New Plant Select® Demonstration Garden and Plants

New Plant Select® Demonstration Garden and Plants

Amarillo Botanical Gardens has announced that the proposed Plant Select® Demonstration Garden has received notice of funding from the Amarillo Area Foundation, Sybil B. Harrington Living Trust. The Plant Select® Demonstration Garden (official name TBD) will be in the space formerly known as the Meadow Garden (an undeveloped area). This area is located on the left immediately adjacent to the Franklin Butterfly Garden, across from the Wagner Japanese Garden and near the entrance to the Bivins Conservatory.

The Plant Select® Demonstration Garden will consist of plants in the Plant Select® program as well as other plants. The design (by Green Plains Design) features several tiers, paved pathways and a large gathering area for viewing and educational programs.

Plant Select® ( is a regionally recognized program familiar to gardeners throughout the Rocky Mountain West and Southwest. Plant Select® was established in 1997 for the purpose of seeking out, identifying and distributing the best plants for landscapes and gardens from the inter-mountain region to the high plains. Over seventy gardens in seven states participate in the Plant Select® program available at many nurseries region wide.  To date, there are no Plant Select® Demonstration gardens in Texas. The High Plains of Texas experiences similar conditions to Colorado High Plains and is a good candidate for expanding the research of regionally appropriate plants. (Hummingbird at Orange Carpet Hummingbird Trumpet, Zauschneria garrettii at right.)

Plant Select® Demonstration Garden a Good Fit for Amarillo
Plant Select® is a good fit for the Texas Panhandle as it is for many areas in the western half of the United States. Here are a few of the reasons:

  • It will be the first Plant Select® Demonstration Garden in Texas
  • Provide a regionally recognizable group of proven plants to the public for use in home landscapes.
  • A Plant Select® Demonstration Garden at ABG would be a center for educational programs.
  • Plants in the Plant Select® program are easily identifiable by their distinctive plant tag and are already available locally.
  • Plant Select® Demonstration Gardens are beautiful, economical, lower water-use/lower maintenance, ecologically-friendly, and educational.
  • ABG would have the opportunity to contribute to research in the use of these plants and to recommend future plants for the Plant Select® Program.
  • It contributes to fulfilling ABG's mission of connecting people to plants through a nationally respected program.
  • Neal Hinders, our local grower and nursery owner of Canyon's Edge Plants, is a Wholesale Licensed Plant Select® propagator and sells many of the Plant Select® plants in his nursery in Canyon.

Plant Select®, The Plants
The Plant Select® program is administered and developed by the Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University for the many and variable eco-regions from the high mountains to the high plains.  Not every plant is suitable for the Texas High Plains, but many of them are. Plant Select® plants are plants that are either native to the west or superior varieties or hybrids of natives that have not yet been as sought after for gardens as they deserve to be. Other selections are non-natives from similar floristic regions of the world. (Mohave Sage, Salvia pachyphylla at right.)
The selection criteria for Plant Select® plants include:

  • Exceptional performance under broad range of garden situations
  • Exceptional performance under low water conditions
  • Adaptable to the region's challenging climate
  • Long season of beauty,
  • Selected for their non-invasive quality
  • Disease and pest resistant

Each year, Plant Select® chooses from 5 to 8 plants to designate and promote. Of the over 125 plants in the Plant Select® program to date, not every plant is suitable for any one garden. There are more than enough Plant Select® Plants to provide the framework for a beautiful, thriving garden from hot, dry and windy locations to sheltered, riparian areas and even high elevation gardens, in city or country.
Here are only a few of the Plant Select® plants. Look for many more in the future Plant Select Collection in the Sybil B Harrington Garden at Amarillo Botanical Gardens. (Tennessee purple coneflower, Echinacea tennesseensis, and bee at left.)

Perennial Groundcovers. Watering one inch once a month with keep these plants looking robust, even through our hottest summers. Performance is improved in well drained and slightly amended soil, but will grow in most soils.
Winecups, Callirhoe involucrata. Beautiful and finely cut deep green leaves expand into an area 8”T x 30”W with deep rose or wine-red flowers from May into mid summer, with intermittent blooms through frost. A local native wildflower.
Prairie Lode Sundrops, Calyophus serrulatus 'Prairie Lode'. An improved selection of the very good local native wildflower. Sunshine yellow flowers blooms prolifically from May through frost, tapering off during the hottest days of summer. Spread to an area 8” x 12-18” depending on soil on moisture.
Silver Horehound, Marrubium rotundifolium. Attractive rounded fuzzy gray-green leaves with silver margins spreads 4” tall x 30”. Short stalks of white flowers in early summer. Quite xeric, non-native.
Turquoise Tails Blue Sedum, Sedum sediforme. Blue green succulent leaves reach a height of roughly 6-8” tall and spreads over 12” plus. Easy to propagate with stem cuttings. Can over spread.
Valley Lavender Plains Verbena, Verbena bipinnatifida. An improved selection of our local native wildflower. One of the first to flower in the spring and continues past the first frost. Small purple, lavender or violet blue verbena-like flowers. Seeds nicely, not a nuisance. 6” x 18”.

Perennials. Most of the perennials for the Texas Panhandle require one inch of supplemental irrigation every other week, or once a month, if no rain is received. Plants perform better in soil amended for drainage and organic content (about 3 inches compost when preparing a new bed). (Hop flower, Oreganum libanticum at left.)
Coronado Hyssop, Agastache aurantiaca.  Highly fragrant orange-yellow blooms on stalks from midsummer to autumn. Most hyssops are hummingbird magnets and need well drained soil. Water every other week.
Sunset Hyssop, Agastache rupestris. Another wildflower native to the Southwest. Sunset-orange fragrant flowers open in August just in time to catch the hummingbird migration. An easy care perennial for the transition zone in your garden blending from medium to low water-use. Any of PS agastaches are the stars that provide fireworks in the late summer to autumn garden.
Denver Gold Columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha. Aquilegia chrysantha seems as much at home in sun or shade; one of our indispensable perennials for western gardens. Because of our hot summers,  columbine is basically a spring bloomer, but it adds grace and that spirit of whimsy we adore in the borders.
Sea Foam Sage, Artemisia versicolor 'Sea Foam'. Leaves of silver-green and delicate, 'Sea Foam' (also known as Seafoam and Curlicue Sage) is planted for its evergreen presence in the border that resemble coral. It might look delicate, but it can take everything our climate throws at it, even though it's not a native. Spreads to a size of 10” T x 24-30”W.
Chocolate Flower, Berlandiera lyrata. Plant Select® includes many of our Panhandle natives, introducing our local chocolate flower to the program in 2004. Every part of the plants reminds one of donut frosted with chocolate. A morning bloomer, it's best to sniff the yellow daisy like flowers with maroon centers between breakfast and lunch. 12-18” x 12”W.
Texas Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora. Native to south Texas and further south, this native similar to a yucca is an indispensable SW evergreen for any bed or border throughout the West. Red stalks topped with rose pink tubular blossoms strikes a pose throughout the summer. Really not particular about soils and extremely water-thrifty.
Regal Torchlily, Kniphofia caulescens. Some call them red hot pokers, and most have planted Kniphofia uvaria, a spring bloomer. Kniphofia caulescens is a late summer flowering species. Tall, torch-like stalks sport crimson and ivory flowers. Native to the higher elevations in South Africa, called Lesotho Red Hot Poker.
Narbonne Blue Flax, Linum narbonense. Similar to our spring blooming Linum lewisii perenne, but said to flower for many months, rather than the 4-6 weeks of Lewis' blue flax. Multitudes of tiny sky blue flowers brighten every bed and border. 18” x 18”.
Silver Blade Evening Primrose, Oenothera macrocarpa ssp incana. Another local native wildflower. Green lanceolate leaves edged with silver bear chalice size primrose yellow flowers in the mornings spring into summer. A clear delight to be enjoyed along with your morning chocolate flower.
Hopflower Oregano, Origanum libanoticum. When I first planted Hopflower Oregano I knew it as Lebanese oregano, and when PS designated it a PS plant in 2004, I knew they were on the right track. Hopflower Oregano satisfies me in every way. It's edible, but it's not the culinary oregano. It spreads mildly, can be propagated easily and has endlessly interesting flowers. A vigorous cascading herb with magenta hop-like bracts spring into fall that are perfect for the dry rock garden. With additional moisture, the bracts continue to elongate. 10” x 18”.
The Mexicali Penstemons: Pikes Peak Purple, Red Rocks and Shadow Mountain, Penstemon x mexicali hybrids. A trio of long blooming penstemons for average garden soil that are long staying. Comes in the delightful dolors pf purple, reddish-purple and lavender blue. Late spring to summer blooming for about 4-6 weeks, 15-18” x 12-15'T.

Smoky Hills Skullcap, Scutellaria resinosa 'Smoky Hills' (photo at right). This small mounding gem is a native to the great plains, so good, in fact, for the garden, that is has been designated at a Great Plant for the Great Plains in 2004 as well. Small rounded greenish-grey leaves with bright purple-blue flowers tipped with white in late spring and early summer. Deadhead flowers to prolong the bloom. A native to the Smoky Hills of north central Kansas.
Silver Sage, Salvia argentea. A first year introduction in 1997. Lush silver-soft leaves form a rounded rosette the size of a small bushel basket. A biennial, white flowers appear on tall sticky stalks the second year (that quickly turn an unattractive brown – just cut them off and enjoy the rosette).
Platinum Sage, Salvia daghestanica.  Platinum sage is a small rock garden type plant with silvery platinum leaves and blue flowers on short spikes in late spring into summer. It's used to rough conditions, and will do well in a xeric garden. Does calling this sage Platinum® and registering the name make it better, than say, a plain old silver sage? Outside the Plant Select circle, S. daghestanica is called Dwarf silver-leafed sage, and in Asia, in its native terrain of Daghestan, it's known as the Caucasus sage, Salvia canescens var. daghestanica. “In 1992, the Russian botanist Y. L. Menitsky reduced the species Salvia daghestanica, originally described in 1951 by Dmitrii Ivanovich Sosnowsky, to a variety of S. canescens, thus also requiring the S. canescens var. canescens. (Wikipedia)"  Prior to be selected by Plant Select, you might even have seen it sold at S. daghestanica 'Platinum', an improved selection. Whatever it's called, it's sure to be a worthy addition to your low water-use bed or border.
Vermilion Bluffs Mexican Sage, Salvia darcyi 'Pscarl'. S. darcyii (photo at left) is an herbaceous perennial with red tubular blooms from June into September in most garden soils, a hummingbird plant. It will die back to the ground in winter. Snip off the dead foliage in late winter. It will grow to a height of 30-36” by 24-30”W. I'm not sure how to pronounce 'Pscarl', other than Plant Select Carl. First discovered by Carl Schoenfeld and John Fairey of Yucca Do Nursery near Galena, Mexico, in 1988, and described by James Compton in 1994. S. darcyi was named after William G. D'Arcy (a member of the later Compton expedition in 1991 where Schoenfeld and Faairey led the group to it) and has been referred to as Darcy's sage ever since. But again, whatever it's called, this native to the Mexican Sierra Madre Oriental at high elevations, can take the heat and cold and produce.
Wild Thing Sage, Salvia greggii. A selection of S. gregii with hot pink flowers. So attractive I bought two this spring. Grow as you would any other S. greggii.
Furman's Red Cherry or Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii 'Furman's Red'. 'Furman's Red' is the standard by which all other S. greggii's are measured against in reliability and cold hardiness for areas north of the Pecos. Brittle woody sub-shrub grows to 24-30”T by 24”W. Prefers well drained soil. Red tubular blooms continuously from May through November. Prune about a third of the height in late winter to keep it compact. Be careful not to water excessively in winter, which will lead to root rot, it may die back to the ground in some winters, but should emerge in the spring; remove any dead wood.
Mohave Sage, Salvia pachyphylla. A stunning plant for the dry garden. Aromatic (and sticky) silvery foliage grows 24'T c 30” W. Mauvy purple blooms from mid summer into fall. It's touchy about overwatering, likes it on the dry side, plant in well drained soil.
Purple Winter Savory, Satureja montana v. illyrica. Purple winter savory, aka, creeping savory, is slightly less spicy than the upright winter savory. An evergreen and an herb, purple winter savory makes a terrific garden plant for the herb, rock or container garden, or at the edge of a border. Low growing to 6”T it will spread over a foot wide.
Red Birds in a Tree, Scrophularia maracantha. Another hummingbird plant with crimson tubular flowers from spring through summer. And aptly named, as the little red blooms look just like little red birds in a tree. Drought tolerant, an attractive plant for most soils, even clay. A New Mexican native introduced by High Country Gardens and a cousin to penstemons, but more adaptable. (Photo at right.)
Orange Carpet Hummingbird trumpet, Zauschneria garettii. A hummingbird plant that grows low to the ground blooms profusely mid summer to fall with scarlet orange tubular flowers. Not xeric, needs watering every other week. The Zauschneria's have been relocated to the Epilobium genus, but it is still widely referred to as Zauschneria. Also known as California fuchsia, and is a native to its sloping and chaparral areas.

Grasses, Shrubs and Vines – Plant Select® includes trees, grasses, shrubs and vines – more than I have personally grown. Generally, these select plants are drought tolerant and will grow in most soils, unless noted.
Blonde Ambition Blue Grama, Boutelous gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'. An improved selection of the native North American bluegrama grass. Only requires 7 inches of rain a year to exist. Attractive eyelid seed head highlights this shortgrass prairie grass. I've not tried 'Blonde Ambition', but the common bluegrama grass is great.
Giant Sacaton, Sporobolus wrightii, (photo at right). A giant among our native warm season bunch grasses. This is another xeric grass suitable for any trouble-free landscape, a great alternative to Pampas grass. Grows to 6+ feet tall by 4 feet wide – give it room.
Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany, Cercocarpus intricatus. Smaller native evergreen shrub with small needle like leaves will grow at least to 4'T x 3'W. Can be lightly pruned and shaped. Perfect for the xeric shrub border.
Fernbush, Chamaebatiaria millefolium. Another western U.S. native shrub can reach 8'T x 6'W. Clusters of small showy white flowers in mid summer. A shrub build to take our tough conditions and still look good. Give it room to  grow and expand.
Baby Blue Rabbitbush, Chrysothamnus nauseosus var nauseosus, (photo at left). Also known as dwarf rabbitbush, it will grow to about 2'T x 2' W. Golden yellow flowers in late summer to fall with attractive blue green foliage. Will self seed, but seedlings easily pull up. A drought tolerant native shrub.
Apache Plume, Fallugia paradoxa. One of the premier Southwest native shrubs, Apache plume's white flowers and feathery plumes commences in April and continues into October. To be best appreciated, give it's anticipated 6' x 6' size plenty of room – looks terrific backlit in morning and evening sun. Can be lightly pruned in the spring to keep a more compact shape. Xeric, will grow in most soils.

I'm personally quite excited about the new garden at Amarillo Botanical Gardens. There are a number of Plant Select® plants I've wanted to try, but haven't been able to locate or didn't have room to try, such as Cape forget-me-not, Anchusa capensis, the new Narbonne blue flax, Linum narbonense, Prairie jewel and Grand Mesa penstemons, Penstemon grandiflorus and P mensarum, purple winter savory, Satureja montana v. illyrica; Undaunted Ruby Muhly, Muhlenbergia reverchonii; Kintsley's Ghost honeysuckle, Lonicera reticulata (which I was staggered by its greatness at the Denver Botanic Gardens), Carol Mackie daphne, Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie'; waxflower, Jamesia americana; and Hot Wings Tartarian Maple, Acer tartaricum 'Gar Ann' (photo of Hot Wings at left).
Plant Select® features plants for sun or shady, dry, average and moist soils in many micro-niches from the hot and windy plains to less trying climates, including a new line called Plant Select Petites. The Plant Select® Petites are plants suited to containers, troughs, rock, fairy, patio and small garden areas. Each year new plants are introduced to the public in the fourth quarter and become available for purchase for the following spring.
In addition to Canyon's Edge Plants, many of our local nurseries carry Plant Select plants. We can all look forward to a larger array of plants suitable to our climate and soil conditions that will provide season-long color and interest.

Angie Hanna, June 18, 2014