Q & A with Pat Hayward for ‘Pretty Tough Plants’

By Shelley Pierce | August 13, 2017
Image by Timber Press
by Shelley Pierce
August 13, 2017

Pat Hayward is Executive Director of Plant Select®, which is a leading non-profit cultivator, distributor, and educator of plants designed to thrive in the high plains and intermountain region, and anywhere that water resources are of concern.  The book ‘Pretty Tough Plants‘ is one of the many valuable outputs of their ongoing initiatives and meets a growing demand for dependably hardy plants that require less maintenance and less water, but look no less beautiful in the garden. Read on to learn more about this Timber Press book and enter to win one of three copies!

1. The smart plant choices in this book were compiled by “Plant Select’.  Can you tell us more about Plant Select and about the important role they played in this book?
Plant Select began more than 20 years ago as a collaboration of Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado State University and local growers. The idea was to develop and promote a unique and beautiful palette of plants appropriate to the Rocky Mountain region, focusing on water-wise plants that are resilient to the region’s challenging climate. This environment is unique because of our low humidity, alkaline soils, high altitude intense sunlight, and weather elements such as wind, hail, snow, hot, dry summers and extreme temperature fluctuations all year round.
Each year a new group of plants is promoted – some have been in horticulture for a while but are underutilized in the region; many others are new to horticulture and are introduced after years of successful evaluations in regional trials.
As a non-profit organization, Plant Select is made up of a large group of dedicated people from a wide range of professional organizations, including retail garden centers, wholesale growers, landscape professionals, Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University staff. The book was written and edited by more than twenty professional individuals, and photographs were supplied by another twenty or so people, both from the professional world and from dedicated gardeners who support the program.
This book encompasses all the plants in the program through 2017, and celebrates our 20th anniversary.

2. Who should consider reading this book and why?
Anyone interested in beautiful, water-wise gardening and those looking for resilient plants that thrive in extreme garden and landscape conditions will gain new ideas and insights from the book. These plants are tried and true, so it provides a roster of plants that can be counted on to perform in the conditions described for each plant. After reading the introductory pages, beginners will have greater success with these unique plants; more experienced gardeners will find new plants to trial that have never been available before; and landscape professionals will discover a new palette of dependable plants for residential and commercial design clients.

3. What criteria did the plants featured in this book have to meet for inclusion?  Just how hard was it finding plants that met all these criteria?
We have an 8-point selection process. All plants brought to the program must be evaluated on the following:
“¢ Does it flourish with less water?
“¢ Can it thrive in a broad range of conditions?
“¢ Is it habitat-friendly?
“¢ Will it be tough and resilient in challenging climates?
“¢ What makes it unique?
“¢ Is it resistant to disease & insects?
“¢ Does it offer long-lasting beauty?
“¢ Is it proven to be non-invasive?
Less than 10% of the plants brought to our attention through growers, breeders, plant exploration trips, Denver Botanic Gardens collections and interested individuals make it through the final selection process to become an award-winners

4. How does this book help us make smart, stunning and successful gardens?
We use the word “smart” because these plants are proven to perform well in the region’s conditions – the work has already been done for the consumer. When these plants are used in gardens and landscapes in the right conditions, success is much more likely. And the gardens are stunning because many of the plants are unique through much of the growing season, and even year-round. Our hope is that this palette of plants will create a new iconic American landscape style, illustrating how water wise gardens can truly be beautiful and environmentally friendly at the same time.

5. Can water thrifty gardening really be beautiful?
See above. Additionally, many of the plants were selected particularly for their aesthetic characteristics: larger flowers, longer bloom and winter interest, all while requiring lower water than more traditional garden plants.

6. What are some of the most useful features of this book?
One of the most important sections of the book is in the introductory pages, particularly the information on understanding the natural origins of these plants, and the “How to Use This Book” page. Most of these plants come from regions of the world with unique climatic and environmental conditions, and the more closely the garden replicates those conditions, the easier the plants will be to grow, and the more likely the garden will flourish.

Each plant profile offers basic plant information, such as size, water and sun needs, deer resistance, wildlife habitat benefits and its best features along with specific tips for growing and care, as well as detailed information about the plant’s origins. The photographs are crisp and clear, giving the reader a true understanding of the plant’s particular beauty and uniqueness.
The plant reference guide in the back is an incredible resource, giving the reader a quick yet inclusive guide to each plant’s needs, benefits and characteristics.

Lastly, this book was written by professional horticulturists with real-world experience, sharing their personal and professional insights. This collaboration and depth of knowledge, we feel, is the most valuable resource of all.

7. Tell us about a plant or two in this book that you personally find spectacular.
That is absolutely not fair! But if I have to choose two, they’d be:
1. Undaunted® ruby muhly: I love this plant because it fits so nicely into such a wide range of garden styles. It was discovered by Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden in central Texas, selected for its beautiful ruby-pink seed heads in late summer and fall, particular cold hardiness, and adaptability to both drier and moderate conditions. The foliage is fine-textured, and its greenish-grey foliage blends wonderfully with many of the other plants in the book. To me, it is one of the most understated yet elegant plants in the book.

2. Dwarf pinyon pines: It seems that everyone is always wanting a dwarf evergreen conifer that won’t get too big, so when these started becoming available I was thrilled. These selections of native pinyon (both Pinus cembroides and P. monophylla) grow only 1-2″/year and thrive in the hottest, driest garden conditions. And as evergreens, they also offer winter color and structure. Every garden has room for one of these!


WIN ONE OF THREE COPIES  OF ‘Pretty Tough Plants’!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, August 20 , 2017 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What is appealing to you about the book ‘Pretty Tough Plants’?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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