Category Archives: Plants

South Facing Basement Wall

If you have a basement with a south facing wall, then you are in luck. I have a couple of different plants that wouldn’t live if they were just out in the garden alone, but with the extra heat, they can over-winter and come back every year with no work on your part.

Here are a couple of plants which have come back reliably for the last five years.

Black-Blue Salvia – hummingbird favorite
Lantana – Miss Huff or Star Landing
Note – May 1st and they are just showing

For schools, try and use a south wall for the garden and put the more tender plants up close to the wall.

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Goldenrod – the Good and the Bad

With Solidago or Goldenrod you have lots of different choices when you go to the nursery and it’s hard to know which variety to buy. I have bought many, if not all local varieties and most of them look like the type below. I don’t know exactly which species this is, but I do know that the school kids and myself have a lot of work to do. You not only have to dig it out, but also make sure that you don’t leave any runners or pieces of runners in the ground. This is a good reason to be very careful when you buy plants for a school garden. Don’t put in any plant which is aggressive and will take over an area.

Many varieties of solidago in a home garden will take over an area and spread via runners and rhizomes which grow at a prolific pace. If you look at the size of the stalks left behind, these plants get at least five foot tall and many times will flop over. Nothing else has a chance when it has taken over an area.

I have finally found a nice variety that stays in place and looks gorgeous in the fall – Solidago sphacelata – Golden Fleece.

This variety only gets 24 inches tall and grows at a slow pace.

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Zinnias – My Favorites

While I have grown zinnias for many years, almost all of them suffer from bad mildew at some point in the season. Many times, they look so bad that I end up pulling them from the garden.

I have found three versions which seem to be resistant to mildew.

Zinnia – Forecast from Burpee.com $5.99 for 50 seeds.
zinnia-forecast-600

I started these in mid-June and they not only have been blooming ever since, but even though they have been surrounded by plants with mildew, these flowers have not caught the disease. They claim to have different colors, but most of mine are shades of pink. I direct seeded these into the garden.

Zinnia angustifolia – Yellow – Summerhill Seeds. $2.50 for 50 seeds.

zinnia-angustifolia-800These zinnias only grow 12-18 inches tall and don’t develop mildew.
They seem to come true from seed and they are easy to germinate.  I planted some seeds in my beds and they came up just fine.

 My final favorite is Profusion Zinnia.

zinnia-profusion-800Park Seed or your favorite nursery will probably have these. They have larger flowers than Angustifolia, but are about the same height. You can see the difference in the above photo.

 

 

 

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New Plants in April

shelves-rollers-600 (1)

In St. Louis, Missouri, April is always a month for safety first when it comes to new plants. Many new plants that I buy or have started in the basement are much better off outside, but with temperatures below freezing at times, you have to figure out how to protect the plants.

I don’t plant until after May 1st, so I have to keep on top of the weather for all of April.

Here is one way I use to protect my plants.
I put them on a rolling shelf unit. When the temperature is above 45 degrees, I roll out the plants and give them water and sunshine. I don’t put them in full sun all day, but will start them out in sunshine and then move them to a shady area.

At night when the temperatures go below 40 degrees, I bring them inside the garage for protection.

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What to Plant?

While most of my emphasis is on growing specific plants for butterflies, there are many other insects and birds which I enjoy. Unfortunately, numbers seem to be decreasing every year. Here is a good video on what we can all do to bring nature back to our yards.

 

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Asters in the Fall

Asters are great fall plants that will be blooming when many plants are done.
The native version is the New England Aster and at times it’s mobbed by all sorts of butterflies in the fall. The problem is that in the home garden, it has a tendency to grow VERY large and flops over, takes up a lot of space and covers other plants. While you can cut it back a couple of times during the season, it’s more work than I care for.
A second option are the new aster cultivars. They are available right now (September 12th) in the local nurseries.

Here are the ones I have bought recently. I’m going to plant them soon and see how they do next year. The largest version is “Believer” from Lowes.  I’ve had as many as ten Painted Lady butterflies nectaring at one time on these plants. These new cultivars seem to be good nectar sources and still draw in the pollinators.

Here are the seven varieties I have bought so far. Left to right and bottom to top.

  1. Millstadt – Sappington Gardens
  2. Dragon Improved – Yoder
  3. Millstadt – Sappington Gardens
  4. Days aster – Blue Yoder – Wiethops
  5. Hazy Aster – Dark Pink – Yoder – Wiethops
  6. Magic Aster Purple – Yoder – Wiethops
  7. Believer – Lowes – this seems to get the most butterflies. It is also the nicest in size, but that might change over the years.

Here are some of the butterflies that love asters.

 

 

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Rudbeckia Test

fulgidafulgida-versus-fulgida-1200Here are what two versions of Rudbeckia or Black Eyed Susan look like on September 7th in St. Louis Missouri.

One version is the more common Rudbeckia fulgida which I have grown for years. The advantage of this variety is that it’s a native and spreads easily via the roots and is a perennial. It has two disadvantages. Most years it gets a disease and flowers poorly in my yard. The second reason is that even when it is not diseased, it stops blooming around this time of the year.

The other version I am testing is Rudbeckia fulgida fulgida. It seems to be relatively easy to grow and reseeds easily.

As you can see the Fulgida fulgida variety definitely looks better this time of year. It’s not a great nectar plant, but it does attract a few pollinators and might attract the goldfinch.

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