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'

Friday, June 5, 2009

Focus on Design

Welcome to June! What a glorious month for Midwestern gardens.

If you're a regular MG blog follower, you're familiar with Kevin McGowen as blog writer. Sitting in today is Christa Orum-Keller. My first formal education in our industry is as a landscape architect, so we thought it might be of interest for our readers, in addition to hearing about plant specifics, to discuss plants from the design angle.

Let's start with some design basics. Consider form, color and texture. If we disregard how we place plants with divergent forms, color or texture we create conflicting priorities in how our eye perceives the garden picture. Careful use of form, color and texture - using enough repetition, but not too much, creates that heavenly experience when viewing a planting. The "aaaaaah" or wow to your eyes, heart and soul. And isn't that what we want when we're designing gardens and landscapes? Even on a commercial setting, one might think that extra personal impact isn't necessary, but think what it would do in terms of your reputation and word of mouth advertising if your commercial clients said something like, "I don't know what it is they do, but their work is special - I can't recommend them highly enough." Good planting design can generate you that kind of superior PR.

Repetition of color can be easy if you pay attention and do a bit of research. Start by taking extra time evaluating what works when you see a planting you think looks great. Have a look at our Piet Oudolf garden - photos taken today:

Blue upon blue upon blue. Waves of repeated varying hues of blue and bluish purple. Repetition of similarly sized groupings. When Roy Diblik suggested placing multiple Salvia varieties beside each other within one planting, our first response was to ask why that was necessary. A Salvia is a Salvia right - and one is just as good as the other - why would you ever plant two nearly similar plants side by side? But we listened and we tried his suggestion and were amazed with the results. When you see them planted in a group, intermingling, slightly different bloom times, repetition of form and broad color with slight differences in hue, it is stunning. Try it!

The most beautiful part of the last Piet garden photo is the customers picking up plants in our yard!

RIBES GREEN MOUND - NEW AGAIN -----There are two specific plants to focus on today. First an old friend, Ribes alpinum 'Green Mound'. Now some of you may have stopped using this shrub in the last several years due to poor landscape performance - namely weak growth and significant foliar disease. We have had discussion about these challenges from customer feedback as well as through observation of plants in the nursery and in various plantings at Midwest. But we recalled older plantings of Ribes 'Green Mound' which had beautiful habits and didn't defoliate. Global warming couldn't have caught up with us that quickly, so we did a little investigation and put our thinking caps on. What we found was this. When Green Mound was extremely popular, ten or more years ago, we could not keep up with production and had to buy in liners from various nursery sources. We went back to old existing plantings and found robust, well shaped tidy shrubs with good foliage. Ribes is in the rose family, so of course, with a moist spring such as this, we find some slight foliage spotting, but not defoliation and overall a pleasing presentation. We suspect that the plants we bought in were something other than the real Green Mound, so we set to work. Our senior propagator, Alfredo Castillo, is diligently propagating from the plantings we have of the true species to bring back the original and real Ribes alpinum 'Green Mound' so we can make it available to you. It may take a few years, but it will be worth the wait.

Green Mound makes an outstanding backdrop in the garden. A lovely medium green. The slight disease on this mature, and true to cultivar name planting, doesn't impact its presentation. Its form is fantastic, even, round, and a perfect height about 3.5-4 feet at maturity with medium-fine even texture. Excellent in the perennial border or when blended with shrub plantings as you see here.

BAPTISIA - A PERFECT GARDEN PARTNER ----- Baptisia species. Members of the pea family, you'll see Baptisia blooming right now in the landscape. In the Piet Oudolf garden they represent some of the blue hues in his repetative waves. Baptisia australis is one of our native species and one of the parents of Chicagoland Grows' introduction Midnite PrairiebluesTM seen below.

Baptisia strike me as a perfect plant for today's frugal gardeners. Many Midwestern gardeners wish to grow Delphinium, Digitalis or Lupines, but even the most durable of these species have a challenging time living and performing well year after year in the Midwest. These days people are concerned with durability and sustainability when it comes to planting design. Facing our current financial challenges, customers are also looking to get more for their garden dollar.

Baptisia are beautiful, extremely durable, colorful and offer the tall, magestic panicles of English garden friends such as those mentioned above. They have deep taproots which make them highly drought resistant. Thus, it's important to site them properly. Once planted and established, you cannot move a Baptisia. The habit and stature of a mature plant mimics that of a shrub, while the foliage does completely die back over the winter.

Where will you plant your next Baptisia? And which one will it be?

Chicagoland Grows introduction Baptisia Midnite PrairiebluesTM (above)

Chicagoland Grows introduction Baptisia Twilite PrairiebluesTM (above)

NEW BRICK WALKS AT MIDWEST ---A great improvement to notice when you visit our gardens is the newly re-installed brick paths around the offices. We would like to recognize our installation experts at County Wide Landscapes who swiftly completed the beautiful work. And we thank Unilock for their great partnership and commitment to excellent products. You will see both the traditional Hollandstone on the majority of the walks and on two of our walks we're trying the new permeable paver Eco-PrioraTM which installed looks great. Stop to look below your feet next time you're here.




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