Even though winter winds are still blowing, spring is just around the corner.
In preparation for the coming season, Kendall Young Library hosted a program by Nichole Jonas, of Red Granite Farm, who shared a list of perennials that anyone can grow. She also discussed the story of how she and her husband created their own business selling produce, eggs and perennial plants near Boone.
“It has been such a long winter, and the thought of green grass and bulbs sprouting still seems like a dream,” Jonas said. “But there’s still a lot to get ready for spring.”
At Red Granite Farm, Jonas said she tries to grow things that customers can’t find at big retail stores. At Iowa State University, where she met her husband, Steve, she learned a lot about ornamental horticulture. Jonas shared some of that knowledge with program attendees who packed the library meeting room on Tuesday night. Jonas said she wanted to share her family’s love of perennials with the public.
“It really is our passion. I love to go to people’s gardens and tell them what might work. I don’t like to just sit and design,” Jonas said.
The first perennial that Jonas discussed is northwind switchgrass. The plant was designated the 2014 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. Jonas said that’s because the plant stays nice and upright even through some winter snow storms.
She said northwind switchgrass, a rigid, clumping grass with a vase shape, makes a good garden screen as it typically stands between five and six feet tall. It also has a golden yellow color in fall.
Another perennial Jonas discussed is the baptisia, or false indigo. There are many varieties of the plant, but Jonas’ favorite type is the “Twilite Prairieblues” baptisia. Other baptisia cultivar, or plant varieties that have been created through selective breeding, include Purple Smoke and Solar Flare Prairieblues. Jonas has grown all of these varieties.
The Twilite Prairieblues, have purple buds that open to violet-purple flowers. The blue-green foliage forms an upright shrub form. Jonas said the plant matures quickly and usually stands between three to four feet tall. Jonas warned the plant has a large taproot, so it should not be moved after planting. The plant should also be given about four feet of space.
The Solar Flare Prairieblues grow lemon yellow flowers. They are similar to the violet colored baptisia, but they are not quite as tall.
The third perennial she discussed is euphorbia. The specific type that Jonas said grows well in Hamilton County’s climate is euphorbia polychroma, which is classified as a zone four hardiness plant. However, Jonas said she has grown zone five types of euphorbia locally with no troubles.
The euphorbia polychroma has bright yellow bracts with what Jonas described as a perfectly mounted top. The plant is tolerant to droughts and its foliage stays nice all season. Jonas said the fall colors in the plant will be more vibrant if the plants get enough sun.
Jonas also discussed many other perennials that she grows at Red Granite Farm. The farm is open on Fridays from May through October at 2013 130th Street in Boone. For more information on the farm, go to Facebook.com/RedGraniteFarm.