What To Plant On Your Lot

by Chuck Loeffler

The Bent Tree Log February 1992


Although we're still in the middle of winter, spring will be here before we know it.  That will bring thoughts of doing some landscaping on our lots - particularly near houses, where ground has been disturbed by the building process.  When deciding what to plant, don't just rush out to your favorite nursery and buy whatever's on sale.  In order to maximize plant survival and also provide some benefit to our local wildlife, consider the following suggestions:


What to Plant


There are many attractive plants available at nurseries, but some are not suited to the climate and/or soils in Bent Tree.  As a general rule, try to plant species that are native to Colorado's ponderosa pine ecosystem, or at least adapted well to the natural conditions.  Avoid planting exotic species.  They will not grow as well here, require more care than natives, and, if they do survive, will disrupt the natural look and composition of the native ponderosa pine forest.  We live in a beautiful natural forest setting, and we should try to maintain what nature has created.


Having some flower boxes, or even a small garden with your favorite "exotic" flowers, near the house is OK, but let the native flowers have the rest of your lot.


When revegetating disturbed, bare areas around a newly built house, use a native grass mix (available at many nurseries), and transplant some clumps of native ground cover from undisturbed parts of your lot.


The dominant tree in our area is, of course, the ponderosa pine.  Adding some other species of trees is a good idea, both in terms of enhancing appearance and creating some ecological diversity.  Here too, however, stay away from exotics.  Recommended species of trees include DOUGLAS FIR, BLUE SPRUCE, and ASPEN.  The fir do well on most sites, while the spruce and aspen will do better at lower sites which collect additional moisture.


In general, there is not much shrubby vegetation in Bent Tree.  Although too much of such low, shrubby cover can create additional fire hazard and, sometimes, security problems, some patches of it here and there are very beneficial to wildlife and can be aesthetically pleasing.  There are several shrub species which are suited for use in our area, including MOUNTAIN MAHOGANY, GAMBEL'S OAK, SERVICEBERRY, CHOKECHERRY, CARAGANA, COTONEASTER, WILD ROSE, KINNIKINNIK (Bear Berry), and POTENTILLA.  The rose and kinnikinnik are already quite common in our area, and can be transplanted to disturbed areas from other parts of your lot.


Many of the species mentioned above are available in seedling form from the COLORADO STATE FOREST SERVICE at very reasonable cost.  For price and ordering information, contact the State Forest Service at 687-2921, in Woodland Park.  They also offer free workshops on the planting and care of seedling trees.  One such workshop will be held at Lewis-Palmer Elementary School on February 24th, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM.


Where to Plant


When deciding where to plant new trees and shrubs you will want to consider both appearance and function.  In some cases you may want to place trees and shrubs in locations where they will provide screening for privacy.  In most cases, place the new plants in a natural pattern, rather than in straight rows.  Try to make them blend in with the natural look of the area.  An exception to this would be something like a row of small shrubs which line the walk to your front door.


Don't plant too many large woody shrubs too close to your house.  This can increase fire hazard and provide hiding cover for prowlers or burglars.  Also, remember that most shrubs and some trees will grow better in locations where natural drainage will provide them with extra moisture.  Don't plant too close to the road.  The right-of-way, which extends 30 feet from the center of the road, is mowed every summer, so keep plantings at least 20 feet back from the traveled portion of the road.


For more information on the planting and care of shrubs and trees, contact your local nursery and/or attend the State Forest Service workshops, mentioned above.


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