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, August 28, 2009

Hostas and Late Summer Bloomers

Hello again,
It's been a very cool week, hasn't it? It's turning into pants and a t-shirt weather, and I love that! I am however, starting to see fall color develop on some of the plants here. I'm not sure I'm ready for Corylus americana, or American Hazelnut, to start putting on her fall clothes. We should be in for a great fall color season with the cool temperatures. As long as the rain holds off when they turn, we could be seeing some of the best colors in a long time. Onto the plants!

I've become smitten with Hosta once again. I thought I was over them, but once again, I've taken a turn for the worse. I just love these foliage plants. I think I could really go native one day, but there would be some Hostas hiding around the corner for me to look at. These are some of the ones that look especially nice right now.
Hosta 'Guacamole'
This is truly a plant that you must see in person. Not only for the great foliage, but the flower is quite fragrant as well. 'Guacamole' was named Hosta of the Year in 2002 and for good reason. It's subtle color changes in its leaves are excellent. The plant is almost always the one that people stop and ask what it is.

Hosta 'Patriot'
This is an oldie but goodie. Hosta of the Year in 1997. This sports wide white margins on super clean foliage. Chris Darbo says, "This is the first Hosta that ever made me pay attention to the flowers!" They do don purple flowers in mid summer. This is an excellent choice for dark shade.

Hosta 'Paradigm'
This is Hosta of the Year in 2007. I didn't like this plant as much when I first saw it. As it matures, it becomes a very nice plant. I'm figuring out that Hostas do get better with age. This is in a good bit of sun in a couple areas of the landscape, and has looked very nice in both of them. So I would consider this a top of the line sun tolerant Hosta.

Real quickly, I'd like to tell you the merits of Anemone 'Pamina'. This is a great looking plant for late season color. Not only does it have these spectacular semi-double pink blooms, but the stems are black as oil. Pink on black is very showy. Here they were planted with Geranium 'Espresso' which did not fair as well and they are not very visible in the picture because of that.

This is our new hedge of Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'. It is starting to put on some pink coloration and looks stunning right now. What a great hedge. In a couple weeks, I'll show you the Corylus hedge that we have started once they show some fall color.

Coreopsis 'Sienna Sunset'
I just planted this recently. I'm really excited about the color, but I do not know of its hardiness. I'll let you know next year on this one. But do you like the color? You know what to do if you do. Email me please!

Verbena hastata
Finally a token native. This plant is great. If you have a large area, and especially if that area is wet, this is a plant for you. The only drawback is it's propensity to reseed. Otherwise, this is an erect 6' tall beauty for the rain garden. It's flowers are vibrant purple and attract all sorts of good bugs! It also provides winter food for birds including the Junco.

Thanks once again for reading. I hope you have a fabulous September! Until next time, have a great day!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Phlox trials and the IGC Show.

Hello again,

Last week I had the opportunity to go to the Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago. I hadn't been to the previous two that were held here, so I was very excited to have the chance to go this year. The show did not disappoint. Traffic was good. Plants looked great. People were placing orders! This doesn't sound like a typical trade show in Illinois. That's because it's not. Heard around the show were many people saying that they would not be at MIDAM this year. The IGC Show is what they want to put their marketing dollars into. As I tried to scavenge at the end of the day for free plants, I found that everything was sold! That's great! It's usually a chore to get all those plants back home. Now there are customers to take them. Sure beats bringing forced plants in 18 degree weather.

If you were able to attend, let us know what you thought. Are you going to next year's IGC Show with America as the performing band? Are you going to both the MIDAM and IGC Show? Are you just going to MIDAM? Email us at mgplanttrials@gmail.com

And now for the plants in the landscape.

Phlox 'Babyface'
I've been looking for the counterpart to 'Minnie Pearl', a beautiful spring blooming white Phlox. They didn't bloom at the same time, so it doesn't qualify as it's counterpart, but the height is right. Some foliage towards the bottom of the plant is asterizing, but otherwise, flower quality is very good and overall the plant looks like a winner. These are 25" tall which is enough for it to go to the top of my trials list.
Phlox paniculata 'Swirly Burly'
This isn't the greatest performer overall. I really enjoy the flowers, but the habit of the plant is fairly poor. I've seen this happen with some of the other new introductions of Phlox in the past couple years. This is a case of, great flower, poor plant. If only I could hide the foliage behind something else, then this would be a keeper. Now, it's nothing more then a pretty face with a cute name.
Aster 'Blue Autumn'
I've been very pleased with this plant. The question here is, do we need to offer another Aster? I'd love to see 'Purple Dome' go away and be replaced with this, but it is much shorter and not an A. novae-angliae, so it wouldn't work as a sub for New England Aster. That would be a problem I suppose. They are blooming now, which is before the others. So, is this something that is needed on the market? Let us know.
Sedum 'Jose Aubergine'
I've talked about this plant a couple times this year. I wanted to show it with flowers on. Still a very attractive mound of foliage with the pink flowers just emerging. This is a great plant!!!


Weigela Ghost
This is perhaps the strangest plant I have ever seen. The foliage is so unique, you might wonder what is wrong with it. I have shown this plant in previous posts, but the coloring on the foliage wasn't as good as it is now. This is something that may scare you! But it's okay. The leaves are supposed to look like that!

Eragrostis spectabilis
Purple Love Grass, they call it. I think it's because when you see it, it is breathtaking. You could very well fall in love with it. The first time I saw it "naturally", was in Michigan when it lined the highways. I am down to this one clump where it is still alive or looking good in the landscape. The others rotted away. They like sharp drainage, and if you can give it to them, they will reward you with purple love.

Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers'
I've talked about this plant a bit in the past couple years. When it flowers, it still does the same thing to me. It makes me wonder how something like this could happen naturally. A very interesting bloom on a nice, clean plant. This one however, could be considered a weeping perennial. Plant it with something that can lend a shoulder to lean on.

Last week someone mentioned to me that the house near our property was looking spectacular. I couldn't get a picture to truly tell the story, so I skipped it. This week I focused on the rain garden and wasn't disappointed. You can see the Molinia 'Transparent' with Amsonia hubrichtii and Nepeta 'Sweet Dreams' . All plants are flourishing! There is no better place for Molinia than in a rain garden. This is their spot.
Dianthus 'Little Maiden'
I've mentioned this a couple times this year as well. I thought it would be important to show how clean this plant can look at this time of year. If you are tired of Sagina subulata not always surviving, then try this plant. It still likes good drainage but it sure looks better then any Irish Moss I've planted. A customer walked by these one day and said, "I could just lay down and go to sleep on those!" I concur. They are quite pillowy.
Euphorbia corollata
This is the native Euphorbia that we have in the landscape. It is a plant that I wish I could be more excited about. If I was planting a native area, this would be there. But in a manicured landscape, the weepy plants may not be encouraged. I could still see a combination of it with Sporobolus heterolepis and having a stunning combo. A great plant, but it needs a helping hand.

Aralia racemosa
This is a plant that needs to be part of the American Beauties Native Plants® brand. You can see the scale of the fruit versus the size of my thumb. The fruit is absolutely gorgeous. If only it could look that way around Christmas, it would be a great holiday decoration! Alas, it does not. But it looks really cool right now. And the flowers a few weeks ago were pretty interesting as well. In full sun, it has grown to 5' tall and close to as wide. In shade it can reach to six feet.

Finally, this is a combination in the landscape that I couldn't overlook. Hydrangea 'Limelight' and Eupatorium 'Phantom'. We do not carry the 'Phantom', but we do carry the similar 'Little Joe'. These are great plants together. Similar heights, and similar insects to enjoy the nectar. They are flowering the same time which offers even more excitement. I had a picture of Eupatorium 'Little Joe' but it was a little blurry so I stayed with the 'Phantom'.

This is such a great time of year to be looking at plants. Whether it is by going to the Independent Garden Center Show, the garden centers themselves, or by going into your own landscape and enjoying the sweet fragrances of late summer. The Japanese Beetles are starting to regress, the heat, though never really here this year, is starting to pass. Plants are just looking great! If temperatures stay where they are now, can we start the "Fall is for Planting" in August? I know it's a couple months early, but it could strike up some sales! Until next time, have a great day and thanks for reading.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Garden Writers and Good Plants

Happy August,
The heat has finally caught up to us. Some people must be very happy about that. I am not. I like the cool weather that we've had this year. Perennials have looked stellar while annuals have not. That's a great thing for a company that doesn't sell annuals. Those tall containers that have petunias in them are dripping with flowers rather than bursting at the seams like last year. I always thought Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' would be a good choice for those containers. And if every other tier had Lysimachia followed by Carex glauca, you could have a nice combo of blue and yellow. I'm sorry if you really like the petunias, but I don't see the attraction.
This week, Midwest Groundcovers hosted the Garden Writers Association for our Third annual Garden Writer event. We had 20 attendees and it made for a great day. Jane Beggs-Joles came and presented new plants from Proven Winners® Color Choice® Plants, and was a big hit. There are some really great looking plants in the pipeline that we can look forward to. Once I have them in the landscape here, I'll let you know about them. One of the best though is a dwarf version of 'Limelight' called Little Lime™. This should be exciting! Now onto the pictures!
Thanks go to Shawna Coronado, The Casual Gardener, for providing me this picture of the group here on Wednesday. We had a great time looking at all the plants in the landscape. It's always nice to get feedback from outside sources and to have such great knowledgeable people in the audience.

Allium senescens 'Pink Planet'
We at Midwest Groundcovers are big proponents of Allium 'Summer Beauty'. But I find this one nearly as interesting. I do like the foliage better on 'Summer Beauty' but the flowers of 'Pink Planet' are amazing. They are slightly larger than 'Summer Beauty' and a lighter shade of pink. But they are completely loaded with florets. And they are blooming after Allium 'Summer Beauty' extending the bloom time in the garden of these wonderful spherical blooms. This is brought to us by Intrinsic Perennial Gardens in Hebron, IL. Good work Brent!
Pictured here are two plants that are considered questionably hardy. Both have been planted here since 2007 and were planted on the same day. What we have is Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Piglet', another Brent Horvath intro, and Miscanthus 'Gold Bar'. The Pennisetum is quite special in that it is truly hardy and truly dwarf. I highly recommend it even though I'm not the biggest Fountain Grass fan. The Miscanthus is such a nice plant. I'm not a huge fan of variegated grasses, but this one is so sharp, that it has grown on me. It seems that it is a zone 6 plant above ground, but in the ground, it has proven hardy to zone 5. We had a rough winter last year, and here it still stands.
Rudbeckia 'Pot of Gold'
This was given to me last year to put in our landscape. It was planted right along with Rudbeckia fulgida sp fulgida and 'Viette's Little Suzy' to see the differences. It is slightly darker in flower color and a couple inches shorter. It has stayed clean which speaks once again that 'Goldsturm' is the problem, not Rudbeckia as a whole.

Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstsonne'
I wish there were more demand for this plant. It is quite beautiful in bloom. I'm not sure if our shipping department would appreciate it because it gets so big. We could probably ship 10 to a cage! Anyways, that is one reason we do not sell it. Another is that people seem to be afraid of this type of plant. You've heard me say it before. But Americans are afraid of big herbaceous plants. I say that in one breath yet some people still insist on planting Purple Loose Strife. So maybe not all big plants are scary to all. Or quite the contrary, because I fear Lythrum salicaria greatly.
Aster ageratoides 'Tiny Theo'
This is a really nice groundcover Aster. I recieved this last spring from Roy Diblik. I didn't see the attributes of this plant until this year. It is really stunning when planted in a group like this. There were 6 quarts planted here and they are flowering like crazy. I'll be seeing how it looks coming out of this winter, and maybe it has potential for our product line. Is there a need for a 4" tall Aster? Let me know.
Heuchera 'Paris'
Two years ago, I asked Terra Nova to send me their best flowering Heucheras. This is perhaps the best. The garden writers all focused on this one even though I was talking about others. It's really hard to keep their attention. I'm sort of kidding, but I'm not joking about this plant. We just need the plant costs to go down so that we could maybe add this to our product line. I'm interested in what you, the reader, feels about the plethora of new Heuchera hitting the market. Are they still exciting? Are you weary because some have not proven to be as great as hoped? If you are a customer of Midwest Groundcovers, I really hope you answer these questions. You can email us at mgplanttrials@gmail.com
Echinacea 'Tomato Soup'
This was brought into the office the other day and everyone walking by was really excited. It is a fantastic color. A color I have yet to see before this one on an Echinacea. I just planted it, so I don't know of it's durability. Hopefully it's good.

Thanks again for reading. I hope you've enjoyed this article. Until next time, have a great day!

Friday, August 7, 2009

What's the next big thing?

Hello again,
When thinking about new plant introductions, many things come into the discussion. First, do I just like the plant, or does it have mass appeal? I like just about everything, so asking architects and designers, as well as our retail staff and customer service people really keeps me grounded. Last year I really liked a Clematis with yellow foliage and purple flowers. Everyone I showed this to thought it was hideous. Oh well, I wasn't married to it. Thinking back on it now, it is a little gaudy. So here are some cool things that Midwest Groundcovers is working on, or some things that are just considered big!
Silphium terebinthinaceum
This is just a really big thing. The flower pictured was hanging 12' in the air. I had to use my telephoto to get a good picture of the plant. These are great plants if you are looking for something tall and architectural. Nearby this plant is a naturally occurring hybrid of S. terebinthinaceum and S. laciniatum. The flowers are like Prairie Dock, and the foliage is a gigantic heavily incised leaf. Neat!
Asclepias incarnata w/ Sphex pennsylvanicus
The big thing here is actually the black wasp, Sphex pennsylvanicus. I find this little insect to be very interesting. Although, I'm not typically scared of wasps and bees, this one makes me stand back a little. It is a native insect, so I'll keep him, but I'll let him enjoy the Hydrangeas and Asclepias that I've found him on rather than let him jump on my shirt. He's probably at least two inches long.
Midwest Solutions®
This Midwest Solution is Allium 'Summer Beauty' with Sesleria autumnalis. We at Midwest Groundcovers are working on a program that allows architects to use percentages of plants to determine how many per square footage. The combinations we call Midwest Solutions are plants that like similar conditions and look good together. This is a new big thing that hopefully catches on.
Canna Tropicanna™
Tropicals seem to be a hot thing. It's out of the ordinary for us, but for the garden centers, we will produce some of these interesting plants for our Bud and Bloom program for 2010.

Lobelia siphilitica "White seedling"
I was walking around with a couple people from the Chicago Department of Transportation when we saw this plant in our landscape. I was quite excited. I'm not sure the other two were quite as much. Do you have any feelings about this? Email me at mgplanttrials@gmail.com. Should I dig these out and start multiplying them?

Green Roof Market
The increasing needs of the green roof market have caused us to look at many things. Here is a picture of one of our flats that has three varieties of Sedum in it. Sedum 'Fuldaglut', Sedum kamtchaticum and Sedum sexangular are all there, and they look really nice together. I swear I did not Photoshop this picture!

New Generation of Flower Carpet® Roses
These have been a welcome surprise to the product line. The new three are Scarlet, Pink Supreme and Amber(Pictured). They have shown incredible disease resistance and heavy flower power. The one pictured here was taken just the other day. I planted these in late fall and didn't anticipate them coming back. But here they are! These are very hardy and worth finding a spot in your landscape.
Sunny Knock Out®
Last year when we saw these in the landscape, I was quite disappointed. They faded so quickly from yellow to cream. This year, with the wonderful weather we are having, the color has not seemed to fade much. This is why we trial plants for more than a year most of the time. Plants have their up years and their down years. This is surely a great year for Sunny Knock Out!

Buddleia 'Miss Ruby'
This one is a highly accoladed butterfly bush from Spring Meadow Nursery. It took second place in the trials in Europe. 1st place by the way was Lo and Behold 'Blue Chip'. These have a great color and are more compact than 'Royal Red' which has similar color.
Hydrangea arborescens Invincibelle™ Spirit
That's right! A pink 'Annabelle'. This is clearly the big thing going on right now. We've been asking for colored varieties for years. This is the first one to hit the market with the pink color. Rumor has it more will be coming in the near future. If you are desperate for one of these right away, quantities are limited. But it may be worth looking into to help your spirit.
These are some of the many things that we have to look at. I didn't mention salt tolerance for the highways, or drought tolerance for all of us. I hope you enjoyed the blog. Until next time, have a great day!