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'

Monday, June 23, 2008

What's blooming now?

Hello again,

I hope all is well with everyone. It is the busy season and things can be a little crazy around here. I find myself getting more and more behind every day. But that's why we're in this business right? We like to go a little crazy. It makes the rest of our lives seem simple and more manageable.

There are a couple things I want to go over in this edition. The more and more I have landscape architects and designers come out, the more I hear of a "problem" with the Knock Out(TM) Rose. Finally last week, a group came out and expressed a problem with the Flower Carpet(TM) rose. Not that it's a good thing to be losing any rose, but part of the reason we may lose so many Knock Outs is because that is becoming the overwhelming favorite of landscape contractors. While it clearly is a gorgeous rose, over planting of it has made it a bad guy. I think back a couple years when a lot of roses died from the winter and having a customer call me and tell me about losing all his 'Lady Elsie May' roses to the sum of 200+. Here's the problem in my eyes. Because we call them "Shrub roses", people expect them to perform like a Spiraea. But if we are honest with ourselves, it is more like a perennial. And the whole point of these stories isn't to say bad things about the aforementioned roses, it's to create awareness that it's not just one or the other that may not be overwintering or performing. It gets really easy, especially with the marketing involved on these to get into a pattern of using the same roses over and over again. And while a signature plant isn't a bad thing, when everyone has the same signature it could be. Chances are, if you planted many different varieties of roses, you would have many different varieties die. Of course, there could also be a way around it. Here at Midwest Groundcovers, our solution is to put pine fines around the base of the plant its' first winter. We rarely lose any roses in our garden. Even in our Virgil location where winds blow and winters are very cold, we didn't lose Knock Out(TM). So the moral of the story is to be more diverse. Try a couple new ones out. You may like them, and with proper sighting and a little pre-winter care, they should survive and be enjoyable.

Rosa 'My Girl': Speaking of new roses, this new Easy Elegance(R) rose is quite unique in that it has flowers very similar to a hybrid tea rose. The only difference being that there are many flowers on a stem. It is very fragrant and has done admirably well in our landscape trials at both locations. This could be a great landscape rose. Not pictured is another success call 'Kashmir'. Kashmir is dark red and only has one rose per stem. Very hybrid tea like. Picture to come.

Itea 'Scarlet Beauty': Speaking of plants notorious for die back, Virginia Sweetspire gets a face lift with this Chicagoland Grows introduction. Very little die back in comparison to Henry's Garnet and Little Henry. This also has great fall color with yellows, oranges and reds all at the same time. More upright than the others and still suckers occasionally. The more wet the planting, the more suckering that will occur.

Achillea 'Walther Funcke': Yarrow sometimes gets a bad wrap for being floppy. This plant stands like a wooden soldier. When it flops, which it really doesn't, it falls straight over like a wooden soldier. In the landscape here, we have them planted in marching lines like, well...you get the picture. Anyways, this is a great plant. I highly recommend it. There isn't enough orange flowering, tough perennials on the market. Grab one while you can!

Phlox x 'Minnie Pearl': 'Minnie Pearl' has got to be the best white phlox I've seen. Super glossy foliage without any trace of mildew. These plants look great all year long. While it's not a Garden Phlox, or Phlox paniculata, it retains the qualities of these but with a much earlier bloom time. Better than that, it re blooms if the flowers are pruned off. How can you beat that!?! I'll tell you how. It only gets 12-15" tall!

Coreopsis Jethro Tull(TM): I'm about to give away one of my trivia questions for my tours here. Why is this plant named Jethro Tull? Because of the fluted petals! This Coreopsis has performed great in the landscape. We planted this last year as a plug, and it has flourished. While I'm not the biggest Coreopsis fan, I already have this in my home garden. It's great.

Echinacea mix: Echinacea seems to be a little bit of a re seeder in the gardens here. I've had these trials for four years now, and I've gotten to the point where I'm not sure which are true to the original name and which ones the birds and bees have hybridized. Whatever happened, these look great with all the colors mixed together. They have created quite the interesting family.

Veronica: These two here are much happier as a couple. This is V. 'Purpleicious' on the right and V. 'Fairytail' on the left. Together they are stunning. Not that they aren't on their own, but they definitely look better as a pair.

Geranium 'Jolly Bee' and Coreopsis 'Creme Brulee': While both are great plants in their own right, both look particularly better when planted with friends. 'Jolly Bee' is a plant that likes to stroll into other plants personal space and spread out the blanket. Alone, it can look like a jumbled mess, but creeping throughout, you cannot beat the bloom time. I have a lot of favorite plants, but 'Jolly Bee' is in a class all its own. 'Creme Brulee' could handle being on it's own, but in a combination with blue flowers it really pops. It's raining now where I sit, and it is so bright. I wish I had my camera with me now.

Visitors to Midwest Groundcovers: I am a fortunate person to be able to rub elbows with some of the finest landscape architects and plants people in our industry. Sometimes I am star struck by those that come. Like the gentleman below. I was quite star struck as he jumped up onto our pole building. I'd never seen that happen before. He was there for quite some time too, strutting his stuff. I just got lucky that I had my camera in hand.

Thanks for reading everyone. Until next time, have a great day!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Simply Salvia!

Hello again!

Here we are on a beautiful day in June. Wind is blowing through the window, making me hope that Spring will stick around a little longer. And it looks like next week, we are headed to low 80's. Please be right weather.com!!! Today, I'll show a little bit in the diversity of Salvia. We sell eight different kinds and to most, you know East Friesland, May Night, and Blue Hill. Though all are nice, I want to show you what else there is.

Wesuwe vs. May Night
On the left we have 'May Night' and on the right is 'Wesuwe' Both have very similar color to the flowers, but the 'Wesuwe' is clearly shorter. Is that a trait we want? The reblooming capabilities of both are excellent. These are plants to "Prune to Promote" to quote Roy Diblik. Prune these babies and they will rebloom for you!

Not that I play favorites or anything, but this is my favorite of the purple salvias! The features of this plant are too long to list, but the greatest attribute that separates it from the rest is its' dark stems. The stems contrast very well with the dark purple flowers. In the gardens here, it is the perkiest year round and will rebloom if pruned back.

I had to be careful with my words above, telling you of favorites, because I knew that I was going to put something in here about 'Amethyst'. I did qualify 'Caradonna' as my favorite purple Salvia.
'Amethyst' is my favorite Salvia. It's pink blooms come just once a year, but the color is magnificent. This plant is in dire need of your help! We need people to buy it otherwise, it will no longer make the product line. Please buy! Please buy!

'Marcus' is a little guy! He likes to mosey around with the little Alliums, and hang out next to paths to greet you. Quite a friendly little guy. The unfortunate thing about 'Marcus' is that he gets a little crabby in mid summer, often not looking so well after bloom. Pruning helps, but he is not the "Best of Show". For an area where height is an issue though, it's a good option.

Baptisia World!

What's happening in the world of Baptisia today is very exciting. To the left is the Twilite Prairieblues(TM) Baptisia from the Chicago Botanic Garden. This was the first introduction of Baptisia from breeder, Jim Ault. His work here is fabulous. Why isn't this plant used more often? It has a great color, and better structure. Should these be marketed more as an herbaceous shrub? Would people be more apt to put them in their landscape?

The next question is how many can this industry support? To the left here is a very interesting color. Some suggested that Cinnamon would be a good descriptor. I agree. For the plant geeks looking at these plants, this was clearly one of the favorites. However, the question loomed, "Will the end consumer be interested?"

Another wild and crazy hybrid was the one to the left here. The color was interesting, but what really excited the audience was the habit and flower power. "It doesn't even look like a Baptisia", Richard Hawke said. And to be honest, he is right. But with the incredible amount of flowers, and the way they are set into the plant, it deserves a closer look.

Not as wild and crazy as the last two, but interesting nonetheless. This was a creamy white selection that I really enjoyed. I love the habit and the flower color is very marketable. The size wasn't too outlandish, offering itself better to the mixed perennial border.
What do you think of these four Baptisias? Email me at mailto:kmcgowen@midwestgroundcovers.com and let me know what you think.

Iris 'Temper Tantrum'
Quite the Iris this is! Never before have I gotten the comments about an Iris in the landscape as I have with this one. People are screaming and kicking the floor to get them. I thought that plants typically are named for the plant itself and not the reaction to those who can't obtain it yet. The good news is that we'll have it sometime next month! The bad news is that it will be done blooming.

Visitors to the Garden
On Monday and Tuesday this week, this turtle could be seen strolling the gardens looking for somewhere to lay her eggs. Hopefully she found a good spot. There is a lot of traffic around here. She was quite the beauty, but a little shy about it. I think she was embarrased by her long neck, so she was hinding it in her shell most the time. She is a Three Clawed Painted Turtle and is a form of the western Painted Turtle. A nice surprise she was, and she is always welcome back.

Sorry for the delay in between posts. It's definately spring!!! If you have a chance to come out and see the gardens soon, please do. They are looking great, and the start of trial planting has begun! More and more will be introduced during the next month. Exciting stuff!!! Until next time, have a great day!