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, January 27, 2009

Jeepers Creepers!

Jeepers Creepers,

In 2008, we entered the year with the same line of Jeepers Creepers as we did in 2007. By popular demand, we have new plants for the program this year!!! Unfortunately, we do not have good pictures for these plants. So, this space is being used to let you know what new plants are down low and fun to grow! I'll do my best to describe them.

The list goes as this!

Chrysogonum virginianum: One of my favorite additions to the lineup. We originally looked at this plant for the regular line, but decided to place it here first and see what happens. The foliage is a very nice green with golden flowers. The plant stands about 12" tall and is slightly upright. The bees love it, so it may not be something to plant in hopes of being able to walk on it unless you are imune to bee stings. But at 12", walking on it may be uncomfortable anyways.
Dianthus deltoides 'Confetti Carmine Rose': This Dianthus is more prostrate. Unlike the myriads of Dianthus being put on the market with steel blue foliage and amazing flower color variation, this one has green, grass-like foliage and spreads rather than clumps. Pink flowers in summertime.
Dianthus deltoides 'Confetti Deep Red': This is very similar to Dianthus 'Brilliant.' From what I've seen of the plant, the flowers are a much deeper red. This should be a great seller for the garden centers. Who could resist a short deep red flower? If you can resist it, what would happen if we put a little lady bug next to it? That's right! Red flowers and lady bugs! Irresistible!
Muehlenbeckia axillaris: Creeping wire vine. Tiny round leaves on very wiry stems. Foliage is evergreen to zone 6. Because of it's wiriness, it could be considered a trip hazard for patios. Perennials.com says it's too vigorous for the rock garden or perennial border, so planting this one as a bank stabilizer or creeping over a wall would be best.
Phuopsis stylosa: This is another selection that I'm excited to have in our line. The common name is creeping crosswort. I would describe this plant as having foliage similar to Galium, and flowers similar to Allium. Seems like a great combo to me! One side note is that when the foliage is crushed, it has a very musky smell. So, maybe not the best plant for flagstone steppers. But creeping through your perennial garden, this could be a real winner!
Thymus praecox Nutmeg-scented Selection: This is a very low growing Thyme with foliage scented like....can you guess....NUTMEG!!!! In production, I could catch a hint of nutmeg, but it still has it's sweet and spicy creeping thyme fragrance in the background. Deep pink flowers cover the green foliage and are attractive to butterflies.

I apologize for the lack of pictures for this edition. I will do my best to refrain from posts like this in the future. Until next time, have a great day!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Woodland plants, American Beauties

Hello again,
In this episode, I'll take a deeper look at the plants that make the woods so beautiful in spring. Now, I can't go over everything, but I can at least cover the plants Midwest Groundcovers, LLC carries. Entering 2008, I had little interest for these plants. I've been to the Morton Arboretum at least 100 times, and never noticed the woodland ephemerals. Though I missed them again this year, I've heard the display at the Morton is fantastic. I've learned this year that things in life will change. And they have changed greatly for me this year. Through these changes, I have taken a greater appreciation for what is in my local surroundings. I've been told that falling in love makes you appreciate everything a little more. I agree. I just wish I would have appreciated them sooner, or fallen in love sooner if the same effect could have been achieved.
One thing about me is that I like to take on a new challenge every year. Nobody knows everything about plants, so I figure if I try and learn a new product group every year and really study it, that would be good for my head. This year was the woodland plants. Later in the year I turned to the prairie, but that will be covered later. Here is what I've found this year.
Okay, so this isn't the native one. This is Polygonatum falcatum 'Variegatum'. I don't have the best picture in the world of the Polygonatum biflorum, but thought you could at least get the gist of it with the pairs of flowers dangling so gently under the foliage of this plant. The native species would be very similar, but without the variegation. This likes moisture and good drainage. Raccoons like to eat the seeds from these, so planting these could keep them out of your garbage!!! Overall, a nice solid plant for the woodland garden. And if you wanted the variegated one, that would work well in the same circumstances.
Mertensia virginica
This has to be the most recognizable of the woodland wildflowers. Going dormant in summer, this plant spends it's energy in April or May flowering like crazy in wet wooded areas. A trip to the Morton Arboretum in late April will not fail to inspire. It is all over their grounds, but best in the area close to Lake Marmo on the west side of the Arboretum. In our landscape, we planted close to 100 near our creek in the woods. There was variation in the plants, so I'll be looking forward to seeing the white, lavender, and blue Virginia Bluebells this spring. Hopefully they will naturalize and form a dense colony.
Asarum canadense
One of my first trips to the woods to see these plants was met with surprise when we found a large colony of this plant. I really didn't think of it as being a huge deal, but our friend from Philly(Dale Hendricks) thought it to be quite amazing. This is a phenomenal groundcover for deep shade. The plant is a) native b) stoloniferous, so it makes nice sized clumps, and c) did I say it was native so that there is no debate on whether or not it is invasive. Foliage is an iridescent green, shining from different angles. It only grows 3-6" tall, so it works well as a native groundcover. You will not be disappointed if you try it!
Geranium maculatum
I have to admit that when I was first introduced to this plant, I thought it was nothing special. Sometimes, plant geeks are wrong you know. This has to be one of the best plants for a woodland planting. If you have not been to Johnson's Mound in Elburn, IL, you are missing out. The woods are covered in these plants. It's an otherworldly feeling walking amongst thousands of pink flowers with Jack in the Pulpits peeking out from below, watching the action and catching a glimpse of the best artwork known to man. What's best about it is the variation from plant to plant. There really is something to that "maintaining biodiversity" argument. If we were to lose all these variations, it'd be like losing an original Salvador Dali artwork. It would be catastrophic! Nonetheless, there were several variations that I thought would be great additions to the ornamental world, but I know better than to take them from the wild.
Cimicifuga racemosa, aka Actaea racemosa
I promise this is the last year of us listing it with two names. The "new" name is Actaea racemosa. What I like most about this plant is that it blooms a little later than other plants in the woods. The 24" mounds of foliage are very attractive and Astilbe-like. The wands of flowers then shoot 4-6' above the foliage for an amazing display. En masse, it is wonderful. Flowers are white and very fragrant as well. Cimicifuga in Latin means bug repellent. That should mean that this would be a plant for those that don't want any bees, bugs or anything attracted to the flowers. While bees may still frequent the plants, at least the amount of other flying insects may go down.
Polemonium reptans
Jacob's Ladder is a very nice addition to the shade garden because it offers very nice blue flowers. They will be available in limited quantities for 2009, so if you need them, order and take them, because they will leave the nursery fast! I would be remiss, if I didn't mention this photo being courtesy of North Creek Nursery.
Back to the plant. Unlike some of the variegated types of Polemonium, this is native and tough. You cannot go wrong. I first fell in love with this one at a state park near Peoria called Jubilee S.P. It was a very nice walk, and it was great to see these mixed with sedges and Trillium while a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew from tree to tree above us.
Podophyllum peltatum
This is the other plant all over Jubilee S.P. mixed with Polemonium. It is quite the stately spring ephemeral. They create great stands of umbrella shaped leaves that hide the delicate white flowers beneath. Oh, to be a Morel mushroom and hang out under the leaves of these prehistoric looking plants. In our woodland plantings last year, we have this controlling an eroding bank near a stream. Hopefully it holds the soil well. I think it will form a dense colony and support the bank for years to come. We'll see!
Caulophyllum thalictroides
So by now, you've seen the picture and can probably tell what the most ornamental feature of this plant is! Incredibly blue fruit! The seeds are toxic, so should not be eaten, but very ornamental. In spring, the flowers are an old fashioned chartreuse. They are not the most awe inspiring flowers in the world, but to the plant geeks of the world, we find them scintillating. As the species says, the foliage looks similar to a Thalictrum or meadow rue. It is considered one of the oldest indigenous plant medicines. Native American women would use it a couple weeks before birth to make the birthing process swift and easy. Call your local pharmacist before trying this at home!
Dodecatheon meadia
This is a plant that will make all non-believers, believers. Native plants can look outstanding. I remember an employee here at Midwest Groundcovers that had the opinion that "native plants" meant "weeds." One day he saw a large planting containing many Shooting Stars and asked what great plant it was. When he heard it was a native plant, he was astounded. Every time I look at this plant, I have a hard time believing that this is not some genetically mutated plant developed to look outstanding. It really is native! It does go dormant in summer, so interplanting it with another species is highly recommended. Here at Midwest, I used Ruellia humilis which is a late plant to come out of dormancy. So in spring, the Dodecatheon show off their stuff, and in summer through fall, the Ruellia does her thing. Great combo! You have to try it!
Sanguinaria canadensis
If you remember Vanessa Williams, she sang "Save the Best for Last," you'll realize that I have taken to her philosophy on that. I always try to wait to put my favorite plant until the end. Of course that means my favorite plant in this category. Hopefully it will be a favorite for all! This plant has so many redeeming qualities that I don't know where to start. The white flowers are breathtaking. The purest white I've ever seen on a flower. Seeing woodlands covered in this plant is like going to Neverland and having Tinkerbell teach you to fly. Let's just say it's not something that happens every day. Here at Midwest Groundcovers, we have an amazing colony hidden from the public which once in bloom, will have pictures posted here on this site. I promise. If I don't, call me and ridicule me for forgetting. At another location, I spotted this growing side by side with Dutchman's Breeches or Dicentra cucullaria. I think my favorite part of the plant is when it first emerges. The leaves come first. They emerge tubular, wrapping themselves around the flowers, protecting the flowers from early season frost. Once the flowers are large enough, the foliage unwinds and flattens out making an attractive clump of foliage below amazingly clear white flowers. This is a plant that the creators put together thinking about all the obstacles that it could face. If you only buy one of the woodland greats, this should be it.
I should apologize for waxing poetic on most of these. It's a passion of mine that I don't expect will go away for some time. It's kind of like chocolate. It's either interesting to you or it's not. This one I have found to be remarkable. And I haven't even touched the subject of Trillium, Maianthemum, Trout Lilies and Jewelweed. There is so much to uncover in a walk through the woods. So this spring, check out what nature has to offer you. You'll like it. Until next time, have a great day!

Friday, January 23, 2009

New Grasses 2009

Hello again!
Today we will go over the new grasses we have for 2009! Some of them we have been selling, but they have not been in the catalog previously. Not all are actually grasses, as we have added a Rush. So, without further ado, here they are.
Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'
If you haven't heard yet, this is the 2009 PPA Perennial Plant of the Year! Since 1990, only one other grass has been named Perennial Plant of the Year. That was Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster'. One of the greatest attributes of this plant is its shade tolerance. Native to Japan, the common name is Japanese Forest Grass which would make you believe it likes the shade. Its texture is similar to a running bamboo without the invasiveness. Just remember when planting, moisture and shade are good things for this lovely plant.

Molinia caerulea 'Variegata'
When first faced with this plant, I was very intrigued. Even more intriguing was that Brent Gustason, one of our outside sales reps, liked it too. He doesn't typically care for things variegated. This plant however has something special. Foliage is very similar to an aggressive weed named Phalaris arundinacea 'Picta'. Therefore, this offers a nice substitute for that. Furthermore, the scapes are a brilliant yellow which just shine in the sun's reflection. Very ornamental and very tame. This is not a garden thug. It grows to 18" tall and forms a nice clump. In part shade it was planted with Ligularia 'Britt Marie-Crawford' and was outstanding.

Pennisetum 'Piglet' PP#19,074
I'm not the biggest fan of Pennisetum. But this one has really impressed me. Bred by Illinois plantsman Brent Horvath, it has proven reliably hardy in our landscape. On top of it's hardiness, this one can truly be called a dwarf fountain grass. In our landscape it has barely reached 24" in flower whereas P. 'Hameln' would be on the 36" side with flowers. As you can see from the picture, the flowers emerge a very nice white before they fade to tan. This plant is a very nice introduction to our industry.

Juncus ensifolius
I was going to save this for last since it's not truly a grass. But I've saved the best grass for last. This is not a grass but a rush. Furthermore, it has one of the best common names I've ever heard: "Flying Hedgehogs." Sword-like foliage is graced by small brown seed heads that float above and within the foliage. This is a plant that will like moist areas and can be a great addition to the rain garden or bioswale.

Schizachyrium Blue Heaven(TM)
This lovely plant came from Minnesota. Obviously hardy, right! When I first set my eyes on it, I wondered how similar it would be to S. 'The Blues'. In color, it's close, but it is a far better plant. This one does not flop. I like to hold the grass down to the ground and watch as it stands right back up. The colors in fall transform from the great blues of the summer to purples, oranges and reds. It's quite the sight. In addition, it's a selection of a native grass so there is no concern of invasiveness for this plant. The little bluestems are bound to be the "Hot Grass" of the decade. Keep an eye out as these grasses are very garden worthy!

Next post will be about some of our new American Beauty Native Plants(R) that we will offer in 2009. Stay tuned! Until next time, have a great day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

What happens in Winter?

Hi there,
The question always comes. What does Midwest Groundcovers do in the winter? Well, there isn't just one answer to the question, but one of the major things we do is trade shows. In order to look great at our trade shows, we need plants to be forced. Enrique Rodriguez and his staff do a fantastic job of forcing plants for the show. With all due respect to the other plant forcers out there, Enrique is at the top of the growers list.
Here is Enrique with the Jeepers Creepers(R) plants. He has been doing this for only four years now, and the Midwest Groundcovers booth looked great once again. Thank you Enrique for always making us look great in the winter time.
One of the other houses with plants in it. What's difficult, is that us marketing folk, are always asking for more. So plants need to be in separate houses so that in one house, we can make Buddleia bloom, and in another, we can keep the Phlox divaricata laphamii from becoming spent too soon. The following three plants are also in the heated houses.
I was born and bred a foliage fan. The foliage needs to look good as it's the primary piece of the plant that will be there all season. Who needs flowers? Now, clearly I'm sort of kidding. Here to the left is Hosta 'Liberty'. This has been a great selling plant for us, and has performed admirably in the landscape. It is even planted on a west facing wall and it does not burn. It does however fade a little.
Heuchera 'Miracle'PPAF
This has been quite the exciting Heuchera for us this year. The pictures we've seen show dark, brick red with a yellow margin. The picture to the left is the most colorful I've seen the plant. I first thought we had the wrong thing, but then I was delighted to hear that these Heuchera were color changing Heuchera. Marvelous!
Heucherella 'Alabama Sunrise' PPAF
This is the best of the bunch from Terra Nova. This has some great color all year long. The red shows from emergence to frost. And here in Illinois, it has been showing great color even in the winter. The -20 degree temperatures I'm sure haven't helped, but at least they are covered with snow to keep them sort of warm. You can't beat this for a part shade container!!! And we have them in #2 sized pots!!!
This will possibly be the last post of the day. I hope you've enjoyed. Stay warm and have a great day!

New Roses 2009

Hello again!
Roses, roses, roses we exclaim in a similar tone as the Jan Brady's "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!" It seems that there are always new roses on the market and it is so difficult to decide on which ones to add to our product line. Sometimes it's easy and the plant has a name like Knockout(TM) attached and we have to do it. That only worked for one of the following, but I think we are offering a great new set of roses to you this year! Here they are:

Sunny Knock Out(TM)
The newest of the great series of shrub roses. As floriferous as the originals, this one offers yellow flowers that fade to a cream rather quickly. Similar size to the other varieties and the same great disease resistance.

Easy Elegance(R) All the Rage
Fantastic tri-colored flowers. Pink, coral and yellow on the same bloom. The flowers look very tropical. We did not anticipate this one to be very hardy. The foliage is incredibly glossy and they take on a plastic look. Japanese beetles are more likely to go after the other roses than this one. Robert Adolph's favorite!

Easy Elegance(R) My Girl
Fully double, very fragrant flowers. Christa Orum-Keller's favorite. At least favorite, not named 'Chuckles'. Another one with great flower production and nice foliage. Typically five or six blooms a stem. Very hybrid tea-like in appearance.

Flower Carpet(TM) Amber
This is a very unique rose to the line. Flower color starts a light amber color and fade to light pink. It has a nice mounding habit and can be mixed very well with blue or purple flowers. I think that a Geranium 'Jolly Bee' mix with FC Amber would be great!

Flower Carpet(TM) Pink Supreme
This was intended for release in 2008 for Midwest Groundcovers. Numbers in production were not good enough, so we had to wait a year. But it is here for you to enjoy now. Part of the next generation of Flower Carpets, this has increased vigor and flower production. Very disease resistant!

So there you have it! These are the new roses for 2009. Hope you enjoy them and plant them! And here's a little maintenance tip. The first year after planting, use 2-3" of mulch around the base of the plant. Here at Midwest Groundcovers, we use Midwest Trading's Pine fines. They work great. Do not cut the plants back until March as the more you cut back in winter, the further the die back will occur. Until next time, have a great day!

Rain Garden Plants

Hello all
I'm returning from a trip to the MIDAM trade show where I did a presentation on rain gardens. It wasn't the longest or best presentation in the world, but it did spark interest in the plants I spoke of. I went paperless to be more Earth-friendly, and people wanted me to post the list of plants I went over. So without further ado, here they are.
Native Plants:
Asclepias incarnata
Lythrum alatum
Lobelia cardinalis
Iris virginica shrevei
Veronicastrum virginicum
Pycnanthemum virginianum
Verbena hastata
Penstemon digitalis
Zizia aptera
Non-native Perennials
Eupatorium dubium 'Little Joe'
Amsonia hubrichtii
Nepeta subsessilis 'Sweet Dreams'
Chelone 'Hot Lips'
Iris siberica 'Temper Tantrum'
Panicum virgatum 'Northwind'
Sporobolus heterolepis
Molinia litoralis 'Transparent'
Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'
Cornus 'Isanti'
Salix purpurea 'Nana'

Soon I will return to posting pictures and information on the new plants. Until next time, have a great day!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Perennials 2009 Continued

Here are some great new plants for your use. Enjoy!

Allium and Armeria
Allium thunbergii 'Ozawa'
If you are not using Allium of some sort, you are truly missing out. Besides having beautiful foliage and flowers, they are deer and rabbit resistant. Humans seem to be the only ones who like the smell of onions. What is great and unique about this one is that it flowers in the fall. Move over Asters, there's a new superstar in town! Not that I'm biased or anything, but this plant is cool. In fall when it starts to bloom, the foliage turns orange! This is a great plant to interplant with whatever the rabbits are eating in your yard. It will deter them from coming back! Try it and tell me what you think!

Armeria 'Joystick Lilac Shades'
Sea thrifts, as they are commonly called, offer an exciting new offering to our product line. They can handle salt!!! But....just like anything else, a pound of salt a day on the sidewalk washed onto it, may not be it's greatest environment. One big key to this plant is that it likes good drainage. It would make for an interesting rock garden plant.

Armeria 'Joystick Red'
As with above, this plant can handle some salt. So real rocky, well drained parking lot islands here she comes! One of the things I like most about both of these plants is that their foliage stays nice all year. Dark green, strap-like foliage with spherical blooms late in the season. Both Armeria would look great with dark colored sedums like Sedum 'Hab Gray' or Sedum 'Bertram Anderson'.

Coming up next: New Roses for 2009. We are offering 5 new selections to you this year. But you'll have to check back to make sure you read about them!!!! Have a great day!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year

Hello all!

It has been some time since my last post. Motivation to get pictures with snow on the ground just wasn't high enough. So, for the next many weeks, I'll be highlighting what is new for 2009 from our catalog. Some of the plants we were selling last year, 2008. But they've still earned a place right here! Without further ado.

Agastache 'Blue Fortune'
I wanted to be able to show the whole group of Agastache. Then you can really see the difference. This is the original Midwest Groundcovers product offering. It has done very well in our climate for 5 years now! Very tough 3'-4' upright growing plant. Pale purple flowers over medium green foliage. Common name is Anise Hyssop because of it's scented foliage and flowers.

Agastache 'Golden Jubilee'
This plant grows very similarly to A. 'Blue Fortune'. It grows 3'-4' tall and wide with very nice anise-scented foliage. Foliage is bright chartreuse with bluish-purple flowers. I'm not always tickled by plants with yellow foliage. Especially those with purple flowers, but this one does a nice job. This is a fabulous plant for attracting butterflies and songbirds. I've even seen an occasional hummingbird fly to it. Combine with Panicum 'Dewey Blue' for a striking show of blue and yellow.

Agastache 'Black Adder'
This is for those of you that like it on the dark side. Again, it has anise-scented foliage that is dark green. But the highlight is in the flower. Much darker than other Agastache on the market. 'Black Adder' looks fantastic with Achillea 'Moonshine', Schizachyrium Blue HeavenTM or Leucanthemum 'Becky'. The biggest concern with these plants is that they like good drainage. Wet feet will kill an Agastache.

This is the first of many. Keep an eye out for more information on our 2009 New plants! Until next time, Happy New Year, and I hope you have a great day!