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    Plants for fall color!

    Shorter days, cooler nights, bring on the fall colors!  Fall foliage is a result of plants no longer producing chlorophyll (the food for plants and what makes leaves green).  As the chlorophyll begins to break down we start to see yellows and oranges and some plants have further chemical changes which in turns gives us red and purples.  But enough about how it happens, here are some great plants to consider for a brilliant display this fall.

    To really impact your fall garden make sure to include plants that will turn those beautiful bright reds, oranges and purples.  Red maples and Sugar maples are great shade trees that produce brilliant fall color.  The Red maple will give bright red leaves while the Sugar maples give a multicolored show of oranges, yellows and some red.  They both are really spectacular!  One of the most amazing and unique trees for brilliant yellow fall color are the Gingko biloba trees.  Be sure to select a non fruiting variety, the downside of fruiting varieties is the smell of the rotting fruit (eek)!

    Don’t forget to layer your landscape with smaller ornamentals and shrubs to spread the fall color throughout!  Serviceberry trees give good yellow-orange colors, while Japanese maples can give a bright red from the red leafed varieties and vibrant oranges from the green leafed varieties.  Oakleaf hydrangea not only produce showy blossoms but turn beautiful shades of reds and purples in the fall!

    Lets not forget flowers!  There are number of great annuals and perennials that will flower into fall!  Annual mums, coneflowers and pansies will get that pop of color where your summer annuals are starting to fizzle.  Perennials such as Asters, Russian Sage, Goldenrod bloom from late September into October!  Don’t let your garden fade away, but rather go out with a bang of color!

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    Brrrr…what to do when it’s just too cold to go outdoors!

    We’ve had a few days of bitter cold, I know I’d rather spend my days inside when it’s this cold.  So now is  a great time to make a plan on what needs to be done in the landscape for the coming year!

    Right about now you may have an influx of gardening catalogs arriving at your doorstop.  Grab them and get to planning!  It’s a great time to plan on what annuals you may want to include in your outdoor planters or in your planting beds.  If you have a green thumb it’s also a great time to start selecting seeds for starting indoors, as the time to start them will be March/April!  I like to review how my annuals did the previous year (sometimes that new plant just doesn’t pan out like you thought it would) or I may decide to change up my color palette.  I select my go to favorites and then do my research on new and upcoming annuals.  Every year is a little different! I like to check out the Proven Winners first!

    Be sure to review your perennial garden.  Think about what performed well, what is outgrowing it’s designated space, what didn’t perform well.  Make a plan on possibly thinning plants, moving them to better suited locations or if they need to be divided.  When the season hits us we often forget what needs to be done and we don’t want to miss those opportunities!

    Make plans by using sketches, photos or notes from the previous year to plan for the new year!

    Plan and budget for new projects (or like me completing old projects!).  For example maybe your front walk is starting to crumble, time for an upgrade possibly, or you’ve always wanted to have your own vegetable garden and finally have the time to put one in, or finish those projects that just never got completed from the year before.  Make a plan and stick to it!  You’ll be thanking yourself when all is complete and you have the best landscape in the neighborhood!

    This pallet of bluestone is waiting for spring to complete a late fall project from last year!

    Lastly make sure all your garden tools are ready for the new year.  Does you lawnmower need a tuneup, now is the time to get that complete.  Do you have all the hand tools you need, maybe it’s time for a new pair of hand pruners, or that old broken shovel needs replacing.  You don’t want to waste your garden time by running around trying to get all the supplies you need.

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    Attracting Birds to your garden!

    I enjoy sitting on my patio watching a listening to the multitude of birds and butterflies that visit my garden.  The best way to do this is with a variety of plants.  Here are just a few that will attract birds and butterflies to your home!

    Trees provide shelter as well as food sources for the birds.

    Quercus, the Oak trees, provide nice cavity nest sites for many birds.  When the acorns develop they also provide a food source for several species of birds, like the  Downy woodpecker.

    The fruit of the dogwood species, Cornus, is loved by Titmice, Cardinals and Blue birds to name a few.  It also is a quick growing shrub that would easily provide screening for you and shelter for birds.

    Serviceberry or Amelanchiers are one of the first tree species to bloom in the spring.; providing a nectar source for the early butterflies.  But that’s not all, in mid June the trees are filled with luscious fruit favored by many birds.  You’ll see Robins and Cedar waxwings gobbling them up!

    Amelanchier berries

    Flowering perennials are your source for nectar lovers like Hummingbirds and butterflies.

    Echinacea, Coneflower, provides nectar for butterflies and is a great seed source in fall/winter for Goldfinches and other songbirds.

    Echinacea and Butterflyl

    Asclepias isn’t called Butterfly weed for nothing!  Butterflies, particulary the Monarch love Asclepias.  It is a host plant for the Monarch’s caterpillars.  Birds will also use the soft downy feathers as nesting material.

    Monarda, Bee balm attracts Hummingbirds and butterflies.  This plant is super easy to grow!

    Monarda, bee balm.

    Solidago or Golden rod is a fall bloomer.  There are a multitude of butterfly species that are attracted to Golden rod!  The seeds are also a favorite of Goldfinches and native sparrow species.

    A water feature will also ensure that the birds and butterflies will hang around your property.  Birds need fresh water and a place to bathe!

    Fountain, water source for birds and butterflies.

    Now these are just few samples of plants to help you attract birds and butterflies to your garden.  Want to create that perfect butterfly garden or add more plants for birds then contact us and we’ll get you on your way to a beautiful animal sanctuary.

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    You’ve heard of a 4 season garden, but what about a Moon garden?

    What is a moon garden?  We often focus on what we see during the daylight hours, but as I often say there aren’t enough hours in the day.  After a long day of hard work and getting the kids to bed there is little time left to catch the sunlit garden.  So why not create a “Moon” garden.  This is a garden filled with white blooming plants, variegated plants, fragrant plants and night blooming plants.  These types of plants will glow in the moonlight! Even if you don’t want an “all white” garden, why not incorporate a few of these plants to get some late night pop on a moonlit night.

    White blooming plants:
    Anemone sylvestris (early spring)
    Anemone Wild Swan (summer)
    Anemone Honorine Jobert (fall)
    Dicentra Alba (spring)
    Echinacea Pow Wow White (summer to fall)
    Leucanthemum Becky (summer to fall)
    Liatris Alba (summer)
    Phlox David (summer)

    Variegated Plants:
    Cornus kousa Wolf Eyes
    Cornus sericea variegated
    Weigela My Monet

    Yellow and Silver Leaved Plants:
    Hakonechloa All Gold
    Heuchera Citronelle
    Weigela Briant Rubidor
    Stachys bizantina
    Artemisia spp.

    Fragrant Plants:
    Syringa spp.
    Viburnum juddi/carlesii (fragrant Viburnums)
    Wisteria floribunda

    Night Blooming Plants:
    Nicotiana slvestris (annual in zone 5)
    Oenothera spp.
    Trumpet Flower (annual in zone 5)

    So get your garden planted, pull up a chair and enjoy your garden morning, noon and night.

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    How to create your own butterfly garden!

    Butterflies, pollinators and nectar feeders will love a garden of mixed masses of flowers.  Here are a few popular choices to attract butterflies to your garden.


    Allium (early bloomer) Is a spring bloomer, so a great source for the first of the butterflies returning to the areas.


    Asclepias spp. (summer bloomer) Known as Butterfly weed, this one is a favorite of all butterflies.


    Buddleia (summer bloomer) With a name like Butterfly bush you are sure to find all kinds flocking to this one!


    Echinacea (summer bloomer) The coneflowers daisy like flower attracts all sorts of pollinators.


    Monarda (summer bloomer) Known as Beebalm, it also attracts all kinds of nectar loving insects and birds.


    Rudbeckia (summer bloomer) Black eyed susan is another great source for butterflies and pollinators.


    Helenium (late bloomer) Sneeze weed is a late bloomer and extends the season for the butterflies.


    Eupatorium (late bloomer) Joe Pye Weed is a late bloomer giving an extended season for the butterflies.

    As your garden grows keep an eye out for some of these common Midwestern butterflies!

    Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) can be found in most sunny places including moist fields, prairies or marshes. Red Admiral caterpillars eat plants of the Nettle family.

    Red Admiral

    Red Admiral

    Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) closely resembles Monarch Butterfly but acts much differently; they are territorial and will chase off other butterflies and fly by flapping rather than gliding like the Monarchs. Viceroys are usually found in wetlands and prairies with willows. Viceroy caterpillars feed on Willows, Aspens and Cottonwoods.


    Monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars eat a strictly Milkweed diet which makes them poisonous to predators (birds know to stay away from Monarchs!).  The Monarchs are the most common butterflies you will see as they flutter through your garden.


    Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)  caterpillars eat Thistle, Mallow, Hollyhock and related plants. An interesting bit of trivia, they are found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia.

    Painted Lady

    Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) likes sunny places with weeds and flowers, and can be found in gardens, vacant lots, old fields, pastures and marshes. Black Swallowtail Caterpillars eat Parsnips, Wild Carrots, Celery, Parsley and Dill.

    Black Swallowtail

    Eastern Tiger Swallowtail  (Papilio glaucus) are most commonly found in woodlands, fields, rivers, creeks, roadsides, and gardens. Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars eat Prunus, Sweet Bay Magnolia, Tilia, Liriodendron to name a few.

    Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

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    Bringing nature’s beauty to the garden.

    Pollinators (butterflies, bees and birds) are very important to our environment.  Without them many plants would not produce the end products we use.  But they also bring a sense of calm and enjoyment to the garden.  We all want that beautiful butterfly to come to our gardens, planting food sources for your inhabitants is a great way to get them to the garden.  Here are a few great plants to include!

    Asclepias tuberosa, if you want Monarch butterflies in your garden you must plant this plant (a main food source for the caterpillar)!

    Echinacea spp. is a great for summer bees and butterflies and a good seed source for birds in fall and winter!

    Rudbeckia spp. great for butterflies and bees and a seed source come fall and winter for the birds.

    Lavender’s, Salvia’s and Nepeta’s all have a similar type of flower loved by all nectar feeders!

    Phlox spp.  This Phlox has a hummingbird moth visiting it!

    These are just a few examples, there are many more excellent plants to include in your garden! Want us to create the perfect Butterfly garden for you?  Contact us now!

    Be sure to include some water sources for you wildlife and you’ll get that added bonus of tranquil water sounds in your garden. Butterflies and bee’s prefer water and rocks.  While birds enjoy more open water.

    granite millstone fountain

    Want to see more water features? Check them out here.

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    What’s new for Christina Farms!

    The main source of perennials for our Landscape projects come from our very own Christina Farms nursery. Every year we like to add a few new perennials to our palette and this year is no exception. Here are just a few fun plants to look forward too!

    Prunella ‘Summer Daze’ is an excellent perennial ground cover. A quick spreader it has a neat and tidy foliage which is covered in blooms mid summer. After blooming cut back blooms to get a second rebloom! Butterflies love it!

    Digitalis ‘Dalmation Peach’ this beautiful digitalis is a showstopper! A soft peachy pink spike of blooms arrives midsummer. A short lived perennial but will self sow in the garden. Great for a cottage garden.

    Peaonia ‘Coral Charm’ Peonies provide so much beauty with so little care. This little beauty is the perfect semi double coral pink flower. It makes a great cut flower! Plant it and you’ll be rewarded every spring!

    Asclepias tuberosa, also known as Butterfly Weed, is not “new” to the industry. A gorgeous true orange flower. But if you want butterflies in your garden be sure to plant a few of these! Asclepias is the main food source for Monarch butterflies (that is a Monarch caterpillar in the photo). Asclepias are late to emerge but so worth the wait!

    Want to see more of what we grow, visit our online catalog.

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    Late bloomers!

    Even though the season is winding down, some plants are just winding up!  You can still get a great splash of color with the following fall blooming plants!

    Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’

    From spring to fall you’ll be provided with a nice base of lush green leaves up to 18″ tall.  Then in September and October the real show begins.  These beautiful 1-2″ flowers will brighten up the fading fall landscape.  They are white or pink flowers, even double cultivars are available.  In bloom they are a striking 24-36″ tall.


    Aconitum arendsii, Monkshood

    You don’t normally see a lot of blue in the landscape.  But plant this handsome specimen  and you get a 2-4′ tall blue showstopper at the end of the growing season.  It also is one of the more unique blooms out there, with it’s helmet like sepals.


    Aster ‘purple dome’

    Purple dome is just one of many varieties of Fall Aster.  They come in a range of purple, pink, hot pink and white.  Plants are filled with small daisy like flowers that form a blanket of color!  Plants bloom in September and are from 18″-3′ tall!


    Some perennials just fade into the garden at the end of the growing season and some, like above, create show stopping flowers. But don’t forget there are also those perennials that have great fall color, here are just a few:

    Amsonia hubrechtii, Blue Star

    You might think that after this plant blooms in spring that’s all you’ll get from it.  But Amsonia produces excellent fall color as the temperatures cool down.  The leaves turn bright yellow to orange and quickly brighten up the garden.


    Geranium sanguineum

    Geraniums bloom spring through summer and a few straggler flowers in the late fall.  But beautiful red fall foliage is what you should expect come late September and October!


    And round out your landscape with shrubs that hold there fruit/berries late in the season and through winter:

    Callicarpa spp. Beautyberry

    One of my favorites is Beautyberry.  Now this is a showstopper you don’t often see!  Purlple-Amethyst colored berries!


    Need help in your garden?  We can work together in the coming months to create a landscape with blooms all season long!  Just contact us here: Van Zelst, Inc.







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    You can’t beat the heat, but these plants sure can!

    Soaring temperatures are no fun for any living thing. Perennials are easy to grow no nonsense plants, that’s if you plant the right plant in the right spot!

    Here’s our top 5 perennials that will beat the heat of summer!

    Achillea ‘Moonshine’

    achillea moonshine

    Echinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’

    echinacea fatal attraction

    Nepeta ‘Little Titch’

    nepeta little titch (3)

    Perovskia atriciplifolia ‘Little Spire’

    perovskia little spire

    Stachys ‘Pink Cotton Candy’

    stachys pink cotton candy (3)

    Still don’t know what to put where? Then give us a call and our Architects and Designers will create the perfect garden for you!








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    April Showers bring May Flowers!

    At least that’s what we are hoping for!

    In the landscape business, winter is quiet, so looking ahead to spring is one of the highlights. One of the fun parts, is selecting new plant material to grow in our nursery. We select plants based on how they’ll fare in our climate and soil, as well as how they enhance the selection already grown in our nurseries. We give them a good start with a special soil blend which includes vermicompost. They are then cared for by our dedicated nursery team! We are looking forward to seeing these plants blooming in our hoop huts and in your gardens soon.

    Here are just a few of the new plants we will introduce into our palette of plants!

    Campanula poscharskyana ‘Blue Waterfall’
    Height: 8-10”
    Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    Flower color: Blue
    Bloom time: May-July
    This is a lovely cascading plant would make a great addition to any garden. The delicate blue bell-shaped flowers reach out, fall, from the center of Campanula Blue Waterfall. It would also look nice cascading over a rock wall, along the edge of a garden walkway or in a window box.

    Dicentra spectabilis ‘Valentine’
    Height: 24-30”
    Exposure: Part shade to shade
    Flower Color: Red
    Bloom time: May-June
    This old fashioned Bleeding Heart features arching spikes of cherry-red, heart-shaped blooms with white tips held on dark burgundy stems. The delicate ferny foliage matures to an attractive powdery grey-green.

    Echinacea ‘Solar Flare’
    Height: 24-30”
    Exposure: Full sun
    Flower Color: Deep Rosy Orange Red
    Bloom time: June-September
    These large flowers have petals that start out a deep rosy orange red that fade to a smoky rose. Plants are strong and bushy in habit with near-black stems. Attractive to butterflies and excellent for cutting.

    Nepeta subsessilis ‘Sweet Dreams’
    Height: 12-18”
    Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    Flower Color: Pink
    Bloom time: July-September
    This unique Catmint is Lovely in an herb or flower garden, among Roses, or near walkways where its scent can be appreciated. It is covered with spikes of pale pink to pink flowers throughout the summer months.

    Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Lacey Blue’
    Height: 18-20”
    Exposure: Full sun
    Flower Color: Lavender blue
    Bloom time: June-September
    This compact Russian Sage forms a bushy mound of fragrant grey-green leaves, with spikes of lavender-blue flowers from mid-summer to fall giving it a long season of interest. Great for smaller gardens and terrific in mixed containers.

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