Double Your Pleasure with Reblooming Iris

by Patrick on August 25, 2013

It was the morning before a hot September day and her freshness screamed for attention in the midst of a tired perennial bed. We were visiting the jewel in Kansas City known as Kauffman Gardens and here, standing before us, was the glorious yellow tall bearded iris, ‘Summer Olympics’. I wasn’t aware some irises have the genetic ability to rebloom and I had to learn more.

You may have seen national magazine ads offering reblooming bearded iris collections. But the ability to rebloom is very regional and some experts believe the key to success is selecting hybrids with proven performance in your USDA zone. The majority of iris hybridizing takes place in California (Zone 9), so most hybrid reblooming catalog claims are based solely on performance in that region. So I’ve contacted some local experts to find varieties that have been proven to rebloom in our Zone 6 area. Read more →


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Why doesn’t anyone grow balsam?

by Patrick on August 20, 2013

Why doesn’t anyone grow balsam? Yes they’e old fashioned Victorian heirlooms. And yes, they’ve been upstaged by hybrid impatiens when it comes to color impact but we don’t need color carpeting in all our shade garden applications. Do we?  They are classified as Impatiens balsamina but my experience has been they perform better in part sun areas than walleriana. While the old fashioned mixed color selections can look quite pedestrian, the same can’t be said for ‘Blackberry Trifle’ which I sourced from Baker’s Creek ( Read more →


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A Warm Tribute to John Muir

by Patrick on August 13, 2013

                                 The mountains are calling and I must go – John Muir

We don’t use last names much on the blogosphere but my given name is Patrick James Muir and I’d like to share more about John Muir (1838-1914). At age 11 in 1849, his family emigrated from Scotland to Wisconsin where his family started a farm which is now a National Historic Landmark. My grandfather emigrated from Scotland to Australia to avoid the effects of the Great Depression. The Muir clan name is derived from the moors of Scotland. With my keen love of nature since I was a toddler, I’d be a happy man if there was any relationship. But when I became aware of his remarkable life, I have chosen to pursue a role in life as if was an heir.

At age 18, he moved to California and soon took up living inYosemite for three years making a living as a saw mill worker. He was a  naturalist who studied nature by wandering hundreds of miles on foot during excursions through the United States and Canada.

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Wildflowers of My Native Australia

by Patrick on August 4, 2013

Margaret Preston, Native Flowers

People often ask me if I miss Australia and my guttural response is almost always, “Horribly”. Even though I was only 13 in 1978, I was literally grounded to the Australian soil. I visited my grandparents on the edge of the Outback at least once a year and sometimes twice. I was gardening by age four but was always exploring in the bush where I was fascinated by the plants who could handle the heat. Being the oldest continent (Yes, we were first), the most iconic plants have a prehistoric feel relying on bold displays of thousands of stamens  to  generate color and attract pollinators. They did not evolved enough to develop petals but the petals would loose to much moisture via evaporation and shrivel up quickly in the hot blazing sun

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Lost Photo of My Little Boys in the Garden

by Patrick on July 22, 2013

Hey all,

Recently found this image in an old box of junk.This was shot twelve years ago during the summer before I was paralyzed the following spring. Jackson was four and Colin was 18 months when it happened.

Like the raised beds built by my baby brother,Tim? That is love in action my friends. Don’t you think? And this pictures only shows two of my six raised beds. All that hard work was painful for this gardener to give up.

I love seeing pictures when my legs worked especially with the two who are my proudest growing achievements.



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Reflections On Aussie Birds and Birdcages

by Patrick on July 22, 2013

In Australia, we are blessed to have in the wild most of the caged birds you see in pet shops including cockatiels, cockatoos, parakeets and many finches including the ever popular zebra finches.

Our Huge Bird Cage Back Home

In the mild climate of most of Australia, large aviaries (cages) in the backyard are commonplace. In fact ours was an outdoor room about 8′ X 10′ where we bred plenty of parakeets, but we call them budgerigars or more commonly budgies. The building had three covered sides, corrugated iron roof and a chicken wire front with small door for us. Something similar but ours was very simple and rustic: w/ permission

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At first blush, it might appear the northern and eastern exposures have far fewer options as the warmer exposures of your home. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Kathy Bark with Suburban Lawn & Garden in Kansas City MO first choice to break free from the green abyss of most foundation plantings is a gold punch of energy named Deutzia ‘Chardonnay Pearl’ Coming in at 2-3’ high and wide., Bark says “This plant has a high tolerance for most conditions. ” In consideration of this, Chardonnay Pearls is a great choice for the East side of the house. “The resonating chartreuse foliage will compliment any and all accompanying plants.  Delicate and cascading white “pearls” in the spring are simply an added bonus to this already lovely, but highly underappreciated, plant.”

 \And what color would be more dynamic with all that gold?  Why it’s the blue/gray you can find on Bark ‘s next choice, the Chamaecyparis ‘Boulevard’. She says “It’s a dense, pyramidal and soft to the touch, semi-dwarf evergreen for your shadier, northern beds. Requiring about ten years to reach the 5-6’ height, choose a substantial specimen to begin with.  The final size is 5 to 12’ wide by 2-4’ wide. Minimal pruning can also keep this plant at a size you desire.”

Bark is asking us to break the foundation shrub mold and look upward with the Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. Petiolaris). With one of the most distinctive blossoms in the hydrangea family appearing from May to July, this plant can grow up  to 30-50’ high. While Bark has seen it cover a wall in a moderate amount of time, my personal experience had two plants that sat stalled for over three years before significant growth appeared.

Bark says ‘This lovely creature both blooms in both part and dense shade, too!  A rock wall or extended trellis is the main requirement for growing one of these plants”. She told me of a very unique treatment using this plant as a groundcover. “One plant can cover up to 200 square feet!  That being said,  it is also manageable and, for that reason, is a no-brainer substitute for Ivy.  Exfoliating stems during the winter months add interest to the barren, sleeping beds.’

Coming back down to earth, Ken Wood with Family Tree Nursery in Shawnee KS, recommends the Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’.  This variety comes in at a tidy 2′- 3′ ‘and is a workhorse with bold displays dark green foliage that doesn’t need much pruning for shape and is an excellent substitute for boxwood”. But its claim to fame has to be an explosion of fragrant white trumpet-shaped blooms repeating two to three times through out out the season. While some daphne are known for berries. this variety has all male flowers but is a great pollinator.

Another tidy selection from Wood is the charming Abelia ‘Twist of Lime’.  With a rounding width of 2 1/2′ high spreading to 3-4′ wide, this option is semi-evergreen to evergreen depending on its location. Wood says ‘The leaves are truly unique coming out green with gold edge that fades to stable green and white variegation.  The arching branches are laden with trusses of white trumpet-shaped flowers in summer.

Another taller favorite is the stunning evergreen Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’. If you’ve never grown or seen pieris before, prepare to have your eyes widened to see a flower unlike anything in th e Midwest. Imagine if you will, a shrub that is blessed enough to have what appears to be delicate brocades of Lily of the Valley t   ype flowers. Wood says ‘Not daring to be outmatched is the foliage where the new growth emerges bright red changing to green edged in white. This selection needs well drained acidic soil so it’s a wonderful companion with azaleas and rhododendrons.

Well if Wood doesn’t have your head dancing with possibilities about what you thought were  the dull sides of your home landscape, then hold on one last time for the Leptodermis or False Lilac Wood says “This is another small gem keeping to 2′-3′ hide and wide with deciduous light green leaves with blooms on new growth, so trim dormant in early spring . The light lavender flowers on ends of stems look like small lilac flowers. The plant blooms in June and will re-bloom in early July through early August if trimmed back after first blooming cycle

Well I hope this is an inspiring bevy of selections to entertain your guests, even before they enter through your coordinating front door.


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