Gardening in the heartlands: hot plants, prairie gardens and crazy containers

I wasn’t expecting hot plants, sophisticated prairie gardens and flipped out container plantings when I hopped on a plane for Minneapolis to attend the annual conference Garden Comm holds annually. This event is hard to beat - an opportunity to hang out and network with other industry professionals, visit gardens and learn about plants. It’s held in different city each year which keeps the garden part even more interesting.

Because touring gardens gives me a bad case of plant lust, it’s frustrating to see things I fall in love with but can’t grow. But, Minneapolis is right in my zone (3a-5b), and there was a lot to drool over. Keep reading to find out more.

Hot plants

We spent a magical evening at Bailey Nursery where they wined and dined us in their display garden - a series of prairie style beds designed by renowned plantsman Kelly Norris.

And that is where I saw this divine little shrub, a willow known as Iceberg Alley. Here it is lighting up the back of a border.

Iceberg Alley® Sageleaf Willow | Salix candida 'Jefberg'

The silver foliage would have been enough for me, but there’s more - native, zone hardy 2-6 and can tolerate wet or dry soils. A nice little roundy moundy shrub that doesn’t get too big (about 5x5) and plays well with others as you can see in the photo below.

I’m a fan of shrub roses, but many are scentless. Not so in the case of Northern Accents shrub rose - a tough introduction developed by the University of Minnesota. Its sweet fragrance stopped me in my tracks at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Tough, fragrant and pretty - what more could you ask for? This one is going on the list!

Northern Accents (R) Shrub Rose

I developed a new appreciation for coleus and plectranthus combinations as I walked around the flower border displays. There were many, but this duet got my attention. Simple, easy and hot - bring it on.

Top to bottom: Plectranthus ‘Guacamole’ Coleus ‘Sedona Sunset’

Viva Las Vegas! This gomphrena is a little zinger.

It’s an annual that looks somewhat puny til lateJuly. But wait - as others begin to look tired, this one is just waking up. Not bad for late summer color right?

Gomphrena globosa ‘Las Vegas Purple’

The prairie look

As most of you know from my previous posts, I’m big on the controlled wild look. There were many naturalistic gardens to see - this one was particularly inspiring. The owner, landscape architect Barbara Burgum began developing the garden in 2008. The centerpiece is a giant pergola that is surrounded by swaths of perennials and grasses.

I particularly like the way grasses were used to as underplanting for the other plants - mimicking what would naturally occur in a prairie.

I like the rhythmic shapes going on here.

The garden is adventurous and useful (there’s a vegetable and herb garden to the left of that pergola). I like the paths that run through it and lead you down to the house. The wild look gets a little tamer in front where the house is flanked by hydrangeas and a variety of containers. An inspiring transition!

Hydrangea arborescence ‘Annabelle’ in front

Crazy containers

If Tangletown Gardens was in my neighborhood, I’d be broke. This trendsetting nursery and garden center has a plethora of interesting woody and herbaceous plants that made my heart beat a little faster. But the containers are in a class by themselves. These are just a few that caught my eye.

Bottom to top - Looks like a variety of Hakon grass, Sedum, Lantana, some type of variegated geranium, grass

Who knew coleus and new guinea impatience could be so dynamic?

Yikes! I can’t begin to figure out what all of these are.

Now for the winner

I rarely win anything, but I got lucky at the Bailey Nursery bash and won a headshot from award winning photographer Tracy Walsh. She made make me look more glamorous than I really am. Of course, I am standing next to my new favorite shrub (Iceberg Alley). More about that to follow - summer isn’t over yet!


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