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'

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Last Days of Summer

Here it is September 21, and only two days are left in summer! The sad part for some, is that winter is coming. The great part is that Autumn is here! Autumn is my favorite time of the year. Fall colors galore, the weather gets a little cooler, open windows in the house. What else can you ask for? So without further adieu, here are some plants and combos that are doing very well at this time of the year.

This combination has many talents! First you see the yellow flowers of Solidago 'Fireworks'. This plant will get 3' tall with it's airy blooms reminiscent of....you guessed it! Fireworks. These plants started blooming a couple weeks ago. Before they do, they have great texture and structure which helps lend itself as a support for floppy plants in the garden. Alongside this goldenrod, lies Rosa Flower Carpet(TM) Scarlet. This new and unique rose has surprisingly clean and glossy foliage. It looks like a real winner. The flowers are double, opening with a hint of orange, and aging to a nice red. In our rose trials, we planted this late last year from a small container and they all lived. So it is proven hardy!

Aster oblongifolius 'October Skies'

I remember the first time I realized that the picture below is only 5 plants. "Wow!" I think I said. Or something like it. October Skies is one of the last Asters to fully bloom. This plant should be in flower for at least another month. It is just starting now, and already looks glorious. A couple things to note before planting October Skies. a) it is an aster and will reseed here and there. b) It gets enormous. 36" wide by 24" tall, and c) it smells like patchouli. If you like the smell of patchouli than this is for you. If not, don't brush up against it! If you don't know what patchouli is or smells like, you should buy one to find out.

Actaea 'Brunette'
One of the reasons I like fall so much is the sweet smell of Bugbane. Sweetly scented spikes of white, rise above the dark purplish green foliage. This plant is very deserving of a place in nearly every one's home. The problem is, that it likes to be consistently moist. Without the moisture, they will not grow as fast or as large, and occasionally will have some browning on the leaves. Otherwise, quite the plant. I know that I would not be able to go without one. Other Actaea on the market that are of interest include, Hillside Black Beauty, James Compton, and Pink Spike.
-These are all great plants to know. Something to give your late summer garden a kick start into fall. Until next time, have a great day!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Roses you should know

Now that roses have firmly entrenched themselves into our landscapes, the demand for new colors, greater hardiness and disease resistance has been turned up a notch. Marketing is where the real success lies. Roses are showing up in popular home magazines. Even commercials on HGTV for Flower Carpet(TM) roses exist. The people from Proven Winners are even getting their hands into the rose race. Our trials are here to weed out those that don't perform. Here at Midwest Groundcovers we are trialing 72 roses in the landscape as we speak. The trial, which is three years old and still maturing is helping us determine which are the best and which are the dogs. A lot of the time, these roses are bred in Oregon, or areas not very similar to the Chicagoland area. Our area can be one of the most difficult areas for roses. Little snow cover, humidity, and lots of wind just to name a few stresses that can occur. At this time, I'll go over some of the best, most exciting plants we have in our trials. I'd rather focus on the good than the bad. Here we go!

Rosa 'My Girl'
This is part of the Easy Elegance series from Bailey's Nursery. New flower buds are reminiscent of hybrid tea roses. More of the traditional form. Interesting color, with no hints of red like with most of the new roses. Bright pink, with large flowers and many petals, it boasts great disease resistance in the ground and in the containers. This one has a lot of potential!

Rosa 'All the Rage'
My personal favorite. I shouldn't post biases, I know, but I can't help it with this one. The bloom is nice, yes. What makes this rose great to me, is the shiny green foliage. I have seen very little leaf spot on this. The question last year was whether or not it was hardy. It looked very tropical, with it's glossy green leaves. After a year where so many roses did die, this one made it here. Keep an eye out for this Easy Elegance introduction.

Rosa Mystic Fairy
This one we've been selling for some time. Did I already tell you that one of these was my favorite. Darn. While it does get leaf spot, and can lose some leaves in the summer, it has such a nice bloom. So I can say that it is my favorite rose flower, just not my favorite rose plant. Also part of the Easy Elegance program. Smaller flowers similar in size to Scarlet Meidiland. In my home garden, it stays clean and blooms for quite some time.

There are so many more that look and perform well for us. You'll have to stay tuned for the other winners such as, Home Run, Pink Knock Out and more. Have a great day, and thanks for reading.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Wonderful World of Seedheads!

Here we are at the beginning of September, and after a deluge of rain, the grasses are strutting their stuff. Sorghastrum Sioux Blue with it's yellow flowers will brighten up my days for the next week or so. Here are some of the interesting grasses I saw as I walked the landscape this morning.
Miscanthus sinensis 'Silberfeder'
Probably the most common of the Maiden Grasses, Silberfeder always shines this time of year. Standing 6-8' tall in the gardens, it's hard not to notice. The silver seed heads will last all winter, though they begin to take on a straw-like color in the middle of fall.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'
I'm sure everyone is familiar with Karl Foerster. I sometimes give it a hard time because everyone uses it, but it is still an excellent plant. If it has a use for nearly all landscape contractors, it must be a good plant, right? The most fascinating thing about Karl Foerster is the length of bloom time. Starting much earlier than most grasses, and continueing to look good throughout winter.

Andropogon gerardii
Big bluestem is certainly worthy of this column. This is the time of year its' other common name comes to play. Turkey Foot! You can see the tops of the seed heads take on the shape of, you guessed it, a turkey foot!!! Nice fall and winter color, this staple of the Midwest Prairie is calling you. Gobble Gobble!

Pennisetum 'Red Head'
I had great expectations for this plant. Fabulously large flower heads are beginning to appear now above large foliage to 3' tall. The finished plant will be in the neighborhod of 4' tall, depending on your soil conditions. This spring however, the plant that had overwintered the previous two winters was not looking quite the same. It had become a Cul de sac with it's only live growth coming from the outer edges of the plant. It was a tough winter, so there is a chance that it was a fluke.

Sporobolus heterolepis
I can't talk about seedheads on grasses without bringing up the Prairie Dropseed. Pictured here, it is planted with Echinacea pallida which gives a very nice appearance. Though not for everyone, these plants are incredibly fragrant. Depending on what kind of nose you have, it smells like buttered popcorn or cilantro. I personally feel it smells like the cilantro. Fantastic plant for fantastic places.
-Alright, so I've been told to leave a tease for the next blog posting. If you would like to see the seed heads from the Sorghastrum Sioux Blue, you better stay tuned for the next posting. Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Looking at Rudbeckia

As you may or may not know, there are more Rudbeckia in the world than 'Goldsturm'. Though 'Goldsturm' has proven to be a successful plant for many, and was even given the Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association, there are more out there worthy of your attention. Now it has become overplanted a bit, and we need to look at other options. Have we learned from Elm, Ash, and Chestnut that monocultures can sometimes be a bad thing? Here are some Rudbeckias that we are looking at in our gardens.

Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers'
Truly unique flower on this plant. Quilled new petals rise above very clean, dark green foliage. Should be used more as a specimen plant rather than planting en masse. This was planted in spring this year, and is already 4 feet tall. Sizing up nicely, this is definately a keeper!

Rudbeckia laciniata 'Goldquelle'
This is a double flowering form that I first saw growing at the Minnesota Landscape Arboreteum. Foliage has stayed clean, and it is flowering prolifically. It is something different, that I'll have to keep my eye on. Plants right now are in the 3' range, smaller than 'Henry Eilers' and 'Herbstonne', but larger than 'Viette's Little Suzy' and 'Dibbles'.

Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstonne'
A giant among the rest, 'Herbstonne' reaches up to 6 foot in the air and shows off nice lemon yellow flowers with a green cone. A tough plant for the back of the border, but can require some staking in shadier areas. Quite "Outstanding in the Garden" is what one garden writer said. For larger spaces, this one deserves consideration.

Rudbeckia fulgida 'Dibbles'
A very special selection of R. fulgida from Roy Diblik. Upward curving petals on a more compact plant, distinguish this from the rest. The foliage has a blue cast, and is smaller than any other Rudbeckia I've seen. It is later flowering than the aforementioned varieties, but worth the wait. In fact that would make it a good combination plant with some fo the others because of the different bloom time.

Stay tuned as I try real hard to give them all black spot. So far they have not succumb to the bacteria that typically makes 'Goldsturm' so disfigured. They are all planted very close with the intent that I want to make it as hard as possible for them not to get it. This fall I will be planting Rudbeckia Goldsturm side by side with these in the hopes that something gets it. They can't all be good plants can they? Have a great day!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Spring Meadow Visit

Thursday, August 9th, Midwest Groundcovers accession group attended a tour at Spring Meadow Nurseries and Dale Deppe, owner of Spring Meadows personal garden. It was quite an experience looking at some of the upcoming plants that will be featured by Spring Meadow in the near future. Some of the more interesting varieties we saw were:
Kolkwitzia Dream Catcher(TM)
These were very large specimens growing in dappled light. Looked like a good sub for Rhus Grow-Low to me. It does have considerably more color than Grow-Low and shouldn't be in as much sun as Growlow, but if you have that part shaded spot, this could be a plant for you!

Hydrangea Limelight displayed very nicely in a container! Shrubs in large containers is a big thing up there, and obviously they know what they're doing. Wouldn't you want that in your yard?

As you can see by Dan Guiborat's face, this is a big Hydrangea! It is now nameless, but should be on the market in the next couple of years. It dwarfs the flowers of Annabelle, and as you can see, they still are held upright. "They tilted a little after a hard rain when the flowers were establishing" said Dale Deppe. From my perspective, it was still very impressive!

My Monet(TM) Weigela
The big push at Spring Meadow has been their introduction of My Monet(TM) Weigela. This was planted all over their gardens and would have been difficult not to have grabbed our attention. What do you think?

Thinking outside the box, here is Caryopteris Sunshine Blue with Weigela Wine & Roses being used as bedding plants. Very effective in the landscape.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Grasses Get Their Groove On!

It is early August and some of the grasses are taking shape. Here are some of the most spectacular of the moment! They've had varying times in the garden, but all are showy now!

Schizachyrium 'Carousel'
This is a new introduction from the Chicagoland Grows program. This plant came from Donald Boehm of Boehm's Garden Center in Rushville, IL. Though this picture does no justice, the colors, texture and habit of this plant are unique. A plant that definately needs to be experienced rather than looked at on a computer.

Sporobolus 'Tara'
Speaking of plants that need to be experienced, this plant takes the cake. Tara was discovered by Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm in Burlington, WI. Shorter and much more uniform than the species, heterolepis, this is a gem for the more manicured garden. Standing straight with attention, Tara boasts great seed heads that give a nice hazy look to them. She's also quite fragrant with what most call a buttery popcorn smell, however I find it to clearly be cilantro. In the landscape here, it is in a "Structured Prairie" with Ruellia humilis, Echinacea Pixie Meadowbrite and Liatris Floristan White. Truly a beautiful sight to see.

Miscanthus 'Gold Bar' PP15193
This little gem also comes to us from the United States. Joy Creek Nursery in Scappoose, OR has brought us this unique variegated Miscanthus. Much more banding on it's leaves than other similar types. This is truly a remarkable accent plant. Very showy and even self contained. Only growing 4-5' tall and 24" wide, it is an exceptional addition to the plant palette and to a garden in which space is an issue.

Echinacea in July

What a wonderful month of July this has been. Temperatures have not been too high. In fact it has been rather mild. I can't remember the last July that I could sit on my patio every night and relax without getting hot and sticky. This has been exceptionally good for plants such as Echinacea that decline with the blistering heat. Though I have many Echinacea that have performed above average, the two that come to mind first are Pixie Meadowbrite and Chocolate Covered Strawberries.

Pixie Meadowbrite is from the Chicagoland Grows collection, hybridized by Jim Ault. His work in breeding has also brought Mango and Orange Meadowbrites. Pixie however, is a cut above.
What is unique about Pixie is it's long bloom time, short stature, and stiff rays on the flower. Only growing to 24", it truly is "knee-high".

Chocolate Strawberries is an introduction from Brent Horvath at Intrinsic Perennial Gardens in Hebron, IL. He gave this as a trial to me last year and it is very special. Another short variety, (only 15" in our garden) this variety has a lighter colored petal, similar to Echinacea pallida, but with interesting cones reminiscent of it's namesake. With many interesting varieties in the Echinacea garden, this variety gets a lot of chatter.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Week of July 16th - Landscape News

  • Agastache Blue Fortune
  • Thymus Doone Valley
  • Penstemon Pink Dawn
  • Cotinus Golden Spirit
  • Lagerstroemia Red Filigree: Crepe Myrtle, in the office entrance containers


  • Hydrangea paniculata comparison bed coming
  • Front Entrance plantings
  • New “structured prairie” to be installed on Route 25
  • Expansion of Jeepers Creepers Garden
  • Rose garden in Virgil has been updated - come see them at our Virgil facility on Wednesday August 1st for the ILCA Summer Field Day! Go to www.ilca.net for registration.
  • Rudbeckia “Dibbles” looks real nice and compact on Perennial Island.
  • New Echinacea from CBG with nice dark foliage. About to flower.
  • Betula nana ‘Glengarry’ is getting rave reviews from the architects.
  • Rosa Home Run and All the Rage.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

July 17, 2007 Landscape Walk

The Best Summer Splash! Allium Summer Beauty & Ruellia humilis
Sagina subulata Aurea & Viola
Midwest Solution: Helictotrichon & Echinacea Orange Meadowbrite
Killer Combination! Liaris spicata 'Kobold', Limonium latifolium, Sedum cauticola Lidakense
Johnson House Rain Garden
Midwest Solution - Exceptional summer solution - Echinacea Pixie, Ruellia humilis, Sporobolus heterolepis Tara, Liatris spicata 'Floristan White'
Rosa My Girl - Easy Elegance - excellent deep vibrant flower color in bud and bloom, great foliage, great looking buds, persistant blooming
Rosa 'Home Run' - excellent color, flowers continue to persist, these planted were planted in 2006
Rosa Golden Eye - Easy Elegance - habit is on the tall side, but foliage and flowers are beautiful
Rosa Sunrise Sunset
Scyizachyrium scoparium 'Carousel' - new Little Bluestem introduction from Chicagoland Grows program at Chicago Botanic Garden
Echinacea Vintage Wine, a Piet Oudolf introduction.
Robert & Kevin take a look at our Echinacea trials
Midwest Solution: Calamintha nepeta ssp. nepeta, Allium Summer Beauty, Monarda Oudolf's Charm

Thursday, June 7, 2007

June 7, 2007 Landscape Walk

It has been a BUSY MAY! We've been focused on sales and our immediate customer needs...and now we're ready to share more information via our landscape blog. Now is a great time to plan a visit to the gardens to compare plants, and learn more about successful new plant combinations!

Watch for updates on The Johnson House landscape (especially the rain garden), rose trials (everything's blooming!) and soon Echinacea comparisons will be blooming too.

Some highlights from the landscape walk today:

Our Echinacea x 'Meadowbrite Orange' are doing great - about to bloom. There are some regional reports of overwintering trouble with this plant, but ours came through the winter strong. Planting is right next to the Sedum Sun!
Carex comparison beds - Kevin & Robert and discussing the finer points of Carex species...
Jeepers Creepers(TM) plant displays with Sedum Sun peeking out in the background
Baptisia leucantha blooming in the prairie plantings at the entrance!
Gustavo & crew replacing boxwoods which perished over the winter in our hedge around the offices.
Entrance combination of Sporobolus heterolepis, Silphium terebinthaceaum (Prairie Dock), Hemerocallis Stella d'Oro & Limonium latifolium

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Perennial Hedge?

Have you ever thought of using a perennial for a 'hedge'??? Try Geranium sanguineum 'Max Frei'!

May 8 - Rose Trial Status

Updates on just a few of the roses in the trial gardens --- just across from the new shade trial gardens near the Yard Shoppe.

Rosa Little Mischief - Easy Elegance

Rosa Golden Eye - Easy Elegance

Rosa Elsie May

Rosa Double Knockout

Rosa Knockout

Rosa My Hero - Easy Elegance

Rosa Mystic Fairy - Easy Elegance

For more information about Easy Elgance(R) Roses visit: http://www.easyeleganceroses.com/