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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How to Save Seed with the MN SEED Project

By Hannah Dove Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.                                                                                                        —Henry David Thoreau When did seed-saving begin? Why is it so valuable for…

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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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Summertime Joy: Sunflowers

The splendiferous sunflower might not be the first plant that comes to mind when you think of your kitchen garden. But these beauties deserve a place in your edible garden for both their flowers and their seeds. Sunflowers are hardy in the North; they’re easy to grow; and they make a bold and vibrant statement…

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