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It's always fun to see the plants that receive special recognition each year. This year is especially interesting as the perennial of the year and the hosta of the year are both shade lovers and both have striking chartreuse coloring. The 2020 Perennial of the Year, awarded by the Perennial Plant Association is Aralia 'Sun King' (shown above). 'Sun King' is a beautiful addition to the shade garden growing at least 3 feet tall and wide every year. In late summer it produces tiny white flowers that are followed by deep purplish black berries (that are inedible). 'Sun King' is deer resistant and the flowers attract honeybees.
As you can see from the photo above, Hosta 'Dancing Queen' glows in the shade garden. Chosen by the American Hosta Association as this year's hosta of the year, the chartreuse foliage is stunning! The ruffled margins and deep, corrugated veins make her dance in the garden. She grows 22 inches tall and up to 40 inches wide.
The International Herb Association is celebrating it's 25th anniversary this year and has chosen Rubus spp. as it's herb of the year. The Rubus family, which includes raspberries, blackberries, and other brambles, may not seem much like an herb, but the roots and canes have useful qualities in addition to the fruits. The leaves have medicinal qualities and have been used in teas. It's about time this yummy fruit gets some attention and is celebrated.
Since 2016, Proven Winners has had their own set of award-winning plants. Those receiving top honors include Perovskia 'Denim and Lace' shown above. Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'took top place among annuals, and Hydrangea 'Invincible Ruby' was chosen best among shrubs. To see their complete list of winners, click here.
Finally, every year the National Garden Bureau declares it's Year of the . . .' for each category including vegetables, annuals, herbs, perennials, and flowering shrubs. This year has been deemed the Year of the Hydrangea. We can't think of a better choice! To see their complete list of winners, click here.
A Field Guide to Raising Butterflies
There is a magical process that takes place starting in late spring through fall in our area. It is the complete metamorphosis of a monarch caterpillar to a butterfly. Looking at the caterpillar, one of the first things that goes through your mind is how does this striped caterpillar become a butterfly? What part of the caterpillar is the wings? Which part is the thorax? Do the legs become wings? It is a wondrous process to witness the transition.
When it breaks through the chrysalis and crawls out, the monarch's wings are completely crumpled up. The thorax or body is huge and filled with fluid. It’s first moments as a butterfly are spent pumping fluid from the thorax to fill and expand the wings. You have to be quick to capture the process. After it looks like a typical monarch, it will rest and occasionally flap its wings to dry them.
A few years ago, I started collecting monarch eggs or small caterpillars and started bringing them inside. Why would I do that? One more thing to take care of, one more thing to worry about. But if you have heard the news, you know monarch populations have dropped off considerably. We have good years, but overall, there are fewer monarchs.
There is a strong statement typically made about monarchs, that they produce a taste that is offensive or toxic to predators. That is true to an extent, but predators get around that sticky issue. First, ants, tree frogs and other predator insects will eat the entire egg. If the monarch survives to hatch, it may still be consumed by those insects and tree frogs.
The bluebird has apparently learned how to eliminate the toxic part of the caterpillar so it can be fed to its hatchlings. That leads to the conundrum of who is more important; the bluebird or the monarch? No fear, by bringing the caterpillars inside your home or inside a protected enclosure, the monarch is protected from food predators. But more importantly it protects them from being infected with one of several diseases which also kills the monarch.
So what can we do to make it easier for the monarch if you cannot provide them a protected home? Giving them plenty of native plants along with various forms of milkweed is a great way to start. Plants like Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium or Eutrochium macrolatum), Meadow Blazing Star (Liatris ligulistylis), and Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens) along with many more, will feed your monarch butterfly once it is released. Milkweed or butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is important for the butterfly to lay eggs, so keep those within an area of your yard. If you find common milkweed too invasive, swamp milkweed(Asclepias incarnata) is an excellent substitute that is native to our area and is less invasive.
We still have many monarchs to marvel at as summer slowly wanes. Look for chrysalises on Milkweed plants, watch the butterflies emerge, and make plans to actively raise them next year.
Beth Martin is a Master Gardener here at Burlington Garden Center where you will find many plants helpful to the butterfly lifecycle.
Feel free to contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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?