March 2012

Trial gardens reveal best early blooming perennials

Native columbine blends with Caesar's Brotther Siberian iris, May Night Salvia and KnockOut Rose. Summer blooming lilies tower. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

If there’s anything that consumers want in their perennials, it’s low maintenance, says Pam Bennett, who runs the trial gardens for Ohio State University Extension.

She evaluates annual and perennial plants at the Gateway Learning Gardens, a five-acre plot in Springfield, Ohio, that is open to the public. The Master Gardener coordinator for Ohio, Bennett spoke recently about Top Performing, Low Maintenance Perennials for Midwest Gardens at a program of the Indianapolis Museum of Art Horticultural Society.

In the trial garden, plants are evaluated for their flower power, disease and insect resistance, maintenance demands and drought and rain tolerance. Here are three seasonal favorites from her list. Each of these is a good companion for spring bulbs, too.

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is the North America native species. Red-yellow bell-shaped flowers dangle about a foot above a nice mound of scalloped green leaves. It does best in full sun to part shade in moist, but well-drained soil. It blooms from mid-spring to early summer. This plant self-sows a bit, but is not invasive. It also does not seem to get leaf miners, a common insect on many other columbine, she said.

Pasque flower. Photo courtesy University of Illinois

Pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) has reddish-purple blooms in April and May in full sun to part shade. When blooming, it is about 12 inches tall. Plant in well-drained moist soil in the front of the border. The cuplike flowers age into silky seed heads, which are beautiful in their own right, she said.

Iron Butterfly Tiarella. Photo courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries.

Foam flower (Tiarella) is an under used native ground cover. One type spreads by rhizomes (T. cordifolia) and the other is a clump grower (T. wherryi). They do best in part shade to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. It will go dormant if it gets too hot and dry. The slightly fragrant flowers are white or pink and many varieties have spectacular foliage. ‘Iron Butterfly’ made the best list.

Hoosier Gardener is keynote speaker at Indiana Garden School

March 24, 2012

Who: Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp will be the keynote speaker at the Indiana Garden School, Saturday, March 24, 2012, in Anderson, Ind. The keynote addresses 2012 The Year of the Herb by discussing them as ornamental as well as culinary plants. In two other sessions, she will speak about the best plants for the Indiana landscape, based on her the best-selling garden book, The Indiana Gardener’s Guide.

What: Indiana Garden School I, sponsored by the Madison County Master Gardener Association.

When: 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, March 24, 2012.

Where: Madison Park Church of God, 6607 Providence Drive, Anderson. That’s  just south off of the I-69 and SR 109 Exit (26), then 1 mile west of Menards). This is an excellent facility with plenty of room for our breakout sessions and is very accessible.

Why: Other topics include Vegetables — Produce Your Own? and the ABCs of Small Fruit with Jim Barbour; Cooking from the Garden with Karen Lackey; The Latest on Pesticides and Plant for Pollination with Roy Ballard; Let’s Plant Some Heirloom Tomato Seeds with Brad Willoughby; Wildflowers with Kevin Tungesvick; Wildlife Rehabilitation with Kathy Hershey; and Monarch Butterflies with Ann Richardson.

Registration: $30 per person, $40 for a family, lunch included. Deadline is March 16, 2012. Visit the Madison County Master Gardener Association Website or contact Steve Doty,


Hoosier Gardener offers programs at Sullivan Hardware & Garden

March 24, 2012
4:00 PMto5:00 PM
March 25, 2012
1:00 PMto2:00 PM
3:00 PMto4:00 PM

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp will teach classes March 24 and 25, 2012 at Sullivan Hardware & Garden at 71st and Keystone store. Here’s the schedule:

4 p.m. Saturday, March 24, Mix It Up — Tips for planting perennials and small shrubs along with annuals in pots for multiple seasons of color.

1 p.m. Sunday, March 25, Mix it Up — Tips for planting perennials and small shrubs along with annuals in pots for multiple seasons of color.

3 p.m. Sunday, March 25, No-Fail Plants for the Indiana Garden —  Annuals, perennials and shrubs that give turn your thumb green.

Attendance is free, but reservations are requested: (317) 255-9230.

IMA horticulture staff presents Art of Gardening

March 24, 2012

Who: Indianapolis Museum of Art Horticulturists.

What: Art of Gardening. Topics: Good Company — plant pairings; Guide to Garden and Landscape Renovation; With or Without a Drought; Home and Garden — cut flower garden; Drop Dead Gorgeous, An Optimist’s view of Perennials Post Bloom; Basic Pruning.

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 24, 2012.

Where: DeBoest Lecture Hall at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 4000 N. Michigan Road.

Why: Geared for both the beginners and the experienced gardeners, six, one-hour classes will cover a variety of topics.  Get the low-down on the plants and techniques that will be useful in your garden for 2012.

Admission: Half day, 9 a.m. to noon or noon to 4 p.m., $30 public, $25 IMA members. Full day, $50 public, $40 IMA members. Registration deadline is Friday, March 16, 2012.