Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

Posts by Katie Ketelsen

Several times each week I take a stroll through our Test Garden. Not only do I stay in touch with the hottest, new plants and how they’re flourishing (or not) but it’s also a great, relaxing retreat for me. I’m one of the brave few that enjoy Iowa’s hot and humid summers. Many days I’ve thought of skipping the computer, putting my gardening shoes on only to help Test Garden manager Sandra for at least an hour or two….probably three.

But alas….I’d never get Garden Notes out the virtual door! (ahem…..are you receiving our weekly dose of garden goodness?)

This week I’m completely…totally…infatuated with the ‘Marmalade’ coneflower. While most online resources show a vibrant orange hue to this flower, the environment in the Test Garden lends to a beautiful mix of fuchsia, coral and orange. It’s simply gorgeous.

Here was the bloom a week ago…..

And then today…

The finishing hues of this coneflower is what really appeals to me. That, and its double-bloom feature. What do you think? Ready to get the shovel out and plant some? Lucky for you, White Flower Farm has them in stock!

I’m generally a shoot-from-the-hip kind of gal in the garden.

I’ll pack plants in a container tighter than I probably should.

I’ll plant spring-blooming bulbs in spring knowing they should have been dug-in before November.

I’ll even let my 15 month old son do the planting. (You’ll notice the proper positioning of the bulbs — right?)

I’ll buy flowering poppy on complete impulse, in the middle of February……

knowing full well I’ll be lucky to keep it alive until May. (But really, how could you not take this guy home?!?)


All while thinking to myself: “Do as I say people, not as I do!”

Every year is a new experiment in my garden. But if you’re looking to try something new in your garden, but maybe not as risky as I have been, here are three tried-and-try projects you should consider:

1. Add more blooms to your front yard.

Admittedly, I love the feel and smell of fresh-cut grass, but secretly long for an ever-blooming front yard. I’m already thinking of how to carve out a few more flower beds in my landscape. If you’re a busy bee like me, worried about keeping the new plants watered, don’t pull the entire lawn up in one season. Work your way to the edges.


2. Plant a cut-flower garden for fresh bouquets all year round.

Another baby-stepping-project in my landscape is to slowly add more flowers for fresh bouquets all summer long. This is just a no-brainer for me. I love flowers. I love bouquets. I love to save money.


3. Beckon the butterflies, birds and hummingbirds.

This is definitely on my to-do list this year. I’ve installed fragrant plants such as butterfly bush, lantana and verbena to help lure the butterflies and hummingbirds. This is an easy project even if you don’t have a yard, use containers!

Another project I’m attempting this year is to plant vegetables among my perennials and shrubs. I know this isn’t a new trend, but it’s new to me and am very anxious to pluck fresh green beans!

What are you trying for the first time in your garden this year?

Tomorrow the Better Homes and Garden Test Garden officially opens for the season (yay!) But if you live in the Des Moines area, you know a romp in the garden doesn’t really sound appealing.

We (grumpily) woke to snow on the ground, pelting our windows and piercing our faces. Mother Nature has a cruel way of welcoming spring this year, but frankly, she’s always kept Iowa’s gardeners anxious about planting anything until mid-May.

Today feels like a bad dream. The Test Garden was so beautiful just this Tuesday…..

Complementary spring-bloomers redbud and forsythia reached out from the garden fence, beckoning me to enter the Test Garden.

As did the relaxing ambiance projected from the raised deck surrounded by blooming grape hyacinths and tulips.

The water fountain took its first breath this week, overflowing with soothing sensations, perfect for a late lunch…..

…or a meeting of the minds. (Pictured: Andrea, Test Garden Assistant; Sandra, Test Garden Manager; Eric, Deputy Garden Editor)

An Autumn Brilliance serviceberry boasted its stunning white blooms….

…while the ferns uncoiled, reaching for the warm sun.


I miss that warm sun.

Late spring snowstorms sure have a way of making an Iowa gardener more humble.

How the weather in your garden today?


Come visit the Test Garden every Friday from 12-2pm!


I’ve always been a huge fan of dianthuspinks. They’re the perfect perennial to line the edge of your flower beds, add a pop of color in those tight spaces, or even accent your container garden. My only beef with them was their bloom didn’t last long enough to satisfy my blooming-hunger!

Thankfully there’s a hot, new dianthus available for 2013 that blooms and blooms and blooms. The EverLast pink series is available in five, beautiful, double-blooming colors!



Burgundy Blush



Personally, my eye is drawn to the white dianthus first. There are so few, reliable white-flowering perennials that you almost have to go with this one first. Runner-up would be orchid. I usually go for the sharp tones versus a light, pastel color. Which one is your favorite?

In case you’re not familiar with pinks, here are some specifics for the EverLast series:

Scientific Name: Dianthus interspecific
Hardiness Degree: -20°F (-28.9°C)
Blooming Season: Early Spring, Spring, Late Spring, Autumn, Winter, Late Summer
Plant Habit: Mounded
Height: 8 - 12″ (20 - 30cm)
Width: 10 - 14″ (25 - 36cm)
Exposure: Sun

Make sure you talk with your local garden center or landscaper to see how you can get some EverLast (everblooming) dianthus in your garden!

I happened across this festive infographic from the folks at Neave Decor and thought it was absolutely genius. Number one is me in a nutshell. But seriously….sometimes decorating for the holidays just doesn’t sound all that appealing. Especially when Iowa’s winter is knocking at the door. (Too bad these folks aren’t in my neck of the woods!) And frankly, neither I or my husband (whom I fear will definitely fall off the roof someday, much like number ten alludes to)  have the skills to pull of  holiday lighting like this….

By the way….I’d live in this in a heartbeat! Isn’t this house gorgeous!?! Here’s a quick link to see more holiday lighting ideas from Neave.

Some awesome companies will even decorate the INSIDE of your house too! Double bonus!

Now…if you’re questioning why you should even think about hiring a professional to do all that tough, tedious, light-busting grunt work – read this – overwhelming reasons why you should consult the pros. Plus, I’d add, it might just allow you to spend more time with your family and keep the old man’s back in tact.

If you’ve got a professional holiday decorating company in your area you’d like to recommend give them a shout-out in the comments below! Share the holiday goodness people!

I have to confess something.


I’ve never been much of a fan of bulbs.


The thought of digging tiny little holes for several little blobs of bulbs sounded so tedious I couldn’t even bring myself to lift the dainty little trowel.


Until last year when someone graciously gave me some free bulbs (perspective changes completely when something is free –right?) And then I made my husband plant them (I was pregnant and coming up with every excuse to get out of bending over).


And although this last winter was nothing to complain about in regards to excess snow, when those tiny daffodils and  bright pink tulips popped this spring it was nothing short of a godsent. Spring had arrived. It was a new awakening. A new year to try new plants in the garden. The smell of good Iowa dirt magically finds its way to your nose. All of a sudden you find yourself rejuvenated just from a handful of tiny little flowers.


Another confession: I’m planting more bulbs this year.
Unless of course I can talk the hubs into planting them for me again.


Here are a few bulbs I’ve got my eye on but would take any suggestions you might have!

Grape Hyacinth
It’s so dainty! It will look perfect along the front edge of my flower beds. I just need to pick a variety.


Siberian Squill
How fun would these flowers look peppered throughout my lawn? Have you ever planted bulbs in your lawn?


While allium tends to bloom later in spring, it’s always been a favorite of mine.


Black Parrot Tulip
I’ve never have a plant with black blooms and a bulb might just be the way to test that color, since it won’t be blooming all season long. If I don’t like it, I might transplant them to my neighbor’s garden — on the other side of their house.


Zurel Tulip
With so many types and varieties of tulips, you almost have to have more than one in your garden. Plus, two-toned flowers are extra pretty.

So…am I missing any of your favorites?

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