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January 2017
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Plants you probably should be growing

 

For late winter and early spring beauty, consider ‘Golden Glory’ cornelian cherry. Photo courtesy Monrovia.com

For late winter and early spring beauty, consider ‘Golden Glory’ cornelian cherry. Photo courtesy Monrovia.com

Gardeners always have favorite plants, including those they think are not used often enough. Last week, we looked over the shoulders of Indiana gardeners at their favorite new plants. This week, we asked them about plants they thought should be planted more. Here’s what they had to say.

Bob Hill in Southern Indiana praises cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), an Asian member of the dogwood family. The hardy tree provides bursts of yellow flowers in late winter or early spring, has beautiful exfoliating bark year-round, and thick crops of red fruits in late summer and fall. “The best Cornus mas cultivars include the heavy-blooming ‘Golden Glory’, ‘Redstone’ and ‘Spring Grove’. If your yard is small, ‘Pyramidalis’, makes a nice fit in tight places,” said Hill, owner of Hidden Hill Nursery & Sculpture Garden in Utica.

Fancy-leaf geraniums, such as ‘Glitterati Ice Queen’, are gaining in popularity for summer fare. Photo courtesy University of Georgia Trial Gardens

Fancy-leaf geraniums, such as ‘Glitterati Ice Queen’, are gaining in popularity for summer fare. Photo courtesy University of Georgia Trial Gardens

Fancy-leaf geraniums (Pelargonium), which are celebrating a resurgence in popularity, deserve a spot in a pot, said Jean Starr of Chesterton, who blogs at petaltalk-jean.com. “They have smaller flowers than what we think of when geranium is mentioned, but even when they’re not in bloom, their multi-colored leaves provide plenty of interest.” Among Starr’s favorites is ‘Glitterati Ice Queen’ from Hort Couture Plants, which can be mixed with other plants in a pot, grown in a hanging basket or window box.

A dwarf butterfly bush, such as ‘Glass Slippers’, works well in sunny spots in small yards. Photo courtesy PerennialResource.com

A dwarf butterfly bush, such as ‘Glass Slippers’, works well in sunny spots in small yards. Photo courtesy PerennialResource.com

Karen Kennedy, former president of Marion County Master Gardeners, says she’s become fond of the dwarf butterfly bushes (Buddleia), which in the 3-4 foot range, work well in her small garden. She especially likes Buzz Velvet, with vivid raspberry flowers, and ‘Glass Slippers’, the latter part of the Monarch series, with periwinkle blue flowers and silver foliage. “Both bloomed all the way to frost. A great edition to a sunny area of the garden,” she said.

Spring-planted Johnny jump-ups sometimes self-sow to reappear when temps cool in fall or the following spring. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/ngb.org

Spring-planted Johnny jump-ups sometimes self-sow to reappear when temps cool in fall or the following spring. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/ngb.org

“I think the most under-used plant is the little violas and pansies,” said Carol Michel of Indianapolis, who blogs at maydreamsgardens.com. Plant pansies and violas (Viola spp.) in early spring. “They will last until it gets hot, toward the end of May. They don’t mind an occasional frost, either,” she said. “The yellow-purple ones, generally referred to as Johnny jump-ups, are my favorites.”

The native copper iris offers an unusual color in the spring garden. © James Henderson, Golden Delight Honey, Bugwood.org

The native copper iris offers an unusual color in the spring garden. © James Henderson, Golden Delight Honey, Bugwood.org

Copper iris (Iris fulva), a late spring bloomer that is tough and beautiful, makes Irvin Etienne’s list of under-used perennials. “The flowers are an unusual shade of copper that I find highly attractive. Related to the native Louisiana iris, it is considered beardless and crestless. It tolerates wet conditions and clay, but mine is happy in good, normal garden soil,” said Etienne, horticultural display coordinator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

 

Indiana gardeners name the best new plants in their gardens

‘Fierce Gigante’ elephant ear easily reaches 5 feet tall or more in a summer. Photo courtesy Irvin Etienne/PlantsNouveau.com

Pretty soon, new plants will beckon to us from newspapers and magazines, catalogs and the benches at garden centers: “Try me!” “Try me!”

To help guide our plant lust, I checked with some of my favorite gardeners throughout the state, asking what the best new or sort-of-new plant they’d grown. I also asked what plants they thought were under used or under appreciated by gardeners, and we’ll have that next week. For the new plants:

A big elephant ear from Plants Nouveau, ‘Fierce Gigante’ (Colocasia) easily reaches 5 feet tall when given ample moisture and rich, said Irvin Etienne, horticultural display coordinator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and guru of all things tropical. “I thought the beautiful foliage would be its only asset, but the flowers turned out fabulous – big, creamy calla-like flowers on purple stems. My favorite new colocasia.”

‘Masterpiece’ is appreciated as much for its tasty tendrils as its pod and peas.
Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/ngb.org

Carol Michel, an avid vegetable gardener in Indianapolis who blogs at maydreamsgardens.com, picked ‘Masterpiece’ pea from Burpee. “It was easy to grow in a container and both the pods and the peas are edible, as are the tendrils. The tendrils are also frilly, and make a nice edition to flower arrangements.”

Tiny Tuff Stuff hydrangea is a winner in an Indianapolis Master Gardener’s landscape. Photo courtesy ProvenWinners.com

Karen Kennedy, a former president of Marion County Master Gardeners, said she’s taken with several newish hydrangea introductions that have replaced a large Endless Summer (H. macrophylla ‘Bailmer’). Newly planted are ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff’ (H. serrata ‘Makd’), Bobo (H. paniculata ‘Ilvobo’) and Little Quick Fire (H. paniculata ‘Smhplqf’). “All three performed marvelously in their mostly sunny locations, with little to no care and bloomed all summer long. Unlike a lot of other hydrangeas they don’t faint in the heat and aren’t as demanding about water,” she said.

The long-blooming ‘Heatwave’ hyssop toughs it out through summer’s heat and humidity. Photo courtesy Monrovia.com

Jean Starr of Chesterton, who blogs at petaltalk-jean.com, says ‘Heatwave’ hyssop (Agastache) was unbeatable for its big flowers and long bloom time. “Even through the worst of the heat and humidity, ‘Heatwave’ kept pushing out its big purplish blooms on strong stems that could reach up to three feet in height. Rated to Zone 5 but resents wet feet in winter.”

‘Lemon Meringue’ adds long-blooming stalks of yellow flowers in the summer garden. Photo courtesy ProvenWinners.com

Down in Southern Indiana, Bob Hill raves about the native false indigos (Baptisia), especially those in the Decadence series, because of their durability, hardiness and tolerance. ‘Lemon Meringue’ only adds to all that with bright yellow flowers on 36-inch-tall stems and bluish-green leaves, followed by the showy seed heads in fall, said Hill, owner of Hidden Hill Nursery & Sculpture Garden in Utica.

Effort under way to make butterfly weed Indiana’s official wildflower

 

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Photo courtesy PerennialResource.com

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Photo courtesy PerennialResource.com

The Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society has launched an initiative to declare butterfly weed as the state’s official wildflower.

Society members plan to spend the 2017 session walking statehouse halls to promote a bill that elevates the status of the native perennial, a critical plant in the lifecycle of monarch butterflies.

The peony, an import from Asia, is the official state flower, and there are no plans to change that, said Davie Sue Wallace, vice president of INPAWS. Several states have state flowers and state wildflowers, including Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma and Florida.

INPAWS criteria for this selection: It needed to be garden worthy in performance and size; it needed to be found in the wild throughout Indiana; it needed to be a plant that retailers and wholesalers would be interested in; and it needed to be a plant of interest to children for educational purposes. Butterfly weed won by a long shot, said Wallace of Evansville, 10-year member of INPAWS.

She met with Republican Sens. Vaneta Becker and David Long the day before Thanksgiving to begin the process. Becker will likely craft the bill, Wallace said.

“It has been very challenging to do this during the holidays. But this just seems like the right year,” Wallace said.

To support Senate Bill 470, email or write Becker and Long and the representatives and senators from your area, Wallace said.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) has become a very popular perennial the last several years, primarily because of its value as a food plant in the monarch butterfly’s lifecycle. A member of the milkweed family, butterflies slurp nectar from the bright orange flowers. Monarchs lay her eggs on milkweeds, which hatch and the larva eat the leaves before pupating and turning into butterflies. The Asclepias family is the only food plant for the caterpillars.

The loss of natural habitats of butterfly weed has prompted gardeners, municipalities, highway departments, parks and others to plant the perennial as a way to support monarchs, whose numbers have seen sharp decline over the last decade.

Coincidentally, butterfly weed is the 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year, so named by the Perennial Plant Association, a trade association of breeders, growers, horticulturists and educators.

Grow butterfly weed in full sun and well-drained soil. Once established, the plant, which gets about 2 feet tall and wide, is drought tolerant. The flowers and seed heads are great for bouquets. Deadhead the plant to reduce self-sowing.

Celebrate cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and other healthful brassicas

Purple Sprouting Broccoli. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/ngb.org

Purple Sprouting Broccoli. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/ngb.org

A lot of us already know about red and white cabbage, but what about purple broccoli or orange cauliflower?

Those are some members of the brassica family of plants, which also includes Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, mustards, kohlrabi, radish, rutabaga, turnip and Chinese cabbage.

Foodies are in love with these vegetables, known for their strong aroma when cooked and their high nutritional value. They also taste good. My favorites are broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbages.

The resurgence of interest in these old-fashion vegetables has prompted the National Garden Bureau, a trade group that promotes growing plants, to name 2017 the Year of the Brassica.

The family members sometimes are referred to as cole crops, an English adaptation of caulis, Latin for stem. Or you may hear them called cruciferous, which refers to their four-petaled flowers that resemble a cross.

Cheddar or orange cauliflower. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/ngb.org

Cheddar or orange cauliflower. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/ngb.org

These are usually planted as transplanted in early spring for summer harvest. Some, such as broccoli and mustards, can be planted again in July for harvesting in fall and early winter.

Probably the biggest consideration to growing these plants is their susceptibility to insect damage, especially from cabbageworms and flea beetles. Many gardeners cover these plants with row covers to help control the insects. These plants should be grown in full sun and well-drained soil. They are fairly drought tolerant once established.

Each type of plant has different growing habits and horticultural requirements, so follow the seed packet instructions, plant labels or other sources, including Purdue University’s Vegetable Gardening Tips. Of course, if you don’t want to grow these vegetables, you can still celebrate their year by purchasing them at farmers markets, which is where I usually get mine. Here’s one of my favorite, easy dishes.

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Clean and trim the Brussels sprouts and pat them dry with paper towel or clean cloth. Place sprouts on a baking sheet, but don’t crowd them. Drizzle with olive oil and season with kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper. Using your hands or spatula, coat the Brussels sprouts with the oil and seasoning. Roast in 400 F oven 30 to 45 minutes, or until tender. Turn the sprouts every 10 minutes or so. Serve as they are as a vegetable side dish, or sprinkle the sprouts with shredded Parmesan, pierce them with a toothpick and serve as an hors d’ oeuvres.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Salt and Pepper. (C) bhofack2/iStockphoto.com

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Salt and Pepper. (C) bhofack2/iStockphoto.com

January garden checklist

 

Waiting for the beautiful red amaryllis to bloom. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Indoors

General Landscape

  • Keep road and sidewalk salt away from plants. If necessary, screen the plants with burlap to keep off spray. Calcium chloride products are recommended over sodium chloride to melt ice. Sand, cinders, ash and fresh kitty litter also may be used instead of ice-melting salts.
  • Prune summer and fall blooming woody plants, including vines, shrubs and trees.
  • Use hand or a broom to gently brush away heavy snow that may accumulate on shrubs before it freezes.
  • new growthApply an all-purpose natural fertilizer or a dusting of compost around spring-flowering bulbs as they break ground.

Vegetables and Fruits

  • Examine produce, tender flower bulbs and roots stored for the winter to make sure there is no rot, shriveling or excess moisture. Remove and discard damaged material.