The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond

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A Weekly Review of the Garden

My St. Louis yard may appear as though it is still in the grasp of winter’s clutches, but don’t be fooled. Signs of spring life abound. Who cares if the forecast is calling for freezing temperatures and possible snow? My evening walks and apres-work yard clean up tell another story.

The week started off on the right foot–my orchid, the one I have been babying along, finally bloomed! Those who read this blog may remember my post written three months ago in the depths of winter in which I noticed small buds on the once graceful stems. I have been watching the buds swell, but in my comings and goings did not stop to take a picture. But whoa, I slowed down on Monday, when I saw she was blooming!


The spirea in the bed in front of the house is starting its little show. I wish I took a picture the other day when the leaves were just popping, because they were orange. They’re now yellow, soon to turn green and then to be covered with pretty pink blooms. The Grumpy Gardener (Steve Bender) proclaims this a trash shrub, placed in parking lots across America, but I have grown to like it. It is extremely forgiving, virtually indestructible and drought tolerant. And it came with the house.

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There is still a bit of orange to the spirea leaves. This guy is quickly emerging.

Of course, these signs of life have motivated me to get out of the wingback, turn off the TV, grab the rake when it’s not raining and continue clearing the beds. Here’s what’s been lurking beneath the blanket of leaves.

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Lady’s mantle “Goldstrike”.  This plant has more than doubled in size since it began emerging last week. Planted in the garden last year, I think it may exceed my expectations this year.

I like the way the leaves unfurl as astillbe emerges.

Chinese astilbe “Visions”. I like the way the leaves unfurl as astilbe emerges.

Tall garden phlox. I rearranged the bed in the fall and am surprised at how quickly they are coming up.

Tall garden phlox. I rearranged the bed in the fall and am surprised at how quickly they are coming up.

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Tulip poplar in the front yard.

All around the area signs of a lovely spring are emerging. We’ve had quite a bit of rain and warm temperatures to coax things along. Redbud trees are just starting to bloom, Star magnolias are flowering, the landscape is suddenly punctuated by bright yellow forsythia, and soon the Bradford pears and dogwood trees will be flush with white blooms. I hope you are enjoying your spring and the yard work that accompanies it.

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Uh-oh Spotty Rose Canes

The spots on the rose canes feel flat and are rimmed in red.

The spots on the rose canes feel flat and are rimmed in red.

My morning yard patrol before or after work has started. Coffee cup in hand, I’ve been kicking the leaves aside for signs of new spring life. I’m anxious to play in the dirt and start clearing beds and pruning back the roses, hydrangea, grasses and other plants I left alone for winter interest. Low and behold, my roses aren’t looking so good. There are large blackish spots rimmed in red along the canes. One plant seems to be affected the most.

Of course I made a quick stop into my favorite nursery to inquire but as dumb luck would have it I forgot to bring my phone which has a picture on it and they were getting ready to close. Maybe one you out there in the blogosphere can tell me what the heck this is. My internet searching has me thinking this might be canker stem spot. But I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that the canes on the roses don’t look so good on the inside either. Their centers are darkish.

Any words of wisdom fellow gardeners?

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A Stroll Through the Columbus Rose Park

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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.

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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.



5 Plants I’m Obsessed With

Stealing a line from Bravo TV host and hometown son Andy Cohen, I am obsessed with these five plants for the garden:

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1. Tall garden phlox. The color range available and the lovely “eyes” of  tall garden phlox make my heart skip a beat. These tall wonders are first on my list for an after-work garden stroll. They are fragrant and mingle delightfully among the Russian sage, bee balm and Stella de Oro daylily. While I enjoy them most in the garden, they hold up well in a cut arrangement gracing the dining table.

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2. Hosta, “Dorothy Benedict”. This beauty seems to have it all. It looks like a painting with streaks of bright green-yellow, blue-green and green-green interspersed with white. Leaves are textured, edges are smooth. Pop it into the shade garden and gaze away. What’s not to love? Oh yeah, the price (I’ve seen Dorothy Benedict quoted at $200-$500).

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3. Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis). Chartreuse-hued plants work well in a wide range of applications in the garden. Contrast this plant with cool blue-tinged foliage or the deep purples of “Mainacht” salvia. Or complement lady’s mantle with bursting colors such as bright pink Knockout roses. The old-fashioned girl will make its way into the garden this year.

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4. Kobold Gayfeather (Liatris spicata). I like spikes, and this plant delivers. Commonly known as blazing star, it pushes forth a stalk that really is a bunch of rounded flower heads that are fun to watch unfold from the top down. It attracts butterflies and works well in clay soil. Kobold is a compact version of liatris, and I am told this plant does not need staking, another bonus.

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5. Foxglove (Digitalis). The tubular bells on this biennual are nothing short of amazing. The freckles on the inside if the bloom spill forward on these charming flower spikes will be the perfect addition to my cottage garden. I grew them years ago in my backyard garden in Palatine, IL. Why I haven’t introduced them to my St. Louis landscapes escapes me. But that’s about to change.