There's so much that changes in the MG landscape throughout the year...we thought a plant trial and garden blog was the best way to start sharing "what's new" and "what's happening with all those new varieties" with you! Visit often for updates on how trial plants are performing in the gardens and to see photos throughout the season as we grow and change!

Welcome to the Midwest Groundcovers Landscape Blog

Welcome to the Midwest Groundcovers Landscape Blog
Astilbe 'Vision in Red' with Hosta 'Patriot' and Carex 'Ice Dance'

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hello again,
The last week of July, and it seems like the weather is cooperating with us a bit.  Temperatures haven't reached over 100 for a couple days and we've had some spattering of rain showers to brighten up some of the plants.  So on Friday this week, I had the great pleasure of going to Boerner Botanical Gardens in Milwaukee and Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, WI.  Brent Gustason and I were dropping off Allium Summer Peek-a-Boo™ to these two gardens for them to place in their trials. Here are some of the things we saw. And they all happen to be New for 2013 for Midwest Groundcovers!
Echinacea Sombrero™ Hot SalsaI think I've become harder to please when it comes to coneflowers. There are just so many out there on the market. This one is truly different than anything else I've seen.  For one thing, the size is great.  Short and sturdy branching so flopping doesn't occur makes this a great improvement over other reds out there.  Plus, this color is so red and exciting that I'd beg you to show me a coneflower with longer lasting red color.  I don't think it exists yet.  And, look at how many blooms are on this beauty. In a container, I counted 21 flower buds yet to open.  Not bad for a baby plant.
Physocarpus Amber Jubilee™
It was quite exciting walking up to this plant at Olbrich yesterday.  I had only seen pictures of the plant and what we had in production.  In the ground, in a part shade situation, the colors really popped.  Bright orange and yellows aging to chartreuse.  Physocarpus is the new Heuchera.  There are new colors and sizes coming out all the time.  This seems to be a winner to me.  Who doesn't want a little orange pop in their garden?
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Pee Wee'
Have you noticed that it is the year of the oak leaf hydrangea? Everywhere I see them, they just look spectacular.  Maybe because of the gentle winter we had, there was little die back, so they have quickly risen to spectacular.  I've always liked the plant, but I have a new appreciation for it now.  This is the largest 'Pee Wee' I have ever seen. Since it topped out at almost 4', I would say that it is about as large as it gets.  For the shrub border, in part shade, I'm not sure I can recommend much better than this plant.
The New World of Groundcover
We've spent years and years looking for the best new groundcovers.  Some candidates were great, some not so much.  But as we approach the 2000 teens, it appears that the best new groundcovers have been under our nose the whole time.  Or maybe, underneath our oak and crabapple trees.  They say sedges have edges, but if you are a landscaper right now, you can get an edge on the competition by using this amazing group of plants.  In this picture, you can see the fabulous groundcover of sedges that leads you to the bench.  Behind the bench was a Tricolor beech. With Solidago 'Fireworks' to the left and Anemone to the right, this little path walked us into a garden of calming influence.  It really made both of us take a breath and relax. 

Thanks again for taking the time out to read the blog.  To the many visitors that have come to our gardens in July, thank you.  We've had a great time having you all out here.  Other than my birthday and wedding anniversary, there is nothing better to me than to have you out here touring our grounds and learning about plants.  A personal thanks from me to you.  Until next time, have a great day!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Natives in the Garden

Happy Heat Wave Everyone,
Despite the intense heat that we've had the past couple weeks, there are certain plants in the landscape that have done very well.  Some surprising, and some not so much. We've finally received some rain, but it came down so fast that most of it ran off the areas that needed it most.  Though I think the pond is happy to have the run off.
Opuntia humifusa
On a trip to Michigan a couple weeks ago, I saw large stands of Prickly Pear cactus in Saugutuck State Park.  It was quite the sight to see.  There was a sign that said "Please do not disturb the natural area", so I obliged.  But here in St Charles, it's blooming too.  Our habitat is less fragile than the one in Michigan, so I could get nice and close.  Opuntia humifusa grows variable to 1.5' to 2.5' tall and spreads further than that.  This plant supports many mammals eating habits, and the guys here tell me it tastes great on the grill.
Euphorbia corollata
This is one of the plants that every year I can't resist photographing it.  Like a Poinsettia, the white parts are actually just modified leaves while the flowers are the tiny yellow center.  Growing anywhere from half a foot to 3 feet tall, this plant is incredibly drought tolerant.  Around here, I see it growing on the Fox River bluffs where it is mostly sandy and very well drained soils.  Like any other Euphorbia, I wouldn't recommend eating any of this.  Birds like it, but it is poisonous for mammals.

Cephalanthus occidentalis
This was my surprise of the day.  Janie Grillo told me there was a button bush at Natural Garden that was in a pretty dry area, but this was the first time I had seen it.  It looked great.  I guess this plant doesn't have to be near water after all.  There is something special about this plant.  It may not be the most clean looking plant in the world, but the strange white sputniks of flowers are incredibly interesting.  It made my day out there.

Thanks again for reading this abbreviated version of the blog.  Thanks also to the Garden Writers Association for coming to our facility this week.  It is always great to have you and our other guests out to our gardens.  Until next time, have a great day!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sneek Peek at Allium Summer Peek-A-Boo™

Hello again,
Everyone has come to love Allium 'Summer Beauty' for its ease of care and beautiful habit and blooms.  The only people I've run across that haven't liked it were marketing a similar product with a different name.  I can't see any other reasons for not liking it.  It is rejected by rabbits and deer.  It's drought tolerant.  The foliage stays super clean and the flowers attract pollinating insects. I am excited to present to you today, our Midwest Groundcovers exclusive, Allium Summer Peek-A-Boo™.  The top picture below is the iconic 'Summer Beauty' while each of the three below it are Summer Peek-A-Boo™.  The major difference between the two is the height and compact habit of the Summer Peek-A-Boo™. Come to one of the industry trade shows this summer to get a peek at what's growing on.
 Allium 'Summer Beauty'

Allium Summer Peek-A-Boo™

Here is a comparison of the two plants. As you can see, the 'Summer Beauty' is much taller of a plant the Summer Peek-A-Boo.  I would think a garden mixing the two together to have differing heights mixed together would be interesting.  Also, having the Allium blood, rabbits and deer still stay away.

I hope you are all as excited as I am for this new introduction.  I think it will work wonders in many applications.  And think about the more compact habit on your garden center benches!  This morning, I was looking at both side by side, and was flabbergasted by how the new plants almost makes the 'Summer Beauty' look messy. Hold tight, 2013 is just around the corner.  And if you must see it beforehand, come to summer field day in Wisconsin or Illinois, as well as the IGC show at Navy Pier.  Whats more, we have an established bed of these at our facility you can see in the ground.  Until next time, have a great day!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Natives Outshine the Competition

Hello again, I've never been one to run through the sprinklers. At least at work that is.  But lately, if there is water in the air, I'm trying to get under it.  This is hot folks!  You didn't need me to tell you that though.  After the forth consecutive day above 100 degrees, I had a tough time getting the urge to go out and take pictures.  If you are outside all day like a lot of you probably are, I'm not complaining.  I have it made being able to work in an air-conditioned office.  If the weatherchannel.com report is correct, we should be back into the 80's by Sunday.  That will be a relief. 
Liatris spicata
If there were ever any reason to promote natives, times like these really market them well.  While walking through the gardens this morning, I noticed that most of the plants that looked best were native plants.  This picture has both the Liatris and the Eryngium yuccifolium otherwise known as Rattlesnake Master.  This combo borders our native area.  These were planted three years ago now, and are doing a great job turning this area into a somewhat designed native garden.

Parthenium integrifolium
I think I talk about this plant every year.  I also think that it's probably because it fills a time when not much else is looking great.  Sure the Echinacea are blooming everywhere, but you already know about those.  I have this planted in many areas now, but I like it best mixed with the Liatris and in another area with Geranium 'Bevan's Variety'.  The bold textured foliage looks great with fine textured plants like grasses as well.

Monarda Grand Marshall™
While it is very dry outside, there are some parts of our landscape that get plenty of moisture.  Water running from our Yard Shoppe display area filters into the garden that has Grand Marshall™.  This keeps this area well watered without having to put the labor into hand watering it.  When designing this garden, it was my intent on putting things there that I don't have enough water for in other gardens.  Ligularia, Carex elata 'Aurea', and various Astilbe have done well here.

Hopefully the next week we'll have some refreshing temperatures out there.  Right now it seems like a dream.  Until next time, have a great day!

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Heat is On

Hello again,
What a difficult summer we are having. I always argue for the Midwest, saying that we have four seasons and that is why it is better to live in Illinois than in Florida.  Having Winter, makes us appreciate Spring and Fall all the more.  Not having a Spring though, like this year, sure makes this area much less appealing. We went straight from winter to summer this year and left out the part of the year where most of the rain comes.  I've asked you to dance, and we got a little rain today, but not enough.  Even with the extreme heat and lack of water, plants are still looking good.  Our landscape crew at Midwest has been working very hard to keep things looking nice.  Areas of the garden that we never usually water have needed it this year.  So this is a public thank you to Gustavo and Fakundo for taking care of the plants so that I can get decent images of them.  And here they are.

Hydrangea Invincibelle® Spirit
I had a group of students out this week for a tour.  They came from Des Moines area Community College, or DEMACC as they call themselves.  Thanks for making us a part of your road trip touring.  When I asked which of the two they liked better, they chose this one over the Endless Summer® Bella Anna.  The color of flowers is very similar.  Maybe a little darker on the Bella Anna, but the Invincibelle® Spirit as a whole looks like a better plant.

Hydrangea Incrediball®
This is the best this plant has ever looked in our garden. I've seen the mother plant at Spring Meadow and it was very impressive.  I've come to the conclusion this year that Hydrangea arborescens needs three years in the ground to reach their potential.  The added watering that we've needed to do this year has potentially helped them get larger and a little stronger.  The plant itself is still only 3' tall but some of the flowers are nearly a foot wide themselves.

Aesculus parviflora
This is my annual posting of Bottlebrush Buckeye.  I fall more and more in love with it every year.  This hedge was intended as a production hedge where we'd take cuttings every year for propagation.  Well, the nursery manager that asked me to plant it, left a year later and they have left the plants to grow large and beautiful.  Six years in the ground, the plants are 6' x 6' wide and flowering like crazy.  These have not gotten any supplemental watering, so they are proving drought tolerant as well.  The ones in more shade are about a week behind in flowering, but these in full sun look great right now.
Asclepias incarnata
A couple quick pictures of some milkweed here.  I am fascinated by the flowers on these.  A. incarnata is one of my favorite plants.  Monday, I had a good friend in here telling me that she loves to read the blog and hear me say over and over again, "this is my favorite".  So here's to you Brenda!  I like it mostly because it photographs so well.  But also because its genera is the host to the monarch caterpillar.  Insects of many backgrounds flock to this plant to take a sip of its sweet nectar.

Asclepias syriaca
Larger flowers form on this species.  This is the common milkweed plant that you are most likely to see on the roadsides.  It does seed around quite freely.  The biggest threat to this plant though is mowing.  Roadside ditches with this plant in it should be left alone after the beginning of June.  Monarchs are in danger of lower numbers year after year, and if we mow down the plants they require for nourishment, we lose their habitat.  Furthermore, these plants most likely have larvae already on them when we mow, essentially killing one of our continents iconic migratory animals.
Piet Oudolf Garden
It's been a little while since I've posted a picture of this garden.  It is looking quite nice today.  The Echinacea are beginning to bloom all around the garden which really adds a lot of color.  In this picture, Amsonia hubrichtii is beginning to show it's fall color in June per usual. The fine texture of the Narrow-Leaved Bluestar and the Coneflowers mixed looks great.  The garden overall, is looking the best I've seen in many years.  I'm very happy we had Piet out here last year to take a look.  This morning, we had a discussion about removing some plants from the garden.  The targeted plant is the Eryngium yuccifolium.  I love Rattlesnake Master, but it is officially becoming a beast in the garden.  It could be the most difficult of the weeds we've had to remove, but we're going to give it a try.

As I've been typing away, the rain has continued to come down gently.  I want to treat it like I'd treat my young nieces and nephews and say that it can't possibly rain any more.  These clouds are not strong enough to persist through the day.  I just don't believe that they can do it.  Come on reverse psychology!  I hope this rain reaches all of us that need it desperately.  I'm going to continue with the rain dance.  We need as much as these clouds are willing to give.  Hopefully the next few days this will continue and resaturate the ground.  Until next time, thanks for reading and have a great day!