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'

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fantastic Fall Flowers

Hello all,

In the past I've shown great looking seed heads, fall colors and more. But I've omitted the beautiful fall flowers that we have. One thing I promise, is that there are no pictures of mums following this paragraph. Everyone knows what a mum looks like. But I'm more in favor of looking at the plants blooming now that are underused, or they are not thought of as fall flowers. Without further ado, here they are.
Calamintha nepeta ssp nepeta
Why isn't this the hottest perennial on the planet? It blooms from late June to frost, going from a clean white to a light lavender. Furthermore, it attracts honeybees and plant geeks alike. Plant a Calamintha in your yard and soon enough you'll have someone ask you what great prize you have! And in times where the bee populations are at risk, why not help them out?

Aster oblongifolius 'October Skies'
Okay, I realize this isn't groundbreaking. But how many Asters do you know that will creep over a curb and look stunning. Plus, these look great all year. They have very nice green foliage which is also aromatic. The fragrance is definitely for the flower children of the world as it has a distinct patchouli smell.

Anemone 'September Charm' This is the beginning of the underused. Now, if you have used Anemone 'Robustissima' and were afraid to use it anymore because of how aggressive it is, try this. This is an entirely calm and collected plant. It's dainty flowers floating above the foliage are fairytale-like. It really adds a nice bloom at a time where little is offered.

Anemone 'Pamina' Adding to the great Anemones, this one has double blooms and is a little shorter plant. The overall habit of this plant is much more compact and tidy than others. Not quite the fairytale plant like above, but quite nice in it's own right. I can't speak for everyone, but I would sure rather have this come back every year than have my mums possibly come back.

Rosa Double Knock Out(TM) What about roses for your late season color? The Knock Outs and virtually all the other roses in the trials here are in full bloom. It looks great!!! Maybe they don't come in the autumnal colors of the fall mum, but they are working on it. Flower Carpet(R) Amber would be a step in that direction.

Geranium 'Intrinsic Pink' Would you buy a Geranium that only bloomed in the fall? That is the characteristic of this plant. When I first saw the plant, it was in October, and I remember being very excited about the bloom at that time of year. A year later, I learned that's the only time it blooms. I'm not sure this is bad. I like the plant a lot and people have commented on how nice the late flower is. What do you think? It's currently in trial status only.

Geranium 'Pink Penny' Another trial status perennial. This one has been tauted as the "pink Jolly Bee'. While the flower does have that look, it is not quite as vigorous as 'Jolly Bee' is. But I have grown to really like this plant. It is very floriferous at this time of year, but doesn't start flowering until much later than 'Jolly Bee' and 'Rozanne'. Still worthy of my garden, but not worthy of cult status the way 'Jolly Bee' has become.

Geranium 'Jolly Bee' If you have ever come to Midwest Groundcovers for a tour, you then know that 'Jolly Bee' is my favorite plant. I try being careful about what is and isn't my favorite plants, because I have so many. But this is truly one step ahead of all the other plants I love. To me this is the best introduction of a plant to the nursery industry in my 10 years on the job. If you have not used this plant, try it. I must say that I did not like or understand perennials before I worked for Midwest Groundcovers. My background was completely with woody plants. The day I saw 'Jolly Bee' it all changed.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' This is quite the plant. Another real long bloom time for a plant. I try not to copy what others have done when I work on the landscape here. I like to be unique and offer our guests something different than what they'd see on the Internet or at another nursery. But sometimes, things look so good, that it's worthy of mimicking. There is no better hedge in America than the 'Limelight' Hydrangea hedge at Dale Deppe's home, owner of Spring Meadow Nursery. Once I saw it, I knew we had to have that here! I can't wait for a couple years from now, when this hedge stops people in their tracks like it did the day I first saw it.

One heck of a container! Around our buildings and in our Retail Shoppe area, we have containers planted with mostly our product line. While you'll find a couple annuals here and there, the perennials and shrubs have really become a hit. This one in particular stood out to me. The Physocarpus 'Summer Wine' is quite attractive all by itself. But the Geranium at its' base adds another great color to the container. Of course, you need to pick a great Geranium to make it bloom for a long time, so of course they picked 'Jolly Bee'!!!

So I leave you with this question. What is your favorite fall flower, fall foliage, or fall grass? Email me at kmcgowen@midwestgroundcovers.com and let me know. I'll let everyone know what the favorites are in the next post. Until next time, thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Big Projects Complete

Hello all,
We've had an exciting couple of weeks at the nursery in St Charles. Many projects have been completed in the landscape offering all sorts of new plants to look at next year! Below you'll see pictures of some of the new plantings. I also wanted to apologize on behalf of our grounds crew for teasing the rain last week. I did not anticipate the amount of rain that we received from our friend Ike. I have learned my lesson, and will go back to washing my truck when I want it to rain. The sprinklers worked too well!

The first garden to show you is the new Heuchera garden. The old one was running out of space, and I got a little tired of bumping my head on the limbs of the crabapple they were under. The first installment included 14 varieties, with space to add more. These are items that will either be new in 2009 for us, or they are in the trial stage. It ranges from 'Saturn' and 'Neptune' to 'Southern Comfort'

This garden is definitely in its' infancy. This garden is our American Beauties Native Plants(TM) garden. Here, only plants in the ABNP program are installed. This garden is located directly in front of our wholesale office, and used to be inhabited by Polygonum reynoutria. Although, I'm nervous about how this garden is going to look, I am comforted by the thought that it couldn't look worse than Polygonum!

Before: For years the garden known as Trial North was an afterthought. Little work was done in this area, so tours rarely were taken to this area. The Karl Foerster was there for years, as well as a large glob of mixed Sedums. They are all gone now, as well as many roses, and were replaced with what you see below!

After: Sedum has been replaced by a hedge of Corylus americana, our native Hazelnut! I know it's a little different from groundcover sedum, but it should look great in a couple of years! On the other side, where the Calamagrostis was removed, we've planted a hedge of Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'. This is in full bloom right now, and should be quite a car stopper in years to come.

Heucheras were not the only varieties planted on perennial island the past two weeks! All in all, we installed 84 varieties of perennials and the shrubs are yet to come. This fall we will install our new shrub garden at the west end of the perennial island. Lots of new and exciting shrubs will be planted there. I hope you come see next spring!

Another area that was redone was on the patio around the building. This was an area untouched since Brenda McMahon left us years ago. Now it is fully planted with Midwest Solutions and a couple interesting shrubs. Among the combinations is a swathe of Solidago Little Lemon and Sporobolus Tara.

Well, hopefully after a weekend of rain, we can enjoy a couple days of nice sunlight before fall hits us hard. I can see plants changing everywhere and it seems a bit early, but with the weather that we've had, we should expect it. I appreciate your time reading, and until next time, I hope you have a great day!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Teasing the Rain

Hello All,
It's hard to believe that after all the rain we had this spring that we'd be sitting here wondering if the rain would come back. We pride ourselves on the garden designed by Piet Oudolf being sustainable, but as I look out at it, I see a lot of plants suffering from drought. It's dry out there! I've never once seen Agastache foliage so stressed. So we are teasing the rain. In the past, in order to get it to rain, all you had to do is wash your car. I tried that and it didn't work. Now, with rain supposedly in our near future, we have decided to water some of our gardens. The thinking being that if we didn't water the garden and waited for the rain, there is no chance we'll see the rain. If we water well, the rain is surely to come. You can't tell me that you haven't used that logic before, can you? Anyways, on to the pictures. A lot is happening here this week in the landscape. The crews are working full force to get some great looking projects done so that when you come for your next visit, lots of new stuff will win over your senses. We're also removing some garden thugs such as Vernonia glauca. While this is a terribly nice looking plant, they have reseeded to the point where some pulling was neccesary. A few have been spared, but most are gone.

This is just to prove that we did water the gardens today. I should have taken a picture when it started to rain over the sprinklers. It has since stopped, so the next picture you might see is me doing a rain dance. But that would be a difficult picture for me to take, and it's not likely that I'll be dancing in front of a camera any time soon, so you'll just have to imagine that.

Aster 'Blue Autumn'
When I first saw this plant I thought it wasn't that much different that any of the asters I had seen before. I wasn't that interested to say the least. But now that it has been in the landscape for some time, I've changed my mind. This may just be the answer to the naked legs of A. 'Purple Dome'. 'Blue Autumn' has very little browning on the bottom and is very full of bloom. Nice plant!
Two of my favorite grasses in flower next to each other. This is Panicum amarum 'Dewey Blue' with Sorghastrum nutans 'Sioux Blue'. 'Sioux Blue' has become terribly difficult to find liners for. Most people have lost their plants. While terrific once established, it is difficult to propagate. This is why we've had difficulty supplying you. In the future we will have a variety similar to this called 'Indian Steel.' Look for this in the coming years!

Before we took the garden thug out. Please note, that I do not call the plant invasive because it is not. This is a plant native to the United States, though not Illinois. But this is a reseeder just like the native species and it has to be treated like one. If used properly and maintained like we just did, it is not invasive. Aggressive, sure. But invasive, not quite.

After Vernonia glauca was removed. Notice one remains. The birds like it too much to take all of it out.

Solidago 'Fireworks'
This is a plant that I love to wax poetic about. Cari Dale from Drescher once told me that it reminded her of Sideshow Bob from 'The Simpsons' cartoon. I've never heard a more accurate description. That's not why I love it though. It just holds up so well and does not become a reseeding mess like other Solidago's do. It's quite behaved actually. Truly an underused plant.

One more before picture that you'll have to come back next week to see the after. In this picture, Sedum kamtchaticum and 'Bailey's Gold' are being removed. A couple minutes later the rugosa roses and Karl Foerster will be removed. In it's place will be Corylus americana and Hydrangea 'Limelight'. It'll look a lot different once the crews are done.

Thanks again for joining me this week and reading what I have to say. I'm interested in how many people actually read this column though. If you do, could you email me at kmcgowen@midwestgroundcovers.com and let me know what you think. It would be greatly appreciated. I've tried this in the past and nobody responded. Are there no readers? I really hope there is. This is a lot of fun to tell you what's going on! Until next time, have a great day!