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, February 16, 2009

Echinacea 2009

Hello again,
Last week I asked the question, "How many Echinacea do we really need?" While I understand the theory that there can be too much of a good thing, I also think that if you know how to use Echinacea, then why not? The key to the success of the Echinacea is not buying into every single one that comes out. Yes, there are dogs in the field, but there are some truly exceptional plants available in colors not seen before. Here, Midwest Groundcovers does believe in trialing these plants before they hit the market. This way we can weed out the ones that don't do as well and promote the ones that do. Below are four that we will have available in 2009 and one who will have to wait until at least 2010.
A little side note; we at Midwest Groundcovers have come to the understanding that when people ask, "What's new?", they really mean, what have you found that will work for us.

Echinacea are most successful when living with friends. When Roy Diblik talked about this group two weeks ago, he mentioned the fact that the plant is very upright and should be treated so. Mix them with Perovskia, Agastache, or Sporobolus. Here they can mingle with friends. If one or two dies, you may never notice. With a little help from their friends, a plant can disappear and a Perovskia or Sporobolus can fill in that spot. It's a great way to garden! Mistakes are much less visible. So I'll spare you from further ramblings, and talk about the specific plants.

Echinacea Big SkyTM Summer SkyTM
This is a very interesting coneflower if I do say so myself. It's a mix of orange and pink in the same flower. While, I wouldn't go so far as to say that this is the first "bi-colored" Echinacea on the market, I will say that it has exceeded my expectations. The 'Orange Meadowbrite' is the first bicolor in my opinion. Anyways, back to this plant. We picked this up because we were in need of a nice orange coneflower. While it may not be as orange as Orange Meadowbrite, it does have an orange feeling. Having some pink to the flower makes it much easier to put into a design. While we'll still be on the lookout for more orange coneflowers, this one has taken it's spot in our tradelist for 2009! And its' color is very distinguishable from other Echinacea.

Echinacea 'Pica Bella'
I made a mistake two years ago by telling Beth Botts at the Chicago Tribune that this was the best of the Echinacea in our trials. It was the truth, but we hadn't decided whether or not we should sell it yet. The picture you see to the left, made the front cover of the gardening section and basically sealed the fate of this plant. We had no choice but to grow it now. Out of all the Echinacea we've trialed, and it's been a heck of a lot, this one has performed better than any other. The blooms stay vibrant far past any other variety currently on the market.(More on that later) It's a shorter variety growing only 18"-24". The petals curve upwards and the stems are darker in color. Have I mentioned the foliage stayed very clean? All in all, a great plant. In our gardens, we've mixed it with Schizachyrium Blue Heaven. I could see it working well with other Little Blue Stems as well. If there were one plant I could recommend to you for the sunny garden to add color for most the year, it would be 'Pica Bella'. So much for saving the best for last eh?
Echinacea 'Pink Double Delight'
When you think of revolutionary plants like Heuchera 'Amber Waves', we can remember that it was a great idea, but Heuchera 'Caramel' is a better performer in our parts. Same could be said about 'Pink Double Delight'. When 'Razzmatazz' first came out, it was all the rage. Mail Order catalogs were getting ridiculous amounts for 3" pots. But a couple years later, a more refined double Echinacea hit the market. Staying much shorter and therefore less leggy, 'Pink Double Delight' is a welcome addition to the landscape. Mixed with the single coneflowers, it makes a nice contrast.

Echinacea 'Coconut Lime'
And they couldn't just stop at pink. Now there is this white, along with a host of other similar whites, as well as a red called 'Hot Papaya' and a orange one called 'Coral Reef'. I haven't tried the red and orange, but the 'Coconut Lime' was very nice. I actually like it in the landscape a little more than the 'Pink Double Delight'. Mixed with Achillea 'Moonshine' or 'Walther Funcke', and you can really bring out the yellow centers of 'Coconut Lime'. Add some spikes of Salvia 'May Night' or Salvia 'Wesuwe' and you have a great combination for the garden.

Un-named Echinacea from Chicagoland Grows
This plant was one of the most talked about plants on my tours last year. It was blooming from the beginning of June until frost. Who can beat that? Its' long bloom time offered up the possibility of asking a lot of people what they thought the name should be. I've been able to send the best names on to the Chicagoland Grows committee to see if they feel any of them are worthy! Other than it's long bloom time, it also is very short. It grew to only 18" tall. Furthermore, the dark stems were to die for! This should really be a winner in the market. Oh yeah, the rabbits left it alone. Woohoo! Nearby, other Echinacea went flowerless. I will admit to having a sort of smorgasbord for the rabbits here. There are a lot of other treats for them to feast on, so it doesn't make this completely rabbit resistant because it was here, but the fact that another one close by was without flowers, it should say something.
So you can see, there are a lot of new variations to Echinacea. 10 years ago, people would have laughed at the idea of an orange echinacea. Now, there are double ones, single ones, and some with spiked hair. There are orange ones, and white ones, and some Dr. Seuss wouldn't dare. There are yellow ones, red ones, and big poofy poodles. There are petals that go straight out and petals like wet noodles. There are short ones and tall ones and ones in between. What's next for the Echinacea breeders to dream?
Which ones will stand the test of time like 'Magnus'? I guess we'll have to wait and see. Until next time, have a great day!

Monday, February 9, 2009

More New Perennials 2009


Do you know what the 2010 PPA Perennial Plant of the Year is? Baptisia australis! Finally, a big plant is elected Perennial of the Year. This decade, there has been significant hybridizing in this genus. The plants are not 10" tall and they don't necessarily fit into a cage easily, but they are worthy of our customer's plantings! The species is such a great plant for many reasons. The black seed pods through winter. The amazing flowers early in spring. The offspring of these American natives are fantastic as well. There was a huge increase in varieties in just the past five years. All with different attributes and flower colors. Two of them are new to us this year. All are garden worthy for those willing to plant big plants. And, it is also nice to see a group of plants that aren't developed to fit into cages! Here are two that are worthy;

Baptisia Midnight Prairieblues
This is much darker than any Baptisia I've seen. It has an upright habit with very long flowers. The major claim to fame for this plant is it's ability to rebloom. It has Baptisia tinctoria in it's bloodlines which is the only native species to rebloom. My recommendation for this plant is to plant it with friends alongside. It does have naked legs, so hiding them is a good idea.
Try using Schizachyrium 'Carousel' or Amsonia x 'Blue Ice' as the base plants around it.

Baptisia 'Screamin' Yellow'
This is quite the showstopper when in bloom. It is slow to establish, but well worth the wait. Bright "Screamin'" yellow flowers adorn the plant in early spring. Mixed with other Baptisia, it makes quite the display. It could also be used with Salvias and Geums for early season color combos. It grows a little shorter than other varieties maxing out at 24"-36".

Aster tataricus 'Jin-Dai'
This is not your mother's Aster. Large, bold foliage throughout the growing season is followed up by billowing pillars of purple flowers with yellow centers. This is a very tough and durable plant. And the name Jin Dai roughly translated from Japanese is "Stable Man". It is fitting of this plant, as I have used it to hold up the Panicum amarum 'Dewey Blue' in the garden. It is one of the last perennials to bloom in fall, extending your color a couple more weeks. Interplant with the Panicum, Solidago or Eupatorium for great effect. A couple years ago, I saw this with Asclepias incarnata, or swamp milkweed at the Holden Arboretum and realized once again, how great it is.

Caryopteris 'Summer Sorbet'
This is one of those plants where I wasn't quite sure if it was welcome in a discussion about perennials or if it was meant for the shrub discussion. I've decided it is a pseudo shrub, and should be properly placed in the non-woody category. It will have dieback. But who cares?!? It has phenomenal foliage and when in bloom, is quite nice as well. I didn't anticipate liking it with the blooms, but it was attractive even with the light blue flowers over the yellow and green variegated foliage. As with all Caryopteris, there is a reason we are challenged in where to categorize it. It is marginally hardy. But these would be fantastic container plants, and even if it is only semi-hardy, it is a great investment for the summer months!

Geum 'Fireball'
This is a plant with some flower power. Blooming in spring, this variety can add a great deal of color in the perennial border. Mixed with Baptisia and Salvia create a great color contrast. One thing not to do, is to plant this with Knock Out roses. I tried. Pretty gaudy! After bloom, it has very nice pubescent foliage that stays clean all year. If there were Allium bulbs emerging from the base of this plant, the foliage of 'Fireball' would cover up the ugly foliage of Allium 'Purple Sensation' for instance.
Next week, we'll talk Echinacea! A common question always comes up about Echinacea. I remember the question from years ago in regards to Hosta. Can you guess? Do we really need another Echinacea? I think the discussion could go either way. While at a conference called Sustainable Solutions last Thursday, Roy Diblik spoke and asked this very question. We'll discuss the answer next posting however. I'm learning the art of the tease, and enjoying it. Until next time, have a great day, and enjoy the Indian summer that is upon us!

Monday, February 2, 2009

New Shrubs for 2009

Hi there,
This week we will look at the new shrubs that we have to offer for 2009. Our product line here, percentage wise, grew larger than any other product. We will be adding 13 new shrubs to the line, many of which are Proven Winners(TM) Color Choice(TM) plants. There are three new exciting Hydrangea, one of which is the newest in the line of Endless Summer(R). Also, our entrance into the world of Hibiscus. So without further ado, here they are:

Sunjoy TM Gold Pillar TM or Gold Pillar TM Berberis
This is the golden version of the 'Helmond Pillar' Barberry. This plant creates a very upright exclamation point in the garden. It could be used both as a hedge and as a focal point in a perennial border. In fall, the foliage turns shades of orange and red.(In my opinion, its best season.) This is from the Proven Winners(TM) ColorChoice(TM) Plants marketing. Little to no fruiting has been seen on first year plants at Midwest Groundcovers.

Buddleja Lo & BeholdTM 'Blue Chip'
This is one of the finest new plants we have to offer. At first sight, I didn't think it was possible. I thought, these must be newly planted, young plants. But Lo and Behold, they were a new dwarf Buddleja! 'Blue Chip' stays nice and compact and blooms all summer long. I didn't even have to pinch old blooms last year! For the architects that came through, this was one that almost always gathered attention. Foliage also stayed clean, and spent blooms were disguised by new ones all year.

Diervilla sessilifolia 'Butterfly'
I almost started by saying this is one of my favorite new shrubs for '09. Then I realized, I'd be saying that for 80% of the plants on this page. So, what's really important is that this plant can take salt!!! It has yellow flowers in spring, and fantastic purple fall foliage. The foliage stays much cleaner than the Diervilla 'Splendens' that we also sell. A few years back, I saw this in Minnesota planted side by side with Splendens, and was taken aback by how nice it looked. Overall, this will grow 3-4' tall and wide in either sun or part shade.

Cotinus 'Royal Purple'
This is not the newest plant in the neighborhood. But it does merit ooh's and aah's. We trialed some of these to see how well we could sell them. It didn't take much more than a week to see our entire supply swept away. For a plant that gets pretty big, that was a nice thing to see. It can grow to 12' tall and wide, sometimes bigger. My recommendation is to cut it down real low every spring. It will not produce its smokey flowers, but it will produce extra large foliage, which to me is the most ornamental feature. Especially beautiful in the fall, this is a great substitute for those Purple Leaf Plums of the world.
Syringa vulgaris and Syringa vulgaris var. alba
If Cotinus isn't new, than Syringa vulgaris surely isn't. It is new for us though. Doesn't everyone want the lilac that their mom had? I do. These are for the classic landscaper who wants a plant that will spur memories. How many landscapers have been asked by their clients for the lilac they had in their backyards as a kid? I would think the numbers would be pretty high. Back when I was a landscaper, I was asked all the time. We sold a lot of these. We'll also be carrying the white version of the common lilac. We hope you enjoy!

Sambucus Black LaceTM
This could be a very successful plant for the landscape contractor. They are less disease prone than the purple leaf plums, and generally have less dieback than the Weigelas. Furthermore, this will offer up nice silvery-pink flowers in June. The plant resembles a Japanese Maple in texture and form. You could save a lot of money in replacements by using this instead of Acer palmatum because of it's hardiness.

Lil' KimTM
Hibiscus generally grow very large as a whole. This variety is the shortest to date. With it's white flowers combined with dark red centers, this plant is sure to provoke curious gardeners to ask the question, "Where do I get one?" It's ultimate height is only 3-4' tall with about 2/3 the spread. Late summer blooming when other plants are tired.

Blue SatinTM
This is more like your traditional Rose of Sharon but with an amazing blue colored flower. The blue with red centers are spectacularly showy well into late summer. Blue Satin will grow 8-12' tall and have a spread around 3-5' wide. Being an upright plant, they look best when you plant multiples of them. This has one of the largest blooms in the family.

Endless Summer Twist-N-Shout Hydrangea
This is the newest addition to the Endless Summer line of plants from Bailey's. The highlight of this plant is that it's a lace cap type Hydrangea macrophylla that blooms on new and old wood. This makes it possible for northern gardeners to get flowers. Previous to The Original Hydrangea Endless Summer, it was unheard of to have a H. macrophylla bloom in the Midwest. Now, thanks to Endless Summer and Michael Dirr, we have three choices!

Hydrangea paniculata Quickfire
This is a stately new example of H. paniculata. What makes this one unique is its early bloom. Quickfire blooms several weeks before other H. paniculata. Therefore, the blooms turn pink faster hence the name, Quickfire. Our decision at Midwest Groundcovers was to drop the 'Pink Diamond' and add this variety. We hope that you do the same.
Hydrangea paniculata Pinky Winky
Also a fine new introduction to the world of panical Hydrangeas. This one is perhaps the most unique of the genera. It produces extremely large blooms in summer that age from white to pink. Almost always, you'll see the majority of the bloom in pink, with the tip of the bloom white. Could we call this the first bi-colored Hydrangea paniculata? That remains to be seen. It is a larger grower, and it has taken the place in our product line of H. 'Unique.' It's kind of funny that the most unique of them replaces 'Unique'! Anyways, this was the second rated H. paniculata in our trials this year. Second only to the best shrub in the world, Hydrangea 'Limelight.' A little bias maybe. Sorry about that.

Saving the best for last! These plants merit everyone's attention!
Viburnum sieboldii IroncladTM
This great shrub was introduced by Roy Klehm. The story behind the name, or so I'm told, is that he had several hundreds of V. sieboldii being trialed and this is the only one that lived. Hence the name Ironclad! As you can see, it's greatest attribute is it's fantastic fruit display. Multiple colors of fruits attached to bright red pedicles. The foliage is very leathery and keeps a nice green color all season. It doesn't fall color well, and in fact didn't color at all in our landscape before dropping it's leaves. Limited quantities available for 2009! Get them while they last.
Diervilla Cool SplashTM
This is a breakthrough plant! I don't believe there are any other Diervilla with variegated foliage. The best comparison for foliage would be Ivory Halo Dogwood. The advantage to this is twofold. One, it will not get leaf spot like the Dogwoods do. Two, it is salt tolerant! Could you ask for anything more? It's ultimate height and spread is around 3'. Hardiness? It was bred up in Minnesota by Harold Pellet. This should give zone 3 hardiness for sure! Midwest Groundcovers will have this available in #2 size containers in May.

These are the new shrubs available this spring. Throughout the year, we will have other new fantastic offerings such as Hydrangea Incrediball and Hydrangea Invincibelle! Plus, some very interesting Tree Peonies could become available this year! I hope you enjoyed this edition. And now, it's your turn. What are some of the plants that we don't grow that you would like us to? Please respond here and let us know. Until next time, have a great day!