For most gardeners, the biggest gardening challenge in Colorado is finding plant materials that are adapted to the state's droughts, clay or alkaline soils, unseasonal snows and winds.
Native plants are excellent choices because they are naturally adapted to these challenging conditions says Barbara Doe Fahey, natural resources agent, Jefferson County Extension agent and founder of the trademarked Native Plant Master program.
Natives offer gardeners and designers the opportunity to create a colorful addition to their landscape that is durable and requires less water and maintenance. The trick to saving money and time with these plants is to put them in conditions as close to their natural habitat as possible, making sure there is room for future growth.
For example, planting the native ponderosa pine on a property in the foothills where they occur naturally will be a sustainable choice because once established, the pine will need no additional water. However, if the native Colorado blue spruce is planted on a property on the high plains where it doesn't occur in nature, it will require additional water and care throughout its life.
With native wildlife and pollinators being significantly reduced in our neighborhoods, the natives provide habitats for wildlife and pollinators. Many people enjoy attracting such Colorado icons as hummingbirds, bees and butterflies to their garden.
Besides being beautiful, native birds and insects play the critical role of pollination in native ecosystems. By providing habitat for native pollinators, gardeners are supporting the natural landscapes that are a big reason many residents love our state.
According to Irene Shonle, CSU Extension native plant expert, "To support a range of these flying beauties, plant a variety of native plants across many families like sunflowers, parsley and other herbs, milkweed, willow, etc."
Contact the Elbert County Extension Master Gardeners at 303-621-3162 for a list of plants that will support pollinators.
Elbert County Extension is a cooperative effort between CSU Extension and Elbert County government. Sheila G. Kelley is the Colorado State University extension director for Elbert County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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