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Scott Hininger, with the University of Wyoming Extension Office in Sheridan, Wyoming shares the following information about planting combinations.
The question often comes up as to what combination of plants will work together. After determining which plants will grow in your area and the type of soil you have and availability of water, the next determination is trying to mix plants that have similar soil and water needs. It generally does not work very well to have water loving plants mixed in with plants that prefer a dryer site. Usually one or the other will not do very well.
With any landscaping design, the eye of the beholder is what is most important. Preference of colors or themes will narrow the search of plants that will perform best. Usually mixing light and dark colors along with taller plants with smaller plants will be the main theme, but not always. In Wyoming, mixing plants that will do well with limited water and heavy soils with a high alkalinity will create the least maintenance requirements.
In looking at low maintenance, hardy plants that should do well in most Wyoming locations, let us look at some possible combinations. Sunset Hyssop (Agastache rupestris) – this 20 inch
high by 10 inch wide plant with orange colored flowers is a very hardy native plant. Add some Coral Canyon twinspur – this pink flowered hardy plant from South Africa is similar in height of approximately 15 inches, and with a width of 12 inches. Next mix in the bright yellow flowers of the Chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata), which is in the range of 10 to 20 inches high and wide and is one plant that does very well with the little water and poor soils of the southwest US. The last one in this combination would be the Orange Carpet Hummingbird trumpet plant, which is a low growing 4-inch high and 20-inch wide tough plant with orange trumpet flowers. This combination really attracts the bees and butterflies, and would work in those hard-towater, full-sun, dry areas.
For a taller combination which would prefer moderate to drier watering conditions, try mixing the following: PRAIRIE JEWEL® Penstemon (Penstemon grandiflorus); Bridges' Penstemon (Penstemon rostriflorus); RED ROCKS® Penstemon & PIKES PEAK PURPLE® Penstemon (Penstemon x mexicali); SHADOW MOUNTAIN® Penstemon (Penstemon x mexicali “Psmyers”); DENVER GOLD® Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha). This combination of blue, reds and yellows will really look good for a taller 20 to 30 inch height garden.
Another combination to consider would be; Baby blue rabbitbrush [Chrysothamnus (Ericameria) nauseosus var. nauseosus] – this native plant is 16 to 28 inches tall and 20 to 30 inches wide, and has yellow flowers with bluish colored foliage. Sea Foam Artemisia (Artemisia versicolor ) has grey colored foliage with white flowers and mounds wonderfully at 6 to 12 inches high, and 16 to 30 inches wide. Winecups (Callirhoe involucrate) is a low growing 6 inch
high, and 20 to 30 inch spreading ground cover with purple flowers. Cashmere Sage (Phlomis cashmeriana) is a tall 36 to 60 high, and 18 to 30 inch wide plant with purple flowers. This combination has that grey look with quite a complement of diverse shapes and textures which will do well in poor soils and low water needs.
By adding some large native rocks along with small native rock mulch, any of these combinations will look great and use very little additional water once they are established, and they should look good and be very low maintenance for a long time. Of course, there are many other plants and combinations to choose from, but his will get those creative thoughts going to plan for those tough sites that need a little help.
Trade or brand names used in this program are used only for the purpose of educational information. The information given here is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement information of products by the University of Wyoming Extension is implied. Nor does it imply approval of products to the exclusion of others, which may also be suitable. The University of Wyoming is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.
Bill Taylor Weston County Extension Office