Seven ‘Tough’ Plants That Could Redefine A Pretty Garden In The West

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Photo: Tough plants book Lavandula Wee One Plant Select
Plant Select's Wee One lavender, which has excellent heat tolerance and cold hardiness.

Scientists at the Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University want to change people’s minds about what counts as a “pretty” Colorado garden, and help gardeners find attractive and drought-resistant plants that use less water and stand up to heat. Since the 1980s, they have searched the world for plants ready to be sold to home gardeners and landscapers through an organization called Plant Select.

Panayoti Kelaidis, senior curator and director of outreach at the Denver Botanic Gardens, spoke with Colorado Matters about Plant Select, which he helped start. He also co-authored a new book called Pretty Tough Plants: 135 Resilient, Water-Smart Choices for a Beautiful Garden. It's partly a catalog of plants that are for sale at nurseries around the country; the money goes into research and development of more plants.

Seven Plants Recommended By Plant Select's Horticulturists

Ice Plants

Photo: Lavendar ice plant Plant Select tough plants book
Ice plants were developed from South Africa. Plant Select offers several different kinds. This one is deer-resistant and likes a lot of sun.

Crystal River Veronica

Photo: Tough plants book Crystal River Veronica Plant Select
The Crystal River veronica is an evergreen ground cover that's good for resisting deer and can thrive in Colorado's mountain areas. It's a natural hybrid of two species native to Turkey.

Mexicali Penstemons

Photo: Mexicali Penstemons tough plants Plant Select book
Plant Select made hybrid penstemons by crossing Mexican and American wild penstemons. They named this one Pikes Peak Purple.

Sunset Hyssop

Photo: Tough plants book Sunset Hyssop Plant Select
Kelaidis says this is one of the first plants developed by Plant Select and it's now carried by many seed companies around the world. The Sunset hyssop is native to high mountains of the Southwest.

Cashmere Sage

Photo: Tough plants book Cashmere sage Plant Select
Cashmere sage is part of a genus that grows throughout Eurasia. It can thrive in partial shade and tough soils like clay, loam or sand.

Spanish Peaks Foxglove

Photo: Tough plants book Spanish Peaks foxglove Plant Select
Spanish Peaks foxglove can thrive in dry shade. It flowers in the summer and gives way to a mat of furry leaves. It's native to south-central Spain and parts of Portugal.

Little Trudy Catmint

Photo: Tough plants book Little Trudy catmint Plant Select
This compact catmint attracts bees, butterflies and cats. Plant Select's scientists say many people are also attracted to the Little Trudy's aroma. It was discovered by a nursery in Brighton, Colorado and named for one of the nursery's founders.