By Irene Shonle, CSU Extension in Gilpin County
Native plants are some of the easiest plants to grow if you are a mountain gardener. As I have been gardening up here for nearly twenty years, I have experimented with a lot of plants. Some have done great, and some have died. But, as I always say, “if you’re not killing plants, you’re not trying hard enough.”
Because I am a rather Darwinian gardener, I don’t coddle the plants in my garden. They have to make it despite drought, critters, winds, and long winters. As a result, many of the non-native species have been weeded out. Over the years, I have ended up with going from about 25% native to probably about 80% native. And I couldn’t be happier.
If you are interested in native plants, please come to the 4th Annual Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference on February 16th at the Auraria Campus in Denver.
The Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference promotes the inclusion of native plants in our landscaping to benefit pollinators and songbirds, save water, and restore the beauty and health of nature in the places we live, work and play.
Here is the link for registering: https://conps.org/mfm-event-calendar/#!event/2019/2/16/landscaping-with-colorado-native-plants-conference-4th-annual
There are many delightful topics to pique your interest, including a keynote and endcap, and two tracks (‘new to natives’ and ‘knows the natives’).
Keynote: The Meeting Place: Exploring the work of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center by Andrea DeLong-Amaya
“The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing that all of us share.” — Lady Bird Johnson, Environmental First Lady
The University of Texas at Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is the State Botanic Garden and Arboretum of Texas dedicated to inspiring the conservation of native plants. The Center’s gardens and arboretum display native plants from across Texas and serve as a model for creating beautiful, sustainable landscapes. The Center guides the development of urban and rural landscapes across the U.S. that incorporate native prairies, green roofs, rainwater harvesting and other sustainable features. It operates Native Plants of North America, the most comprehensive online native plant resource, and has set aside millions of seeds from Texas native plants for future generations and restoration activities.
In addition to educating children and adults about native plants and training citizen scientists to identify and report invasive species, the Center led the development of SITES®, a sustainable landscape rating system now used worldwide. Join Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for a virtual tour of how the Wildflower Center works to improve water quality, provide habitat for wildlife and enhance human health and happiness. Together we can make the world a better place with native plants
Breakout Session 1
§ New to Natives Track: Plant It and They Will Come: Habitat Gardening by Susan Tweit
§ In a world of climate change, droughts, heat waves, and imperiled populations of songbirds and pollinators, what can home gardeners do to make a positive difference? Plant habitat! Gardens that mimic the form and composition of nearby natural areas, and are based on native and regionally adapted species will attract and sustain songbirds and pollinators, and make a crucial difference in restoring nature in our everyday spaces. As Habitat Hero program founder Connie Holsinger likes to say, “Plant it, and they will come.” Join plant ecologist and writer Susan J. Tweit to explore how a habitat garden can fit into your landscaping, and learn what plants to use, plus design basics to draw on whatever your style or location.
§ Knows the Natives Track: Historic Uses of Colorado Native Plants by Jim Tolstrup
§ For Native Americans and early pioneers, Colorado’s native plants served as grocery store and pharmacy, and also supplied fibers and dyes. Understanding these historic relationships helps deepen our understanding of both plants and people. Join Jim Tolstrup to learn more about cultural uses of native plants, as well as how to cultivate these unique species in your yards and gardens.
Breakout Session 2
§ New to Natives Track: Integrating Native Plants to Your Existing Landscape by Ronda Koski
§ By now you are thinking that embellishment of an existing residential, commercial, or municipal landscape with Colorado native plants is the “right thing” to do. Perhaps you have your retrofitted landscape all planned in your mind and may even have drawn it out on paper. But how does one turn those ideas into reality? This session will provide you with suggestions to help you be more successful with the integration of Colorado native plants into an existing landscape.
§ Knows the Natives Track: Penstemons for Colorado Gardens by Mike Kintgen
§ Mike Kintgen is the Curator of Alpine Collections at the Denver Botanic Gardens where he oversees the Alpine Collection and eight gardens including the Rock Alpine Garden, Mount Goliath and South African Plaza. The drive to see alpines in their native environments has allowed him to observe alpines in Alaska, Hawaii, Argentina, Morocco, Spain, the Alps, and throughout the American West. Recently he completed a master’s in environmental science at Regis University exploring precipitation gradients and soil pH in Colorado’s alpine tundra. He is a coauthor of several books published by Denver Botanic Gardens.
§ With over 250 species the genus Penstemon is found in almost every environment in Colorado and Western North America. Most of the Colorado and the surrounding regions species can be grown in gardens and make excellent additions to Xeric, Native, and Rock gardens. We will cover some of the best species for Colorado gardens and some helpful hints to grow them in your gardens.
Breakout Session 3
§ New to Natives Track: Plant This, Not That: Colorado Native Plant Alternatives to Common Garden Plants by Deryn Davidson
§ Now that you know the benefits of using Colorado native plants in your landscape, how do you choose which ones to use? Selecting Colorado native plants can be challenging for gardeners because they are not familiar with their ornamental characteristics. Therefore, this session will list well-known non-native plants and then feature ideal Colorado native alternatives.
§ Knows the Natives Track: Native Grasses by Nick Daniel
§ Nick will give an overview of some well-known, and some not so well-known native grasses with horticultural importance. Using native grasses in your landscape is just as important as any other flowering plant in terms of water saving, wildlife value, and aesthetic. Cultural information and design considerations will be the focus of this presentation.
Breakout Session 4
§ New to Natives Track: Native Plants for Year-Round Interest by Irene Shonle
§ Native plants can provide interest all year round, even in winter. We will look at plants that shine in each season, and discuss many winning plant combinations as well.
§ Knows the Natives Track: Colorado Native Plants on Green Roofs? by Jennifer Bousselot
§ Colorado’s rich native flora provides a proverbial feast for green roof enthusiasts worldwide. The City of Denver has recently passed one of the most aggressive green roof initiatives in the world. You too can have a green roof – on your home or simply a birdhouse green roof. Explore the emerging topic of using native plants on green roofs with one of the worlds few green roof plant experts.
Closing Endnote: The Nature of Colorado’s Native Plant Industry: Unveiling the Mysteries Behind Supply, Demand and Selection by Pat Hayward
If the nursery industry was like manufacturing, we’d always have a good supply of the species we need; if plants were more like widgets. they’d be consistent in form and size. If our natural world was a controlled biodome, everything would grow beautifully and without losses or failures. In Colorado, however, our horticultural world is dynamic and unpredictable, making our gardening lives more “interesting,” and causing increasing challenges to our native plant industry.
In this session you’ll learn about native plant production, gain insights into demand dynamics and discover how new native plant selections come to market. What new techniques are growers using? How is consumer demand for natives changing? And why-oh-why can’t we ever get enough of the new varieties?
Hope to see you there!