Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

BHG Test Garden

The other day, the folks at Heartland Gardening asked me to do a guest post on the Better Homes and  Gardens Test Garden. I went out, grabbed a couple of shots, and typed up my post.

While I was out in the garden, which is right here at Better Homes and Gardens headquarters (downtown Des Moines, Iowa), I was amazed at how beautiful everything was looking considering how strange the weather’s been.

I was also surprised at some of the things blooming. The Russian sage looks glorious; the phlox are in their fragrant glory, the Shasta daisies are looking their cheery best and are perfect accents to the warm, rich colors of yarrow and gaillardia. Of course, the coneflowers are looking amazing, too! And this despite two weeks of hot, humid weather.

If you’ve never visited the Test Garden, now’s the perfect opportunity. It’s open to the public Fridays from 12-2 p.m. from May to October.

Better Homes and Gardens is teaming up with the American Public Gardens Association to offer free admission to dozens of public gardens this Friday, May, 11. Just go to the bhg.com website to get a voucher for free admission to one of dozens of participating public gardens around the country. And if you’re in the Des Moines area on Friday, be sure to stop by the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden from noon until 4 p.m. to see what’s in bloom and to get great landscaping ideas. If you can’t make it this week, regular summer visitation hours are from noon until 2:00 p.m. every Friday.

Here’s a preview of what you’ll be able to see in the Test Garden this week.

The rose garden is approaching peak bloom, several weeks ahead of schedule.

The Test Garden shed serves as tool storage and work center for the garden.

If you get tired of strolling through the garden, you can rest on a bench shaded by a pergola that supports a 'William Baffin' climbing rose.

Blooming baptisias dominate the prairie garden this week.

The shade walk features blue forget-me-nots, hostas, coralbells, boxwoods, and Itoh hybrid peonies.

As the season goes in Iowa, temperatures have started to drop and it’s evident with this week’s stroll through the BHG Test Garden.  Some plants have completely lost their luster, while others are thriving. Take notes to know what to plant next year for  a long season of color.

Here fall-blooming mums mixed with pansies work well along a pathway.

Here’s a shrub you don’t see often in the landscape, but is perfect for adding color to  a shady garden: Dwarf fothergilla.

Depending on the season, fothergilla fall foliage can turn yellow, orange, or red.

Although the Test Garden is closed for the year, you can still enjoy the season’s colors! Right outside the east doors of Meredith several clump ginkgo are planted and have started to turn golden yellow.

Just a quick tidbit: it’s a rarity to find such awesome specimens of ginkgo in Iowa, let alone with multiple clumps. I’d highly suggest if you have a chance to see for yourself the magnitude of these trees, you do!

How’s you’re gardening looking this fall? What’s your favorite fall plant? I have to say Little Henry sweetspire is my favorite.




Last week I took a stroll through the BHG Test Garden and as I alluded, the colors have changed in just a sort time.

The tips of the serviceberry leaves are starting to turn their usual orange and red.

Ajuga is a great groundcover for any garden from full sun to full shade! I particularly enjoy the dark, dramatic foliage of  ’Black Scallop’ shown here.

Generally more upright in habit, the Golden Pillar barberry shows great promise this fall as its golden yellow foliage turns reddish orange.  Here’s a closer look:

This is the LAST week the Test Garden will be open! Be sure to get in while you can, speak with Sandra, the BHG Test Garden manager, and snag any snippet of garden knowledge she’s willing to share!

Although fall has started its descent, a quick stroll through the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden proves there is still a lot of life left in the season. Here are just a few of the beauties I found flourishing in the garden.

The Knock Out shrub roses are literally a knockout in the garden. Once their blooms start kicking in spring, they’ll last up till the first hard frost in fall. It’s hard not to stop dead in your tracks to admire their beauty.

Close view of the Rainbow Knock Out shrub rose’s bloom.

Ornamental grasses are center stage right now–everywhere! The gracefulness of the switchgrass’ plumes are what makes it one of my favorites, not to mention grasses are a perfect addition to any garden for fall and winter appeal.

2008 Perennial of the YearRozanne Geranium is the longest blooming perennial geranium in the landscape right now.  I’ll be curious to see how long these flowers last this fall!

If you’ve got time or in the neighborhood, have your lunch in the test garden tomorrow–it’s open from 12-2pm! Otherwise, tune in next week…I’m anticipating a change in the scenery.

Here’s a snapshot I just took of the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden. We’re having a bit of a snowstorm (it’s tough to catch it with my camera) — the windchill is below zero and the winds are gusting at more than 30 miles per hour.

That’s colder than I want it to be if I’m going to be outside..but what about plants? Happily, they can take it for the most part. If you’re growing plants that are reliably hardy for your area (see the Zone map) and your weather conditions aren’t too far from normal, you shouldn’t need to do anything special to protect them.

If you have special evergreens, though, some gardeners like to give them an extra layer of safety by wrapping them in burlap. This can help in a couple of ways: First, it gives the evergreen leaves or needles some shield from fierce winter winds. They lose less moisture and stand up better to winter. The second wrapping evergreen plants can help is that it protects them from the sun. On warm, sunny days the leaves may start to thaw — and if the temperature suddenly drops at night, they freeze again and can be damaged. Wrapping helps keep them cool all winter long.

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