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, November 11, 2009

Frost in the Garden

Not everything in the garden is beautiful at this time of year. In fact, most people would say the garden is dead and not worth looking at. I need to argue against that. There are many reasons to walk around your garden. Those reasons come to life on the mornings where frost covers the ground. Groundcovers! They are the stars of this time. Especially the ones that are evergreen. Here are some that I came across today that I have found to be wonderful.
Sedum 'Immergrunchen'
Not only is this plant great for green roofs, but it is also an excellent groundcover. This was my favorite plant this morning because of the frost. There is something special about the frost lining the rims of the leaves, creating a piece of delicately displayed artwork. How great you are, Mother Nature!?! You can see on some of the plant, that the foliage is turning orange. That is also a characteristic I find charming about this plant. Because of this, it became the centerpiece of our Sedum sun. Turning orange in early winter, it creates the sun with all the other varieties streaking away as its rays. When 'Fuldaglut', 'Dragon's Blood' and 'Red Carpet' turn their brightest colors of red, it is a stunning display.
Sedum forsterianum
Speaking about the virtues of sedum, here is the iceberg stonecrop, which looks very interesting today. The corkscrew effect of the foliage is more easily seen with frost dusting the plants. These plants have flourished in the garden for many years underneath our crab apples. So they do receive their fair share of shade and still keep looking nice.

Phuopsis stylosa
Sort of Sedum-like in appearance, this groundcover has a spiral effect as well. The frost on this was quite beautiful. I don't think the picture does it justice. I have this planted in areas where it gets full sun and in areas where it receives very little sun. In the area with more sun, it is a pale yellow-green color right now. It resembles Sedum 'Angelina' in these areas. In the shady area, they are a dark green. In both areas, the plant has proven vigorous and will undergo a salt test this winter. I'll let you know. This could be the ultimate Polygonum reynoutria substitute if it holds up to the salting. It even has pink flowers in spring!
Ajuga 'Black Scallop'
I don't typically like to talk about Ajuga. I think I say that every time I bring up 'Black Scallop'. It's not that they don't have a use. It's just that I like other groundcovers better. Black Scallop however, is on my good list. And with white frost sprinkled over the top of the near-black foliage, I find it irresistible. The plants pictured have been in the landscape for four years and have flourished. They receive good drainage and half day sun. The foliage is larger than most other Ajuga we carry with the exception of 'Catlin's Giant'. 'Catlin's Giant' is similar but with lighter colored foliage.
Geum 'Tequila Sunrise'
This is another introduction from Intrinsic Perennials in Hebron, IL. While there isn't a flower to show you, these plants look spectacular covered in frost. You can really see how fuzzy the foliage is because the frost has attached itself to each little hair. I'll be excited to show you the bi-colored flowers in spring. I currently have three of Intrinsic's Geum on trials. I'll be looking for feedback next year on whether or not you like them.

Stachys 'Big Ears'
Speaking of fuzzy! These are the fuzziest plants known to me. And they look marvelous with frost covering them. At this time of year, these start to yellow up a little for winter. But with frost attached, they are looking like they do all year. Fuzzy. To really appreciate the frost on this, enlarge the picture and check out the edges of the foliage. Very interesting.
Dianthus 'Little Maiden'
These small plants have looked great all year. At this point, with the frost covering them, they sort of look like turf. But a refined turf right? If you are familiar with Sagina subulata, and you have had trouble growing it, then try this one out. The foliage offers a very similar look, but then it adds dainty white flowers in spring and sporadically throughout the season. Like most Dianthus, a dry and well drained site is important for the plants to thrive.
Potentilla neumanniana 'Nana'
Its varying stages of foliage offer color this time of year. With browns and greens, and a little white from frost, they look fun. To me, they look like little pinwheels. This has been a remarkable addition to our groundcover line. We have found that this plant is salt tolerant and grows rapidly. The species is native to Eastern Canada, so it is a North American native. While aggressive on the ground, I don't anticipate any issues with this being invasive. It has been in the landscape for several years now, and I have not seen any plants go to seed. Another great possibility as a substitute for Polygonum reynoutria.
Heuchera richardsonii
I didn't anticipate the beautiful fall colors that are emerging from this plant. We have several planted in our experimental groundcover garden, and they are all turning shades of red and orange. The frost creates a wonderful rim around the leaves, which makes this Illinois native look sharp. In the summer, leaves are medium to dark green. It flowers a creamy white, and sometimes pink. The pink ones are few. But a selection could be done for fall color. Some plants are definitely better than others. The beauty of bio-diversity and growing native plants from seed. Heuchera breeders should be looking at this plant for hybridizing because it would add a really nice fall feature. Imagine Heuchera 'Chatterbox' type flowers in summer followed by an orange and red fall display. What a combo that would be. But alas, it doesn't exist yet. It is just a dream.

Even at this time of year, the garden is full of surprises and beauty. November is not the time to forget about the garden. It is the time to respect it for its subtle beauties. It will make you appreciate the flowers more come spring because you'll know there is another show to anticipate later! Until next time, have a great day!

The Morton Arboretum

I took a trip last week to the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL for a perennials trial group that I'm a part of. Once we've set our website up, I'll give more information on that. In the meantime, we were deciding which plants to grow for next year and have as part of our trials. Once our main business was finished, we took a little walk into the children's garden. It has been some time since I've been to the Arboretum, so it was a very exciting task. Of course, most of the perennials were finished, but the shrubs and trees were not.
Quercus rubra
I am always delighted to see the fall colors of oaks. Before they get to the brown stage, they have a complex mixture of oranges, reds and yellows. Near my home, I had mistaken a Red Oak for a Red Maple when it first started to color. I had always known the tree was a red oak, I just hadn't seen it so beautifully colored before. What a great native!

Carpinus carolinianus
Look up this plant on Google™ and see how many common names you can find. This is one of those perfect trees to talk about when deciding whether or not botanic names are important. Anyways, off of that soapbox. This is a spectacular tree year-round. You can see its delightful fall color. The bark is very smooth and reminiscent of Fagus or Beech trees, which is why one of it's common names is Blue Beech. Also, if you look closely, the bark looks like muscles, hence the common name Musclewood. I like to think of it as an American Hornbeam. But then Ostrya virginiana is commonly called the Hop-Hornbeam which just confuses things further. So, now that I haven't said much about the plant, I'll start to. They grow 15-25' tall with a similar spread. They are a native plant and attract many types of beautiful native moths whose larvae feed on the leaves. This is a nice medium sized tree for the home garden.
Catalpa speciosa
I wish I had this picture when Halloween rolled around. I just love the structure of this tree. The seed pods, or as my grandmother used to say, the cigars hang down and can create a walking hazard on the sidewalk. But their showy display of flowers in summer is hard to match. The flowers are almost orchid-like in appearance with yellow and purple speckles coming from the middle of a pure white flower. And of course, once the giant leaves fall, the tree takes on a monstrous look in the winter. Just in time for Halloween as a matter of fact!
Cornus mas 'Golden Glory'
The dark purple fall colors of this gem are hard to miss. They are very late to color up, but when they do they are quite nice. This is not a native of the US, but a nice plant nonetheless. It has a wonderful display of yellow flowers in late March/early April. The fruit are bright red drupes that are very tart if eaten. They supposedly are great in pies! I have yet to try that.
Ligularia 'Desdemona'
This was a nice sight to see. As we peeked through a small opening in the garden, we could see the seed heads of Ligularia in front of a Chamaecyparis of some sort. We carry the 'Britt Marie Crawford' Ligularia which is quite similar and would give the same effect as this, only with darker foliage. In the foreground is Allium 'Ozawa' with its purple flowers.
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Pee Wee'
This is such a nice plant. This native Hydrangea cultivar is a dwarf version of the plant that only grows to 4' tall and wide. The fall color is tremendous, and much later than most other plants. This picture was taken on November 6th, so you can see the fall color develops late and holds well. No worry of frost.

Here is another view of the plant. In a different area of the garden, it looks great with tall ornamental grasses flanking it. In this particular instance, they have Miscanthus. But how can you not love the deep purples and spots of red.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Alice'
This is the variety we currently carry. And as you can see, the fall color is just as spectacular. These plants do get larger, growing to a potential of 8' in a long period of time. They are slow growing. The bark peels and looks fantastic once the foliage has dropped.

Can you believe how nice our native plants look in fall? It definitely makes an argument to having native plants in the landscape. They just do so well. How can one complain? I'm clearly not a native purist, but some of the plants in your landscape should come from your region. It's the responsible thing to do, and there are so many wonderful choices to pick from. Until next time, have a great day!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Couple more Pictures of Fall

Hello again,
I have a few more shots from last week that didn't make the blog. When I looked back through my pictures, some of my favorite ones were not used. How wasteful! Well, I couldn't just let them disappear and never be seen, so here they are.
Geranium maculatum
When I first started working here, we had a pretty extensive display of Geraniums in our perennial garden. Many of the varieties we never sold and some, like 'Jolly Bee', have gone on to be superb sellers. This is a seedling that arose in a nearby spot that I have kept since that time. I like the blooms and by golly, I love the fall color. I think this is the best fall color I've ever seen on this variety. It is getting a fair amount of sun, though the plants typically grow in shade. Well, I think this fall color is enough to make me want these in full sun.
Aconitum fischerii
Speaking of blooms, these are still looking fabulous. After frost and rain, these plants look stunning. There is not a lot of purple this time of year. The question I have is, would anyone buy these? If your company would, please email us at mgplanttrials@midwestgroundcovers.com. It only takes a couple seconds to let me know if there is a market for these. If nobody replies, I'll assume that there isn't interest in monkshoods.
It's always a pleasure to eat lunch and then hang around the pond at our site. It is always chock-full of bullfrogs and sometimes the occasional turtle, as well as some giant Asian carp that lurk around. Right now though, the Bald Cypress with their rusty brown needles dropping into the pond are the stars. It's fun to see the rusty rim that forms around the pond from the needles floating to the sides. In the background, my favorite oak tree on site is turning shades of orange.
Fothergilla Beaver Creek™
What a beautiful plant in fall. My favorite attribute of the plant is the fall color. The flowers are great and all, but nothing beats the fall color of Fothergilla. The name is excellent as well. Who doesn't like saying Fothergilla. It's kind of like saying Bouteloua! I find it amazing that these haven't been ravaged by the rabbits. At home, the rabbits love this plant. I rarely get to see fall color over the height of 4". Wascally wabbits!
Euonymus europaeus
These plants have always been interesting in the landscape. We have them in multiple locations and they've been there longer than I've been with the company. Therefore, the fact that I have not seen any seedlings of this in the forest or anywhere else in the landscape leads me to believe that this is a Euonymus that I need not worry about. It's fall color is in shades of pink and orange.

Thanks again for reading! I hope you've found it enjoyable. Until next time, have a great day!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Midwest Groundcovers Adopts a Highway

Hello again,
Midwest Groundcovers has adopted a highway! Some employees from Midwest Groundcovers, LLC have decided to donate their time to clean up IL Route 25. As you may or may not know, this is the road that our main facility is located. Since August, twelve employees have signed up to help out by helping clean up the road we drive on every day in our free time. It is quite the rewarding experience driving down the road and seeing how clean you've made it the day before. The clean-up area that we have adopted consists of 2 miles from Army Trail Road to our facility. Most garbage on the road consists of cigarette packs and beer bottles. Kind of scary when you think about it. If only those people were reading right now! I think when people litter, they don't think of the people that have to clean up after them. We at Midwest Groundcovers strive to Keep Illinois Clean! This has been a public service announcement. Until next time, have a great day!