Plant Resiliency

As we edge closer to summer, I have been thinking about how we go about choosing plants for our yards. Certainly, we choose plants that we like aesthetically, but many of us also want to choose plants that help wildlife survive. Yet another reason for choosing a particular plant is its resiliency or persistency in the landscape. How does it fair during times of stress? (Because the Kansas climate can be very stressful!)   

If you can’t stand the heat…

Last summer was really hard on a number of long established plants here at the Arboretum.  We lost trees that were 40 years old.  We lost perennials that we thought should be alright with a little supplemental watering. These plants were watered, but they just could not endure the stress of the summer heat and drought. 

This Black Hills Spruce was permanently damaged by last summer’s heat and drought. Notice the soaker hose at the base of it, but even that was not enough to save it.

Now, we could lament the fact that we lost these trees, but I believe their demise was inevitable. They were not the best choice because of where they come from. 

Take Colorado blue spruce as an example. It grows naturally in higher elevations, with regular afternoon showers, and cooler night time temperatures. Yes, the sun is intense in Colorado, but it can recover during the cooler nights. You bring that evergreen tree to Kansas and subject it to full sun, dry winds and night time temperature in the 80’s, it cannot recover what is lost during the day. Each day, it keeps getting beaten down more and more until it just gives up. We lost several tops of evergreen trees last year because the top half was just scorched off.  We were watering them, but the water loss during the day was too great to overcome. 

Norway spruce with the top scorched off last summer.

If at first you don’t succeed…

In Kansas, we mourn the loss of any tree. Trees in south central Kansas are a luxury. We love the shade or screening they provide. However, we have to keep in mind that our area was once all prairie. The only trees to be found were along creeks and swales that offered regular water. We are trying to grow trees in the much harsher prairie environment.  

So think about your own landscape.  Which plants are thriving and which are struggling?  What plants have been difficult to keep going in their current location? Is there a certain plant in your yard that you worry about when it gets hot? You can keep trying to pamper that plant into the future but don’t be surprised when it all of a sudden doesn’t come back the next year. 

With loss comes an opportunity to make a better plant choice. Do your homework and learn about plants that are adapted to our areas. There are recommended trees and shrubs for our area. Obviously, we promote native plants because of all the good things they do in our landscapes if properly situated. 

One more thing…

I would also encourage you to diversify your landscapes with as many different plants as you can. Many different plants will attract many different types of wildlife.  Don’t make it so hard on yourself.  Choose plants that are resilient in the landscape.

Perennials in front of Taylor Junipers.

Early May Blooms at the Arboretum

As we work further into spring, I thought I would share some rare and some common prairie plants in bloom at the Arboretum the first week of May. Enjoy!

Prairie Iris-Nemastylis geminiflora
Wild Quinine-Parthenium integrifolium
Prairie Parsley-Polytaenia nuttallii
Plains wild indigo (Baptisia bracteata)
Missouri evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa)
Native Blue False Indigo-Baptisia australis var. minor and Golden Alexander-Zizia aurea
Red Buckeye-Aesculus pavia
Native columbine-Aquilegia canadensis
Grape Honeysuckle-Lonicera reticulata
Eastern Gama Grass-Tripsacum dactyloides reestablishing itself along the new concrete pathway in the Prairie Window Project south of the hedgerow.

We have been fortunate to receive just enough rain to green up the prairie nicely. If you are in the area, stop by and see the many other early May blooms. The Arboretum will be at its peak for spring bloom in a couple weeks.

The Importance of Site Analysis, Part 3

As we have discussed over the past few weeks, beautiful gardens don’t happen by accident. You need to analyze and deeply understand your garden over time. Once you have a pretty good handle on what you are working with, you will be ready to begin the process of choosing the right plants. Here are a couple more things to be aware of within your landscape.

Sight Lines

One of the questions I ask clients about their property is “Where will you be looking at your garden from?” Seems like a simple question, but it is often overlooked. This helps orient the plants in the right lines and heights for maximum viewing.

For instance, for an island planting in your backyard, will you be mostly looking at it from your living room or deck? If so then put the taller plants in the back and the shorter perennials along the front. In the case of a foundation planting, then the viewing would be mostly from the street, but you will want to see it from your windows. I would not use really tall plants that block the view from the front porch or windows.

Another aspect of sight lines is screening. Is there a view that you want to hide/screen? Are taller plants needed to provide you with privacy? Both can be achieved with plant material but your need to be thinking about mature plant height. Is there a structure arbor, fountain or garden art that you want to guide people to with a path or by using the clean lines of a flower bed?

Topography and Drainage

Positive drainage away from your house is so important. Basements are ruined with poor drainage around your home. Really work at getting water to flow away from your home before putting any plants in the ground.

Another thing to understand within your landscape is where the water flows. Standing water for a few hours is one thing, but if the water stands for days then plants will be adversely affected. If you have pooling water after a big rainstorm, then you can divert it away more quickly via a ditch or shallow swale. A better idea might be to develop a rain garden?

Butterfly milkweed in the small rain garden at the arboretum

By understanding these aspects of your landscape, you will be rewarded season after season with beautiful, functional, earth-friendly oasis. A garden that works with landscape and not against it. Whether, you just moved to a new home that you are unfamiliar with or want to start over with your current garden, site analysis is the place to start. Good luck!

If you need help with your native garden come to FloraKansas: Native Plant Days.

The Importance of Site Analysis Part 2

The more you understand your garden, the easier it will be to choose the right plants for your site.  We all have plant preferences but not all of your plant preferences will grow in your garden.  Here are a few more aspects to consider as you analyze your landscape. 

Soil Type

Here in south central Kansas, our soils are typically alkaline, which is good for growing most prairie plants.  Soils can be pH neutral with a value of 7.0, or anything below that is classed as acid, and anything above, alkaline. To determine your pH, a simple soil test can be done by yourself from kits at most garden centers or through the extension service. 

Other soil considerations are consistency and texture. At the Arboretum, we deal mostly with clay soils.  This soil type compacts easily and drains poorly. You must find plants with root systems that can penetrate through the dense structure of clay, i.e., big bluestem, asters, and indigos.  Other soil types are sandy (dries out quickly, low nutrient holding capacity, low organic matter and loose in your hand), Silty (mixture of a sand and clay, easily compacted), Chalky (stoney, exposed subsoil after construction, good drainage) and Loamy (high in organic matter, holds moisture and nutrients). 

If you have been working in your garden for any length of time, you have a good idea of what type of soil you have.  You can add some compost to your soil if it is really terrible, but typically, you can find plants that will grow in your soil conditions.  For example, there are plants that appreciate the consistent drainage of sandy soils especially during the winter months. 

If your soil is alkaline, you will struggle growing rhododendrons and azaleas that need acidic soil.  Try to gather as much information about your soil and then find plants that grow in it. Finding the right plant for the right place will make you garden smarter not harder.

Think of Garden Aspect

Once you have defined the area you want to landscape, you need to understand aspect. Garden aspect simply means which way your garden is facing.  If it north facing, typically shadowed by your house, it needs plants that can grow in shade or partial shade.  If it is south facing, then choose plants for all day sun.  If it east facing, then choose plants that need six hours of sunlight, but are protected from the hottest sunlight hours.  If your garden is west facing then choose plants that can endure the hottest sunlight hours. 

South-facing garden with prairie dropseed, blackeyed susan, Amsonia hubrichtii, russian sage and Taylor junipers.

Obviously, trees, structures, and house orientation play a role in garden aspect.  The key is to observe your garden at different times throughout the year.  This will help you understand completely where the sunlight is coming from and how intense it can be.

One other thing to consider is microclimates within your garden.  There may be small areas that behave totally different than other areas ten to fifteen feet away.  One example would be a protected area along a fence or under a tree the shields that site from hot west sunlight and drying winds. Or, a low area in your yard that stays consistently moist is another example. These areas might allow you the opportunity to try a few different plants that would not otherwise grow in your garden.

Next Week: Site Analysis Part 3

The Importance of Site Analysis

Over the past few months, I have been working on some landscape designs.  These designs have reminded me how important site analysis is to a successful design.  Choosing the right plants for an area begins with a close look at the area being considered for a new garden. In my opinion, gardeners (I include myself in this category) don’t spend enough time observing our gardens throughout the year prior to planting anything. Here are a few important aspects to consider that will help you develop a rewarding planting scheme.

What is the size of your outdoor space? 

Site analysis begins with taking a step back to observe the big picture. A small planting bed leading to the front door versus a larger foundation or island planting require different plants. Most plants need space to fully develop. Be realistic when you first start thinking about your garden.  Lay out your garden beds with a hose to help define the landscape space.  Step back and look at the lines and size of the bed.  Is this the look you want for the area? 

Another piece of advice I often give is to start small and work on your areas over successive seasons.  A new garden can be overwhelming as you work to establish new plants, control weeds and maintain those new plants through the first year.  Once the first area is up and growing, you can move to the next area.  By starting small, you can build on your successes.

By using a garden hose to layout your garden, you can play with the design and curves before moving any soil. Step back and take a look. Adjust the lines until you are satisfied with the flow and size of the bed. Visualize the area with mature plants.

Control perennial/annual weeds before planting anything


Obviously, the best time to eradicate bindweed is before you plant. I spray the area with Roundup™ several times starting in July and August. Anytime we see green, the area is sprayed. This is the best time to spray because the plant is moving energy from the leaves into the roots for winter storage. The chemical is also moved throughout the extensive root system, killing even those deep roots. Trust me, it is worth waiting to plant until this weed is removed permanently.

Small patches can be hand pulled but you have to stay on it. Every sprig that pops up must be pulled immediately.  We have also had limited success with hand painting the leaves with Round-up.  Again, every new plant must be found and painted.  Essentially, you have to be as ruthless and relentless as this weed is to completely remove it from your garden. I thank my ancestors for bringing this over to America with their wheat seed.

If you are firmly opposed to using any chemicals, you might consider solarization instead, or you may want to read my colleague’s blog post “On Weeding“.

Bermuda grass

This perennial grass is a problem because of its vigorous creeping habit.  The plant spreads by seeds and by above and below ground stems that can take over a garden in one season.  It is drought tolerant and thrives with neglect.

Like bindweed, bermudagrass is best removed before planting (same as bindweed).  If you have it growing next to your gardens, a buffer must be maintained between the perennial display and the lawn area.  This buffer can be weeded by hand or sprayed every few weeks with Roundup™ to burn back any new runners toward the garden.  Raised beds are another defense against bermudagrass.  Don’t blow bermuda grass clippings into your gardens.  Again, it is better to wait to establish your new wildflower garden until you have bermudagrass eliminated.  I have made the mistake of planting into bermudagrass and I am fighting with it every year. 

Keep plants in scale

I don’t always observe or think about proportion and scale until it is too late. Keep in mind that your overall garden size helps determine what plants you can use in your design. Plant scale generally means using plants that are half the bed width. For instance, an area six feet wide needs plants that are no taller than three feet. A tall (8 foot) compass plant would stick out like a sore thumb if used in this area. In a narrow bed leading to your front door, taller plants tend to fall over and get in the way. Shorter plants such as prairie dropseed and black-eyed susans are a better option. Measure up what you have in order to see how everything will fit into place.

Compass Plant is a beautiful wildflower that gets eight feet tall. It is out of scale in a smaller space. Give it room to grow.

Look for Site Analysis Part 2 next week.

Callery Pear: Cut Them Down

Originally posted on May 1, 2019

This is such an important topic and such a huge problem that we thought it is worth sharing again.

Several years ago, I noticed something disturbing was happening to our prairie reconstruction.  Small little trees were popping up throughout the original prairie planting. I could not figure out where they were coming from, but they looked like pear tree saplings.  It wasn’t until I saw a large white blooming Callery pear tree in the spring that it all came together. 

Callery Pear

Although the flower clusters are beginning to fade, Callery pear’s white blooms are most obvious in the spring. We planted them for their explosion of spring blooms and nice fall color, but this ornamental tree has become highly invasive.  It threatens native wildlife habitat and has become a nuisance for private and public landowners.

This once favorite tree was planted extensively throughout the U.S.  The Callery pear – also referred to as Bradford pear – formed a nice pyramid to rounded shape.  The vertical limbs made it a nice median and street tree as well, ultimately reaching 30 to 40 feet tall and 20 -30 feet in spread.  This Chinese native was a harbinger of spring for decades with its prolific white blooms.  An added bonus was its reddish-purple fall color.

Despite all those positives, these trees have become problematic. This non-native, flowering tree was assumed to be sterile, but it is not.  It now cross-pollinates with other cultivars of Callery pear to produce hybrid offspring.  The fruit is ingested by wildlife and birds that spread the seeds across the countryside and into your yards.  It is aggressively displacing native vegetation, causing economic and environmental damage. 

Escaped Callery Pears*

The message to property owners is to remove the trees now while you can easily identify them in bloom.  We need to keep them from spreading to native areas.  It doesn’t hurt my feelings to see them go, because they are a weak-wooded, thorny mess. 

Native alternatives to Callery Pear:

  • Eastern Rudbud (Cercis canadensis)
  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea or Amelanchier ‘Robin Hill’)
  • American Plum (Prunus americana)
  • Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)
  • Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium)
  • Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum)
Blackhaw Viburnum in spring
Blackhaw Viburnum fruit and fall color

We have cut down the culprit, but still have a bunch more saplings to remove this summer. There was one more larger tree that was cut down near the Visitor Center. We will continue to eradicate these unwanted invaders in our prairies.  It will take time but I believe we can get the upper hand.  I would encourage you to remove them in your landscape as well and replace them with native trees. Callery pear has no place in the landscape anymore. 

*Image Source

Here is additional information on Callery pear trees from the Kansas Forest Service.

Benefits of Planting Perennials

As gardeners, we have many choices of plants to introduce into our landscapes.  From trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials (including grasses), the options seem to be endless.  Here at the Arboretum, we gravitate toward perennials for a number of reasons. 

What is a perennial?

Unlike annuals that germinate, flower, set seed, and die all in one season, perennials are typically cold-hardy plants that will return again and again each spring.  If situated in the right place in your landscapes, perennials will thrive, and will bloom either in spring, summer, or fall.

In my mind, the benefits of planting perennials in your home garden are as follows:

Incredible Root Systems

It often takes perennials several years to develop a sustaining root system after being transplanted from a pot.  These root systems compared to many annuals is much more extensive and much deeper.  During periods of drought, these deeper roots feed nutrients and moisture to the plant.  The deeper roots of grass are credited with developing the deep layers of top soil found in many states that now support farm crops.  These roots also control erosion, sequester carbon, and break up tough compacted soil. 

Xeric Garden
Xeric Garden interpretive signage located on the Dyck Arboretum grounds. Artwork by Lorna Harder.

Diversity of Perennials to Establish in the Landscape

As I said earlier, there are so many different types and varieties of plants you can choose to establish in your display beds. A well-designed landscape with a variety of perennials will enhance the aesthetics and appeal of your property. With perennials that bloom at different seasons during the year and attractive grasses for fall and winter interest, you can create a diverse habitat for wildlife and pollinators, too.  Keep in mind, the habitat you create is provides homes for insects and food for birds during the long, cold months of winter. 

Prairie Window Project, August 2016. Photo by Brad Guhr.

Do perennials require less maintenance?

The key to success with perennials such as native wildflowers and grasses is putting the right plant in the right place in the right way. Perennials will NOT require less maintenance if you are trying to grow something in your landscape that has no business being there. Learn as much about the plants you want to use before you put them in the ground. 

Perennials typically last several seasons. You don’t need to plant every single year like you do with annuals. By planting them once, you save money and time. You will need to clear last year’s growth in February or March and occasionally divide some clumps of perennial grasses as they expand over time. Perennials are a cost-effective and sustainable choice for landscaping.

Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ ready for spring.

Perennial plants can be the anchors to a landscape. While trees and shrubs provide the backdrop, perennials provide the elements of habitat that pollinators and other wildlife seek. These permanent pieces of your garden puzzle add beauty year after year.  They can be combined to add continuous blooms and interest throughout each growing season.  As perennials come in and out of bloom, a diverse collection of wildlife and pollinators will discover your landscape.  This is ultimately the real benefit of a perennial garden. 

A note about annuals

When I think about annuals in the landscape I don’t think about petunias.  I choose annuals on their ability to provide nectar for pollinators.  Nectar-rich annuals need to be drought tolerant and self-seed, too.  See this article about a mostly annual garden.

Plant Profile: Ozark Witchhazel

This time of year we are looking for any hint of spring.  Often we can find tips of green from bulbs or swelling buds of the silver maple. On other trees, such as birch, hazelhut, alder and later willows, you can see catkins dangling from their branches.  One of the first harbingers of spring here at the Arboretum is the Ozark witchhazel. 


Ozark witchhazel, with the scientific name Hamamelis vernalis and pronounced ham-ah-MAY-lis ver-NAH-lis, is a native shrub found in Missouri and Arkansas spreading down through Oklahoma and Texas. In January to early March, depending on the winter, tiny yellow to reddish-purple flowers pop open along the stems. The flower petals resemble twisted ribbons. These muted yellow flowers add winter interest to the garden since they open before the leaves emerge. Our shrubs are just now starting to open. 

First plant to bloom in the Arboretum this spring

Leaves & Habit

The wavy, oblong leaves expand in the spring to make a nice screen or hedge.  Each leaf is a medium green with a whitish waxy coating.  These leaves turn a nice yellow in the fall. 

These shrubs can get large (up to 10’-12’ tall) over time especially in consistently moist soils.  Our specimens are planted in clay, but there is good drainage away from the crowns.  For the most part, they are drought tolerant, but appreciate a little extra water during drier periods. Leaf scorch occurs in hot, dry summers without adequate moisture.

For best flowering, plant these shrubs in full sun but they do tolerate some afternoon shade. There are no serious pests at this time. 

Typically, it is a multi-stemmed shrub with straight upright habit.  As the plant matures, the branches will arch and become broader.  If it is really happy, it will develop root suckers.  In our experience, these suckers have never been problematic or aggressive. Pruning will restrain colonization and spread. The best time to prune this shrub is in spring after it finishes blooming because next year’s blooms are set on this year’s new growth.

If you have the space, this large shrub can be a nice addition to your garden. The delicate flowers when nothing else is blooming is reason enough to try this plant. The vase-shaped habit with along the attractive oval-shaped leaves that turn a golden yellow in the fall are added bonuses. Why not give one or two a try? I am always amazed each time it blooms.

Winter Food for Birds

This winter has been one of the harshest Kansas has had in quite some time. Plants and animals have been tested with extreme cold, frozen soils and snow.  It’s incredible to imagine that anything can endure these conditions. Over the past few weeks, I have watched the birds find food where they can.  They are relentless in their pursuit of seeds and berries. After all, their lives depend on them.

Selecting plants that attract wildlife – including birds – to your garden is an important horticulture trend.  The key to increasing wildlife diversity in your landscape is having as many different habitats and food sources as possible. Fruiting trees and shrubs provide food and shelter during these cold periods for wildlife. Leaving these sheltering spots, birds can find seeds from wildflowers and grasses during the day. 

Here are several trees, shrubs and perennials that I have observed birds scavenging for food on over the past few weeks. They provide great winter food for birds.

Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum)

This large shrub or small tree (20 feet high by 20 feet wide) can be found in eastern Kansas. It has creamy-white flowers in April and May followed by blue-black fruit in September. These fruits persist on the tree into winter, but are devoured quickly with the first snowfall. Buds are a rusty color that open to glossy green leaves and turn a beautiful reddish-purple in the fall. It is a very under used plant that provides excellent winter food for birds.

Photo by Emily Weaver.

Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium)

Blackhaw viburnum is the other native viburnum to Kansas that has abundant small prune-like fruit in the fall. With a mature height of 12 to 15 feet and a spread of 8 to 12 feet it is slightly smaller than Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum. In spring, it is covered with cymes that are 2 to 4 inches in diameter. The dark green leaves provide consistent fall color of red, yellow and orange. 

Possumhaw (Ilex decidua)

Possumhaw is the only holly native to the Great Plains. It can grow to be 15 feet tall and wide. Branching is often dense and after leaf drop the round red fruit are revealed. The shrub is a heavy producer of fruits that are persistent into the winter months. When snow and sleet cover their regular food, birds flock to possumhaw and clean the branches in a short time. Deciduous holly are dioecious, meaning that there are both male and female plants and both are needed in close proximity to each other in order to have fruit set. 

Ilex decidua ‘Council Fire’

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Eastern red cedar is the only conifer native to Kansas. This is my top recommendation to homeowners looking for an evergreen tree, since there are so many diseases affecting pine trees these days.  There are still some nice pines available, but they are not native. This juniper has dark green foliage and can reach over 20 feet tall with a dense conical habit.  The dense branches provide excellent cover for birds during the winter.  The female trees are often loaded with frosty 1/8 to 1/4 inch diameter cones that provide excellent bird food in the winter. 

Eastern red cedar does have one drawback. Bagworms can decimate a tree. Bagworms have been very problematic over the last several years here at the Arboretum, but regular spraying with Bt (a biological insecticide) has been effective for us, especially when the larvae are smaller than ¼ inch. Begin checking for bagworms about the first week of June. 

‘Canaertii’ is a female variety with dark green foliage that sets copious blue-green cones and matures to 20-30 feet. This tree has attractive branching architecture. A formal cultivar of Eastern red cedar is ‘Taylor’ which grows to 20 feet tall but only gets three to four foot wide. It too produces cones that birds enjoy. 

Bad Bird Feeders – Ornamental Pear Trees

You can’t fault the birds for finding the fruit of pear trees and eating them. The problem is that a tree that was suppose to be sterile now produces so much fruit that it is on the verge of becoming a noxious plant. Do not plant another ornamental pear tree. They are becoming so prolific that they are pushing out desirable native plants.

Perennials as bird feeders

Coneflowers: These cones feed a host of birds including blue jays, cardinals, and goldfinches.

Birds use their beaks to carefully extract these seeds.

Sunflowers: Our native sunflowers are great sources of food for birds during the winter.  Keep in mind that most native sunflowers can be very aggressive in the landscape.  I have seen many different kinds of birds this winter working seedheads of Maximillian sunflowers outside my office window. 

Rudbeckia: Even though the seeds are smaller than that of other perennials, blackeyed susans attract many different types of birds, including American goldfinch, black-capped chickadee, Northern cardinal, and white-breasted nuthatch.

Native grasses: Big bluestem, Little bluestem, switchgrass, and indiangrass are great food sources for juncos, finches, and many of our native sparrows.

Blaze Little Bluestem seeds. Photo by Emily Weaver.

Believing in Plants

With every new year comes a renewed sense of optimism about a whole host of things like fitness and health, relationships with loved ones and friends, your occupation, and maybe your garden. In the book The Earth is Enough by Harry Middleton, there is a paragraph that resonated with me, as a horticulturist and a lover of plants, about the struggles of gardening, but also the hope we have in plants. Here it is:

Emerson (one of the old men) believed in plants, though he never completely trusted them. After all, nothing could turn on a man with such cold, merciless indifference as a plant. A curious blight, a virulent plague, a sudden storm, an unyielding march of insects could sour a man’s agricultural fortunes with woeful abruptness, lance his emotions, eviscerate his always desperate accounts.

Harry Middleton

Gardeners need to be eternal optimists. We garden hoping to get something from our efforts, be it a vegetable to eat, beauty to enjoy or shade to rest in. Sometimes that happens but sometimes we fail. As we approach spring (yes, it is coming) and we start thinking about our own native plant gardens, I know that there will be holes to fill in our landscapes because of struggling or underperforming plants. We try to make perfect plant choices for our landscapes, but we are not always successful. Plants have so much to offer to us and the environment around us. Just because there are a few plants that succumb to our harsh climate or pests doesn’t mean we stop planting and believing in plants.

In particular, I believe in plants that are native to Kansas, because they:

  • beautify the landscape – with careful design, your garden can have flowers year round
  • nurture pollinators and other wildlife
  • provide food and shelter for birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators
  • save water
  • thrive in our local climate if properly matched to a site
  • are adapted to our natural cycles, responding to cool, wet winters with lush growth and slowing down during the hot, dry summers
  • prefer our soils or can grow in just about any soil type
  • do well in our native soils and do not require soil amendments or fertilizers
  • reduce pesticide use
  • typically have fewer pest problems than non-natives because they have co-evolved with native insects (unless there is a new introduced predator or pest)
  • minimize your carbon footprint
  • reduce maintenance over time in a well-designed garden
  • can easily be started with smaller sized plants, saving on installation costs
  • cool the environment
  • play an active role in the water cycle, adding cooling moisture to the atmosphere
  • harmonize with diverse garden styles
  • create a sense of place within our prairie state
Gray-headed coneflower with Bearer of the Ammonite by Paul Friesen. Photo Courtesy of Jen LeFevre

Just Keep Planting

Some plants are going to let us down. Or maybe we let them down by trying them in an ill-suited location in the first place. Whatever the case may be, keep believing in plants. They are good for you and the environment. Try to find joy in the beauty around you even though it is not always perfect or ideal.

Each and every year, we struggle with plants here at the Arboretum just like you do. But we are rewarded by our imperfect efforts time and time again. The journey of tending a garden is not an easy, straight line. It is a winding road of highs and lows. Keep believing in plants anyway.