September 27, 2021

Midwest Gardeners Meet-Up at Kenosha

prairie blooms 1

For the past several years, a group of Midwestern garden bloggers and communicators has met at various locations to tour gardens, arboretums, and plant displays. We skipped last year because of COVID, and this growing season was challenging for some weather and personal reasons. But several of us met last week in Kenosha, Wis.: myself, Danniel Ward-Packard, of Botanica Fine Gardens and Landscapes, and Jason Kay and Judy Hertz, of Garden in a City. It was a small group and a cloudy, windy, cool day, but we had a great time and some fabulous discussions about plants.

The first stop was a hikeable portion of the Chiwaukee Prairie State Natural Area, which is part of a 4,500-acre lake plain in Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. It was designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Significance in 2015.

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It's a captivating place, with a diversity of wet prairie species, even though this has been a particularly hot and dry growing season. The natural swaths of asters, sunflowers, goldenrods, grasses, and other plants were fascinating to view.

lake michigan

Across the road on this windy day, the turbulent waves of Lake Michigan were dramatically lapping the shore.

So many autumn native plants to observe and so little time. I believe I have the names correct on these beauties, but let me know if not.

canada goldenrod
Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

showy goldenrod
Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)

ne asters
New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

sky blue asters
Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense)

rough blazing star
Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera)

fringed gentian
Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis crinita)

For lunch, we met at Kenosha's waterfront Eichelman and Wolfenbuttel Parks, which have some colorful annual displays.

park sign

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The trellises and pergolas frame the park's Lake Michigan view and the nearby boat marina.

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park display 3

park display 2

They were lovely formal plantings surrounding the area.

Our final destination for the day was the Hawthorne Hollow Nature Sanctuary and Arboretum. I think this property surprised all of us with its 12 charming acres of prairies, gardens, and historic buildings.

prairie restoration

A small prairie restoration was in process.

old-fashioned rose

This beautiful unmarked rose reminded me of my great-grandfather's rose that he crossed for my great-grandmother.

swamp rose mallow

A vibrant, blooming Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) shrub couldn't be ignored.

foundation planting

This border along the side of one of the historical buildings was autumn-impressive, and had me wondering about its plant display during other seasons.

asters and sunflowers

On the way out, more asters and sunflowers took the spotlight.

It was a cloudy, windy day, but the companions and the gardens--both natural and intentionally planted--were top-tier.

I'm looking forward to next year's gardener gatherings!

September 13, 2021

Wistful About Summer Vases

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About this time of year, the reality of summer's end hits me. September in Southern Wisconsin is a very comfortable, pleasant experience. But the moodiness of summer drawing to an end always catches me a bit. It's in the spirit of that wistfulness that I lovingly place bright blooms in vases and realize their days are numbered.

vases 1

Unless I have a special occasion to arrange for, I tend to create very simple combinations. In this case, I simply plopped a mix of Mistflowers (Conoclinium coelestinum and Ageratina havanensis) into a decorative garden pitcher and called it a day.

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Awesome qualities about these cut flowers: They have a long vase life and the foliage is lush enough to add structure to a simple arrangement.

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I love, love, love the color of the blue ones.

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I also added a few sprigs of Blue Mistflowers to this group, which also contains 'State Fair Mix' Zinnias (Z. elegens) and 'Sensation Mix' Cosmos (C. bipinnatus). I was happy with the mix of colors, and in this particular glass vase.

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It complements the stained glass lamp next to it.

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I will miss these cut flowers during the long winter months ahead. For now, I'm enjoying them indoors in vases, and in the garden covered in pollinators...until the first frost in October.

You can join the "In a Vase on Monday" meme by posting about your arrangements and linking to Cathy's meme at Rambling in the Garden.

September 02, 2021

More Adventures at the Research Station

Display Gardens 1

I've posted about the UW-Madison West Agricultural Research Station before, but I figured it would be a good time to head over there again to see what's growing. The display gardens and the research crops change from year to year.

Students and faculty at the university's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have access to the gardens for research, agronomic and horticultural plant breeding and variety trials, community outreach, student training, and providing feed and manure management for the UW-Madison campus livestock.

Focus areas include field crops (corn, soybeans, small grains, alfalfa, and cover crops), plant breeding trials, vegetables, small fruit crops, composting, irrigation, and the horticultural display gardens (annuals and perennials). The latter include All-America Selections (AAS) winners.

Welcome Garden

I spent most of my time during this recent visit in the display gardens. There's a pretty little plant collection right out front, with annuals and perennials, welcoming people to the gardens.


Screen-protected areas display line-ups of various plant varieties; shown here, Coral Bells (Heuchera spp).

The masses of open areas are fascinating, too, and beautiful!

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Display Gardens 2

Display Gardens 3

One could spend hours viewing all these options!

Silver-Spotted Skipper

One main reason I enjoy visiting these gardens is to see and track butterflies, like this silver-spotted skipper, for With all the flowering plants, the butterflies are plentiful, too.

Buddleia Monarch

On this particular day last week, I saw more than 20 monarchs, along with several other species.

Buddleia SS Skipper

Their favorite area seemed to be the Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) display. And the favorite varieties on this particular day were 'Chrysalis Blue' and 'Chrysalis Cranberry.'

Monarch Egg

Some monarchs were still laying eggs on the plentiful native milkweeds in the gardens.

Pollinators on Cup Plant

I was particularly tickled to see the popularity of the native Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) blooms and other Silphium species, which were covered in various pollinators.

Lysimachia 'Night Light'

While I've seen Moneywort (Lysimachia alfredii) in gardens before, this variety, 'Night Light,' was quite attractive. Apparently, it prefers partial to full shade, the foliage turns burgundy in the shade, and it's rabbit-repellent (duly noted for my garden!).

Heliotropium Augusta 'Lavender'

The bumblebees were happy on Heliotrope 'Augusta Lavender' (Heliotropium hybrid). But who wouldn't be?

Double Sunking Blooms

Now this plant had me curious, with its large fluffy, double blooms: 'Double Sunking' Sunflower (Helianthus annuus).

Double Sunking Stand

Its height, from various sources, is listed at six feet, but these plants were much taller!

Canna Lily

I didn't make note of the species on this Canna Lily (Canna spp.), but I'm thinking it might be 'South Pacific Orange,' the 2018 AAS Flower Winner, and the one that I grew in 2019.

Entry Area

I could have spent much more time in the display gardens--so much to see, and so many things to learn. I'm looking forward to a return during the next growing season!