The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond

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Some Like It Hot

In celebration of week-long temperatures above 90 degrees F., here’s a short list of plants that are sumptuous in a St. Louis swelter:

Echinacea purpurea "PowWow Wild Berry" coneflower.

Echinacea purpurea “PowWow Wild Berry” coneflower.

1. Echinacea purpurea. Like black-eye Susan, coneflower is a hardy soul. And breeders have developed an assortment of colors for us choosy gardeners. This year I added a very pretty pink variety called “PowWow Wild Berry.”


Blanket flower is a summer-long bloomer.

Blanket flower is a summer-long bloomer.

2. Gaillardia “Arizona Red Shades.” New to the garden this season, this blanket flower seems very happy and has put out bloom after bloom. It is a short, compact plant that rewards with blooms all season long–from early summer to early fall. And talk about carefee. It performs best in poor, well drained soil (check!), without fertilizer (check!) and in the sun (check!).

The young beebalm "Pardon My Pink" is dwarfed by black-eyed Susan on the left and tall garden phlox on the right.

The young beebalm “Pardon My Pink” is dwarfed by black-eyed Susan on the left and tall garden phlox on the right.

3. Rudbeckia “Black-eye Susan.” I have divided the two plants I purchased three years ago at the Webster Groves Women’s Garden Club plant sale and increased the stands of “Susans” in the yard. This is one tough native that likes it hot and loves, loves, loves the sun. Not yet blooming, I look forward to vases full of these sunny flowers.

A nice color combination of yellow coreopsis and orange butterfly milkweed. Growing behind the milkweed is canna, a new addition this year  to the fence garden bed.

A nice color combination of yellow coreopsis and orange butterfly milkweed. Growing behind the milkweed is canna, a new addition this year to the fence garden bed.

4. Butterfly milkweed. Another native, the orange blooms on this plant attract butterflies, which are fun to watch flit about the garden. I have it placed next to coreopsis and in front of canna (new to the garden this year).

The Russian sage nearly glows in the afternoon sun.

The Russian sage nearly glows in the afternoon sun. And the Shasta daisy seems to be well adapted to this spot which receives lots of sun.

5. Perovskia atriplicifolia.The wispy, powdery-hued wands of Russian sage cool off the heat but hold up well. The tall Russian sage is on the verge of blooming. The specimen shown above anchors the corner of this bed which faces South and East. The East view is what is showing here. Planted nearby are tall garden phlox and hot pink roses.

A pretty combination of sunny "Amelia" Shasta daisy, a rugged sun lover.

A pretty combination of sunny “Amelia” Shasta daisy, a rugged sun lover, and Russian sage.



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You Say Potato…

Is it geranium or pelargonium?

According to a recent post on Gardenista, this would be a pelargonium. How about we call it just plain pretty?

DSCN0058It had been a while since I included geranium in my pots but when I saw this stunner at a plant sale at work I could not resist. I mean who can’t adore a stripe on a flower? I bought this hanging basket of geraniums/pelargoniums after first glance and have not regretted this impulse purchase. The flower petals are edged in a deep hot reddish pink with lighter pink petals. I know this isn’t technically a stripe but it pretty darn well poses for one at a distance and that just spells fun in any garden.


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A Stroll Through the Columbus Rose Park

cbus roses and fountain

Roses bloom in the Heritage Rose Garden in Whetstone Park, Clintonville, OH

I do believe in the world of flora and fauna timing is everything. Last Sunday I had the pleasure to leisurely stroll through the rose gardens in Whetstone Park in Clintonville, OH, with dear Dave. Our timing was not the best as most of the blooms on the roses were a tad past their prime. Not that I am complaining; indeed, I am not. Strolling in a garden on a beautiful day and observing the other taking in the beauty of a lovely landscape is one of the great pleasures of leisure time. I spend most of my time planning, planting and observing my own garden. Relaxing in the bounty of another garden is just what the doctor ordered.

The rose park, which is made up of three rose gardens within 13 acres, is a manageable size to maneuver if you are pressed for time (I had a flight to catch). But that’s not to say there wasn’t lots to watch. On Sunday–which was beautiful in Ohio–Dave and I lingered in the garden beds, watched families enjoying the day and spied on plein air painters as they captured a prize rose on canvas. No one seemed to mind that the park was not in full bloom.

A plean air artist captures a yellow rose on canvas.

A plean air artist captures a yellow rose on canvas.

The Rose Park speaks to strollers, photographers, painters and garden lovers.

The Rose Park speaks to strollers, photographers, painters and garden lovers.

An Earth-Kind Garden is one of the three rose gardens in the park. This demonstration garden features commercially available roses that a hassle free–they require no pesticides, zero fertilizers, zippo deadheading and no pruning. That’s a plant that speaks to me! Seriously, Earth-Kind gardening is about sustainability and using less water, less inputs and keeping mankind’s footprint a little lighter in the landscape.

The program was developed at Texas A&M University and the park is the first one outside of the South to feature this informal rose style.  Though most of the roses had already bloomed but there were several varieties in the garden. Bee in rose Unfortunately, I did not capture any photos worth posting.

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June Blooms

We’ve had quite a bit of rain in the St. Louis area and combined with warm to hot temperatures, the garden is responding. As I clean up spent blooms and (finally!) put down mulch, the beds are taking on a new look as summer comes on in earnest in June. I have trimmed all the spent blooms on the roses, cut back the May Night salvia and also removed the spent blooms on the wild geranium. Gives the bed a whole new look. The penstamon was spectacular with its woody red stems and dainty flowers. Truly one of my favorites. The blooms last quite a while, both in the garden and in a cut flower arrangement. May was a wonderful month for flowers.

Shasta daisy in bloomBut there is so much to look forward to this month. The shasta daisy “Amelia” (Leucanthemum suprbum) I planted last summer is in full swing as are the coreopsis, the stella de oro lily and the oriental lily. The oakleaf hydrangea never fails to disappoint and this season is no different; it is full of panicled blooms. Buds have developed on the “Pardon My Pink” bee balm (monarda didyma), tall garden phlox and coneflower. The Russian sage (perovskia) has grown quite tall and is just about to bloom as are the “Kobold” gayfeather (liatris spicata). This year I have added a new, compact variety of Russian sage called “Crazy Blue” (perovskia atriplicifolia) and it appears near bloom. And of course the roses will rebloom and the Little Lamb and Little Lime hydrangea will come into their own, probably toward the end of the month.

Oriental lilies after the rain (1280x960)Stella (600x800)

Gayfeather close up in May (600x800)How is your garden coming along? Have you seen any pests in your garden beds? I am curious about the natural remedies I see all the time on Pintrest. Do they really work? Please share your experiences. Happy gardening.



Spotlight on Coreopsis

If you’re looking for a yellow boost to the garden, coreopsis is a great plant. I have two types of coreopsis in my yard, but quite honestly, I am a bit confused about this plant and its names. Researching this sunny plant, I thought tickseed was a type but I think that’s just a common name. So where words fail me, pictures will do the talking.

This variety of coreopsis blooms all summer but requires a bit of maintenance trimming off the spent blooms.

This type of coreopsis blooms all summer but requires frequent trimming of the spent blooms.

moonbeam coreopsis (600x800)

This carefree coreopsis blooms all summer and grows the size of a small shrub.

I have been referring to the mounding, shrub-like plant as moonbeam (c. verticallata) and the other as tickseed (c. auriculata). Can anybody out there in gardenland provide clarity?

What I do know for certain is that one is carefee, the other not as much. Starting in June, the moonbeam blooms begin to burst forth atop its fine foliage. This mounding plant and can be as large as a small shrub. In the fall, I take my hedge shears and cut it all the way back. Give it a sunny spot and it will bloom nearly all summer. Bonus: it’s drought tolerant.

On the other hand, I keep handy my pruners and am continuously cleaning up the other type that I have referred to as tickseed coreopsis. This guy has sunny yellow flowers at the end of tall, thin stems. The leaves are more spear shaped. The blooms, although relatively short lived, add a nice brightness to the bed. I planted this variety because I wanted something that I could cut and add to vases all summer long. And it has not disappointed.

Both are easily adapted to the garden and I have divided them without any problems. The moonbeam truly wants full sun, up to six hours a day. One of my divisions has been a bit slow to take off and I think it’s because it does not get enough sun.


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An Urban Garden Oasis

St louis brick (480x640)My sister Nancy lives in the midst of music, mayhem and madness in the shadows of the vibrant Loop in St. Louis city. Yet her yard is a true get away in the midst of city living. Yes, you can hear the drum circle at the Shell gas station a block away. Police and firetruck sirens blare down Delmar Avenue at a fairly regular pace. A rotating “moon” atop the Moonrise Hotel can be glimpsed from the deck. But all that is just a sideshow. The main event is the oasis she has created on a small city backyard lot. Center stage is a large pond full with fish and surrounded by lots of ground cover such as carpet phlox, creeping Jenny and vinca; trees and shrubs such as Japanese maple, lemon thread cypress, Mary Jane magnolia,and oakleaf hydrangea; perennials such as hosta, grasses, salvia and liriope; and annuals to fill in. Large rocks give structure to the pond shape and provide a platform to gaze at the fish and maneuver around the pond.

Urban Oasis 2 (1280x960)If you’ve ever wondered if pond water is good for the garden, wonder no more! Her oakleaf and roses appear to be on steroids!

pond lettuceOf course the pond has aquatic plant species such as water lily, water hyacinth, water lettuce and bog plants. What Nancy lacks in plant knowledge “I don”t know that plant is,” she makes up with an unerring eye for color combination and layout. There’s a balanced interplay between citrus hues (lemon thread cypress), cool tones (a blue dwarf weeping cypress) and shocks of color (the pink Knockout roses). Touches of whimsy, such as this painted frog, let you know the garden is for enjoyment. This frog is an example of her talent in  painting.

 A painted frog adorns the rocks on the edge of the pond.

A painted frog adorns the rocks on the edge of the pond.

I think ponds provide a sense of serenity and the shade cast on the pond from the trees lends a sense of calm in an urban setting. I am always struck by the fact that the yard is small–a typical St. Louis city lot–and there is lots of city noises around, yet the environment feels set apart from the hustle and bustle.

Original St. Louis accents also lend an authentic city touch to this escape and sets the yard apart from other gardens. The home is in Parkview, an historic St. Louis neighborhood dated back to the early 1900s. Above the bed in front of the garage is a light from one of the old streetlamps in the neighborhood. And the first picture in this post is of an old “St. Louis” brick.

Looking back toward the garage.

Looking back toward the garage. Note the dwarf cypress in the back. Behind this is another planting area that hides the power line and the fence leading to the alley.

IMG_0553Between the garden beds, the deck and the pond, you kind of lose sight that this is really a narrow yard that is not all too deep. That is because the design draws your eye down along the space. A brick path along the side bed with the roses help to pull your eye lengthwise. Still developing is a shade garden in front the garage. As with all gardens, trial and error occurs with plant selection, soil and light. This area receives a good bit of shade and Nancy has struggled a bit to get the right plants to take off. Carefree, foliaged perennials are the name of the game, although color contrast is at the forefront. Hostas thrive in the St. Louis climate. Nancy is planting a variety of hostas, and the bed is beginning to take off. I know, however, that in a year or two she’ll introduce an artistic element to heighten the enjoyment of this bed.

What I have not shown you are the window boxes and containers that overlook the deck. And of course there are the lounges and the hand-painted table umbrella. I  hope you have enjoyed this virtual garden tour. I look forward to sharing other small garden spaces in the near future.

How are you making the most of your small spaces?