Hello, again!

Per·en·ni·al from Latin perennis ‘lasting the year through’ (of a plant) living for several years.

It tends to be a bit confusing. Annual vs. perennial. Which one grows only 1 year, which 2 or more years? I try to explain it as generally as I can. An annual is a plant that starts from seed in the spring, grows and develops flowers, the flower matures, produces a fruit and seed and then when a killing frost comes in the fall the plant dies. The next year the seed sprouts and the cycle starts all over again.

As a general rule, perennial plants germinate in the fall, grow in the spring, produce flowers, fruit, and seed. With the killing freeze, the plant goes dormant until spring and it starts all over again. Naturally, there are many exceptions to this rule like hardy annuals, tender perennials and biennials. That could be a topic for another enews.

Many of our best performing perennial plants in the landscape are plants that are native to our region. Some are straight out of the Flint Hills, others have been improved upon with new colors, plant form, and longer blooming times. I think plant breeders like to hybridize in the lab, just as nature does. Looking at the same species in nature, we often find slight differences occurring in plants naturally.

Many of our perennials are superb pollinator plants, and are a vital part in our ecosystem. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds all feed on the foliage of perennials in the garden, or on the nectar as they migrate through our area. Below are a few of my favorite perennials that perform well in our area.

They're blooming much of the season, drought tolerant, perform well for sun or shade and are pollinator plants. By now, you know my favorite plant in the garden, is the Butterfly Milkweed asclepias tuberosa. Orange/red flowers bloom from June through fall. Growing to 18” tall, butterfly milkweed thrives in dry locations. In addition, it provides food for monarch butterflies and nectar for a wide var iety of pollinators.

Coreopsis or Tickseed, with big, bold, mostly yellow flowers, grows low and makes a great border plant for sunny locations. Remove spent flowers and this plant will bloom until frost.

Shasta Daisies now have many options other than what our grandparents grew. Double or single flowers and tight, compact plants make this a favorite flower all summer long.

May Night Salvia or what I refer to as "Improved May Night", is a new var iety, rebloom with deadheading.

Coneflower is a Kansas native that now has many colors from yellow to orange to red. Loving the full sun and our soils, it’s a winner for perennial borders as it naturalizes well.

Monarda or Bee Balm is deer and rabbit resistant, and an early summer bloomer. With aromatic foliage, butterflies and hummingbirds love this perennial that is also a summer long bloomer.

Raspberry Shortcake® is a revolutionary thornless raspberry. Perfect for children and adults, this carefree nutritious raspberry requires no staking or big garden spaces. Its compact nature and rounded growth habit thrives in both patio containers and landscapes.

If you're not a raspberry lover, then what about a Pink Splendor Hydrangea? A hardy, compact, repeat blooming machine with big, pink, mophead flowers, extra-dark green leaves, and a neat, mounded form. Perfect for foundations and borders. Harvest blooms for long-lasting cut floral arrangements. This is a great plant for semi-shade areas.

A great resource for wildflowers of the Flint Hills is the Pocket Guide to Kansas Flint Hills Wildflowers and Grasses. This along with over a dozen guides is available free to download or pick up at the Great Plains Nature Center at 29th Street North and Woodlawn. This publication, along with the others, will make your adventures much more educational.

We’ve been having fun experimenting with fresh herbs in the kitchen recently. The trimmings from a Geek basil tree made my deep dish pizza something special. Next up is using lemon basil in Pesto! Lemon basil (a.k.a hoary basil, Thai lemon basil, or Lao basil) is a hybrid between basil and American basil. Grown primarily in northeastern Africa and southern Asia, it is known for its fragrant lemon scent. Give this quick and easy recipe a try. We’ve grown a crop of lemon basil for the stores so come get a pot of it.

Lemon Basil Pesto
2 Cups Lemon Basil Leaves, loosely packed into the measuring cup
1/2 Cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Parmesan, shredded
1/4 Pine Nuts, (or other) toasted 1 Garlic clove

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, line a baking sheet with aluminum. Place the pine nuts on a baking sheet or in a cast iron skillet and bake for 3-5 minutes until they are toasted. When pine nuts are done toasting put all ingredients into a food processor, pulsate for about a minute and then you have Lemon Basil pesto.

If you haven't stopped by to see us this summer, be sure to do so! We've got a lot of great, new plants and gardening supplies in our stores.

Your friend in the garden,

Marty Johnson
Owner - Johnson's Garden Center