March 2012

Denny Schrock

springtime in the Ozarks

Spring break for me this year was a week-long road trip through the Ozarks. In addition to visits with family and friends at Long Creek Herbs in southern Missouri, friends in Fayetteville, AR, and a side trip to the Clinton Library in Little Rock, public gardens were part of my must-see agenda. The timing was perfect. An unseasonably warm spring had coaxed redbuds and flowering dogwoods, into bloom, covering the hillsides with splashes of color. In town, lilacs, spireas, and spring bulbs were displaying their finery.

Eureka Springs, AR is a unique historical town with winding streets perched on hillsides. Nearly a dozen springs bubble up from the rocky outcroppings, and the town has turned the areas around each into pocket parks. The display of violas and painted twigs below, was at one of these mini-parks located, appropriately enough, on Spring Street.

Compton Gardens in Bentonville, AR features native plants of the Ozarks. This is the former estate of Dr. Neil Compton, who was instrumental in saving the Buffalo River as part of the National Park Service. Walkways through the grounds guide visitors to displays of groomed native plants. The trail system also connects to Crystal Bridges, the fantastic new museum of American art.

Golden ragwort (Senecio aureus) is a native wildflower with yellow daisylike blooms in spring.

Carolina silverbell (Halesia tetraptera) is a native tree with springtime blooms that resemble dangling white bells.

The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks is a relatively new public garden, but it has a lot to offer including a children’s garden, butterfly house, rock garden, water garden, native garden, sensory garden, vegetable garden, and Japanese garden. Despite constant rain during my visit, I was able to snap a few photos, including a planted concrete chair, obviously not intended for seating.

Hens and chicks cover the seat cushion on this whimsical "chair" next to the children's garden at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks.

This Euphorbia martinii Ascot Rainbow was in full bloom at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks.

 


James A. Baggett

Flowers for Kate

My undownable friend Kate’s birthday was last week and I was at a loss as to how to celebrate until I came across this rusty little child’s watering can at a cool antiques shop here in Des Moines called Found Things. It certainly didn’t take long to fill it with the current bounty from my front-yard garden: daffodils, tulips, a few forsythia branches, and some stems of red-twig dogwood. It made Kate smile. And I hope it makes you smile, too.

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Denny Schrock

early spring flowering shrubs

Flashy golden forsythias and splashy pink saucer magnolia take center stage in many early spring landscapes. But these leading ladies aren’t the only shrubs that can make an impact in your yard at this time of year. Many other woody plants are worthwhile additions for their vernal display of showy blooms. If you’re looking for something a little more unique, consider one of the beauties shown below.

Hybrid witch hazel (Hamemelis X intermedia) kicks off the spring season with its straplike gold or copper petals, usually blooming in February.

White forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum roseum), also called Korean abelialeaf, is neither a forsythia nor an abelia, although it has qualities resembling those shrubs. It precedes the yellow blooms of true forsythia by a week or more.

Double Take 'Pink Storm' flowering quince (Chaenomeles Double Take 'Pink Storm') bears clusters of rosy pink blooms backed by glossy clear green foliage.

Flowering almond (Prunus glandulosa 'Rosea Plena') grows just 4 feet tall and in spring is covered with fully double pink blooms.

Regent serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia 'Regent') is a season-long beauty. The white spring flowers are followed by tasty purple-blue fruits, and the leaves turn gold, orange, and red in fall.


James A. Baggett

Irresistible Irises

I’d almost forgotten the handful of leftover Iris reticulata bulbs I stuck in one of the windowboxes that line my driveway last fall. The windowboxes are changed out seasonally and serve as a sort of botanical display case. So it was with true surprise that I did a double-take yesterday. Where the previous day there were nothing but white Cool Wave pansies pushing their teddy-bear faces up toward the sun, here were dainty purple trumpets singing their heads off well above the pansies and well ahead of schedule. Who’d have thought I’d be looking at this cool combination in mid-March in Zone 5 Central Iowa?

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Denny Schrock

Crocus plus

After a couple of days with record warmth in the 70s and 80s, early spring bulbs are displaying their vernal glory in my yard. As of March 14 the landscape features eight different types of crocuses, three iris varieties, three kinds of daffodils, spring meadow saffron, snowdrops, winter aconite, and pasque flower in bloom. This early color may not last long because temperatures are predicted to remain in the 70s through next week, but it’s such a welcome sight to see splashes of color dotting the yard before winter officially makes its exit.

Here are some current photos from the yard.

My favorite crocus is Crocus fuscotinctus. Its bright gold flowers have purplish maroon stripes on the outside of the petals, and it's always one of the first to come into bloom. It's growing near the mailbox, where it withstands winter road salt.

It's easy to see where the tricolor part of the name comes from for Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'. Lilac-purple petals have a golden base with a stripe of white in between.

Crocus vernus 'Grand Maitre' translates as Grand Master, an apt name for this gorgeous purple crocus with an intricately frilly orange stigma.

Crocus flavus has large, intense yellow blooms that open wide only when the sun is shining. On cloudy days and at night, they close up.

Spring meadow saffron (Bulbocodium vernum) is a crocus cousin native to the Pyrenees and Alps. It is sometimes called Colchicum vernum.

Spanish iris (Iris hispanica 'George') has deep purple blooms with colorful markings on its nearly tubular falls. It grows nearly one foot tall.

Reticulate iris (Iris reticulata 'Harmony') has purple-blue petals with distinctive markings on its falls. It reaches just six inches tall.


Everyday Gardeners

plant a flower day

Did you know that March 12 is Plant a Flower Day? I don’t need much of an excuse to plant flowers. I already have several dozen types of annual flowers started in the greenhouse, including the All-America Selections winners for this year (see below), and one from last year.

Salvia coccinea 'Summer Jewel Pink' is a 2012 All-America Selections Bedding Plant Award Winner that I think will look great in my pink border. Photo courtesy of All-America Selections.

Vinca 'Jams 'N Jellies Blackberry' is a 2012 All-America Selections Flower Award Winner. I can't wait for the seedlings that I've started in the greenhouse to start blooming. Photo courtesy of All-America Selections.

'Glamour Red' ornamental kale was a 2011 All-America Selections Cool Season Bedding Plant Award Winner. It looked great in my garden into December, so I'm growing it again this year. Photo courtesy of All-America Selections.

It may be a bit premature to plant perennials here in Des Moines, but I have some on order from High Country Gardens that will expand my collection of Midwest and High Plains native perennials. A few of them are pictured below. They’re scheduled for arrival in mid-April. By then, I’ll be able to plant them directly in the garden.

Which new flowers will you be growing in your yard this year?

 

Zauschneria garrettii is sometimes known as hardy fuschia as well as hummingbird trumpet. The bright orange tubular blooms draw hummingbirds to the garden.

Penstemon cobaea purpureus is a type of beardtongue with foxglove-like blooms on stalks several feet tall. It is a Midwest native.

Whether you call it redbirds in a tree or New Mexico figwort, Scrophularia macrantha is a cute perennial for dry sites with its panicles of rosy red blooms on compact plants.