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Let’s Talk Dirt for May22

by Susan Simons

HUERFANO- Week six and we need a plan.  I’m going to publish one and talk about it here, but it is just one possible arrangement. 

    If you haven’t put a curved edging in the front, do that first.  Then set in a few large rocks (or birdbath or garden art).  Rocks serve a couple of purposes: they become focal points for the design and they create a warmer, wetter microclimate for the plants.

    In the plan below, the most dramatic corner is the Russian Sage (RS).  Set it left or right. I put two “Karl Foerster’ grasses (KF) in the back row for height and background. Two ‘Prairie Jewel’ Penstemons (PJP) surround one KF with three Sunset Hyssop (SH)  in front of them. A cluster of three ‘Red Rocks’ Penstemon (RRP) rounds off that corner.

    At the other side of the plot, two ‘Moonshine Yarrow’ (MY) surround the RS with three yellow Pineleaf Penstemon (PP) in the front corner and a Catmint (CM) to the right of the PP cluster. The center has a cluster of three ‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum’ (AJS) with seven Snow-in-Summer (SS) in the front.

    When you plant this garden, it won’t look as full as the plan suggests. The circles on the plan stand for full-grown plants.  Fill in for now with rocks or garden art and mulch.

    I would choose wood chips for mulch.  There are all sorts of sizes and types available.

    I suggest a small to medium plain chip piled 1-2 inches deep. The mulch holds in moisture and helps protect the young plants.  Pea gravel is another type of mulch that seems to work well here.

    You do need to water regularly the first season. Test the soil around the base of the plant with your index finger. You want damp, not wet soil to the second knuckle. Test and water as needed every couple of days the first few weeks. Then taper off to once a week until in the fall, once every few weeks. After the first season, most plants will be very xeric, needing water only every couple of weeks or more often in hot, dry months, like July.

    There are a couple of outstanding local places to shop for plants in La Veta.   Both stock plants grown by local growers at high altitudes. These plants are already hardened off  when you buy them: that is, they have been left outdoors to get used to sun, wind, and nighttime temperatures.   Bob and Dana Baker, who own True Value Hardware, stock some trees and shrubs and a variety of perennials, annuals, and vegetable starts as well as pottery, mulchs, and soils.  Nancy Cox owns Whispering Oaks at 804 S. Oak.  She is a landscaper who sells trees, shrubs, perennials, pots, gravels, boulders, flagstone and garden furniture.

    Good luck!