Seed Companies You Should Know About: High Country Gardens

This is one of those rare companies whose catalog I receive that isn’t at least half vegetables. In fact, they don’t really have vegetables at all in the traditional sense. Sure, there are some edible plants in their pages, but that isn’t what they are focused on. I think those of you who’ve been interested in growing in dry areas are going to really want to pay attention. Those of you in wet areas should pay attention too. There are a few things here for everyone.


In 1984 (I am starting to notice a pattern between sustainability and the mid eighties), David Salman opened Santa Fe Greenhouses. Instead of focusing on the standard fare, he turned his full attention on blooming perennials, native plants and succulents. At the time, many western gardens were mostly rocks and cacti. He offered a way for others in New Mexico to have lush gardens without wasting endless amounts of water.

Demand grew and soon there were people traveling from other states to buy from his greenhouse. In 1993, he started a catalog division known as High Country Gardens. When his wife came on board, they added a website to the catalog division and it wasn’t long before they began winning awards and praise around the country.

In 2012, the Salmans decided to close the garden centers and found a partner they believed they could trust with the sale of High Country Gardens. They chose American Meadows. The Salman family continues to work with the company, developing and propagating the plants sold there.

I have to admit, I am not in love with the color combination of the website, but that’s really just a nitpick. The colors are so muted that it seems out of place with the vibrant images of their plants. At first glance, the site looks busy, but when you read it over, it isn’t hard to find our way around. There are several organizational methods for the plants, as well as a sidebar with most of the other questions you might have linked depending on what page you are currently on. There’s even a quick tool to check your exact zone by zipcode. The individual entries for the plants are filled with a wealth of information about where it can grow, the growth patterns and growing guides. The site even includes a blog by the original owner.

Much like the website, the catalog is laid out by usage. What are the best perennial plants for saving water? What plants will attract pollinators the best? Does it vine? Does it serve as a ground cover? You get the idea. There is even a section dedicated to sustainable lawns. The pictures are beautiful and the catalog is very user friendly. Whatever it is you are looking for, you can probably find it within a minute of turning pages.

GMO policy
As far as I have been able to find, they don’t have any form of GMO policy. With that being said, I don’t know of any plant in their catalog that is being groomed for GMO production either. There aren’t really any biotech companies beating down the door to get at perennial flowers or non-food production plants. There likely just isn’t enough money in it. See the notes about Trademarks and Patents.

Where the plants come from
They are grown by growers across the American West and then shipped via a Denver partner with extensive facilities. There isn’t a lot to say here. Given their setup, I would assume almost all of the newest varieties are somewhat exclusively grown in New Mexico, but that is supposition on my part.

Pricing and Shipping
They average around 10 dollars per plant. The lowest I have noticed was around 7 dollars and the high end tops out around 13 to 14. Most likely this is due to the nature of the plants and how many are propagated through cuttings. Seeds are unavailable from the company which I consider their one great weakness.

If you plan to buy around a specific purpose, they do have preplanned gardens that give you a certain number each of different plants tied to that goal. You can save a pretty large amount there, but don’t get to adjust the numbers to suit your own desires.

Shipping starts at $4.99 and goes up from there depending on how much is being shipped. The calculations are based on price, not weight, so expect that even ordering only one plant is going to run $6.99. Orders over $100 run a shipping of 15%. These would be high for seeds, but are probably reasonable for handle-with-care live plants.

Great extras
The company offers a 100% guarantee on the plants. While you can’t be refunded on the cost of shipping, you will have several options. If you follow the planting instructions and the plant still fails to succeed, you can have a refund of the cost of the plant, a one time replacement or a store credit towards another purchase equal to the value of the lost plant.

They have multiple methods of contact, including a live chat. The live chat is something really rare and worth mentioning. I hate phones, but love getting my answers in real time, so for those like myself, that is a real boon.

Looking to the future
The company will continue to search out and develop waterwise perennials. It is hard to say if there will be major changes in the company in the coming years. With it changing hands a few years ago, I haven’t noticed any alterations really. With that said, time will be the deciding factor here.

Trademarks and patents are something that concern some gardeners. A number of their plants are trademarked. As of 2010, they began to patent some of their plants, starting with Bouteloua gracilis. Patents can be used to keep biotech away, but considering what I mentioned above in the GMO section, it seems unlikely that was the reasoning. They are used in most cases as a legal tool to prevent others from growing the same plant without paying the original patent holder. I worked for a time with a greenhouse where every cutting they did from their geraniums that made it to market had to be tracked so they could pay the original company. I doubt this company is going to come after you if you propagate for your own garden use, but do be aware that these aren’t going to all be OP varieties.

While this isn’t the sort of thing you go to every year for your gardening needs, I think High Country Gardens is worth knowing about. Most of their plants can do amazingly well on a neglect diet. If you don’t have time to mow constantly, can’t seem to find time to keep up on your house borders and don’t really get the chance to plant a brand new yard every year, this could be a great solution for you. I know those no-mow lawns are a seriously appealing prospect for me. I never liked mowing laws, but they are great places for kids to play. Having one that tends to itself is certainly appealing!

What are your thoughts?

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