Announcing our New CEO – Mike Reynolds

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019 at 10:53 am

Fiore Nursery and Landscape Supply is pleased to announce Mike Reynolds as the new CEO and President, effective immediately. 

Mike_headshot Social Posts

Mike’s appointment follows an extensive search for a strong, innovative leader that fit our company culture. After nearly 100 years of serving landscape professionals in the Chicago Region, we are taking this bold step forward in order to grow our company in new and exciting ways.

Most recently serving as Chief Operating Officer of an e-commerce start-up which he helped scale, Mike’s career has given him exposure to many industries. With a data driven approach and inspiring management style, Mike will be instrumental in taking Fiore Nursery and Landscape Supply to the next level. His experience in supply chain management, logistics, e-commerce, and business strategy will help implement solutions that create results for our business partners.

David Fiore will retain a leadership role as Vice President. David played a large role in the search for a CEO and is enthusiastic about working with Mike in the shared mission of making Fiore Nursery and Landscape Supply a convenient business partner that drives results for the landscape community.

Thank you for your continued support as we bring our company to the next level. 

Staff Picks 9/4-9/11

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018 at 7:08 am

As fall approaches it gets harder to source quality material. In an effort to keep you in the loop and introduce you to new material, we’re introducing Staff Picks – A short weekly to biweekly list of plants we love!


Zach Sargent – Ginkgo Biloba (Maidenhair Tree)

zack_sargent– “Outstanding color and a great green throughout the season too! You’ll fall for this tree once you see the fall color!” (Salem Lake Farm)

Ginkgo biloba is an excellent multi-use deciduous tree. Uniquely fan shaped leaves emerge somewhat fluted and unfurl and remain a steady emerald green color all season long. In fall, trees become a vibrant glowing yellow and leaves persist for a short time before all falling off within a 48 hour period, creating a beautiful golden carpet on the ground. Talk about a dramatic exit! Multiple cultivars exist for this species that vary in habit from columnar varieties that mature to 45 feet tall to dwarfs that reach 5 feet at maturity. The species can reach nearly 100 feet at maturity!

Pictured: Ginkgo biloba 'Grindstone' 2 1/2"

Pictured: Ginkgo biloba ‘Grindstone’ 2 1/2″

Mike Kwiatek – Sedum ‘Dynomite’ (Dynomite Stonecrop)

michael_kwiatek – “The name’s perfect – the flowers look like little embers above dark foliage. The color is fantastic. Best of all, it stays pretty small! It’s like if ‘Pure Joy’ had a handsome older brother” (Chicago)

This compact variety of Sedum spectabile is pretty new on the market. Maturing to only 7 inches tall (with flowers) and 11 inches wide, it’s a good choice for the foreground of a dry perennial border.


Gail Marik – Diervilla ‘G2X885411’  (Kodiak Red Bush Honeysuckle)

gail_marik – “Over the weekend I planted Diervilla Kodiak Red in my yard. The shrubs I purchased were full of yellow blooms and red new leaf growth. I enjoyed watching bumble bees gathering pollen from the flowers and butterflies checking out the blossoms. I chose Diervilla because they are not fussy about location. They are a native that will tolerate drought, sun or shade. The shrubs provided instant screening. I can’t wait to see the expected fall color. It is easy to recommend a shrub that offers so much color in spring, summer and fall and will grow almost anywhere.” (Prairie View)

Gail sums it up nicely! Diervilla is a great native to plant just about anywhere to benefit native pollinators and for great fall color. It shows some salt tolerance too!


Bill Hope – Thuja ‘Wintergreen’ 10-12′ (Wintergreen arborvitae)

bill_hope – “Beauties! Perfect shape and height.” (Bolingbrook)

This narrow, somewhat columnar arborvitae is a great choice for hedges or as stand alone evergreens in our area. Growing 30 feet wide and 10 feet wide at maturity, Wintergreen can easily become an imposing plant, but for the right spot, it can bring a landscape together!



Brian Dulian – Magnolia ‘Jim Wilson’ 8′ (Moonglow Sweet Bay Magnolia)

brian_dulian– “Holds onto its leaves better than other Magnolias and the fruit is cool!” (Indianapolis)

Moonglow Magnolia is a more vigorous and upright variety of Sweet Bay Magnolia with good cold hardiness and larger flowers than the species. Maturing to 35 feet tall and 18 feet wide over several years, Moonglow makes an excellent specimen for Zones 5b through 10. Leaves are semi-evergreen.


With many more great looking plants in our yard, it’s hard to name them all. Come back next week for a new list of staff picks!

Staff Picks 8/27

Monday, August 27th, 2018 at 6:33 pm

As fall approaches it gets harder to source quality material. In an effort to keep you in the loop and introduce you to new material, we’re introducing Staff Picks – A short weekly to biweekly list of plants we love!

Brian Dulian – Cornus  kousa ‘Radiant Rose’ 1 3/4″ (Radiant Rose Dogwood)

brian_dulian– “Great form, great fruit” (Indianapolis)

This flowering dogwood has reddish new growth in spring with spectacular “flowers” composed of 4 bright pink sepals. You can tell by the amount of fruit on these single stem trees that flowers are abundant! The fruit is such a stunning red that it acts as a secondary ornamental feature. Trees mature to about 20 feet tall and wide and are very cold hardy.



Mike Kwiatek – Andropogon gerardii ‘Blackhawks’ (Blackhawks Big Bluestem)

michael_kwiatek – “It brings the drama! […] Once it colored up in July, I was in love. Photos don’t do it justice.” (Chicago)

Bred in Illinois, this native prairie grass brings intense contrast to a sunny areas. Emerging green, it soon adopts shades of purple in its leaves before becoming almost entirely purple and black with some red hues. The turkey foot-like flower heads even are dramatic shades of purple, standing at 5 feet in height and providing excellent contrast in the back of the garden bed.



Alex Head – Hydrangea paniculata ‘SMHPLQF’ #5 (Little Quick Fire Hydrangea)

alex_head – “24”+ across! One of the first Hydrangea to flower (and first to fade to pink). Compact habit makes it very versatile. Pest free… What’s not to like?!” (Prairie View)

Alex says it all, Little Quick Fire blooms early and maxes out at 5′ tall and wide, but can easily be maintained at a smaller size. Large cones of white flowers emerge in early to mid summer and quickly turn a beautiful deep pink. Flowers can be dried and used in dried arrangements or left on the plant for winter interest!

IMG_0042 IMG_0043

Brian Henning – Euonymus alatus 72″ (Burning Bush)

brian_henning “Monsters! Bright red fall color, that’s why I like them.” (Bolingbrook)

The bright red fall color of burning bush is hard to beat. While it may seem early for burning bush to be in color, it’s not unusual for ball and burlap trees and shrubs to begin developing color early. Even once the foliage falls, the attractive corky bark provides additional interest which continues into winter, holding snow for an eye catching display. Great as a hedge or a specimen.


Zach Sargent – Taxodium distichum 2 1/2 to 4 1/2″ (Bald Cypress)

zack_sargent– “I like Taxodium because they’re versatile. They tolerate wet feet and urban conditions and the foliage is light and feathery, which isn’t very common. Varieties like Skyward also provide some of that versatility with it’s unique habit” (Salem Lake Farm)

Growing up to 70′ at maturity, while maintaining an excellent pyramidal shape, Taxodium is a fantastic specimen tree. Cultivars produced in the last few decades have given rise to a broader selection of plants with shorter statures, unique habits, and improved aesthetic characteristics. Taxodium look like conifers from a distance, but lose their leaves in winter. Try ‘Skyward’ for a more columnar habit or ‘Shawnee Brave’ for a more uniform look!


With many more great looking plants in our yard, it’s hard to name them all. Come back next week for a new list of staff picks!



Staff Picks 8/20

Monday, August 20th, 2018 at 8:48 pm

As fall approaches it gets harder to source quality material. In an effort to keep you in the loop and introduce you to new material, we’re introducing Staff Picks – A short weekly to biweekly list of plants we love!

Sarah Bottner – Buxus ‘Green Mountain’ 30″ (Green Mountain Boxwood)

sarah_bottner – “Fresh Batch […] Very Consistent!” (Prairie View)

For an evergreen hedge 4-5 feet tall, Green Mountain Boxwood is a great pick. It’s easily shaped and pruned and these new ones we just received in Prairie View are very healthy and robust.


Mike Kwiatek – Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’ #5 (Viking Black Chokeberry)

michael_kwiatek – “My favorite Chokeberry. It’s not as leggy as other Aronia, the foliage is great, and the fruit isn’t too bad either! More people should use this one!” (Chicago)

‘Viking’ grows to 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide with abundant white flowers in spring and large juicy fruit that is attractive to birds and used in Europe as an orchard plant. Aronia is commonly used to make Jams and Jellies in Europe, and with more antioxidants than blueberries, you can spread a little extra on your toast without feeling so guilty.


Alex Head – Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Alice’ and ‘Snow Queen’ #7 and #10 (Snow Queen and Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea)

alex_head – “Sweet! […] No flowers but large and juicy. Good fall color, which is pretty uncommon in Hydrangeas.” (Prairie View)

The unique foliage of Oakleaf Hydrangea can’t be beat; oak-like lobed leaves up to 8 inches long transition to scarlet shades in fall. Foot-long panicles of white flowers are a treat in early summer. Alex recommends them for full sun to part shade areas with moist well drained soils. Great as a backdrop or specimen plant. Grows to about 8 feet tall.

Colleen Mulhern & Robert Colin – Juniperus chinensis ‘Hetzii Columnaris’ 5′ (Green Columnar Juniper)

“Full shape throughout” “Good Fruit” (Chicago)

Unlike some other upright Junipers, Hetzii Columnaris has a more steady growth rate both horizontally and vertically. Maturing to 15 feet tall and 5 feet wide, this juniper seems to fruit abundantly, creating quite a spectacle which will attract birds that appreciate it for both fruit and shelter.



A few other favorites…

Tyler Kilvickis – #15 Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ & 42″ Conical Green Mountain Boxwood (Prairie View)
Brian Dulian – 6-8′ Cercis canadensis, Zelkova, Autumn Blaze Maple, Cornus kousa 
Robert ColinViburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ (Chicago)

This was just a small sampling of our favorites. Stay tuned for more as the season continues!

Bergenia, Evergreen Under the Evergreens

Thursday, April 13th, 2017 at 7:00 am

When I started my education in horticulture, I requested a space in my mother’s vegetable garden. She generously let me use a 3 by 10 ft area in the shadiest part of the garden, alongside the neighbor’s Arborvitae hedge for my mad scientist experiments in gardening. Over the course of several years I accumulated and lost a variety of plants, but the Bergenia always lasted.

Bergenia cordifolia or Heartleaf Bergenia is an herbaceous perennial with medium rounded leaves that grow in a rosette up to 1.5 feet tall. The glossy leathery leaves offer a different texture in the landscape that contrasts well with the finer textures of grasses such as Carex or Hakonechloa. In spring, Bergenia puts up 1 to 1.5 foot stalks of clustered pink to red bell-shaped flowers. In late fall to winter, the leathery leaves usually turn wine red and can be left until spring. Bergenia does best in part shade with moist, humus-rich soil.

In spite of its preference for part shade, Bergenia does an excellent job enduring full sun and fully shaded locations as well as dry or wet. While it may not tolerate very wet shade or very dry sun, it adapts well to most other sites. Bergenia even does well under pine and spruce!

Bergenia is also a great plant for a garden that kids play in. The flowers don’t attract much in the way of pollinators. Though the occasional bee or butterfly may visit, they’re far and few between. Bergenia is also tolerant to some trampling as well as to salt, deer and rabbits. Best of all, they’re interactive. Take a leaf and rub it between your thumb and forefinger to hear the leaf squeak. This is the reason for its common name: Pigsqueak.

If you haven’t tried Bergenia, I invite you to try planting a small mass of Bergenia cordifolia or Bergenia cordifolia ‘Winter Glow’ in a shady area of a yard. The leathery leaves offer evergreen, virtually maintenance free coverage throughout the year and the pink bell shaped flowers will help brighten up the spring for both kids and adults.

A Willow’s Value

Monday, April 3rd, 2017 at 7:00 am

While the word “willow” may conjure a specific image in your mind, the willow genus, Salix, is very diverse in nature, representing a variety of trees and shrubs that span the globe, primarily in temperate and cold climates of the northern hemisphere. They thrive primarily in moist to wet areas in sun to shade and have been used by humans for centuries. When you take a closer look at willows, it’s easy to see why we value these plants.

In Dollars

When we look at what Salix do for our wallets, an initial investment could range anywhere from a free plant (or cutting) to a several hundred dollar tree. All of this depends on initial tree size and variety, but long term savings can easily amount to thousands of dollars over several decades based on placement. As most willows tend to have a medium to fast growth rate, the savings from shade and wind protection will become obvious within a short number of  years. This is one reason why shrub willows make an excellent choice for screening and windbreaks – they grow very quickly which can save on heating or otherwise prevent damage to more sensitive (or expensive) plants. As they’ll also cut down on noise it may also save you money on aspirin.

Non-Ornamental Uses

While I’m kind of kidding about saving money on pain killers, willows do contain salicylic acid, which is a precursor to aspirin. Willow bark has actually been used as a natural painkiller for millennia. Salicylic acid is also used as an acne treatment, though I recommend against just rubbing your face against willow trees.

Willows can also be coppiced or pollarded and will readily resprout. While this is now sometimes done for aesthetic reasons, this kind of extreme pruning was often done (and sometimes still is) for firewood as well as making furniture, homes, wattle fences, toys, tools, and more. Willows are perhaps the most forgiving to this kind of treatment due to their rapid growth rate. If you’re regularly doing this kind of extreme pruning, it is wise to also fertilize as this will eventually deplete soil nutrients.


Willows offer a lot to the wild things of the world. Caterpillars in particular love this plant, though you might not know by looking. Willows support over 400 types of caterpillar including the viceroy and red spotted purple. The caterpillars that feed on the leaves of willows are incredibly valuable to many birds species such as chickadees, grosbeaks, nuthatches, orioles, warblers and woodpeckers. These soft bodies caterpillars act as an important food source to baby birds that cannot yet digest seeds. These trees and shrubs also offer nesting opportunities for those same birds. It’s not just the birds, but also the bees that benefit. When other nectar sources are not readily available, many bees take advantage of the pollen and nectar on willow catkins to sustain themselves.


One of the most fascinating things about plants in the genus Salix is that they can be so easy to propagate! If you ever have access to a willow in spring, try cutting some branches, about a foot long and of pencil thickness, and place them a few inches deep into a pot full of soil. Keep the soil moist and within a few weeks you will likely see growth. While some species don’t set roots very well, most will root quite enthusiastically. This can usually be done in a vase as well. This is a fun experiment to do with kids. Try changing up some of the variables like amount of light or size of the branches and see what happens!

A Tradition

Growing up the child of Polish immigrants, every Easter was full of both Polish and American traditions. The one I recall most vividly was when my mother would go out to collect pussy willow branches from the tree outside. While she typically just used them for decoration or had them blessed the Saturday before the Easter Holiday, it is a tradition in many Slavic countries to have them blessed beside (or instead of) palms the Sunday before. Willow branches can be considered a metaphor for Easter – the flowers erupt from the seemingly dry branches. It’s a symbol of resurrection and the start of spring.

The fuzzy catkins of Salix discolor.

The fuzzy catkins of Salix discolor.

Fundamentally, willows are great plants, especially for wet spots. They are useful in crafting and saving money. They are kind to wildlife and fun for kids. For me, the white fluffy catkins of willows remind me of home. Beyond that, there are few pleasures quite like resting under a willow on a warm spring day as the breeze flies through the branches and over the leaves.

Early Spring Shrubs to Bring Sunshine

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 at 8:00 am

The past few months have been peculiar to say the least. The unseasonably warm January and February left many asking what happened to winter? While we felt unsure of the season, these early blooming shrubs were just waiting to pop and bring the season to life!

Hamamelis vernalis – Vernal Witchhazel
Hamamelis x intermedia – Hybrid Witchhazel

If you didn’t know, the word “vernal” comes from the latin word for spring, so it should come as no surprise that this is the time for Hamamelis vernalis to shine. Perfect for a sun to part shade with good moisture, the flowers erupt out of this plant from February to late April. The long, strappy, fragrant petals create a unique look that stands out in the garden or especially against a building. This native shrub often grow 6-10 feet tall and 8-15 feet wide. You might also consider trying some of the Hamamelis x intermedia hybrids. While not native, they have a similar look and will do well with similar conditions. Best of all, the hybrids come in a wide selection of flower colors ranging from lemon yellow to brick red. Witchhazel also has great fall color which can range from golden yellow to crimson.

The flowers of Hamamelis x intermedia 'Moonlight' exploded out of the plant this week and smelled delectably fragrant!

The flowers of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Moonlight’ exploded out of the plant this week and smelled delectably fragrant!

Forsythia sp. – Forsythia

It’s hard to miss these classic spring flowers in landscapes across Illinois. The bright sunshine yellow flowers make Forsythia glow from March to April (and sometimes as early as February).  While flowers are typically about the size of a nickle or dime, some varieties such as Show Off have flowers as big as a quarter! The plants also have a nice display of gold to ruby fall color. Forsythia come in many sizes varying from 1 foot to 9 feet tall. For this reason, many of the larger varieties must be pruned to maintain good size and habit. Plant Forsythia in full sun to part shade with moist soil for best results. After a very harsh winter, Forsythia may not flower well, so protected spots are preferred for this impressive shrub.


The flowers of Sunrise Forsythia are about the norm but still beautiful.

The flowers of Show Off Forsythia are huge!

The flowers of Show Off Forsythia are huge!

Cornus mas – Cornelian Cherry
Cornus officinalis – Japanese Cornelian Cherry

Cornelian cherries are the cheerleaders of spring. In March to April, pom poms of small yellow flowers pop out of the branches to greet the season with a surprising exuberance. While it may not be a show stopper like Forsythia, it’s a shining reminder that spring is here. As the bright yellow flowers fade away, glossy green leaves emerge to fill the space. Eventually in Mid to Late Summer, glossy red fruit appear beneath the leaves which are commonly eaten by birds. In fall, the plants usually have a degree of red fall color before dropping leaves for winter. Cornus mas and Cornus officinalis are very similar in appearance, but are most easily distinguished in winter by the more attractive, textural bark of C. officinalis. Both make excellent stand alone shrubs, but C. mas tends to have a tighter habit, so it makes for a better hedge. The fruit, while similar in appearance, is somewhat different in that C. mas has sour, juicier fruit and C. officinalis has more astringent fruit similar to Aronia melanocarpa. Plant these Cornus in full sun to part shade with moist soil for best results. Both grow to about 25 feet tall and 20 feet wide but can be easily pruned to maintain a desirable size.

The small yellow pom poms of Cornus officinalis

The small yellow pom poms of Cornus officinalis.

Now that we’re a few days past the equinox, I think it’s safe to say that spring is here and while we may still have some cold days ahead, all it takes is a quick look around to see things coming to life. I hope seeing some of these shrubs will bring a little brightness to these early cloudy days of spring.

Natives and “Nativars” For Conventional Landscapes (Part 2)

Monday, March 20th, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Last week I focused on 4 native herbaceous perennials that are great for the conventional landscape. In Part 2, we’re continuing the list with another 4 that are some of my personal favorites.

Penstemon digitalis – Foxglove Beardtongue

I have a special affection for the genus Penstemon. There is an enormous amount of diversity in the genus, much of which is native to the southwestern United States. They can be found in nearly every color including white, red, yellow, orange, blue, violet and deep burgundy-purple. Some species have very finely textured foliage while others are more strap-like or spoon-like. Perhaps the most common and well adapted to our area is Penstemon digitalis. In spring, the plant will produce a basal rosette of spoon shaped leaves followed by large 2-3′ stalks of tubular, white, bee-attracting flowers in May and June (sometimes later). After the blooms are finished, the stalks remain upright with seed pods that will remain through winter for interest if not cut back. Penstemon digitalis spreads readily from seed, but is generally not aggressive, only cultivating space that is not being used. If seeding becomes a problem, remove stems by August, before they begin to dry. Penstemon digitalis is very versatile, tolerating dry to somewhat wet soil and full sun to full shade. Best performance will occur in full sun to part shade with moist, well-drained soil. Some of the best cultivars of Penstemon digitalis include ‘Husker Red’ which turns a deep red in autumn, ‘Dark Towers’ which has dark foliage year round and a pink flower, and ‘Pocahontas’ with lavender flowers and dark foliage.

Asclepias incarnata – Swamp milkweed

Ever since planting this species in the garden, I’ve enjoyed the benefits of seeing pollinators flock to the flowers like flies to honey. My favorite visitor is the intimidating Great Black Wasp, Sphex pensylvanicus. If stinging insects are a concern due to the presence of children, I ask you to first take into consideration it’s size. Swamp milkweed often grows 4 to 5 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. The pink flowers are borne at the top of the plants, far away from little hands, and since the plant is better as an accent in the midborder to background, some trampling and height adjustments will need to happen before children are put at risk. Swamp milkweed has a strongly upright to vase shaped habit with medium textured green to dark green foliage. The blooms typically appear between July and early September and are mildly fragrant. Plant in full sun with well drained to wet soil for best best results. Remove seed pods to prevent reseeding. While the plants will usually turn yellow in fall, you will sometimes get more interesting results. If you like swamp milkweed but need a smaller plant, try the variety ‘Cinderella’ which does not exceed 4 feet in height and has darker flowers.

My Asclepias incarnata turned shades of burgundy, red and yellow this past fall.

My Asclepias incarnata turned shades of burgundy, red and yellow this past fall.

Mertensia virginica – Virginia Bluebells

Mertensia virginica is a wonderful spring woodland ephemeral that starts pushing out dusty violet to purple foliage in early April, followed by flowers before the start of May. The pendulous bell shaped flowers transition from pink to blue and occasionally occur as a very pale gray-blue. Plant Mertensia in full to part shade or under shade trees in masses for best results. When the plants are done blooming, they will set seed and die back to the ground. For this reason, it’s best to plant Mertensia with other shade loving perennials like Hosta which will fill the gaps left by Mertensia in late spring through fall.

Mertensia virginica blooming on the south side of a home in the Northwest Suburbs.

The unopened flowers on Mertensia are pink to lavender.

Sporobolus heterolepis – Prairie dropseed

This native grass is already well beloved by many designers. The gentle sweeping nature of its leaves, along with its open airy panicles and orange-tan fall color makes it a favorite for adding a touch of grace or softness to a planting. Prairie dropseed typically produces 2-3 foot wide arching clumps and grows to about 3 feet tall, though the inflorescences may grow somewhat taller than that. When planting prairie dropseed, it is best to plant later in spring while the soil is warming as it is a warm season grass. Planting late is not usually a concern due its tolerance to extreme heat and cold, but it would be wise to mulch for late planting dates. The most notable thing about prairie dropseed may be its fragrance, which some say smells like popcorn, others say smells like cilantro or soap. If you like the idea of prairie dropseed but are looking for a slightly improved habit, I recommend ‘Tara’ which is a dwarf version with a more vase shaped habit.

There are many more natives suitable for the landscape and we’ll discuss them further throughout the season. In the meantime, join our conversation on Facebook. We want to hear from you, what are your favorite natives?

Natives and “Nativars” For Conventional Landscapes (Part 1)

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 at 7:00 am

When it comes to low maintenance plants, nothing beats native. Once established, natives have natural ways of tolerating drought, excessive watering, extreme winters, late frosts, trampling and grazing. There’s a problem with natives though. They can be difficult to manage. Sometimes they get too big or have a need to lean on their neighbors to look good. This bad reputation has drawn a lot of people away from natives, so today I’m going to talk about a few natives and “nativars” that are in a class of their own. Consider them trailblazers that will make you or your clients rethink native.

Parthenium integrifolium – Wild Quinine

When I first planted Wild Quinine, I had no idea what a gem I was getting. I originally added it to the garden because the coarse, upright leaves provided a much needed contrast to the fine textured foliage of Coreopsis and Perovskia. Then it bloomed. The large white flower heads emerge on 2-4′ tall stems in June through August (though sometimes earlier). The flowers remind me somewhat of pearly everlasting (but more attractive in my opinion). The flowers can be dried for winter arrangements or left in the garden for texture in winter. Plant this in well drained soil in full sun for best performance.

Tradescantia ‘Tough Love’ – Tough Love Spiderwort

The Pink Flowers of 'Tough Love' are different than many other garden species

The Pink Flowers of ‘Tough Love’ are different than many other garden species

Love is something you have to work at and Tradescantia ‘Tough Love’ is one of the best examples of what happens when you just keep working at it. Jim Ault, plant breeder at the Chicago Botanic Garden, introduced me to this pink flowering hybrid Tradescantia a few years ago and I’ve been waiting to get this into my garden ever since. Its parents, Tradescantia tharpii and Tradescantia occidentalis, are both native to the United States, but endemic to western and southwestern states.  Unlike most Tradescantia that grow range-y and tall in moist, shady sites, ‘Tough Love’ prefers drier, sunnier sites, is compact and stays mostly evergreen throughout the season. The only maintenance it needs is a little cutting back at the end of the season.

Schizachyrium scoparium – Little Bluestem

The horticulture industry hasn’t ignored this native plant. It’s already available in a number of cultivars including ‘Carousel’, ‘Jazz’, ‘Prairie Blues, ‘The Blues’, ‘Jazz’, ‘Twilight Zone’, ‘Munchkin’, ‘Standing Ovation’, ‘Smoke Signal’ and more. The species grows anywhere from 2-4′ high and produces little brush-like inflorescences vertically along the plant. It tolerates a range of soils from dry to somewhat wet and does best in full sun, though will grow in part shade. It’s an excellent choice for rain gardens. The fall color on the species ranges from orange to purple and bronze, eventually turning tan for the winter. The plants tend to remain upright for much of the winter so it’s best to cut back when the snow melts.

Dalea purpurea – Purple Prairie Clover

The natural habit of Dalea

The natural habit of Dalea in a wild area

When I want a little time to relax in the morning, one of my favorite things to do is visit Loyola Beach in Chicago’s Roger’s Park Neighborhood. The southern part of the beach is home to a decently sized dune restoration area and is planted with a wide variety of native plants. My favorite is the purple prairie clover. This upright to vase shaped perennial blooms from June until August (sometimes later), producing hundreds of tiny, pea-like, fuchsia to purple flowers on compact columnar inflorescences. The fine textured plant does best in full sun, with strong drought tolerance once established.

There are many more natives and “nativars” that are well suited to the landscape. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more species and varieties that make the cut!

Hops: Beyond Beer

Monday, March 6th, 2017 at 8:46 pm

In the Do-it-Yourself (DIY) culture, there are few notions more alluring than crafting your own beer. In fact, the popularity of craft brewing has been increasing year after year for nearly the past decade. Searches on google for craft brewing reached an all time high in the United States in the summer of 2016. With the increasing popularity of craft brewing, there is a growing interest in the climbing perennial known as hops.

Humulus lupulus, or Hops, is an herbaceous perennial “bine” which spreads underground through rhizomes. Bines are similar to vines in that both climb fences and other vertical supports, but vines use tendrils or suckers, while bines grow in a helix (or spiral) and often have bristles to help them maintain grip. Careful attention should be paid when handling hops, as these bristles can have an irritating effect for some people. The rhizomatous habit of hops isn’t too often a problem, provided they are given an adequate structure to support themselves. If the plants do become too cumbersome, they’re relatively easy to split or remove, as the roots do not typically go very deep. The plants do exceptionally well in medium moisture soils in both sun and shade and will even tolerate dry shade.

The leaves of hops are lobed and somewhat resemble leaves of the grape family. I personally recommend Humulus lupulus as a non-invasive alternative for Ampelopsis brevipedunculata or porcelainberry. Though it is not as deeply lobed and lacks the showy berries, the foliage is still pleasing and the cones are delightfully fragrant. When winter comes, the vines of hops will die back to the ground. Simply cut them back and allow them to shoot the following spring.

Various leaf forms of hops Photo by H. Zell via wikimedia commons

Various leaf forms of hops
Photo by H. Zell via wikimedia commons

In Beer

Hops first appeared in beer production in the 9th century, replacing older herbal blends. The preservative nature and strong fragrance of hops sealed its use in beer for the centuries that followed. The United States is one of the leading producers of hops, with much of the production on the west coast. If you or your customer wants to grow hops for beer production, look for varieties like ‘Cascade’, ‘Willamette’, or ‘Brewer’s Gold’. Ornamental varieties are much fewer in number and while you can use ornamental varieties for beer production, it’s not generally recommended.

Fragrant cones of hops Photo by H. Zell via wikimedia commons

Fragrant cones of hops
Photo by H. Zell via wikimedia commons

And Beyond

Beer production isn’t the only use for hops. The fragrant cones have long been used as a sleep aid and can be combined with other relaxing fragrances like lavender and chamomile to make a “sleep pillow” or “hops pillow.” Hops is also being researched for other medicinal uses including anaesthetic properties. The flowers of hops are also attractive to butterflies.

Female flowers of hops. Photo by H. Zell via wikimedia commons

Female flowers of hops.
Photo by H. Zell via wikimedia commons

It is important to note that hops, like Ginkgo or Ilex, produce female flowers and male flowers on separate plants. If you’re growing hops for beer or for the fragrant cones, you must ensure that you have female plants.

Male Flowers of Hops Photo by H. Zell via wikimedia commons

Male Flowers of Hops
Photo by H. Zell via wikimedia commons

‘Aureus’ is an ornamental variety with chartreuse foliage and will produce cones on stems that will easily grow 15-25 feet high. ‘Sumner’ or Summer Shandy Hops has similar, though perhaps more striking foliage that will grow to about 10 feet in height. Summer Shandy has been grown for foliage and growth habit, and does not produce an abundance of cones.

Disclaimer: Hops are toxic to dogs. It is not recommended to plant hops in places that dogs may frequent.

Sign Up for Fiore Emails submit Prairie View: 847.913.1414 | Chicago: 773.533.1414 | Contact Us | ©2013