Rick’s multiple season interest plant list

Rick Vuyst’s favorite “3 to 4 season” plants
With our busy lifestyles I believe your landscape should work as hard as you do. I also believe that mono-cultures are not a good idea in the landscape and that as in life, diversity is better. Each plant has its season in the sun when it takes center stage. Within a diverse group problems do not spread like wildfire and the diversity presents continual visual interest as each plant plays its role. All these things said there are some plants that step up and deliver a long season, in some cases, multiple seasons of interest in the landscape. A good landscape uses approximately 30% of its foundation in evergreens providing the gravitas and back drop of interest. In some cases the evergreens can serve as a focal point for 4 seasons of interest such as a Weeping Spruce or a conifer that looks like an evergreen but is deciduous with fall color like a Weeping Larch. Broadleaf evergreens can serve this role too with Rhododendrons and Holly as examples providing year long interest. Aside from the understood importance and foundation provided by conifers and broadleaf evergreens, other plants can provide workhorse interest in the landscape, many with a key blooming season as well as great fall color or colorful season long foliage and stems. Also remember well placed splashes or pockets of Annuals, Herbs and Bulbs add to the show to make your landscape a headliner. Here is my list (53 suggestions) for some landscape hardy favorites that come back and perform year after year as I call it the “gift that keeps giving”. Hardy to our hardiness zones in Michigan these plants are listed as “Woody” landscape plants (W) or Herbaceous “Perennial plants” noted with a (P).
Achillea Yarrow P
Agastache P
Ajuga P
Allium/Mountain Garlic P
Aralia P
Azalea Deciduous Northern Lights W
Baptisia P
Bergenia P
Brunnera P
Carex P
Chamaecyparis Gold Mop Cypress W
Coneflower Echinacea P
Dogwood Red or Gold Twig W
Fothergilla W
Gingko P
Hakonechloa P
Hellebores P
Heuchera P
Hops P
Hosta P
Hydrangea Oakleaf W
Hydrangea Panicle (Quickfire, Limelight, etc) W
Hydrangea serrata Tuff Stuff W
Hypericum St Johns Wort W
Itea W
Japanese Maple W
Juneberry/Serviceberry W
Lambs Ear Stachys P
Lamium P
Ligularia P
Liriope P
Nepeta P
Nishiki Willow W
Ornamental Grasses P
Own root Landscape Roses W
Paperbark Maple W
Perovskia Russian Sage P
Persicaria P
Physocarpus Ninebark W
Pulmonaria P
Rosa Rugosa W
Sambucus Elderberry W
Sedums P
Succulents (such as Sedums) P
Sweet Autumn Clematis W
Sweet Woodruff P
Syringa Landscape Lilacs/rebloomers W
Tri Color Beech W
Viburnum W
Weigela Wine and Roses or My Monet W
Wisteria W
Witchhazel W
Yucca Golden Sword P

Relax…..you’re among “fronds”

I love foliage houseplants. Sure there is the practical side to them, from aesthetically filling space to cleaning indoor air. They are nature’s oxygen generating and filtration system for our indoor living spaces. When our windows and homes are sealed tight for the frigid winter months they improve the quality of our air as well as our visual landscape. January is a long month and if you’re not into winter sports or shoveling the driveway you’re going to be spending a lot of time indoors. You’ve got a friend in foliage. With some light and a little bit of care foliage is the gift that keeps giving year around. I like to talk to my plants. For some that might feel strange but remember the carbon dioxide from your breath can be converted into oxygen by these nature’s miracles.

Foliage Houseplants brighten a room and clean the air
Foliage Houseplants brighten a room and clean the air

An understanding is needed to successfully grow foliage in our Michigan homes in winter. First of all remember that foliage plants are native to tropical areas. That means they don’t appreciate cold drafts. No I’m not talking about beer I’m talking about drafty blustery doorways. They also do not like being near heat sources like a furnace vent. The dry indoor air is unlike their environment in the tropics. A brightly lit window in a cool part of the room will suit them just fine for the winter months. Your job is to not overwater them. Water is the number one killer of houseplants, too much or too little. Nine times out of ten it’s too much not too little. We kill them with kindness. With the lack of transpiration in the winter months, the foliage demands much less moisture supply from the roots. If you’re adding too much water to the roots without the demand of the foliage the roots rot and choke.

My good friend "Phil"-o-dendron
My good friend “Phil”-o-dendron

In addition fungus gnats develop and multiply like, well, fungus gnats. That’s no fun. Keep your soil on the dry side watering only when needed. Remember your houseplants are just trying to get through winter like you and are also experiencing cabin fever.
The fun part is picking out some new foliage for your home or office. It’s not as expensive as furniture and certainly easier to move. The choices in foliage are far greater than the typical Ficus tree with half of its foliage fallen off and lying in the pot or on the ground. Some foliage plants are just plain tough and can put up with some neglect and abuse. Plants like Chinese Evergreen, Sanseveria, Hoya, Pothos, Philodendron, Aspidistra and ZZ plant are tough and tolerant. Ideal for office environments they’ll stand the test in your home climate.
Orchids, Anthurium and Spathiphyllum can provide some long lasting blooms in your home. Moth or Phalenopsis Orchids are easy to grow and the blooms are long lived. Draceana and Crotons can provide colorful foliage.

Colorful Crotons are great for use outdoors in summer and add color indoors in winter
Colorful Crotons are great for use outdoors in summer and add color indoors in winter

Some varieties of Dieffenbachia, Philodendron, Pothos and Aglaonema as examples have quite interesting and colorful foliage. If you can discipline yourself not to overwater, Succulents and Cactus thrive on neglect in a bright spot and will provide living interest in your home. If you need something very basic pick up some Catgrass seeds and sow them on some potting soil in a windowsill pot. Even if you don’t have a cat in the home, you can occasionally cut your indoor lawn with a scissors to get your green fix.
Don’t forget to talk to them. Like my friend “Phil”-odendron has told me, relax, you’re among fronds.

Rolling Stone

A rolling stone gathers no moss…..or so they say. So why is it that a stationary rock can provide such a great habitat for its green growth? The other day during our January mid-winter thaw I took a walk through the woods and admired the eccentric shades of green moss growing on the forest floor. At a time of year when there is little else growing or green I found the moss a welcome friend in the landscape.

Moss resized for word press
Carpet of moss
moss on rocks facebook
Moss won’t grow on a rolling stone

During the growing season many people contact me for methods of ridding themselves of moss in their lawn, landscape, on tree trunks or landscape structures. I happen to like moss and admire it’s ability to survive and locate. So why does moss grow seem to grow so well in some areas? Moss is a survivor. It is often said that moss likes nutrient poor soils or acidic soils and surfaces. I don’t necessarily agree although this can certainly be the case. The truth is that moss is smart and thrives in areas where there is little or no competition. This often happens in acidic, moist, poor or compacted soils because other plants can’t survive or compete in those areas. Even on a stone……provided it’s not rolling.

Shear Madness

An issue that creates a lot of confusion is pruning. The list of rules that vary from plant to plant and time of the year can create “shear madness”. Many times I’m asked to arbitrate between arguing spouses which creates a very delicate spot to be in………a “Dr Phil Dirt” so to speak in trying to keep peace in the household. If you want to spend an evening talking pruning, grab your spouse and join us for our seminar as MSU extension agent Rebecca Finneran and myself tag team on the issue to give you a “hedge-u-cation”. Tickets are $5 and there are still some seats available. Visit myflowerland.com and look for “Events”. Here is the link to sign up and we’ll see you there!


I’ve got Ants in my Plants

First time I’ve ever had this happen to me….after years of working in a garden center today for the first time I had a lady ask me if she could buy some ants. I asked her if she was starting an ant farm. She said no, she needed the ants for her peony buds so they would open. I assured her that the ants visit peonies due to a sweet secretion on the buds but were not needed to open the buds. This old wives tale has been passed on through the ages. Not a bad situation however to have “ants in your plants” because they can be beneficial in helping deal with damaging insects. Not unusual for ants to hang out and live around your peony for a few weeks understanding it’s a “suite” living arrangement.

Take a look at this picture of a container planting I put together in my yard. I cut out the center fabric of an old chair and call this arrangement “Operating by the seat of my plants.” The point here is that almost anything can be a “container” for flowers in your yard provided it meets two criteria…..1) There must be enough room for plenty of soil or sufficient soil to sustain the plant for a season…to hold some moisture and nutrients and 2) there must be drainage holes. After those criteria are met it is only limited by your imagination……Well it must be late May and early June because here come the Root Weevils to spoil the Rhododendron party. These buggers notch the foliage of Rhodies under the cover of darkness crawling up from the soil and mulch at the base. Prune out lower branches to take out the lower part of their “staircase” and apply some Tanglefoot or sticky band at the trunk of the plant to discourage their nightly munching…..And finally here are some pictures of the lingering effects of the hard frost on the morning of May 10 when a lot of tend succulent foliage was frozen. The plants are in the process of recovering and by the end of June it should be a distant bad memory. Many Japanese Maples took it on the chin as well as Hydrangeas. New growth on a lot of evergreens were damaged like the tender new growth on this Birds Nest Spruce….Or the damage on this Painted Fern…..And it was Hosta La Vista Baby for a lot of tender growth on Hostas….I’ll cut out the damaged foliage and new foliage will emerge from the center to make it a disappointing but distant memory as frost free Summer days and nights arrive……