Reiman's Picks - Reiman Gardens
Posted on Jul 29, 2009
at 10:42 AM
For the week of July 27, 2009
Jacqueline Kolpek, Outdoor Horticulture Intern
Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University
Dating back to the Ice Age, the Quaking Aspen Populus tremuloides, spread from Canada throughout the United States and became a beautiful addition to the landscape. The rustling of its leaves in the wind creates a unique, soft sound and its namesake quality. Native Americans referred to this aspen as “woman’s tongue”. The women would recreate this sound at many important events such as ceremonies, weddings, funerals and tribe gatherings.
Today, Quaking Aspens are one of the most widely dispersed trees across the nation; however, many people are unfamiliar to their unique characteristics. The existence of Quaking Aspen in the Western United States creates a beautiful landscape within the mountains of Colorado and Utah. The Aspen is an upright, deciduous tree that stands at an average of 40-100 feet tall with a spectacular smooth white trunk of one to two feet in diameter. The leaves are eye-catching as a slightly heart-shaped, almost perfectly rounded leaf one to three inches long. These flat leaves have a dark green color above and a pale green color underneath which change from yellow-orange, gold, to red during the fall. Quaking Aspens tolerate many different living conditions from full sun to cold temperatures; soils rich in clay to moist loams. A unique characteristic of the Quaking Aspen is their tolerance to fire. It has adapted by having little heat resistance in its thin bark, but with a root system that rapidly creates numerous sprouts after fires to produce new trees.
The wood of the Quaking Aspen can be used in many different ways. Because of its fine, uniformed texture, the wood is able to withstand applications of glue and paint. Its high resistance to splitting makes it very useful as pulp products such as particleboard, chipboard, insulation board and specialty papers for newsprint and books. Over the years, there are many commercial uses that have put quaking Aspen in higher demand such as animal bedding, matchsticks, toys, tongue depressors and ice cream sticks.
Now is the perfect time to admire the Quaking Aspen. Come experience the beauty and unique flutter of leaves on Quaking Aspens found throughout Reiman Gardens.
Posted on Jul 29, 2009
at 10:35 AM
A Living Fossil: Ginkgo biloba
Elizabeth Childs, Reiman Gardens
What is a million year old fossil doing in the Conservatory at Reiman Gardens? Growing, of course! Ginkgo biloba, sometimes referred to as the maidenhair tree, is a living fossil, with fossil relatives dating back to more than 200 million years ago. This prehistoric plant is the only living member of the family Ginkgoaceae, which survived under the protection of Chinese monks, long after its few relatives had gone extinct.
This elegant tree can reach heights up to 100 feet and has an upright form. Fancy, smooth, two-lobed leaves decorate the tree, giving it the name biloba. Ginkgo trees are gymnosperms and do not flower or produce fruit. However, females still produce seeds that are partially covered in a fleshy skin and can be quite messy in a landscape, plus have a foul odor. When possible a male tree or named cultivar should be selected. Ginkgo trees are referred to as either “male” or “female” because of the male and female flowers on separate trees. The ginkgo leaves turn a nice golden yellow in the autumn before falling for the winter.
Ginkgo trees are hardy in zones 3 to 9. Once native to the northern hemisphere, ginkgos are well adapted to Iowa conditions being both wind and salt tolerant plus drought-resistant.
Available Ginkgo biloba cultivars provide excellent trees for the landscape. Along with its excellent tolerances mentioned above, it is an attractive tree in a landscape; just remember 100 foot trees require room to grow. This tree is quite adaptable and appropriate for many locations such as yards, parks, street sides, and gardens.
There are many examples of ginkgos growing at Reiman Gardens. Explore ginkgos in the Gardens’ permanent collections or view them nestled in among the tropical plants and other living fossils of the Conservatory before the Landscape Before Time display goes extinct!
Posted on Aug 26, 2008
at 10:21 AM
For the Week of August 25, 2008
Unexpected Fall Color: Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’
Emily Thomsen, Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University
As temperatures cool and air conditioners go on hiatus, the outdoor plants and vegetation perform their annual autumn transformation. As expected, maple and oak trees display flashes of warm-hued leaves. Yet there is another source for ornate fall color: ornamental grasses.
First popular in the late 1800s as part of Victorian era gardens, ornamental grass has again become sought-after in last twenty years due to its low maintenance needs, versatility, and striking form. Not only does Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ fulfill these specifications, it also flaunts attractive, deep red and burgundy foliage during the fall months, making it an alluring addition to any garden or landscape.
Selected and introduced by Dr. Hans Simon of Germany, this cultivar of switchgrass undergoes a color makeover throughout the growing season. During early summer, the half-inch wide leaves are a common-colored green. However, as summer progresses, the leaf tips turn red, and burgundy-colored foliage is ‘Shenandoah’s’ grand finale for autumn. Adding to the plant’s charm are the airy red flower panicles that rise above the extensive leaves in early July. With leaves that flow to the ground and stand vertical, it can reach a height of 3 to 4 feet with a width of 2 to 2.5 feet. The cultivar is hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9 and grows in clump formations. This resilient warm season grass can prosper in nearly any type of soil but does require full sun to part shade and regular watering. Because it is a perennial, ‘Shenandoah’ can be cut back at the end of the season or the next spring to allow for new growth the following spring.
To create a focal point in your landscape, plant multiple Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ in small groups or in mass plantings. Additionally, the cultivar can be placed in the back of a perennial border where it acts as a notable accent to colorful, low lying plants. Native to prairies and open ground, this grass is also appropriate for wild gardens, naturalized areas, and pond or lake perimeters. For those that enjoy creating flower arrangements, ‘Shenandoah’ foliage makes an appealing addition to fresh or dried projects.
View the colorfully impressive transformation of Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ and other enchanting ornamental grasses this summer and autumn at Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens. This fall, the trees are not the only ones putting on a show.
Posted on Aug 6, 2008
at 8:48 AM
For the Week of August 4
The Bismarck Palm: A Noble Spectacle
By Kayla Kling, Education Intern, Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University
Known for its large gorgeous leaves that can reach up to nine feet across, the Bismarck palm creates an amazing focal point within a southern landscape or within a large container or conservatory in the north. The Bismarck Palm received its name from the former chancellor of the German Empire, Otto Von Bismarck. Its scientific name is Bismarckia nobilis, “nobilis” being Latin for noble. It is typically grown in Florida, California, and Texas, where the warm and sunny climates help reach its full potential.
This spectacular tropical fan palm has a massive and corpulent trunk, which is necessary to hold up the bulky leaves. It is a single trunk with radiating large leaves on petioles (or “stems”). The leaves appear like silver-blue fireworks exploding from the stem and prove a remarkable site. The flower stalks are four feet long and produce 1.5 inch long fruit. Some have said that the nuts from this palm can create unique vases. The Bismarck palm is native to the drier parts of the African island of Madagascar and desires subtropical landscapes. Yet, after establishing itself for two to three years the palm can survive in climates of 26°F. It requires frequent watering (two to three times per week), but once established the Palm grows rapidly. In five years it can grow 15-18 feet high by 10-20 feet wide, with an average growth of one to three feet per year. Yet, if this palm is grown indoors it may not reach such heights, due to temperature and sun exposure.
The immense tropical fan commands attention wherever it is grown. But because of its large size and cultural needs, the Bismarck palm is not recommended as a permanent plant in Iowa and is best as a young plant in containers instead. Occasional pruning is beneficial for the development of strong structure. Be advised that the Bismarck palm does not like to be frequently moved from pot to pot. In southern states the palm is often used as a focal point in the landscape. The Bismarck palm is adaptable to many different types of soil and prefers full sun, but is tolerant of some shade. Once the palm has established it is also drought tolerant and not as subject to disease and nutritional deficiencies as many other landscape palm species. The Bismarck palm’s tropical flare is hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11 or may be successful in a container or featured in a tropical conservatory.
The Bismarck palm is clearly visible as a strong focal point when walking down the main hallway of Reiman Gardens’ Conservatory Complex. Stop by soon to see this fascinating attraction.
Posted on Aug 6, 2008
at 8:40 AM
For the Week of August 4, 2008
Do you see Spots? The Leopard Plant
Maria Olson, Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University
A plant where the foliage is covered with yellow spots may give one the impression that it has been infected by a disease or pest. Yet, there is a particular plant that displays this unusual characteristic; Farfugium joponicum ‘Aureomaculata’, more commonly known as the leopard plant.
The leopard plant is considered a warm climate herbaceous perennial and when full grown can reach a height of two feet. The foliage is what makes this leopard plant so distinctive. It displays large, thick green leaves that have a glossy, leathery texture, while covered with random yellow spots. As a contrast, the other leopard plant varieties have white variegation with fun ruffled leaf edges. The leopard plant also produces bright yellow daisy-like flowers that bloom in the fall. These flowers are present for a relatively long period. Although the flowers are quite lovely, the leopard plant is mainly grown for its attractive foliage.
This particular plant is one that is not common in the Midwest. Rather, the leopard plant is typically hardy in USDA zones 7-10. It performs best when planted in fertile, moist and well-drained soil and enjoys partial shade. When in nature, you will most likely find this plant in warmer climates inhabiting stream sides and wet meadows. In the Midwest it can be treated as an annual in moist planting beds or be grown in containers to add some tropical excitement to a northern garden.
When visiting Reiman Gardens this summer, make sure to stop by the Conservatory to view this one-of-a-kind plant. The leopard plant can be found on the south end near the large Bismark Palm. With its outstanding lush foliage covered with yellow spots, this plant is a hard one to miss.
Posted on Jul 21, 2008
at 11:27 AM
The Luna Moth (Actias Luna)
By Ximena Cibils, Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University
Lepidopterans (Butterflies and Moths) are a symbol of harmony and beauty in our natural world. Since ancient times, people have been attracted to their colorful patterns, their graceful behavior and their extremely complex life cycle.
Moths and butterflies can be found all over the world having evolved almost 75 million years ago. There are approximately 140,000 different species of moths worldwide each having many different color patterns, shapes and sizes.
Actias Luna, commonly known as the ‘Luna Moth’, is native to North America and being part of the Saturniidae family, this Moth is in the same family as the Giant Silkworms and Royal Moths.
The Luna Moth is considered one of the largest and most interesting moth species in North America. They usually make their home in woodlands and in urban areas where their host plants (the caterpillar’s feeding plants) are found. The Luna Moth’s host plants include: Sweet gum (Liquidambar), Walnut (Jutland), Birch (Betula), Alder (Alnus), Persimmon (Diospyros), Hickory (Carya and Annamocarya), and Sumac (Rhus). Some of these host plants are more suitable to the moth’s life cycle. Work conducted in the butterfly lab at Reiman Gardens suggests that Luna Moths using Sweet Gum as their host plant did better than the other host plants tested.
A complete life cycle of a moth includes the egg, larvae (five different instars), pupa and adult stages. The Luna Moth may have one or more generations per year, depending on the temperature of the area.
In Iowa, Luna Moths are bivoltine, consisting of two generations (two complete life cycles) per year and is completely temperature dependent. During Iowa’s winter, from late October to early April, it enters a dormancy state as a cocoon. The cocoon is a silken coating spun around the larva. Sometimes they use leaves to wrap up in, as well. After the cocoon is ready, the caterpillar of the Luna Moth will molt (shed its skin) one last time. This creates a pupa that will be encased by the cocoon. When the temperature rises, the adult moth emerges from the cocoon, typically between May and August.
The adult stage of the Luna Moth’s life cycle lasts approximately one week and its focus during this stage is reproduction. An adult female moth can lay approximately 100-300 eggs in her life, usually placing them on the leaves of their host plants. As adults, Luna Moths do not eat because they lack functional mouth parts and are only active at night.
To identify the Luna Moth look for the following:
- Distinctive wing shape, with two eyes spots on each forewing.
- Long sweeping hindwing tail
- Yellow, green to pale green variations in color
- Males have a strongly feathered antennae. This characteristic plays an important role in reproduction.
- Females release pheromones, chemical compounds that are specific for each species, while male moths perceive these pheromones by these specific antennae characteristics.
The natural world is always full of surprises, and right now, Luna Moths can be found in Iowa at night. So be observant and you could find one in your backyard.
Posted on Jun 6, 2008
at 8:31 AM
Pergola? Arbor? Trellis? Bower?
The Linguistic Lowdown
Author: Tyler Baird, Outdoor Horticulture Intern
Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University
In landscapes across the globe there’s a never ending debate on the correct usage and definition of the terms pergola, arbor, trellis and bower. Are these four terms synonyms or have their greater meanings been lost?
Searching through any respected reference reveals a simple Yes! Dictionary definitions of all four words essentially have the same meaning. Webster’s definitions are as follow:
Arbor- a shelter of vines or branches or of latticework covered with climbing shrubs or vines.
Pergola- 1. arbor, trellis 2. a structure usually consisting of parallel colonnades supporting an open roof.
Trellis- a frame of latticework used as a screen or as a support for climbing plants. Bower- arbor, a shelter made with tree boughs or vines twined together.
Although the meanings have great parallels some distinctions are still made. When using the terms in everyday garden conversation it is helpful to think of an arbor as a single arch structure. A series of connected arching structures is called a pergola, and a trellis is the lattice part of the arch structure upon which the plant material grows. A bower is most unique in that it actually uses live materials to form its structure. For those few individuals that have experienced this distinctive feature, the term bower is from the Middle English word bour or dwelling. Hats off to those that have seen a bower or have tried to create one in their own garden.
You can view examples of arbors, pergolas, and trellises throughout Reiman Gardens’ displays in Joey and Jesse’s Herb Garden, its rose gardens, and Home Production Garden. Most are in close proximity to each other for easy comparison. You can also try to impress your knowledge of these structures upon the guests you bring along for the visit. For those in search of a bower, you might have better luck in the far reaches of England.
Posted on May 27, 2008
at 4:26 PM
For the Week of May 26
Bee Balm—Not Just for the Bees
Emily Thomsen, Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University
On December 16, 1773, a party of Boston citizens disguised as Native Americans boarded three ships docked in Griffin’s Wharf. Outraged by Parliament’s attempt to impose a tax on tea, the group of men threw the ships’ tea cargos overboard. After the events of the Boston Tea Party, colonists were left without the main ingredient for their favorite beverage. They turned to a local plant, the Bee Balm, for the needed tea leaves.
Years before colonists used this plant, Native Americans relied on it to relieve stomach aches, fevers, insomnia, and nosebleeds. Scientifically named Monarda after Dr. Nicholas Monardes, the Spanish botanist that first described it in 1571, the plant is more commonly known as Bee Balm, Bergamot, or Oswego Tea. The moniker of Bee Balm came to be when people created a mixture from the plant’s flowers to lessen the pain of a bee sting. The name Oswego Tea originated from the native Oswego Indians in the locale of what became Oswego, New York.
Considered a perennial, Bee Balm can reach a height of anywhere from one to four feet depending on cultivar. It is characterized by a cluster of small, tube-like flowers which rest at the top of the square stem. The flowers can be any variation of red, white, violet, or pink, and they typically bloom from early to late summer. Fine hairs envelop the oppositely arranged green leaves and hard stem of the plant. Hardy in USDA zones 4-9, this plant requires full sun, along with moist, well-drained soil and good air circulation between plants. Unfortunately, Bee Balm is susceptible to powdery mildew and can be invasive if not maintained properly—be sure to select an appropriate cultivar such as ‘Marshal’s Delight’ or ‘Jacob Kline’ to reduce problems with foliar disease. The plant is easy to care for, requires minor maintenance, and attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.
At your home, Bee Balm may be planted along fences, to create a natural fence line between lawns or as part of a native perennial garden. Additionally, because of its fondness for the sun, Bee Balm will work well in sunny areas. It will also make a beautiful and fragrant addition to any perennial or mixed border. For those that enjoy growing their own food and ingredients, Bee Balm can be the start of an herb garden as well. Both the leaves and flowers of the plant are used in tea, and they make a good potpourri.
Visit Reiman Gardens this summer to experience Bee Balm, along with Chamomile, Hibiscus, Lemon Balm, Mint, Lavender, Scented Geraniums, and other plants used to make teas. These functional and charming plants are shown in the “A Mad Tea Party” display in Joey and Jesse’s Herb Garden.