Golf courses are usually dominated by one color - GREEN! It's the horticulturists on staff who are charged with adding some color and texture to the landscaping and clubhouse to brighten up the areas for members. I had the privilege of getting a behind-the-scenes tour from Anna Ramey at her place of work, Mission Hills Country Club in Mission Hills, Kansas. Anna has long been a supporter of the K-State flower trials and the Prairie Star program. She and I had been seeing each other once at year at the Flower Field Day for the last nine seasons, so it was fun to get a glimpse of what she does for the rest of the year!
Anna chooses flowers that deliver season-long color. A large bed by the clubhouse entrance makes a big statement with a mix of grasses, flowers, and foliage plants. Smaller accent gardens are tucked into the landscape, brightening up the surroundings and adding visual appeal. Many of the building are accented with large planters and hanging baskets. Some of her favorite Prairie Star winners include Coleus 'ColorBlaze Dipt in Wine,' Begonia 'Dragon Wing Red,' Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost,' Mandevilla 'SunParasol', and Ageratum 'Artist Blue.'
Since they often hosts weddings in the summer, Anna mostly uses white on the patio of the clubhouse. Vinca 'Titan White' has been one of her favorites. It thrives despite getting watered infrequently, and doesn't have issues with budworm or high fertilizer requirements. I like how elegant it looks with the planters of succulents and foxtail ferns!
Anna has chosen some great perennials in addition to the annuals that are on display. Native grasses and their cultivars like the switchgrass 'Northwind,' prairie dropseed, and little bluestem are dotted throughout the landscape. These are also on the list of Prairie Bloom perennials that K-State recommends for the region.
Click through the photos to see even more creative uses of flowers and lots of Prairie Star winners! While country clubs will always be primarily centered on their golf courses, they certainly wouldn't have the same panache without all the flowers.
Exciting news: There's an updated Prairie Bloom publication hot off the presses! While the website has always had the latest additions of recommended perennials for the prairie climate, it has been a long time since we came out with a new printed version. You can download the PDF free from the KSRE Bookstore.
New additions for 2015 include Peonies, Crapemyrtles, and Forsythia. See below for slideshows featuring some of them. Cultivars on the Prairie Bloom list have been tested for 3 or more years in the K-State trials and have received very high ratings in vigor and floriferousness (and, since this is a perennial trial - survival!).
The new formatting of the Prairie Bloom list has plants listed in three categories: Perennials for Sun, Perennials for Shade, and Woody Perennials for Sun. The last category includes Shrub Roses, Crapemyrtles, and Forsythia. While these are often thought of as shrubs, they can also be treated as perennial flowers since most gardeners choose to plant them for the few weeks of colorful blooms they display.
The height and width dimensions in the publication were observed during the trial period at the K-State Horticulture Research & Extension Center in Olathe. The actual plant size in your garden may differ slightly depending on where you live and the level of care you provide. Crepemyrtles, for instance, typically die back to the ground after winters in northeastern Kansas, but they grow to be tree-sized in southcentral Kansas. A local garden center should know how things perform in your region, or consult with your county extension office.
Fall is the best time of year to plant peonies. These perennials are very hardy and long-lived, and do well in a wide range of conditions. Plus they are low maintenance, needing little in the way of extra care in the garden. If you have an old clump of peonies that are blooming well, there is no need to dig and divide them - unless there is a special reason you need to move them.
Should you need to dig peonies, do so after the plants go dormant in the fall. Cut the stems low to the ground and dig the roots out of the soil, handling them with care. You can see the "eyes," which are the buds that will grow into stems come spring time. After washing away the soil, you should divide the roots into clusters containing 2-5 eyes and some of the fleshy storage roots. Then remove any damaged parts and smaller roots, leaving 4-6" stubs of the big roots.
Just like when you're dividing your own peonies, if you are purchasing roots from a store, choose those that have 3-5 eyes. Make sure the roots look healthy with no fungal growth.
When planting, choose a sunny location. In garden design, peonies are best planted in clusters of three or more, or used as the backdrop of a flowerbed in order to make a bigger visual impact. It's very important not to plant the crowns too deep or the plants will struggle to bloom. The eyes should never be covered by more than two inches of soil! See more details in the K-State publication Peonies in the Garden. Mulch can add to the depth, so take care not to cover the plants too much with any material.
Peonies can take up to three years to produce a full flower display after dividing, so be patient. Once your plants have established, though, you can take comfort in knowing that you will be graced with beautiful blooms for many many springs to come.
For more information, see Peonies in the Garden, a complete guide to growing peonies. Also, Peonies for Commercial Cut-Flower Production offers detailed information regarding growing peonies on a large scale.
Every year on the last Saturday of July, the K-State Olathe Horticulture Research & Extension Center has its annual Open House for the public. The event offers everyone a chance to learn straight from the researchers and Master Gardener Volunteers about how best to garden in Kansas. The site is the primary testing grounds for the Prairie Star Flowers program, so if you have ever been curious about what goes on at the trial, this is the time to learn!
This year some of the highlights in the flower trials include
- New disease-resistant Impatiens that won't get downy mildew
- Container trials of flowers and some vegetables to grow on your patio
- First-year blooming perennials
- Lantanas that stay small and uniform in the landscape or containers
- Many compact, well-branched Cannas
The educational talks vary each year, so check the Johnson Co. Extension website for a schedule.
The event runs from 8am - 3pm and is located at:
K-State Olathe Horticulture Research & Extension Center
35230 W. 135th St.
Olathe, KS 66061
Admission is $5/person and includes all education classes and bottled water. Lunch is available for purchase.
Centrally located in the state, the McPherson Demonstration and Research garden is another location where you can find Prairie Star flowers on display in Kansas. The Extension Master Gardeners have put a lot of hard work into making a beautiful brick-lined area that is well-labeled and bursting with color.
The garden has expanded over the years and now includes sections featuring Prairie Star (annuals), Experimental, Prairie Bloom (perennials), Heritage, Native, Xeriscape Berm, Shrubs, Shade, and a huge display of Daylilies and Grasses.
And when you visit you can't help but notice the bricks! We learned that they are paving bricks from Buffalo, Kansas, which were obtained when Highway 56 was redone in the downtown area. As the layers of blacktop were removed, there appeared a layer of paving bricks which are now (after much scraping, cleaning, stacking, and laying) serving as pathways and borders in the garden. The bricks were much sought after, but because the construction foreman had noticed the modest first year garden, he moved it to the top of the list and subsequently delivered 5 dump truck loads of bricks to the site! The volunteers have since acquired additional bricks to complete the project. The first year's garden was 16' x 20' and was financed by donations from individual members and from area nurseries. Since then they have added 6 horticulture programs and a garden tour. Impressive!
The garden is located by the McPherson Extension office at
600 W Woodside
McPherson, KS 67460-0308
See their website or call 620-241-1523 for more information.
Now that summer is upon us, we can once again start featuring some of the Demonstration and Research Gardens that grace our state! If you are in the Salina, Kansas area and have an interest in gardening, make a point to visit the Saline County Demonstration Garden. It has excellent displays of annual flowers, perennial plants in both sun and shade, different turfgrasses, hardscapes, design ideas and more.
Like most of the Demonstration and Research gardens in the state, it is designed and maintained by Extension Master Gardener volunteers. They do a really impressive job of keeping this garden looking sharp all season long. The pictures below offer a sampling of what there is to see.
(If you are having trouble viewing the pictures, you may need to visit our blog page.)
The garden is located near the intersection of Kenwood Park Dr. and Bob Flaherty Dr. (near the Water Park and Expo Center). Parking is available right across the street at the fairgrounds area.
For more information contact the Central Kansas District extension office at 785-309-5850.
Usually in early May we see healthy growth on many spring-blooming perennials like Peonies and Iris and we're anxiously awaiting their glorious display of flowers. This year at the research center our Peony plants are big and strong, but many of the flower buds show signs of freeze damage from the cold temperatures last month.
Most freeze damage occurs long before the buds are visible. It usually happens when the cells are first beginning to form the bud in the newly emerging shoot. It can also happen when the buds are extended and visible, but usually the danger of freeze has passed at this point in the season. Once the buds are damaged, the flowers will not form.
On other perennials like Iris, the flower won't necessarily be a total loss from freeze damage. Instead, the flower spike is often considerably shorter. So if your Iris seem smaller this year, last month's temperatures could be the cause.
After trialing over 50 different cultivars of Echinacea, we are pleased to announce new additions to the Prairie Bloom list of recommended perennials.
The plants in the trial received basic garden care - they were fertilized, mulched, and watered until established. Then they survived mostly on natural rainfall, with some supplemental watering during especially dry periods like the summer of 2012. Unfortunately, during the second and third years, some plants had to be removed due to Aster Yellows Disease (see previous blog post on flower diseases for more information).
The research trial results suggest that Echinacea, even though native to Kansas, should not be considered to be long-lived perennial flowers. These Echinacea should be considered three-year perennials, meaning many cultivars declined or did not overwinter beyond three seasons in the garden.
Prairie Bloom Additions:
The full Prairie Bloom list can be viewed here. The flower profile pages have plant dimensions, first week of bloom, and more pictures.
Adding Echinacea to your garden
Did you know that the National Garden Bureau declared 2014 to be the Year of the Echinacea? To grow their best, Echinacea need a sunny garden spot with well-drained soil. The NGB points out their garden uses in a informative article:
Echinacea is attractive to birds, bees and butterflies making it a great choice for a pollinator-friendly garden. It is generally deer resistant. Because of their root structure, the plants are drought tolerant and can withstand heat and wind. Used in garden borders or backgrounds, Echinacea adds color and texture for a wildflower or prairie-style garden. For best visual impact, plant in masses. Deadhead florets to encourage further blooms. Echinacea flowers through the summer (June through August). Its seed heads can be left to dry on the plant to feed wild birds through the fall and winter. Echinacea plants will reseed in the fall, with new flowers growing the following season. Hardiness zones vary by variety, with a range from USDA Zone 4-9.
We run the annual and perennial flower trials for Kansas State University