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Iconic Colorado Springs market shares its history and favorite xeric shrubs

By: Heather Gunnerson, Spencer's Produce, Lawn and Garden Center
May 8, 2017 Updated: May 8, 2017 at 2:56 pm
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In 1934, Spencer’s Market became the first farmer’s market in Colorado Springs, and has had a rich history since. Eva and Noble Spencer, Sr. purchased the current location of the produce area and candy basement. Previously, Noble started a business hauling wooden fence posts from the Canon City area to ranches and farms all over the state. He brought fresh Colorado produce back from the western slope in the summers so locals could stock up and can for the winter. Soon after, trucks were coming in daily with seasonal plants for eager clients. In the 1940’s the company began selling Christmas trees and opened the basement as the candy room. In 1959, Margie and Noble Spencer, Jr. (J.R.) bought the business; and with their children Alice, Nancy (late) and Mike, expanded the business to 1430 South Tejon. In 1974, they added bedding plants. In the early eighties, the garden center moved to its current location, which was originally an Exxon gas station, where the nursery department was expanded. 1995 saw further expansion with the addition of the large Lexan greenhouse and a second location in Security. In 2005, they built and moved the second location to 4720 Center Valley Drive.


Nearly 85 years later, we are still family owned and operated by Mike Spencer, Susan Spencer and Alice Spencer-Robinson; and Dan Robinson J.R. is heavily involved with day-to-day tasks and can often be seen watering, making deliveries and watching over the operation. Mike and Susan’s grandchildren often come by to run around and “help” as only preschoolers and toddlers can.


It has always been our policy to provide the freshest, best quality in plants and produce. We believe our products are the best in the industry and we are always looking for new and innovative inventory. Chili roasting at both locations has become a community favorite. Our educational seminars have expanded throughout the season and city as we collaborate with local colleges.


We pride ourselves on a diverse range of bedding plants and nursery stock grown specifically for our area. Between our unique climate and wildlife damage, it can be frustrating to keep a landscape looking its best. Fortunately, there are many xeric shrub options that are the perfect addition or centerpiece for our local climate. Depending on your vision of your ideal landscape, you can create a beautiful garden that thrives in slightly dry, dry or very dry conditions. Keep in mind, everything is going to need extra water to get established – but will lessen their water requirements within a season or two. Here are our top picks for shrubs that we’ve found to be successful in our area:


Shrubs that thrive in slightly dry conditions:


Butterfly bush: This deer resistant shrub flowers profusely in the summer with fragrant lilac blooms.

Daphne: This is a great foundation planting shrub, growing three to four feet tall and wide with densely packed narrow leaves and clusters of pink to white flowers that bloom in late spring and late summer.

Euonymus burning bush: Another deer resistant shrub that turns magnificently red and orange in the fall. A stunning addition to any landscape.

Euonymus: With shiny, small, dark green leaves – this can be used as a privacy hedge when allowed to grow to its maximum potential.

Forsythia: A showstopper in the spring, this delivers bright yellow flowers followed by rich green foliage lasting well into fall.

Golden Vicary privet: This large eight to ten foot tall and wide shrub has yellow leaves throughout the growing season.

Honeysuckle: When supported, honeysuckle will climb and vine. Trumpet-shaped flowers appear in late spring through summer.

Potentilla: A deer resistant shrub, popular in our area. Yellow, white or pink flowers bloom on a mound of dark green leaves. Can tolerate intense heat and drought for short periods.

Roses: Hybrid Tea and Grandiflora Roses are easily recognizable and very popular. Often underestimated as a hardy plant, roses thrive with little attention, making them worth the effort.

Spirea: These are easy-to-grow shrubs that make a bold statement in the garden. The foliage is flashy alone but beautifully accented with flowers in the summer. Check out Lime Mound, Gold Mound, and Gold Flame varieties.

Viburnum: Also known as snowball bush, these six to ten foot shrubs add interest year round. They are particularly gorgeous in mid-spring with large clusters of white flowers resembling snowballs.


Shrubs that thrive in dry conditions:


Barberry: Deer resistant, this red-leafed shrub make an excellent hedge. Use caution, as this is a thorny, though beautiful plant.

Blue mist spirea: Clusters of deep blue flowers cover the top of this short, mounding shrub.

Cotoneaster: Vigorous and low maintenance, this shrub fountains its branches in graceful arches. Stunning centerpiece in the landscape.

Juniper- With several varieties available from low-growing to tall columns, these add interest and beauty.

Mockorange- Fountain-like in growth habit, this shrub produces wonderfully fragrant white flowers in spring.

Ninebark: Unique because of its peeling bark, this shrub has beautiful pink-white flowers in early summer.

Mugho pine: This is a symmetrical, slow growing pine often featured in rock gardens.

Currant: A deer resistant, thornless, and attractive plant whose berries can be used for jams and jellies.

Shrub roses: A rugged nature, summer-long blooms, and shocking fragrance make this perfect for a carefree border, cluster planting, or planting in your perennial garden.

Viburnum lentago: Large white flowers dot this tall, densely foliated shrub.

Alleghany viburnum: A rounded, six to eight foot deer resistant shrub that produces large yellow-white flower clusters in spring. Fruit changes from scarlet to black through the season.

Serviceberry: Graceful, tall and airy, this shrub has interesting foliage throughout the growing season.


Shrubs that thrive in very dry conditions:


Pixwell, red jacket and whitestem gooseberry: Deer resistant and very hardy, these three to five foot shrubs produce edible berries and beautiful fall color.

Sumac: Extremely cold hardy and preferring dry, well-drained soil, these shrubs have brilliant fall color and bright red fruits.

Yucca: Stemless clumps of sword-like leaves are the hallmark of this tough, drought tolerant plant.

To learn more, visit

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