Guest Blog: Justin Hancock

Highlights from Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden

The Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden® is one of the coolest corners of downtown Des Moines, Iowa. Located at BHG headquarters, the Test Garden is a half-acre display of new varieties mixed with tried-and-true favorites.

Because we don’t do much spraying or treating, it’s also a fantastic tool for getting a sense of what really does well here in Iowa and the Midwest. Some reblooming hydrangeas, for example, don’t bloom at all (much less produce multiple waves of flowers) and others are garden rock stars. The hydrangea collection – about 30 varieties – is looking particularly stunning, especially standouts ‘Pink Shira’, Endless Summer ‘Blushing Bride’, and ‘Haye’s Starburst’.

I love walking through the Test Garden in summer and looking at all the different coneflowers. It’s fun to see how new varieties, such as ‘Hot Papaya’ stand up to the tried-and-true varieties. (‘Hot Papaya’, by the way, totally does — the color is a garden showstopper, and it’s delightfully fragrant, too.)

Coneflower (Echinacea) ‘Hot Papaya’

The lilies are also looking outstanding right now; the new breeds of Orienpet (Oriental/trumpet hybrids) offer good looks and a great fragrance. In fact, I smelled the intoxicating fragrance of golden-yellow ‘Belladonna’ before I saw it in the garden this morning!

Belladonna Lily

Like much of the Midwest, we’re well ahead of schedule; it’s weird to be in June and seeing the phlox, Russian sage, and even some asters blooming.

If you’d like to visit the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden®, it’s open from 12-2 p.m. every Friday from May to October and located at 1716 Locust Street, Des Moines, Iowa.

Justin Hancock is the garden editor for, the website of Better Homes & Gardens.

Guest blog: Jane Rogers on Bloodroot

By Jane Rogers

Bloodroot is one of early spring’s most cherished wildflowers, in part because it’s a sure signal  spring has arrived.  This dazzling white, daisy-like flower pops wide open when the sun comes out, while on cloudy days you’ll notice the petals are closed and the leaf hugs the stem. As bloodroot matures the scalloped leaf makes a handsome groundcover.

When bloodroot is happily sited it spreads and self-seeds which enables me to spread drifts of it along my woodland pathways. Bloodroot will thrive at the edge of a woods or even in full sun if your yard is moist.

If you’d like to add bloodroot to your garden, but if you’re not lucky enough to have a friend who will share a clump, check spring plant sales. When planting, take care not to plant the rhizomes (rootstock) too deeply or heavily mulch or your plant may rot. Bloodroot transplants and divides well in spring or fall. Just slice rhizomes into 3” sections including a bud eye (to plant facing upward). Place pieces horizontally, 1/2″ to 1″ deep, cover lightly with leaf litter and water until established. Those orangish-red rhizomes and all parts of the plant will drip colored juices if it’s cut or broken, so be sure to wear an apron and gloves to avoid stains. Native Americans used bloodroot to paint their faces, weapons, baskets and dye their cloth. It’s fun, though, to paint a broken root across the palm of a child and tell this story.

I hope you’ll enjoy growing, multiplying and conserving the beautiful bloodroot in your own garden. By doing so you can help protect our nation’s native wildflowers for future generations to enjoy.

Thanks to Jane for sharing on Heartland Gardening.  She’s grows, studies and photographs wildflowers in her backyard in Akron, Ohio.  She also lectures and writes on wildflowers and exhibits her award-winning images, most recently in the touring “Three Women in the Woods” exhibit. 

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