Canyon's Edge Plants, Plant Select® Plants and Monarch Butterflies

We'll soon be heading to the nurseries and home improvement centers in search of plants to fill the voids in new and existing beds. Sometimes, the experience can be daunting. Especially when encountering table after table, row upon row of fresh faced plants. Enticing as it is, not every cheery, blooming plant is suitable for one's garden. One feature that separates successful gardens from the spring fling wonders that barely make it into our hot dry summers is the suitability, or appropriateness, of the plants to the region.

Each spring I find myself counting down the days in anticipation of the opening day at Canyon's Edge Plants, 11691 W. Country Club Rd, just north of Canyon, TX. Neal Hinders has been propagating and growing native, xeric and other regionally appropriate bedding plants for sale since 2000. In 2011, Neal became a licensed propagator and retailer of Plant Select® plants. This year, his selection is bigger and better than ever.

Neal's focus in growing and selling plants is to “strive to provide plants that will handle our hot and dry weather and conserve water.” Some of the plants Neal recommends for long term flower power are gray creeping germander, Teucrim aroanium, Mexican blue sage, Salvia chamaedroides, and the autumn or cherry sages, Salvia greggii's, particularly 'Furman's Red', 'Hot Lips', 'Lipstick', and a lavender/white variety. In addition to its usual wide selection of reliable performers such as agastache, dianthus and salvias, Canyon's Edge Plants carries a half dozen varieties of gaillardias, including 'Amber Waves', 'Arizona Sun', 'Arizona Red Shades', 'Burgundy', 'Dazzler', and 'Mesa Yellow'.

Neal's support of regionally appropriate garden plants manifested itself further in 2011 by becoming a licensed propagator and retailer of Plant Select® Plants. I became aware of the Plant Select® program shortly after its inception in 1997. 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. I've studied the plants for Colorado's Plant Select®, Nebraska's and the Great Plains Great Plants and the Texas Superstars® series, and have found Plant Select® to be far and above more appropriate to our region's conditions. 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.

The selection criteria for Plant Select® plants include exceptional performance under low water and our variable weather conditions, long season of beauty, non-invasiveness, and disease and pest resistance – qualities I promote throughout and in my gardens. Each year, Plant Select® chooses from 5 to 8 plants to designate and promote. Of the over 115 plants in the Plant Select® program to date, not every plant is suitable for any one garden. But 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.

This year, Canyon's Edge Plants has chosen roughly a dozen and a half Plant Select® plants to offer, including:

  • Mohave Sage, Salvia pachyphylla
  • Coral Canyon Twinspur, Diascia integerrima
  • Cherry Skullcap, Scutellaria suffrutescens (Texas pink skullcap)
  • Furman's Red Salvia, Salvia greggii 'Furman's Red'
  • Silverton Blue Mat Pentstemon, Penstemon linarioides var coloradoensis
  • Chocolate Flower, Berlandia lyrata
  • Vermillion Bluffs Mexican Sage, Salvia darcyi 'Pscari'
  • Red Birds in a Tree, Scrophularia macrantha
  • Silver Sage, Salvia argentea
  • First Love Dianthus, Dianthus
  • Korean Feather Grass, Calamagrostis brachytricha
  • Red Rocks Penstemon, Penstemon x mexicali 'Red Rocks'
  • Texas Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora
  • Colorado Desert Blue Star, Amsonia jonesii
  • Corsican Violet, Viola corsica and four agastaches
  • Coronado Hyssop, Agastache aurantiaca
  • Sonoran Sunset Hyssop, Agastache cana 'Sinning'
  • Coronado Red Hyssop, Agastache 'Pstessene'
  • Sunset Hyssop, Agastache rupestris

As I've typed out each of these names, memories of my first encounters with these plants came to mind either from reading of them or seeing them at nurseries and later trying them in my gardens. Wave upon wave of pleasant experiences wrapped up in their names and what they represent sweep over me as I picture them in my minds eye. I can only image this is part of the joy and thrill of discovery real plant explorers experience through their quest.

There are still many other Plant Select® plants that are suitable for our Panhandle gardens. Not every nursery is ever going to offer each and every one. So as you make the rounds to nurseries here and elsewhere, when you see the Plant Select® plant tag, check it out and determine if it's a candidate for your garden and experience the joy of the plant hunt.

Neal and Canyon's Edge Plants is also a participating grower and promoter for Monarch Watch. This season, Neal has available five milkweeds that are the host plant for monarch butterflies, including our local native antelope horns, Asclepias asperula, as well as broad-leaved milkweed, narrow-leaved milkweed, showy milkweed and the butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa. Due to the severe drought the past two years, monarch butterfly populations are under increasing stress. If there is an empty pocket in your garden, perhaps planting a milkweed will assist some hungry monarch butterfly on its migration.

Neal has been active in the Texas Panhandle's gardening scene for many years, is a graduate of the Randall County Master Gardeners program, member of the Amarillo Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas and member and volunteer at the Amarillo Botanical Garden. Canyon's Edge Plants is the sponsor of the new Hummingbird Garden at ABG, and Neal is currently serving on the Gardens and Education Committee. Canyon's Edge Plants is now open Fridays and Saturdays from 9-5 into June.

Angie Hanna, April 18, 2013