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Tiny Treasures to Fill Garden's Empty Spaces

clematis Malcom Manners cc.jpg
Malcolm Manners
Creative Commons/Flickr

Gardens usually look a little more polished with small plants growing in crevices or around the edges. KUNC Gardener Tom Throgmorton discusses three new varieties of petite plants that are specially adapted to fit these small spots.

Since the late 1990’s Plant Select has been introducing and recommending plants for the Rocky Mountain region. Plant Select is a cooperative venture. Denver Botanic Gardens, CSU and regional growers come together to broaden the plant palette for our region.

In the last year Plant Select has started promoting a group of plants. They call them Plant Select Petites.  These are smaller plants adapted to niches in the garden. They’re diamonds in the rough.

The Petites can fit into a number of spots in the garden. Some work best in containers. Actually some of them only grow in containers because they don’t like our native soils. A rough-hewn container like a trough drains really well and needs little water. Some of the Petite plants thrive there.

We always need small plants that fit into the crevices around our patios, terraced beds and water features.  The Petites are those plants. Some of them can fit into patio cracks and be walked on. Some can climb up the pergola covering a patio. Some trail out of the wall of a terraced bed.

Mostly I think of these Petites as rock garden plants. When I walk through the rock garden at the Gardens on Spring Creek, I am looking for these little plants hiding in the garden. Some catch your eye in the winter -- they are tiny evergreens. Some you only notice in the summer because of their solitary bloom. 

This year Plant Select is recommending three Petites. Scott’s Sugarbowl Clematis is a Rocky Mountain native. It is a mound of lacy leaves about eight inches high. In late spring and early summer it has soft blue flowers. The nodding flowers attract butterflies and bees. This clematis tolerates a wide range of soils and moisture conditions.

Sandia Coralbells mounds only three inches tall with flowers blooming at eight inches. The white to pink flowers also attract butterflies and hummingbirds. This is a great spring blooming addition to a rock garden. 

Oxslip Primrose is an early spring bloomer. It grows about a foot tall and wide. Oxslip tolerates more heat and drought than other primrose. It has yellow flowers above pale green leaves. 

All of these Petites will grow at elevations to about 8,000 feet. Check out the Plant Select website for suggested companion planting for the Petite recommendations.

Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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