Bachelor Buttons (Cornflower)

We had a profusion of BACHELOR BUTTONS in every shade from pale pink to cornflower blue to purple to maroon. Beautiful, and just the thing to fill in the color of the garden while we waited for everything else to bloom. The only thing I don't like about these beauties is that they get a little straggly between bursts of bloom. We've pulled quite a few clumps out that still had blooms on them because they were flopped over or had so many dead heads. I guess I should start cutting them for fresh flowers inside. Or maybe drying them for fall arrangements.

Black-eyed Susan

BLACK-EYED SUSANS are thick all along the fence now in late June. We like them because you can see them so well from a distance. A nice mass of yellow in the yard and they almost glow when the sun shines on them in the late afternoon and early evening. [Mid-July note: The only drawback to these flowers is that the foliage starts looking gray and raggedy by July. We've been pulling them out by the "bale" and are thinking next year we'll let them come up, but yank them before they start to fade. The False Sunflowers give the same yellow glow, but their foliage holds up much better in the heat, so I think we'll favor the False Sunflowers and Cupflower in the future. (Plus, the Black-eyed Susans have prickly stems that make my forearms itch like crazy after handling the flowers.)]

Bleeding Heart

We thought our BLEEDING HEART had been killed off after the first year, when it bloomed only marginally. But two years later, it's back and simply beautiful. It doesn't bloom as long as the Columbine, but it's sure special when it does.

Blue Dune Lyme Grass

We call BLUE DUNE LYME GRASS the Blue Dune Monster. This is a vigorous, attractive plant that will quickly fill in a large area. We underestimated how big it would get and would almost label it invasive, but we like it well enough that we plan to move some other plants out of its way this fall so it can fill in the flowerbed behind the house. We especially like it for its contrasting blue-gray color. And the fact that a weed wouldn't stand a chance in its shadow.
UPDATE: The monster got out of control and we decided to get rid of it (no easy task!) It was taking over the Rose of Sharon bushes and the Catmint. It would be great ALONE in a large, contained area, but you won't want to plant it in with other plants unless you're ready to let them be choked out.

Blue Mist Spirea

The BLUE MIST SPIREA is a great addition to the garden because it blooms later than many of our other plants. This year, it was at its peak mid-September. Last year, it was late September to early October before it was in full bloom. It's also wonderful for attracting bees and butterflies to the garden.

Butterfly Milkweed

I love BUTTERFLY MILKWEED because it provides a spot of unusually bright orange in a garden of mostly yellow and lavender. Not to mention, it really does seem to attract butterflies. We've seen many more butterflies and birds in our yard this summer. We've only had three or four of the pretty orange blossoms this year (and none last summer), but we're hoping it will spread and we'll have more throughout the gardens next year.
UPDATE: After 4 years, Butterfly Milkweed has done well, and appears in bunches in four or five places along the fence. It's one of our favorites and we hope it continues to spread.


Our friend, David, gave us these CACTUS plants from his pasture last fall. They survived the winter atop the stone wall and rewarded us with gorgeous pink blooms mid-June this year. I think these are some variety of barrel cactus.

Carefree Delight Roses

These CAREFREE DELIGHT ROSES truly are carefree and a delight. After seeing them growing in profusion at the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, we bought four small plants from the aboretum's plant sale. They have not disappointed us! They bloom from spring to fall, need no deadheading, no care other than trimming them back when they trail out onto the stone walk in the arbor garden. Their only drawback is that they are very thorny. But a good pair of garden gloves solves any problems the thorns create.


CATMINT has been a wonderful surprise in our garden. We bought a tiny pot of it to see if it really had an appeal to our cats. It didn't do much the first year, but the following year, it filled a three-foot circle and provided a beautiful spot of color for more than six weeks. The cats seemed to like it better before it bloomed. Now they pretty much ignore it. But we are talking about finding more places in the garden to plant this beautiful mint.
UPDATE: I've learned that if you cut back Catmint after it's finished blooming you may get another bloom before summer's over. This is a beautiful plant and very easy care.

Chameleon Plant

This CHAMELEON PLANT (Houttuynia Cordata) didn't do much all summer long, in spite of the warnings on many plant sites that it can be extremely invasive. Now, near the end of August, it's finally starting to establish itself in the little rock garden by the curb in the front yard, sending new shoots up via runners under the mulch. We have some moss rose and sedum planted in that bed as well, but we really wouldn't care if this Chameleon Plant took over since the moss rose is an annual and the sedum can easily be moved to one of the gardens in the backyard.

UPDATE: Two years after planting the Chameleon Plant, we've decided it is evil and invasive! Not only has it taken over this flowerbed, but it has crept out into the lawn and it doesn't matter how much we yank it our or how much we spray it with Round-up––back it comes to overrun anything else we try to plant here. It is rather attractive (in spite of the fact that it has an unpleasant smell when the leaves and stems are mashed) and if you wanted to fill a huge space with something that would completely take over, it might be great. Or maybe for a pot. But it is not for a flowerbed!!


We bought several little pots of COLUMBINE at the arboretum plant sale and they have rewarded us by multiplying like crazy. There are many varieties of Columbine (Aquilegia) and I'm not sure which ones we have, but they're all beautiful.

There are red and purple varieties on the Rock Garden Hill. The red has crept down the hill to mix with the sedum and we're trying to keep it pinched back, but I have a feeling all the pinching is only encouraging it to spread more. It's pretty stuff, though, even after it's finished blooming late-spring. It looks especially nice beside the rocks on Rock Garden Hill and Boulder Hill.

Coral Bells (Heuchera)

Coral Bells or Heuchera come in a variety of colors and are easy-care and beautiful accents in the garden. The flowers (bells) grow on tall spiky stalks and are especially pretty waving in the Kansas breezes.


Last year we pulled COREOPSIS out in haystack-size heaps week after week. This year, it's come back in much more manageable volumes. And now that we recognize it, we pull it out as soon as it emerged, from everywhere except at the back, near the fence. It's in full bloom now, late-June, and stunning. We had three varieties last year, plain yellow, maroon with yellow centers and the reverse, as in the photo above, taken June 19, 2007. This year the yellow with maroon centers came up first. The maroon variety showed up late in June. We haven't seen the yellow-only color yet.

Creeping Jenny

We have CREEPING JENNY in several places in our garden and it adds a bright spot of yellow-green wherever it grows. The plant above (resting atop the right side of the rock) is leftover after the pot it was in crumbled over the winter. The word "creeping" is appropriate, as this seems to be a very slow-growing plant, but it is worth waiting for it to establish itself. It makes a nice groundcover, and we have a nice "steppable" variety growing between the pavers in the Arbor Garden.

False Sunflower

These yellow flowers really don't look much like a Kansas sunflower at all, so I'm not sure how they got their name, FALSE SUNFLOWER, but we like them in the garden. They were part of a mix of wildflowers and prairie grasses we ordered from Prairie Frontier. I don't remember seeing them last year, so they must be one of the flowers that don't come up until the second or third year. I like that they are supposed to bloom from late spring through fall.


FLEABANE is the pretty aster-like flower featured in our blog header. This isn't something we intentionally planted (unless it was in one of the little wildflower packets we've collected over the years and tossed in when we were planting our mix from Prairie Frontier, or maybe it survived in some of the farm dirt we brought in to build up our hills.) At any rate, we sure do like it and hope more will come up next year. Right now there's one nice, tall clump to the left of Boulder Hill, and that's it. I don't know how Fleabane got its name, but I think I could come up with a much better name for this pretty little prairie flower.

Fameflower Rock Rose

FAMEFLOWER ROCK ROSE takes center stage here on Boulder Hill. You really need to click on the photo to enlarge to appreciate the beauty of this plant. The foliage is sedum-like and the dainty hot pink flowers seem to float above it on wiry stems. It's gorgeous against the rocks. (The clumps of grass on either side of the rock rose are PRAIRIE DROPSEED and the bluish short grass between the smaller rocks is BUFFALO GRASS.)


We've had moderate luck with the GAURA we've planted. Several plants in the flowerbeds on either side of the driveway didn't come back this spring and the ones that did don't look very healthy. The gaura pictured here was part of a mixed pot that we plopped in a soggy corner of the backyard, hoping a couple of the plants might survive the winter. They all thrived, and this Gaura, in what we call our Moss Garden, is gorgeous. It's easy to see why Gaura is sometimes called Whirling Butterfly. The wing-like flowers that "float" above long, wiry stems flit in the breeze like butterflies.

Gray Santolina

We weren't able to identify this plant in our garden for several years. Neither of us remember buying it, but we thought it may have been something we bought when we were collecting sedums. At any rate, it has done very well, and recently a friend recognized it as GRAY SANTOLINA. A welcome addition to our Rock Hill Garden with it's yellow button flowers and gray-green foliage. It thrives in the sunny backyard on a sloped hill.

Hen & Chicks

We put this pretty pot full of HEN & CHICKS together by collecting slips from those we have in various spots in the garden. The red in the middle is Sedum that we dug up from Rock Hill Garden. Hen & Chicks are another plant that looks interesting in the winter garden as well.

Indian Grass

INDIAN GRASS is one of the last native grasses to show up in the garden each summer, but it is definitely one of the most stunning come fall when its heads turn a beautiful bronze color. It adds interest to the winter garden, especially when the wind blows.

Lead Plant

LEAD PLANT is one of the most unique plants in our garden. When we bought it, it was a small greenish gray plant with a fern-like compound leaf structure. This spring it grew huge and finally bloomed mid-June with large fuzzy finger-like purple blossoms tipped in brilliant orange. These photos don't do it justice, and it's tucked back beneath the grasses when it should be center stage!

Maiden Grass

Graceful MAIDEN GRASS is an asset to the garden all year long, and is especially pretty with the Kansas breezes (okay, gales) giving it movement. In the fall and winter the seed heads add color to the drab landscape. We usually cut our grasses down late February or March and they immediately start to come back. A couple of tips we can pass on: to cut the grasses down, first wrap the clump 8-12 inches from the ground with duct tape. Then use a chain saw to mow down below the tape. Leaving a bit of a "stump" gives the new grass some support, and using the tape makes clean-up far easier (and may even give you a pretty bouquet of foliage for the porch while you wait for the new grass to grow).

Moonlight Broom

This MOONLIGHT BROOM (or Scotch Broom) plant is a very interesting and unique plant with dainty yellow blooms in early spring. However it blooms for such a very brief time that it's been a little disappointing to us. Still, even after the blooms are spent, it has a nice shape, and bends gracefully in the Kansas wind. We're just glad we didn't give it a place of honor in one of the larger flowerbeds. It's just right at the back of the house near the garden shed.

Moss Rose

We planted MOSS ROSE (Portulaca Grandiflora) in a small flower bed by the curb in the front yard (trying to draw attention away from the streetlight pole there while making it easier to mow around). The Moss Rose is really taking off and so colorful and cheerful there. I wish it was a perennial, but it's so easy to take care of and it's done so well in that spot, that we'll probably plant it again next year. It makes a nice contrast to the mulch and the rocks.

Red Clover

I remember RED CLOVER growing in the pastures, and even in the yard sometimes, on the farm where I grew up in Rice County, Kansas. We only have two little patches of it mixed in with the tall grasses, but it's a beautiful plant and a different color than anything else blooming right now. According to information I found, the florets are edible, with a slightly sweet flavor, and the leaves can be dried and steeped to make a very nutritious tea.

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus)

Our Rose of Sharon has had to fight for its space with the Blue Dune Grass in this flower bed, but it is worth the fight. This plant, right outside our bedroom window, rewards us with bloom after bloom - each lasting only a day - throughout the summer. I've had several Hibiscus plants inside and enjoy the daily bloom or two, but outdoors they come in profusion.


We have three or four different kinds of SEDUM on Rock Hill Garden, mostly varieties of Stonecrop. They spill down the hill, intertwining with each other. The yellow variety below kept its color all winter long and was so striking peeking out through the snow. It was a spot of cheer when winter dragged on. Sedum is easily transplanted and we've moved slips of it to a flower bed near the street and others to mingle in a pot of Hen & Chicks.

Sideoats Grama

SIDEOATS GRAMA is one of the five native prairie grasses in the mix we planted. It's easy to see how it got its name once it begins to head out. It is especially pretty when in bloom (early in July when this photo was taken.)

Smoky Hills

We fell in love with this plant because of its name, SMOKY HILLS (Scutellaria resinosa). My husband grew up in the Smoky Hills of Ellsworth County and we lived there for eight years after our marriage. It has a bad habit of getting "woody" and flattening out in the center once it gets a certain size, but early in the spring and summer, it is lovely. When the plant is in bloom, it's easy to see where it got its name, especially if you've ever spent time in Kansas' beautiful Smoky Hills.
UPDATE: The plants didn't do well in the hot summer sun, but we moved one of them to the front entry garden with morning sun and afternoon shade, and it's thriving there.


SNOW-ON-THE-MOUNTAIN, otherwise known as Euphorbia Marginata is a beautiful plant, but much as my husband loves prairie wildflowers, he refers to this one as a weed. We had three huge plants come up volunteer last summer and then go to seed, so this year Ken has been yanking the little sprouts as fast as they pop up. But a few managed to sneak by and I think I've persuaded him to let them stay for a few weeks as long as I promise to eradicate them before they develop pods and self-seed.


SOAPWORT is a new plant for us this year. We have three nice starts on Rock Garden Hill, but haven't seen it bloom yet. At left is what the blooms should look like. We have a lot of yellow and lavender in the rock garden and thought the pink color would make a nice addition.


SPEEDWELL is just about the most perfect groundcover we've found. It has dainty purple flowers spring through fall, the tiny leaves are set off by dark red twigs and it grows like crazy, without being invasive. We have Speedwell planted in just about every garden spot and it was easy to get it started in a bed just by transplanting little snips. It's thriving in each place we put it. We're sold on the stuff.


Our SPIREA plants are still very small, but they were just little plants in 4-inch pots when we bought them at our arboretum's plant sale. They survived the winter so we're feeling pretty smug and looking forward to many more springtimes with them in bloom.


SWITCHGRASS is one of our favorites of the half a dozen or so prairie grasses we've planted along the backyard fence. It's especially beautiful in the fall swaying in the breeze.

Thickspiked Gayfeather (Liatris)

Our LIATRIS isn't blooming yet, but the photo on the right shows what it will look like when it does. Commonly called Blazing Star or Gayfeather, this perennial has very attractive foliage even when it's not in bloom, and adds interest to the winter garden. A friend brought us the plant below (along with the cactus peeking out from under the Liatris) from his pasture. It looks great on top of the Rock Wall.


We have several varieties of THYME planted on Rock Hill Garden. This one is called Golden Thyme, I think. I've used it to flavor roasts and pork tenderloin and it gives the whole house a delicious smell!

Wild Bergamot

WILD BERGAMOT has been one of the most pleasant surprises in our garden. It didn't come up until the second year, and for a long time, we suspected it was a weed. But it had pleasant looking foliage with red stems, so we decided to wait and see if it turned into anything. Did it ever! One evening we walked out to discover that frilly purple blooms had popped out all over. Wild Bergamot is supposed to bloom June through September. If that's true, we are sold on this beautiful plant! I'm eager to try making tea from the aromatic dried leaves.

Wooly Verbena

We discovered rather accidentally that WOOLY VERBENA makes a great backdrop for other plants in the garden. It has an interesting bloom-from-the-bottom-up habit, and the flowers are a gorgeous purple color.


This YARROW sprang up near the driveway and I loved it's ferny leaves. We moved the plant to Rock Garden Hill the first autumn, 2005, and it soon rewarded us with a mass of white blooms. It's been thriving ever since. In fact, it's become a bit invasive, and we've talked about digging some of it out this fall before it takes over the entire hill.