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2016 has been declared the Year of the Begonia by the National Garden Bureau. We're so glad! Begonias are one of our favorite annual crops to grow here at BGC and according to our customers, we have the best ones in the area.
There are over 1,700 different species of Begonias. With all the various types of Begonias, there are so many to choose from that it is often hard to decide which one to try. Following is a brief run-down of the different varieties we are growing this spring.
Other than the rather common wax begonias (shown above in those fabulous strawberry jars), Non-stop tuberous begonias are probably most well-known. Non-stop begonias, with their large blooms in vibrant hues, provide a bright punch of color in a shady spot. In addition to the Non-stops, there are new series of tuberous begonias being introduced every year. Newcomers in our greenhouse include 'Pink Halo' and 'Unstoppable' Upright Fire.
Those making a return appearance are 'Miss Montreal', 'Elegance', 'Devotion' (a more pink version of Elegance'), 'Sparks Will Fly' and 'Cherry Bon Bon'. They are lovely in hanging baskets and container gardens.
Looking for a heat tolerant begonia that brings continuous blooms? The boliviensis series looks stunning in a large container or hanging basket. Our favorites are quickly becoming your favorites: 'Santa Cruz Sunset', 'San Francisco', and 'Pink Glow'.
Of course we can't forget the begonias known for their interesting leaves. Rex Begonias have bold patterned foliage that are perfect for adding color and texture to any container. They make wonderful houseplants once their watering needs have been mastered. 'Sophia', 'Gryphon' (shown below with silver foliage), and 'Escargot' are among the Rex Begonias found in our greenhouses this spring.
Another series of hybrid Begonias that thrives all season with continuous blooms is Dragon Wing Begonia which is an AngelWing Begonia. AngelWings are go-to plants that give an outstanding performance in full sun or full shade. 'Dragon Wing Pink' is shown below.
Claiming to be the easiest annual you'll ever grow, we believe it! The BIG series can be grown in full sun, full shade, and everything in between. It's drought tolerant (aka it will be fine if you miss a watering), and like other begonias - no deadheading required. Choose from BIG Rose w/Bronze Leaf, BIG Red w/ Bronze Leaf, and BIG Green Leaf.
Come see all the varieties filling the greenhouse. Bet you can't leave without one.
BGC Store Manager
'I must have flowers, always and always' - Claude Monet
Ok, confession time.
If I could have, I would have been a flower farmer.
Something about growing flowers, cutting flowers, and breathing flowers 24/7 compels and calls.
Maybe it's in my blood - Tracy means 'harvester' and my maiden name, Bauer, means 'farmer'.
Why not farm flowers?
I know it's hard work, but the payoff?
Imagine armfuls of beautiful blossoms arranged into gorgeous, breathtaking bouquets . . .
Who knows, I'm only 47 -
it could still happen.
Until then, I'll be content to grow a few flowers for cutting in my small garden. Following are annuals that make wonderful cut flowers:
GROW FROM SEED: Many cutting annuals are easy to grow from seed, like those pictured above. From top left: 'Sundancer' Sunflower is early blooming, multi-branching and vigorous at 4 ft; 'Singing the Blues' Bouquet Larkspur are tall and graceful in the garden and in the vase; 'Fragrant Ten Week Stock' is the best branching variety with double flowers and a spicy-sweet fragrance; Bottom left: Zinnias - an endless selection available and every garden should have some - so easy to grow; 'Moulin Rouge' Sunflowers grow taller (6') but those rich velvety red flowers are pollenless and a must have for late summer & fall bouquets; 'Peach Passion' Sunflower is another pollen free, multi-branching sunflower standing 3-4'tall in the garden. And fortunately, we have all of them available in seed packets here at BGC.
IN THE GREENHOUSE:
Sometimes it's easier to let others start the growing process. I have my eye on the following cutting annuals growing in the greenhouses here at BGC: Salvias 'Faye Chapel' and 'Black and Bloom' are especially nice; snapdragons, Dahlias, Gaura, and Agastache are a few more among many.
OTHER MUST-HAVES: Dahlias of all kinds, sweet peas, Ranunculus, and Lisianthus. Bulbs planted in the fall make lovely spring bouquets. Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and grape hyacinths top the list.
A few great resources . . .
Happy planning and happy planting!
Horticulturist & Store Manager at Burlington Garden Center
and flower farmer wannabe
Watch for Part 2: The Cut Flower Garden - Perennials & Shrubs
Imagine armloads of sweet peas in a palette of watercolors and the intoxicating fragrance filling the room. Mmmmmm, I'm totally wanting to be there in that sweet world. So much so that I was out last night in the dark, prepping the bed and tucking seeds into the earth.
Here's how to grow your own sweet peas:
Seeds can be started indoors but they are easy to sow directly in the garden.
They have a hard seed coat, so a soak in water for 8-10 hours before planting will speed up germination. Or nick the seed coat with a nail clippers.
While they are soaking, head outside to prepare the site.
Choose a sunny spot (a little afternoon shade wouldn't hurt). Sweet peas are heavy feeders so it's important to amend the planting area. Work in compost or well-rotted manure (I used Purple Cow Compost), and a slow-release, natural fertilizer ( Happy Frog's All purpose is a good one). I also add a light dusting of bonemeal to provide an extra boost of phosphorus. Turn all the amendments under and mix well into the soil.
Plan to fertilize the hungry sweet peas weekly, or at least twice a month with fish emulsion or compost tea.
Sweet peas are climbers and will need a sturdy trellis to climb.
Use garden netting or chicken wire between posts. Or try this fun, natural method:
Plant seeds/seedlings in two rows, one on each side of the trellis, 6-8" apart, 1 " deep.
Then watch them grow!
Remember, the more you pick, the more you get!
Prolong blooming by deadheading. Better yet, pick these sweet-smelling beauties to enjoy in a vase.
TIP: for the longest vase-life, pick when there are at least two unopened flowers at the tip of the stem.
- Happy planting!
Horticulturist & BGC Store Manager
Growing in containers is the perfect solution when space or sun is limited or you want to grow something that is easy to maintain. Edibles offer their own visual appeal and can be just as pretty as flowers in containers. Here are a few things to consider:
Container gardening offers endless possibilities when it comes to growing edibles. If you are just starting out, try growing leaf lettuce or herbs in a 14" garden bowl. Experiment and try something new every year. "As the garden grows, so does the gardener." - Anonymous
Recently we held a seminar here at BGC on effective weed control. Walt Uebele, owner of the Burlington Garden Center, walked through different methods, products, and their time of use on the lawn, perennials beds, and vegetable gardens. Here are some of the highlights:
For crabgrass in the lawn, preventative measures can be taken in the early spring. Products such as Hi-Yield's Crabgrass Control effectively prevent weed seeds from germinating. If you miss spring's pre-emergent window, Walt recommends Fertilome's Weed-out with Crabgrass Killer in mid-May. This will control crabgrass as well as a long list of broadleaf weeds including dandelions, thistles, chickweed, and ground ivy. Liquid products applied with a hose-end sprayer (RTS - Ready-to-Spray) are easy to use, require no mixing, and result in good coverage. They also eliminate the need to time the applications with dew or rain.
For dandelions, Walt recommends Hi-Yield 2,4-D. This concentrate should be mixed with Spreader Sticker which is a surfactant that improves absorption into the leaf of the weed. Dandelions are a sign of compact soil, so core-aerating in the fall will help improve soil structure.
Other lawn tips: Proper fertilization can help reduce the number of weeds in a lawn. Use Milorganite as a lawn fertilizer in the spring (May) and again in the fall for a slow, even green-up, with no burning. For those who want to use an organic fertilizer on the lawn, corn gluten is the best option.
To eliminate grass in asparagus beds, use Fertilome's Over the Top Grass Killer. It is absorbed by the grass foliage and travels through the entire plant working systemically. Over-the-Top will kill grass in perennial beds as well - see label for complete list.
Walt has a warning when using products like Round-up and Hi-Yield's KillzAll - avoid purchasing the Extended Control versions by mistake. Extended-control products will kill everything and prevent any growth for up to 3 months. The dual-action formulas (pre-emergent and post-emergent) are designed to be used on driveways and sidewalks.
Creeping Charlie can be a real nuisance in the lawn as well as in landscaped areas. Fertilome's Weed-free Zone works in well in the cool temperatures of spring and fall on creeping Charlie as well as 80 other problem weeds. If creeping Charlie has crept into your perennial beds, Weed-free Zone can be used taking care to avoid contact with the leaves of perennial plants.
For those of you who use Preen, Walt suggests switching to products containing Dimension. This newer technology will suppress the germination of annual grasses and broadleaf weeds, can be used earlier in the spring (April), and has a longer window of control extending well into the growing season. Dimension can be used in perennial beds, ornamental landscape areas, and established lawns.
Natural weed control in perennial beds and the vegetable garden can be achieved with a thick layer of mulch. Speaking of natural, a new line of natural products here at BGC is Natria by Bayer Advanced. In addition to natural insect and disease control products, there is a Grass & Weed Killer that uses naturally-derived, non-synthetic active ingredients to kill listed grasses and weeds.
We hope this gives you a good overview of how to effectively manage weeds in your yard this year. Feel free to ask Walt or our knowledgeable staff questions you have may have about your specific situation.
- Tracy Hankwitz
BGC Store Manager
Horticulturist & Landscape Designer
photo source: gertens.com
"A garden is only as good as its soil."
A wise gardener once said this. While soil is not the most exciting part of gardening, it could be the most important.
There are many things to consider about soil and it's rare to find the perfect soil without adding amendments of some kind. Here in SE Wisconsin, much of our soil structure is heavy clay - water tends to sit longer and plants struggle without air in the soil. Along the lake it tends to be more sandy which offers better drainage, but nutrients tend to seep away along with the water. The ideal soil is loamy rich in organic matter and beneficial microbes. If you have heavy clay or sandy soil, adding compost every fall or spring is the best thing you can do.
In addition to good soil structure, soil pH is a key factor. If your plants aren't flourishing, it could be the wrong soil pH. Proper pH promotes plant growth by making it easier for roots to absorb essential nutrients. 7.0 is neutral; above that is considered alkaline (our native soil's tendancy); below that is acidic. Most garden plants grow best in slightly acidic soils (6.5). Adding peat moss will lower the pH as will other organic amendments as they decompose. Blueberries, for example, need a soil pH of 4.5-5.5, so planting in peat followed with an annual boost of aluminum sulfate will help. A simple soil pH test can be helpful in knowing what you need to add to sweeten or sour the soil.
Speaking of soil tests, it's a good idea to test your soil in the spring to see what is lacking. Whether you are growing vegetables, shrubs, perennials, or turf, it's worth it! There are simple DIY tests available here at BGC that will give you a general idea. If you want more specific results, take a soil sample and send it in to UW Madison Department of Soil Science. We have the test kits here as well.
If you only take two things away from this article, here is one of them: Feed the soil, not the plants! Just as we don't live on water alone, plants need food as well. The best thing you can do for your plants is to feed the soil. By building up the soil with minerals, nutrients, and microorganisms, you are also feeding the plants. We hear alot about NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) but minerals are just as important. Minerals make up 90% of garden soil and hold onto plant nutrients.
The second is the soil is alive! It's alive with microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) that capture moisture and nutrients making them available to the plant roots. Our favorite things to feed the soil are worm castings because they add NPK, calcium, minerals, and beneficial bacteria. TIP: Add directly to the planting hole or row rather than to the entire garden bed. Composts, especially cotton burr compost, is another favorite amendment. Not only do they add organic matter and microorganisms, they lighten the soil. This means clay soils won't be so heavy and sandy soils will have better nutrient capacity. A personal favorite of mine is Nature's Blend with alfalfa and humates. I add it to every planting hole for trees, shrubs and perennials. It also makes a good top dressing for lawns.
The benefits of compost tea have long been touted, but not everyone wants to mess with putting compost in a cheesecloth bag and letting it steep overnight in a 5-gallon bucket of water. Life just got easier with prebagged compost tea bags from Purple Cow. Drop one in your watering can and after steeping, water the soil around the plants or use it as a foliar feed.
One last recommendation for improving soil is to sow a cover crop in the fall to till under in the spring. Winter rye and buckwheat are two that work well in our area. The tilled-under foliage becomes an instant source of nitrogen which the microbes will quickly breakdown making it available to the plants.
As you make your garden plans for spring, include plans to improve your soil. Your plants will thank you!
BGC Store Manager & Horticulturist
photo source: redbeacon.com
This past summer I had the opportunity to visit the cut-flower garden of Cheri Carlson. Located on a suburban lot in Kansasville, WI, I was impressed with the number of flowers she is able to grow in a relatively small space. A large swath of perennial and annual flowers greet visitors at the entrance to the property and extend to the back.
She grows most of her annuals in raised beds. This photo was taken at installation a few years ago.
She extends the cutflower-season with bulbs that bloom in the spring.
By August, the raised beds look like this (above) . Notice how even the sprinkler adds it's own artful touch to the garden.
I was smitten with the Lisianthus.
Cheri mulches with straw to help with moisture and weeds. Marigolds detour pests while the red bee balm attracts pollinators. She plants sunflowers to keep the birds busy and away from the nearby raspberry patch.
Most of Cheri's flowers end up in beautiful bouquets.
These lisianthus, phlox, zinnias, snapdragons, hosta, and verbena ended up in bouquets for my neice's September wedding. Just breathtaking! I'm inspired to grow my our cut flowers this year. Thanks, Cheri!
- Tracy Hankwitz
Horticulturist & BGC Store Manager
* some photos compliments of Cheri Carlson
I know it's February and you would rather see pretty, inspiring photos of flowers and ornamental trees than a how-to-plant-a-tree post filled with boring brown, but spring is not far off and soon we'll be out there planting. There is a wrong way and a right way to plant, and when you do it right, you'll have many years of beauty like I have had with this Shasta Doublefile Viburnum pictured above.
Sadly, there's always that one tree or shrub (woodies) that slowly looses it's vigor over a period of time. Leaves become more sparse every spring, unfurling to half their size. One might think fertilizer must be the answer, so we feed it and hope that we'll see some improvement. Sometimes that helps, but when it doesn't, we wonder if we should wait one more year, or just declare defeat and plant something new. My guess it that the tree/shrub is slowly strangling itself.
Here is the root ball from a Japanese Maple I dug up last year. It had been planted about three years ago, thrived the first year, showed signs of struggle the second year, then hardly leafed out the third. Look at that thick root and how its wrapping around the root ball - it looks like the hand of death! It most likely began to do this when it was growing in it's pot in the nursery. Actually, it looks like the roots haven't stretched out at all from the original pot shape! That's not good!
Even the smaller white roots are growing circular rather than stretching out to gather water and nutrients and to help stabilize the tree as it matures. Unfortunately, this tree didn't have much of a chance to flourish.
The Right Way to Plant a Tree
1. Dig your hole the same depth as the root ball, but twice as wide. Most roots of trees and shrubs are shallow, within the top 12 inches. By digging the hole wider and loosening the soil, you are helping the roots by creating channels for air and water. And what about amending the soil? It depends on the existing soil. It's best to plant woodies in the native soil that already there. However, if your soil is extremely rocky or heavy clay, amend the soil with compost - I like to use a product called 'Nature's Blend' made with alfalfa, humates,and compost.
2. Before placing the root ball in the hole, I add water that has been mixed with a root stimulator so that it's available to the roots immediately. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT and the most neglected step. Root stimulator is NOT a fertilizer, it is actually a plant hormone that gets those feeder roots growing quickly. I like Fertilome's Root Stimulator - it's inexpensive, and I need only 3 tablespoons/gallon of water. Buy a big bottle because you'll need it all season.
This is what most root balls look like when removed from the nursery pot. And this is where things can go wrong if planted just as is, without doing anything to those roots.
3. Don't be afraid! Really! Don't be afraid to loosen the roots. I use a small pruning saw to score them.
Make several cuts with the saw, then loosen the roots with your fingers.
Now it's ready!
4. Place the root ball in the hole; water again with the root stimulator solution. Back fill with soil and tamp it down to remove air pockets. The other key step when planting a tree is to plant the root flare (where the root gets wider at the base) above ground. Water regularly through the first growing season - up until the ground freezes. The first 2-3 weeks after planting, water every other day, then back off to at least once a week, possibly more frequent when temps are over 90 degrees. I use the root stimulator solution every two weeks the first year. Mulch the roots of the tree/shrub, keeping the mulch away from the trunk - think bagel, not volcano.
Enjoy many years of beauty knowing you gave it a good start.
- Tracy Hankwitz
Horticulturist & BGC Store Manager
'Come. Come with me to see the roses! '
It was late July when a friend coaxed me away from my work at the garden center to visit an area rose farm called 'Stop and Smell the Roses' in Delevan. I wouldn't mind seeing a few roses, I thought to myself.
I had no idea what was in store . . .
This is the view that greeted us.
The owner, Doug Amon, gave us a friendly welcome. He tends this collection of hybrid tea roses on his farm in memory of his late wife. His collection has grown since he started 10 years ago. Now he welcomes hundreds of visitors every summer to walk among the 400 varieties.
Each rose has it's own fragrance, some stronger than others. Doug told us he deadheads daily to keep the roses blooming all summer. And look at those leaves - no sign of insect damage anywhere.
'A single rose can be my garden . . . ' - E.B. White
This lavender rose shown above was one of my favorites. If the beautiful color of the blossoms wasn't enough, the undersides of the leaves added to its appeal.
'Pearly Gates' (shown above) is appropriately located next to the entrance of the white lattice walkway.
After losing 25 roses that first winter in 2006, Doug came up with this system. Each rose is grown in a large plastic pot placed inside another pot buried in the raised beds. Every fall, he hauls them inside the barn for the winter.
So many pretty shades of yellow and orange on 'Sundance' (above).
'Crescendo' (above left) begins as a white bud and opens to a light, blushing pink and smells like honeysuckle.
This is my friend and fellow gardener, Sandra, who probably wouldn't want me to include her picture, but it demonstrates how tall the roses are. Somehow she knew how much I needed this - to take time to stop and smell the intoxicating fragrance of each lovely rose. Thanks, Sandra.
Another personal favorite, 'Lady Ashe' is so gorgeous I can hardly stand it!
If you decide to go, and I hope you do, check out the website www.stopnsmelltheroses.org. And be sure to take a friend along who needs to step away from the busyness for a while and walk among the roses.
- Tracy Hankwitz
BGC Store manager
It's about now when I get itchy for spring. Scrolling through the many photos still on my iphone from last year, I found this lovely reminder of what we wait for all winter: Spring! I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful woodland garden of local plantsman, Tom Horner. Deb Polansky, our greenhouse manager, was with me, and no joke - every where we looked, beyond every path's turn, was a a breathtaking vista full of unusual plants, and rhododendrons, azaleas, and magnolias blooming their hearts out. What a delight to the eyes! Thought I'd share what I captured with you, as we all need a reminder of winter's sweet reward. So pour yourself a cup of coffee, get cozy, and enjoy this virtual garden tour captured in about 50 photos.
When you are greeted with this at the entrance of Tom's property, you know you are entering a special place.
I must have had a funky setting on when I snapped several of these photos. The result is a hazy filter, but I'll share them despite the not-so-perfect exposure - it adds a bit of dreaminess to the whole tour.
Tom has quite the collection of trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs that are hard to find. I regret not taking notes on what many of these treasures are. If your curiosity is getting the best of you, let me know and I'll find a name for you.
The area surrounding the deck houses an alpine collection of ferns, primrose, ginger and other fun perennials.
Beautiful, it's it? Like a little bit of paradise here in southwestern Wisconsin.
Hope you enjoyed the tour. Next week we'll visit a rose garden, so stay tuned!
BGC Store Manager & Horiculturist
As October quietly slips into November, there is still much beauty in the fall landscape. Hunting for seed heads, nuts, leaves, and berries on an autumnal forage is a fun challenge. Here are two projects we recently did with the bounty we collected:
PROJECT: Woodland Potpourri
Gather dried flower blossoms, berries, bark, evergreens, etc . . and dry completely. Mix together and add a favorite essential oil.
BGC staffer, Barb Henken, has made the beautiful potpourri above. It will be available for purchase here at BGC in mid-November.
PROJECT: Fall Forage Collection Board
Gather interesting seed heads, berries, and other bits of nature. Using upholstery T-pins, attach each specimen to a bulletin board that has been covered with batting blanket and burlap. Some items may need to be pressed in a book for a few days first to dry flat. Others may need to be adhered with adhesive. Add botanical names written on torn pieces of paper. Enjoy!
Mums not the only word when it comes to fall color in containers. Refresh tired planters with kale . . .
pansies . . .
and grasses like this hardy 'Blonde Ambition'.
Fall Rudbeckias (Rudbeckia hirta) come in beautiful colors of rust, reds, and yellows. Though not hardy in Wisconsin, many will often reseed the following year. Some favorites we have at the shop are 'Prairie Sun' . .
'Indian Summer' . . .
and 'Cherokee Sunset' which is a delightful mix of varieties.
Add in an edible like leaf lettuce. Herbs such as rosemary, sage,
and thyme bring scent and texture to the composition.
Even perennials should make their way into pots before being tucked into the ground for the winter. Coral bells (Heuchera) add shades of amber, chartreuse, and purple. Asters, ferns and sedums are reliable, end-of-season performers.
Garnish with a small pumpkin as a finishing touch and embellish the entire arrangement with wispy bittersweet vines or branches with architectural interest.
For more inspiration, check out our Pinterest board.
Looking for something easy to care for, low-maintenance with little-to-no insect or disease problems? Hardy ornamental grasses are a no-brainer addition to the landscape. Unassuming in spring and summer, they come into their own in time for a spectacular autumnal show. But which one is right for you?
At last count, we have 15 varieties to choose from and that's only a drop in an ocean of grasses out there. Read on to learn a little about a few of our favorites and their use in the landscape.
One of our favorites is Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio' (shown above and featured in our Railroad garden here at BGC). It's fine foliage grows 36" in an arching habit. Seed heads mature to white. Intermingle several 'Adagios' with Russian Sage.
This upright clumping grass, Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' (Feather Reed Grass) is one of the earliest flowering grasses. It's biggest problem is that it's overused because we all like it so much! Calamagrostis 'Overdam' is similar yet it's variegated foliage sets it apart (see below). Use with lower mounding perennials like 'Autumn Joy' Sedum.
This group of shorter grasses are good for along walkways and front of the border. Pair them with taller perennials like coneflowers (Echinacea), Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), and Asters.
48" and taller
'Red October' Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) has an upright habit up to 6'. Blue-green foliage has red tips that turn burgundy in August, then brilliant red after the first frost. Plant with shorter grasses and shrubs with mounding habits, goldenrod, helenium, and low-growing evergreens. photo source: songsparrow.com
On a hot, summer day, why not garden in the shade? Following are six favorite hostas and why they deserve a spot in your garden.
Hosta 'Praying Hands'
Why it's worthy: unusual leaf shape, award-winning
How to use it: along a path in the shade garden, in meditation garden, with religious statuary, planted with ferns
Why it's worthy: compact color in the shade, fragrant white flowers
How to use it: plant with chartreuse foliage of 'City Lights' or 'Sum and Sumstance' or Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa)
Hosta 'City Lights'
Why it's worthy: thick, corrugated leaves, 24"x36"
How to use it: give it a couple hours of morning sun for best coloring; pair with pink astilbe or purple heuchera (coral bells).
Hosta 'Cool as a Cucumber'
Why it's worthy: elegant, arching habit, 28" tall x 48" wide
How to use it: pair with solid green hostas, dark green ground cover (Sweet woodruff pictured above.)
Hosta 'Empress Wu'
Why it's worthy: Wow! Need we say more?
How to use it: use as a specimen plant or back of the border- give it room! 4'tall x 6'wide.
I am always amazed when I drive by homes that have absolutely no foundation plantings around them. It not only diminishes the "curb appeal", but leaves the property lacking in personality. Whether the home is decades old or recently built, they all can be transformed with a little TLC (Tasteful Landscape Composition).
I recently worked with a customer who purchased a home that had not been previously landscaped. For me it was a designer's dream...a blank canvas to work with. After viewing the property and taking photos, I also took notes as to what type of plants to specify, keeping in mind the following considerations:
Utilizing our new landscape design computer program here at Burlington Garden Center, I was able to make a list of plants that would work and set about creating a design that satisfied the above-mentioned criteria.
Plants were also selected for the soil condition and ease of maintenance for the homeowner.
If you would like more information on our Landscape Design Services, call 262.763.2153 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Landscape Designer, Nursery Manager
Burlington Garden Center
Back in the mid-1800's parts of England were gripped by 'pteridomania', also known as fern fever. Victorians were fascinated by the diversity in appearance, cultural requirements, and how they reproduced. Greenhouses and ferneries were constructed to house the vast collections brought from far travels.
We've got a touch of pteridomania here at BGC and hope you'll catch it, too! Whether you intend to collect many varieties to create your own outdoor fernery, or simply enjoy a couple favorites, ferns can be mixed into the shade garden among broad-leaved hostas and other shade lovers.
Ferns in general like moist, organic soil in part to full shade. We have ten varieties that are hardy here is Wisconsin to get you started. Here we feature seven of them.
Let's begin with the Athyrium group of ferns which includes the popular Japanese painted fern. Above is Athyrium x 'Ghost' which is a cross between the Japanese Painted fern and the Lady fern. 'Ghost' has upright silver fronds that can reach 24". It really catches the eye in the shade garden.
'Lady in Red' (Athyrium filix-femina) is stunning when back lit by dappled sunlight. Grows 18-30".
If you want something unusual, Athyrium 'Ocean's Fury' is for you. Look carefully at the photo above and you'll see that the tips of each leaflet are forked or crested. 'Ocean's Fury' makes a lovely 3'x3' mound of gray-green lacy foliage.
One more from the Athyrium group to mention is 'Branford Beauty'. A cross between the Japanese Painted and Lady ferns gives it colorful leaves and a soft look. Give this fern morning sun to get the best leaf coloring. Grows 18"x18".
Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum, is a Wisconsin native and has delicate fan-shaped fronds on wiry, black stems. Grows 12-16".
Berry Bladder Fern, Cystopteris bulbifera, is a delicate looking fern that spreads by bulblets instead of spores and can grow to 12" tall.
This last one is a staff favorite and sure to win you over. Brilliance Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora, has coppery-red new foliage that turns dark green when mature. Grows 18-24" and spreads by runners.
Many of us are familiar with the spring-blooming alliums - the big purple balls atop of tall bare stems. With names like 'Gladiator', 'Globe Master', 'Mount Everest' and Allium giganteum, you can expect them to make a big impression in the garden. Planted as bulbs in the fall or potted perennials in the spring, they send up their leaves in early spring, followed by huge balls of purple or white that shoot up and open like fireworks. Even as they dry on the stem, the flowers add interest to the garden.
Lesser known alliums include two of my favorites: Allium 'Summer Beauty'(shown below) and Allium 'Lavender Lollipop' (shown above). They bloom mid to late summer and though smaller in stature, they add a whimsical touch lasting well into the fall.
'Lavender Lollipop' (Allium x 'Windy City') is a new introduction from Brent Horvath from Intrinsic Perennial Gardens located in our backyard in Hebron, IL. It's a deeper shade of purple, floriferous, and stands tall on 15-18" stems. Like other alliums, they need full sun, are drought tolerant and deer resistant.
Allium x 'Summer Beauty' is a good companion to several other perennials such as hardy geraniums (above).
The deep purple of Stachys officinalis or Salvia 'Cardonna' along with the blue spruce make a nice backdrop for these allium clumps.
Alliums planted in drifts with Calamintha nepeta 'White Cloud'.
Grasses like Seslaria autumnalis (Autumn moor grass) or Sporobolis heterolepis (Prairie dropseed), Echinacea (coneflowers), and Perovskia (Russian sage) create a natural prairie-like setting for summer alliums.
Though they look like their cousin, common chives, summer alliums are ornamental onions, not edible. They have a sterile seed so they stay well behaved in their clumps,
Stop by and pick up an allium or two and add some whimsy to your garden.
- Tracy Hankwitz,
BGC Store Manager
Midsummer finds many perennials at their peak, so I recently took the opportunity to visit a nearby perennial garden. The garden belongs to BGC Staff member, Sharon Marrano, and has a few design examples that we all can learn from and apply to our own perennial gardens.
The white fence provides a clean backdrop showing off plantings on each side.
DESIGN TIP #1: Spread out.
Allow enough space for each type of perennial to do it's thing. Here, red monarda, yellow daylily, and almost-ready-to-bloom Russian sage, each have 2.5-3 feet of space to fill. Also notice the staggered height of the three plants.
DESIGN TIP #2: Vary flower form.
The flowers of the lily, allium, and phlox (in back) are all shades of pink. It works in this space because each variety has a different flower shape.
DESIGN TIP #3: Hide spent foliage.
Oriental and Asiatic lilies are lovely when in bloom, but once they are finished, the foliage left behind can be an eyesore. Here Sharon has planted interplanted ferns with the lilies to disguise the declining leaves and stems of the lilies.
DESIGN TIP #4: Vary leaf texture.
When pairing perennials in the garden, it's important to consider the leaf texture. If done well, the foliage will continue to be interesting long after the flowers are done blooming.
The coneflowers (on the right in the photo above) have a medium leaf texture. The bright green grass-like leaves of the daylily on the left provide good contrast.
To the left of the daylily is a large clump of tall sedum (shown below) bringing fall color as well as a round, fleshy leaf texture.
DESIGN TIP #5: Let plants intermingle.
Yellow yarrow and blue balloon flowers (above) make good partners coming from opposite sides of the color wheel. Instead of manicuring them into their own clumps, Sharon has allowed them to intermingle for a cottage garden look.
DESIGN TIP #6: Play with color.
The soft gray foliage of Russian sage makes a nice background for the pastel pink and yellow daylily (above).
Bold colors catch the eye in this grouping of red monarda, purple delphinium, and yellow coreopsis (below).
I'm off to the garden to move a few of my perennials.
Until next time, happy gardening!
- Tracy Hankwitz
Store Manager of
Burlington Garden Center
Do you want to know the secret for yummy baked goods?Homemade vanilla extract. It's easy to make and so worth the wait.
Cut two vanilla beans into thirds and place them in an airtight bottle or jar. We love these sealed, vintage-looking bottles that are perfect for this project (and available here at BGC.)
Fill the bottle with vodka, seal, and place in a cool, dry place for at least 4 months. Enjoy!
Don't you just love befores and afters?
Take a look at this 'before' photo:
After talking with the homeowner, we came up with three options for that corner:
White 'Bobo' hydrangeas, blue fescue grasses, and requested red geraniums create a patriotic garden surrounding the flagpole.
In this design, Japanese willow (Salix 'Hakuro Nishiki') takes center stage and softens the brick corner.
Three clumps of Feather Reed grass (Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster') add movement and will provide a great look into the fall with 'Autumn Joy' sedum.
This is an example of our NEW landscape design service's 'Quick Pic' option. If you are ready to spruce up your yard but not sure what to plant, we'd love to talk to you about the possibilities and design a plan for you to plant. Stop in or give us a call at 262.763.2153. Ask for Belinda or Tracy. Learn more here.
Need some privacy in your backyard, but aren't excited about utilizing the traditional privet, boxwood or arborvitae? Why not try planting a hydrangea hedge.
There are two wonderful varieties of panicle hydrangeas (cone-shaped blooms) that reach 6'-8' x 6'-8' wide, making them ideal for a privacy hedge. Limelight hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight') has green blooms on old wood that fade to pink and is adaptable to various soil types. The Quick Fire hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Quick Fire') has white blooms on new wood that transition to a deep pink, and is the first panicle hydrangea to bloom each summer.
Looking for some privacy for a patio or pool area? Why not try either a Tickled Pink hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'HYPMAD II') or a White Diamonds hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'HYPMAD I'). At 4'-5' x 5'-6' wide, both are the perfect height for this type of landscape application. The curved petals on the blooms of Tickled Pink start out white and change to pink for a lace-like appearance, while White Diamonds start out white and fade to a pale pink.
Utilizing hydrangeas for privacy not only provides you with the necessary screening, but you also can enjoy cut flowers from mid-summer to fall. Leaving the blooms intact until spring also adds some "winter interest" to your landscape.
Remember this? This was Marty's garden a month ago in early June.
This is Marty's garden now.
Following are a few tips that you can use this month in your own garden:
Lesson #1: Mulch! Using straw or dried grass clippings around your plants, especially tomatoes, will retain moisture, reduce weeds, and help prevent early blight.
Lesson #2: At planting time Marty used recycled nursery pots with no bottoms around her squashes and cucumbers to protect them from rabbits. She leaves them in place to make watering easier.
Lesson #3: Companion planting. Nasturtiums planted with cucumbers and squashes deters squash bugs and cucumber beetles. Add nasturtium leaves to salads for a peppery flavor.
Plant sage with broccoli to repel cabbage moths.
Lesson #4: Stake tomato plants. She uses a variety of repurposed supports for her indeterminate tomato plants. Growing them in this way allows more light and good air flow for better fruiting.
Watch for more tips next month.
It's early July and lilies are at their finest. You can't walk by them in the garden without noticing them. These prima donnas demand attention. Following are the varieties we are excited about this year and have just arrived at BGC:
'Tiny Skyline' (shown above) is from the new Lily Looks series developed in the Netherlands. Bred for their small stature makes them perfect for growing in a container on the patio. These Asiatic lilies will bloom 2-4 weeks because of their high bud count. Plant in full sun/part shade in the front of the border.
Lily Looks 'Tiny Bee' is small in height (10-12") but it's flowers are big and beautiful. Blooms will last longer if planted in a spot that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.
Deep red flowers appear just in time for the celebration of our country's independence on Lilium 'American Revolution'. They stand tall and proud at 48" and seldom need staking.
Lilium 'Strawberry Vanilla Latte'. This lovely lady's claim to fame is that she is pollenless! At 24" tall, her double petals are a mix of strawberry and cream.
Wow! Gotta have one of these! The petals of this oriental lily, 'Distant Drum', are rose-pink, double, and can reach 7 inches in diameter. Grows to 30" in full sun and makes a great cut flower.
Two favorites, 'Casa Blanca' and 'Stargazer', round out our summer collection. Both are fragrant and are stunning in flower arrangements.
DESIGN TIP: Lilies certainly add drama to the garden, so use sparingly, scattering clusters of them through the beds like exclamation points. Plant other perennials in front of them to hide their foliage after blooming (it's not very becoming to look at).
ANOTHER TIP: Lily blossoms will last longer if you remove the pollen anthers after the flowers open.
The best tips for growing vegetables come from other gardeners. Late last summer we visited a small vegetable garden here in Burlington tended by BGC staffer, Marty Baker. This tidy, small plot is well-designed to produce a lot in a small space. We asked Marty to share some tips to pass on to you.
Marty's first tip is to put a fence around the garden to keep out the rabbits. Note that all these photos were taken on June 6, about 2 weeks ago.
Plant broccoli early - as soon as it shows up at the garden center. Broccoli planted later in the spring tends to bolt sending up only small heads that quickly flower and go to seed.
Our favorite tip she has to offer is to protect young plants from damaging winds and critters with black nursery pots with the bottoms cut out. She does this with tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, and squashes. What a great use for all those nursery pots!
Marty leaves the black pots around the cucumbers and squash all season. This will help her know where to water, reducing the amount of water on the foliage that can lead to powdery mildew, plus the water goes directly to the roots.
Even young marigolds get temporary protection until they grow big enough to protect the garden.
Watch for more tips next week.
It's always interesting to see which plants appeal to our staff members. We asked BGC Greenhouse Manager, Deb Polansky, for a few of her perennial favorites. Always finding something a bit more unusual but lovely, she has gathered a collection of unique, underused plants that need to find a home in your garden.
Calamintha nepeta 'White Cloud' is a long-blooming, drought resistant perennial. It is fragrant, attracts butterflies, and is rabbit resistant. Plant with coneflowers and Russian sage in full sun.
'Lime Zinger' Sedum is from a new series called Sunsparkler. Lime green leaves are outlined in red growing 4-6" tall. Soft pink flowers add interest in the fall. This sun-lover makes a nice groundcover with one plant spreading 16-18 inches.
It's the dark purple stems that will catch your eye first in this Wisconsin-born perennial. Heliosis helianthoides 'Prairie Sunset' rises 3-5' tall and blooms in the sun early summer until frost. Also known as false sunflower and ox-eyed daisy, it makes a nice cut flower and attracts butterflies. Plant with ornamental grasses and Liatris spicata.
Of course we have to include a climber and Clematis 'Arabella' is quite the darling. Arabella is actually a non-climbing variety but grows 3-6' tall. It would look lovely sprawling over a retaining wall or within a 3D trellis. It grows well in part sun/part shade and pairs nicely with the chartreuse foliage of the Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aurea').
On to the shade garden. We'll start with Deb's fern picks: Lady in Red (Athyrium felix-femina), shown above, and Branford Beauty Painted fern (Athyrium). Both grow 3 feet tall and are actually half-sisters sharing one common parent. Branford Beauty has silver and purple foliage similar to a Japanese Painted Fern. Plant among hostas (like 'Dream Queen' below).
Hosta 'Dream Queen' has blue-green leaves with white and cream variegation. Grows 14-16" tall and 30-32" wide. It's white flowers attract hummingbirds in the fall.
All these royal ladies in the shade garden means there must be a prince nearby. Solomon's Seal 'Prince Charming' (Polygonatum) is a, well, charming companion growing 12 inches tall. It does well in full shade and full sun and is a selection by Brent Harvath, Intrinsic Perennial Gardens, located in Hebron, IL. Plant near a path to see it's fall golden foliage and dark purple berries.
We'll close out Deb's picks with a very unusual perennial: Gotemba Golden Japanese Spikenard (Aralia cordata). The zen-like, broad, chartreuse foliage quickly grows to 5 feet each year making quite a presence in the light shade garden. Sprays of white flowers appear in late summer followed by purplish black berries. 'Gotemba' was collected on a small island in the Japanese Sea by Plant Discoverer, Dan Hinkley. Only a couple of these unique Aralia remain here at BGC.