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Create a Grand, Colorful Statement with Hollyhocks

HollyhocksHollyhocks, also known as Alcea, not only create bright, dependable color in the summer garden, but also provide many practical uses for your property. We love this garden classic and wanted to share its benefits with all of you.

Hollyhocks grow to be about 5’ and taller, making them perfect for creating a colorful backdrop in the border of your garden. Hollyhocks arealso great for planting in front of electrical panels and other unsightly views on your property.They also attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden and Hollyhocksmake for gorgeous cut bouquets. We’ve heard that the Hollyhock Charter’s Mix is Martha Stewart’s favorite, as she grows it for fall bouquets. It is also said that Hollyhock stems, once they die down in the fall, can be used as firewood.

Hollyhocks have been known and identified since the early 19th century, originally boasting large, double blooms that are almost fluffy-looking. Since then, botanists have hybridized the plant to have many different forms. We carry a large variety of Hollyhocks in bare root form, meaning as biennials they should bloom in the first season.If you’re looking to start Hollyhocks from seed,we carry Alcea rosea in seed form.

What are your favorite uses for Hollyhocks? Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook Page. Happy Gardening!  

May 29, 2014 · Amanda Shepard · 4 Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: How-Tos, Perennials, Wildflowers

Bleeding Heart: A Shade-Loving Beauty

Bleeding HeartThere are several plants that come up and greet the gardener with the warm welcome that spring is finally here. One of these plants is the favorite Bleeding Heart, which illuminates shady areas with unique, heart-shaped blooms. These easy-to-grow perennials make a bold statement planted on their own or paired with other shade-loving perennials.

The story behind the name “Bleeding Heart” is quite interesting. The heart-shaped blooms are one reason for the name. The other comes from a Japanese legend, which is where these plants originate. It is said that a young man tried to win the love of a young lady by first giving her a pair of rabbits, which signify the first two petals of the flower, then a pair of slippers, which signify the next two petals of the flower, and finally a pair of earrings, which are the last two petals of the flower. She rejected him with each gift, eventually leading him to pierce his heart with a sword (which signifies the middle part of the flower), causing him to have a bleeding heart.

Bleeding Heart

Although carrying a somewhat bleak history, Bleeding Hearts are anything but. Clumping, deep green foliage offsets the elegant, heart-shaped blooms that come in shades of white, red, and pink. These gorgeous perennials can be planted on their own, but also look fabulous grouped with Ferns, Hostas, and Astilbe. Bleeding HeartsBleeding Hearts are also deer resistant and attract hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden.

What are your favorite varieties of Bleeding Heart? Please post in the comments below or share a photo on our Facebook Page. Happy Gardening!

May 22, 2014 · Amanda Shepard · 4 Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, Perennials

Coreopsis: A Garden Staple from Coast to Coast

CoreopsisCoreopsis, also known as Tickseed, is a perennial superstar in gardens from Maine to California. Native to the Great Plains, Coreopsis is drought-tolerant and resilient, making it the perfect choice in almost any garden. This deer-resistant perennial’s bright, gorgeous blooms ignite the garden in the summer through the fall.

Although originally a native Wildflower to the Great Plains, botanists have been working hard to hybridize Coreopsis into a rainbow of colors and sizes, making it an even more versatile perennial than it was before. The selections today range from the tough, heavy-flowered Grandifloras to the newer, more delicate versions – All in spectacular colors and dependably perennial in almost any American garden.

CoreopsisIf you have a smaller garden and want to experience this easy-to-grow, colorful perennial, try planting the yellow Coreopsis Sunrise, red Coreopsis Mercury Rising, or bi-colored pink/dark pink Coreopsis Heaven’s Gate. All three varieties grow to be less than 1.5 feet tall and are the perfect burst of color in your smaller summer garden.

Varieties that grow to be about two feet are the gorgeous Coreopsis Star Cluster and Sweet Dreams, both boasting pure white blooms offset by deeply-colored centers. CoreopsisCoreopsis Early Sunrise, Moonbeam and Full Moon all bloom a cheerful yellow, but have distinctly different blooms. Coreopsis Route 66 is a unique favorite, blooming bright yellow and maroon.

Whether you are a gardening in New Mexico or New Hampshire, Coreopsis is sure to be the staple of your perennial garden, delighting the summer garden with bright, cheerful blooms year after year.

May 19, 2014 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Perennials

Daffodils in Bloom

DaffodilsWe recently caught up with a gardener in Vermont who had planted hundreds of our Daffodil Bulbs several years ago. We wanted to check in on the project and learn a little more about the garden.

The garden is a memorial for Liz’s son who passed away several years ago. She said, “After Joe died, we started thinking about plants and the idea of renewal and birth, and the garden just took shape.” The garden, on a busy street in the middle of a quaint Vermont village, is in its beginning stages right now and will eventually become a community garden where people can walk by and enjoy, come in and sit down, or just walk through and enjoy from the inside.

She sees the garden having an informal, naturalistic feel and is inspired by landscape designer Piet Oudolf. She explained, “We want it to be very free-flowing and plan on using primarily native plants, really only what is available in Vermont. We want it to be multi-seasonal and that is why we want a lot of grasses for structure in the winter.” They also would like to eventually have a sculpture in the garden.


I asked her why she chose to plant hundreds of Daffodils in the space for now. She responded, “I love that Daffodils are one of the first flowers up in the spring and they come up through the snow. They are just so hopeful and sunny. They really make me smile, especially planted in mass – I really love that.” DaffodilsShe told me that people around the village and her friends follow the succession of the Daffodils’ growth and are just as excited as she is when they start to bloom in the early spring.

The garden is framed by a Pennsylvania Bluestone Wall that is shaped like a horseshoe, with random words engraved into several of the stones. When I asked her about these, she responded, “We had groups of friends that knew Joe come up with one word they would use to describe him and had these carved into stones.” The words in the wall are “Witty, Superstar, Unforgettable, and Perseverance.”

I truly enjoyed speaking with Liz about the memorial garden and am excited to track its progression as they get started on planting this season. We’ll follow up with another blog in the future.



May 9, 2014 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Flower Bulbs, Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos

Top 5 Gardening Questions Answered

Wildflower SeedsEach day, we hear from hundreds of gardeners across the country with a variety of planting and general gardening questions. We asked our customer service team to compile the top 5 most-asked customer questions for us to answer. The questions and answers are below. We hope you enjoy (and learn something)!

I like perennials because they come back year after year, but I’m also looking for quick color this season with annuals. What types of Wildflowers should I plant?

This is a common question we get from first-time Wildflower gardeners. Due to this frequent request, we’ve specially formulated dozens of regional and special-use mixtures that contain a variety of annuals and perennials, for blooms in the first season and each year after that. To view all of our mixtures, click here.

WildflowersDo I cover my Wildflower Seeds after I plant?

Many are used to digging a hole, planting their plant or bulb and then covering it with soil. Thus, we always get the question: "Do I cover my Wildflower Seeds after I plant?" The answer is no. Wildflower Seeds need plenty of sun to grow and will not germinate if covered by any soil at all. We recommend simply pressing the seeds down into the soil by walking on them or using a roller (depending on the size of the area) and giving them plenty of water in the beginning stages of growth.

What do I do with my Wildflowers at the end of the season?

In the fall, once all of your Wildflowers have died back and aren’t growing anymore, we recommend mowing them down as you would a grass lawn. This helps for some of the annuals to re-seed naturally and also gives some food for the birds!

Will this grow in my area?

PeonyThis question is typically about Wildflower Seeds but is also asked about Perennial Plants and Bulbs. There are really two parts to answering this question. Before we get into hardiness zones, soil types and water requirements, the most basic way to answer this question is with another question: What is currently growing in the area you want to plant? If there’s something growing in the area, this means your soil is viable and you will be able to grow Wildflowers or other Plants there.

Once this question is answered, there is the matter of hardiness zone, sun requirements, soil type and water accessability. Wildflowers will grow almost anywhere, they just require as much sun as possible and some water in the beginning stages of growth. Perennials and Bulbs, however, have light, zone, and soil requirements. DaylilyYou can find your hardiness zone here and each variety on our site lists its sunlight, soil, and other preferences. To learn how to amend your soil, read our article here.

I got ahead of myself and bought plants and bulbs too early to plant in my area. What do I do with them until I can plant?

If you have perennial or annual plants, keep them lightly watered in a sunny window until it’s time to plant. For bulbs and bareroots, store them in a cool, dark, dry place until it’s time to plant. Wildflower seed can also be stored in a cool, dark, dry place until it’s time to plant.

Do you have a gardening question you want us to answer? Please post in the comments below or write on our Facebook Page. Happy Gardening!

May 1, 2014 · Amanda Shepard · 10 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Flower Bulbs, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Perennials, Wildflowers

The Scoop on Fungi

A new post in our Guest Garden Writer Series comes from Kristin Gembara, a certified Master Gardener from Illinois (Zone 4/5). Kristin Gembara is a Wife, Mother and a Personal Gardener in Illinois for an Organic Landscape Company.  She is an Advanced Master Gardener with the University of Illinois and holds a Certification in Sustainable Landscaping from College of DuPage.  She is delighted to share lessons from the garden in sustainability and ecology particularly to everyday people, above all the next generation. 

FungiA mushroom walks into a bar.  Barkeeper says, “Get out!  We don’t serve your kind!”  Mushroom says, “Why not? I’m a fun-guy.” The horticulture world pronounces the “g” in fungi a soft “g”, like in the word giraffe.  But for the most part, everyday gardeners pronounce it fun-guy.

Mushrooms or toadstools, as they are called in folklore and fairy tales, tend to be an enigma. First off, fungi do not need light to endure. Second, Fungi come in many shapes and colors in nature. Surprisingly, many biologists believe fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants.   There is much debate and research happening on this subject as I write. 

This stalk poking out of the ground, topped with an oriental hat-like cap, is not the actual fungus, but the fruit or reproductive part.  The fruit contains spores for reproduction. I like to think of spores as the “seeds” of the fungus. The actual fungus is underground. They have long branching strands called hyphae collectively called mycelium.

Mushrooms are not poisonous to touch, but can be if swallowed.  Be on the safe side and never eat mushrooms growing in the wild or on your lawn, unless instructed by a Mycologist, one who studies fungi. 

FungiThe photo to the left shows a fungus fruit that appeared in my aloe plant seven days after I added a spring dose of organic worm castings to freshen up the soil.  As a Personal Gardener, I am often asked, “How do I get rid of these mushrooms that are growing on my lawn?”

Let’s start with understanding the actual job of fungi in nature.   According to Tom Volk, Department of Biology UW-Lacrosse, “Fungi are important scavengers in ecosystems.  Along with bacteria, fungi are important in recycling carbon, nitrogen and essential nutrients.”

Internationally respected soil microbiologist Elaine Ingham arranges fungi into three general categories depending on how they get energy. This breaks down nicely for gardeners.

First, we have decomposers. ”They convert dead organic material into fungal biomass, Carbon Dioxide and small molecules such as organic acids,” says Dr. Ingham.    Most of the time when mushrooms pop up on your lawn, it is because they are growing on old tree roots, most likely from years back.  A fungi party is happening under your lawn.   The Fungi are decomposers helping to break down this old wood. This is a good sign.  They are releasing nutrients back into the soil, a wonderful natural fertilizer.  Fungi are a constant in the soil.  They just need the right environmental conditions to fruit, like those extra rainy days that we love to complain about. If you have pets, or are uncomfortable with the fungi fruit in your lawn, rake them out or mow over them.

The second group Dr. Ingham calls the mutualist.  The fungi mycorrhiza forms a type of support with plants and trees.  “The mycorrhizal colonize plant roots in exchange for carbon.  Mycorrhizal fungi help solubolize phosphorus and bring soil nutrients to the plant,” says Dr Ingham. These mycorrhizal branches form a beneficial relationship with the roots of plants.

There are exceptions to this fun-guy story.  Harmful fungi do exist in the landscape that may cause problems. These are the third k known as pathogens and parasites ind of fungi that Dr. Ingham brings to light. They are the bad guys in the garden, also known as pathogens and parasites.  A few examples I see out in the field are powdery mildew, root rot, leaf spot and stem blight. These fungi are usually spread through environmental elements, wind, water, and soil.

There are ways to avoid spreading harmful fungi and bacteria in your landscape. First, do not work in the garden while plants and soil are wet.  This is the ideal environment for spreading disease. Second, clean your garden tools properly after gardening among unhealthy plants.  Gardening tools are the perfect host for transmitting fungi and bacteria to otherwise healthy vegetation.  Mix three parts water to one part bleach in a bucket and immerse your tools, especially when working with diseased plants.  Inspect your garden regularly for signs of plant weakness.

From time to time, other types of fungi make an appearance in your wood mulch during the growing season.  Puff balls, stink horns, and slime molds, are three fungi fruit that I regularly find in our backyards.  I came upon this wonderful example of slime mold or Dog Vomit while working in the field early last summer.

In 2013, the Chicagoland area experienced a particularly wet spring. This set the stage for a remarkable fungus show in many yards across the south western suburbs.  Also known as Dog Vomit Fungus, it was growing over a small section of garden mulch in a yard we were working.  I showed it to our intern Tony, who was working with me that afternoon. He immediately said, “Yuck! What is that?”

That is a normal response because it is quite crass, but harmless to your garden.  It may show up in an array of colors, but should turn white and fade away within a week.  If it really troubles you, scoop it up and dispose of, or grab the hose and center shoot it off.  The appearance of fungi in your mulch means aeration may be needed.  Go ahead and move the mulch around a bit to get the air circulating through.

Mushrooms and toadstools along with other types of Fungi will pop up from time to time.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  If you have pets and children you need to be aware of the fruits of the fungi labor. Fungi and bacteria have significant jobs in the soil your plants are growing in.  Remembering the importance of ecology in the garden will help your plants thrive to their fullest. All gardeners should be ecologists.

April 25, 2014 · Garden Writer · One Comment
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Perennials

Caring for Fading Spring Blooms

Dutchmaster DaffodilsWith the gorgeous display of Spring-Blooming Bulbs either in full swing or on its way in much of the country, our customers are asking “How do I care for my Bulbs once they are done blooming?” We are here to help with instructions on how (and why) to care for your precious Bulbs once they have finished blooming for the spring.

Once Tulips have faded, “dead-head” them by clipping off the faded blooms so that they won’t go to seed. Daffodils do not require dead-heading and can be left as is. The main requirement for Bulb Flowers in the post-bloom period is to leave the leaves alone so the plant can put its energy into “recharging” its bulb for next spring’s performance. This “energy charge” is gained through photosynthesis as the plant uses the sun’s energy to turn basic elements such as oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium into food. This food is stored in the Bulb’s “scales,” the white fleshy part of the Bulb, for use next spring.
Tulips and Daffodils
It is necessary to leave the green foliage exposed to the sun until it turns brown, or six weeks after the flower has finished blooming. Fight the urge to trim back or constrain the leaves during their die-back phase after blooming. Don’t bunch, tie, braid or cut the plant’s leaves during this period. AlliumDealing with the fading foliage is basically one of those things that lovers of Bulbs must deal with. The only management tip is camouflage.

Try planting Fall-Planted Bulbs with Annual Wildflowers or Perennial Plants, or planting them strategically nearby so that they help hide the declining bulb foliage as best as possible. As a planting strategy, plant clumps of Bulbs instead of full beds. This way you will have a lovely spring show, and plenty of room to plant camouflaging companions.

Avoid fertilizing your plants in the same bed until the Bulbs have died back. Bulbs in spring, if fertilized at all, should only get a dose of fast-release nitrogen about six weeks before flowering (normally bulbs want low nitrogen mix, but in spring it is the green-encouraging nitrogen that is called for). Fertilizing Bulbs too close to flowering time, when the bulbs can’t metabolize the food, only encourages fusarium disease and other nasty things that can harm your bulbs.
HyacinthsWhat are some helpful tips that you have for caring for fading Fall Bulbs? Feel free to leave a comment below or post on our Facebook Page.

Happy Gardening!

April 17, 2014 · Amanda Shepard · 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Flower Bulbs, Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Perennials, Wildflowers

Fun, Unique Spring Color: Allium Bulbs

Allium Purple SensationNot to be confused with its relatives from the allium family (garlic, shallots and onions), Ornamental Allium are purely decorative and cannot be used in culinary dishes. They are, however, some of the most unique and easy-to-grow Fall-Planted Bulbs, adding height and texture to the spring garden year after year.

Their problem-solving qualities seem endless.
These easy-to-grow bulbs are perennials and are hardy through zone 2-3. They tolerate almost any soil and prefer full sun. The bulbs will multiply as the years go by so you don’t have to worry about planting them each year. Alliums are drought-tolerant and critter-resistant (critters aren’t a big fan of onions), making them the perfect choice for almost any garden! Allium Bulbs Fireworks MixOne important fact about growing Allium is that you need a cold, dormant period for them to bloom in the spring. If you don’t experience this in your area, you can put them in the fridge to ‘force’ the bulbs for spring blooms.

Unique, gorgeous blooms come in a rainbow of colors. My friends like to call Allium "Dr. Seuss flowers" and I think it’s a great way to describe their fun, unique blooms. Globe Master, Gladiator, and Purple Sensation are some of the most common, delighting the late spring garden with large, globe-like, purple blooms. Wild About Allium Bulbs MixIf you’re looking for a more unique bloom, try Allium schubertii, Red Mohican, or the Fireworks Mix. Try pairing purple varieties with white ones such as Graceful and Mount Everest for a fun, contrasting look. Not sure which bulbs to plant? We have a Wild About Allium Bulbs Mix and a Rainbow Mix.

What are you experiences planting Allium? Please post in the comments below or share your photos with over 100,000 other gardeners on our Facebook Page.

Bulb Comparison

April 11, 2014 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Flower Bulbs, Gardening in Fall, How-Tos, Perennials

Calla Lilies: Elegance and Ease

Calla LilyCalla Lilies are some of the most beloved and gorgeous summer-blooming flowers, both in the garden and cut for bouquets. Whether you’re looking to add pops of color to your garden bed or are gardening in containers this season, Calla Lilies offer delightful, colorful blooms that are deer resistant and easy to grow. 

Easy to Grow

Calla Lilies thrive in a variety of growing conditions, tolerating sandy and clay soil. They are deer resistant and thrive in containers, making them the perfect statement for a small-space garden or patio. The unique, elegant blooms also attract Hummingbirds and Butterflies to the garden.

Beauty Outside and In

Calla LilyCalla Lilies are a florist favorite and can often be expensive to purchase as bouquets. These bulbs are SO easy to grow, plant extra to make your own inexpensive, stunning bouquets to enjoy in your own home or to give away to a lucky friend!

If you’re in an area that receives a hard frost, you’ll want to dig the bulbs up for the winter. If you’re in a hotter zone, you can leave the bulbs in the ground and they should act as perennials in your area.

What are you experiences growing Calla Lilies? Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook Page. Happy Gardening!

April 3, 2014 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Flower Bulbs, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos

Why We Garden

Why do you garden?We have a variety of gardening experience in our team here at American Meadows, ranging from beginner gardeners all the way to Master Gardeners and those who have their own farms. We were curious why they are all so passionate about gardening and asked, “Why do you garden?” Their answers are below and you can fill out the form at the bottom of the blog to tell us why you garden!

Ethan: “Gardening connects me.  It connects me to people, places and times that make me smile.”

Wendy: “I garden because I love coming down my driveway and seeing my garden in full bloom to greet me. It makes me smile every time.”

Charles: “I garden because my livestock need specifically formulated forage which includes different types of grass and vegetables.”

Matthew: “I garden because nothing beats veggies that you grew yourself!”


Terry: “I garden for flavor and also to know where my food comes from and how it’s grown.”

Stacy: “The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth, One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.”

Mike Lizotte and DaughterKelli: “Because I love, love, love being outdoors and breathing in the clean, fresh air.”

Schuyler: “Because I’m embarrassed that I didn’t already know how to.”

Mike ‘The Seed Man’ Lizotte: “I enjoying teaching my daughter all about the “birds and the bees” of gardening!”

Why Do You Garden?

April 1, 2014 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Flower Bulbs, Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, Gardening in the Winter, How-Tos, Perennials, Wildflowers