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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - June 03, 2012

From: Colorado Springs, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Meadow Gardens, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Meadow garden for Colorado Springs CO
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We recently purchased a restored home on a mesa just above the downtown area of Colorado Springs on the front range. The previous owners seeded the front lawn with blue gramma and told me that all I had to do was leave it alone and cut it once in the fall after it goes to seed. The lawn is quite thin at the moment and we are thinking about adding wildflowers and watering at least once a week .. Can you provide care guidance? Thanks.

ANSWER:

You are describing a Meadow Garden, and we have How-To Articles for projects like this. Read first this one A Guide to Native Plant Gardening. Next up, Caring for your New Native Plants. We always recommend plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. This makes things much easier, as you don't have to figure out what plant will grow in your soils, survive in your climate or tolerate your rainfall. The plants native to your area will have already learned all those things by centuries of experience.

Before we begin on the project, you might be interested in this  previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on Colorado Wildflowers, also from Colorado Springs.

Now, go to our How-To Article on Meadow Gardening. After you have absorbed that, we will lead you into our Native Plant Database where, using the Combination Search, enter Colorado, herbs (herbaceous blooming plants, including wildflowers) for Habit,  amount of sunlight available in each part of your yard, and whether the soil is moist or dry. You can change these characteristics as you work until you have just the right plants. We are going to give you a trial list. Because you are in high altitude country, pretty dry ordinarily and definitely with a variety of soils, we are going to check each plant we recommend by accessing the USDA Plant Profile on that plant to discover if that plant is native in or close to to El Paso County, in central Colorado.

From that list, you can follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant, where you can learn time and color of bloom, propagation instructions, preferred growing conditions, etc.

Wildflowers for a Meadow Garden in Colorado Springs, CO:

Achillea millefolium var. occidentalis (Western yarrow)

Anemone canadensis (Canadian anemone)

Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly-everlasting)

Aquilegia caerulea (Colorado blue columbine)

Aquilegia elegantula (Western red columbine)

Asclepias asperula (Spider milkweed)

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Callirhoe alcaeoides (Light poppy-mallow)

Campanula rotundifolia (Bluebell bellflower)

Cleome serrulata (Rocky mountain beeplant)

Coreopsis tinctoria var. tinctoria (Golden tickseed)

Lupinus plattensis (Dune bluebonnet)

In the long run, you might be better off just buying a wildflower mix. Make sure it is native to Colorado and that it has a list of the species included. On a mix you can usually take their planting instructions, and you can search on our database for more information on each plant.

 

From the Image Gallery


Western yarrow
Achillea millefolium var. occidentalis

Canadian anemone
Anemone canadensis

Western pearly everlasting
Anaphalis margaritacea

Colorado blue columbine
Aquilegia coerulea

Western red columbine
Aquilegia elegantula

Green milkweed
Asclepias viridis

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Light poppymallow
Callirhoe alcaeoides

Bluebell bellflower
Campanula rotundifolia

Rocky mountain beeplant
Cleome serrulata

Golden tickseed
Coreopsis tinctoria var. tinctoria

Nebraska lupine
Lupinus plattensis

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