Southwestern Deserts

October, 2006
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Firecracker Penstemon
I like the contrast between the bright green foliage and bright red flower spikes on this perennial wildflower (Penstemon eatonii). It blooms in late winter to spring, drawing hummingbirds to red, tubular-shaped flowers. Individual plants may die off after a few years, but they self-sow readily, so there are always more coming along. This southwestern native takes full sun or even partial sun and is cold hardy to 20 degrees F. It grows about 1 foot tall and 1-1/2 feet wide. Consider using penstemon as unusual ground cover plants. Their foliage looks good year round.

Clever Gardening Technique

Protect Vulnerable Seedlings
Flower and vegetable seedlings are succulent morsels for birds and rabbits. If seedlings are here one day and gone the next, you've probably got a hungry creature that pulled lunch right out of the ground. Protect emerging seedlings with bird netting or temporary fencing, such as chicken wire, while plants establish. Be sure the barrier can't trap creatures by mistake, and check frequently to make sure nothing is caught. If using chicken wire around individual plants, make sure it's far enough from the foliage that someone can't nibble through the wire! When plants are larger and have established root systems, remove the barrier.

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