Tag Archive | Garden Design

Add a New Color to Your Garden: Purple

Is your flower garden a study in pinks, oranges, and yellows? Wouldn’t you like to add a little drama? If your favorite color is purple, you’re in luck because there are a lot of choices for flowers, foliage, and berries in a wide variety of purple hues. You can create different looks, depending on the shade of purple you use and the other plants you combine it with. Purple isn’t always one of those “Wow!” colors, but it acts as a great contrast to orange and yellow, which command more attention. It adds a subtle sophistication to the showier colors, and when planted in a combo, that contrast actually makes each color stand out more.

Some ideas:


‘Red Rubin’ basil

‘Red Rubin’ basil (Ocimum basilicum purpurascens)

This tender perennial is as attractive as it is useful. A staple in the herb garden, its fragrant purple leaves work well in containers and borders. Always pinch off flowers as soon as you see them starting to bloom. Doing so encourages the plant to keep producing leaves, making them bushier. It tastes as good as it smells! For culinary drama, combines it with yellow tomatoes. Or try making purple basil vinegar or jelly. Cold hardy: USDA zones 10 to 11.

‘Concord Grape’ spiderwort (Tradescantia hybrid)

The dark green grasslike clumps of ‘Concord Grape’ spiderwort are one of the first things


‘Concord Grape’ spiderwort

to emerge in spring. Then a big show of flowers starts a few weeks later. Hot weather and lack of rain are hard on spiderwort. Cut plants back by two-thirds when the heat takes its toll and keep them well watered during dry spells. Dig the clump in spring and cut into smaller sections, then replant them. They recover quickly, and will probably even bloom the first year. Larger leaf plants contrast well with spiderwort’s grassy foliage. Try planting with Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum pictum) or Lungwort (Pulmonaria ‘Sissinghurst White’). Cold hardy: USDA zones 4 to 9.

KICKIN ‘Lavender’ aster (Aster hydrid)


KICKIN ‘Lavender’ aster

In autumn, reds and oranges take over the landscape. Sometimes you want a little purple to add to that fall blend. Asters are perfect for that, and their late-summer flower show is a welcome sight. It starts when a lot of others are fading out. KICKIN ‘Lavender’ is on the small side compared to standard asters, so it can be planted closer to the front of the border or in containers. Blooming asters show up in garden centers in late summer, but they will survive better in the north if planted in spring so they can get established. Cold hardy: USDA zones 5 to 9.




Drought Tolerant

We’re entering winter and our green thumbs are itching to find a project, especially as the garden catalogs start filling the mailbox. What a great time to spend some time looking at your existing gardens and finding the weak spots! Do you have an area with little or no water so you’ve ignored it for too long? How about spending some of this long winter planning a drought tolerant garden?

Just because you’re designing for low water requirements doesn’t mean you can’t mix up the colors and textures just like you do with your other flower beds. Also, be sure to factor in various bloom times and plant height to provide interest and beauty across the growing season.

As with any garden, well-drained soil is a key to a successful garden so, if you’re stuck with compacted soil, dig compost into the bed before planing so the roots can grow deep. Though you may need to water it weekly to get it going (maybe the whole first year), plants with well-established roots will be better able to withstand drought.

Plants to consider that will provide height, texture, and color variety:

Don’t let lack of water deter you from having color and butterflies to enjoy all summer!



Miniature Neighbors

20170709_152219OCMGA Master Gardener Colleen Reed recently undertook a project to remove a small pond that had been in her yard, and replaced it with a whole new group of neighbors!

As Janit Calvo says in her book Gardening in Miniature, “What is it that draws the heart and eye to things smaller than real life? Perhaps the fact that anything miniature reminds us of play. After all, childhood toys were our first miniatures.”

Whatever the reason, gardening in miniature (or, creating mini-wonderlands) has become a huge industry. Once you are bitten by the miniature garden bug, there’s no turning back. The miniature industry is the biggest segment of the toy and hobby market, and the sheer number of sizes and scales is mind-boggling.


To ensure the realism that creates enchantment, these critical elements are necessary: plants, accessories, and a patio or pathway. The planned, intentional aspect of a patio or walkway immediately signals to the viewer that this is no ordinary planting, teasing them to come in for a closer view.


Creating your own little world is a lot of fun once you have the right parts, plants, and pieces all together. So collect the ingredients and tools, pour a favorite beverage, and enjoy some creative time with a new hobby!

Drought Tolerant Plants for Wisconsin Summers

As I write this, we just had two major rain storms pass through the area — one of them bringing high winds and doing a lot of damage. However, having lived through Wisconsin summers, I know there is a high likelihood that we may see little or no rain through July and August. If that’s the case, you’ll want to have these plants in your garden because, being native Wisconsinites, they’re used to living through droughts!


Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) prefers well-drained sites in light to medium shade. Hummingbirds love this flower.

If native plants are chosen to match your conditions, they will thrive with minimal watering where others fail. To gain the full environmental benefit of lower water usage, it’s absolutely necessary to choose the plants that thrive in the conditions at your location. All native plants are “water-wise” to some extent, but to maximize their full potential, choose those naturally adapted to your specific conditions — soil, sunlight, and moisture.

Native plants create a naturally balanced ecosystem. When you plant natives in the landscape, birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators will soon follow. Because these plants and animals evolved together over thousands of years, they have developed interdependent relationships. Monarch butterfly caterpillars safely consume the toxic sap of the milkweeds. Karner blue butterfly larvae rely solely on leaves of wild lupine. Fritillary butterflies need violets for their larval food source. These are only a few of the necessary relationships between our native flora and fauna. The variety of species that even a small-scale native garden attracts is often amazing!


Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.) is tough and beautiful! As other plants die off during a drought, Rudbeckia retains its beautiful colors.


Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) grows 3 to 4 feet in sand, loam, or clay. Full to part-sun.










Some additional species to try in your garden:

  • 0_Baptisia_australis_(Y)

    Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis) grows 3 to 5 feet in sand, loam, or clay. Full to part-sun.

    Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

  • Sky Blue Aster (Aster azureus)
  • Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata)
  • Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)
  • Smooth Penstemon (Penstemon digitalis)
  • Royal Catchfly (Silene regia)
  • Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya)


Fragrant Night Bloomers

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Perfume that doesn’t attract insects would be a horticultural oxymoron: putting out the come-hither for pollinators is a flower’s sole purpose, and perfume is a large part of the mating dance. However, not everyone wants to sit in a garden when the bees and other pollinators are moving around, and you can have a fragrant garden that’s low on bees by using night-blooming plants.




Choices range from the small, inconspicuous, but mightily perfumed annual known as night-blooming stock (Matthiola bicornis) to the many cultivated varieties of Brugmansia, a tropical tree that can grow to 10 feet or more and has been showing up in nurseries under the name angels’ trumpets. All parts of the brugmansia are highly poisonous, but there’s no denying the plant’s appeal. It’s huge flowers blare tropical sweetness from dusk until almost sunup. White is the most common color and usually the most fragrant, but brugmansia also comes in yellow, orange, peach, and pink. Like Chinese hybiscus, mandevilla, and the many other tropicals sold by nurseries in temperate climates, brugmansias are not frost hardy and must be overwintered indoors.


Nicotiana Sylvestris


If you want to stick to annuals, there are plenty to choose from — nicotiana, for example. You’d never know it from the modern cultivars, which lost fragrance when they were bred to stay open during the day, but old-fashioned flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata) has a very strong night perfume, and so does its much taller, architecturally splendid cousin N. sylvestris.

Other candidates include moonflower vines, night-blooming jasmine, evening primrose, and oddball day lilies like ‘Pardon Me,’ which don’t get going until the sun goes down.

Milkweed for Monarchs

by OCMGA Master Gardener Holly Boettcher


Monarch Butterflies are probably the most recognized and beloved butterflies in North America. Did you know that Monarch Butterflies cannot survive without milkweed plants? That is because their caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed and no other plant will do.   Monarchs have lost a significant amount of that critical host plant because of shifting land management practices, use of herbicides, and because of loss of habitat in both the United States and Mexico. Here are some simple steps that you can implement if you would like to take action.

Plant Native Milkweed!

Monarch caterpillar

Planting milkweed is one way that you can help not only the Monarch but other pollinators too! If you Google where to buy native milkweed seeds you will find numerous places to order and many are free. You can also purchase plants from an area garden center or our local chapter of Wild Ones during their spring native plant sale. You might contact a local landowner to find out if they are willing to allow you to dig up plants from their property. The plants will do best if you transplant them early in the season and be sure to dig deep to get as much aof their root system as possible.

Be sure to plant milkweed plants that are native to our area.   Look for Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, or Butterfly Milkweed. Avoid planting Tropical Milkweed because the wrong species of this plant has been found to increase odds of the Monarch becoming infected with a crippling parasite. This is most often occurring in warmer environments such as Texas and the Gulf Coast States but is worth a mention in case you are a visitor from the south reading this article! Beginning in the early spring, throughout the summer, and into the late fall, you can search for the Monarch anywhere you see milkweed plants in abundance.

Provide Nectar Plants

Monarch butterflies enjoying Joe Pye Weed

Monarchs also need nectar plants and will sip from many different flowers to nourish themselves throughout the season. Why not plant native perennials that bloom at various times from their arrival, breeding season, and until they migrate in the fall.

Some common plants that will provide nectar are: Columbine, Blue Sage, Spiderwort, Goldenrod, Penstemon, Little Bluestem, Wild Anemone, Pale Purple Coneflower, Joe Pye Weed, Poppy Mallow, Culvers Root, and Blood Root to name a few.


I recently learned that the Monarch Butterfly communicates with both colors and scents. And there are numerous opportunities to observe them when you consider the 4 stages of their life cycle which includes four generations: the egg, the caterpillar (larvae) the chrysalis or pupa, and the beautifully developed butterfly.

Take the time to look for them, preferably with your children or grandchildren. The giggles you share while watching a Monarch sip from a nectar plant, or while sitting under the summer sun watching a Monarch Caterpillar munch the leaf of a milkweed plant is a memory to be savored for a lifetime.

Holly is a regular contributor to Appleton Monthly magazine



Authors in our Midst and at our Garden Conference – #2

Author Stacy Tornio

Stacy Tornio was my inspiration to become a Master Gardener. At the time, she was the editor of Birds & Blooms and a Master Gardener herself. Since then, she has branched out to pursue her goal of being a published author — and has been wildly successful. With 15 published books currently available on amazon, Stacy was the keynote speaker at our Garden Conference several years ago and a vendor this year.

Stacy’s most recent book, Plants You Can’t Killwas written with an eye toward inexperienced gardeners but there’s a wealth of information in the book for those of us who can’t figure out what we’re doing wrong! Loaded with beautiful photographs, it’s a book that should be in every gardener’s library.

From the amazon page:

“I kill everything I plant.”

Does this sound like you or someone you know? Give yourself a pat on the back because admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. And lucky for you, you can easily turn your brown thumb into a green one with the help of Plants You Can’t Kill.

Seriously—it doesn’t matter how many plants you’ve killed in gardens past. It’s time to put those experiences behind you and finally grow something in your empty and bare spots. This is the only gardening book you’ll ever need with more than 100 plant picks for every situation. You want veggies? We have ’em. You need to fill a big space? We have shrub ideas for you. You just want something pretty? We have plenty of that, as well.

The plants in Plants You Can’t Kill have been vetted by an amazing and famous panel of horticulture experts (this is just a fancy way of saying they went to college for gardening), so feel confident you’re not wasting money on yet another gardening book. These plants will actually survive your well-meaning, yet sometimes neglectful ways.

Ready for the most resilient, hardcore, badass list of plants known to gardeners? Find them and grow them with the help of Plants You Can’t Kill.

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman