Tag Archive | garden planning

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!



The Learning Garden “Asian Garden” and “Herb Garden”

Asian Garden by OCMGA Master Gardeners Anne Anderson and Tom Wentzel

Tom and I did the square garden with Asian veggies. What I learn from the square garden is how much you can plant in one square. It’s amazing if one is limited on space how square gardening would be beneficial. The only problem was after the garden started to grow I was not sure what were weeds or the growing vegetable. Asian vegetables to me, looked like weeds or maybe they were! LOL!!! What I would do different is if there is more than one square with the same veggie, I would not have put them next to each other. Lastly, I should have brought my cats to clean up since watching them chase the mice would have been so entertaining!

Herb Garden by OCMGA Master Gardeners Mary Learman, Sue Mings, and Maureen Flanagan-Johnson

We continued the original theme by planting the more common herbs used in Greece, France, Italy and England. Since most herbs do not like wet feet, it took a little while before we saw any real growth. Then they did not stop. We framed each of the four plots with marigolds and made a Marigold Henge in the center. A couple of notes for next year will be to not to over-plant, plus to harvest more often. It actually needed little upkeep apart from the occasional pruning. But with schedules and the vagaries of the weather, they were not harvested often enough. One unexpected problem turned out to be that the voles had built a metropolis under the herb garden and it collapsed in several places. They also ate some of the roots. Ninja tactics will be employed next year.

Reprinted from the OCMGA member newsletter from the winter of 2014

The Learning Garden “Veggies”

by OCMGA Master Gardeners Peg Ebben and Lynn Coffeen

We worked together in a traditional garden plot approximately 8×10 ft and wanted to focus on growing veggies we had not grown before. We decided on several heirloom varieties. Our trail of Gold Marie pole beans did well as did the Cour Di Bue ox heart cabbage which was very tender. The Sweet Dumpling winter squash was very tasty. We also liked the round (pool ball) zucchini. But the squash would have fit our space better if we had grown them on trellises. Our choice of two heirloom tomatoes produced well, but grew too large and took over a large amount of our space. Our patio tomato did well (but produced less) and was a better size choice for the space we had. One of the best things we tried was the Lincoln leeks. They needed to be started indoors, but were relatively easy to grow and were delicious! Our over-all perspective was don’t be afraid to try new things, as most did very well, were great tasting and we were able to save seeds from some of the heirloom varieties. One important lesson we learned was to be more conscious of the space you have. Pick varieties that fit your space and or utilize more trellising. In all it was a very positive learning experience!

Reprinted from the OCMGA member newsletter from the winter of 2014

Daylilies are not Ordinary!!


‘Peach Pie’ from my garden this past summer

Surely no one has missed seeing the ubiquitous Stella D’Oro daylilies that adorn every bank, shopping mall, and school in suburbia. As a result, there is a tendency to scorn daylilies when pulling together your garden — but that would be a huge mistake! [Note: even Stellas deserve your respect for their continuing bloom throughout summer.] There are thousands of varieties of daylilies and they rank among the easiest perennials to grow. With the myriad of colors, your garden can be a rainbow of color from early spring into the fall.

For my own purposes, I classify daylilies as ‘spiders’, ‘ruffles’, or ‘bells’. Stellas fall into the ‘bell’ category with their classically shaped flowers. I have a whole bed of lilies that would fall into the ‘spider’ category in shades of mauve, peach, lemon yellow, and orange. The ‘Peach Pie’ shown in the photo above would fall into the ‘ruffles’ category and I can’t wait for it to flower every year. The petals are so delicate and the flowers so beautiful!

I’m on the lookout for something equally striking and have discovered some unique varieties that I hope you’ll also enjoy:


‘Star Bright’ from Water Mill Gardens

‘Star Bright’ is definitely a ‘spider’ daylily, and how lovely are those curling, curved back petals?! This one has 8-inch blooms: apricot flowers with violet and red eye zone and pale green throat. I was pretty excited to learn that it’s cold-hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9 (I’m at 5). This one blooms early to mid-season, is 32 to 40 inches tall, and 24 to 36 inches wide. I would definitely find a spot for this beauty in my garden!

I’m a sucker for the pale pastels: peach, cream, and pale yellow. With that in mind, then, is it any wonder that I have my eye on a ‘ruffles’ cultivar that would look beautiful tucked next to some fuchsia bee balm. ‘Marque Moon’ has creamy white flowers with yellow throat and edges in the summer. On a sunny day, the petals glisten.


Marque Moon

Some daylilies have a glitter quality on their petals. When the sparkles are white, it’s referred to as ‘diamond dusted’. With yellow-flowered cultivars, it’s more gold-colored so those are said to be ‘gold dusted’. The glitter and the sweet fragrance beg for a spot near the front of your garden. This one blooms mid- to late season, and is 20 to 24 inches tall, 18 to 24 inches wide. Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9.

As hosta lovers will tell you, the variations in foliage can sometimes make all the difference in a garden. With that in mind, then, look at the variegated foliate on the ‘Golden Zebra’ daylily. The wider-than-


‘Golden Zebra’ by Monrovia

usual leaves are long and arching, and the variegation is stable, so it won’t revert back to all-green leaves. They start the season green with creamy white margins that turn yellow later on.

This one is compact (15 to 24 inches tall and wide), which makes it perfect for the front of a border, where it will bloom midseason.

This winter, as you gaze at the catalogs that start arriving around Christmas, and you can’t wait to get your planning started, I hope you’ll consider a spot in your garden for one of the many daylily cultivars that will add beauty (and almost no work) to your landscape.





OCMGA Learning Garden #1

The Outagamie County Master Gardener Association is located on the grounds of the University of Wisconsin – Extension in Appleton. In 2013, we built a Learning Garden with the idea that we could experiment with different growing methods, provide hand’s-on learning for our Master Gardener classes, and hold educational classes for the public. Because this is one of our core projects, I’m hoping to have ongoing updates about our efforts.  Today, we’re going to reprint an article that appeared in our 2014 newsletter, written by OCMGA Master Gardener Mary Learman.

This was the second year for The Learning Garden. The purpose of the garden is to be able to demonstrate what can be done in a small space. There are four distinct plots, any of which could be used in a small urban landscape. Next year we’ll be adding a fruit tree espalier and grapes. Not only is this a space to teach others about gardening, it is also a space for us try something new.

IMG_1916The first lesson for us was how to manage a project like this. It is a fairly large space, 35’ x 26’. That is an intimidating amount of space to plan, plant and maintain. Last year, it was a struggle to keep on top of things. This year an adopt-a-bed program was initiated. The area was divided into five different areas, and a call went out for volunteers willing to take care of one plot. The response was gratifying. Teams were formed for each of the areas. Each team planned, planted and maintained a plot. We did cross check with each other to minimize duplication. Also a watering schedule was established. Twice each week, people were assigned to water the entire garden. No one person needed to be on “watering duty” more than twice through the season. One of the big learnings for us this year was that breaking things down into manageable segments is key to making the project a success.


A big change that will make our life easier next year will be the installation of an irrigation system. We’ll have two rain barrels in place and soaker hoses that will have the option of using those barrels or city water. Another big change for next year will be using the garden as an educational tool. It will become a part of the level 1 training program. We’ll also be conducting public classes on the site.

For more information on one of our experiments (Soil Temperature Experiment), visit our previous blog post here.

The Simple Daisy

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman


From my garden: Shasta daisies snuggled next to Bee Balm

Other than the dandelion, what is the first flower you remember as a child? Is it a daisy? When we draw flowers, don’t we draw a simple daisy? When imagining a summer field of flowers, isn’t it the daisy we imagine?

Daisies have been around forever and are so often underestimated or overlooked when planning a garden. And yet, you can never have too many low-maintenance blooms! Deer-tolerant and disease-resistant, Shasta daisies should have a home in every garden!

Although we may think of daisies as the simply flower with the white petals, there are many, many cultivars that provide different colors for your garden plans. ‘Banana Cream’ Shasta daisy is easy care, even in the heat of summer. But that’s not the only benefit of this beautiful, long-blooming perennial.


From my garden: the yellow blooms of ‘Banana Cream’ Shasta daisy among the purple flowers of catmint

Its large 4- to 5-inch flowers are stunning in midsummer. Semidouble, they open pale lemon-yellow — a unique hue for Shasta daisy. In a few days, blooms slowly fade to creamy white. Plants are covered in flowers ranging from shades of pastel yellow and cream.

No matter which stage blooms are in, though, their golden yellow centers are a big draw for butterflies. Snip stems back to a leaf function lower on the plant, so it’s not so noticeable, for long-lasting cut flowers. Two or three weeks later, you should get a slight rebloom, though flowers will be fewer and smaller.

A compact grower that spreads to form neat clumps, ‘Banana Cream’ doesn’t splay open in the middle, like some other Shasta daisies. It has a densely branched habit, for lots of flowers — even on side shoots — and branches are thicker, too, so sturdy stems don’t flop in the rain. Plus, ‘Banana Cream’ won’t give you the same disease problems as older cultivars susceptible to stem rot, leaf spot, or verticillium wilt — it’s green foliage stays good-looking throughout the season.

This Shasta daisy likes a spot in full sun, although it will tolerate some afternoon shade in areas with very hot summers. Because it’s compact, ‘Banana Cream’ works well in containers or at the front to middle of a border. Once established, it doesn’t mind dry soil, but wet soil in winter can kill plants, so be sure to choose a well-drained site. Every two or three years, divide a crowding cluster in early spring to keep plants blooming vigorously.