Author’s Garden: Flowers of the Year

Welcome to my garden! Once again I bring from the comfort of your living room or office directly to my garden. This year, I am dividing my tour into 2 parts-flowers & gardens. First on the agenda is my flowers. Despite the weather in much of the area, my gardens received adequate rainfall, though very warm weather whilst many others were dry and warm. Therefore, my flowers did very well. Below are 22 of me best flowers recommendations of 2018. Let’s get started!

My grandmother’s Lenten Rose

One of the very first flower I remember from my Grandma Trost’s garden in Concordia was the Lenten Rose. I was very excited to acquire this same plant from her garden 3 years ago. The particular Lenten Rose is over 30 years old and still blooming great. Above is a shot of the bloom, slightly mussed, in mid March. Yes, March.

Spicebush blossoms starting to open

Of the many shrubs planted in my garden, the spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is one of my favorites. This one is a young plant, only 3 years old, but I expect great things. Besides being a host for the Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly, spicebush leaves and twigs can be used to make tea. 

Hosta leaves opening
Hosta flowers

Though hostas are overused in American shade gardens, I have a bounty of them. And they are great for photos when they first begin to spread their leaves! The long, tubular flowers are also excellent for hummingbirds and sphinx moths, as well as for bumblebees. 

Baptisia ‘Twilight Prairieblues’

The baptisia ‘Twilight PrairieBlues’ was the first baptisia I purchased when still living in Powhattan. It made the move to our house in Horton and is a centerpiece of my Monarch Waystation Garden. The lovely purple-brown flowers are great for arrangements and are well loved by early bumblebees. This plant is now 5 years old and doing very well. All the baptisias are long-lived plants. 

Purple milkweed is beautiful even before the blooms open

How can a garden writer have any garden without milkweed? They cannot. I have 8 species of milkweed and 2 cultivars. Purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) pictured above is my favorite spring blooming milkweed. The deep rose to purple flowers are often open in early May and can brighten up any spot. It is situated near my ‘Dallas Blues’ switchgrass in the Monarch Waystation Garden. 

Fremont’s Clematis blossom
Fremont’s Clematis seedhead

The Fremont’s Clematis is a transplant from the Smoky Hills of west central Kansas. This short, shrubby clematis was a favorite of mine growing up in Cloud County. The bell shaped blossoms can be pink, mauve, purple, cream, or bluish. They are very drought tolerant and transplant easily. That said, do not go out to any field and take one without asking. They are native only to a few counties in Kansas and Nebraska, and Missouri. 

Purple spuria iris

Who does not like a good iris? When we moved to Horton, I found several large beds of bearded iris laid around the property at what seemed as random at the time. I have since discovered there was an original farm on the property, and the iris beds were laid out to the farmwife’s desire. I have added my own iris collections, including bearded and spuria iris. The above is a purple spuria, taller than Siberian iris and great for cutting. 

Buttonbush flowering

The buttonbush shrub should be a staple of all gardens. This large shrub (5 to 20 feet), grows quickly and blooms on new growth. The flowers resemble fiber optic balls and are visited by many pollinators in early summer. It is both drought and wet tolerant and grows naturally near streams and lakes. 

Peachy orange daylily

I have never been a fan of the overused yellow and orange daylilies, especially ‘Stella D’Oro’ (cringe). Daylilies should be used as needed with thought on design, texture, and color. The above orange-pink daylily has bright color, large flowers, and large leaves. They really pop! in the landscape.

Purple bellflowers

One of the flowers I began collecting when moving to the Oak-Hickory remnant forest, was bellflowers. After discovering the native American Bellflower (Campanulastrum americana) in my woods, I knew I needed more. The above bellflower is one of 8 varieties I have gained so far. They bloom and grow in part shade, a perfect addition to any shade garden.

Annabelle Hydrangea

The ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea is another transplanted plant from my Powhattan garden. This 3 to 5 foot tall, spreading shrub is great as a border or in massing along the edge of the shade garden. This one is in a trial location, growing (and thriving) less than 10 feet from the dripline of a black walnut, which hydrangeas are said not to grow under. 

Purple Coneflowers

Purple coneflowers will always be a favorite flower of mine, for their long bloom times and bright, happy flowers. They are great for many pollinators and even host some caterpillars. 

Missouri Rudbeckia

The Missouri coneflower (Rudbeckia missouriensis) is an outstanding performer in the perennial garden. This floppy-stemmed Rudbeckia has hints of green in the flowers before turning a brilliant yellow-gold. 

Red Daylily

Another daylily? Yes, I have been collecting daylily fans (single sets of leaves and roots) from customers and friends, in colors I enjoy like this bright red-purple. I also have several multi-colored daylilies in my cutting garden, they should bloom for the first time in 2019.

Rudbeckia ‘Hortensia’

The above flower is a double-flowered cutleaf Rudbeckia. Yes, Rudbeckia. This variety called ‘Hortensia’ (why not Explosion or Lion’s Mane?) is a double flowered Rudbeckia. The cutleaf Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia laciniata) is naturally occurring in the woods of eastern Kansas but does much better when planted in full sun to part shade. 

Hydrangea ‘White Diamonds’

‘White Diamonds’ Hydrangea paniculata is perhaps my new favorite panicled hydrangea. This lovely shrub came from a coworker who picked it up from a trip to Bailey’s Nursery in Minnesota. Now available on the market, this shrub is a stalwart in my part-shade entry garden. 

Globe Thistle

When designing and maintaining shade gardens, I look to under-used plants to add depth and texture that hostas and coral bells cannot. The globe thistle (Echinops banaticus) is an excellent addition to the shade garden. 

Allium ‘Millenium’

Ornamental onions or alliums as they are called, are the newest and brightest thing in the nursery. It seems every grower has their own variety. While I have 3 cultivars, Allium ‘Millenium’ is by far my favorite. It can be divided and planted anytime of the year, and the foliage resembles liriope, but without the crown rot that liriope is subject to. It is very attractive to pollinators. 

Chelone ‘Tiny Tortuga’

New to my native shade border this year is Turtlehead ‘Tiny Tortuga’ (Chelone obliqua). I planted this perennial in the hottest part of summer, watered once and never looked back. It bloomed in September after some nice rains. I expect great things from it next year.

Blue Lobelia likes sun and shade, wet and dry

Another great native that I planted in both my sun and shade gardens is Blue Lobelia (Lobelia silphilitica). This 2 to 4 foot tall lobelia is a long blooming perennial, from July to frost, often.

Button Blazingstar

The Rough Blazingstar (Liatris aspera) can grow quite tall (3 to 6 feet), but has amazing, button shaped blooms that are attractive to a wide range of pollinators. It also makes a great cut flower.

Sugar Maple ‘Steven’s Gold’ is named for my late brother

Finally, my Sugar Maple ‘Steven’s Gold’ (not available to the public) is one of my favorite trees. This sugar maple faithfully colors up no matter the weather to a bright and brilliant gold in autumn.


From my garden,


Happy Planting!

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