Why you should know your USDA Hardiness Zone

What is a zone map, you ask?  Gardeners need a way to compare their garden climates with the climate where a plant is known to grow well.  That’s why climate zone maps were created. It can be a very helpful tool.

The zone maps will show where various permanent landscape plants can adapt.  If you want a shrub, perennial, tree or flower bulb to survive and grow year after year, the plant must tolerate year-round conditions in your area.  The zone map considers the average of the lowest and highest temperatures and the amount and distribution of rainfall.  It can also be helpful for you to better estimate when to start your plants indoors and when you can move them outdoors.

We all know our weather is not always the same, and it can fluctuate from year to year.  With that thought in mind, the 13 zones are also divided into “A” & “B”.  This is giving us a little more detail, but also can make things seem more confusing.   For example, If you live in zone 5B, that means your area is generally zone 5, but at times may be more like a zone 6.   It really is to make you more aware of the possible fluctuation differences you may experience.  Knowing this information will allow you to take necessary precautions or steps to protect certain plants that may be affected.

Be sure you know what zone you are in when purchasing living plants, roots or bulbs as this will save yourself from extra disappointment.  Click on the map above to be taken to USDA site. Simply enter in your zip code and it will tell you what zone you are in!

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The Bulb Lasagna Creation was a success!

So last fall, I wrote about different Creative ways to plant bulbs and then I experimented with the “Lasagna planting“.  Now that spring is ending here in SE Wisconsin, I will post my photos and comments on the ‘Lasagna’ progression.

I do remember getting a little carried away with how many different bulbs I planted in such a small place.  🙁  Here is the list of what I planted in layers: Galanthus, Thalia Daffodils, Van Eiyk, Ollioules, and Daydream Tulips, Plumosum & Fantasy Creation Muscari, Shubertii Allium, and Dutch Iris.

Snowdrops appears

All green begins to appear

Tulips & Muscari begin to bud

bigger buds

These are the Van Eijk, Ollioules and Daydream tulips, and  Fantasy Creation Muscari, showing the first color.  The Fantasy Muscari looked like regular muscari, but grew puffier as the weeks went on.  At first, I wondered why Daydream were looking so yellow.  But they gradually turned apricot to orange!  So cool!

Fantasy Creation

The Thalia daffodils were a bit short and were hiding in between the tulips.  The white color stood out though.

Now that it is the middle of May, I notice the Allium spikes shooting up between the tulip leaves.  I am very interested to see Shuberti Allium, because I have never grown them before!


Professor Blauw Dutch Iris (purple)

Now that it is the middle of May, I notice the Allium spikes shooting up between the tulip leaves.  I am very interested to see Shuberti Allium, because I have never grown them before!  And they appear end of May:



Allium Shubertii

Very cool-Very Big!


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Pop of Color, everywhere

My gardens are so full of foliage!  There are areas all over with a little POP of color!  My Iris, Allium and a few more.



Louisiana iris




Centurea montana

I love having my garden beds full of flowers.  I plant them with many different types of flowers and with different blooming times.  That way I have ‘color pop’ everywhere, all the time.  This period is definitely marked by purple flowers with a few bursts of yellow.


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The PERFECT spring

Belicia Double Tulip

Last year it was a very wet and cold spring and summer.  Spring flowers came and went so fast, with hardly any time to really appreciate them.  Then this year, we had 70-80° in March!  We usually don’t see those temperatures until a few times in May!  I certainly enjoyed the warm weather and it gave all of our flowers a jump-start in growing.

My 1st favorite!

Then the temperatures went back to almost normal spring temperatures, and not much rain until May.  The flowers lasted so long!  My Redbud tree seemed to show off its purple flowers for an entire month! The nighttime was a bit too chilly for me, as I do prefer our summer temperatures.   But I sure appreciated all of the spring flowers that lasted so long this year.

My other favorite!

Van Eijk Tulips & Fortune Daffodils

Pink Renown

(I am partial to pink & purple in my garden)

This will be remembered as thee PERFECT spring in SE Wisconsin!


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Flowers that never let you down – DAHLIAS!

What are Dahlias?Dahlias continuously bloom from summer through fall, and provide a colorful flower ‘shrub’!  They come in colors galore, some are low growing and some tall growing. They can be grown in the ground or in containers. Dahlias can have tiny flowers or up to 10″ flowers! They are excellent cut flowers and deer resistant! They are a flower lovers dream!

If you haven’t grown these in your garden yet, they are easy to grow and care for, so go for it! Also, here are some tips for growing awesome Dahlias this summer:

  • Plant when the ground temps stay at 60° or above.
  • Pick an area that receives 8 hours of direct sun (if in zones 8-11: only morning sun with some afternoon shade).  Less sun = Less Flowers!
  • The best soil is a loose and drainable soil.  If you have heavy soil, just add a bit of sand or peat moss to allow for more drainage.
  • Dig a hole 2x as large as the tuber, add compost to lighten soil, place the ‘fingers’ partly spread out and facing downwards in the hole, cover with about 1″ of soil.
  • Do NOT cover with saw dust or mulch, because this does not allow soil to warm up and sprout properly.
  • Do NOT water until they have sprouted.  After plant is established, give it a deep watering for 30 minutes a week, if no rain is in the forecast.
  • If you are planting a Dinnerplate Dahlia, you should put stake in ground now; so no damage will be done to the Dahlia tuber.
  • Dahlias are extremely sensitive to any herbicide in soil or near them.  Avoid Nitrogen fertilizers or compost – you will end up with weak stems, small to no flowers!  If you like to help them out with a fertilizer, use high Potassium & Phosphorus, like 5-10-10 to 0-20-20.
  • If you know you have issues with snails/slugs, sprinkle Sluggo at planting and again 2-3 weeks later.
  • To promote bushier plants: pinch or cut the center shoot just above the third set of leaves.

Dahlias can be hardy in zones 7-11, but they grow just fine in other zones that have warm summers!  I have planted some in my mostly clay soil and let them grow with no extra watering and no fertilizer, both in containers and in the ground, in USDA Zone 5.  I have been very pleased with all of them!  Continually shooting up more flowers until a hard frost in fall.  I also cut many for great displays on my kitchen table as well!

You don’t live in in zones 8-10, you should store your tubers in fall and replant in spring.  You can easily store them over the winter.  Gently dig up all around tuber and wash off most of the soil.  Then, let the tubers air dry for about 2 days.  Use a cardboard box or a crate with 10-12 sheets of newspaper on the bottom to set them in.  Also, make sure they are spread out and not touching each other.  Store box in a cool (about 40-50°) and dry area.

That’s a lot of information, but do not be intimidated.  I am a very ‘easy going’ gardener.  I do not put a lot of effort into growing anything in my yard.  I have many, many varieties of flowers, but I do not do much more than hand weed and weed spray.  Dahlias have become my favorite summer flower!

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Skimpy Looking Hyacinths

New Hyacinths

Almost the entire plant is covered in colorful florets.  They all have such a sweet scent.  Why wouldn’t you want these in your yard?  (They also are the easiest thing to force, for indoor winter enjoyment.)  So much color and appearing soon after winter has left its mark- what a delight!  I have multiple hyacinth in my front walk planting bed, so that I can smell them each time I leave home or come back!

So many of my Hyacinths come back only with half the punch of color in following years.  They look spindly.  My skimpy Hyacinths have a lot less florets on them compared to the ones I just planted this fall.  I often hear similar complaints from other gardeners as well.

Skimpy Hyacinths- Original spring 2011


So what is the deal with these spindly, skimpy Hyacinths?  Much like Tulips, they need the following key requirements met:

  • Cold winters; average of 15 weeks long
  • Dry summers; avoid additional watering during the summer
  • Good Soil; great drainage, they hate to be kept wet
  • Full sun on leaves; let leaves rejuvenate bulbs for next year
  • Dead Head; cut seed pod off immediately after blooming

Even if the above requirements are met, the bulb of the plant may still split and grow spindly in the next years.  I have found 3 options to consider:

  • The first, would be to pull them out of the ground after flowering.  Then plant new ones in the fall!
  • The second, would be to fertilize them after flowering the first year, and before blooming again the second year.
  • The third option would be to dig them up after all foliage has withered, and store them indoors* until fall planting time again.

I am flower bulb crazy, always wanting more flowers.  But I also like easy gardening.  I do not look for extra work.  So,  I may give the extra fertilizer a try and just add new ones each year :-)!

* For more info on storing bulbs: http://flowerbulbcrazy.com/preparing-your-garden-for-winter/

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3 Colorful Shade Garden Plans

Here are 3 garden plans to get you “shade-crazy” with your gardens!  If you don’t have the same space dimensions available as the plan we have made, you should be able to make some minor adjustments on your own.  Hopefully you will find these pre-planned garden collections helpful and enjoy adding some color and texture to your shaded areas.  I also suggest placing all plants in planting position and then stepping back to verify the spacing looks good prior to planting.   (Don’t forget the spacing is recommended for the full growth size of each plant.)  After review of placement, start digging and planting each item!

Perennial Garden Plan in Zones 3-9

If you want color all season, and a low maintenance garden, we suggest this Made for the Shade Perennial Collection  to make planting easy, we have this planting guide to help make a 3 season colorful shade garden.  This garden includes a variety of color from light green, blue green, dark green, pink, white, lilac, and red.   Each year the Hosta, Astilbe, Bleeding Heart and Cyclamen will get fuller, the Columbines and Tojen Toad Lilies will multiply and fill in for a lush and colorful garden bed!

This plan is designed for a 5′ x 6′ garden space.  The first year may seem a bit sparse, be patient, because after the second and third year it will really fill in! Plant the two large hosta in the back corner of the garden, about 12-18″ in from edge, in between the two hosta plant the bleeding hearts roughly 18″ from the back edge of the garden bed.  Plant the Tojen Toad lily in a triangular pattern to the left of the bleeding hearts, approximately 18″ from the center of each plant. Plant the Mixed Columbine also in a triangular pattern to the right of the bleeding hearts approximately 18″ from the center of each plant.  The Astilbe will be front and center in this garden, they should be staggered in front of the bleeding hearts approximately 12-18″ from the front edge of the planting bed.  For a nice low border and late season bloom plant the Cyclamen 10-12″ in front of the astilbe.

Perennial Garden Plan in Zones 8-10  (annual in zones 3-7)

If you want to mix up your garden with perennials and bulbs the Instant Shade Garden Collection will provide changing colors and textures throughout the growing season.  This garden includes a variety of color from deep wine red, red, pink, white, light green, dark green to orange.  In hardiness zones 8-10 some of the items like the Caladium,and Begonias will get bushier and fill in year after year.  The Arum and Hosta will naturalize and multiply each year.

This plan is designed for an oblong oval, that is approximately 9.5′ long and 5′ wide but tapering in a bit on the right side.  You can certainly make some adjustments to the plan based off location of your tree or the shape of your garden area.  Plant the Albomarginata Hosta 24-36″ apart and about 24″ out from base of tree.  Plant the Voodoo Lily 36-42″ out from base of tree and somewhat between the hosta.  In the front left corner plant Begonias 6-9″ apart, they will make a nice border planting.  On the right side of the bed, stagger/zig-zag the Moonlight and Postman Joyner Caladium from front to back 8-9″ apart. Behind the Italicum Arum add some contrasting color with 3 Sea Thunder Hosta.   Then finally at far right point, you can plant the Italicum Arum.


 Container Garden Plan for Zones 3-9 (annual zones 3-8)

Container gardens can be fun and easy additions to almost anywhere. We have two collections that will not only add color, but contrasting color to your porch, front entry way or tucked in your shaded garden bed.   Begonias are slow to start but get full foliage and continue re-blooming all summer long.  The Caladium will have full color foliage all summer as well! Check out the Switzerland Moonlight Collection or the Shade Basket and Border Collection.

A pot with a diameter of approximately 12″ would be perfect for planting as shown,. for a full looking planter we suggest spacing the bulbs 1-2″ apart at most.  Place the containers on each side of a door, in a shady flower bed, or any shady area you want to spruce up without planting in the ground.containershadeplans1

If you want to enjoy some of these great blooms and/or foliage that are considered annual in your area, go for it.  First, you get to enjoy them all summer.  Second, you can lift bulbs and overwinter indoors and replant next spring!

Enjoy sprucing up your shady yard!




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Stunted and disappearing tulips

This weather we’ve been experiencing all over the US this winter and now into spring has been messing with our minds and our gardens!  Here are our tulips – How do your look this year?

Unfortunately the deer got the best of some of them 🙁

Tulips have grown wonderfully in the mountains of Turkey to the fields of Holland for over 100 years.  What conditions would give us these similar results?  Here is a list of some key points that Tulips need to thrive and return each year.

  • Cold winters; average of 15 weeks long
  • Dry summers; don’t water in the summer
  • Good Soil; great drainage, they hate to be kept wet
  • Full sun on leaves; let leaves rejuvenate bulbs for next year
  • Dead Head; cut seed pod off immediately after blooming

These are the main issues with having and keeping beautiful tulips.  If any of these main points are not met, your tulips may be stunted, disappear, or just stop producing flowers.

Some of the warmer states in the South may not even get their tulips to bloom this year. But, if they grow leaves and the other main steps above are followed, they should bloom for you next year!

I have enjoyed the summer temperatures in March in Wisconsin.  Unfortunately, my Dutch Iris, Snowdrops and Crocus withered quickly in the heat.  All daffodils have bloomed and tulips are up with buds.  Hopefully winter won’t surprise us in the next few weeks to ruin them. 

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Planting for Butterflies

Who doesn’t like butterflies?   They flitter and float around in the air,  and their gracefulness mesmerizes us.  They have beautiful coloring and markings to tantalize your eyes.   They don’t bite (making it the only bug I like). These interesting bugs need certain plants for use  by the caterpillar (the host plants), and they need certain flowers for the butterflies (the nectar plants).   Adding a cute butterfly house in your garden may be another nice idea!

If you like flowers even a tiny bit as much as me, why wouldn’t you want to make sure you have selected a few flowers that butterflies love?  There are many flowers that a variety of butterflies typically love.  Most are common perennial or annual classics too!

The most common flowers people will want to plant would be the plants that provide nectar for the butterflies.  This is where we would get the most enjoyment!  These flowers would be: Butterfly bush, Joe Pye Weed, Purple Coneflowers, Liatris, Black-eyed Susan, Phlox, Mallow, Daisy, Aster, Salvia, Petunia, Aster, Cosmos, Marigold, Red Columbine, Oregeno, Garlic Chives, Oriental Lily, Snapdragons, Grape Hyacinth, Lantana and Autumn Joy Sedum.

The other important plants for butterflies would be the host plants.  These are the plants they lay their eggs on and that the caterpillar will use for food.   Most of these plants are not always as attractive and can be ‘chewed’ up a bit when the caterpillar needs to eat!  If you are butterfly crazy- you will want these on your property, but maybe a bit out of the main viewing area.  These flowers would be: Milkweed,  Mallow, Aster, Queen Annes Lace, Parsley, Fennel, Dill, Burdock, Clover, and Thistle.  Trees and shrubs that they use are: Willow, Elm, Aspen, Oak, Poplar, Chokeberry, Viburnum, and Fruit Trees.

There are many varieties of butterflies all over the US that enjoy multiple types of flowers.  So, plant more than one kind!  Here is a collection that has 9 different nectar plants for sale together:  Butterfly Perennial Collection.  These are all perennial in zones 3-9.   Here is a little bonus for reading this blog:  A coupon for $5 off this collection!!  Just enter BBbflyfree into the coupon box in your shopping cart BEFORE checkout.

I have also included a starter garden plan made with the Butterfly Perennial Collection!

Enjoy your butterflies!

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Enjoying the tropics without traveling!

Yes- that is my plan this summer.  Doesn’t that sound good to you?  Think of the money you can save.  Hasn’t that been the rave the last few years?  Everyone making their outdoor living rooms, outdoor kitchens, or backyard oasis.  Have you worked on yours?  Do you need to make some additions?

I enjoy any time I get to relax in my backyard.  Though I do like to keep myself busy in my own yard as well.   My yard continues to change and morph every year.  Sometimes I lose a plant, but more often its because I add tropical and annual flowers for extra punch in the summer.

Maybe you can add some tropical flowers to your existing flower beds.  Add tall flowers like Cannas: along a fence, along the garage, in front of a retaining wall, along the side of your deck or patio, or even in containers on your patio.  Add a bushier flower like Dahlias: in front of retaining wall, in front of Cannas, above planted Tulips, in front of your Oriental/Asiatic lilies, or in a large container.  Add average height Calla Lilies: in containers, along a border, in front of dahlias.  Add a tropical ‘shrub’ like Elephant Ears which grow very fast in the heat.

Or maybe you have your flower beds well organized or full already, but you want to add a (enjoying the tropics- van youmore tropical feel.  This is what I am planning to do at the end of my pond. I am going to plant a collection of tropical plants.  This area is also at the corner of my deck and will stop the open line of sight I currently have (to my fruit garden).  The tall plants can help close in an area to make it feel more cozy and intimate.

I made a great collection I named Welcome to the Tropics!  It includes Malanga elephant ear, Hilo Beauty Elephant EarKing City Gold Canna, Cherry Red Pfizters Canna, Blue Triumpator Agapanthus, and Regal, Rubylite and Cameo Calla Lilies.  It has height, width and color galore!  This will look great!  Just in case you like this combination and need a little help, I have made a garden plan to go with it!  Based off of recommended spacing, this plan would take up a space of 7′ x 5′.

If this collection is a little too much for you, TulipWorld has a few other ‘tropical’ collections.  If you want some foliage check out the Large Foliage Collection.  Or if you are looking for a smaller planting, check out the Tropical Splash Collection. 

I am looking forward to relaxing in my own tropical oasis, how about you?!


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