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'

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cool Summers make Warm Fall Colors

Hello again,
It seems like the fall colors are fairly extended this year. Certain things dropped immediately with the first frost, but others maintain there beauty for much longer. I've been very impressed with the golds I'm seeing this year. They seem so much richer than in years past. Here are some interesting fall pictures I took yesterday.
First I'll start out with our recycling program. It has been a very beneficial thing to some of our customers. This is the product that we ship out. So once we've collected enough plastic, we make these nice cubes of containers that we send out to be recycled. People have asked what it looks like, so here it is! Beautiful isn't it? It is much more beautiful than sending it to the landfill.

Tilia cordata 'Glenleven'
Glenleven Lindens haven't been the greatest for fall color the past few years. This is because of the invasion of Japanese Beetles who make the foliage nearly completely lacy which doesn't allow for much color. We did spray our trees this year so that the beetle wouldn't affect the plants as much. It worked! Our Lindens are beautiful this fall. What a sight!

Metasequoia glyptostroboides
While on the topic of trees. How about these beauties. I love the coppery-orange color these create in fall. We have Taxodium as well on the property, but they don't color up as nice as these do.

Viburnum lentego
This could be considered a small tree or large shrub. Nannyberry Viburnums have always been one of my favorite plants. I love the fruit and love the fall color. The flowers aren't the greatest, but overall the plant is a winner. Native to our area, this particular shrub is always covered in Cedar Waxwings when the fruit comes. They strip these plants of fruit in a matter of hours, not days.

Viburnum 'Winterthur'
Sticking with Viburnums, there are few plants that rival the fall color of this plant. The reds it produced each year are magnificent. I get little fruit on the plants because they require another variety of V. cassinoides to pollinate them. But fruit is secondary to the fall color and year-round appeal that 'Winterthur' foliage offers.

Viburnum molle 'Morton'
Another Viburnum!!! They sure have nice fall color, don't they? Native plants might be the best way to go for fall color! I liked the array of colors this plant was displaying. This is a future introduction for the Chicagoland Grows® program. It is similar to a Viburnum dentatum, but the foliage seems more broad, and the bark peels. So once the fall color is done, the bark provides winter interest!
Physocarpus Summer Wine®
In fall, the Ninebarks start to show nice red colors. While typically a purple foliaged plant, the combination of purple and red is outstanding. Some leaves have half purple, half red foliage and are quite desirable. I've noticed this in the past, but not to the extent that I'm seeing it this year. All the cultivars look nice, including Coppertina, Diabolo and 'Center Glow'.

Rhus aromatica 'Grow Low'
Who thinks of 'Grow Low' Sumac for fall color. I usually don't. This year has changed my mind. This planting which borders our prairie is quite beautiful. Everywhere I look, these are looking nice. And by everywhere, I mean everywhere. These are planted in every commercial job from Chicago to the Mississippi. So every commercial site looks pretty good right now. This salt tolerant plant has become a staple for our customers. While that does not need to change, I just need to stress diversity. If we can make these areas more diverse, we will not have to face a disease like we have with Ash on these guys. There can be too much of a good thing.
Vernonia glauca
The only thing I don't like about the plant is how it likes to reseed itself anywhere it can find a piece of dirt. Of course, my favorite thing about the plant is its seed though. Look at how great it looks going into winter. It does however move around with reckless abandon, so a formal garden or a smaller garden is not screaming out for it. If you have a larger area where you don't mind a few volunteer plants that get close to 6' tall, then this is for you!
Oenothera 'Cold Crick'
This plant was truly spectacular in bloom. I've never seen such brilliant yellow and so profuse. Then it goes into summer being a somewhat boring piece of foliage. Then in fall, it turns into a blazing sunset of colors. Allan Armitage says there are no perennials better for fall color than Amsonia. I beg to differ. He wrote that before the introduction of this plant. It reminds me of Geranium 'Max Frei' for fall color, only much better. We are still in the trial phase of this plant, so we do not actually grow it. I'm not sure what the market would be for it. If you are interested and think we should grow it, please email me at mgplanttrials@gmail.com
I've realized lately, that I do not show enough garden pictures. Sure I show you a lot of plants that are in the garden, but sometimes, the look of the whole garden says so much more than it's parts. In this case, we have Sporobolus heterolepis with Echinacea pallida and Allium 'Forescate'. This area of the garden receives very little maintenance. In fact, we weed it once a year, and do a spring burn. Watering is not necessary. It has become one of the more sustainable areas of the landscape. The plants cover the soil well enough that weeds are not growing in between. Except for a seedling Miscanthus, this area has been virtually weed free all year this year. That says a lot. I've never seen weeds as bad as they have been in '09. So, I will be efforting to show you more garden pictures in the future. You all want the big picture, right?
Thanks again for taking the time to read this. I hope you find something interesting in here. And if not, let me know what you'd like to see. I love getting feedback, but I don't receive it enough. Until next time, have a great day!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What's your favorite fall show?

Hello again,
Cool summers have brought us some outstanding fall colors this year. Things I haven't noticed fall color on before, such as Forsythia and roses, are looking magnificent. I didn't get a good picture of Flower Carpet® Amber, but if you have one in your yard, take a look. They have rich purples and mahogany with a little orange all mixed in. What a nice attribute for a plant that looks great almost all summer. Here are the pictures though. They tell the story better.
Hamamelis virginiana
Are native shrubs your thing? Not what I'd typically think of as a great fall color producing plant. They are currently flowering in our landscape, but it is hard to see through the yellow and green-veined leaves. I love to see leaves with these kind of markings. This is yet another native plant with great fall attributes.

Juniperus virginiana 'Blue Mountain'
Is fruit your thing? If so, 'Blue Mountain' will produce some mighty nice fruit. The plants in our landscape have been here a long time. But even in pots, fruit production is magnificent. The silvery-blue fruit are very nice in contrast with the gray-blue foliage. This is truly a specimen Juniper that not enough people use.

Agastache 'Blue Fortune'
Are seed heads your thing? If so, Agastache looks great long into winter. The swaying seed heads were dancing in the wind yesterday. They look great will all the fall colors in the background. And even in snow, the plants stand tall and look great against the white background of a snow filled landscape.

Hosta 'Regal Splendor'
Are Hostas your thing? If so, then 'Regal Splendor' is a nice plant to look at. Hostas aren't always thought of for fall color. But this year, the silky gold foliage looks quite nice. Most Hosta in the landscape are displaying these colors this year. 'Blue Cadet' is another one with maybe a touch more flare.

Molinia 'Heidebraut'
Are grasses your thing? If so, an underutilized plant is this Molinia. One of my favorite Midwest Solutions® is the combination of this plant and the Rosa Knock Out®. Together they are a striking combination. You can see the flowers of the rose behind the bright yellow foliage of 'Heidebraut'. The texture of 'Heidebraut' looks great all year in contrast with these roses and other plants such as Phlox 'Blue Paradise'.
Coreopsis tripteris
Are native prairie plants your thing? If so, then check out this Coreopsis. Every year I see this plant, I am amazed. The colors mixed in are fabulous. Of course, if you don't have a lot of room in your yard, then this probably isn't the plant for you. But if you have a spot in the back of the border, by all means, plant this guy!

Berberis Sunjoy™ Gold Pillar™
If thorns are your thing, then go with this fella. These plants are visible from a distance. The bright orange is remarkable. I'm not the biggest fan of barberry, but this plant does have a use.

Amsonia hubrichtii
Is texture your thing? If so, few plants can rival the texture of Amsonia. The fall colors of these plants are great as well. The plant itself can be chlorotic throughout the year, so yellows are almost always present on this plant. But as I've learned, a lot of people like the plant when it's yellow in summer. Even with this, the fall color is more pronounced and more beautiful then summer.

Viburnum prunifolium
Are birds your thing? This is a plant we have in American Beauties Native Plants™. This will attract birds because it a)gives cover to the birds from predators, and b) produces fruit that are delicious to the birds. The fall color is pretty nice too. If you are unfamiliar, please give the Blackhaw Viburnum a try.

Viburnum x juddii
Is fragrance your thing? If so, you'll have to wait for spring for this plant to give off its intoxicating perfume. But doesn't her fall color give reason to try? In my opinion, there is no plant with better fragrance than Juddii Viburnum. It's like a spicy lilac. But it's fall color is to die for too. I am a little biased, because this is the first plant I ever planted in my parents yard when learning about plants. But what a great plant to get started with right?
Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliantissima'
Last week I spoke of the red chokeberry, but never showed how great the foliage can actually get. We did physical inventory on shrubs this week, and I was asked to help. I was fortunate to get to count the hoop house of Aronia. What a sight to see. And what better than to be surrounded by amazing fall color. It was definitely a treat!

Aronia melanocarpa 'Elata'
If your thing is Chokeberries, then you like the last two plants I've spoke of. This is just your common black chokeberry in American Beauties Native Plants™ pots. Aren't they great?!? Our native plants have such great fall color, it's amazing that we search out the other continents for other options. We have some outstanding plants right here in North America.

Allium 'Summer Beauty'
Last, but certainly not least, if your thing is contrast, then this plant is for you. There are so many reasons Midwest Groundcovers has gotten behind this plant. This is one attribute that we forget about most of the year. Look at the amazing yellow scapes contrasted with the bright green foliage. I bet your daylilies don't look this good! On top of that, the spent flowers dangle gracefully above the bright yellow scapes creating a magical display of color. Everywhere in the landscape we have this, it looks this good. I took many a picture and had a lot of difficulty deciding where it looks best. This is a highly sustainable plant because it requires little care.

Thanks again for reading. I hope you are enjoying the many pictures and posts that I've put up here. Soon we'll be on to winter interest. I'm hoping that I can get one more week of fall color before we go to the whites and grays of winter. Also this winter we will be unveiling our new plants for 2010. That will be coming soon! Until next time, have a great day!

Plants on a Wall

Hello all,
This will be a very quick post, but I wanted to show you our newest addition to the landscape along with a very old landscape specimen. Here they are.
I apologize if you blow this picture up. It was very windy when I took this picture, so it's not all in focus. With the new market of Living Walls taking shape, I wanted to remind you of how beautiful our Parthenocissus tricuspidata could be on a wall. The fall colors of this beauty are impeccable. It just goes to show you that Living Walls are not a new thing, but the technology sure has changed.

One of the newest additions to our landscape is this green wall. We recently hosted a Green Living Technology training and during the training they created this very interesting green wall. There are many species of plants here such as Carex 'Evergold' and Ajuga 'Black Scallop' just to name two. I am very interested in how this will look next year. I will keep you posted. If you would like further information on this kind of project, please email us at mgplanttrials@gmail.com

Monday, October 12, 2009

Beautiful Fall Colors

Hello friends,
This week is the week that proves most difficult in our industry. Threats of frost and snow mean covering plants in the nursery and annuals that look terrible! It's not a time most of us look forward to unless we have a nice plowing contract for the winter. I look forward to this time of the year because I love the colors fall produces. We were just talking in the office about how nice it usually is this time of the year. Where did the jeans and t-shirt weather go? We didn't seem to have it this year. Well, some plants are surely disrupted by this cold weather, but others go on looking great. Here are some examples of plants that look good after a hard frost.

This morning, I was excited to see this container. Usually the Geranium 'Jolly Bee' goes to bed after a hard frost, but here they are still blooming with a nice specimen of Festival Grass™ accompanying them. Both plants I predicted would look terrible today when I came in. I was wrong on both accounts. The Festival grass has really stood up well this year to all the climactic change. They still show the deep burgundy color everyone loves. While not hardy, the fact that they look good now speaks volumes for planting them in your customers planters. I am still not the biggest annual fan in the world. Or if you truly want to classify it differently and call it a tropical, that's fine. But this plant is beginning to win me over. It is worthy of being in our landscape and yours.

Flower Carpet® Scarlet
It is still blooming. And it's not just a scattering of blooms. This plant is really blooming well! The foliage is very glossy green and tough as nails. This is a great plant. It reminds me how nice the new generation of Flower Carpet® roses really are.

Calamintha nepeta ssp nepeta
I feel like I'm constantly sticking up for this plant in the landscape. I first have to talk about how it is a sterile plant and will not run you down like the straight species Calamintha nepeta would. Then I have to convince people that the bees that cover this plant throughout summer will not sting their customers as they walk to the front door. If you've ever been on a tour here, you know what I like to do to the bees. I dive into the plants and they all scatter drunkenly to the next plant to get more pollen. They don't care about me! But look at this picture taken today. For those of you looking for a long bloom time in the garden, it's still blooming. It has not stopped since June!!! This is a must have! If you don't like the scent of peppermint, well I can't help you there. But I am more than willing to sell you on this plant if you need more pushing!
Sedum kamtchaticum
Not the first plant you think of when considering fall color. But it should be up there. Think of this color as a groundcover! We have it installed on a roof here at the nursery and it looks stunning. We have it mixed with Allium 'Forescate' and other varieties of Sedum. Imagine having a planting of this as your groundcover, and Asters and Amsonia hubrechtii intermixed. Ooh. Bright yellows, purples and reds!
Iroquois Beauty™ Aronia
What a nice plant for fruit and fall color. Oranges and yellows and reds oh my! Add black to that and you have Iroquois Beauty™. This has the best fruit display of any Aronia I have ever seen. It stays short so it adds value because of that. These have not completely changed, so think of how great they could be! Though I like the contrast of green and oranges. Herman Tiedeman and I both agree that Aronia could be a great substitution for Burning Bush in the future, but the time is now to make the change! Aronia 'Brilliantissima' is the best for fall color and adds red fruit to boot.
Rhus copallina Prairie Flame™
It's not that we hate the look of Burning Bush. It's that it is so one dimensional. It turns red in fall. Yea! With Prairie Flame™, you add a bloom time in summer where it looks great again. The texture of the plant is far nicer than that of a burning bush. It does sucker a tad, but otherwise is a fabulous plant. The fall color is outstanding as well. Pictured in reds and purples, it also takes on tones of yellow and orange before it drops. Quite the nice plant.
Redwing™ Viburnum
When I started writing this, it wasn't intended to throw Euonymus alatus under the bus. But since I've started, I feel more inclined to do so. Not only does this have phenomenal foliage, but it is also a native cultivar. So it is beneficial to the environment in addition to being beautiful. The fruit of this species is attractive to birds. In early spring, the new foliage is a reddish tinge which gives it the name Redwing™ as the new foliage amongst older green foliage looks like the wings of a bird.
Corylus americana
Few shrubs rival American Hazelnut for fall color. It is also a native so there are many benefits to this plant. It produces hazelnuts for one!!! I've tried them, and they are just like the flavor you add to your coffee. They are tough to crack, so a nutcracker is recommended. If you are looking to plant the seeds, abrasion is necessary. Be careful though. It says to make a puncture hole on one side of the nut before planting. I'm still not sure what the best way to do that is. The way I tried produced a hole in my finger. Anyways, you can see how nice the foliage is.

It's hard to do a segment on fall color and not show you any trees. I walked by some Amelanchier and Sugar Maples that I would have liked to add. But shrubs are so often forgotten. Grasses and trees can be the easy stars of fall, but there are some great shrubs that deserve your attention as well. It's been a pleasure. Until next time, have a great day!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Free Hotdogs!

Hello everybody,
You may or may not be aware that this is Midwest Groundcovers' 40th Anniversary this year. Hopefully you are aware. But we've been having some great sales this year as well as some free hot dogs. You missed the October 5th free hot dog stand, but you are most welcome on the 12th as we dish out hot dogs from 11:00am to 1:00pm.
Look at the grill marks! Rick is the grill master! These are all beef hot dogs. All the condiments that you may like as well as some apple cider is on hand for you. Please come and enjoy the flavor.

Allium 'Ozawa'
I've shown a couple pictures this year of this plant. The anticipation of seeing what I see now was, to me, worth it. These are the open flowers of 'Ozawa'. Isn't she lovely? They don't look the greatest in containers, but for the landscape, they look fantastic this time of the year. Patience is a virtue. This one requires it.

Callirhoe involucrata
This is a plant that we are considering growing. They tend to send off some long arms, so we were unsure how that would go over. This is another plant whose virtues are worth waiting for. In the landscape you will be rewarded with fabulous color in summer and fall. Bottom line is, in a container, Callirhoe is lacking. Put it in the ground, and you have a superstar!

Aconitum fischerii
The late bloomer. These are not in our product line either, but I'm interested in the demand. If you want beautiful Monkshood, you should let us know. These are established plants in the landscape. I have them in full sun, but this plant will tolerate a good amount of shade as well. In fact, the shade is "preferred." I look at the plants in full sun, and wonder how they could look any better.

Miscanthus 'Autumn Red'
The farthest right of all the Miscanthus pictured, 'Autumn Red' creates a fairly upright clump that turns a nice mix of colors in the fall. This is most similar to 'Purpurascens' but with nicer fall color.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Yes! Michigan!

Hello again,
I had the pleasure of going to Michigan to look at some of our sample plants that various vendors have given us to trial. I wanted to see how things have been progressing and work with Drew, our production manager there on which plants we think we should grow. It really helps us when the accession and production groups get together so that we can all be on the same page. Communication is everything in this business. Maybe in all businesses for that matter. Here are some of the plants that we've added in the last few years for various reasons. And also pictured are some nice shots of crops growing there as we speak. In the next couple of weeks, Midwest Groundcovers will be having some great sales! Now is the time to buy plant material. But in addition to the great plants that we will be discounting are some fabulous regular priced items. I will show you one of the great deals, but mostly I wanted to show you some of the great plants that are not on sale and worth every penny we ask.
Phlox 'David's Lavender'
If you like Phlox 'David', then you should like his lavender counterpart. They have a nice colored flower similar to what we used to offer in 'Franz Schubert', but with greater mildew resistance. They are not all blooming now, but the plants are super clean and will perform well for you next year!

Aster tataricus 'Jin-Dai'
Several years ago we planted these in the garden here. They are very late bloomers, so I was never sure if there was a true market for them. Architects and designers have come late enough to see them bloom, and have had really nice words to say about them. A trip to Cleveland a couple years ago brought them back to my attention. They had planted them along a walkway that looked down onto another garden. The blooms were looking up at me with their bright yellow eyes, and I fell in love all over again. They do have a course foliage but they do not show off their naked legs like so many other Asters do. They do have a tendency to spread a little, but what good Aster doesn't?
Aster novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'
The crop of these look so nice right now. I always enjoy seeing a big crop like this one when everything is in bloom. If you were thinking about planting fall mums this week, why? Get some Asters! They'll even come back reliably. Oh, that's why.

Hosta 'June'
This is a favorite of mine. All Hosta have become a recent passion, but 'June' will forever remain the best. This is just the liners, but who wouldn't want to see this. I just made it the background for my computer monitor! It's always fun to see the baby plants, and if you are a grower, to see them mature into larger saleable plants. These babies will be saleable next year.

Hosta 'Frances Williams'
I have to admit that sometimes I forget about the oldies. One look at this crop and I realized that once I have more room to plant at home, I'll be buying some. They are so clean without the slightest touch of a slug. No damage on any plants whatsoever. So, remember that sometimes new doesn't always mean good. Don't forget about the beauties of days past.

Hosta 'First Frost'
So new doesn't always mean good, but in this instance it does. This is the Hosta of the Year 2010. It may not look like much now, but a mature plant of this is very nice. Think Hosta 'Halcyon' with white margins. In my opinion, 'Halcyon' is one of the best Hostas ever. Another sport of 'Halcyon' is 'June' so it has a history of nice children. I'm really excited that we will be able to offer this superb plant to you next year.
Echinacea Big Sky™ Harvest Moon
This is a house of Harvest Moon, just to show you how nice some of these plants still look. In the landscape, a mature plant may not still have as many blooms as these do, but it makes me think that if we could convert people into purchasing them at this time of year instead of mums, the world could be a much better place. Think about the additional benefits of coneflowers over chrysanthemums. After they are done blooming they still provide color with the goldfinches and other birds that will come to eat the seeds.
Echinacea 'Coconut Lime'
Even the double varieties look great in the pots. No need for white mums with these hanging around.

Veronica 'Royal Candles'
These still look superb as well.

Chelone 'Hot Lips'
I never fully understood the appeal of this plant. But I'm learning to love it. This year, these plants look great. They always do, but we always sell out so that I don't get to see them bloom this way. I planted them in the landscape a couple years ago when we finally had plants that I didn't feel guilty to take. I don't like to plant things that our customers really want and we don't have great quantities on. So we did plant them, and we do have good quantities now. Look at the great fall flower color these have. The houses are blooming like mad. If you are not familiar with these, they like some moisture and like some shade. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked about plants for moist shade. That explains why they are in such demand.
Let's move on to grasses:
Molinia 'Transparent'
This would be one of the plants that we are offering at a special price. Look at how nice they are. This is one of the best deals I've seen in a long time. For more information on the sale, please call us or go to our website at http://www.midwestgroundcovers.com/ and go to our availability for pricing.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Purpurascens'
I'm not always the most fond of Miscanthus. But seeing a large crop of 2700 #3 sized plants with their flowers glistening in the sunlight is a sight to see. Clearly they are available, so please don't hesitate to call and order some for your next pick up or delivery!

Sporobolus heterolepis 'Tara'
I always talk about how uniform a house of 'Tara' is, so I wanted to show you. Though I know the picture may not be in the greatest focus, you can get the point. You could put a level on top of these plants, and if the seed heads were strong enough, it would be perfect. This is such a uniform plant. For those that are afraid of the "native look", and still want the cilantro like smell of Sporobolus, try 'Tara'.

Sesleria autumnalis
As you can see, this is a very nice mass of plants. It's a different look than Pennisetum, but they will reliably live and look great season after season. And they are salt tolerant.

Phytolacca americana
Commonly known as Pokeweed, this is my favorite of all weeds. The problem with it is that it is terribly poisonous. If you have kids around, you should probably not have this plant. If you do not, then I say keep it. A friend of mine has a variegated one! Ooohhh! If it is close to an area where it could get stained by it's fruit juice, you may want to remove it as well. The birds in my neighborhood eat the fruit, which can cause a mess once digested. Birds apparently are immune to the poison but mammalian herbivores leave it alone.

Fall colors are coming. My next post will focus on that. Thanks again for reading. Until next time, have a great day.