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

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!

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