A Private Spring Garden

A Private Spring Garden

Part of Ep. 901 Personal Spaces, Public Spaces

Wisconsin Hearty Plant Society president Frank Greer gives a tour of the hearty plants in his garden.

Premiere date: Mar 03, 2001

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
This is a private garden in the Madison area. It's owned by Frank Greer, who is also the president of the Wisconsin Hearty Plant Society. Frank, tell me a little bit, please, about the Wisconsin Hearty Plant Society.

Frank:
The Hearty Plant Society is a group of Wisconsin-based plant enthusiasts who are interested in all kinds of plants, not just daylilies and hostas. Because we're very fond of saying, "every plant is hearty somewhere."

Shelley:
It sounds like the perfect organization for a plant-a-holic like me, then.

Frank:
We'd be glad to have you.

Shelley:
Well, your yard, your garden, really reflects a wide variety of plants. Even in the fall, it's gorgeous. You've got fall blooming crocus. I tend to think of bulbs blooming in the spring, not the fall.

Frank:
Correct, Shelley, there are a few that bloom in the fall, but this garden really shines in the spring with the early spring bulbs.

Shelley:
What makes it outstanding in the spring then?

Frank:
Well, I think the first thing you see when you walk into the garden is the 150-year-old White Oak trees, which dominate the scene. The garden itself is designed to be viewed from the four rooms in the house, which overlook the garden. Virtually, nothing is ever done in the garden without first deciding how it's going to look from the house.

Shelley:
So, you run back in and check it through the windows before you plant anything.

Frank:
Yes.

Shelley:
Okay, do you have some special plants? We can't talk about everything here, but you must have some favorites.

Frank:
Well, lots of favorites. At the foot of the stairs here, we have the Helleborus orientalis hybrid species. As you can see, it's a wonderful dusky purple color. It blooms in March, and has a very long bloom period.

Shelley:
Now, I've always wanted to try it, but I thought it's very delicate, is that true?

Frank:
Not at all. It's extremely hearty and long-lived.

Shelley:
Okay, I'll give it a shot.

Frank:
And over here, we have one of my hallmark plants. The Epimediums. And as you can see they have a wonderful spring floral display. It really is a 12-month-a-year plant. It tolerates this dry shade, it's not bothered by deer, or rabbits or slugs.

Shelley:
Sounds like the perfect plant.

Frank:
It is. Wonderful foliage all summer. In the fall, it takes on a deep reddish color in November, December.

Shelley:
So, you get fall color from this perennial?

Frank:
Yes.

Shelley:
Do I have to do anything special to help this plant along?

Frank:
Typically, we cut the foliage back to the ground in March, so that flowers are able to display themselves as you see here.

Shelley:
All right, let's talk about one more of your bloomers.

Frank:
Well, the other bloomer here of note today, is the Primula sieboldii, a Japanese Primrose, known locally as the Nakoma Primrose, because it's persisted for long periods of time in this dry shade. It goes dormant, typically about mid-June, after this wonderful spring flower show.

Shelley:
Again, it's hearty, obviously, in Wisconsin.

Frank:
Yes.

Shelley:
Okay, we've got to talk about this last vine growing up the tree. I have never seen anything like it before. What is this?

Frank:
That's the Climbing Hydrangea. It's slow to get started. But once it get's going, they tell me someday it's going to get to the top of this tree.

Shelley:
Wow.

Frank:
And in June, it's covered with large panicles of hydrangea-like flowers. And in the fall, it is wonderful-- fall colored in gold and green. Even in the wintertime, the larger stems-- the bark exfoliates from and it gives a lot of winter interest as well.

Shelley:
Well, it really just stands out in the garden. But your whole garden is stunning. Thank you, Frank.

Frank:
Thank you, Shelley.

EPISODE SEGMENTS+
EPISODE RESOURCES+

Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.