In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
November, 2012
Regional Report

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Reflections of native endurance and adaptability.

The Beauty of Gardening with an Altitude

Autumn in the Rocky Mountain States can be unpredictable, with beautiful, warm days and crispy nights; the next day snow arrives to accent the landscape. It's a subtle reminder to evaluate your garden and make plans for future seasons.

As a child growing up here, I had the opportunity to experience high-altitude gardening firsthand. It didn't take long to acquire patience for getting plants to take hold and survive. I had to accept failure when hungry deer or rabbits browsed the garden. Often a severe, quick-moving hailstorm shredded the garden, but with time, plants would recover.

Plan Before Planting
When you get ready to "garden with an altitude," take note of our fluctuating climatic conditions, varying soils, lay of the land, and myriad of critters that will challenge your efforts. This will help you develop a garden style that will reflect your area.

I draw from my experiences of observing and taking notes on what Nature created. Studying the natural elements around you, such as gnarled junipers and pines and other natural vegetation, and noting tucked-away microclimates will greatly help you make appropriate choices for your garden. Remember, the right plant in the right location has the best chance of survival.

Think Plant Combinations
The native sages (Artemisia spp.) combine handsomely with Rudbeckia fulgida. Hardy to zone 3, these plants provide bold blooms and contrasting foliage from mid-summer to frost. Then in late fall and winter, the persistent dark brown cones of rudbeckia provide interest and texture in the garden.

Include some other durable perennials for the late summer and autumn garden. Some of my favorites include double bubblemint (Agastache cana) and Agastache rupesteris, Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia),autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale), Japanese anemone (Anemone tomentosa) and Sedum spectabile.

I really enjoy this time of year and cherish the native trees, shrubs, and other vegetation that have survived for decades. The reflection of the 80-year-old native cottonwood in the pond exemplifies endurance and adaptability even when an early snowstorm blows in for a visit.

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