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Gotta get a little dirt on your hands

Well folks, here I am after being gone for a spell. My last posting was back in June and you all may be wondering as to the why, what for, and so on of my absence. Well, it’s complicated and in many ways hard to explain so let’s get started.

For this week I decided to look at some of the plants we are adding in 2014. I could go on and on about the weather and this winter but hell, it’s been done. Maybe later.

I am doing a major renovation of the Tunnel planting. These are the plants on top of the tunnel leading from the parking garage to the main museum building. It has the paperbark maples and useless skylights that you hopefully notice on your above-ground walk to the museum entrance. The maples I mean, not the useless skylights. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) is my favorite tree so I always notice them.

The perennial layer in this area has some Echinacea Big Sky Sundown™ (‘Evan Saul’) and many many self-sown children and grandchildren of Sundown, a few Geranium Roseanne (‘Gerwat’), several Sedum ‘Black Jack’ and ‘Matrona’, a few Agastache. I will say that the ItSaul Plants bred Sundown has been the toughest “fancy” Echinacea to date for me but the whole area needs a major reboot after a decade or so.

I am putting some Echinacea back in. I’m going with what I have heard described as the reddest one currently on the market – Sombrero™ Salsa Red (‘Balsomsred’). I have seen this and it is a beauty. Here are some photos from Boston in 2012.

Sombrero™ Salsa Red (Balsomsred)

Sombrero™ Salsa Red (Balsomsred)

Salsa Red grows to 24 to 26 inches tall. I so want to say to around 2 feet and be done with it. I mean, I’m all about exactitudes. Don’t get me wrong. But let’s get real. For a design, guess about 2 feet and run with it. I want easy viewing of the fountain for passers-by so this height will work nicely. Plant spread should be about one and a half feet (16 to 22 inches).

This is part of the Sombero™ series from Darwin Plants that includes yellows, orange and coral so if you prefer a different color in your garden there may be one you will like. I am definitely deadheading to prevent seedlings. It is a lovely thought to leave seedheads for the birds but I can assure you the birds do not eat all the seeds and you soon have garden full of plants that look far more like the species Echinaceas than your red or orange or double hybrid (see above). It won’t take long for you to have a garden of mixed plants evolving (or de-volving) farther and farther from your fancy originals each year. I would suggest you have a separate planting for feeding the birds.

Echinacea ‘Marmalade’. Photo courtesy Chris Handon.

Echinacea ‘Marmalade’. Photo courtesy Chris Hansen.

I’m also putting in some Echinacea ‘Marmalade’ cause I can’t stand to go another year without it. Thank you, Plants Nouveau, for this introduction.

The National Gardening Bureau has declared 2014 the Year of the Echinacea. I can get behind that. You can go to their website for a very nice history of Echinacea and dozens of photographs. Definitely check them out.

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Kniphofia 'Mango Popsicle'

Kniphofia ‘Mango Popsicle’

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Every year I seem to become a bigger fan of Kniphofia, the red-hot pokers. Plant breeders have increased the bloom time on these considerably while also making them tougher. Many new cultivars will bloom June to October with the heaviest flower production in the first couple months. I am repeating Patty’s near-by selection, ‘Mango Popsicle’. This Terra Nova introduction is a blooming machine in a gorgeous shade of – what else? – mango. It almost glows. Love this plant. L-O-V-E!

Those were tiny plugs when they went in the ground last Spring. They came as 72s – that means 72 plants in a 9X18 tray. Kniphofias want good drainage and especially so in winter. Full sun gives you the best performance. Deadhead as individual stalks finish. That keeps the nice clumps of spiky foliage looking neater.

Phlox paniculata 'Peppermint Twist'

Phlox paniculata ‘Peppermint Twist’

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I’m a big fan of Phlox paniculata for their long period of bloom in summer, usually early July into early September at a minimum. It’s also one of the plants that has performed best in the tough environment of the Mall. I’ve had ‘Peppermint Twist’ at home for a couple years and love the color and the pattern of the blooms so I’m adding it this year.

Phlox paniculata 'Peppermint Twist'

Phlox paniculata ‘Peppermint Twist’

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I’ve not noticed any mildew as of yet. With phlox you can never be certain of absolute immunity from this foliar scourge but by selecting resistant plants you greatly reduce the amount that shows up on your plants. Rarely is any cultivar immune 100 percent of the time but just because one has it this year does not mean it will next year. ‘Peppermint Twist’ is around 3 feet tall and I would space small plants about a foot apart, larger ones 18 inches. I have had reversion on mine at home but love the solid color as well.

In the Northeast Border Garden, Gwyn is doing some rehab work and adding new plants. Including Helleborus x hybridus ‘Sunshine Ruffles’, a member of Chris Hansen’s Winter Thrillers™ series. ‘Sunshine Ruffles’ is a double yellow with some red picotee on each “petal.”

Helleborus x hybridus; L-R: Sunshine Ruffles, Red Racer, Grape Galaxy. Photo courtesy Chris Hansen.

Helleborus x hybridus; L-R: Sunshine Ruffles, Red Racer, Grape Galaxy. Photo courtesy Chris Hansen.

We won’t see blooms this year, but next year the show should begin. I really like the pictures of these so if they are that beautiful I may steal them from Gwyn and put them in one of my areas. We already have a couple cultivars from this series we planted last year. Look for ‘Red Racer’ and ‘Grape Galaxy’ in the Southwest Border Garden as they should bloom nicely this year.

Helleborus x ballardiae HGC® Pink Frost

Helleborus x ballardiae HGC® Pink Frost

Katie is adding to our Helleborus Gold Collection® with some more Helleborus x ballardiae ‘HGC® Pink Frost’ (my favorite).

The “HGC® Pink Frost’ and ‘HGC® Cinnamon Snow’ plants have the heaviest flower production of all the hellebores on the property. They also have some of the best foliage with some silver gray and burgundy on the early leaves. Future years will hopefully see more cultivars from this collection in the gardens. Remember, hellebores are deer proof AND shade loving. You can’t say both those things about hostas.

Scent First® Pot Coral Reef

Scent First® Pot Coral Reef

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The Cutting Garden has slowly lost perennials so I am adding some new plants. There is a ton of Dianthus hitting the market right now. I decided to try one of the new ones from Whetman Pinks in the UK and introduced to the US market by PlantHaven. The cultivar I chose is ‘WPO7OLDRICE’. You may better remember the cultivar name of Scent First® Pot Coral Reef and for our purposes here I will shorten it to Coral Reef.

As the full name implies, these were bred for scent. Coral Reef has 1 to  1.5-inch double coral flowers with a white piccotee edge on each petal and a spicy fragrance. Repeat bloom and glaucous blue-green foliage helped to get Coral Reef a spot in the garden. Heaviest bloom will be in spring and deadheading will help in insuring that reblooming habit. It was also bred for pot or container use so it is a very compact 9x 9-inch plant with flowering stems rising to about 12 inches. The resulting cut stems will be best used in small arrangements or tucked amongst larger cuts I suppose.

Digitalis Goldcrest (‘WALDIGONE’)

Digitalis Goldcrest (‘WALDIGONE’)

More foxgloves are being introduced that are true perennials. The foxglove one traditionally finds is the biennial Digitalis purpurea. For a long time it seemed all one could find in perennial foxgloves were strawberry foxglove (Digitalis x mertonensis, a hybrid of D. grandiflora and D. purpurea) and the yellow flowered foxgloves (Digitalis lutea & D. grandiflora). Fine plants, but one desires something fresh for the garden. Jim is introducing Digitalis Goldcrest (‘WALDIGONE’) to the Southwest Border Garden.

This 18 inch hybrid (D. grandiflora x D. obscura) is sterile so it sends all that energy normally reserved for seed production into flower production from early summer into fall. That is considerably longer than the bloom period on traditional foxgloves to say the least. It is another PlantHaven introduction.

We all want perennials with long bloom time so when cultivars are developed or found that extend the color show we are quick to add them to the garden. If that plant also earns a 4.5 star rating from the Chicago Botanical Garden’s Plant Evaluation Program then you definitely want it! Such is the case with Veronica spicata ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ which Chad is putting in the Garden for Everyone this year.

Deadheading will keep this purple-blue speedwell blooming from mid-June to mid-September. Now, they won’t have flowers every day as the new buds need time to develop. So don’t get yourself all worked up if there is a week or two with no flowers. ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ is only about a foot tall when in flower (dwarf!) with a spread just a little wider. Blue is an oft sought color in the garden so a perennial with its extended bloom is most welcome. The low stature of ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ sort of relegates it to the front of the border but that purple-blue color can go with almost every other flowering plant you may have near it be they red, orange, yellow, pink, red, or other shades of blue/purple. That sort of versatility is great to work with.

Royal Candles (‘Glory’)

Royal Candles (‘Glory’); Photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

I could not secure a decent photo of ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf,’ but another Veronica spicata we are adding is Royal Candles (‘Glory’).

Royal Candles is larger at 18 inches tall. I suspect colors of the two are very similar since Royal Candles is called dark purple while ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ is purple blue. We planted some ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ last year at Westerley but I cannot for the life of me picture the bloom.

I almost forgot. Royal candles earned a very solid four-star rating in the CBG trials.

I’ve touched on but a few of the new plants going into the IMA Gardens in 2014, and only perennials at that. There will be new annuals, grasses, trees, and shrubs as well, comingling with our already tried and true selections.

Okay, I am way over the suggested 300 to 700 words. No wonder it takes so much time for me to write these things. Time to quit on this and get outside. It’s sunny and headed for the 50s today. Gotta get a little dirt on my hands.

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Greenhouse, Guest Bloggers, Horticulture, Oldfields

One Response to “Gotta get a little dirt on your hands”

  • avatar
    Michelle Beck Says:

    Hey I am looking for a photo of a woman that used to work with the gardens back in the 60′s. Her name was Florence Secore. From my understanding she was involved in decorating and planning. She was a master gardener and lived in Shelbyville, IN with her husband Herb. I would like to find of photo of her. Wondered if you have group photos from the 60s time period that she might be in. She would have been 100 yr old this year if she had not passed 15 years ago. Anyone out there know who I could contact for achived photos or members that may have shared photos from that time period in an archive somewhere? please contact Michelle at mlbeck1972@yahoo.com

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