Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tough Plants for the Midwest

At the National Green Centre trade show in St. Louis, I moderated a round table discussion on tough plants for the Midwest.  Moving from Kentucky to Kansas City, I found out right away in Kansas City that the weather in the Midwest is full of extremes.  And growing plants that stand up to these tough conditions can be a challenge.  You never know when it is going to rain.  And, when it does, it can come down by the bucketful.  Winters can range from cold and snowy to unseasonably warm and the ground doesn't freeze.  Summer is just plain hot and humid in Kansas City.

Hypericums in general are very tough plants and great for Midwest conditions.  Familiar ones are frondosum Sunburst and Kalmianum.  A new one we started growing in 2012 is Proven Winner's Sunny Boulevard.  Though similar to the others, the foliage is a glossy green.  We were very pleased with how long it flowered this past summer.  The new Hypericums from First Editions are noted for their yellow flowers and their beautiful fruit that extends their season of salability.  This group is more similar to the plants with Hypericum Androseamum blood in them, but appear to be hardier.  Loma Vista is growing Glory, Beauty, Pumpkin and Red Star for retail garden centers.

First Editions' Cool Splash Diervilla took a while for me to latch onto.  But, it has truly performed well.  The irregular variegated edges did not burn in the heat of the summer.  It has yellow flowers in June and July and matures 30-54" x 30-54".  Diervilla lonicera is an underused flowering shrub in the Kansas City area.  Yellow tubular flowers all summer, great drought tolerance and clean foliage.

Physocarpus does well in the Midwest and two new ones to look for are Amber Jubilee and Little Devil.  Both from First Editions, we began growing these last year at our container farm.  Amber Jubilee has foliage that changes colors through the seasons ending up with orange, yellow and coral foliage in the fall.  It matures 5-6' x 4'.  Little Devil in Bailey's trial garden is about 6' tall.  The small leaves are dark purple and it has a dense form.  Both have pale pink flowers in the spring.

Buddleias continue to be a popular summer flowering shrub in the Midwest.  We've expanded our selections of butterfly bushes and include three new ones from Proven Winners.  The Lo & Behold series now includes Blue Chip and Purple Haze.  Both have purple blue fragrant flowers.  Miss Molly has vibrant magenta flowers.  All are butterfly magnets.

Shrubs coming on future production include two new Abelias.  Canyon Creek is slated for fall.  It has coppery yellow foliage, strong chinenesis tendencies and is drought tolerant.  A bit of spring pruning will keep it form nice and tidy.  'Rose Creek' also has strong chinensis tendencies but with green foliage.  It is covered with blush pink flowers in the summer and the sepals turn red when the flowers are spent.  It too, will be ready in the fall.  We are trialing two Indigofera shrubs, kirlowii and Rose Carpet.  Kirlowii is drought tolerant, has lavender flowers and a smaller maturing form.  All attributes that should make it a good choice for parking lot islands.  Rose Carpet may prove to a good choice for a groundcover type shrub.  It matures under 3' and has pink flowers.  We will know more about it's hardiness after this winter. 
In 2012, Loma Vista added a pot n pot tree farm to our container farm.  Sophora japonica 'Regent' was one of many that did very well.  It help up great during the hot dry summer and has yellow summer flowers.  The bark stays bright green all winter long. Acer truncatum, Shantung Maple, is another great tree that holds up well in the Midwest's extreme conditions.  The foliage emerges reddish-purple, hence the name Purpleblow Maple, and stays dark green all summer.  In the fall, its foliage is bright yellow.   A tree to watch for in the future is Celtis 'Prairie Sentinel.'   This Hackberry has a narrow form and doesn't mind the heat and drought.  We have been very pleased with the ones we are growing in our fields. 

Ben Cecil, Operations Manager, Loma Vista Nursery

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