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Everyday Gardeners

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native plants

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.

 


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.


Bodacious Baptisia

Looking for a big-impact, low-care perennial for your landscape? Try baptisia!

Also called false indigo, baptisia is North American native plant that bursts into bloom in late spring/early summer — usually about the same time as the peonies, Siberian iris, and ‘Globemaster’ alliums.

Here are some things to love about baptisia:

  • Deer and rabbits leave it alone (at least that’s always been my experience).
  • The lovely blue-green foliage looks great from spring to fall.
  • It tolerates heat and drought like a champion.
  • The seedpods, which start chartreuse and eventually turn charcoal-black, are fun decorations!
  • It comes in a range of colors (from dark purple Twilite Prairieblues to silvery Starlight Prairieblues to golden ‘Carolina Moonlight’).
  • It’s not too fast growing (so you don’t need to worry about it taking over your garden like you do some native prairie plants).

If you try baptisia out, be sure to give it plenty of room. The plant usually looks really small and scrawny in pots at the garden center, but within three or four years, they can mature into stunning 4-foot-wide mounds.


Remember Bees when Ordering Plants & Seeds

beeAs you’re putting together your mail-order plant wish list, think about species that sustain bees. I know what you’re thinking: “Bees might ruin my picnic!” Here’s my reply to that: “Cover your beer, and plant flowers that sustain bees anyhow.”

I just got a press release from the organizers of National Pollinator Week reminding us that one out of every three bites of food humans consume is dependant on bees and other animals for reproduction. Now you can see why it’s so important to protect these critters (even if they do sneak into our open cans of PBR when we’re not looking).

Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious situation that has caused a drastic decline in honeybees, still continues to stump researchers. And honeybees are not the only pollinators in peril; bumble bee species in the East and the West also are vanishing from their customary habitats, according to the sponsor of National Pollinator Week, June 21-27.

By planting for pollinators we can rebuild their habitat and make a positive impact on the survival rates for honeybees and other pollinators. Pollinators obtain vital nectar, pollen, and nesting resources from key plant species—especially natives—which can be incorporated easily into nearly all landscapes. Click here to find good native plants for your region.

101046572National Pollinator Week is a project of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (www.nappc.org), which is managed by the Pollinator Partnership. To learn more, click here.


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