region with many tourists and second home owners does offer it’s complications. Understandably, homeowners want to experience the beauty and [most often] color of the gardens they pay to have installed and maintained. If one is only in town for 2 weeks of the summer season, expectations run high for growth, bloom and maintenance perfection. This is where the value of the annual flower lies. However, let us stress and explain the importance of native perennial flowers and shrubs in the Colorado garden…
Native perennial plants are naturally adapted to Colorado’s climates, soils and environmental conditions. When planted in the proper site relative to local conditions, they are ideal in creating a sustainable landscape. Native plant gardens can also create wildlife habitat for a variety of birds, mammals and insects. Additionally, the water input requirements for native alpine plants should be less, which we must address in our environment, and especially in these recent times of drought in the region. Native perennials are simply more suitable for our Colorado mountain gardens, and over time (years, not days or even months) can grow and blossom into lush, colorful and textural landscapes that provide much more than the easy, instant gratification of annuals.
CSU Extension provides a great list of Native Herbaceous Perennials for Colorado Landscapes here.
In addition, check out the work of renowned perennial garden designer Piet Oudolf. Famous for his use of seasonality, color, texture and form as art in the garden, his work is inspiring in it’s designed, yet completely natural beauty. His work and books can be found here.
Please have patience with your garden and in the end you will be rewarded with natural beauty that ebbs and flows with every season throughout the years to come.