Plants even a black thumb can­not kill

Any­gar­den­cen­ter that sell­sBotan­i­cal In­ter­ests seeds. ( a. k. a. yel­low alyssum, mad­wort) Down­side? Ages out ( mean­ing in­di­vid­ual plants will die, usu­ally

The Denver Post - - GROW - By Su­san Clot­fel­ter Where to find it: Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post Mar­vel of Four Sea­sons let­tuce Why grow it: “Bas­ket of Gold” Aurinia sax­atilis Su­san Clot­fel­ter, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post Dwarf irises Why growthem:

You think you have a black thumb. Or you’re new to Colorado and you’ve re­cently been made aware that your new home state’s soil, weather, sun, sea­sons and crit­ters are com­pletely dif­fer­ent fromthe place you just left. Ei­ther way, you’re daunted.

Gar­dener, take heart. Given av­er­age soil ( mean­ing, pretty sad) and av­er­age sun­light ( mean­ing, pretty fierce), the fol­low­ing top 10 list is a good place to start.

All of these plants are in­ex­pen­sive prob­lem- solvers, not prob­lem- mak­ers. They can take our dry con­di­tions, es­pe­cially if you pam­per them with the sprin­kler a lit­tle bit dur­ing their first year. Most are peren­ni­als, mean­ing you plant them once and they keep on giv­ing, or they self- seed enough to give you new plants to take their place nearby.

Of course, you have to dig a lit­tle, get a lit­tle dirty, to plant them. But the good news on the­work front is this: Save your­self money and­work by buy­ing the lit­tle guys. In other words, a smaller peren­nial or tree or shrub means you dig a smaller hole; the plant needs less­wa­ter; and it ad­justs to its newhome sooner and bet­ter. Al­most all of these plants are ones Growwrit­ers and staffers have grown them­selves. We­weeded out the fail­ures and the worst of the bul­lies for you, and we also com­piled a list of also- rans.

OK: Ready? Set? Dig. A whole sea­son of beauty is wait­ing for you.

This French loose- leaf but­tery let­tuce lives up to its name and lets you speak some French ( it’s also called Merveille de Qu­a­tre Saisons). Green leaves splashed with red makes it col­or­ful on a plate. I’ve cut this let­tuce for Thanks­giv­ing sal­ads and Easter din­ners.

Needs: Reg­u­lar, gen­tle wa­ter­ing un­til it’s an inch or two high; a per­me­able row cover helps the seeds get started out­doors. A big snow or hard frost will kill it, but pro­tect it with plas­tic just above the leaves and it soldiers on through a chilly night. Works great in con­tain­ers.

Plant it with: French Break­fast radishes or Haku­rai turnips ( they dis­tract the flea bee­tles); herbs or Asian greens; in a mixed con­tainer with other greens; in any spare space in a veg­gie bed or cold frame.

Down­side? None. If a freeze kills it, just dig it into the soil for the worms.

Why grow it: Gives you an in­tense, bright swath of yel­low flow­ers in­mid­spring. When not bloom­ing, it’s a soft gray- green ground cover. Great for bor­ders or bright punc­tu­a­tions in a nat­u­ral­is­tic bed. Durable and self- seeds, but not ag­gres­sively.

Needs: Prefers sun, but to­tally not fussy about soil or drainage. Drought tol­er­ant.

Best feature: Crowds out weeds, some­times even bindweed.

Size: 6- 12 inches tall and wide at ma­tu­rity; you can buy it most cheaply in 2×2 pots).

Plant it with: Dark- bur­gundy “Queen of Night” tulips; shrub roses; white daffodils; or any­thing that will bloom while or af­ter the flow­ers are spent. af­ter 4- 5 years, but the self- seed­ing will give you new ones).

Where to find: Most gar­den cen­ters with de­cent peren­nial de­part­ments.

My bright- pur­ple retic­u­latas re­li­ably bloom in the first weeks of March, stick­ing their speck­led tongues out at rag­ing wind. They’re only 3- inches tall, but aren’t as drought- sen­si­tive as cro­cuses or snow­drops. Youwill never be sorry you planted them. Buy three times as many as you think you need. I have not found them to mul­ti­ply in my clay, but your mileage may vary.

Bonus: The bulbs are tiny, so you don’t have to dig as deep as you do for tulips and daffs. Also, crit­ters ( rab­bits, squir­rels) tend to ig­nore them. And if you buy lots, they’ll set you back as lit­tle as 15 cents each.

Needs: Sun; a lit­tle wind pro­tec­tion doesn’t go amiss. Wa­ter ev­ery other week or so if spring is su­perdry and windy ( like this one).

Plant it with: Squill, cro­cuses or other ex­tra- early bulbs. Al­most noth­ing is bloom­ing as early, so nes­tle the­ma­mongdwarf ev­er­greens, man­zan­i­tas, eu­ony­mousor rock fea­tures.

Down­side? None. When the blooms are spent, dwarf iris send up green spires of fo­liage. You don’t

Dou­ble li­lac va­ri­eties pack an ex­tra- fra­grant punch.

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