Btown Dirt Blog
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Not the blades and needles that first may come to mind. I am talking about the soft, arching blades of ornamental grasses paired with the stiff, rough texture of evergreen needles. It's a simple, winning combination and low-maintenance, too. Let me introduce you to a couple of my favorite combos:
Wells' Weeper Spruce (Picea glauca) & Molinia 'Skyracer' (shown above)
These photos just don't do this duo justice. They really look smashing together. Wells' Weeper Spruce is a Black Spruce variety. It's graceful weeping habit makes a blue-green backdrop to showcase the wispy, see-through stems of 'Skyracer' Molinia. Monrovia describes 'Skyracer' best: "Abundant spikes of tiny purplish flowers rise well above the foliage clumps, giving a shimmering effect when back-lit by the sun. Golden hued fall foliage is enhanced by the tall plumes of coppery bronze seed heads." This grass is a well-behaved, must-have for the garden! Add color with Autumn Joy Sedum for a stunning fall display.
Wells' Weeper needs some room for it's mature height of 20'. 'Skyracer' visually balances it with it's flowering height of 6-8'.
A low-growing combination that I like to use is Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio' and Alpine Carpet Juniper (shown above). The fine texture of this fountain-like grass compliments the rough, course texture of this short-needled Juniper. Add an interesting boulder to complete the look. 'Adagio' grows 3-4' and Alpine Carpet covers the ground growing 8"x3'.
- Tracy Hankwitz
Horticulturist & BGC Store Manager
What words come to mind when you see peonies in bloom? Lovely, charming, romantic? Often these old-fashioned favorites stir up memories of days from our youth. Let us introduce you to a few new varieties that would make a welcome addition to any garden.
Let's begin with two stand-bys in our perennial house: Sarah Bernhardt and Festiva Maxima (shown above) -both herbacious varieties (Paeonia x lactiflora) with fully double blossoms. Sarah's fragrant pink blossoms have been gracing gardens and vases for 100+ years! She's a classic. The white blossoms of 'Festiva Maxima' are another fragrant peony enjoyed by several generations of gardeners.
For something a bit more unusual, try your hand at tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa). Like the name suggests, they have a woody stem, huge flowers, and can grow to 5 feet. Tree peonies are hardy in Wisconsin and a mature specimen can have up to 80 flowers. According to peony breeder, Roy Klehm, they can also do well in partial shade. We are offering "Lavender' Tree Peony this season (shown above). One look at the blossoms and you'll be charmed.
Now put the two together (herbacious and tree peonies) and you get an ITOH peony or intersectional hybrids. Named after the breeder Toichi Itoh, these peonies grow to 3 feet, require no staking, have disease-free foliage and up to 50 gorgeous blossoms on a single plant! Itoh peonies can be a bit pricey, but their luxurious blooms and spicy fragrance are well worth it. This year we have the following Itohs (shown above):
Bartzella - Very large, bright yellow double blossoms with a lemony scent.
Keiko (which means Adored) - dark lavender pink petals slowly fade to a soft pink, revealing a cluster of yellow stamens in its center. Like other Itoh peonies, 'Keiko' will die back to the ground after the fall frost.
Old Rose Dandy - a cross, with both P. lutea and P. suffoticosa, is a robust grower with glossy dark green foliage on a medium size, rounded bush (2 1/2 tall). Flowers are single form in a shade of copper apricot that lightens to a yellow beige as they age.
Peonies flower best in full sun and make wonderful cut flowers. They rarely need to be divided but if necessary, it's best to do it in the fall.
And what about those ants? Ants are attracted to the sweet nector produced by the peony buds. They won't harm the flowers! Once the flowers open, the ants are gone.
There are plenty of ways to garden in a small space: grow in containers, choose compact varieties, and grow up with trellises and obelisks. Let's not neglect the most obvious vertical space - walls! Below are a few options that we are offering at BGC this year:
Plant in a pocket (above left). Woolly Pockets are made of recycled materials, can be used indoors and outdoors. They are great for herbs, salad greens, strawberries, and annuals.
The framed succulents are planted in a self-contained watering system from Bright Green designed for indoor use as well as outdoors. Available in stained walnut or paintable frame.
The planter with colorful annuals is a Pamela Crawford Vertical Garden. Easy to mount and easy to plant. It works well with annuals and herbs.
This vertical garden from Gronomics is a true space saver. It's made from rot-resistant cedar and comes with a drip-irrigation system. We planted it with salad greens, herbs, pansies, and even tomatoes! The photo on the right was taken one month after planting. It's time to harvest!
All of the vertical garden systems are easily mounted on a wall. An old door would work well, too.
Big, bold, and lovely. Those words describe the clematis from the Raymond Evison Clematis collection. Add to that: long-blooming and partial shade lovers. Mr. Evison has spent more than 50 years breeding the world's best clematis and has introduced more than 100 cultivars. His most recent introductions have been compact and suitable for containers (pots with 18" diameter are a good size).
Following are a few that we are proud to carry this season:
'Alaina' has deep, creamy pink flowers, grows to 4 feet, and blooms in late spring and again in late summer. Flowers will last longer in a shady afternoon location.
'Cezanne' is a blue flowering variety that grows 3-4' tall and likes a partially shady spot.
Superb repeat flowering performance and lovely violet blossoms with red centers make 'Parisienne' a must have. Another compact one great for containers, it will bloom from early to late summer.
'Ice Blue' has dramatic large flowers May-June and again in late summer. Grows to 6' and is ideal for east, west, and north facing locations.
'Shimmer' rounds out our collection with it's 7" deep lilac-blue flowers. Plant this long-blooming perennial to grow on pergolas or trellis with roses. Grows 6-8 feet.
All of these clematis are easy to prune - just cut back to 12 inches in the spring. Plant them deep with annuals or perennials planted at their feet.
Why not start your own collection of Ray Evison Clematis this spring?