Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Archive for March 2011

Plant of the Week: Amsonia

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Amsonia is one of my favorite “go-to” perennials, with its delicate spring blooms and attractive foliage.  Unfortunately, amsonia appears pretty bland when sold in the garden centers so it is often overlooked.  Don’t let first impressions fool you – amsonia is definitely garden worthy!

Genus:  Amsonia

The above left photo shows Amsonia tabernaemontana and the above right photo shows Amsonia hubrichtii (interplanted with bottle gentian, Gentiana andrewsii).  A common name for both species is blue star.

Family:  Apocynaceae

A. tabernaemontana (left) is native to Missouri and can be found growing wild in the southern part of the state.  The perennial rarely has any disease or pest problems and grows in a variety of soils and prefers full sun to part shade with moderate moisture (can also tolerate some draught).  The erect stems grow two to three feet tall and often do not need staking but cutting back the spent flowers will encourage a more bushy, upright form.

A. tabernaemontana has willow-like foliage while A. hubrichtii (right) has finer-textured foliage.  Both species have similar pale blue flowers but A. hubrichtii also has stellar, bright gold fall foliage.  I often use amsonia in my gardens as a repetitive “filler” perennial to create continuity – it can also nicely compliment other plants that might have beautiful flowers but little foliage.  Standing on its own, I have never found bottle gentian to be all that attractive (flower show in right photo) but is perfect when paired with amsonia.


See you in the gardens.


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March 31, 2011 at 7:18 pm

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Ah, the joys of March in Iowa!  One day the weather is beautiful and then the next is dreary, cold and awful.  I’m trying to work in the gardens in these pockets of warm, sunny weather – it feels so good to be out in the fresh air and hearing the birds in full chorus.

Usually I’m too busy looking down (searching for weeds!) than up in the trees, so I don’t often spot the more colorful birds we have visiting the Arboretum.  About a week ago, a volunteer and I spotted this Cedar Waxwing in the crabapple trees west of the Head House.  Such beautiful coloring!  To learn more about the Cedar Waxwing (and to see a close-up photo), check out this website: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/cedar_waxwing/id .  They are fun little birds to watch.

Interested in bird watching?  I encourage you to come out and walk our one-mile walking trail or wander through the gardens.  We are open dawn to dusk and admission is free!

See you in the gardens.

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

March 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm

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Get your green on!

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Hey All – just wanted to pass along a few dates.  Interested in learning more about garden design, proper gardening tools, trees and organic practices?  Mark the dates below and come hear me speak at the Hudson Library.  Free to the public!

See you in the gardens.


Get your green on at the Hudson Public Library!

Attend green talks with the Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens.

Terms like “eco-friendly” and “sustainability” are popular buzzwords in today’s media.  In these times of decreasing resources and increasing needs, many have realized our connectedness to Mother Nature and the vital importance of turning from users to stewards.  Where do you fit into the green movement?  To learn more about current green trends, join the Arboretum’s Director of Horticulture, Mollie Aronowitz, for a series of classes at the Hudson Public Library.

  • Garden Design: the Basics – March 29, 2011, 7:00 p.m.
  • Green Ergonomics: Garden Design and Tools with Everyone in Mind – April 21, 2011, 7:00 p.m.
  • Tree Stewardship: Selection, Planting and Management for the General Homeowner – May 17, 2011, 7:00 p.m.
  • Living Green: Current Trends in Sustainability and Organic Practices – June 13, 2011, 7:00 p.m.

All programs in this series are free and open to the public, there is no need to register.  Questions?  Call the library at 988-4217.

Hudson Public Library

401 Fifth Street

Hudson, IA 50643

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

March 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm

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Houseplants in Your Home

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(Photo from Wall Street Journal – March 15, 2011)

Each fall, I schlep in all my outdoor containers and try to save as many plants as I can.  (This is especially easy to do if you use tropical — or typical houseplants — plants in your outdoor containers.) I love being surrounded the extra green all winter but my husband teasingly grumbles about fears of plants taking over our home.  NOW, after reading this article in the Wall Street Journal, I feel vindicated! J

A Superhero Scrubs the Air: The Mighty Houseplant

Wall Street Journal – March 15, 2011

The humble houseplant is on the attack. Building on NASA experiments for air purification in space, scientists are pinpointing plant species—from the peace lily to the asparagus fern—that are particularly skillful at cleaning indoor air of pollutants that can cause a range of health problems.

A growing body of research suggests the humble houseplant boasts significant powers to clean the air in homes and other buildings of common toxins such as formaldehyde, ammonia & benzene. Wendy Bounds explains.

A growing body of global research is showing plants can reduce dust particles and contaminants, such as formaldehyde and benzene, that come from cigarette smoke, paint, furniture, building materials and other sources. Big growers such as Costa Farms, based in Goulds, Fla., and retailers Lowe’s and Home Depot now sell plants with tags promoting their air-cleaning abilities…..

TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE, CLICK HERE: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200423930895948.html?KEYWORDS=a+superhero+scrubs+the+air


See you in the gardens.

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

March 24, 2011 at 7:08 pm

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March 2011 Tour

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After a long winter rest, we are coming back to life at the Arboretum!  Each season holds new opportunities, but to me, spring always seems to hold a bit more excitement than the others.  The daffodils are bravely popping up, green is creeping back into our lawns, and the birds are once again hosting early morning concerts.  Even the air smells fresher!

With the weather warming up, it has been difficult for me to stay indoors.  I really want to be out working in the gardens but it is still March …. so still many chances for snow.  I hate to be too overeager in the gardens and then get a few inches of snow dumped on all my work!  J

One day last week I went out to the Arboretum to take some photos of the grounds and gardens.  Not much to see right now, but it will be fun to look back at these photos in May when there is a lot of color.  These photos also give you a bit of a behind the scenes look at how we prepare for the winter in the fall (sometimes it takes up to a month to prepare!).

To view the photo album, click on this link:  http://cedarvalleyarboretumphotos.shutterfly.com/ (a free photo sharing website through www.shutterfly.com).  You can then click on the “Pictures & Videos” tab that will take you to the “March 2011 Tour” photo album.  Click on the album, and you can view the photos on a larger screen.

Below the “March 2011 Tour” photo album is another album from last fall – filled with some great photos, if you are itching to see some color. J

See you in the gardens.

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

March 22, 2011 at 1:50 pm

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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In honor of the holiday, hop over to Fine Gardening and read this blog about the history of the shamrock.  http://www.finegardening.com/plants/articles/history-shamrock.aspx .

Do you read Fine Gardening?  It is one of my favorite gardening magazines – full of great design ideas and plant material suitable to the Midwest.  Their website is also full of great information.

See you in the gardens.

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

March 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm

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Free Educational Program with ISU Extension

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Would you like to learn more about the Emerald Ash Borer (Identified 2010 in Allamakee County)?  Plan on attending this free ISU Extentsion program on Thursday, March 31st.  See below for more details.

See you in the gardens.


Will it eventually arrive here?

How will we know/what can we do?

How could it affect our: community, forests, budgets, landscapes?

Program with particular interest to:

  • City & County Officials and Staff
  • Tree Boards/Conservation Departments
  • Park Personnel
  • Golf Courses
  • Home Owners


Thursday, March 31st

9:30 am at Hawkeye Community College, Tama Hall – Room 107

1:30 pm at Waverly Civic Center

5:30 pm at Parkersburg Civic Center

Guest Speakers:

Mark Shour, ISU Extension Entomologist

Robin Pruisner, State Entomologist, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship


Sponsored by Black Hawk (319-234-6811), Bremer (319-882-4275), Butler (319-267-2707), & Grundy County (319-824-6979) Extension

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

March 14, 2011 at 6:00 am

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