Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rare Morning Glories

There is a fantastic company specializing in rare morning glories named Summer Hills in Whittington, Illinois. 'Heart's and Honey' pictured left is a miniature growing only 5-6 feet and the Yellow Morning Glory are just some of the thirty varieties. I'm planting 'Hearts and Honey' and 'Mount Fuji' Mix among others this spring.

Emeritus Plants of Merit -- MOBOT

The Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis is one of the most beautiful gardens I've seen personally. They have a fantastic program to recognize outstanding plants named Plants of Merit. Anything off the basic list is highly recommended for the St. Louis area which is pretty true for the Kansas City area.

The superstars of this program are classified as Emiretus Plants of Merit. I was enthralled at each of the categories especially so with the shrubs. So many times you find a shrub named in gardening media, their ultimate size is way too large for the average sized garden. But so many of the shrubs were compact and I know I will use many of them in future landscape projects. So check it out before next spring!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Origarnum 'Kent Beauty'

WOW! I found this image of Origarnum 'Kent Beauty' on the Missouri Botanical Gardens website. It's one of their Emeritus Plants of Merits Selections. it's an ornamental not culinary oregano. I remember savoring the plant the first time I saw it and ordered it through High Country Gardens. However, the rabbits seemed to like it just as much as I did.
But MOBOT recommends treating it like an annual in container gardening. And based on the performance of their other Plants of Merit, I look forward to images like this on my back deck.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Repotting House Plants

If you're going through some serious gardening withdrawals, you may want to consider repotting some of your house plants this winter. But wait until mid-February when the days are becoming longer and the plant begins to go into an active growth cycle again. Then be sure the pot is no more than 1'' wider than the existing one. You may think I'll wait until Spring when you send them outdoors. But get let's get real. With the flurry of Spring activities, worrying about house plants is not going to be on the shortlist. So take the time when you have time on your hands to get the plants ready for a very productive outdoor season.

If you are into house plants, you should know about for new varieties.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Baptisia a.k.a False Indigo

The first time I saw False Indigo was in the perennial border at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. It was approximately 4 foot tall by 3 feet wide. It gets its common name from the blue flowers that someone must've compared to indigo a long time ago.

I was surprised when working on my Patrick's Picks perennials column, two different professionals named two unusual colors for their picks. 'Carolina Moonlight' is a soft yellow nominated by Duane Hoover from the Kaufmann Memorial Garden, just off the Country Club Plaza. I noticed on the web images that the lower branches seem to lose their foilage. Duane poetically referred to this as "a tendency to show her ankles" which allows for the placement of compact perennials around her ankles.

'Twilight Prairie Blues' has a dark purple, almost coppery flower with yellow eyes. It was nominated by Gary Frederick of Skinner Garden Store in Topeka. The web images I found were absolutely stunning. Its large size won't fit in my garden but I can't wait to see it in person.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Karen's Plum Pudding Poinsettia

Traditions are a great thing during the holidays. One of my old secretaries, Karen Summers has been a great friend of mine for over 15 years. And each year, we go to Family Tree to pick her out a high-quality poinsettia. I always try for something different and this year it is 'Plum Pudding'. It's like a smoky dark purple. I've never seen anything like it. I think Karen will love it.

River Birch 'Little King'

You see river birch specimens all over town. Most often it is used as a tree for foundation purposes. But if you have ever seen one that's about 30 years old, you'll never plant one close to the house again. There is an alternative to the big whopping river varieties. 'Little King' measures out to a mature size of 10-15' high by 10 to 15' wide. I think these dimensions make 'Little King' a more flexible option when siting a river birch anywhere need a house. This is just another reason why Skinner Garden Store in Topeka has the best selection of trees and shrubs in the area.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cut Flowers

One of my sources for an upcoming Patrick's Picks column was Renee Shepherd of Renee's Garden Seeds. Her company has to be the most outstanding supplier of cut flower varieties in the world. Apricot Blush Zinnia is a selection from the famous in Benary series. And Dancing Petticoats is a mix of four different types of cosmos. I wish more beginning gardeners knew how easy it is to plant these seeds directly in the ground and watch them take off many times in less than a week. Check out Renee's website for plenty of other excellent performing varieties.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Basil 'Boxwood'

KSU Extension's Alan Stevens is pumped about this new plant. Tiny mounds of tightly held small leaves resemble boxwood plants. And just like boxwood, the plants can be easily trimmed into a small hedge. 'Boxwood' was bred in France for a highly flavored pesto ingredient. So I imagine, this is the first plant whose hedge trimmings can wind up on your plate.
I'll be including this plant as part of my Patrick's Picks annual selections. This year, I'll be sharing all my picks selections with the major growers in town in January so the odds are more likely you'll find this at your garden center this spring.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Autumn Embers Ornamental Grass

I have been working on a column for the Kansas City Gardener on compact ornamental grass varieties. For one source, I contacted David Salman, CEO of High Country Gardens Santa Fe, New Mexico. They are one of the leading forces in xeriscaping today and they have many varieties suited for our part of the country. I have always been impressed by their offerings and the quality of the plants I've received.

I am not an expert at all when it comes to ornamental grasses. But I have been frustrated when I find one for my garden it is way too large for me or the average sized garden. David gave me three varieties of which the most interesting was a pink flowered muhly grass (Muhlenbergia reverchonii) named Autumn Embers. David collected the seed himself from an area west of Fort Worth last fall. Wouldn't you have loved to be there? It is a midsized variety sizing up at 24 to 36 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide. Well I'm throwing out my "you must in threes" formula due to its size, but I think one surrounded by broad leaf perennials could add to the texture in my garden.

Drama Queen Poppy

Pictured on the cover of Ken Druse 's new book is the Drama Queen Poppy. Based on the expected demand for the book, I was sure buy my seeds before they're not available anywhere. I got mine from the ebay vendor, One Stop Poppy Shoppe.
For cultural instructions, see below on the Iceland poppies entry.

Cleopatra Canna introduced 1895

My grandmother always hated cannas. So until Bengal Tiger's introduction I shared her disposition. Old House Gardens is a little heirloom company dedicated to saving very rare heirlooms from extinction. I've always had this thing for mottled flowers but as you can see from this image, Cleopatra also has red and yellow petal colors split down the center from time to time. I've never seen such a thing.

Our family farm in Trenton, MO is surrounded by my father-in-law's soybean and wheat fields so herbicide drift is a big issue. And lo and behold the most reliable and best-performing plants are the cannas. So in the gardens we are planning, cannas are a big part of the picture. I hope my grandmother would approve.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Iceland Poppies

I grew Iceland poppies back when I was a kid in Sydney as a winter annual. I always thought they would be way too delicate to plant here in the Midwest. But my friend Jan Vinyard recently shared with me that you should treat them just like California poppies. In late February or early March she finds a bare spot in the garden, does a little scratching around in the soil and sows some seed. This way they will begin growing as soon as possible and bloom early spring. Until you've seen the actual flower, you cannot believe how beautiful the paperlike blossoms can be. Thanks Jan.

Patrick's Picks: Take a Closer Look at Poinsettias

Poinsettias now seem synonymous with the holidays, but we owe their existence as we know it to one man: Paul Ecke. Ecke, founder of the Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, CA, was single-handedly responsible for hybridizing what had been a large gangly Mexican shrub into today’s potted poinsettia. Poinsettias are now the best-selling flowering plant in the world, and Ecke Ranch remains the industry’s heavyweight. Seventy percent of all rooted cuttings ordered by U.S. greenhouses come from Ecke; the company has 50 percent market share worldwide.

One of the highlights of my career was providing marketing communication consultation services to Ecke’s company—an experience that completely changed my perception of poinsettias. I always thought of them as mangled plants in plastic sleeves sold at local big box retailers, but Ecke showcased a stunning plant in many colors and forms with a broad range of decorating possibilities. So my family began a new Christmas tradition after my visit by going to a garden center to select plants for gifts and home. My recent mission was to find the most exciting colors and forms at Kansas City area garden centers for this holiday season.

Family Tree Nursery greenhouses in Kansas City, KS grow 44 varieties in eight pot sizes, totaling more than 22,000 plants for their three retail locations. Holly Ingle, the nursery’s head grower is a big fan of an early variety series with large, oak leaf-shaped bracts and foliage named Christmas Carol. In red, pink and white cultivars, it's a dark green-leaved variety, so the bracts are really set off against it. She says “I think it's very showy."
For those of you interested in something more unusual, Holly also likes Jester. "Traditionally, it has always been an interesting red, with its pointy, serrated bracts. It looks like it's off to a party!” she says, adding that there’s now a pink, too.

The manager of operations for the Heartland Nursery and Garden Center in Lee’s Summit, MO, Kevin Keilig says his favorites include a strong, heavily branched variety named Cortez Burgundy. The flowers (bracts) may not be as large as some varieties, but there are plenty of them, they last a long time and the dark burgundy makes for a dramatic impact. Kevin’s next choice falls in the “love it or leave it” category. The Winter Rose series is known for ruffled, semi-double bracts that look something like a rose bloom. The first cultivar, ‘Dark Red,’ generated a lot of excitement at its introduction because it retains colorful bracts for up to six months. Winter Rose Peppermint has the ruffled flower form with red and white speckled bracts. Any in this series could be an intriguing choice, good as a party conversation starter or a distinctive gift.

Heartland is also following the recent trend of combining poinsettias with euphorbia Diamond Frost. Proven Winners branded this combination of two plants in one pot as DiamondPoint™, and Kevin says both will flower well past the holidays. You can also bring in your Diamond Frost from the garden next season, shear it back and enjoy a beautiful houseplant all winter.