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Let’s Talk Dirt for May 1

by Susan Simons

HUERFANO- We’ve talked about five very hardy plants for a high-plains perennial garden: Russian Sage, Moonshine Yarrow, ‘Prairie Jewel’ Penstemon, ‘Red Rocks’ or ‘Pikes Peak’ Penstemon, and Pineleaf Penstemon. This week, we’ll focus on catmint and hyssop.

    Catmint (Nepeta faassenii) forms a handsome mound of green with bright blue flowers and a strong fragrance. It is about 15 inches high and 18 inches wide.  This variety will grow bigger every year, but it won’t reseed and spread little catmints all through your garden.  Still, one catmint is enough, in my opinion. You’ll want to deadhead it (cut the spent flower stems) after the first bloom to get more blooms later.

    Hyssop is regularly called Agastache or Hummingbird Mint.  Like Penstemons, they do best in well-drained soils. If you have heavy clay, leave these out of the garden until you’ve had a year or two to improve the soil by digging in aged manure, compost, and so on. They grow 2-3 feet tall and 18 inches wide the first year. After a year or two, they can be 2 feet wide. There are many varieties and each has a different fragrance (including bubblegum), but most have tall spikes of red, orange, pink, or salmon flowers. Hummingbirds love these flowers.  Sunset Hyssop (Agastache rupestris) is my favorite. Don’t cut the stalks until spring to help the plant winter over.

    Today is May 1 and one of the best small nurseries in our area opened yesterday.  Perennial Favorites is in Rye.  Check their website for directions to their location: www.perennial-favorites.com.  They are now open Wed. through Sat. 9-5 until the end of July.  Merrilee Barnett and Diana Capen have built this nursery over the years and grow over 1,000 varieties of perennials, herbs, and shrubs.  Hardy shrub roses are a specialty as well as native plants and succulents. They also sell fruit trees and vegetable starts.  They specialize in plants hardy for a range of ecosystems from plains to foothills, from 5,000-9,000 feet.  They do not use pesticides or chemical fertilizers in the nursery.  Best of all, they are available and willing to give advice.

    Another nursery specializing in dryland and native plants is Sunscapes in Pueblo:  sunscapes@comcast.net.  Bill Adams calls his nursery a ‘Rare Plant Nursery,’ and his catalog is online.

    We will talk about hometown outlets for plants in future columns and when their stock is available. Any questions, suggestions or comments? Please email  huerfanojournal@gmail.com.