Popular with pollinators, Phlox is a wide-ranging North American native perennial and a common fixture in woodland, prairie, and meadow landscapes from Florida and Quebec to Alaska. Phlox is a genus with a multitude of species, heights, bloom times, and garden applications. A tubular flower with five petals is common with colors between white, pink, magenta, purple, and blue across the genus, as well as some species showing notable orange or red coloration. Through all of the diversity, Phlox can be loosely grouped into two types: spring bloomers and summer bloomers.
Spring Bloomers Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox, Moss Pinks) and other early-spring blooming species are low-growing, ground-hugging plants. Typically native to rocky, well-drained environments, when put in a garden without restriction, they become carpets of color, tending to spread as ground covers.
Summer Bloomers Most first think of Tall Garden Phlox, a clump-forming perennial that blooms in midsummer and is among the tallest of this species with perfectly formed large, rounded flower panicles that top each stem. Newer summer-blooming varieties tend to bloom a bit earlier, rebloom after the first flowers when trimmed back, have a more mounded shape and a stoloniferous habit.
Credit to https://ngb.org/year-of-the-phlox/
Contributed by: Vicki Gee-Treft
Photos courtesy of MelindaMyers.com
Guest Blog by Melinda Myers
With everyone spending more time at home it is not surprising that individuals want to create peaceful oases to relax, meditate or entertain. They are using a combination of plants, decorative fences and screens or container plantings to provide the desired privacy.
Arborvitaes have traditionally been used to create a wall of year-round greenery. What often happens is one or two plants die in the middle of the planting once they reach a substantial size. The fix is to leave the space empty, plant a much smaller plant that looks out of place or try squeezing in a larger transplant and risk damaging its neighbors.
Help them avoid this problem by including a variety of unrelated plants. If a pest attacks, it is less likely to kill all the plants. And it will be easier to add new replacement plants to the mature planting. Plus, with a mix of plants you can add seasonal flowers, fall color, texture, and more diverse beauty.
Narrow upright plants provide screening with a relatively small footprint. Trautman juniper is suited to hot dry locations and grows 12’ tall by 4’ wide. It is resistant to cedar apple rust and deer.
Year-round greenery is welcome but help boost the beauty and enjoyment of your landscape with plants that support pollinators, attract birds, and provide several seasons of beauty.
The four-season Obelisk serviceberry grows 12-15’ tall and 3-4’ wide. Its white spring flowers are followed by purple fruit in June that you and the birds can eat. It ends the season in a blaze of color and once the leaves drop exposes smooth gray bark.
A close relative, the chokeberries (Aronia) are also known for their multiple seasons of beauty. Lowscape Hedger® is upright three to five feet tall and just two to three feet wide. Like the others, it has white flowers in spring and great fall color. This adaptable plant grows in sun or part shade and tolerates wet or dry soil.
Laced UP® elderberry has the foliage of black lace but is upright and narrow, growing six to eight feet tall and three to four feet wide. Its lacy purplish-black foliage makes a nice backdrop for the pink summer flowers, adding to its ornamental appeal.
The narrow columnar apples make a good option for those interested in growing edible plants. Urban®, North Pole™ and Golden Sentinel™ apples are a few narrow upright varieties to consider. Plant two different varieties for fruit to form.
A vine-covered trellis is an excellent screening option for narrow spaces. Consider growing two different vines like climbing roses or Major Wheeler honeysuckle with clematis to double the floral impact or extend the bloom time. Use an annual vine like hyacinth bean, Malabar spinach, scarlet runner bean or Solar Tower sweet potato vine the first year or two. They’ll provide quick cover while the perennials become established and cover the trellis.
Dress up fences with plants. Shrubs, ornamental grasses, flowering perennials can soften the structure and add texture and color. Include pots of tropical plants to create a tropical paradise and annuals for added color.
Espalier fruit and ornamental trees are a great way to add the fruiting or beauty of larger trees into a smaller space. These are options only for those willing and able to regularly prune to maintain the desired size and shape.
Green wall planters mounted on the fence can add edibility or color at eye level. These typically have a very small volume of planting mix and require frequent watering. Irrigation systems that provide water from top to bottom greatly reduce maintenance and increase success.
Make sure the plants selected thrive in the growing conditions and will fit the available space when mature. Less grooming, pest management and care will be needed to grow them into healthy and attractive specimens.
Before placing any plant or structure in the ground, call 811 or file online at diggershotline.com at least three business days in advance. Diggers Hotline will contact all the appropriate companies who will mark the location of their underground utilities in the designated work area. This eliminates the danger and inconvenience of accidentally knocking out power, cable or other utilities while creating a beautiful landscape.
Please remind others to do the same. Since this important step is often overlooked, April has been designated as National Safe Digging Month. It serves as a reminder to always contact Diggers Hotline whenever undertaking any landscape project, large or small.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including The Midwest Gardener’s Handbook and Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Her web site is www.MelindaMyers.com.
Enjoy the fragrance and beauty that lilacs bring in spring. Today with about 30 different species, varieties have been developed for heat tolerance, reblooming flowers, compact size and even growing happily in a container on a balcony.
Clusters of small, four-lobed flowers are developed into cone-shaped to narrow pyramid clusters (panicles, i.e., branched inflorescence) that stand out from the green heart-shaped leaves. These flowers can be single or double in every imaginable shade of lilac and purple to hues of red, pink, blue, yellow, cream and white—even picotee (white-edged, deep purple ‘Sensation’). Its color may also change from bud to bloom as the flower matures.
Lilacs grow best in full sun, with good drainage and fertile, slightly alkaline soil. Begin with testing soil drainage by digging a hole 8 inches across and 12 inches deep and filling it with water. If any water remains in the hole after an hour, choose another planting area. After following the planting directions on the tree’s label, water lilacs regularly for the first couple of years—at least 1” of water a week.
Ongoing maintenance: Cut off spent flower-heads within a month after bloom to help set more flowers for next year. Cut off root suckers to keep the common lilac from spreading into a colony. Prune out any dead or broken branches from storm or winter damage. Pruning annually is not necessary, but to rejuvenate an overgrown plant or one that blooms sparsely, cut 1/3 of the oldest branches back to 12-15” from the ground. Do this over a 3-year period to refresh the plant without sacrificing blooms.
Powdery mildew can be unsightly but generally does not harm the plant. You can make a spray of 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a gallon of water with a couple of drops of Ivory liquid. Spray it on the leaves, but not if the temperature is over 80°. The alkalinity of the solution helps to kill the fungus.
Early Spring maintenance: Apply granular organic fertilizer at the base of the plant and water it in well. Buds are set the previous year, so the fertilizer feeds this year’s leaves and next year’s blooms.
Fall maintenance: If your soil is very acidic, add garden lime. Rake fallen leaves from around the plant, and if you had powdery mildew or any disease, bag leaves and toss in the garbage.
Did you know, the stems of the common lilac have a spongy pith that can be removed, leaving hollow tubes that were used to make pan-pipes? In 1753, Carl Linnaeus first described the lilac genus, Syringa, from the ancient Greek word syrinx, meaning pipe or tube.
Credit to https://ngb.org/year-of-the-lilac/
Contributed by: Vicki Gee-Treft, Master Gardener Volunteer
Guest Post by Melinda Myers
Spring is a favorite time in the garden. Everyday something new sprouts through the ground, blooms appear, and leaves begin filling empty branches. As you enjoy spring and summer unfolding, keep a lookout for unwelcome plants in gardens, waterways, and natural areas. The more people watching for and helping to manage invasive plants the better chance we have for controlling these invasive plants.
As active gardeners and influencers in the gardening world, we need your help not only monitoring and controlling invasive species but also informing others about this problem. The Wisconsin Invasive Species Calendar from the University of Wisconsin-Madison First Detector Network is a helpful tool alerting us to the appearance of various unwanted plants. Just click on the calendar to enlarge. This timely reminder can help us watch for, manage, and report invasive plants earlier in the season. Knowing when these plants emerge also narrows down the list of possible plants, helping with identification. Use this calendar, the links to Invasive Plant factsheets and videos on the right-hand column of the webpage and the invasive plant profiles on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website for more information on identification and control of aquatic and terrestrial invasive plants.
As you hike, bike, or visit parks, green spaces, and natural areas this year, report invasive plant infestations to the Wisconsin DNR. If you think you have found a prohibited species, even on your own property, it’s especially important to report it to help DNR understand the overall spread of the plants and they can sometimes help with managing it. Visit their web page for tips on documenting what you have found, reporting invasives, and the links to other resources. Provide photos and specific locations using GPS points, street addresses or road crossings.
Expand your efforts and be a part of the Citizen Science based Wisconsin First Detector program. You’ll find helpful information in the Wisconsin First Detector and Dane County Parks Handbook on Monitoring Invasive Plants in Wisconsin.
Here are a few of the top aquatic invasive plants to watch for and remove on your property. Please watch for and report infestations of these and other invasive species in your landscape and other spaces.
Lesser Celandine This plant’s bright yellow flowers in April and May are often mistaken for our native marsh marigold. The plant spreads rapidly, crowding out nearby native plants but the leaves die back mid-season, resulting in soil erosion.
Yellow Iris A beautiful, but invasive plant that easily spreads by seeds floating in water, rhizomes, and floating mats, infesting areas beyond the garden where they were planted. Watch for yellow flowers in May and June and strappy leaves throughout the growing season.
Yellow Floating Heart This plant has yellow waterlily-like flowers held above heart-shaped leaves in May through October. This water plant forms dense patches that exclude native species and creates stagnant areas with low oxygen levels.
Water Hyacinth Water hyacinth forms a dense mat of leaves over the water surface, making boating, fishing, and other water activities difficult. Its presence also degrades water quality. Watch for circular leaves to begin appearing in May and lavender blue flowers from June to September.
Purple Loosestrife This plant seemed to have a banner year in 2021. It invades wetlands, disrupting the habitat and crowding out native plants that birds, insects, and waterfowl depend upon for food and shelter. Many homeowners spraying for mosquitoes may be inadvertently killing the beetles that are being used to manage this plant. Watch for the spikes of purplish pink flowers that open from the bottom up in July through September.
Japanese Knotweed Look for the bamboo-like stems and plumes of creamy flowers that appear in September. It quickly spreads, creating an impenetrable thicket in gardens, natural spaces, and shorelines.
Water Lettuce As its name implies, this plant resembles lettuce. The leaves appear from June through October and can form a dense covering, degrading water quality and reducing habitat diversity.
These plants and other aquatic invasive plants are covered in the Top Invasive Plants to Avoid video. You’ll find recommendations on good plants to include and those to avoid in the “Top Plants for Rain Gardens, Water Gardens & Shoreline Plantings and Those to Avoid” webinar available on demand. To watch it, click here & enter passcode: &xe9hPU^ You can also download the webinar handout.
Thanks for helping us spread the word. Together we can make a difference!
Part of the iris family, a “glad” is often described as a flowering bulb, but the bulb is actually a “corm.” Each year the plant produces a new corm and discards the old one. In our zone 3 climate, the new corm is dug up in the fall, has its stem and leaves removed (all but an inch), then dried for 1-2 weeks in a warm place with good air circulation, and finally stored dry, indoors at about 50 degrees for planting next spring.
Gladiolus should be grown in full sun, whether in a cutting garden, perennial garden, vegetable garden, raised bed or container. Be creative, put glads front and center, pair them with cannas, colocascia (elephant ears), caladiums, or coleus. Explore planting a variety of types, heights and flower color, form and size.
The flowers generally begin opening 80-90 days after planting. To extend the bloom time, plant the first batch in spring after all danger of frost has passed, and plant additional corms every week or two until early summer.
Before planting, prepare well-drained soil to a depth of 6 to 10”, adding compost and an all-purpose granular fertilizer. Plant “grandiflora” glads 6 to 8” deep to help keep their stems upright and “dwarf” glads at 4 to 6” deep, spacing both types 4 to 6” apart. After planting, applying 2 to 3” of mulch helps retain moisture and control weeds.
Water regularly and deeply, at least an inch of water per week. When stressed by heat/drought, glads are susceptible to disease and thrips/spider mites that disfigure the flowers. Support glads from leaning or toppling from wind or rain by tying them to bamboo canes—or plant shorter, 2-foot glads.
High-quality, larger corms will give you taller stems with more flowers. For the longest vase life, harvest glads when the bottom two flowers are fully open. The rest will gradually unfurl in the vase. If you experience difficulty with integrating taller glads in a tabletop arrangement, shorten the stems and remove a couple of the lower flowers or cut some of the top. Snap off spent flowers and recut the stem as needed.
Credit to https://ngb.org/year-of-the-gladiolus/
Contributed by: Vicki Gee-Treft, Master Gardener Volunteer
Register now for Saturday's Garden & Landscape Expo Virtual Spring Kickoff!
Garden & Landscape Expo’s Virtual Spring Kickoff is just two days away! Be sure to register for the free event. Registration is quick and easy to do!
The virtual event will be held Saturday, April 9 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST. This online event will include interactive educational presentations with live Q&A, a 360-degree video tour of Green Bay Botanical Garden, a gallery of images from our annual garden photography competition, online kids’ activities and more! More details are available at wigardenexpo.com.
Register for Garden & Landscape Expo's Virtual Spring Kickoff.
Since the 1930s, Peperomia has been sold as houseplants, largely due to their lower-light needs, smaller size, and succulent tendency.
Grown for its amazing foliage, peperomia can range from bushy to trailing, upright or cascading, with a variety of colors (red, green, grey, cream or variegated) and leaf shapes (thick, plump, smooth, rippled or shiny). With this plant, one can create eye-catching arrangements for small home spaces.
photo credit: National Garden Bureau
The care of peperomias depends on the species or cultivar chosen. All of them are a bit succulent, so watch the watering routine closely, putting your finger in the soil to monitor the top 50% of the soil and not wanting it too wet. Liking tighter spaces, it can be planted in a snug pot with a fast-draining potting medium, adding perlite and/or orchid bark for best results. Also, clay pots work well as water escapes through the porous pot sides. Generally, plants with thick, fleshy leaf variegation will stay brighter in a higher light situation. (See website below for descriptions of popular varieties.)
Within the Piperaceae family that provides the pepper spice in our foods, Peperomia, however, is not for human or pet consumption.
Credit to https://ngb.org/year-of-the-peperomia/
Blog written by: Vicki Gee-Treft, Master Gardener Volunteer
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) Very versatile herb has many uses in cooking. Hardy perennial (zone 5), great for containers, rock walls, or garden. Thyme needs full sun in light sandy well drained soil, do not over-water or fertilize. Doesn't do well when competing with weeds. Flowers in summer, pollinated by bees.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Classic herb used in many meat and vegetable dishes. Very tender perennial grown as an annual in our region, I have tried to bring this plant in several years however is did not survive. It can be difficult to bring indoors. Great plant for containers or garden, full sun and well-drained soil, drought tolerant and will flop over if watered too much.
Giant of Italy Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)This variety produces a bushy plant and a continuous supply of flat leaves with strong parsley flavor. This plant is hardy for Zone 5 to 9. This is grown as an annual in our area. It can grow in pots or garden; in full sun and rich, well-drained soil, water adequately (especially if in container), host plant for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
Genovese Basil (Ocimun basilicum) A classic annual, large leaves are very aromatic. Very tender, needs to be covered when night time temps dip below 50. Annual ~ fragrant plant growing 18-24”. Plant outdoors after any danger of frost and soil temp is 70⁰, plant in full sun in light well-drained soil, great plant for containers or in the garden, when plant starts to flower pinch back to extend growing season.
Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) Tends to look like an onion but has the mild taste of garlic. Pick the flattened leaves for cooking. White star shaped flower clusters are a pleasant surprise in late August. Very hardy perennial ~ in zones 4-8, reseeds readily, plant in full sun to part shade in well-drained soil, keep moist, great plant for containers (can be slightly invasive), cut back in fall and bring container indoors, keep cool & dry until spring, then put in a window, water and watch for new growth.
Bouquet Dill (Anethum graveolens) A prolific producer of edible flowers, leaves and seeds, all which can be used for flavoring everything from pickles, potatoes, and fish. Hardy annual, readily self seeds, fragrant plant growing 6”, bolts in very hot dry weather so water adequately in droughts (early morning), drought tolerant, needs shade from sun, and can tolerate part shade. Preferred plant to swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
Contributed by: Jill Schmalz-Washkuhn, Master Gardener Volunteer
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