From Our Garden to Yours: Favorite plants that shine in Kansas City
Plants! We are all looking for plants that not only grow but also thrive in the Kansas City gardens. We have all tried the latest and greatest only to find out that it was a waste of money. Unfortunately it seems like killing plants comes with most aspects of gardening. However, in these tougher economic times we are all looking to make wise investments with great returns.
Our Johnson County Extension Master Gardeners have a network of eight demonstration gardens around the county. Each garden has a different theme and they range in size from 1,600 square feet to over an acre in size. Some are vegetable gardens while others are a mix of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs. The goal is to provide visitors with ideas of what to plant in the garden. I would like to list a few plants that are well worth the investment in your garden. There is no real rhyme or reason to these selections except they have performed and rewarded year after year.
‘Grey Owl’ juniper
This evergreen has a unique color for the garden. Its color is unlike any other evergreen in the landscape, with its bright silvery-gray hue. Its needle-like foliage is finer in texture and so striking that it works as an accent plant or is stunning in mass plantings in the landscape or the garden. Unlike many junipers, it is small, reaching about 3 feet tall and maybe up to 6 feet wide. This size makes it versatile as it does not overpower. Since it is a juniper, when established it is very heat and drought tolerant. Disease and insect problems are minor, with occasional bagworm issues.
‘Easy Does It’ rose
This rose lives up to its name as it is just about as carefree as they come. The flowers are a wonderful combination of orange, peach, and apricot and pink that appear above the dark green and glossy rose’s leaves. This rose blooms almost nonstop during the hottest part of the summer retaining its rich, colorful flowers, unlike some roses that bleach out in the hot summer sun. This easy care shrub rose is vigorous growing reaching 3 to 4 feet which makes it perfect for the flower garden or even a nice hedge backdrop. ‘Easy Does It’ has a higher petal count than many other shrub type roses and a medium to large flower size. Like all roses it will do best in full sun with timely watering to help prevent drought stress and increase the number of flowers. This rose is very winter hardy with no special care needed, and it is highly resistant to most common rose diseases. Unfortunately no rose is resistant to rose rosette. This rose even has some fragrance during the cooler spring and fall months. So what else could you ask from a plant — stunning color, free flowering and almost disease free makes it a must for all gardens.
Finding plants that flower in the heat of summer is oftentimes difficult but the perennial hibiscus makes a great addition to the garden. Do not confuse the perennial hibiscus with its tropical cousin found growing on the patio. The winter hardy hibiscus dies back to the ground each winter to emerge in the spring. Initially the plant develops a nice bushy habit but then once the heat kicks in it begins to flower. Flowers come in a range of colors from pure white to red, pink, lavender and even some bi-color blooms. The flowers can be very large, up to the size of a dinner plate. Each bloom only lasts about a day. But with good care it will flower for up to a month or more which is good for a perennial. The plants will also range in size from several feet to more than 6 feet depending on the variety. Best of all this plant is not very picky when it comes to soil as it will thrive in wet to dry soil conditions.
There are many varieties on the market and all perform about the same. Some of our favorites in our demonstration gardens include
- ‘Blue River II,’ pure white,
- ‘Plum Crazy,’ pink,
- ‘Robert Fleming,’ red,
- ‘Cranberry Crush’ cranberry red, and
- ‘Fantasia’ a bright pink.
Who does not love zinnias, whether they are gracing a garden or as cut flowers for the table? Zinnias are easy to grow, but so many of the varieties are susceptible to the foliar disease powdery mildew that wrecks the plants. A zinnia variety, which was developed for the cut flower trade and is also great for the garden is Benary’s Giant. Benary’s Giant is a large flowered zinnia that has long stems that stand up in the garden and make them great for cutting. The plants can be large reaching 4 feet or more but flower all summer long. The range of color is outstanding, from the traditional reds, pinks, yellows and white, but also wonderful shades of salmon, lime, coral, and scarlet. So there is really a color choice for just about any design.
The main problem with Benary’s zinnias is that very few outlets sell them as transplants and finding seed packets on the shelves are difficult. Online there are numerous places to purchase this wonderful annual for the garden. Zinnias can be direct seeded in the garden, or, for the adventurist, transplants can be started. The advantage of a transplant is that they start flowering sooner in the garden. Once you have grown these zinnias they will become a favorite as they are a showstopper.
From our gardens to yours, these are just a few plant selections that are sure to please. Stop by and visit one of the gardens and learn more about the great plants for the landscape. Here is a listing of EMG Demonstration Gardens.