The Power of Annuals

Each year, 15,000 annuals are planted at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens. Here, Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ and Coleus ‘Keystone Kopper’ dress up the Reptile House.

Winning Plants for Summer Color

 By Teresa Woodard

In the gardening world, annual plants are often the step-child to the perennial darlings.  But Scott Beuerlein, horticulturalist at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, opened my eyes to the virtues of annuals at the recent Plant Trials Day hosted at the beautifully landscaped zoo.

He says the colorful flowers can’t be beat for their “50 MPH wow”. They may only last for a season, but their color is nonstop for several months.  Plus, they pack a lot of punch in container gardens,  add traffic-stopping curb appeal to the landscape, build community pride in public spaces, bring joy to senior centers and hospitals, offer nectar and pollen to several pollinators, and even minimize weeds when densely planted.

Here are ten favorites at the zoo.

Pennisetum 'Rubrum' (purple fountain grass) and Flame Thrower Coleus 'Spiced Curry'

Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ (purple fountain grass) and Flame Thrower Coleus ‘Spiced Curry’

Coleus 'Premium Sun Crimson Gold with Sedum 'Lemon Coral' and gazania.

Coleus ‘Premium Sun Crimson Gold’ with Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’ and gazania.

Salvia 'Golden Delicious' and Zinnia 'Sahara Double Fire'

Salvia ‘Golden Delicious’ and Zinnia ‘Sahara Double Fire’

Coleus 'Lime Time' and Lantana 'Luscious Citrus Blend'

Coleus ‘Lime Time’ and Lantana ‘Luscious Citrus Blend’

Coleus 'Colorblaze Kingswood Torch', Dwarf Morning Glory 'Blue My Mind' and Lantana 'Little Lucky Pot of Gold'

Coleus ‘Colorblaze Kingswood Torch’, Dwarf Morning Glory ‘Blue My Mind’ and Lantana ‘Little Lucky Pot of Gold’

Colocasia, Lantana 'Luscious Marmalade' and Ipomoea 'Sweet Caroline Light Green' (sweet potato vine)

Colocasia, Lantana ‘Luscious Marmalade’ and Ipomoea ‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’ (sweet potato vine)

 

Impatiens 'Bounce Cherry' and Verbena 'Lanai Candy Cane'

Impatiens ‘Bounce Cherry’ and Verbena ‘Lanai Candy Cane’

Dahlia 'Mystic Illusion'

Dahlia ‘Mystic Illusion’

Coleus 'Dipt in Wine' and Euphorbia 'Glitz' with red begonias

Coleus ‘Dipt in Wine’ and Euphorbia ‘Glitz’ with red begonias

Pennisetum 'Vertigo' and Coleus 'Alabama' and dahlias.

Pennisetum ‘Vertigo’ and Coleus ‘Alabama’ with dahlias.

Going Giddy for Spring Gardening Ideas

Ten ways to brighten your 2015 garden 

By Teresa Woodard

Blame it on cabin fever, but I’m giddy over the jackpot of spring gardening ideas showcased at the recent Columbus Home & Garden Show. White kale and golden forsythia branches for spring container gardens. Out-of-the-ordinary conifers in bright yellow, two-tone colors and funky shapes. A 10-foot waterwall for a patio. Disney-esque fountains for the backyard. And even some new twists on those ever-popular pollinator houses.

With fellow blogger Michael Leach as my guide, I snapped lots of pictures to share with Heartland Gardening readers. Let us know ideas you’re “Pinning” for this year’s garden.

 

IMG_4738Known for its bright yellow winter color, this Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ is a winner in a snowy landscape.

IMG_4746A unique water feature that brings a soothing sound and visual appeal to this outdoor bar design.

IMG_4758A great water feature for tight spaces and an eye-catching sculpture carved from an old wooden palette.

IMG_4761A two-sided fireplace is shaded by an attractive sail cloth.

Pollinator hotelThis pollinator hotel by Steven Maravich offers plenty of rooms for beneficial insects.

IMG_4762Greenhouses are becoming popular with backyard gardeners who want to grow food year-round.

IMG_4763Ornamental kale is not just for fall displays. Here, Warwick’s Landscaping uses kale with birch logs, pussy willow, forsythia and ivy.

IMG_4754This fountain creates an arched entry to this garden design by Landscape Design Solutions.

IMG_4750This blooming cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas ‘Golden Glory’) is a crowd stopper at Warwick’s display. The multi-stemmed shrub blooms with star-like yellow flowers in later winter.

IMG_4752Larry Burchfield and his team at Cedarbrook Landscaping offered another fun-filled, themed garden with its “Saturday Night Fever” design. It highlights many vintage finds from this fountain of saxophones to a set of old bed springs turned into a bed of succulents.

20150219_124049It’s disco fever – or perhaps spring fever – for Teresa and Michael at the Home & Garden show.

Plants, Gardens Becoming Trendy — Again

20150217_114333Science helps industry tout plant benefits to boost sales

By Michael Leach

Brace yourselves.

Instead of being merely muddy and vaguely nerdy, we gardeners will soon appear cool and with-it to our family, friends and perhaps the rest of the world.

In order to sell more flora, the horticultural industry is touting scientific studies showing positive effects of plants. Meanwhile, interior designers are rediscovering gardens and nature and predicting such themes as  trendy in 2015. (More on this in an upcoming report.)

Today we’ll look an industry campaign showing ways plants help people, from stress relieve to a better environment. (We recently discovered some of their erotic effects in Teresa’s review of Plants with Benefits.)

The sales approach is a far cry from the traditional song and dance about new varieties and bigger flowers and fruit — stuff only gardens care about. Science is proving what gardeners have always known, plants are good for you and working with them is even better.

Plants Love You — GreenhouseGrower, a horticultural industry trade magazine, reports the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance is promoting a campaign aimed at inspiring people to make plants a part of their life. The theme is Plants Love You.

The goal is “… to educate consumers about the benefits of plants. In addition to pushing plants’ aesthetic benefits, the campaign produces documented health, environmental and economic benefits.”

Plants “pay you” —Trees, for instance, score in environmental and economic ways. “They provide cooling shade that can reduce air conditioning costs, sequester carbon dioxide (the notorious greenhouse gas), while releasing oxygen, and provide windbreaks.” Don’t forget they can be beautiful and fruitful, too. 20141114_083606_Android

As for that humble pothos and other potted plants on countless cubicle desks — drum roll please!

Plants improve your memory — “A recent study indicated people received a 20 percent increase in memory and concentration in the presence of ornamental plants at work.” The report adds, “Researchers believe the calming influence of a natural environment increases the ability to concentrate on the task at hand. Work performed in the presence of plants was of higher quality and completed more accurately than in an environment without plants.”

One must presume these plants are in a healthy condition. Some of the potted flora we’ve seen over the years would more likely inspire depression, given their withered leaves and scrawny stature. Still, my home office is going to get much greener — before I forget again.

Helpful websites — Along with the Canadian program, a couple of Florida growers were cited for making sales from telling buyers the positives of plants. Both have websites that can help we Midwest types in buying houseplants and summer tropicals.

Check out Costa Farms and Delray Plants. The latter has its own trademarked line of “Plants with Benefits.” Those shopping for houseplants will find easy-to-access information, presented in visually appealing ways.

If you know other nurseries or garden centers with especially useful websites, please send them along.

(Writer’s note: This is another of our now-and-then posts focusing on why you H.A.V.E. to garden — to benefit your health, attitude, property values and environment.)Leach garden (43)

 

On Thursday at 1 p.m., Michael will answer gardening questions as part of a Garden Guru panel at the Columbus Home & Garden Show.  He’ll also be leading Garden Showcase Tours at noon on several days at the show.

 

Trendspotting: Bright forecast for 2015

Winter sunrise (640x427)By Teresa Woodard

Welcome to the new year and what’s promising to be a bright one for gardeners!

According to the Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 State of the Industry Survey, 71 percent of growers report 2014 sales increases over 2013, and that sales growth is spurring optimism for 2015, with 73 percent of growers saying they expect to increase production volume for the coming season.

The positive outlook is dittoed in the Garden Media Group’s 2015 Garden Trend Report. Check out this handful of interesting trends:

·         New gardening faces: The garden industry is welcoming two growing population segments – the Millennials (ages 18-35 years) and Hispanics. kale Robinson herb garden Cornell 6-19-07 resize crop Young men especially are outspending other garden consumers by more than $100 each year.

·         Healthful motives: Gardeners are no longer planting just for beauty. Today, they’re gardening for the stress-relief benefits and nutrient-packed crops like blueberries and kale.

·     IMG_2884    Garden-Tainment: Homeowners are expected to spend $7 billion on outdoor décor as they enjoy cooking, dining and entertaining in their outdoor spaces.

·         Compact gardening:  Gardeners are investing in jewel-box gardens as they select high-quality plants for their increasingly smaller spaces. In addition, container gardens remain strong as smart solutions for tight spaces and their portability.front view of gardens

·         Bed head style: Purposefully unstyled landscapes are gaining popularity as gardeners welcome a more naturalistic approach.

·         RebelHoods: Residents are campaigning to reverse ordinances to transform their neighborhoods to more sustainable agri-hoods – complete with urban chickens, bee houses and lawn-less landscapes.

 

 

Trendspotting: Greening of Pittsburgh

Green pittsburgh

By Teresa Woodard

Last month, Debra, Michael and I traveled to Pittsburgh for a jam-packed, 4-day conference with the Garden Writers Association.  Here, we met with hundreds of other communicators in the lawn and garden industries and witnessed first-hand many of the Steel City’s green trends.

No-mow lawns – Designed by Hugh Newel Jacobsen, this LEED home features a gravel front “yard” and mixed fescue “no mow” backyard.

Pittsburgh convention center rooftop garden

Rooftop gardens –The south terrace at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center features a rooftop garden that’s both aesthetic for convention events but also functional, acting as a natural insulator and reducing stormwater runoff.

 

Succulent sod – On the trade show floor, this sedum sod by Great Garden Plants caught our attention for its ease of installation, trial success and beauty.

P1030111
Edibles in the landscape –  Props to these downtown restaurants (The Porch and Levy Restaurant) for featuring edibles, like chard and basil, in their landscape designs.

Garden at Schenley Plaza

Downtown beautification – Just steps from the University of Pittsburgh, Schenley Plaza was recently renovated by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and today features this All-America Selection Display Garden.

Harvesting water — At the Phipps Conservatory’s Center for Sustainability, all stormwater runoff is captured in a lagoon system and passed through a plant-based treatment process for later use in irrigation and toilet flushing.

 

Trendspotting: Edibles in 2014

What are the trendy gardens growing in 2104?

By Michael Leach

Want to be part of the gardening in-crowd in 2014? Plant tomatoes, beans or some other edible. If this sounds familiar, it is. Vegetables are expected to continue holding their own as must-haves this year.

An estimated 54 percent of the 78 million U.S. gardening households grew vegetables in 2013, according to the most recent survey by the Garden Writers Association. This is the same percent as in 2012 but up a hair from the 53 percent in 2010 and 2011.

The nonprofit, international association of garden communicators and industry representatives also reports lawn and garden spending was an average of $615 per household in 2013, up slightly from 2012.

Since the financial crisis in 2008 and onset of the Great Recession, growing your own food grew in popularity, according to annual trend surveys by the association. Besides saving some money on the grocery budget, people grow their own food for safety, flavor and self-sufficiency.

Still, overall spending estimates for lawns and gardens over the past three years has been relatively static: $600 in 2010, $530 in 2011 and $600 in 2012. The tallies include plants and maintenance and covers in-ground and container gardening.

Lest we get too excited with such expenditures, the survey shows 66 percent of the respondents spent less than $500 on the yards and gardens in 2013.

Forty-one percent of consumers estimate they spent most of their money on lawns and grass. Certainly that’s not a surprise for those of us in the Midwest, where spacious, well-groomed lawns are a source of pride for many.

Vegetables and fruit plants were a close second at 39 percent. Other areas are: perennial flowers (29 percent) third, trees/shrubs (27 percent) fourth and annuals (26 percent) fifth.

Trendspotting: Community Gardens

Planting Seeds of Hope

 

By Teresa Woodard

In Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch, reporter Allison Manning wrote an eye-opening, front-page report “Kids Killing Kids” about teen violence especially in four of our city’s urban zip codes.  Later in the afternoon, I found myself on the fringes of one of those zip codes visiting a community garden, 4th Street Farm, as part of a photo assignment.

Yes, this garden was a bit overgrown with weeds much like my own garden at this time of year, but I couldn’t help but smile as I saw residents passing through the garden or reading on a bench.  What a hopeful spot in a challenged neighborhood! In such urban pockets, the Dispatch reports more than half of the households live below the poverty level, 30 percent of the housing units are vacant, nearly 9 in 10 births are to unmarried women, and kids grow up learning a “shoot or die” way of life.

Curious to learn more about the garden, I checked out the 4th Street Farms’ website to find details about the groups that came together to design and install the gardens.  This outpouring of community support no doubt must lift the spirits of a struggling community, connect the neighborhood’s youth with positive role models active in the project and share the hopeful rewards that gardening so generously affords to all.

Thanks to these generous volunteers and sponsors who are planting seeds of hope at this community garden and so many others!  To learn more, check out American Community Gardens Association.

Trendspotting: Beekeeping

Old garden now abuzz with possibilitieschecking hive 4-18-09 resize

Text by Michael Leach; photos by Debra Knapke and Teresa Woodard

When my neighbor John asked about putting a beehive behind my falling-down tool barn, I readily agreed. Keeping bees was on my bucket list because they are under such stress worldwide. The daily to-do list, however, usually trumps the bucket list. This was obviously a win-win deal.

I envisioned occasional jars of honey as rent, not a beekeeper’s suit and smoker. But John brought an extra white suit, complete with hood, veil and elbow-length gloves, along with the bees. When heading out to the hive, we look like a pair of hazmat techs with a wisp of white smoke trailing behind.checking hive 2 4-18-09 resize

The bees have a safe home base in my acre-plus yard. Being overworked, plus being too lazy to keep up a spray schedule and too cheap to buy chemicals, makes me a mostly organic gardener by default. Signs of backyard eco-health are sometimes startling — a clod of dirt that hops. It’s only a toad.

More than my appearance has changed since the bees arrived. For several years garden planning focused mostly on coping with maintenance. Such is the price of allowing my passion to run wild years ago when there was more energy than insight into what I was creating. (Dr. Frankenstein no doubt suffered from a similar problem.)

From now on, when there’s time, money and gumption, landscape beds will be renovated with an eye toward flowers, whether on trees, shrubs, vines, perennials or annuals. Bees need plenty of food. For instance, a huge order of snow crocus is planned so there’ll be a treat for the bees when they emerge on those warmish days of early spring.Crocus

First they have to survive winter. John cooks up sugar-water syrup, similar to hummingbird food, to fill the hive’s feeder trays. The bees transform this into honey. When the stack of three wooden bee boxes becomes too heavy to lift, they should have sufficient honey stored for winter.

While our share of their efforts is perhaps a year away, the bees are already enriching my life. Their gentle humming is a welcome addition to the nature chorus of birds and summer insects. Plus there’s an amazing sense of interdependence that makes gardening seem vital. I grow flowers to enjoy, but now to feed bees as well. Someday they will feed me.

Gardening Economics

By Teresa Woodard

I recently toured a 7-acre flower farm eager to photograph fields of flowers and hear the back story of the young couple that runs the urban Columbus farm but was surprised to also walk away with lessons on the economics of flower farming and many ideas that could transfer to my own backyard.

After each growing season, Steve and Gretel Adams, owners of Sunny Meadows Flower Farm, carefully evaluate their mix of flower crops.  They pour over detailed logs and ask essential questions.  Is it worth it to continue to battle the powdery mildew on their beloved sunflowers given the amount of land, labor and cooler space they require? Should they plant more specialty flowers like dahlias and lisianthus that command higher priced tickets?  Are there ways to make the newly planted woody ornamentals more productive?

Inspired, I’ve committed to make a closer study of what’s growing in my own backyard by photographing and better recording the types of seeds and plants, planting times, bloom times, fertilizers, pest management techniques, pruning demands and weather conditions.

Call me a heart-less economist now, but look out time-sucking, resource-draining plants!  If there’s no return on investment — stunning blooms, continuous flowers, beautiful foliage, sentimental ties or tasty fruits, you’re gone, especially if you’re stealing valuable real estate and resources from the star-performers in our garden.

Trendspotting: Thrift-shop containers

IMG_3874By Teresa Woodard

Lou Killilea, owner of DeMoyne’s Greenhouse in Columbus, Ohio, recently shared her clever succulent containers for a story, “Thrift Shop Chic”, in Ohio Gardener, Missouri Gardener, Indiana Gardener, Wisconsin Gardener and Pennsylvania Gardener.  She and her daughter Kathy shop thrift stores for second-hand treasures to upcycle as garden containers.  Check out the July/August issue to see their stylish succulents in boots, crocs, lipstick cases, handbags and more.  Also, see Debra Knapke’s post about favorite succulents.

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