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Top 10 Perennials for a Xeriscaped Garden

By Floyd Miller



It’s a made-up word with no tie to the number zero. Instead, “xeriscape” combines most of the Greek word “xeric” with half of the English word “landscape.” The mushed-together result means a landscape having dry or desert-like conditions. Kind of like {{more}} what much of the country could experience this summer. Never fear. “Xeriscape” doesn’t mean a landscape of zeroes but one of flowers, shrubs and grasses. Not a yard smothered in rocks but one that blossoms, sways and tickles. Step into this bounty with David Salman, perhaps the most eminent plantsman in New Mexico, one of the driest states in the nation. As chief horticulturist for Santa Fe Greenhouses and its mail-order division, High Country Gardens, Salman has experimented with just about every dry-land species — and developed a few of his own. Which now means that wherever he goes, everyone asks one and only one question: What can I plant that won’t need water? In advance of this summer’s water woes and a new deluge of that same question, here are Salman’s top 10 picks of perennial plants. And the winners are: 1. Perovskia atriplicifolia . Ferny, sage-colored leaves topped with bunches of dusty-lavender flowers mark this waist-high shrub. It loves heat and can stand any type of soil. 2. Penstemon pinifolius . A short shrub with needle-like leaves, it offers a burst of orange flowers for most of the summer. Hummingbirds love it; deer and rabbits shun it. 3. Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ . This best bet among the sometimes finicky lavenders boasts deep purple flowers and a long summer blooming period. 4. Agastache x ‘Desert Sunrise’ . Developed by nature’s pollinators in Salman’s own yard, this licorice-scented herb sends up four-foot-tall blooms, midsummer through fall. Its orange and pink blossoms attract scores of hummingbirds. 5. Nepeta x faassenii ‘Select Blue’ . Unlike other catmints, this variety won’t re-seed and take over the patch. Its purple flowers bloom twice, in spring and late summer. 6. Hymenoxys acaulis . New Mexico hikers know the native form of the chipper yellow daisy. But this hybrid grows bigger, stronger and faster. Let the flowers turn to seed to spread their beauty. 7. Hesperaloe parviflora . It looks like a plain old yucca, but not when it shoots out a five-foot-tall spike topped with flaming flowers. The flowers last for weeks, and once established the spiky plants rarely require water. 8. Salvia nemorosa ‘May Night’ . This compact shrub has purple flower spikes and it will re-bloom if you cut the blossoms back. Got a hot, sunny site? Give it a try. 9. Echinocereus triglochidiatus . This small, barrel-like cactus goes mostly unnoticed until its little cups of wine-red flowers open in spring. Its worst enemy? Too much water. 10. Artemisia versicolor ‘Seafoam’ . Here’s a vigorous groundcover of froth: mounds of foamy foliage that occasionally sport silver and yellow flowers.There you have it. Check with your local nursery on their availability. For pictures, log onto Or call 925-9387 to order the company’s free catalog. After that, you can surely come up with some new questions for Salman.

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