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, March 23, 2009

Last of the New Perennials

Hello again,
This is the last of the new editions! 2009 will hopefully be very good for us all. Midwest Groundcovers has decided to add all of these new plants hoping that the economy recovers in time for everyone to buy some! All in all, I've posted information for 70 new plants this winter. I can't wait to start talking about what's going on in the landscape. I have spring fever, that's for sure. It won't be long until the doldrums of winter are over. I like winter for it's anticipation effect, but I feel like I've accumulated enough anticipation for one winter that it's okay for spring to take over. So with great excitement, here are the last of the new plants for spring 2009!
Leucanthemum 'Gold Rush'
Shasta daisies are coming out in all shapes and forms. It's not quite the Echinacea boom, but there surely has been an increase in cultivars for this group. Unfortunately, it was too new to make the Chicago Botanic Gardens trials, but I'm sure anyone purchasing will be happy with this gem. Foliage is clean and flowers are fantastic. They have a very predominant yellow center where the inner most petals are yellow eventually fading to white. The outer petals, white all of the time, are of finer texture than other types of Leucanthemum. Mix this with Veronica 'Purpleicious' for a purple and white combo.

Iris siberica 'Temper Tantrum'
A few years ago, a landscape architect gave me the idea of a non-traditional kids garden with Iris 'Temper Tantrum', Geranium 'Tiny Monster' and Pennisetum 'Piglet'. We never did anything with it, but I imagine those plants would look pretty good together. Of course, the Iris would like a little more water than the others mentioned. For this plant, a picture tells a thousand words. I did not photoshop this one. It really looks that good!

Sedum 'Hab Gray'It was a Tony Avent presentation several years ago in Wisconsin that turned me onto this plant. Tony was talking about all the great new Sedum that were on the market and this one really stood out to me. I personally am a bigger fan of the plant without flowers than with, but it is nice either way. The flowers are a reddish-pink. My favorite part of this plant is its bright red stems against the blue-gray foliage which can become invisible with the flowers. When we had the heavy rains two years ago, this was one of two plants that did not flop. A highly recommended plant for the dry landscape.

Stachys grandiflora 'Rosea'
This is a Roy Diblik favorite! If you are familiar with Stachys 'Hummelo', than this isn't too much of a stretch for your plant palette. Very similar in all parts with the exception of its more pastel pink flower color. It does prefer some moisture to look its best, but it can handle many conditions. In Roy's Know MaintenanceTM approach, he uses this plant intermixed with Stachys 'Hummelo', and it creates a nice contrast of colors.

Solidago 'Little Lemon'
This is not your grandmother's Solidago! Sorry for the cliche, but I found this plant to be worthy of one. Only standing 15"-18" tall, it is often described as "cute" by passersby. In our garden we have interplanted it with Deschampsia 'Goldtau' which was quite nice if I do say so myself. It is more yellow than gold, which means you can use many different colors with it. Whites, reds, pinks, purples and blues would all look good next to Little Lemon.

Ligularia 'Britt Marie-Crawford'A superb selection of Ligularia if I've ever seen one. It is much darker than old favorites, 'Desdemona' and 'Othello'. I also believe it to be more tolerant of dry conditions. In our landscape, it was planted on top of a hill with a lot of direct sun. It has done remarkably well. It is pictured here with Stachys 'Big Ears', another indication of it's drought tolerance. A nice Ligularia for your shady spot in the garden. With moisture, it will look even better!!!

Ligularia 'Little Rocket'
A fraction of the size of 'The Rocket', this one has also displayed some drought tolerance. You can see the 'Britt Marie-Crawford' planted behind it. These were both on a hill without a lot of water for two seasons now. They have 2' flower spikes in July that can really brighten up the shady spot in the garden. Would it be bad to discontinue 'The Rocket' now that there is a more refined variety? Doesn't everyone want a smaller plant? Regardless of those answers, I believe that these two Ligularia are much different than their predecessors. These are tough plants, good for most any gardener. They can break the mold of the finicky, always wilting Ligularias of the past. Great job by the breeders on these!

Aah, the last of the new plants. Now I can spend some time outside looking for next years new plants! If you have been following since the beginning, thanks for taking the time to look at all these great new offerings, and please keep watching as new information continues to come up on a weekly basis! Thanks for reading, and until next time, have a great day!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

2009 New Perennials & 2009 Hosta of the Year

Hello again,
I want to thank all of you who have become readers of the blog! We have had a high increase in the amount of traffic coming to the site. So I must thank you! It's quite exciting to see the number of readers go up by 100% over the previous month! We now have the most readers on the blog since we started in 2007. Thank you everyone for taking the time to read and hopefully enjoy what's here. If there is any kind of information that you are looking for that I have not covered yet, but you think I should, please email me and I'll see what I can do! You can email me by clicking here mgplanttrials@gmail.com.

Hosta 'Earth Angel'
This is the 2009 Hosta of the Year. It is touted as the first ever yellow variegated big blue hosta. It is a sport of Hosta 'Blue Angel' which is already a classic. The plant in the photo was in a good amount of sun when I took this shot. That explains why the blue isn't so prevalent. A nice large Hosta nonetheless.

Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers'
This is a remarkable introduction. A Rudbeckia with quilled petals. It has been in our landscape for two summers now. One downfall is that it is a fast growing, tall plant that has some weeping tendencies. It seems that most people don't like weeping perennials. A weeping Katsuratree is wonderful, but a weeping Rudbeckia is questionable. However, these weeping perennials are just asking for friends. Friends make everyone happy. Plant 'Henry Eilers' with Eupatorium 'Little Joe' or Panicum 'Dallas Blues' and you not only have a nice combination, but you limit the amount of weeping that will occur because Henry will have a friend's shoulder to rest his head on.
Rudbeckia laciniata 'Goldquelle'
Another very unique Rudbeckia is 'Goldquelle'. Marigold-like flowers in summer offer a much different look for a Rudbeckia than what most people are used to. It's foliage is highly dissected which is different than the rest. You do not want to overcrowd this plant as in these conditions it does get powdery mildew. But if given its space, it can be a highly desirable plant. Mix it with Hemerocallis 'Woodside Firedance' for a hot combo, or Salvia 'Caradonna' for more contrast.

Monarda Grand Parade
We have two new Monarda for our 2009 catalog. We've trialed many in the landscape and the best before now was always 'Coral Reef'. From the same breeding program comes Grand Parade and Grand Marshall. They have really nice flowers and disease resistant foliage. Very little mildew has been seen on these. Furthermore, they are compact plants that fit on cages very well helping out the garden center market!

Monarda Grand Marshall
Grand Marshall is an extremely floriferous plant. I've never seen a Monarda look so good in a pot as well! Dark magenta blooms on a very compact variety. If I could only choose one Monarda, perhaps it would be this one. Not an intended combination, but a good one is the Stachys 'Rosea' that was located near the Monarda trial. The two plants were very stunning together. It offers the architectural difference of ball shaped flowers and spikes. The next type of Monarda I have my sights on is a red variety that may be more compact than traditional varieties. I have one from the Chicagoland Grows program that I am looking at. I'll let you know how that progresses.
We are coming to the end of the new plants. I have one more blog in store of 2009's new perennials and then we can start talking about what is happening in the now! In fact, the Galanthus in the garden are starting to bloom as are the Crocus and Iris bulbs. Today, Spring is here! It's time to celebrate. Until next time, Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Heucheras

Hello all,
When I first got into perennials, I remember really falling in love with Heucheras. I would raise my nose to the 'Palace Purple' users, and befriend those that would use 'Amber Waves' and 'Lime Rickey' and 'Obsidian.' Of course, with a couple years experience, I learned that 'Palace Purple' is a great plant and nothing to be scoffed at and I rarely see 'Amber Waves' in nursery catalogs anymore. Five years after planting the original Heuchera comparison garden here at Midwest Groundcovers, 'Palace Purple' is still one of the best looking plants out there. PPA got it right when they named this one Perennial Plant of the Year in 1991. It is a timeless classic! But there is a new wave of Heuchera that are much different from the past. They have been bred with the species H. villosa. This enables the plant to do better in hot, humid conditions. Heuchera is the next Hosta. Foliage plants for the shade! The only major difference is that there are over 1700 varieties of Hosta listed by Royal Horticulture Society whereas there are only 283 listed for Heuchera. Anyways, here are five that we are going to start selling in 2009.

'Tiramisu' and the following plant, 'Miracle', were a bit disappointing at first to me. Pictures in catalogs showed very colorful foliage. Tiramisu was supposed to be chartreuse, orange, and red all at the same time. Quite spectacular I must say! What you need to know is that these are fall colors. Some vendors are now calling them "color changing" Heuchera. I do find this to be quite attractive. And the bonus we found is that while it is yellow to chartreuse all summer, it is quite vigorous. I still recommend these, but I don't want people to be surprised by the appearance like I was.

'Miracle' is the other one where the colors in the catalog didn't match what I was seeing in the containers or in the ground. This is the new flush of foliage as well as it's fall color. It's not quite the brick red you may see all over the Internet. But quite attractive nonetheless. In the garden, this was the best looking chartreuse variety throughout the summer. It is a robust plant with a lot of substance. And in fall and spring you get the wonderful veination that you see in the picture to the left.

'Georgia Peach' is a variety from Terra Nova. When I saw the color of the foliage for the first time, I fell in love. The silver over pinkish-red is quite attractive in a heavily shaded area. It looks best in spring and fall, during periods of cooler weather. And quite the surprise came when beautiful dainty white flowers appeared in late spring. They were really nice for a Heuchera! And as you can see by the picture, they make a great combination with Pulmonaria 'Trevi Fountain'.

'Mocha' is a favorite of many here at the office. The plant itself is much larger than any other Heuchera in the garden. The foliage is like coffee with cream just poured into it. In fact the leaves sometimes have the swirling effect of cream poured gently into a cup of steaming hot coffee. Iridescent foliage is one way to tell if the plant is a H. villosa type or not. This is why I tend to agree with Dan Heims, author of Heucheras and Heucherella, that 'Palace Purple' is actually a member of the H. villosa species and not H. macrantha. RHS has still not changed it though.

Heucherella 'Alabama Sunrise' of course is a hybrid between Heuchera and Tiarella. This is the first of my knowledge to have been bred with H. villosa bloodlines. Past introductions of 'Sunspot' and 'Stoplight' don't come close to 'Alabama Sunrise'. In the trials here, it was one of the more talked about plants from landscape designers and architects. And unlike the first two plants talked about today, this one has it's color all year. On top of being a great landscape plant, this would look great in a mixed container as well.

Later in the season, we could have a couple other new varieties to offer. We'll talk about them when the time comes. As spring gets closer, the anticipation grows by leaps and bounds. I hope you all have a great day! And remember, this is the last post of winter, as March 20th is the first day of spring. Woohoo!!!! Until next time......

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Allium Summer Beauty

Hello again,

Rarely do I start with the intention of talking about just one plant. My intention today is to show the merit of one Allium 'Summer Beauty'. Of course if I talk about Allium 'Summer Beauty' I have to talk about all the plants it looks stunning with. So, I can't talk about just one plant. There is no community there.

The first picture here is of Allium 'Summer Beauty', Calamintha nepeta ssp nepeta, Amsonia hubrichtii and Sporobolus 'Tara'. Any one of these plants represent great combinations with Allium 'Summer Beauty'. The nicest thing about this plant is that it looks great all year. The pink blooms with the yellow foliage of Amsonia contrast very well.

The flowers alone are quite nice. There are reports on the Internet about them being pale and not quite as nice as other Allium on the market. I say, those reports are crazy!!! The light lavender blooms of ASB work well with so many other plants. It's not the color of the Allium Purple Sensation or Allium christophii for that matter, but brilliant nonetheless.

Here it is again with Calamintha nepeta ssp nepeta. Two of my favorite plants look great together. In this picture it illustrates how the blooms of Allium 'Summer Beauty' float above other plants. It's a whimsical addition to the landscape. Some of the other great combos in the Midwest landscape include; Sesleria autumnalis, Geranium 'Max Frei', Origanum 'Herrenhausen' and Salvia 'East Friesland'.

In this picture, the most redeeming feature of the plant; it's foliage. Lush green foliage with these very pretty flowers. What more could you ask for. If you've come on a tour to Midwest Groundcovers, I've probably given you the foliage test. That test being, which would your customer rather have in their landscape. Allium or Hemerocallis in July. Typically the foliage of the Hemerocallis is yellow or brown and the Allium is beautiful green. It's that way all year! And to top it off, the seed heads are rather attractive and stay on all winter. Unlike the sticks that come from a daylily. I'm not saying to stop buying our daylilies. I'm definitely not saying that! But use less of them and more Allium. What's more? Deer will not eat Allium. In fact, interplanting Allium with other perennials can reduce the amount of browsing on your other plants! Great deal!

So if you are not using Allium 'Summer Beauty', you now know what you are missing. Try it out. If you are using Allium 'Summer Beauty' and have comments, please post them. I'd like to see what people in the industry other than Midwest have to say about it. Until next time, have a great day!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Three Unique Plants for American Beauties Native Plants

Hello there,
I thought I'd talk about some native plants today. Two of the three plants are native to Illinois, while the other is a selection of a plant native to the southeast. All three will be plants that can offer a lot to your landscape! March is here, and there is so much to get prepared for. Hopefully, by this time, most our preparation is done, and we can focus on the task at hand. This is no small task though. We are responsible for making people look good. Both at the commercial level and at the residential. If it weren't for the landscape contractors and garden centers of the world, our homes and buildings wouldn't be the same. With the Olympics still a possibility, we should do everything in our power to make our small part of the Earth look great. Here are some plants that can help with that.
Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride'
I remember one of the first tours I ever did, this was a hit. The funny thing was, nobody on the tour realized what they were looking at. "I've never seen a Hydrangea with that kind of foliage," one person said. The flowers appear in late-summer to fall and are a nice large panicle of white. If you squinted your eyes long enough, you may see the resemblance of a Hydrangea. Anyways, this is a very nice, tried and true Heuchera which would add value to any landscape. This is native more to the Southeast US than to the Midwest, but that being said, it can handle more humidity than other Heuchera, and it has great drought tolerance. It grows 24"-36" wide and about as tall with flowers. In our garden, it is in mostly shade and looks great with Polemonium 'Stairway to Heaven.'
Hibiscus moscheutos
Unlike the above plant, this plant is native to the southern half of Illinois as well as the northwest counties of Illinois with the exception of Dupage County. This plant is not for drought. It lives naturally at the edges of ponds and in swamps. It is typically located in high quality native areas as it does not compete well with invasive species. The flowers of this species are variable. Sometimes white, sometimes pink, this plant is sure to enhance your water garden or bioswale. It attracts many types of butterflies, but it also attracts some Japanese beetles. So if planting these, remember to place your Japanese beetle trap in your neighbors yard so that they stay away from your plants. But, I'm not being serious, am I?
Lindera benzoin
Here is a plant most are not familiar with. I'd like that to change. Lindera benzoin is a special shrub for several reasons. If you are a Hamamelis or Witchhazel fan, than this could be a shrub you are looking for. I remember my first encounter when I saw the plant pictured to the left. It was on my birthday in late April, and I thought, "What is a Witchhazel doing blooming now?" As I walked closer, I realized it wasn't a Witchhazel at all. The sulphur yellow blooms I was seeing was from the commonly called "Spicebush."
To the left here, is a closeup of the flowers. What I like most of this plant is the speckled bark. When the bark is scratched, it creates a nice spicy aroma. This plant prefers a fertile soil in part shade. Pictured, this plant was in full sun at the Morton Arboretum and doing great! Also, the rare Spicebush Swallowtail, eats the foliage, as do a host of other butterflies. It is native to most of Illinois and especially Cook, Dupage and Kane Counties.

These three plants all offer up a great deal of pleasure! There should be something for everyone. If you have shade, you could plant Lindera or Heuchera. If you have sun, Lindera or Hibiscus. If it's moist, plant the Hibiscus!
Later this week, I'll dive into more perennials. Once, the new plants are spoken for, we'll start to get the creative juices flowing and start talking combinations! I hope you are excited for that. Until next time, I hope you have a great week!