Monthly Archives: June 2016

  1. Our 5 Favorite Shrubs for the Front Yard

    New HouseHaving shrubs that provide great color in your front yard is sure to make your house noticeable. While you don't want shrubs that will be too tall to interfere with visibility, there are a number of shrubs that will be sure to delight you and your neighbors through beautiful flowers, interesting foliage, and delightful fragrance.

    Dark Knight BluebeardBluebeard - Caryopteris spp.
    A shrub with pale purplish-blue flowers in the late summer that are attractive to multitudes of pollinators, bluebeard makes a fantastic addition to your landscape. Ranging in height from 30 inches to 4 feet, there is a shrub that fits every space. Try 'Lil Miss Sunshine' for bright yellow leaves and a shorter height, or 'Sapphire Surf' for a larger shrub with dark green foliage. Best planted in zones 5-9, bluebeard will stand out and add color to your landscape. 

    Yellow PotentillaPotentilla
    Flowering in early summer and lasting through fall, shrubby cinquefoil is a low-maintenance shrub that will thrive in sunny front yard. Small, five petal flowers range in color from pink to yellow to white on this short, 2-3 foot tall shrub. Try 'Abbotswood' for a shrub that covers itself in white flowers all season long, or 'Pink Beauty' for beautiful pink flowers. For a traditional yellow cinquefoil shrub, consider 'Gold Drop' or 'Gold Star.' Use shrubby cinquefoil as an individual species plant, or as a mass planting for dramatic color in your front yard, all season long in zones 2-7.

    Harbor Belle Heavenly Bamboo
    - Nandina domestica 'Jaytee'
    As an evergreen shrub, Harbor Belle Heavenly Bamboo will provide visual beauty all year long. Starting in spring, small white flowers bloom, before becoming scarlet red berries. Come fall, the leaves take on a purple hue, lasting until the next season. Best planted in zones 6-11, the Harbor Belle Heavenly Bamboo will only reach 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide, making it an ideal shrub for your front yard.

    Little Henry Virginia Sweetspire
    - Itea virginica 'Spirch'
    White summer flowers give way to beautiful scarlet foliage in the fall. Growing approximately 3 feet in all directions, Little Henry Virginia Sweetspire will thrive in a sunny front yard. Pollinators adore the long white flower spikes, and it makes a unique addition to your front yard. Thriving in zones 5-9, Little Henry Virginia Sweetspire will be sure to please for many years.

    Sugar Shack Buttonbush

    Pincushion-like flowers dot the shrub in the early summer, becoming round red fruits in the early fall. Pollinators flock to the flowers, and birds enjoy the fruits. Because it reaches a maximum of 4 feet in all directions, Sugar Shack Buttonbush adds a touch of whimsy to your front yard. Best in zones 4-10, try planting this shrub as a foundation planting or as a mass planting for dramatic seasonal displays.

    Having unique and interesting shrubs in your front yard make your landscape stand out. Try some combination of these shrubs and enjoy the variety they provide.

    1. Bluebeard
    2. Potentilla
    3. Harbor Belle Heavenly Bamboo
    4. Little Henry Virginia Sweetspire
    5. Sugar Shack Buttonbush
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  2. Top 5 Shrubs for a Windbreak

    Windbreak ShrubsAlong with planting evergreens and deciduous trees, shrubs are an essential part of windbreak design. Because they provide another layer of protection from the harsh winter winds, consider using these shrubs in your windbreak to maximize the protection available to you in every season.  

    ElderberryElderberry - Sambucus spp.
    Prized for it's fragrant flowers and delicious fruits, elderberry serves a multitude of purposes in a windbreak. Along with providing protection from severe winter winds, elderberry is favored by pollinators and birds alike. Consider using Black Lace or Black Beauty elderberries for a little different appearance, rather than the green foliage with white flowers found in the York Elderberry, these have purple foliage with pink flowers. Best planted in zones 3-9, elderberry will provide you with tasty fruits and become an integral part of your windbreak.

    HazelnutHazelnut - Corylus americana
    Another shrub with edible nuts, hazelnut is an ideal addition to a windbreak. Mature height is anywhere from 8 to 15 feet tall, and will spread to approximately the same size. Male catkins dangle from the branches in the spring, pollinating the tiny purple female flowers. In the fall, the hazelnut seed can be harvested and eaten. Fall color ranges from yellow to orange to red, depending upon a multitude of environmental conditions. Known to thrive in zones 4-9, hazelnut will provide you with years of protection and edible fruits in your windbreak.

    DogwoodDogwood - Cornus spp.
    With branches ranging in colors from bright red to yellow to grey, dogwoods provide winter interest and color in a windbreak. Flowers appear in the spring, and in the fall can range in color from yellow to bright red. Try Cardinal Redosier dogwood for bright red stems you can use in arrangements or Bud's Yellow dogwood for yellow stems that will catch your eye. Grey dogwood boasts of beautiful white berries and grey branches. Because dogwoods are so adaptable, they are ideal for windbreak conditions; they will thrive where they are planted and provide support to the rest of the windbreak's efforts to lessen the winter weather.

    CherryNanking cherry shrubs - Prunus tomentosa
    Another edible shrub that thrives in a windbreak is Nanking Cherry. Pale white flowers dot the shrub in the spring, and become bright red fruits in the summer. These fruits can be used for jams and jellies, or left for the birds to enjoy. Nanking cherry grows between 8 - 10 feet high and 10 - 15 feet wide. Nanking cherry does require cross pollination to produce fruits, so be sure to plant more than one in your windbreak. A hardy plant that will thrive in zones 2-6, Nanking cherry makes a strong addition to your windbreak that will tolerate most conditions.

    LilacCommon lilac - Syringa vulgaris
    Common lilac is known for its beautiful spring flowers and the fragrance that goes along with them. Growing to approximately 10 feet tall by 8 feet wide, it is a great plant to use in your windbreaks not only because of it's beauty, but because it is hardy and adaptable. Best planted in zones 2-7, common lilac will thrive in your windbreak, providing you spring beauty and winter protection.
    Shrubs in windbreaks provide another layer of protection from winter's harsh winds. Try using these shrubs in your windbreak and enjoy the added benefits: edible fruits, fragrant flowers and habitat for wildlife.

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  3. Top 5 Deciduous Trees for Windbreaks

    Tree Windbreak

    It may seem counter-intuitive to plant deciduous trees in your windbreak, given that they have no leaves in the winter when they come into the most use. However, using deciduous trees in you windbreak provides you with shade in the summer and creates a more diverse planting. Having increased diversity helps prevent the total devastation of your windbreak should one species be impacted by disease or other natural causes, along with providing habitat for wildlife.

    Ohio BuckeyeOhio Buckeye - Aesculus glabra
    At maturity, Ohio buckeye trees typically reach 40 to 50 feet tall and spread approximately 30 to 40 feet. As one of the first trees to leaf out in the spring, this tree will give your windbreak a push into greening up for the year. Along with bright green leaves, yellow flowers attract pollinators and hummingbirds. Come fall, the foliage turns bright orange, and hard seeds develop. Best planted in zones 4 - 7, Ohio buckeye is sure to provide some eye-catching color to your windbreak. 

    Kentucky Coffee TreeKentucky Coffeetree - Gymnocladus dioica
    Kentucky coffeetrees are unique and exciting species to have in your windbreak. The dark, furrowed bark will provide depth and interest to your windbreak in every season, and the persisting brown seedpods create an interesting silhouette against the winter sky. In the spring the leaves emerge, reaching up to three feet in length and small white flowers contrast beautifully. With the potential to reach 60 to 70 feet tall in ideal conditions, Kentucky coffeetree thrives in zones 3 - 8.

    Greenspire LindenGreenspire Linden - Tilia cordata 'Greenspire'
    An extremely adaptable tree, Greenspire Lindens will thrive in your windbreak. Bright yellow flowers in early summer fill the air with a pleasant scent, and the green leaves turn a similar shade of yellow in the fall. The dense foliage will provide shade in the summer, and the branches will help slow the wind in the winter. Best planted in zones 4-7, and reaching 50 feet tall at maturity, Greenspire Linden will adapt to whatever conditions your windbreak has.

    Thornless HoneylocustThornless Honeylocust - Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis
    Thornless honeylocust is thorn-free, making it ideal for planting in a windbreak. Standing 60 feet tall at maturity, thornless honeylocust is an understated, subtle tree in the summer. Come fall, the small foliage turns bright yellow, calling attention to the tree. Small white flowers in the spring provide a light scent when blooming. One of the fastest growing trees in this list, thornless honeylocust thrives in zones 4-9, and would be a great addition to your windbreak.

    Black WalnutBlack Walnut - Juglans nigra
    A tree prized for its wood and nuts, black walnut is one tree you should consider planting in your windbreak. Known for its longevity and ability to withstand extreme weather conditions, black walnut is a power-horse. Seedpods give way to delicious walnuts you can eat (provided you can beat the critters to them), and the tree turns a bright yellow in the fall. Reaching above 50 feet tall, black walnut will be a tree that will survive in your windbreak for decades in zones 4 - 9.

    Deciduous trees provide another source of diversity for your windbreak, increasing its effectiveness in the summer and providing necessary habitat for local wildlife. Each of these trees will thrive in your windbreak, so be sure to consider them when designing.

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  4. 5 Brilliant Native Plants for the Southern Midwest

    Southern Midwest

    With hot, dry summers, the Southern Midwest has some incredible drought tolerant plants that are native to the area that are sure to make your landscape look even more stunning in the hot summer months. Today, we'll talk about five native plants from the Southern Midwest United States. Native plants are defined as plants that have been established in a given area for hundreds of years. This definition is often paired with a geographic location, like the Southern Midwest United States. It is challenging to pinpoint an exact geographical boundary, as plants do not follow the same boundaries people do, so we will just limit it to the southern portion of the Midwest in general - zones 6 through 11.

    Eastern Red CedarEvergreen - Eastern Red Cedar
    With small blue berries on the female trees, eastern red cedar is a wildlife favorite. The shreddy red bark, often obscured by the branches until you get up-close and personal to it provides an interesting contrast while providing nesting materials. Growing up to 40 feet tall at maturity, Eastern red cedar is ideal for screening and protecting your property.

    Bald CypressDeciduous Tree - Bald Cypress
    At first glance, bald cypress looks like an evergreen in the spring and summer. With light green-feathered foliage, reddish-brown bark, and soccer-ball shaped seed pods, bald cypress makes an interesting addition to any landscape. But the interesting thing about bald cypress is that come fall, the leaves shed and the tree becomes “bald” – the origin of the common name. A stunning tree at full maturity, bald cypress can reach up to 65 feet high, and will be sure to be an interesting talking point in your landscape.

    CoralberryShrub - Coralberry
    If you have ever wanted to have pink colors in your landscape in the winter, Coralberry is the shrub for you. Small pink fruits persist throughout the winter months, giving you something other than the evergreens and dormant plants to admire. While not edible, they do make a beautiful addition to any cut flower arrangement. In the summer, the bright green foliage contrasts with the small pink flowers. Planted individually or in masses results in a stunning display year-round.

    GayfeatherFlowering Perennial - Liatris
    Also known as gayfeather, liatris is a perennial that will not be ignored in the summer months. Tall purple flowers demand attention, and the green foliage provides that contrast necessary to make that purple pop. Planted in full sun, liatris will reach up to two feet tall when flowering, making it a beautiful addition to any landscape.

    Northern Sea OatsGrass - Northern Sea Oats
    The flat seed heads of Northern Sea Oats dance in the summer breeze above bamboo-like foliage. A spreading grass, northern sea oats will provide both summer interest with the seedheads before turning a glowing gold in the fall. The seedheads are favored by birds, and also make a unique addition to a cut-flower arrangement. Dead-heading the grass before the seeds spread will help to prevent the spread of this grass.

    Each of these plants would be an interesting addition to any landscape. Because they are native to the Southern Midwest, they are ready to withstand the hot, dry summers that are characteristic of that region. To see our favorite native plants for other regions, check out these articles: Native Plants for the Northeast Native Plants for the Southeast Native Plants for the Upper Midwest Native Plants for the Southwest Native Plants for the Northwest

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  5. 6 Astonishing Plants that Thrive in Wet Areas

    Plants for Wet Areas 2We all have come across it - that one spot in the yard that is always wet, muddy and swampy, regardless of how we try to amend it. Most often, we just give up planting anything there and write it off as "the swamp." But what if there were plants adapted to growing there that would thrive and still look beautiful?The good news: there are! Many of these plants are ready to take on the wet areas of your yard, and can survive both in nearly flooded conditions for short term, moderately wet seasons or drier times.

    River BirchRiver Birch - Betula nigra
    As the name suggests, river birch is adapted to those wet areas of land. Standing approximately 50 feet tall at full maturity, the pale white bark and bright green foliage provide seasonal interest all year. Use it if you need a tree in an area that is fairly swampy after a weather event, and watch as it thrives.

      Loblolly PineLoblolly pine - Pinus taeda
    It's surprising to find an evergreen tree that can withstand wet soil. But loblolly pine will thrive even in a swampy area. With a mature height of over 70 feet, loblolly pine will provide you with that year-round evergreen characteristic in an area that otherwise wouldn't have something like that.

      ButtonbushButtonbush - Cephalanthus occidentalis
    Best used in wet locations, buttonbush is a shrub that will delight. With a four foot spread in all directions, buttonbush has flowers and fruits that give it it's namesake - they are round and look identical to buttons! Pollinators adore the flowers, and birds enjoy the fruits, so why not plant something that serves multiple purposes in your wet area?

      FernRoyal Fern - Osmunda regalis
    Often found growing along river banks (and even in water, in places), royal fern will thrive in wet environments. A clump former, royal fern's large arching leaves will provide habitat cover while growing in your wet spots in your landscape. Unique flowering structures provide some whimsy and fun to your landscape. Consider planting it en masse for best results.

      Sedge GrassSedges - Carex spp.
    At first glance, sedges look like grasses. But on closer inspection, the triangular leaves of sedges are easy to identify and separate from grasses. Use in your wet areas, as sedges don't mind having their feet wet, and enjoy the grass-like appearance. Try a cultivar like 'Ice Dance' for a bold, variegated statement.

      Swamp MilkweedSwamp milkweed - Asclepias incarnata
    As the name suggests, swamp milkweed is a perfect flowering perennial for those wet areas of your landscape. The cultivar 'Cinderella' has pink flowers in the summer that smell like vanilla cinnamon and other spices. Used as a host plant for monarch butterflies and as a food source for other pollinators, using swamp milkweed will be sure to provide your wet location with plenty of activity!
      Wet spots can be a challenge to landscape around, as many plants can't tolerate the conditions. But with these plants, there are options to maximize your landscape and provide some beauty in those challenge spots.

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  6. Top 5 Plants to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Yard

    Hummingbird Photo by Charlesjsharp

    Hummingbirds zip and fly through the air, looking for a tasty treat to snack on. Planting perennial plants in your landscape can provide season-long feeding stations for hummingbirds as they migrate.

    Found only in the Americas, hummingbirds are attracted to the red and orange flowers but have been known to feed on other colored flowers. They also tend to prefer flowers that are trumpet shaped. Their small, narrow beaks make it easier for the birds to reach the nectar, while deterring other insect and bird pollinators.

    Coral Bells

    Coral Bells - Heuchera spp.
    Coral bells come in a multitude of colors, from green to orange to dark purple leaves.  There's a coral bell for every purpose. Best planted in full to partial sun, coral bells bloom in the spring, with bell-shaped flowers ranging in color from creamy white to bright pink that are perfect for hummingbirds to feed on. They are best planted in zones 4-9. Try cultivars 'Berry Smoothie', 'Autumn Leaves', 'Paris', or 'Cherry Cola' for their reddish-pink flowers and fascinating foliage colors.


    Penstemon - Penstemon spp.
    Blooming in late spring, penstemon flowers also have that ideal trumpet-like shape flower. Ideal for zones 3-9, the pale pink and white flowers may not seem like the typical hummingbird flowers, but the birds disagree. Try the cultivar 'Dark Towers' for dark foliage and pink flowers, or 'Husker Red' for red stems and more cream colored flowers.

      Bee Balm

    Bee Balm - Monarda didyma
    A clump forming perennial, bee balm makes the perfect stop for hungry hummingbirds. With flower colors ranging from bright red to electric purple, bee balm flowers in the late summer and early fall. Use it en masse for a spectacular color display, and watch as the hummingbirds come flocking to your yard. Try 'Jacob Kline' for a bright red flower, 'Purple Rooster' for an electric purple, or 'Petite Wonder' for a shorter version with pink flowers.


    Weigela - Weigela florida
    Unlike the previous flowers, weigela is a shrub standing between 3-5 feet tall with trumpet-like flowers ranging in color from a clean white to a bright red. Best adapted to zones 3-8, the colorful flower show (and hummingbird buffet!) lasts most of the summer. Try cultivars like 'Red Prince' for a brilliant red flower display, or 'Wine and Roses' for an impressive pop of purple foliage with pink flowers in your landscape. Either way, the hummingbirds will love the buffet you've provided!


    Honeysuckle - Lonicera spp.
    Honeysuckle is a climbing vine that produces small, trumpet-like flowers in colors ranging from yellow to pink to red. It's a favorite of hummingbirds because of the sweet nectar inside. On top of the beautiful summer flowers, honeysuckle has a sweet scent to it that you can enjoy with the hummingbirds. Provide it a structure to grow on, and watch as the hummingbirds zip around, feeding on the flowers. Planted best in full sun in zones 4-8, honeysuckle will continue to delight both you and the hummingbirds.


    Try using any combination of these plants, and other plants that have similar color and flower shapes in your garden to encourage hummingbirds to come and feed in your garden. Providing water sources and perching points for the birds will also help you see hummingbirds all season long.


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  7. 5 Spectacular Native Plants for the Upper Midwest

    Upper Midwest

    Much of the Midwest is known not only for its fertile cropland but also for its rolling hills and prairies. These plants have adapted to the windy and harsh environments, providing erosion control and holding the soil where it belongs with deep roots. Today, we'll talk about five native plants from the Northern Midwest United States. Native plants are defined as plants that have been established in a given area for hundreds of years. This definition is often paired with a geographic location, like the Northern Midwest United States. It is challenging to pinpoint an exact geographical boundary, as plants do not follow the same boundaries people do, so we will just limit it to the Northern portion of the Midwest in general - zones 2 through 6.

    Black Hills Spruce

    Evergreen - Black Hills Spruce
    With dark evergreen foliage, Black Hills spruce provides an excellent backdrop year round. Short needles are soft to the touch, and Black Hills spruce does not require any pruning to help it keep its pyramidal shape. It is deer resistant, and will provide a fair amount of protecting during the winter months. Use it in a windbreak or as a focal point in your yard; regardless, it will soldier on through the coldest weather.


    Deciduous Tree - Cottonwood
    Reaching over 70 feet tall at maturity, cottonwood trees are a formidable addition to any landscape. Triangular leaves balance on incredibly thin stems, allowing them to quake in the wind and create a very soothing sound. In the fall, the leaves turn a gorgeous yellow, and in the winter, the intricate gray bark provides some interest to an otherwise dreary season.

    Red Osier Dogwood

    Shrub - Red Osier Dogwood
    Redosier dogwood has a little bit for every season. In the spring, small white flowers bloom, followed by white berries adored by wildlife. Bright green foliage in the summer becomes reddish-purple in the fall. The winter appeal is the best part about redosier dogwood; the stems are bright red, and the color lasts throughout the entire season. Use it as a mass planting for incredible results or as a single plant to contrast against other evergreens and deciduous stems in the winter.

    Blanket Flower

    Flowering perennial - Blanketflower
    Bright flowers brighten up any yard, and blanketflower doesn't fail in that category. Appearing in the early summer and persisting through the fall, blanketflower's yellow and red petals are sure to be a long-lasting addition to your garden. Blanketflowers are adapted to many of the intense conditions found in the northern Midwest, and will thrive, even when faced with drought and hot summers.

    Switch Grass

    Grass - Switchgrass
    Often found within prairies, switchgrass makes a fantastic addition to any planting. With cultivars that range in color from blue-ish (Heavy Metal Switchgrass) to reddish-purple (Red Switchgrass), the airy seed heads bring a bit of the prairie to your yard. Planted en masse results in a stand of grasses that will thrill and delight long into the winter months.

    Each of these plants has adapted to the climatic conditions of the northern Midwest – windy and dry summers and harsh winters. Use them in your yard to bring a bit of the wild to your house and enjoy as they stun you with their colors year-round. To see our favorite native plants for other regions, check out these articles: Native Plants for the Northeast Native Plants for the Southeast Native Plants for the Southern Midwest Native Plants for the Southwest Native Plants for the Northwest

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