In the HAS Gardens: Evergreens

Article by Diane Brunjes, HAS Gardener, published in February 2020 HAS Announcements

Photo by Diane Engles

Living in a northern climate as we do, makes one appreciate anything that brings color and life to the garden in the winter. And there seems to be nothing that does that better than conifers. Strictly speaking, the ones we are referring to are evergreens. There are however, conifers that are NOT evergreens, like larches (Larix), the bald-cypress (Taxodium) and the dawn redwood (Metasequoia), which all lose their needles for the winter. But the ones we will focus on now are the ones that retain their needles over the winter – hence, ever-green.
Many gardening experts and designers say that your garden should be composed of approximately 30% evergreens. This figure can be adjusted to suit your tastes, but how many of us can claim that we get anywhere near that percentage? But considering that most of the garden is D-O-N-E by late October, and really doesn’t get going again until April, that leaves at least five full months of drab – unless you plan and plant carefully.
Of course, many perennials bring winter interest, like sedums, opuntias, grasses, agaves, penstemons with its evergreen foliage, hellebores, coneflower seedheads, and artemisias are just a few of the flowering herbaceous plants that we can rely on for winter interest. At least, until that two-foot snowstorm with 40 mile-an-hour winds occurs, and then most of our interest is plowed under until the next growing season.
That’s why adding evergreens to your garden can be the year-round boost that you might be looking for without realizing it. One of the evergreens we will be adding to the sensory garden this year is Pinus nigra ‘Bambino’. The name alone is enough reason to grow it, but its dwarf nature and tight branching certainly are other reasons. Forming a low wide dome over many years, this evergreen eventually becomes so dense, that reaching in with a gloved hand every two or three years becomes necessary to clean out the accumulation of fallen needles. Although it looks very “pet-able”, the needles retain the stiffness of the Austrian pine, and if you do clean, do it carefully. Look for it in the HAS Gardens this spring.
Another evergreen we are excited to be adding is the very narrow exclamation point Juniperus scopulurum ‘Blue Arrow’. A selection of our native Rocky Mountain juniper, this is even narrower and slightly smaller than J. ‘Skyrocket’. Its new growth tends to be slightly bluer, but this varies per specimen, as we have seen some that definitely trend more towards green. We will be adding three of these in the Demo Garden. This kind of exclamation point has several design functions. In one spot it will “stop” the eye, in another, it will be simply a backdrop to other features, and in a third spot, it will be that exclamation mark that is so useful in the garden if not overused. In ten years, these junipers will be 12-15 ft tall x 2 ft wide.
If you are looking for design inspiration for your own garden, be sure to google The Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk, England. Some conifer gardens can feel heavy and even a bit oppressive, but Adrian Bloom makes amazing use of grasses, vibrant-stemmed dogwoods, and deciduous plants to bring lightness and movement to his garden. Be warned, though, if you watch the video on their website, you will think it is just a perennial garden! Bloom used to use, very heavily, heaths and heathers (which we can’t grow) but in the last decade has begun to move to the above-mentioned groupings. This has horrified some conifer garden purists, but makes a very welcome change, we believe, for everyone else.
Happy Gardening, and as always, come visit the Gardens!

Photo of limber pine courtesy of Nebraska Forest Service

 P.S. If you would like to reserve one of these trees that will be offered at the Plant Sale, please click on the links provided below.

Reserve a Hung Hai Tung Crabapple

Reserve a Gila Monster Oak

New Plants from Plant Select for 2020

by Diane Engles, HAS Trustee, published in the January 2020 HAS Announcements

As we enter 2020, we are excited about new plant introductions that have been selected to grow well in our mountain climate zones. Plant Select®  has introduced seven new garden-worthy perennials this year. Plant Select®  is a nonprofit collaboration of Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens and professional horticulturists whose mission is to find and distribute the very best plants for landscapes and gardens from the intermountain region to the high plains and beyond. I’ve listed below these new introductions in alphabetical order by Latin name, with a brief description.

Dwarf Leadplant (Amorpha nana),  hardy to Zone 3. This cultivar of a small native shrub sports ferny, bright green foliage and is decorative when not in bloom. In June it produces purple spikes with a sweet honey-like fragrance. As a bonus, it doesn’t require pruning to look good. The common name of lead plant refers to the once-held belief that the plant was an indicator of the presence of lead in the ground. It is a pollinator magnet, attracting  bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and other beneficial insects.

Because it is a legume, lead plant can fix nitrogen with the help of a symbiotic soil-dwelling microbe and create its own fertilizer. This advantage keeps it looking green and healthy in poor soils. Once established it takes care of itself in the landscape, requiring little water. Leadplant looks great in mixed xeric plantings with Dwarf Blue Rabbitbrush ( var. nauseoChrysothamnus var. nauseosussus), Butterfly Plant (Asclepias tuberosa), Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata), and grasses.

Next on the list, with a lovely name is Mongolian Snowflakes (Clematis hexapetala), hardy to Zone 5.  Mongolian Snowflakes is not a vining clematis; it forms a mound of foliage about 18 inches tall and up to three feet wide. Its bloom season is from May through the summer creating a mounded snowstorm of 2-inch ivory-colored flowers. This clematis has multi-season interest since the spent flowers give way to shiny, feathery seed puffs that are showy in their own right. Mongolian Snowflakes will adapt to low-water conditions and can be xeric once established. It will also take partial shade as well as full sun. Use it in xeric plantings and rock gardens as well as mixed perennial borders.


Golden Candles (Thermopsis lupinoides), hardy to Zone 3. One of the earliest blooming perennials, Golden Candles is a welcome sight after our long winters. Thick clusters of bright yellow buds emerge and open into golden spires. It will keep blooming into June. Lupine-like foliage persists nicely the rest of the summer adding texture to the garden. Golden Candles can reach two to three feet tall and 20-30 inches in width. It is another garden-worthy member of the pea/bean family from Asia, that adapts well to our climate.


Indigo Blue Dragonhead (Dracocephalum ruyschiana),hardy to Zone 3. This new Plant Select® introduction is easily grown, maturing to a tidy mound 12-16 inches x 10-12 inches. Its needle-like leaves become decorated with fragrant dark blue flowers in early summer. Dragonhead refers to the flower shape which resembles a snapdragon. Indigo Blue Dragonhead will thrive in a dry meadow or rock garden setting and is tolerant of a wide range of soil types. It can tolerate some shade; water needs are low to moderate.



Leprechaun Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum ‘Leprechaun’),hardy to Zone 4. This compact artemisia forms a dense, symmetrical mound of aromatic, whorled silver-green foliage.  Leprechaun will grow in in full sun, part shade, or full shade! It prefers loam or sandy soil. It brings a soft texture to borders and rock gardens. An interesting use recommended by Plant Select® is to plant it as a hedge resembling boxwood in xeric locations.



And finally for this year, green and silver forms of Lamb’s Ears (Stachys lavandulifolia), hardy to Zone 5. Lamb’s Ear is a wildflower from Turkey. Both cultivars will take some shade, and prefer loam or sandy soil. Their water needs are low to moderate and they are deer- and rabbit-resistant.

Pink Cotton Lamb’s Ear (Stachys lavandulifolia – Green Form). This cultivar makes low mats 8-10 inches tall and 12-18 inches wide. Foliage is green, soft, and attractive. In late spring to early summer,  flossy clusters of pink trumpets appear which are suggestive of pink cotton candy.



Summer Frost Pink Candy (Stachys lavandulifolia ‘P020S’ – Silver Form) . An elegant, silver sport of Pink Cotton Lamb’s Ear grown primarily for its silver-haired leaves — this selection blooms slightly less vigorously than its parent, Pink Cotton Lamb’s Ear, and is primarily valued for its foliage which bring color and texture to a border or rock garden.



We will try to order all these plants for our Gigantic Plant Sale (May 15-17) depending upon their availability. Watch this newsletter for the plant sale Master List later this spring to check for any of these great plants that catch your interest!

Photo Credits:  All photos from Plant Select, except Mongolian Snowflakes which is from Juniper Level Botanic Gardens

Schedule your gift to Colorado Gives Day

Amazingly, 2019 is nearly over! We hope you’ll make 2020 another successful year for the HAS gardens by contributing through Colorado Gives Day.

You can schedule your donation online now through December 9 to take place on Colorado Gives Day, December 10. Colorado Gives makes it very easy to donate to Horticultural Art Society and 2,500 other non-profits in Colorado.

You can also give throughout the year or make a recurring donation. View our profile with this link or go directly to our Colorado Gives donation page with the button below.

HAS receives no funding from governmental sources.

Annual Meeting, Dinner, and Silent Auction

Saturday, November 2, 2019
5:30 pm

Join us for our exciting Annual Dinner and Meeting at the historic Patty Jewett Clubhouse, 900 E. Espanola in Colorado Springs. The clubhouse, built in 1910, combines turn of the century charm with wonderful renovations and beautiful views of Pikes Peak.

Enjoy the social hour, a wonderful buffet dinner and our annual meeting including a report to the members and trustee election that precede a fascinating lecture by Bill Adams, owner of Sunscapes Nursery. To become an HAS member or to renew your membership online, please visit hasgardens online now.

Annual Meeting Speaker: Bill Adams, owner of Sunscapes Nursery

“Rock Gardening with Plants from Near and Far”

Bill’s passion started with a rock garden he built at his home in Pueblo and culminated in Sunscapes Rare Plant Nursery that specializes in uncommon plants that can be grown in our region. Bill has traveled far and wide in pursuit of hardy native and unusual dryland plants.