|Courtesy of Irene Shonle|
Why would you select a native plant? Natives are wonderful in the mountains because they are adapted to our varied microclimates, they feed our wildlife, and they keep our unique plant heritage alive.
When I am deciding, I go straight to one of my favorite resources, the field guide “Meet the Natives” by M. Walter Pesman. This book has lots of high quality plant photos organized by family and color and it provides information on where and when to look for each plant when hiking in Colorado. Unfortunately, not all of the natives are available to the public so I then use the following website’s Colorado Native Plant Society www.conps.org 5 guidelines for obtaining native species.
· Check with local nature centers or experts for recommendations.
· Read labels on “wildflower” mixes to verify they don’t include noxious weed species.
· Ask for plants by their scientific name as common names may vary.
· Buy from reputable nurseries: ask about the origin of seed and plants.
· Seed / Plant gathering from public lands is typically prohibited (this includes National Forest Service Land).
To find a reputable nursery I use the same website and click on Committees/ Education and Outreach/ Horticulture and Restoration/ and finally Retail Vendors. The website has an easy to follow chart of native plants, their bloom times, heights, environmental conditions and elevation limits.
How I decided: I wanted to incorporate a new delicate but showy plant into the front of my garden. I am obviously thinking pink because of Valentine’s Day and, therefore, I chose Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum). This plant can be easy to miss since it is only 6 to 18 inches high, has dusky pink nodding flower heads, and fern like foliage that can blend in. When established it can form a great semi evergreen groundcover. Yet, like many plants we love, this plant surprises us and creates fluffy whimsical seed heads that remind us of a cross between the dandelions and feather dusters we played with as children. When the seedpods burst they look like pink smoke in the meadow. Finally, it had to meet my challenging mountain garden requirements!
· Zone: 3-7
· Elevation: to 10,000 feet
· Color/ Bloom Pink /Spring
· Culture: Best grown in well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates light shade and refers afternoon shade in hot summers. Prefers cool summer climates.
· Life Zone: Foothills, Montane, Subalpine, (common in meadows and aspen forests)
Challenge yourself to find a new favorite native!