Plant to Pick: ‘Blackhawks’ Big Bluestem

Ornamental grasses add height and texture to our gardens. ‘Blackhawks’ big bluestem also adds exceptional fall (and summer) colors to the perennial garden. Many northern gardeners have cultivars of little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) in their gardens. Much breeding work over the past decade or more on this plant has resulted in its smaller size and…

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Goldenrod and Asters

Salt and pepper. Batman and Robin. Spaghetti and meatballs. Rhythm and blues. Goldenrod and asters. What? Allow me some alliteration when I say goldenrod and asters are a perfect pairing of powerhouse plants for pollinators. Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass (Milkweed Editions, 2013), writes of applying to be a botany major. Hoping to…

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Plant Profile: Lovely Lemon Balm

As your eyes drift across the garden, you might not immediately notice the bushy herb with the jagged-edged leaves. It’s easy to overlook amongst the sunflowers and the summer squash and the snapdragons. But let’s take a closer look at this unobtrusive and unassuming herb. It’s sometimes called common balm, garden balm, balm mint, dropsy…

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Plant Profile: Anise Hyssop

Anise hyssop is a tactile plant; soft to the touch when in full bloom and as it develops seeds. It also appeals to the other senses—the scent of the foliage is reminiscent of licorice and is used in teas, jams, salads and potpourri. Cylindrical flower spikes, several inches long, work well as cut flowers and…

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Plant Profile: Cardinal Flower

  Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) gets its name from the brilliant red flowers that grow in an elongated cluster atop the stems, midsummer through early fall. The tubular flowers are two-lipped, with the three lobes of the lower lip appearing more prominent than the two lobes of the upper lip. White- and rose-colored forms can…

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Ornamental Onion Cultivars

 The genus Allium (commonly known as onion) consists of several species that many northern gardeners know well, most commonly chives which have been used for eons in cooking. But, in recent years, there has been an explosion of ornamental onion cultivars. If you are looking for perennials that truly are easy to grow, this plant…

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Tips for Growing Garlic (and a Recipe)

This article first appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of Northern Gardener.  Plant garlic this fall and thank yourself later as you enjoy fresh pesto, quiches and other garlic-filled dishes next summer.  Growing garlic is easy and fun. Plant the garlic cloves outside in October so roots can develop before the ground freezes, and then…

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Hardscaping and Garden Tours After Quarantine

By Hannah Dove Koi Fish, Little Villages, and An Art Deco Sewer Pipe As the earth transitions from virtual garden tours back to physical ones, a lush planet comes out of quarantine. With the St. Anthony Park Garden Tour, 10 houses were spotlighted for their floriculture. However, what truly caught my eye on the garden…

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Northern Natives: Whorled Milkweed

Most gardeners are aware that monarch butterflies benefit when we plant milkweed in our gardens. All species in the Asclepias genus are host plants for monarchs—they lay their eggs on the plants and the hatched caterpillars then feed on the milkweed. Many are familiar with common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), butterflyweed (A. tuberosa) and swamp milkweed…

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Iceberg Alley Sageleaf Willow

Many recent shrub introductions have offered northern gardeners colorful foliage to accent their gardens. Whether it is the reds or purples of ninebark, the chartreuse of spirea or sumac, or a great variegated dogwood, foliage can brighten up our gardens all season long. Until recently, we’ve not had shrubs with silver foliage. We have some…

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