perennial ideas for high-desert nevada

Eureka, NV

I know I'm not in the Rocky Mountains but having lived many years in eastern Wyoming, the climate is fairly similar. I live in Eureka, Nevada altitude 6500ft and the sun is scorching, not made for man or beast. It is very dry, zone 4b-5a and this summer has had, since the first of June, daily temperatures about 95F. While I have had only one fatality in my own garden, things are looking a bit sad. I am looking for ideas of (preferably flowering) perennial plants, herbs, very small shrubs or vines to start a very small hometown nursery (town of 800 people with nearest place to purchase plants 125 miles away). I have limited space so I want to focus on heat tolerance, though not necessarily drought tolerance (assuming that customers will water) though that would be an added bonus. They must meet the zone requirements. I am also looking at deer resistance as our town herd isn't too picky. I have tried extensively on-line but find that, for the most part, heat tolerance comes in zones 8-9. I would very much appreciate your input!

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Greetings ~

Another Nevadan - very cool! I have found this forum the closest in climate to my area of NV, too.

I am in Silver Springs, NV - About 2,000 feet lower in altitude and a zone higher than you (60 miles & two ranges of hills away from Reno). But definitely High Desert here. Even with watering, I haven't found anything that has made it past one season, even when they are rated for a zone 6. Or zone 5 even. This has been a nice summer - only one 110*F day so far - most of the days hovering in the low 100*F and the nights in the 60*F's (although this week the nights have been nearly in the 70's). Humidity about 10%. Pure sand as far down as anyone has dug (i.e. the electrical guy... ok, the well guy hit some caliche and some clay before he tunneled through to more sand). So, sorry, I am of no help, but I surely can commiserate. My only consolation is that at least I do not have to fear a heavy frost in June...

As for non-perenials, Basil seems to love this heat, and while they didn't really take off until night temps were consistantly above 40, they are doing very well, I have been using some for flowers this year and they are very pretty. I have purple ruffles, blue spice, anise, lemon (plain flowers, yummy smell/taste) and some other purple that I can't think of right now.

Good luck - I would be very interested in anything you might dig up as I am new to High Desert gardening and so far I and the desert have killed a lot of plants. Even plants that are supposed to do well here.

Eureka, NV

Thank you KMOM246 for your reply. Interestingly enough, I previously lived in Fernley so I will now cease and desist about the heat! My backyard is a true glory. Though quite small, it is completely surrounded on two sides by 40ft pink sandstone undulating cliffs...a spectacle! This however translates to, as you related, sand. I was new to gardening when I built two rock terraces to try to harness the sand and waterfalls (when it rains) filtering into my backyard. "Well-draining" has never been a problem here! I was too novice to amend the soil for my groundcovers. But through due diligence (1 1/2 hours of watering/morning) I have established some plants that do quite well. I have planted thyme, veronica, sedum and also ornamental grasses, miniature pine and spruce species. I hope this may help. Thank you for your news on basil! Good Luck in the this hottest summer.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Fernly is growing by leaps and bounds - the new super walmart is under construction and new housing developments are popping up like flies and mosquitos... yes, no problem with drainage around here :-) Good luck! Lots of experienced and friendly gardeners who understand "adversarial gardening".

Round Mountain, NV(Zone 6a)

Hello there.. I just noticed this thread. I also live in NV. My address says Round Mountain but I really do not live close to Round Mountain at all. I live closer to Kingston NV. If you are familiar with Smoky Joes convenience store, My husband and I live behind it, up against the Toiyabe range. We have been here for 10 years now. We love it so much. I'm still trying to figure out what grows best here. I think that Eureka is a beautiful place. Our Vet is there is also, JJ. He's the greatest. Also my folks live in Silver Springs. Better go now got to make dinner. Have a great evening Whiterock and kmom246

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

By the way, I have discovered that bearded irises LOVE it here. Once I fenced the dogs and rabbits away from them, they took off and have come back over two winters. There are some photos of this spring on my blog http://highdesertgardening.blogspot.com/search/label/Bearded%20Iris Sorry, you have to scroll through other pics to find them. Besides the wild desert mallow that has taken up residence in my herb bed, nothing else has reliably over wintered for me yet...

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Welcome to the RM forum Nevada peoples ^_^ We're pretty relaxed about everything here. I'm no help to you as I have the opposite problem-cold nights but I think the NM folks and some of the CO folks may have some great ideas for you. Also check the 'help with my hill" thread because there are lots of suggestions for drought tolerant perennials there which might be helpful.

Colorado Springs, CO(Zone 6a)

Hi Nevada folks!

If you mentioned these, I missed it... :) Coreopsis (Tickseed) and Echinacea (Coneflowers) are wonderful low low low water plants that are thriving in my beds. Also, Shasta Daisies and Marguerites, which I've grown from seed, and are going nuts their first year in the ground.

These will grow much faster in better soil with more water, but are growing (just much more slowly) in my "let's see what survives here" sandy/clay/rocky bed (full sun) I water 2-3 times a week now. And we're in a heat wave and drought here. All these are listed as hardy here as well (Zone 5/6a).

Did anyone mention creeping phlox (moss phlox) or dianthus (Sweet William)? Also in the same bed and bloomed very nicely. The dianthus is a self-seeding biennial, from what I can glean online. I also have a nice little stand of Liatris (Gayfeather flower) that's doing well. Not so happy are three Peonies my dearest love misplanted... oops!

Thumbnail by Colorado_Karen
Bend, OR(Zone 4b)

Hello fellow non-RM high-desert people. Have you tried lavender? They like well-draining "soil" and are supposed to be xeric, once established. You do have to throw some water on them in the winter if no snow cover. I just harvested my first batch of buds - they make the house smell so nice. Russian sage might be another thing to try. My former neighbor planted some, and the new owner there has completely neglected them - no additional water for 2 years now and still they march on.

Colorado Springs, CO(Zone 6a)

I planted munsteads in heavy colorado clay amended HEAVILY with builder's sand and lots of compost; holding its own with regular watering in this heat wave, but the buds died immediately and parts of the plants threaten to go brown between waterings.

Hidcote from seed and some kind of french lavender my DH bought me is happy in a moderately amended bed that gets water every day. Only other difference is heat, which is significantly higher for the munsteads that seem less than thrilled with life.

I have 4 russian sage in pots waiting for me to figure out where to put them; they're blooming all over town and in spots I've *never* seen get water. Do you know how they'll do with too much water? Some people show their love by overfeeding; we show ours by overwatering.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Sage has died on me in the past when I gave it too much TLC sigh.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I have lavender -- sorry I don't know what kind in two raised beds that don't get a lot of water. They were slow to start but have been coming back year after year. I have never tried Russian Sage but it is all over here and thrives -- seemingly both with care and without care.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

The Rusian Sage in Reno where I work gets watered every time they water the lawn. The lawn is Bright Green all summer, so I am guessing they water nearly every night. The Rusian Sage is over 6 ft tall right now, and laughing at the heat. It tends to be invasive at work, but that may be a result of having so much water available. The gardeners cut them back to about 2 ft tall and yank out seedling every spring. Other places that look less pampered don't seem to become so over-run and the height of the plants stay more in the 3-4 ft range... hmmmm, I am feeling like I may come into owning a bunch of little sage plants next spring...

Santa Fe, NM

Hi, I just saw this thread. Whiterock, have you looked at the native plants in your area? Maybe some sort of penstemons, chocolate flower, cactus? Blue flax? I'm curious as to what kinds of natives and wild plants are growing where you are.

Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

Hi. May I sneak into the Rocky Mountain group? Although I live in Oregon, it is the dry side you never hear about unless it is on fire. My elevation is 3300 ft, and we get less than 10 inches of precipitation annually. Lots of sagebrush, native cactus, a few junipers, lots of rocks, clay soil, and zone 5 winters, sometimes with snow up to my armpits, and sometimes with so little that I never have to break out my boots.

SnowlineRose, I can appreciate your gardening conditions, having lived and tried to garden at Bend. 4th of July frost is no fun at all. We were east of town, but from your name I would guess that you might be west or south.

Gailardia do very well here, also Blue Queen Salvia, and Russian Sage. They all reseed and I either pull out the unwanteds, give them away or transplant them. I also have a lot of iris, and daylilies, but I must confess, I do water things. Quite a few plants are looking stressed with the heat and bright sun even with twice weekly water. We also get wind that dries jeans in an hour on the line, dries my eyeballs between blinks and pulls the moisture out of plants faster than they can take it in.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Sounds like your weather conditions fit right in with those of many in the Rocky Mountain area. Welcome to the thread!

Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

Thanks. I knew it didn't fit either the northwest forum or the southwest.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Welcome MaryE. Greetings from the North RM ^_^

Bend, OR(Zone 4b)

Hello fellow eastern Oregonian MaryE. I have really enjoyed "crashing" the RM forum. Super nice, knowledgeable folks on this forum. Yeup, I'm on the SE end of town. A big lava ridge on the south end of our property blocks the wind but also blocks the winter sun; thus we are always the last place with snow in the spring - the "snowline".

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

OMG the oregonigones are crashing :O :O just kiddin ^_^ (one of my buddies from oregon told me you were oregonigones, cool name BTW).

Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

Snowline, are you between hwy 97 and the river? We have friends who live down there in a subdivision where the Aubrey Butte fire came through after it jumped the river. They live on Crater street, and there is a cinder butte south of their house. I think the name of the subdivision might be Deschutes River Woods, but it has been so long since I lived in the Bend area, I have forgotten a lot of the names.

Bend, OR(Zone 4b)

MaryE, I'm at the end of Tekampe Rd E of Hwy 97. We have a friend who lives in DRW on the canyon above the river. He looks down on the top of bald eagles as they cruise the canyon.

And speaking of perennial ideas for high desert NV... :) ... I just read art_n_garden's article re: penstemons. Wow - i never knew there was such variety - and they are beeeeautiful! Maybe they would work for you, whiterock? I started a small penstemon garden a couple of years ago, and they seem to be doing well (although they do get some water daily).

Bend, OR(Zone 4b)

So MaryE, what kind of soil do you have in Baker? It sounds like a lot of the RMers are dealing with clay, which is more of a challenge than the volcanic sand I have here in Bend.

Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

Clay. It was quite a challenge after the sand we had at Bend, but with the addition of plenty of barn cleanings and compost, it is workable. Right now I am cleaning the quackgrass out of flower beds, chopping nice edges and removing sod. I try to shake off as much soil as possible, but if it is too wet it is like a wet brick and if too dry, like a dry one. My first clue when I walked here in the spring was that my feet kept getting bigger and heavier.

We have a wildflower here that I think is penstemon. I'll track down a picture for you..

Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

Penstemon?

Thumbnail by MaryE
Santa Fe, NM

Nice looking plants! I think they are penstemons, but I don't know what type. Where I live the soil is clay, for sure. Traditional adobe is clay and straw. It can be amended to some extent but mine would really like to be made in to bricks. Funny about your feet!

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

MaryE,
I am pretty sure that is Rocky Mountain Penstemon, which grows wild all over the Rockies. Check out:

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/175664/

It can also be purchased at nurseries that specialize in native plants -- as plants or seed. It is truly beautiful. I gather your patch was planted by nature? One way or the other, it is an excellent plant for a garden.

Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

It sure looks the same except for the color. Yes, the picture was of a wild one.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Blues often look purple in photos. I bet it is the same.

Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

I hadn't thought of that.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

I have gardened in Massachusetts, New York, Nebraska, and finally now in Central Wyoming. In Nebraska, I operated a small commercial nursery, specializing in drough-resistant plants. Gardening in Nebraska, was a learning experience from my gardening in the Eastern states. I had to learn all over again since both soil and climate was extremely different compared to what I was used to. Also now live 5123ft above sea level, which makes the sun intense.

In Massachusetts and New York there was too much rain. In Nebraska and Wyoming, never enough, not to mention the drying wind. Also the climate here is dry and temp can go to 100F degrees some summers. I have learned that when it says full sun for a plant, it will most often benefit from beign shaded by the hot afternoon sun. Morning, to early afternoon sunlight is best.

Ofcourse, most of us can't provide shading from the afternoon sun to all our plants. It would cut down on our garden space. I have a small yard and every inch counts.

From 9 years of gardening experience in Wyoming I use Sedums and Sempervivums in hot spots. I have many varieties of both and love them. Both are deer proof. Irises are another good candidate for sun and heat. Daylilies also, but need a bit more water than Irises. These too are deer proof.

In addition, plants such as, Penstemon, Euphorbia, Salvia, Armeria, Oenothera, Hyssop, Delosperma, Scabiosa, Stachys, Rudbeckia, Asclepias, Ratibida, and a host of other plants are all drought and heat resistant.

I am a confessed chickaholic. Inclosing a photo of one of my addictions---Sempervivum 'Pacific Sexy'

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Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

What a cute "chick". I like them, too, and agree they are great for the hot, dry west. I like the one covered with what looks like spider webs. And I love the blooms on that one. They have the prettiest pink blooms. See attached photo.
So where do you buy these exotic hens and chicks. I might like some more. Have you tried arilbred irises? Many of them need a little shade, too, I have learned.
Glad to have someone on this forum with lots of dry land gardening experience. BTW, I am at 7300 ft. and altitude does make the sun intense.

Thumbnail by pajaritomt
Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

O that's a luvly semp paj. Do you know which it is?

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

It's the one that appears to have cobwebs all over it. I always have to look it up, but it is called the Cobweb houseleek. Here is a really good picture of the cobwebs:

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/207542/

Mind you the flowers are quite small, but still very eye catching.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Very pretty. I have some with slight webbing but not that much. I'm gonna keep my eye open for that one.

Santa Fe, NM

Nice picture, Paja! Those Hen and Chickens are tough little plants. They seem to grow anywhere and in any soil! I like all the sedums.

Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

The link didn't open to look at your cobwebs. I have a plant that has them and wanted to see if it was the same one. It's small and hasn't bloomed. I keep it in my greenhouse.

I have a few spots that I reserve for succulents outside. Here is one, under an ornamental windmill that we improvised a rebar base for, loaded it up with rocks, covered them with soil and planted hens and chicks and other little succulents. They are just getting a good start. I want it to look like a mosiac.

Thumbnail by MaryE
Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I just tried the link and it worked fine. Try again. Maybe double click. If none of that works try this link, which I hope it works better.

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/53928/

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Link works for me.

Santa Fe, NM

Me, too!

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