The Q&A Archives: Plants or Herbs for a summer home in the mountains.

Question: I am looking for herbs or flower that can be grown in the moutains at about 6000 feet. We have a lot that we use during the summer, and would like to plant some herbs or flowers. They would need to be heat tolerant, and not need alot of attention or watering, as we are only there on the weekends.

Answer: Because you won't be able to water during the week I think you should concentrate on growing plants classified as drought resistant. Drought resistant plants fall into a number of categories. There are ground covers, flowers, shrubs, trees, grasses, and everything in between. It is possible to fill a garden entirely with a profusion of colorful drought resistant plants that will liven it up while being better for the environment.

As a general rule of thumb, drought resistant plants should be heavily mulched to help them retain water. They should also be watered in the morning, rather than the evening, as the cooler night weather combined with the water may cause the plants to rot. Mulch doesn't have to be expensive ? many gardeners use newspaper, though not glossy print, and in addition to keeping the plant moist, it keeps down weeds and pests.

Some drought resistant flowers include the Dahlberg daisy, a bright yellow flower that grows about a foot tall, and members of the salvia family, which come in a dazzling array of colors and sizes. Four o'clocks, flowering tobacco, baby's breath, poppies, geraniums, lavender, lupine, sunflowers, periwinkle, statice, zinnia, alyssum, and verbena are other examples of drought resistant flowers. There are numerous others, although those listed above present a nice range of colors and sizes to enhance the garden.

Most grasses and vines are drought resistant, although the following species are particularly so: mallow, heather, sedge, blue fescue, switchgrass, sage, hens and chicks, honeysuckle, and periwinkle. In addition, many herbs, such as thyme, oregano, sage, members of the mint family, and catnip, are drought resistant and can be used to create fragrant borders in the garden.

Shrubs and bushes include butterfly bush, clematis, flowering quince, witch hazel, juniper, yew, arrowwood, roses, and cinquefoil. Shrubs can be used to establish low borders, to differentiate various parts of the garden, and to add dimension to planting. Some shrubs may require more pruning than others to maintain shape and prevent them from taking over the garden. Luckily, like most drought resistant plants, shrubs are able to handle radical cutbacks, and in some cases, they like being clipped right to the roots and allowed to grow back in the next year.

Best wishes with your garden!

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