Jane Miller

irrepressible blooms

I don’t know about you, but my patience has been tested this spring. Just when I thought winter had finally lost its grip, a freak snowstorm hit Iowa last week, leaving several inches of heavy, wet, white stuff in its wake. But we Midwesterners are resilient. And so too, it appears, are many of the blooms that were caught naked in the arctic blast. The fat lavender buds on my Jane magnolia, for example, were just beginning to open when temps plunged from 82 degrees one day to 32 the next. If the cold doesn’t finish them off, I figured, the wind and driving sleet will. Happily, I was proven wrong. My magnolia blooms are still intact and prettier than ever.

This isn’t the first year that early blooms have had their toughness tested. Spring’s mood swings happen so often that cool-season gardening has become, well, cool. We can resist planting tender geraniums and petunias until warm weather is here to stay if garden centers offer up a smorgasbord of irrepressible flowers. Here are several container recipes that I’ve tried that will flourish even if temperatures dip into the nippy range.

These pink pots set the tone for picking plants that show off the season’s hottest hues: soft shades of pink, purple, green, and gray. In the background pot: Helichrysum Icicles, English ivy, Osteospermum Soprano Light Purple, and Diascia Little Charmer. In the foreground pot: Diascia Little Charmer, Intensia Neon Pink phlox, Heucherella Stoplight, Armeria Rubrifolia, Osteospermum Soprano white, Snowstorm Giant Snowflake bacopa, Nemesia Compact Innocence, and Ajuga Catlin’s Giant.

The edible ingredients in this container salad garden are just too pretty to eat…for now, at least. Included in the mix: Pigeon Red kale, Esmeralda lettuce, chives, Ultima Baron Merlot pansy, and Sorbet violas.

This sky-blue planter brightens a gray day with these cheerful, chill-shrugging occupants: Sutera Blue Showers, Snowstorm Giant Snowflake bacopa, Bracteantha Sundaze Golden Beauty, Osteospermum Orange Symphony, Nemesia Compact Innocence, Trinitaria pansy, and Fire and Ice hosta.


Justin W. Hancock

Planting Pansies

Though we’re still a couple of months away from planting time here in Iowa, I was thinking about pansies yesterday. Their cheery blooms in jewel-like colors never fail to make me smile. Pansies make me especially happy in spring, when those I planted the previous fall overwinter and burst into bloom alongside the bulbs. Most years, overwintered pansies are some of the first flowers to show up in my yard.

Even though I prefer to plant them in autumn so I can get a fall, then spring show out of them, I usually can’t resist planting some in the spring, too. The frost-tolerant plants are a great way to add early color while my perennials are still waking up. And, of course, they’re perfect for early-season planters to add a dash of color next to the front door or in a window box.

New varieties are even more versatile. Cool Wave and Wonderfall pansy varieties both have a trailing habit, making them ideal for hanging baskets or spilling over the edge of a big terra-cotta pot.

How about you? Do you usually plant pansies in the spring, fall, or both? What’s your favorite color in pansy?

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Katie Ketelsen

Thursday Finds in the Test Garden

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.




Doug Jimerson

Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

blog1Last week, for the third time in a row, I had the opportunity to judge the trial gardens at Costa Farms, near Homestead, Florida. At first blush, it seems an easy thing to do—just wander through bed after bed of beautiful flowers on a sunny Florida morning. But, in reality, it’s hard work, evaluating each plant on four important criteria: growth uniformity, foliage appeal, flower power/size, and consumer appeal. Fellow judges included Heather Will-Browne from Disney and Dr. Alan Armitage from the University of Georgia. Here are a few of my favorite picks (left to right, top to bottom) that you should watch for in your garden, this year or next.


Eric Liskey

Shooting for Spring in the Fall

Frost is fast approaching, and with it, the end of the garden photography season. We have a pansy/viola story planned for BHG next spring, and there were a few new shots we needed to complete our story plan. Heavy clouds, 50F and 20 mph winds made it a chilly challenge, but we got it done. When you’re working with such happy little flower faces, it is certainly easier! We used old and new varieties from companies like Ball, Benary, and Goldsmith.

Art director Scott and Photographer Pete setting up a shot on the side of a container. Looks silly from here, but then take a look at the final shot!

Art director Scott Johnson and photographer Pete Krumhardt set up a shot on the side of a container of elephant ears. Looks silly from here, but then take a look at the final shot!

This is my version of how the final shot could look. You'll have to check out the March 2010 issue of BHG to see what version made it.

This is my version of how the final shot could look. We did a few others with different pansies on other surfaces. You'll have to check out the March 2010 issue of BHG to see what version made it into the issue.