Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday's Fav's: Fall Blooming Anemone

Summer is over, way too soon, in my opinion. Usually by now I'm ready for falling leaves, cleaning up the gardens, and preparing for winter. But this year's odd summer weather has left me wanting more, and I'm being dragged kicking and whining into autumn this year.


One bright spot of joy in my garden is this sweet little Anemone. I added three of these plants to complete an "edge of the woodland shade garden", one of my favorite designs, (although this one is actually right up against my house!)

Though this garden is on the west side of my house, it is heavily shaded and receives only a brief time of direct sun each day. 

The Anemone holds its flowers high on sturdy stalks. Each flower measures only an inch or two, but the plant is floriferous and as it matures will bear many flowers each season. 

I chose most of the plants in this shade garden for their foliage, though all of them flower at some point - a bonus! However, the anemones were planted with flowers in mind, fall flowers, mind you, at a time when everything else is fading away.

I love their cheery little faces, and as the plants grow, I think this will be a highlight of my new shade garden.

This Anemone is rated for zone 5 hardiness, meaning that if we experience a really frigid winter (below -20), these plants may not survive. Planting them in a protected area, such as in this garden next to the house, will help to assure they make it to the next season.

Here are the facts:

Scientific name: Anemone x hybrida 'Pamina'

Common name: Windflower, Japanese Anemone

Family: Ranunculaceae

Hardiness: Zone 5-9

Light Requirements: Sun to Part Shade

Height: 24-36"

Width: 24"

Blooms in late summer or early fall.

Resistant to deer and rabbits! 

Just one more note:  I though you might like to see my Limelight hydrangea in the fall. The flowers have turned nearly all pink, and are still darkening in their color. This plant is enjoyable in all seasons!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday's Fav's: Limelight Hydrangea

My Limelight Hydrangea is truly one of my fav's! I wait all summer for the blooms to arrive, and they are gorgeous!

They've been opening for a week or so, and most are now fully opened, yet new blooms continue to emerge.

The size of the blooms is amazing! And even with the recent torrential downpours, the plant continues to hold its giant blooms upright.

Even though Limelight is a relatively late bloomer in my garden, I don't mind. With these beautiful blooms in late summer, Limelight is a shining star in my garden.

The blooms emerge with a soft, lime green tint, hence their name, and open fully to a pure white.

This photo shows how large the blossoms can get - they engulf my hand! The blooms are easily 6-8" long. Though they have only a very slight fragrance, they delight me with their little florets combining to make these large blossoms.

The fluffy blooms last for many weeks, gradually turning a pinkish hue. The blossoms can be cut and dried, though I tend to leave them on the plant even into the winter months. 

Sometimes I will find an old blossom that has come off in the winter winds, blowing about the snow-covered ground. That makes me smile, too, as I remember how gorgeous the plant is in summertime.

The only pruning I do with my Limelight hydrangea is to remove any dead wood. Occasionally, there may be a few twigs to remove. Other than that, this plant, once established, is free of maintenance.

I suppose you could trim off the old flowers after summer if you desired to. And if you like to dry the blossoms, you can remove them at any time.

Limelight does like to have evenly moist soil, so I'll set the hose to a dribble and soak the area surrounding the base of the plant in really hot, dry weather. Each year, my plant has grown wider, and I will make its garden bed larger, if necessary, to accommodate its width.

This cheery plant is a stand-out in the garden. Give it plenty of room to grow, and water regularly until it is established. Then maintain a moist soil, but do not over water it. And you will be rewarded with beautiful white blooms long after most other plants have finished blossoming.

NOTE: The paniculata hydrangeas differ from the mophead (macrophylla) hydrangeas many of us are familiar with. Mopheads include Annabelle and Endless Summer, two of my most reliable plants in the landscape. The leaves of paniculata are smaller, and the bloom time is much later in summer. Both types deserve a place in the garden!

Scientific name: Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

Common name: Limelight Hydrangea

Family: Hydrangeaceae

Zone: 4-8

Light requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Height: 6-8'

Spread: 6-8'

Bloom time: Mid-late summer through mid-fall

Caveats: Some parts of the plant may be poisonous if ingested

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday's Fav's: Rudbeckia 'Indian Summer'

Such a cheery face! How could you not love this bright as sunshine flower? The blossoms of Rudbeckia 'Indian Summer' have just started blooming in my garden!


This sun-loving plant sports bright blooms 3-5" in size, and each blossom lasts for many weeks. They keep on blooming and brightening up the garden all summer long!

The centers start out smooth and reddish, and become softer and dark brown after the stamens open.

Bumblebees love to perch and drink nectar from these happy plants, and they help to spread the pollen.

This variety is known to move about the garden, but doesn't form dense colonies like other Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia species). 

'Indian Summer' may be considered a biennial, or a short-lived perennial. The plants may last for a a year or two, but they reseed freely and I'm glad to see I have some blooming in my garden again this year.

In my garden, my plants stayed in the same place for a couple of years, but they didn't make it through this last winter.

However they have reseeded and relocated themselves elsewhere in my garden, and where they are blooming now works beautifully! I couldn't have done a better job myself!

I enjoy seeing their bright faces when I walk by my garden. Their bright color, large flower size and each flower's longevity in the garden make this a perennial not to be without!

 Here are the facts:

Scientific name: Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer'

Common name: Black-eyed Susan

Family: Asteraceae

Zone: 3-7

Light requirements: Full Sun

Height: 2-3'

Spread: 1-2'

Bloom time: June thru frost

Tolerant: Deer, drought and clay soil

Here's a picture of 'Indian Summer' in my garden last year, blooming with my Star-gazer lilies and Summer Phlox. Isn't this a lovely palette of color?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday's Fav's: Weigela 'Red Prince'

Today's spotlight is on my Weigela 'Red Prince' which is in its full-blooming glory. This gorgeous deciduous shrub is one of my fav's, and is often used in my landscape designs.

Red Prince is a showy plant when in bloom, and rather quiet during the rest of the season. Its tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and bees, and for brief time in the spring, it is an absolute stand out in the garden.


Red Prince has a form that is irregular, and I like it that way. I have seen some specimens pruned into a perfect mounding shape, but it's not natural for the plant, so therefore it's not my preference. Some minor pruning of long, overgrown canes is the only shaping I perform.

The delicate flowers appear in abundance, and this year the show is spectacular! Each tiny flower is dressed in crimson, with white anthers and pistils. Absolutely gorgeous!

Clusters of flowers appear on every branch, from top to bottom. This plant is quite floriferous, and the abundance of flowers this season is causing the branches to bend just a little. The display is jaw-dropping!

Red Prince pairs well with other flowering shrubs. Behind and to the left, my very tall 'President Grevy' lilac has finished blooming, and directly behind the weigela is my 'Blue Muffin' Viburnum in full bloom.

To the side are spirea for early summer bloom, and on the other side of the bed I have summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) for mid-summer color and a wonderful fragrance. So you see, in a bed approximately 14' square, I have something blooming nearly all season long!

I knew everyone would wonder what was blooming behind the Weigela, so today is a two-fer because the Blue Muffin Viburnum is another of my fav's, also used in my landscape designs. Are you seeing a pattern here? Indeed, I like to grow the plants that I offer to my customers for their gardens. That way, I have an idea of how they grow and how well they thrive in our area.

Viburnums in general are one of my favorites, and Blue Muffin is a sweet, smaller specimen. Those adorable white flowers are followed by bright blue berries. I wouldn't bake with them, but the birds love 'em!

I find great delight in the delicate beauty of the blooms of my Red Prince Weigela. The shrub can be a bit ungainly, but certainly deserves a place in the deciduous shrub border.

Here are the facts:

Botanical name: Weigela florida 'Red Prince'

Common name: Red Prince Weigela *

Hardiness: Zone 4 - 8

Height: 5' - 6' tall

Spread: 5' - 6' wide

Flowering time: late spring/early summer with another, less abundant bloom late in summer

Location: Full sun is recommended, but my plant is situated in full morning sun with deep shade all afternoon and still flowers profusely.

* Weigela is pronounced Wy gee la; with a soft 'g' sound (like a 'j'). Some people pronounce it with a hard 'g' sound. Some add an extra 'i' and say wy gelia. However you wish to pronounce it, this stunning shrub deserves a place in the landscape as a specimen plant. When in bloom, it is drop-dead gorgeous!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday's Fav's: Brunnera 'Jack Frost'

This little gem of a plant has been my favorite for a couple of years. I love it! 

Early Spring as the Blossoms begin to show

Beginning early in the spring with new growth followed by delightful, delicate little blue flowers, the plant continues on throughout the summer offering gorgeous foliage in its shady location.

The heart-shaped leaves are filigreed with dainty paintings of frosty silvery-white with green venation. 

As the plant matures through the season, the foliage becomes the star.

An herbaceous perennial, it pairs well with other shade-loving plants, including hostas and heucheras.

Jack Frost will grow into a nice, loose mound shape, spreading slowly by rhizomes to form a nice clump.

This plant prefers moist, organically rich soil. The edges of the plant will brown slightly if watering is inconsistent in hot summers.  No diseases or pests. Deer and rabbits leave this plant alone!

My plants are about 3 years old now. I delight in the patterns on the leaves, and its hardiness to summer storms that keeps the foliage looking great all season.

I love this pretty little marvel in my shade garden!

Here are the facts:

Botanical name: Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

Common name: Siberian bugloss (really?)*

Family: Boraginaceae

Hardiness: Zone 3-8

Height: 12"-15"

Spread: 12"- 20"

Flowering time: April-May

Location: Shade to part-shade

* Bugloss comes from Greek and means ox tongue... so perhaps it was thus named due to the shape of the leaves and their texture.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spring Cleaning on the Prairie - Burn, Baby, Burn!

Everyone loves a good bonfire. How about one nearly an acre in size?

This spring I once again participated in the burning of the prairie at the UW Field Station in Waterville, Wisconsin.

This event is much anticipated, and depends on appropriate weather conditions in order for it to happen.

This year we were delayed for three weeks by rainy days and lots of high winds. Finally the day dawned clear, with low winds, and the crew assembled on a Saturday afternoon.

After some prep work to create a fire break, the first small area of the prairie was burned. Then we moved on to bigger and better fires. Most areas around the prairie have mowed fire breaks, which are watered just prior to the burn.

My job as a "flapper" was to keep the fire contained within the burn area. Strong men wearing heavy water-carrying backpacks extinguished the fires along the edges of the fire break. Those of us with the flappers -- a long pole with a flat mat attached to snuff the fire out -- or dampened brooms (to sweep loose plant materials into the burn area) followed along behind, keeping an eye out for embers carried on the breeze made by the flames themselves.

The firestarter (aptly named) begins the burn by initiating small fires along the perimeter of the field. We begin along one edge, downwind, and then burn along an adjoining side of an area of prairie.

After the fire burns into the area for several yards, we have a good ash fire break.

Now we start the fire on the opposite two sides of our prairie area.These fires burn with the wind, and the crackling noise of all the dried grass canes is really something to hear!

Now the flames really get going, and if all goes as planned, the flames meet in the middle in a spectacular display of fire and smoke! It can get quite exciting to watch, experiencing the power and heat of the flames and the wind they create.

It really is hot and dirty work, but I love doing this every spring. And there are great benefits for the ecosystem in doing the burn every year or in alternate years.

Native Americans burned the prairies of Wisconsin long before forests took over much of the state. They understood the benefits of a controlled burn, and the effects it had on their livelihood.

A freshly burned prairie removes the canes from the previous years' growth, allowing the new sprouts to reach the sun. The area is blackened from the burn, and the ground absorbs heat much more readily than areas that have not been burned. This allows the plants to get an early and fast start.

Weed seeds and unwanted woody species are eliminated with burning, allowing the native grasses and wildflowers that are already established to grow.

The Native Americans understood all of this. By causing the young, supple prairie grasses to sprout, they were assured of good hunting as the deer and elk found found their way into the prairie, foraging on the fresh, young grasses.

Today we burn to maintain the prairie grasses and assist the native species of wildflowers to grow. At the Waterville Prairie, this restoration project has been going on for decades.

Marlin Johnson is the resident manager here. He has managed the UW - Waukesha Field Station for more than 40 years.

The 98 acre property includes the prairie lands, woodlands, access to Henrietta Lake and the boardwalk there, bottom land along the Scuppernong Creek, a pond, and numerous hiking trails.

The property also includes the old homestead farmhouse in which Marlin resides, and a large barn and outbuildings.

In addition, there is a large wood-fired kiln used by UW students for firing their pottery masterpieces. The day of the burning, the students had been removing hundreds of pieces of pottery from the kiln. During the previous week, the kiln had been loaded, and the fire burned for 5 days, reaching temperatures between 2300-2500 degrees. After a long period of cooling, the pieces were brought out into the daylight. It was quite a display!

The students came out to watch the prairie burn, and were duly impressed. The burn is really something to see. Large columns of smoke billowed into the sky and got their attention from the other side of the hill where the kiln resides.

Prairie work is done by volunteers. Planting sections of prairie, and then weeding the new areas are summer work. But burning is for the springtime, with the promise of new life and renewal.

Burning may seem counterintuitive, but it is a time-tested method for maintaining the prairie. Imagine if years and years of 9 foot canes from the tall grasses matted down and were never removed. An ensuing fire would rage out of control!

By scheduling controlled burns, the young and the massive burr oaks on the property are protected from too-hot fires. And the preservation of the prairie grasses and wildflowers is assured. If left fallow, over time, the land would begin to revert to forest, as scrub and hardwood species move in.

The Waterville Prairie is a wonderful place to hike and enjoy in any season. It is located off of Waterville Road, and the Glacial Drumlin Trail runs along its southern borders. It is a peaceful place, and includes a creek, woodlands, and pine forest, and of course, the rolling prairie lands. It's one of my favorite places to go for a hike, or just to be.