Prunus virginiana_Chokecherry_LAH_003If I could create one perfect plant for the Pikes Peak region, what would it be like?

Of course, I’d want it to be attractive. It should adorn itself with cheerful spring flowers, good-looking foliage, and intense fall color. I’d add persistent fruit or berries to feed the birds and provide winter interest.

My perfect plant should be easy to grow; I’d want it to thrive in our native soils with little or no supplemental water. It must be hardy to at least 8,000 feet, and still handle summer heat waves.

I’d create a versatile plant that could be trained as either a medium-to-large shrub or small tree. Deer resistance would be a bonus. And I’d want it to be readily available from local garden centers (at a reasonable price).

Well, it seems that Somebody beat me to it. There is a perfect plant for this area—the common Chokecherry.


Can you name a plant that has short stems and showy purple flowers at this time of year? Now add eye-catching seed heads, and the fact that it’s native to Colorado (and other cold-winter areas in both North America and Europe). This cultivated wildflower is Pasque Flower (or), named after its Easter time bloom.

Besides the lilac wildflowers, other purple shades are available in cultivated strains, from a deep purple-red to, rarely, white. Gray-green leaves appear after the flower buds, and may be more or less finely divided. They’re covered with silvery fuzz, giving a soft appearance that makes you want to pet them.

Wild plants are only a couple of inches tall, but those sold in the nursery trade get much larger—up to a foot tall and as wide. After the flowers fade, exotic-looking seed heads (technically fruits) grab your attention. They’re not brightly colored, but they are every bit as decorative as the blossoms.

There’s some confusion over the scientific name for this widespread flower. Some consider it an Anemone, while other botanists give it its own subgenus, Pulsatilla. There are approximately 33 species, but again, not all botanists agree on the taxonomy. The common names vary too: Pasque Flower, Pasqueflower, Wind Flower, Prairie Crocus, Easter Flower, and Meadow Anemone.

No matter what you call it, Pasque Flower is an excellent candidate for Colorado gardens. The plants are hardy from USDA zone 4 to 9. I have them growing wild under my ponderosas, where they survive in unfertile, sandy soil with no supplemental irrigation at 7,000 feet elevation. To me, that’s nothing short of a miracle! However, more congenial conditions—well-drained soil rich in humus—encourage more blooms. Choose a site in part shade to full sun. Water when soil dries out; the plants are somewhat drought-tolerant, but you don’t want them wilting.

Garden Use
Because of their short stature and early bloom, locate Pasque Flower in the front of the landscape where they’ll be noticed. They make good rock garden plants, and combine well with other early bloomers such as Aubrieta (Rock Cress) and Basket of Gold.

The leaves and stems of Pasque Flower are very poisonous. Perhaps this is why rabbits and other wildlife tend to avoid nibbling on them.

Article and photos by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener.

Stands of bright gold aspen (Populus tremuloides) shimmering in the sunlight are a spectacular sight, so it is no surprise that many people plant aspen in their home landscapes. Aspen are fast growing and relatively short-lived relatives of cottonwoods and poplars. Ranging from 40 – 65 feet tall, they have a smooth white trunk and bright green, heart-shaped leaves. Female trees produce 2-inch catkins that develop into tiny long, narrow cones.


Bees and butterflies love the bright flowers.

Rubber Rabbitbrush, Chamisa
Chrysothamnus nauseosus

With intense sulfur-yellow flowers covering its gray-green foliage, blooming Rabbitbrush demands to be noticed. Flowers last from August through October, with the seed heads providing interest all winter. Branches rising from a woody base form bushes up to 5 feet tall and wide. When not in bloom, the rounded crown and muted foliage impart a subtle, natural appearance to the garden.


photo by Lisa Bird

Berlandiera lyrata

Appearance: This very aromatic plant has bright green, flat spreading leaves with shallowly lobed edges.  The flowers are daisy-like, with green center and light yellow petals.  The underside of the petals have maroon markings on them.

Habitat: This plant is very drought tolerant and blooms profusely throughout the season.  The flowers have a wonderful chocolate scent are are edible.  Chocolate Flower prefers full sun and needs very little water.  Found on the Western plains to northern Mexico, in dry rocky soils.  Hardy to Zone 4. (more…)

Sphaeralcea coccinea

Cowboy’s Delight

Sphaeralcea coccinea

Appearance: This small perennial appears to be a sweet little hollyhock. It grows to just over 12″ tall, and the silver-green, hairy leaves are each deeply lobed into three sections. Another variety found in cultivation, Sphaeralcea munruona is very similar, but with more gently lobed leaves. The wheel-shaped bright orange flowers are under an inch in diameter. Their bright appearance in often otherwise dull areas is what earned it its common name of cowboy’s delight. Blooming starts in June and continues through September.

Habitat: Cowboy’s delight thrives in sunny, open areas and can be found in both the plains and foothills. (more…)

Iris missouriensis

Appearance: Wild Iris is a bluish-purple native flower characteristic in appearance to cultivated irises.  It grows to about 2 feet in height and blooms from May to July.

Habitat: It is found in foothills to subalpine life zones, mostly in moist open areas, wet meadows, and stream sides at 4,500 to 9,500 feet elevation.  Growing in full sun, it drenches meadows in its vivid blue color, and is prevalent in areas that have been grazed heavily. (more…)


With its ostentatious white flowers clamoring for your attention, Boulder Raspberry (Oreobatus deliciosus ) impresses like a hybridized cultivar, rather than a native shrub. Growing three to five feet tall and six feet wide, arching, sprawling stems carry bright green, lobed leaves that turn yellow in fall before dropping for the winter. Spring’s blooms develop into small reddish purple fruit resembling cultivated raspberries. While edible, the berries are generally considered unpalatable. However, they will attract birds and other wildlife. Unlike other raspberries, the stems are thornless.


Dry shade is enough to send most plants running, but Boulder Raspberry thrives there. Long-lived and very hardy, you can find these shrubs on Rocky Mountain slopes and ravines between 4,500 and 9,000 feet. They prefer gravelly or silty soil with good drainage.

Landscape Suitability

A bit coarse for a formal garden, Boulder Raspberry combines well with other natives in a natural setting. It works best as an understory plant or in a northern exposure. Pink shrub roses (such as ‘Nearly Wild’) or purple-leafed ‘Diablo’ Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) would make outstanding companions. For best results, situate plants in light to medium shade, and add two to three inches of compost to the soil. Water deeply but infrequently.

Article and photos by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener

Sprinkled with 5-petaled flowers of a light true blue, Blue Flax is a short-lived perennial with graceful, wiry stems sporting blue-green needle-like leaves. Plants reach two feet in height.

L. perenne originated in Eurasia.  The very similar native American species, Linum lewisii (sometimes considered a subspecies of L. perenne), was named in honor of Meriwether Lewis, the first European to discover and describe the plant. Both are frequently included in wildflower mixes and used for erosion control. You can see them both growing alongside highways in the Pikes Peak area.


Golden Currant (Ribes aureum)


Aptly named Golden Currant blooms in early spring with showy clusters of small but fragrant bright yellow flowers. The blossoms are followed in summer by edible fruit that ripens from green through red to black. In autumn, green, lobed leaves turn to amber or scarlet before falling. The arching branches can reach anywhere from three to nine feet in height, depending on age and habitat.