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 29, 2012

The Heat is On

Hello again,
What a difficult summer we are having. I always argue for the Midwest, saying that we have four seasons and that is why it is better to live in Illinois than in Florida.  Having Winter, makes us appreciate Spring and Fall all the more.  Not having a Spring though, like this year, sure makes this area much less appealing. We went straight from winter to summer this year and left out the part of the year where most of the rain comes.  I've asked you to dance, and we got a little rain today, but not enough.  Even with the extreme heat and lack of water, plants are still looking good.  Our landscape crew at Midwest has been working very hard to keep things looking nice.  Areas of the garden that we never usually water have needed it this year.  So this is a public thank you to Gustavo and Fakundo for taking care of the plants so that I can get decent images of them.  And here they are.

Hydrangea Invincibelle® Spirit
I had a group of students out this week for a tour.  They came from Des Moines area Community College, or DEMACC as they call themselves.  Thanks for making us a part of your road trip touring.  When I asked which of the two they liked better, they chose this one over the Endless Summer® Bella Anna.  The color of flowers is very similar.  Maybe a little darker on the Bella Anna, but the Invincibelle® Spirit as a whole looks like a better plant.

Hydrangea Incrediball®
This is the best this plant has ever looked in our garden. I've seen the mother plant at Spring Meadow and it was very impressive.  I've come to the conclusion this year that Hydrangea arborescens needs three years in the ground to reach their potential.  The added watering that we've needed to do this year has potentially helped them get larger and a little stronger.  The plant itself is still only 3' tall but some of the flowers are nearly a foot wide themselves.

Aesculus parviflora
This is my annual posting of Bottlebrush Buckeye.  I fall more and more in love with it every year.  This hedge was intended as a production hedge where we'd take cuttings every year for propagation.  Well, the nursery manager that asked me to plant it, left a year later and they have left the plants to grow large and beautiful.  Six years in the ground, the plants are 6' x 6' wide and flowering like crazy.  These have not gotten any supplemental watering, so they are proving drought tolerant as well.  The ones in more shade are about a week behind in flowering, but these in full sun look great right now.
Asclepias incarnata
A couple quick pictures of some milkweed here.  I am fascinated by the flowers on these.  A. incarnata is one of my favorite plants.  Monday, I had a good friend in here telling me that she loves to read the blog and hear me say over and over again, "this is my favorite".  So here's to you Brenda!  I like it mostly because it photographs so well.  But also because its genera is the host to the monarch caterpillar.  Insects of many backgrounds flock to this plant to take a sip of its sweet nectar.

Asclepias syriaca
Larger flowers form on this species.  This is the common milkweed plant that you are most likely to see on the roadsides.  It does seed around quite freely.  The biggest threat to this plant though is mowing.  Roadside ditches with this plant in it should be left alone after the beginning of June.  Monarchs are in danger of lower numbers year after year, and if we mow down the plants they require for nourishment, we lose their habitat.  Furthermore, these plants most likely have larvae already on them when we mow, essentially killing one of our continents iconic migratory animals.
Piet Oudolf Garden
It's been a little while since I've posted a picture of this garden.  It is looking quite nice today.  The Echinacea are beginning to bloom all around the garden which really adds a lot of color.  In this picture, Amsonia hubrichtii is beginning to show it's fall color in June per usual. The fine texture of the Narrow-Leaved Bluestar and the Coneflowers mixed looks great.  The garden overall, is looking the best I've seen in many years.  I'm very happy we had Piet out here last year to take a look.  This morning, we had a discussion about removing some plants from the garden.  The targeted plant is the Eryngium yuccifolium.  I love Rattlesnake Master, but it is officially becoming a beast in the garden.  It could be the most difficult of the weeds we've had to remove, but we're going to give it a try.

As I've been typing away, the rain has continued to come down gently.  I want to treat it like I'd treat my young nieces and nephews and say that it can't possibly rain any more.  These clouds are not strong enough to persist through the day.  I just don't believe that they can do it.  Come on reverse psychology!  I hope this rain reaches all of us that need it desperately.  I'm going to continue with the rain dance.  We need as much as these clouds are willing to give.  Hopefully the next few days this will continue and resaturate the ground.  Until next time, thanks for reading and have a great day!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Drought Tolerant Plants

Hello again,
We caught a glimpse of wetness coming from the sky yesterday.  It lasted a whole minute!  On Saturday of last week, we received less than an inch, but it's better than nothing.  As dry as we are in the Chicagoland area, some plant are thriving and looking great.  Most of what looks the best are native the region as well. Below are some of the best for the worst of droughts.
Dalea purpurea
I've always been a fan of Purple Prairie Clover.  My only problems have been in the years that we have wet springs. Last year, this wasn't the nicest plant in the garden.  This year, all Dalea are looking quite spectacular.  The white species, D. candida are also blooming their little hearts out.  The only other thing to note on this plant is that rabbits adore it.  So mixing it with plants like Allium and Calamintha are good ways to keep the rabbits off of it.  And they are both drought tolerant making them nice companions in the garden.
Asclepias tuberosa
Butterfly weed thrives on drought.  This is one of those plants where you want to make sure you have the best drainage possible to ensure livability.  I see these growing in Michigan frequently where the soil is mostly sand.  Asclepias in general are the host plant for monarch butterflies, so this type of plant is one that is necessary for your butterfly garden.
Ruellia humilis
Wild Petunia is late to leaf out. These usually emerge in mid to late May.  This year I started to see them in the first week of May.  This plant does reseed profusely and can even move its way into the lawn.  For me, I like that it has become the Violet for the sun in our lawn.  Others may not like it as much as I.  In some of our gardens, it climbs the stems of other perennials and blooms atop them.  This is especially effective with the Liatris aspera.
Allium senescens var glaucum with Stachys minima and Mazus reptans
This is the perfect combination for the trendy fairy gardens.  All plants in this combo are less than a foot tall and contrast very well with one another.  The pink flowers of the Stachys have been here for a couple weeks already and if the cool air persists, it could last for a couple more.  The Allium have yet to bloom but will be soon offering up tasty nectar to Painted Lady Butterflies everywhere.  The Mazus blooms earlier in spring and sometimes re-blooms in fall.

I hope everyone is still staying busy and able to keep all their plants watered.  We still are desperate for rain around here.  It's gotta come soon right?  Until next time, I hope you have a great day.

Friday, June 15, 2012

New Generation Flower Carpet® Roses

Happy June everyone,
If only we could get some rain, this month would be great. Without it, gardens that I used to never water are thirstier than I ever remember seeing them.  It's dry out here in St Charles.  The river is down. My favorite lake, Nelson Lake, is looking quite shallow as I can see fish swimming from my view on the observation deck. The season started so early this year, and the drought and heat seem to be following.  I won't claim to know how low the water table is, but I would imagine it's below where it should be for mid June.  A lot of the roses peaked out at the end of May, but one group seems to be flourishing.  That is the Flower Carpet®.  Having been bred for the Australian heat, these plants have proven worthy of their drought tolerant status.
Flower Carpet® Amber
One of those unique colors that looks hot this time of the year.  As you can see in the photo, the flowers go from amber to light pink.   Amber has grown to 28" tall in the landscape and 40" wide.  En masse they are stunning.  Combining this variety with Vernonica 'Hocus Pocus' would make a stunning combination.

Flower Carpet® Pink Supreme
This is the improved version of the older Flower Carpet® Pink.  When I first saw this plant, I thought it was nearly the same.  Then I saw it perform.  While the old Pink was a great plant, this one is better.  The foliage stays super clean all season long while the older pink can sometimes look a little poor.  Flowering seems to be stronger as well.  I would like to see this with Achillea 'Moonshine' for contrast in color and flower shape.  The two could have a drought tolerant friendship.
Flower Carpet® Scarlet
I've liked this plant for some time.  When I look around the landscape, and especially when I first started doing the landscape here, it is planted frequently.  I first planted it with Solidago 'Fireworks', and created a combination that Ray Kroc would be thrilled with.  The combination of mustard and ketchup colors was fascinating to me.  Now, I think I would look for something like Calamintha nepeta ssp nepeta, to offset the orange-red color of this plant.

Staying short and sweet this week.  Let's start doing a rain dance everyone.  We need it desperately in these parts.  Until next time, have a great day and Happy Rose Month!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

June is National Rose Month

Hello again,
June is National Rose Month, so naturally, we finally replanted our rose garden near our retail center.  David Austin, Easy Elegance, Knock Out, Flower Carpet, Home Run roses and more were planted there this week.  Today I'll highlight the Easy Elegance®.
Easy Elegance® Yellow Submarine
For many years we've been looking for the best yellow rose.  For the longest time, I stood by Carefree Sunshine™ as the best, but I have since changed my mind to this one.  The foliage stays very clean and the flowers hold their color for a long time before fading to a cream color.  These will grow to 3' tall and wide and look stunning mixed with Salvia 'May Night'.

Easy Elegance® My Girl
My Girl is one of the more fragrant of the series.  Foliage remains very attractive even after the invasion of Japanese Beetles. Flowers are on the pink side, though this picture shows a lot of red.  It is a different color than the "knock out red" that has become the trend in rose varieties.  Yellow stamens really show off the pink color. 
Salvia sclarea 'Vatican White'
This is one of those plants that never ceases to amaze me.  Every year it blooms, it has the incredibly white, large blooms that soar over very large foliage.  Foliage is interesting when the plant is not in bloom, and it does have reddish-purple stems which are always a favorite of mine.  This was a trial plant of ours from many years ago, and it still performs.  It has moved around a little via seed, but the plants are pretty easy to pull. 
Geranium 'Rozanne'
My favorite plant.  Those of you that have been on tours with me, have probably heard me say that about many a plant as I walk around the gardens.  I have many favorites, I suppose.  But 'Rozanne' is my absolute favorite.  She blooms from now until frost.  During the hottest times of the summer, it doesn't bloom as heavy, but otherwise it most always looks great. Rambling to 24" tall and 36" wide, it can also "climb" on top of other perennials to make them look good when not in bloom.

Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem'
I usually have only photographed this plant when first leafing out.  That is my favorite time for this plant.  However, I've been asked several times about the picture on top of the blog currently, and how does it look later in the season.  This is the bloom time for 'Sem', and in bloom it looks great.  Still some newer foliage that has the oranges and reds with the green are present with the white flowers.  This plant can sucker a little, and form a colony of fern-like foliage.  In 6 years, it has grown 6' tall and 10' wide after suckering.

Thanks again for reading the blog, and until next time have a great day!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Natives, Perennials, and Shrubs, oh my

Hello again,
I've got a lot of topics to go over today, so I'll jump right into the plants.

Angelica atropurpurea
One of my favorite all time natives is this giant of a plant.  If you've read the blog before, you know I love stems.  And who wouldn't notice intensely purple stems on a 6' perennial.  Like something out of outer space, these plants will multiply in the garden.  Their preference is to be in a moist location, and I would imagine they would move around a bit more if it was wet.  These have been here for a long time.  Before I worked here, I remember seeing three plants.  You can see in this photo, they've spread a little.  Maybe not for the homeowner, but on a large site, quite the plant.
Prairie Garden
This was my attempt at a "Structured prairie" from a couple years ago.  Maybe not completely structured anymore, the garden has filled in, and I personally like it.  Parthenium integrifolium is starting to bloom and the Eryngium yuccifolium and Liatris spicata, all compliment each other well. In front is Sporobolus heterolepis which was planted like a grassy hedge in front of the prairie, "containing" the natives from creeping into the groundcovers which I am standing in while taking this image. This is two years after planting plugs.
Aruncus 'Misty Lace'
This plant has really garnered the attention of those who walk on perennial island.  Even before it bloomed, it looked great.  In full bloom, plants are only three foot tall and as wide.  I have them planted in morning sun and afternoon shade, with minimal moisture and they have far exceeded my expectations. I am a plant geek and like almost all plants, but I'm thoroughly smitten with this variety.  Allan Armitage bred this to perfection.  The key question for this plant is, how much would you pay?  It is costly, so they would have a higher price tag than most other perennials.  Worth it?
Penstemon  'Dark Towers'
This is another plant that I continue to enjoy in the garden.  Dark purple foliage and pink flowers.  I have trialed several varieties of Penstemon in the garden and so far, this is the best.  Others have been sturdy, but not as much color as this.  There are others yet, with outstanding color but bad form.  These plants only get 3' tall and around 4' wide in our landscape.  Leucanthemum 'Daisy May' is planted in front of it and makes a nice lower companion.

Cotinus Golden Spirit
Moving on to some shrubs.  Last year was the first year I had seen smoke on the Golden Spirit smokebush.  We had pruned the plants back to the ground in previous years to encourage larger foliage.  We haven't the past two years, and the plants still look excellent.  This is planted next to Sorghastrum nutans 'Indian Steel' whose blue foliage contrasts nicely with the bright yellow.  Fall color later in the season is yellows and oranges and reds.  Quite nice.

Viburnum 'Winterthur'
This is a plant that I have loved for a long time.  Fall colors on this plant are the wine red and persist for a long time. In the old days, we were afraid to grow this plant because some weren't sure it was hardy.  It is.  These have lived in our garden for many years.  I usually post about it in fall, but I found the flowers this year to be striking.  Slowly growing to 6-8' tall and wide, it makes a great specimen plant especially in an area where the fall color will be appreciated.

Clematis 'Ville De Lyon'
I love the opportunity to brag about our growers.  We used to have such a hard time growing Clematis, but our skilled growers have figured it out.  Because I personally am attracted to Clematis, it thrills me that we now carry a large array of them.  'Ville de Lyon' is looking very nice on our trellis after the rains.  Check out our availability on these vines for further options. 

Our tree allee
If you have been here in the recent past, you have probably noticed a change in the entrance.  Where Lindens once stood, now are Taxodium distichum.  After suffering from borers and japanese beetles the past few years, we decided to remove the Tilia and replace.  Our new allee will take some time to develop, but it should be worth it.  I can't wait to see the results ten years down the line.  And not to continue being a salesman, but we have some leftovers from this planting job available for immediate pick up if you are interested! 

Thanks once again for taking the time to read.  I hope you enjoy, and until next time, have a great day.