November 2010

Model trains travel to Garfield Park’s Conservatory Crossing

November 26, 2010 10:00 AMtoDecember 31, 2010 5:00 PM

Christmas 2010 at Garfield Park Conservatory in Indianapolis. Photo courtesy Emily Wood/Garfield Park

Christmas 2010 at Garfield Park Conservatory in Indianapolis. Photo courtesy Emily Wood/Garfield Park

<p>Garfield Park Conservatory, December 2010. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

Garfield Park Conservatory, December 2010. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Joe Konz, an editor at the Indianapolis Star, writer and photographer, spends a lot of time in Garfield Park. Here are photos of his  recent trip with his photo group.

The exhibit of trains, poinsettias and thousands of twinkle lights continues through Dec. 31.

Garfield Park Conservatory at night. Photo courtesy Emily Wood/Garfield Park

Garfield Park Conservatory at night. Photo courtesy Emily Wood/Garfield Park

What: Garfield Park Conservatory Crossing, a holiday display of model trains, villages, thousands of LED twinkle lights and poinsettias.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Dec. 31, 2010. Extended hours Dec. 18 through 23, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Dec. 24 and 25.

Where: 2505 Conservatory Drive, Indianapolis. Here’s a map.

Admission: $2 for adults; $1 for seniors and youth; $5 for the family.

Shrubs rival trees in fall color in the Indiana garden

<p>Fall color on burkwood viburnum (V. burkwoodii). (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

Fall color on burkwood viburnum (V. burkwoodii). (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Trees get all of the glory when it comes to fall color. We drive miles to immerse ourselves in the eye-popping reds, yellows, purples and bronzes of Indiana forests and state parks.

For spectacular autumn hues in the home landscape, shrubs provide an eye-level view.

At the top of the list are members of the Viburnum family, most of which have glorious red, orange or yellow fall color. Viburnums, many of which are native, are low-maintenance four-season plants. Most bloom in spring or early summer, some with fragrant flowers. And, they produce berries, which persist well into winter.

Native dogwood shrubs, too, are known for their leaf color or for their bright yellow or red stems in fall and winter. Since the best stem color next year will be on new growth, cut the yellow or red-stem varieties (Cornus sericea, C. stolonifera) for nature-inspired holiday arrangements indoors or out.

Witch alder (Fothergilla), another Eastern United States native, turns red in fall. The same with sweetspire (Itea virginica), which holds its leaves well into December. Each of these easy-care shrubs sports fragrant white blooms in spring. The native ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) has slightly fragrant, pinkish white flowers in late spring and deep, deep red foliage in fall.

All hydrangeas are known for their showy dried flower heads in winter, but a couple of species also develop good fall color. The leaves of Hydrangea paniculata, an Asian species sometimes called peegee, turn bronzy red. Its flowers also take on pink hues as they age. The native oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia) is an absolute standout for its fall color with deep wine-colored leaves.

Location of Greg Speichert’s memorial service changed

<p>Greg Speichert plants tomatoes and other vegetable seedlings at Hilltop Garden and Nature Center. Photo courtesy Indiana University.</p>

Greg Speichert plants tomatoes and other vegetable seedlings at Hilltop Gardens and Nature Center. Photo courtesy Indiana University.

UPDATED Nov. 25, 2010 for change in memorial service location, correction of date of death, addition of surivivors.

Location of the service, 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, has been changed to Cedar Hall Auditorium, Union Street Center, 445 N. Union St., Bloomington., Ind.

UPDATE Nov. 17, 2010 to add memorial service details.

Memorial services for Greg Speichert will be at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010 at Hilltop Gardens, 2367 East 10th St., Bloomington, Ind. 
Here are directions.


Original post Nov. 13, 2010

Greg Speichert, one of Indiana’s best known plantsmen, died Nov. 4, 2010  near Philadelphia.

Known throughout the world as water garden plant specialist, the 48-year-old Speichert was director of Hilltop Gardens and Nature Center on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington.

Speichert, who had a degree in horticulture from Purdue University, introduced more than 400 varieties of hardy and tropical water plants and several variegated plants to the gardening industry. At one time, he maintained the largest collection of hardy water lilies in the United States, with more than 300 cultivars represented.

Speichert died while attending the Independent Plant Breeders Conference at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa. Saying he did not feel well, he left the conference for his hotel, where he died a short while later.

He and his wife, Sue Speichert, co-authored the Encyclopedia of Water Garden Plants, published by Timber Press in 2004 and recipient of the 2004 American Horticultural Society Book Award. Their Timber Press Pocket Guide to Water Garden Plants was published in 2008.

Until moving to Bloomington three years ago, they owned and operated Crystal Palace Perennials in St. John Ind., which specialized in developing water garden plants for the wholesale trade. A founder of the American Water Garden Society and Water Gardening Magazine, he served as a director of the International Water Lilly and Gardening Society from 1997 to 2001

“Water gardening is for the gardening impaired. You cannot fail,” he used to say. He was a member of Garden Writers Association, Perennial Plant Association and many other professional organizations. He served on GWA’s local organizing committee for the Indianapolis 2011 symposium.

When he and I spoke last summer, Speichert was extremely enthusiastic about his job at Hilltop, a five-acre site known for its horticulture education programs for children and adults. He was passionate about the opportunities provided and had begun to develop plans to expand the center’s reach and reputation.

Known for his terrific smile, his willingness to share his knowledge of plants, and as an all-‘round nice guy, we will miss his spirit and joy.

Survivors include his wife, Susan, his sister Michelle Sanders, his niece Ariel and nephew Aaron Sanders, his father Carl and Carl’s wife Florence, his brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Ray and Denise Morehouse, their children, Cheryl Casselman, Bret Morehouse and Kimberly Morehouse, as well as numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. He is preceded in death by his mother, Dolores Speichert.

Solan Pruzin Funeral Home and Crematory of Schererville, Ind., is handling the arrangements , but no details are available at this time. Donations may be made to the Indiana University Foundation for the benefit of Hilltop Gardens, to either the Hilltop General Operating Fund or the Hilltop 21stCentury Endowment Fund.

Also, condolences can be posted online at

Succulents new trend in Midwest gardening

Red, green and blue sedums surround silvery echeverias in a summer centerpiece on an outdoor dining table at a downtown Indianapolis residence.  © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Red, green and blue sedums surround pink tinged, silvery echeverias in a summer centerpiece on an outdoor dining table at a downtown Indianapolis residence. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Shallow containers planted with succulents have become popular accessories for heat drenched decks and patios.

At center stage are echeverias, thick-leaved, tender plants that embody texture and horticulture architecture.

When combined with other succulents, such as the needle like or rounded leaves of sedum, the plants look like gems in a pot.

That’s the idea in The Jewel Box Garden by Thomas Hobbs (2006, Timber Press), a well-known Vancouver, B.C., garden designer. Timber also published Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin of California earlier this year.

Echeverias are not winter hardy in Indiana. Unlike the West coast, Hoosiers also have to contend with winter’s freezing and thawing, which breaks ceramic, terra cotta and lightweight plastic pots left outdoors.

Here are some tips:

  • Succulents need four or more hours of direct sun a day. Many garden centers carry the tender succulents and hardy sedums. They also are available through online and mail order retailers.
  • Select a saucer, shallow bowl, urn or other container with drainage.
  • There are soil specially formulated mixes on the market for succulents, but any high quality potting mix will work.
  • Plant the succulents in a pattern that pleases you. Echeverias will take center stage because of their size, form and color. Many sedums trail over the edges of containers or wend their way among companion plants. Other sedums are more upright.
  • Water when the soil feels dry to the first knuckle. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer, usually at a half rate, according to label directions.

In winter, some gardeners take cuttings of the tender plants to grow in a sunny, indoor window. Or they toss them at the end of the season. Some of the sedums in these planters are winter hardy and can be transplanted to the ground in fall and replanted in the succulent container next summer.

Juncoes harken winter

Juncos announce winter's arrival. (C)

Juncoes announce winter's arrival. (C)

Today when I walked out to put seed in the feeders, two juncoes (Junco hyemalis) flew from the lilac bush.

This was my first sighting this season of these lovely studies of charcoal, black and white. Their arrival from northern climes means that winter is not far behind. Juncoes are one of the true snowbirds, birds from Canada that winter in Indiana.

In winter, they eat seed, preferably from the ground, although they do visit niger and safflower feeders. They also take advantage of bird baths. I keep one bird bath going all winter with a little heater in the water.

Juncoes have white bellies and their tails flash white when they fly. They are a tiny bird, weighing 1/2- to 1 ounce, about 5- to 6-inches long. There is considerable regional variation in their black, gray and charcoal coloring. They are beautiful.

Originally posted here Nov. 10, 2009.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day November 2010

<p>Sike's Dwarf oakleaf hydrangea. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

Sikes Dwarf oakleaf hydrangea. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

We’re in the season of transition, where color in the garden moves from the flowers to the foliage.

Most of the color in my garden this time of year comes from shrubs, including four types of Viburnum. Right now the V. burkwoodii and V. juddii are in full color. V. dentatum Chicago Lustre and Autumn Jazz have colored up, too. Chicago Lustre has some wine-red leaves, but many are fried because of the dry summer. Autumn Jazz has a golden color. ‘Compacta’ V. trilobum also suffered from the drought and has fewer berries and limited fall color, but many dried branches.

I’m going to wait until spring to see how the drought-damaged shrubs look before doing anything drastic.

In the flowering category, Ready to Wear Paris, a Calibrachoa from Hort Couture is still blooming as are some snapdragons (Antirrhinum). The blue flowers of ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ aster (Symphotrichum oblongifolium) mingles nicely with the golden branches of Amsonia hubrichtii.

<p>Northstar blueberry. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

Northstar blueberry. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

I splurged and bought a blueberry (Vaccinium), lured by the fall color. The cultivar is North Star and I think I’m going to grow it in a large container. Isn’t it lovely?

Knock Out Red (Rosa) is still sporting blooms and has begun to develop hips, which although not as showy as many roses, still provide some winter interest.

<p>Summer Wine ninebark. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

Summer Wine ninebark. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Also in full color is Summer Wine ninebark (Physocarpus), which has purple foliage all summer and brilliant read leaves in fall. Oh, it blooms, too, in spring.

Sikes Dwarf (or Sykes Dwarf) oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia) is a must for any small garden. Large showy flowers in summer and glorious red leaves, tinged with gold in fall.

<p>Epimedium in its fall splendor. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

Epimedium in its fall splendor. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A favorite perennial is barrenwort (Epimedium), a woefully under used plant as a groundcover. Truly a four-season perennial with yellow flowers and red-tinged leaves in spring and green foliage in summer that turns deep burgundy red in fall and winter.

Thanks to May Dreams Gardens for the opportunity to report on our landscapes each month.

Angie’s List Magazine offers tips for winterizing the Midwestern garden

The Hoosier Gardener offers tips to winterize the Midwestern garden in the November 2010 issue of Angie’s List Magazine.

Internationally known Hoosier plantsman Greg Speichert dies in Philadelphia

UPDATED Nov. 25, 2010 to correct date of death.

UPDATED to add funeral home information.

Solan Pruzin Funeral Home and Crematory of Schererville, Ind., is handling the arrangements for Greg, but no details are available at this time.

Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the Indiana University Foundation for the benefit of Hilltop Gardens, to either the Hilltop General Operating Fund (38IU02050) or the Hilltop 21st Century Endowment Fund (37IU02052).

Also, condolences can be posted online at

Below posting made Nov. 6, 2010

I’m so sad to report that Greg Speichert, a well known plantsman and head of Hilltop Botanical Garden and Nature Center at Indiana University in Bloomington, passed away Nov. 4, 2010 in Philadelphia. Perhaps best known as a water garden plant specialist, Greg was a member of the local organizing committee for the Garden Writers Association’s annual symposium, driving from Bloomington for meetings and corresponding through e-mail.

Greg, 48, was so taken with his job as director of Hilltop. He had great plans to develop the asset into a botanical center and expand its reach and reputation. He’d been there three years and seemed totally  energized by the opportunities he found in Bloomington.

Below is from Tim Wood of Spring Meadow Nursery in Michigan.

I am sad to say that my dear friend Greg Speichert died Thursday night in Philadelphia while attending the Independent Plant Breeders Conference at Longwood gardens. I just got back from the breeders conference this evening and heard the news from Dan Heims on Facebook this evening. I am in shock right now, but I know that many of you knew Greg and would want to know the news. He was an intentionality known plant expert and had many friends around the world.

I can’t tell you when I first met Greg, but I can tell you it was a was a great day when I did. We talked for hours about all types of plants, plant breeding, gardening, and friends we had in common. We laughed and talked like old friends that had known each other for years. I knew that I had met someone very special. He was so genuine and honest. He was so much more than just a plantman – even though he was one of the most knowledgeable horticulturists I had ever met. He was full of joy. He loved plants. He loved learning about plants – so much so that it was an obsession. It was his life calling and he took it very seriously. It was who he was.

Let me tell you a little bit about Greg and his passion for plants:
In his youth, Greg became interested in daffodils so he joined the daffodil society. Utilizing plant society sales, friends, auctions, trades and mail order catalogs he acquired every species and  daffodil cultivar in existence. He grew them, documented them, photographed them, studied them and took notes on them. Once he learned everything possible about daffodils he stopped, quit the daffodil society and then joined the Iris Society and the began again, This is how he lived. He just continued to learn new plant groups until he know it all. Then move on to the next group. For example during his ornamental grass phase – he corresponded with all of the foremost experts and breeders of ornamental grasses in Germany and translated these first hand plant descriptions into English. He was a pioneer in ornamental grasses, water plants and perennials in general.

He is perhaps best known as a water gardening and water plant expert. He and his wife Sue owned and operated a nursery in that specialized water garden plants. Together they wrote the Encyclopedia of Water Garden Plants (Timber Press) and published a water gardening magazine. It is said that he introduced over 300 new hardy and tropical marginals and over 100 new native water plants to the water gardening industry.

I have never met anyone else like Greg and I doubt I ever will.

Beyond his crazy knowledge of plants, Greg was a gentle soul. Genuine, thoughtful, helpful and interested in other people. I remember him telling me about a plant hunting trip he made to China and the plants he had found there. He wanted so badly to share this experience with me that he later planned a trip to take me to China. Unfortunately due to health complications we never made the trip.

When I saw him this week at Longwood, he was the same enthusiastic, happy guy I had known and loved. He told me he was getting into Iris breeding. With a smile he told me all the old iris breeders gone. It was the perfect time pick up where they had left off. Unfortunately for us – he too is gone. So suddenly, so unexpectedly he is gone. While I am very sad to have to write this, I feel so blessed to have seen him again, one last time. To have seen his smile again. He was among friends, he was learning about plants, and he was happy.

Plant spring flowering and summer savory bulbs now

Plant tulips, daffodils, crocus and other bulbs soon to ensure spring blooms. Photo courtesy

Plant tulips, daffodils, crocus and other bulbs soon to ensure spring blooms. Photo courtesy

Over the last several weeks, several boxes of spring bulbs have arrived on Indiana gardeners’ doorsteps.

Tulips, daffodil, crocus, hyacinth, snowdrops and more are ready to be tucked into the soil as an act of hope for spring.

Bulbs need several weeks of cold weather to trigger their blooming mechanism. And they need four to six weeks to develop their root system before the ground freezes, so plant them in the next couple of weeks.

Digging may be more difficult for many of us this year because of the lack of rain. To ease the job, soak the planting area before digging.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Select a sunny spot. If your landscape is shady, plant early to mid-season blooming bulbs. Plant bulbs in clusters of three or more for the best show.
  • Plant bulbs two to three times deeper than they are tall. If the bulb is 2 inches tall, plant it 4 to 6 inches deep. Bulb is a general term for true bulbs, such as tulips, lilies and daffodils, and corm, which describes crocus. Plant bulbs pointy end up and corms with the flat side down.
  • Bulbs are fully packed with the food they need to bloom in spring. Fertilize them in spring as the leaf tips start to break ground.
  • Water the bulbs after planting, and mulch.

Garlic: a savory bulb

Now is also good time to plant another type of bulb, garlic. Purchase a bulb or cloves from a garden center, on-line retailer or mail order catalog. Don’t use garlic from a grocery because it has been treated with a growth retardant.

Plant each clove 2 to 3 inches deep in a sunny spot with well-drained, organically rich soil. Water and apply thick layer of mulch. Harvest garlic next summer when the tops turn yellow.

Native plants, wildlife key to ecosystem gardening

November 6, 2010
American goldfinches feed on the seeds of coneflowers throughout the year in Indiana.

American goldfinches feed on the seeds of coneflowers throughout the year in Indiana. (C)

Build it and they will come, says landscape designer Carole Brown.

But she’s not talking baseball. She’s talking bugs, birds and other wildlife.

“When we choose to do something to help wildlife, the impact can be almost immediate,” said Brown of Philadelphia, who has been designing, installing and maintaining wildlife gardens for 20 years.

Brown is one of the keynote speakers at the Indiana Native Plant and Wildlife Society’s annual conference Nov. 6 at the University of Indianapolis. This year’s theme: Conserving Biodiversity with Native Plants.

When we hear about saving whales, rainforests and polar bears, we frequently feel inadequate to make a real difference, she said.

Gardeners who incorporate native plants in the landscape are at the forefront of making a difference, she said. “It’s not as overwhelming as trying to save something as huge as the rainforest. It has immediate, positive results, and we are contributing. That’s a good feeling.”

The lack of plant diversity — a landscape of yews and lawn, for instance — contributes to the decline of native wildlife. “With our zeal for constant development, we have simply left no place for wildlife to go,” Brown said in an interview. Her book, Ecosystem Gardening is due to be released later this fall.

Simply stated, the more native plants we have in our gardens, the more wildlife we will have. “So, to that end, one native plant is good. Three of that same plant is better,” she said.

For Brown, every plant selected for landscapes is planted with the needs of wildlife as a top priority. “I am fully aware that many gardeners are not yet ready to make that commitment, but I’ve been saying for years, that if everyone of us did just one positive thing for wildlife in our gardens, the cumulative effect would be enormous.”