Friday, February 5, 2016

SunPatiens - The Real Deal

It was nice to be back in the office today to continue making orders for the spring.  The weather was nice and sunny and we had some volunteer help today too.  Big John continued working on processing lights from the Holiday Light Show (HLS) which is coming down very efficiently with such good help involved.  Alan was out in the gardens collecting more elements of the HLS and Urban came in to do some pruning and also helped process lights.  The gardens were quite icy so everyone had to be careful.  Jim D. was in for some carpentry projects and Bill O. was in as well.  Janice popped by as did Kathy P., Kris K. and some others.

Over the past couple of years, I've been promoting the toughness of the SunPatiens series of Impatiens out in the landscape.  In fact, I shared a couple of the new varieties in my winter talks this year.  We've grown SunPatiens varieties for many years and they do very well for us both in shade and sun.  There are close to 30 varieties from Sakata seed that fall in to the categories of "compact", "spreading" and "vigorous".  With tough foliage and thicker flower petals, these plants can take a lot of sunlight if given amply moisture (essential).  They are easy to grow and are quite tolerant of heat and humidity.  All the photos in this blog were taken at Midwest gardens or at Rotary Botanical Gardens.  It is important to note that SunPatiens are also highly resistant to the impatiens downy mildew problem that is plaguing Impatiens walleriana (which we don't plant any more for that reason).  In our climate, the compact forms will be 15"-18" tall and wide.  The spreading forms might be a bit taller but are quite wide with significant coverage.  The vigorous series can get well over 24" in our climate and even taller in warmer settings with a longer growing season.  I've been very impressed with this series and particularly enjoy the variegated forms (see below).  Not all the varieties are pictured here but you'll get a fell for how nice they look in the container or ground.

SunPatiens 'Compact Tropical Rose' (above and below)

 SunPatiens 'Compact Hot Coral'
 SunPatiens 'Compact Coral Pink'
SunPatiens 'Compact Electric Orange'
 SunPatiens 'Compact Neon Pink'
 SunPatiens 'Compact Royal Magenta'
SunPatiens 'Compact Pink Improved'
SunPatiens 'Compact Lilac'
 SunPatiens 'Compact Deep Rose'
 SunPatiens 'Spreading Clear Orange'
 SunPatiens 'Spreading Lavender'
 SunPatiens 'Spreading Shell Pink'
SunPatiens 'Spreading Tropical Orange'
SunPatiens 'Spreading Clear White'
 SunPatiens 'Spreading White' (above and below)

 SunPatiens 'Spreading Tropical Orange'
SunPatiens 'Spreading Salmon'

SunPatiens 'Compact White' & 'Compact Pink Blush' (Ball Seed)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Michigan Tour II

All the photos in this blog were taken at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park (Grand Rapids, MI) where I enjoyed a nice stroll yesterday.  I'm participating in the Plants of Distinction program arranged by Mary and Rebecca from Michigan State University Extension.  I'm doing two presentations (Sensational Shrubs and Annuals) at two different program sites.  I've reconnected with Dan Benarcik from Chanticleer Garden (Wayne, PA) as he is a presenter as well.  I helped with this program about seven years ago and it's nice to be back.  Mary and Rebecca do a great job and the attendees have been very receptive.  I've connected with lots of neat gardeners and green industry professionals.  I'm also avidly going through seed catalogs for RBG in all my spare time here.

 the winter look for golden Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola')
 the new Japanese garden (above and below) is neat (and huge)!

 lots of cool sculpture (above and below)

weeping Alaskan cedar (Xanthocyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula')
winter container
 awesome vertical wall with mosses, lichens, shelf fungi, etc. in the conservatory

orchids (above) and cacti (below) - the conservatories were lots of fun

Monday, February 1, 2016

Penstemon for Hummingbirds!

The weekend was quite mild.  Today continued that trend with sunshine quickly melting off the ice that formed overnight.  We had a great turnout of volunteers this morning.  With Larry and Big John continuing to lead the troops with taking down the Holiday Light Show (HLS), we also had Bob C., Alan and Peg arrive to assist.  Dr. Gredler was in for more painting and Ron P. continued to work on lights repair for the HLS.  Dave and Jim had some carpentry projects and were assisted by Dick H.  Gene continued with work on our benches that are being re-sanded and re-sealed.  We also saw Larry O., Gary, Chuck S. (recycling) and Lloyd.  I continue to juggle seed orders, presentation preparations and general spring planning.  The Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo ( is coming up in two weeks (February 12-14) and RBG will have a booth at the trade show.  I think we've been going to this expo for the past 20 years.  I'll also be doing some presentations (Herbs, Annuals and Perennials) and we'll do our best to expose the gardens to the 20,000 folks that attend.  If you want to skip the long ticket line at the expo (Alliant Energy Center - Exhibition Hall), come to our Cottage Garden Gallery and get your Expo tickets in advance!

I've included some fun Penstemon selections in this blog.  Known as beardtongue, this Western U.S. native is heat and sun tolerant and quite adaptable in our climate as well.  There are MANY species and varieties of Penstemon and this blog does not do the genus justice.  There are perennial beardtongues available in our area but I should point out that all of these featured in the blog would be very touchy (non-hardy) in our area and should be considered annuals.  They will bloom the first year from seed started early (or can be purchased as plants) and to me, these annual selections (like 'Phoenix Pink' above) are worth the space because of long summer blooming on these dense flower spikes.  Heights will vary depending on the species and parentage but most are in the 15"-24" range.  We have grown many annual beardtongues out in the gardens and have positioned them in well-drained soil (essential) and do provide some supplemental fertilizer throughout the summer.  Many of the varieties shown here are offered as plants (vegetatively propagated) and are ready to insert in to beds and containers.  With our Hummingbird Haven theme this year in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden, "annual" Penstemon selections like those you see here will be evident in profusion!

 Penstemon 'Phoenix Red'
 Penstemon 'Phoenix Violet'
 Penstemon 'Rose Quartz' (above and below)

 Penstemon 'Cha Cha Lavender'
 Penstemon 'Cha Cha Cherry'
 Penstemon 'Cha Cha Pink'
 Penstemon 'Tubular Bells Red'
 Penstemon 'Tubular Bells Wine Red'
Penstemon 'Carillo Rose'