Labor Day Weekend Sale

Starting Wednesday, August 27, and going through Monday, September 1, all the plants in the Nursery will be 25% off. In addition to the discount, there is a drawing Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for free plants, at 1 p.m. each day. Hours: 9-5 each day.

Saturday, the drawing is for a Pollinator Collection, a trio of native plants that will attract butterflies, bees, or hummingbirds.


On Sunday the drawing is for Clematis viticella ‘Venosa Violacea’.  Here’s a picture of the one growing on the shade house at the nursery.  Despite being trampled in May, this clematis came back covered in blooms this month.  They are easier than you think!

013Monday we’re giving away a flowering shrub for the xeriscape.

If you find you need to fill in some gaps in the garden, now is the time to do it. Plants still have time to get well established before winter, and will be ready to take off in your garden next spring. We have fruit trees, shrubs, and a great selection of perennials. Monday, September 1 is the last open day of the season, the nursery will be closed after that. Don’t miss out!






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Early August in the Garden

Echinacea tennesseensis is looking good!


We have so many mushrooms growing in the shady grassy areas, I think I could make my own mushroom compost!


This bumblebee was only one of many buzzing around the ‘Kent Beauty’ Oregano.


Russian sage and Mexican hat are in peak form. Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is actually native to Afghanistan, and Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) is native to Colorado. Such is the treachery of common names!

015Swallowtail butterfly and butterfly bush.018

Drop by anytime in August, Wednesday through Saturday, 9-5, to see more blooms and butterflies and bees and birds!


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Planning the Perfect Pollinator Garden

To create a good habitat for bees, birds and butterflies, you need to provide the basics: food and water and places for them to hide from predators. Here’s a hummingbird hanging out near our honeysuckle vine. They like the vine for the nectar and the shelter it offers.

Rufous hummingbird

Rufous hummingbird

It’s important to provide food all during the growing season, because it doesn’t help the bees if your garden is full of flowers in May and then there’s nothing for them to eat in August or September.  Provide a diverse ecosystem and you’ll attract lots of hummingbirds and butterflies and bees.


All the butterflies like pincushion flower. And so do the hummingbird moths (AKA sphinxmoths.)


Bees are everywhere here at Perennial Favorites. They’re not aggressive or mean, they work right alongside me as I plant and weed in the garden.  I know that some people are severely allergic and can’t take the chance of getting accidentally stung, but for the rest of us, bees are good companions in the garden.

Bee on Russian Sage

Bee on Russian Sage

Remember that you cannot spray insecticides if you want to attracts pollinators.  There’s been a lot of news lately about the neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals that are particularly toxic to bees and birds.  We have never used them here and never will! Unfortunately, saying “NO to Neonics” is not enough. I’m afraid that many of the big growers will just switch to another insecticide that could be even more toxic but that hasn’t received the bad press that Neonics have.  When Neonicotinoids were first introduced, they were considered a much milder, more gentle insecticide that what was used at the time,  mostly organophosphates.  (We’ve never used those either!)  The only insecticides we use are soap and neem–both of those are certified organic insecticides–and even with them we are cautious and don’t spray when bees are out. Organic certified doesn’t mean that it’s safe for bees.

This is Kniphofia ‘Mango Echo.’ Kniphofia is native to Africa where they have a bird much like our hummingbird called sunbird. Sunbirds drink nectar from the kniphofias, and so do our hummingbirds.  It’s called convergent evolution (something to Google in your spare time.)034 038Here’s a picture of the hummingbird garden. All the birds flew away when I came out to take the picture. In the bottom left corner you can see a red salvia blooming. Salvia darcyi is native to Mexico and a favorite of hummingbirds. I’ve never been able to get it to survive the winter here, but I’m trying again. I want it to live!  That’s the honeysuckle vine that was in the first picture of this post. You can see why they like it. They can sit on a branch and survey the feeders and the flowers. The agastache is just starting to bloom, too, and that is a fantastic late summer plant for hummers and butterflies.




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An Abundance in August!

Since we’re opening this Friday, August 1, I thought it might be fun to show you what we have in the nursery right now. It’s surprising really, how many plants we have! The first picture is of Rudbeckia ‘Denver Daisy.’  This variety, selected from the native black-eyed Susan, is one of my favorite flowers–long blooming, cheerful, attractive to butterflies–Plant Select picked a winner when they added this one to their collection.

006The lavender blue pincushion flower ‘Butterfly Blue’ has been blooming for months and shows no sign of stopping! The kniphofia in  front of it is ‘Echo Mango,’ a really nice Torch Lily that blooms longer than some.010

Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit.’


This picture is not in the nursery, it’s in the hummingbird garden, but we do have buddleias looking gorgeous in pots, too. I just wanted to include this picture because of the hummingbird.


I don’t know who likes the butterfly bush more, hummingbirds or butterflies.

The yellow flower in the trough below is Ratibida columnifera, AKA Mexican Hat. It’s a very drought tolerant native plant. The one in the trough is a very dwarf form. Usually they grow 18″ tall, but this one is two years old and only 3″ tall. I love the form of it. I’m going to save seed this year and see if it will come true from seed.


Delosperma ‘Fire Wonder’ is a fantastic color in ice plants.  Very long blooming, too.005

We have lots of native shrubs ready that we were out of in the spring, including Apache Plume, the native currant, and Juneberry.

Hope you can visit us soon.








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Hail, NO!

We’ve had quite a few questions on our Facebook page about hail damage, and what to do with plants that have been broken or shredded by hail. I know gardeners all along the Front Range have had to deal with one or more hail storms this year. First let me offer condolences.  Can there be anything worse than watching your beautiful garden wiped out by a fifteen minute storm? Sometimes it can happen in five minutes! We have suffered from two very serious hail storms here, one that was so bad it broke the shade house rafters and sent the roof crashing down on the poor plants underneath. Most of the perennials in the garden were crushed. I can honestly say I know your pain.

A feeble attempt to protect our grapevine from a hailstorm.

A feeble attempt to protect our grapevine from a hailstorm.

After the initial shock of the destruction, it’s good to wait a day or two before rushing out and pulling up plants in disgust. The grapevine, despite losing a bunch of leaves, still gave us grapes that year. Let the hail melt and the plants have a day of sunshine to help them stand back up on their own.  It’s easier to see the real damage then, and to see what might have a chance of coming back this season. Perennials, in general, are not killed by hail. Even annuals can recover if the damage isn’t too great and there is enough time left in the season. Hail in June, while depressing enough, isn’t as bad as hail in August. Trim any broken stems and pick up the leaves that were knocked down. If you don’t clean the plants a little, you leave wounds for diseases to start.

Here’s something to think about for the future. Plants native to high mountain ranges, like alpines and many rock garden plants, aren’t as easily damaged by hail as something with big lush leaves like a hosta.  Dianthus, creeping phlox, creeping thyme, creeping veronica….any creeper!….will be less damaged than other plants. Grasses, ornamental and native, are not easily damaged and they are quick to recover.

What about vegetables? Most of them are very vulnerable to hail. The leafy greens are easily shredded, but they’re also quick to recover. The real loss comes from something like a tomato or pepper that takes so long to produce and can be slow to come back.  I wish everyone could plant tomatoes and peppers in a cold frame or greenhouse that has some protection, both from the cold and from the hailstorms. Late frosts and hail are part of gardening in Colorado, so we have to adapt.  Shade cloth or hail cloth are a little expensive initially, but you can use them for years.  Again, I’m offering this as something to think about for the future.

If you have more questions, please feel free to ask us on Facebook, or email directly.



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In the Garden this Morning

This guy has been hanging around, nibbling on the Harison’s Yellow Rose in the garden. Luckily that rose is vigorous enough it can handle a little nibbling.

001 003The two lavenders in the picture below,  ‘Royal Velvet’ and Lavandula nana alba, have been in the garden in this same spot for over 20 years. They’re happy here, and have even reseeded. 008

How much do I love the color of this black hollyhock! It’s so rich and deep. The picture doesn’t do it justice–I had to take two pictures to try to capture it. The pale yellow one below it is an Alcea ficifolia selection. The common name for this species is fig-leaf hollyhock, and it is much more perennial than the species most people grow, Alcea rosea.  Not that there’s anything wrong with A. rosea, it reseeds and has a wonderful color range.

015 016 018

Below is Heliopsis ‘Summer Sun.’ Not xeric, really, but it can tolerate a lot of neglect. I tried to kill it in the last two drought years by forgetting to water it and digging up half of it when I decided I needed to plant something else nearby. It ignored my insults and is a beauty at the moment. It’s a great perennial to grow for bouquets.


Another great midsummer bloomer, this is Achillea  ‘Butterscotch.’  It’s very similar to ‘Terracotta.’  Yarrows are super tough and long blooming. I’d like one in every color, and they come in almost every color of the rainbow except blue. I especially like the ones with silvery or gray foliage.

026I forgot to take a picture of the Heuchera ‘Ruby Bells’ blooming in the hummingbird garden, and I may soon devote an entire post to coral bells. I think I’ve finally figured out how to grow them–it only took a couple of decades. Hope your garden is doing well and that you have a great weekend!

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Pruning and Grooming the Summer Garden

If you have plants that look floppy and open like this Salvia in the picture below,073

instead of like this one, nice and full and upright–007

then you might want to consider cutting it back almost to the ground. Just leave the lowest leaves at the base and cut off all the faded, bloomed-out stems.  I know you hate to lose the color, but the flowers are almost done anyway. If you do it now it will rebloom in another four to six weeks and perk up your August garden.

Other perennials that will benefit from this type of treatment are Nepeta (catmint), Centranthus ruber (Red Valerian) Geranium ‘Brookside’ (cranesbill) and Aquilegia (columbine).  You only need to leave the lowest leaves, new leaves will soon grow and fill in to make the plants look nice again.

Are there perennials that you don’t want to deadhead or prune in summer? For me the answer is yes–if I want a plant to reseed, I don’t want to remove the old flowers.  I allow most of my penstemons to go to seed because I like it when they self sow.  Here’s Penstemon ‘Rondo’ a few weeks ago in full bloom. I love this penstemon! It’s so hardy and drought tolerant and the color range is fantastic. And, it self sows, adding new colors every year. We planted a couple of Rondos in this corner of the garden, and now there are five or six, each a slightly, or even wildly, different color. 005It’s almost completely done blooming now, as you can see in the next picture. I’ll leave a few of the stems alone, for seed, and cut the others down to the basal foliage. If you deadhead it, this penstemon reblooms in late summer–one more reason to like it!


Penstemon glaber, a native in Southern Colorado, also reseeds here, so I let some of the old stems stay and cut the rest back.  I know there are people who don’t bother to cut back the old flowers, and other people who can’t stand the sight of a seed stalk in the garden–it’s really a matter of personal preference, and there isn’t a big right or wrong to it.

Some perennials bloom so much in the summer that they sort of bloom themselves to death. One that comes to mind is Gaillardia (blanket flower). Here it is in my garden.


Butterflies like it, as you can see. It will bloom like this until October! That much energy put into flowering doesn’t leave much energy to grow foliage and the plant can be exhausted by fall. To ensure that it comes back next year, cut it back hard in mid to late August.  That will give it a chance to grow lots of healthy new leaves and get stronger before winter. It needs a good number of leaves at the base of the plant to be able to winter over and bloom well for you next year.

Just a reminder: Perennial Favorites is closed in July, but we will reopen in August.


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Hummingbird Plants—On Sale NOW!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey say timing is everything, and our timing was a bit off with these salvias.  They weren’t ready to sell when we opened in May, but they are now! Hummingbirds like the red salvias and so do we, and they need to be planted soon to have time to establish this summer. Salvia greggii forms have not been very winter hardy in Rye, although many of our customers in Denver and Pueblo have success with them. Even if you treat them like an annual, they are worth planting for their summer-long gift of color and the nectar that the hummers adore.

Agastache is another great genus to plant for hummingbirds, and we have more of them that are ready now, too.  The picture above shows agastaches and red salvias together. The picture below is of a swallowtail butterfly on an agastache. The butterflies love them, too.Butterfly on Agastache 'Rye Pink'In addition to these salvias and agastaches, we’ve added other plants to our hummingbird plant table and starting today, in honor of the Summer Solstice, they will be 25% off.  This sale will continue through Saturday, June 28th, or as long as we still have them in stock.

We close Perennial Favorites in July to regroup, work on the greenhouses, putter around in the gardens here, take Xander for hikes in the mountains, and appreciate the beauty of Colorado. We’ll open again in August, refreshed and with more new plants!

Hope you are enjoying your summer!





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IRIS: Heirloom or modern, the perfect pass-along plant!

Rob's Red from Anne Hatcher

Rob’s Red from Anne Hatcher

When I was little, every spring my grandma and Aunt Ginny would give me a bouquet of iris to take to school for my teacher. I carried them on the bus, wrapped in a wet newspaper and saran wrap.  I remember how good they smelled, and how much the teachers appreciated them.  Grandma and Ginny loved iris, they collected them and had a huge long bed of them,  100′ long and 4′ wide. In bloom, those iris were show-stoppers.

One of the first perennials I planted in the garden here in Rye was an iris given to me by a friend, and over the years I’ve added to that first clump with gifts from other friends. Alana Thrower used to go the iris sale in Colorado Springs every years and nab a few fan for me–that’s what iris divisions are called, fans–and more recently Bob Nold gave me an heirloom iris that was collected by Lauren Springer Ogden from an old abandoned farmhouse in Nebraska. In the last couple of years C.A. Freeman and Anne Hatcher have given me some beautiful ones. I didn’t get all of the fans from Carol Ann planted in the garden last year, so I put them in pots and they bloomed in the cold frame! 002 005 008What makes these iris such perfect pass-along plants? They’re easy to grow, tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, and they divide easily, too. Not only do they divide easily, they demand to be divided every two or three years. When they get too crowded, they don’t bloom as well.  Iris like a lot of rain just before they bloom in the spring, and then they can grow quite dry after that. Even in drought years the iris persist, although they don’t bloom the way they would with extra moisture in May.

People often ask when to divide the tall bearded iris and the traditional time is after they are done flowering for the year, yet I have moved them successfully when they’re in full bloom!  If you divide and replant them by late July or early August, you might get some blooms next year, but the best blooms come on two year old clumps.



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Lesser Goldfinch

We spent much of yesterday getting ready for hail that never came.  How do you get ready for hail? In the nursery we moved all the plants that we could under poly or into the shade houses. In the garden it’s not so easy. There’s no way to cover everything! After many years, I’ve noticed that some plants survive hail better than others, and some recover more quickly. Peonies are not in the category of recover-quickly, so I stuck a stake into the ground by the one that is getting ready to bloom and brought a sheet of Remay over by it, and with clothespins and another weird contraption I dreamed up, figured out a way to protect the 3′ x 3′ peony that is covered with a hundred flower buds. I don’t know if it would’ve worked, because the storm went east of us.  I’m very grateful for that, but couldn’t we have had some rain?

After the hail preparation I was looking out at the garden and saw a Lesser Goldfinch clinging to a catmint plant, eating the seeds. I love that little songbird and take offense at the name “Lesser.” I think it’s every bit as pretty as its larger cousin, the American Goldfinch. Both birds are native to the U.S., but the Lesser Goldfinch makes its home in the West. It nests here, too, so you can see it year round. I worry about hail and all the little birds.  I hope they can shelter from it.  Here are pictures of the Lesser Goldfinch snagging seeds.

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Hummingbird at the columbine, with a goldfinch in the bottom left corner.

Hummingbird at the columbine, with a goldfinch in the bottom left corner.

This picture is from last summer. The L.G. is clinging to a penstemon gone to seed.

This picture is from last summer. The L.G. is clinging to a penstemon gone to seed.


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