Planting Season at Gateway and Beyond

Sppedy Sonnet Yellow, originally uploaded by theGardenDeva.

Plenty of wonderful new plants from Ball Horticultural to play with this summer. I have been non stop planting for almost a month between home and Gateway. I am so fortunate to have a couple great summer helpers, Sarah Krause and Rich Odegaard who have been busy preparing and planting beds at GTC. Art Henning has also been a huge help in getting this massive task completed. We have about 2,000 sf of planting beds to fill with annuals and perennials and then maintain over the summer.

Seven years ago a 1200 sf ‘Learning Garden’ was installed on campus. The garden is divided into various sections including the ‘Cottage Garden’, ‘Butterfly Garden’, ‘Conifer Garden’, ‘WI Garden’ ‘Fall Garden’ and ‘Formal Garden’.  Maintenance has been pretty hit or miss over the years and the garden really has been in decline, as gardens do, without consistent and thoughtful management. Many areas had been taken over by invasive species such as purple coneflower and Russian sage and some unknown native aster that bloomed for about 5 seconds before flopping over into a mass of frothy white seedheads. Pretty unimpressive. All the asters and mums in the fall garden got overwatered and croaked early on when the new irrigation system went ahywire so this section of the garden became a big nothing.  The  ten Hypericum forbs lasted about seven years before dying off in large uneven chunks so we will reomve them.  The ‘Carefree’ roses also have had there day and have descended into thorny balls of Japanese beetle bait.  They will be removed.  A Syringa myerii scion shorn into a ball and grafted as a standard onto a reticulata root stock trunk also gave up the ghost this year . This will leave some pretty large areas to re-design.  We need some basic landscape pants for ID purposes so nothing too exotic but hopefully good cultivars and forms – potentilla ‘Goldfinger’ and a few of the white or pink cultivars, Hypericum, ‘Knock out’ rose instead of ‘Carefree’. 

In early May I used Roundup to kill off large swaths of coenflower, Rusian sage, wild asters and weeds in general. The workers dug asters and clumps of coneflowers and weeds missed by the Roundup. We spread compost over beds and began planting last week with a combination of new perennials and Ball trial plants.

We have one formal display bed near the greenhouse of petunia trials, ‘Easy Wave series’, ‘Morn series’ and the black petunias ‘Phantom’, Pinstripe’ and Black Velvet’ are laid out in the traditional rows seen in most trials. We decided to do some of the trials in drifts and incorporate them into display beds in an attractive design in the Learning Garden.

Next weekend we have a plant sale and need to get everything organized and separated. Our greenhouse specialist/grower Kathy Estep has also been a huge help in keeping thinsg watered and getting things moved so we have planty set aside for planting and for the summer field study class. Carol Beatty is teaching this class and she is such a delight to work with. In years past she created stunning campus display beds and I know she and her students will do the same this year.

Everyone is very excited to be able to work with the Ball trial plants which are new plants not yet introduced for sale yet. The biggest ‘wow factor’ plants this year are the black petunias which are very beautiful and unusual indeed. We will have several trial sites on campus as well as containers designed by different folks.  More about these later as they grow and fill out.

‘Speedy Sonnet Yellow’ in the picture is an early blooming snapdragon. There are white, yellow and rose colors in the series. Yellow definately is the earliest to bloom. Very consistent bloomer with all plants blooming at the extact same time and throwing out 2-3 spikes. This picture was taken before a HUGE rainstorm pounded down on them but they are all still standing strong. The strong stems make them super weather resistant! The flower color is a very attractive bright lemon yellow that darkens near the throat – very pretty – especially with the purples of spring pansies. It is shown here blooming with Lunaria and ornamental cabbage.  They have also been subjected to cold, heat and drought (so far) and look great.  Its a really pretty shade of pale yellow getiign darker near center


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