zinnia

Denny Schrock

Some of my favorite plants

Asking a hortiholic to list his or her favorite plant is like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. It’s impossible to choose just one! So when I was asked to select top picks of recent plant introductions that I have grown, I came up with a “short list” of 25. You can see them all here on the bhg.com gardening website. To pique your interest, see the garden combinations below which contain some of my favorites from the 2011 garden season.

What were your favorite plants this last year?

Zahara Double Fire zinnia, Henna coleus, and Mahogany Splendor hibiscus are attention grabbers!

Senorita Rosalita cleome makes a stunning backdrop to Vista Fuchsia petunia.


Denny Schrock

tangerine tango is a hot color

You may have heard by now that the Pantone fashion color report has designated Tangerine Tango as the must-have color for 2012. This reddish orange tone is not for the timid! The vibrant hue makes a bold fashion statement, whether you use it in home decor or in the landscape. It’s a festive color that infuses a happy mood. But it can be difficult to use in combination with other colors. Try it with blues and purples, which are complementary colors. Or go with reds and yellows, which cluster with orange on the color wheel.

If you’d like to inject some fashionable color in your yard in 2012, here are some suggestions for flowers that provide a punch of orange.

Row 1 (left to right): 'Sunset' daylily, 'Nonstop Apricot' tuberous begonia, Oriental poppy; Row 2: 'Safari Tangerine' French marigold, 'Sunny Susy Orange' thunbergia, 'Sunpatiens Compact Orange' impatiens; Row 3: 'Vavoom' rose, 'Warm Igloo' chrysanthemum, 'Zahara Double Fire' zinnia

Row 1 (left to right): Butterfly milkweed, 'Dreamsicle' calibrachoa, California poppy; Row 2: Clivia, 'Campfire' crassula, 'Mystic Haze' dahlia; Row 3: Crown imperial fritillaria, 'Intrigue' canna, 'Landmark Citrus' lantana


Denny Schrock

frost on the zinnia

The official low temperature this morning was 41 degrees F in Des Moines, but the frost on the narrowleaf zinnias, at left, prooves that it was colder in my yard. My home is in a frost pocket, despite its location at the top of a hill. Every time the weather forecast calls for “scattered frost”, it’s a sure bet that ice crystals will develop on exposed plants.

Last night I prepared for the cold by moving container gardens under the deck canopy, onto the front porch, or into the garage. I also pulled out the floating row covers to protect tomatoes, peppers, and some of the more cold-sensitive bedding plants, such as coleus. But Christo-draping the yard with fabric can only go so far. Inevitably, some annuals remain unprotected.

Floating row cover protects the coleus planting by the mailbox.

I may have salvaged some of the uncovered flowers by watering them early this morning before sunrise. After melting the ice out of the hose, I sprayed water on the icy plants to melt the frost. If the ice crystals were only on the surface of the blooms, this may be enough to rescue the frosty flowers. I hope so. I’d like to get another month of color from them. Mid-September is simply too early to call it quits on the gardening season, don’t you agree?

Tomatoes in cages and pepper plants covered for frost protection

Binder clips attached to the tomato cages work pretty well to hold floating row cover in place when it doesn't reach all the way to the ground. Otherwise, I use bricks or rocks to secure the row cover.


Everyday Gardeners

color on display

Last week I visited the Gardens at Ball in West Chicago, IL, and spent the day photographing hundreds of gorgeous annual flowers, perennials, and shrubs. The gardens are open to the public, and definitely worth a visit to get ideas on how to combine plants for beautiful displays and to see side-by-side comparisons of flower varieties.

Cocktail Mix begonia in a background of Alternanthera spells out the Ball logo in this vertical garden display.

Cocktail Mix begonia in a background of Alternanthera spells out the Ball logo in this vertical garden display.

Although the gardens are large, they're arranged into "rooms" that mimic the scale of home landscapes. See below for a close up of this combo.

Although the gardens are large, they're arranged into "rooms" that mimic the scale of home landscapes. See below for a close up of this combo.

Zahara Double Fire zinnia, Henna coleus, Mahogany Splendor hibiscus, and Silky Scarlet Asclepias combine beautifully in this hot border.

Zahara Double Fire zinnia, Henna coleus, Mahogany Splendor hibiscus, and Silky Scarlet Asclepias combine beautifully in this hot border.

This pillar of Wave Purple Improved petunia and Wave Misty Lilac petunia brightens the patio outside the employee cafeteria.

This pillar of Wave Purple Improved petunia and Wave Misty Lilac petunia brightens the patio outside the employee cafeteria.

Here's a close up showing how the petunia tower was constructed. Basically, it's a ring of galvanized fencing lined with landscape fabric, then filled with potting soil. The petunias were planted through slits in the landscape fabric. This looks like a pretty easy do-it-yourself project!

Here's a close up showing how the petunia tower was constructed. Basically, it's a ring of galvanized fencing lined with landscape fabric, then filled with potting soil. The petunias were planted through slits in the landscape fabric. This looks like a pretty easy do-it-yourself project!

Here's an idea for taming a slope. Large culverts were filled with soil and planted with Madeira colocasia, Marguerite and Sweet Caroline Light Green sweet potato vine, Silky Gold asclepias, and Snow Princess lobularia.

Here's an idea for taming a slope. Large culverts were filled with soil and planted with Madeira colocasia, Marguerite and Sweet Caroline Light Green sweet potato vine, Silky Gold asclepias, and Snow Princess lobularia.


Jane McKeon

summer’s humming right along

Summer ends in a whir of wings in my yard. While some gardens are winding down for the season, mine is revving up with late-season flowers that cater to the sweet appetites of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. Perennials such as hyssop (Agastache), butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii), and cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), join the 24/7 dessert buffet provided by long-blooming annuals, including begonia, lantana, cardinal climber, Pentas, petunia, salvia, and zinnia.

Where have these thumb-size iridescent cuties been all summer? No doubt they’ve been noshing on native blooms and bugs in fields near my home. Just this week, though, I spotted a female hummer hovering in front of my kitchen window as if to say, “Hey, you! Didn’t you have a feeder hanging in this very spot last year?” It’s true: Hummingbirds have amazing memories. They return to the same nectar-rich gardens each year.

August and September bloomers are especially important to the Ruby-Throated (the only hummingbird species that resides east of the Rockies) because they fuel a marathon migration to Mexico and Central America that begins a few weeks from now. The males leave first, followed by the females and offspring. Hummers double their weight for the 2,000-mile trip, taking time to top their tanks in gardens that also serve sugar water, the avian equivalent of an energy drink.

After spotting my first dazzling diner, I wasted no time filling my collection of hummingbird feeders and hanging them within view of every room of my house. One of my favorites is a window-mounted model available at Wild Birds Unlimited. It adheres to glass with suction cups, awarding closeup views. You can purchase packaged instant nectar, but I prefer mixing up small homemade batches made from 4 parts water (boiled, then cooled) to 1 part sugar. Contrary to popular belief, the solution need not be tinted with red food coloring. I clean feeders every few days and refill with fresh sugar water.

By Labor Day, most Rubies will be gone. In the meantime, I’m going to relish these final days of summer, the sweetest season of all.