Staff Musings

Below you will find the staff musings from our 2020 catalog.


This years topic is our staff picks and must haves that we currently grow. Check out the "Featured Plants" link for the whole list!

  • Alex: This year I tried my hand at a tropical flower bed. I was inspired by staff member, Gary's flowerbed from last year and wanted to see if I was up for the challenge. A few of my favorites were the Colocasia Gigantes, Lime Zinger, and Banana. I had a completely different reaction to each, but loved how they all grew lush and full with our hot, wet summer. I planted them on the south side of the house that gets plenty of sun. Because of the rain this year, I hardly had to water them. I just sat back and watched the beautiful foliage grow, and grow, and grow. All of our guests this summer were equally impressed and lavished the flower bed in compliments!
  • Amy: This is a list of plants that I must grow every year, in no particular order except the lavender is first because of its impressive performance. Lavender 'Big Time Blue' This variety has overwintered in the ground for me in several locations for a few years now. I've been gently folding the entire plant over and covering with a generous amount of mulch. I am careful with timing on uncovering; I was too early once so now I wait until I start to worry about it getting too warm and rotty. It thrives on neglect as it does well just with the water it gets from rain and prefers poor soil. It starts blooming early and then all season long and smells amazing. Monarda punctata: I am a sucker for the pastel colors green and pink that develop on this plant so combine that with the qualities of being a native and a pollinator favorite with interesting structure and this is a winner for me. Angelica gigas: Very attractive to pollinators, amazing color and structural interest. Asclepias incarnata 'Ice Ballet': Matures into a large bushy and long blooming monarch nursery. Sage 'Clary': I love the beautiful pastel purple flower stalks that bloom on this biannual. Tomato 'Tidy Treats' – a must have. Every year it goes in a pot on my deck or within easy reach. Early sweet fruit in abundance on a truly tidy plant that doesn't stop until frost. Begonia sutherlandii – Another plant that does well with neglect. This dude gets parked in a dark shady spot for the summer and then rewards me with chartreuse leaves, red stems and tiny bright orange flowers. Gets trimmed back and forgot about in the basement for the winter. Easy. Geranium 'Mrs. Pollack' – Crazy neato foliage colors and patterns. I could just sit and wonder at her for hours. Speaking of wonder, Coleus 'Peter's Wonder' – I will never again be without this guy around. Big and frilly in yummy shades of olive green and mauve. Dichondra 'Silver Falls' – will always trail romantically from my hanging baskets. Brugmansia – last but not least. Any variety will do but I love the variegated one, no two leaves are the same.
  • Babette: One of our family favorite summer containers is a "Spring Roll Container". We plant a collection of herbs that we put into fresh spring rolls. We've had dinner parties where we give everyone scissors and they cut their herbs from the container for a "make your own spring roll dinner". After several trials our favorite herbs for this delicious container are: African Blue Basil – it tastes good and is so beautiful in the container, pollinators go crazy for it, Chervil – hints of anise and an under rated wonderful herb, Desert Blush Cilantro – it is slow bolting and rosy, Thai Mint – sweetly minty with nice long leaves , Papaloquelite – special sharp and deep flavor, Vietnamese Lemon Mint 'Kinh Ghoi' – gives the mix substance and lemony twist, Vietnamese Perilla – for beauty and flavor and as the foundation for all the other herbs, (like you might use a lettuce leaf), Wild Wasabi Arugula – for those who like wasabi and arugula, it packs a delicious punch, Mexican Tarragon – because it has a rich tarragon flavor and last but not least, edible flowers like Calendula, Borage, Lavender or Pansies. We first put the flowers on the spring roll wrapper so when you roll up the spring roll you see flowers on top. Layer flowers, then a couple of big leaves from the perilla or a lettuce you like, add a nice big bunch of trimmed herbs slightly cut up, any vegies like sliced carrots and cukes, meat of your choice and then a bit of peanut sauce. Roll up tightly for one of the most lively, fresh, fun summer delights.
  • Becca: I'm a vegetable garden person. Every year I try to avoid adopting any ornamental plants from the greenhouse but inevitably I end up bringing home a small array of non-edible plants. That small selection always includes at least one variety of Salvia. Salvias come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Border Gems, Specialty Annuals, Herbs, and even Specialty Foliage- Salvias are everywhere in the greenhouse. I particularly enjoy the large floriferous types like Amistad, Black and Bloom and Wendy's Wish. In the spring, the Specialty Annual Salvia house is alive with hummingbird activity. I bring these plants home and plant them in front of our large picture window so we can enjoy their bright blooms and the hummingbirds they attract, from both inside the house and out. Everyone should have at least one salvia in their garden.
  • Dylan: I recommend Chocolate Mint. Put it on salads, in cookies, on ice cream, or just eat it if you forget to brush your teeth. Plant it once. Where nothing else matters. Or keep it in pots and then through winter. Or dry a few bushels in the fall, your house will smell good. Keep it in jars for baking cookies or putting in your smoothie. You could start a Chocolate Mint farm and be up and running in a few years. Just make sure you plant a mint you love, as I had one that I did not like the taste of that took over part of my old yard and I just mowed it (which smelled nice).
  • Eli: Rather than extolling the virtues of a single plant from our list, I am going to spread the love around for a list of plants that do two things very well: they self-sow in your garden, and they attract pollinators. I set myself a goal to identify more butterflies, bees and other pollinators this summer and these are the plants they were all over.
  • At the top of my list is Agastache; whether it comes from our Border Gem program or our herb list, it is one of the most solid pollinator attractors out there. Some varieties may perennialize and others will self-sow; either way butterflies, bees, and beneficial wasps will converge. Close behind is Borage from our herb program. I don't care if you ever eat the flower or the leaves smell like cucumbers or the foliage make your skin itch, let a few of these babies self-seed in your yard and veg garden for the best bee magnet, bar none! Annual chamomile from our herb list will bloom early to feed those first hoverflies and small beneficial wasps if you let some plants go to seed the previous year.
  • Verbascum from our Border Gem list will settle in nicely if you can remember where it was the previous year. 'Southern Charm' will be blooming by June and attract bees, hoverflies and other beneficial insects. Our new V. phoenicum 'Temptress Purple' ought to make itself at home as well. Verbena bonariensis will bloom later than usual if self-seeded, but will bring in bumble bees, hummingbirds and many familiar butterflies into October. Cleome will get started late if self-sown, but puts on growth quickly in late summer so it can bloom around the time of the autumnal equinox. Bees and butterflies are its main pollinators. I don't need to tell you to let a few Milkweed (Asclepias) scatter around your garden, do I? Even if it's just the common one, butterfly larvae will eat it. Selections from our Border Gem, Native and Perennial program will also bring in the butterflies and likely be more showy.
  • This piece is getting too long already, so here's a last few beauties to think about from our Border Gem list. Good old Bachelor's Buttons (Centaurea), 'Blue Cloud' Larkspur, Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) and annual poppies all reseed easily and provide pollen for bees. They don't reseed for me, but if you want butterflies you really need to put in some Tithonia 'Torch' and some Zinnias. Monarchs. Swallowtails, Painted Ladies and more will all be thrilled.
  • So think twice before deadheading or uprooting your annuals and herbs this fall; spread some seed and some pollinator love around! Just don't forget to mark the spot so you don't till up those baby seedlings next spring!
  • Gary: My recommendations have to do with plants not necessarily strong with blooms but lend interesting texture to the garden. We have sold Cardoon for years, maybe as long as RCG has existed and ever since I began working here I have planted them in my own garden. This year because of the ample rain I had specimens that reached 6 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter, an incredible mound of Acanthus looking foliage of grey green. I like to place them as specimens among the perennials and annuals in my borders. Only once have I had these true biennials come back for me and bloom their spectacular massive giant thistle bloom of beautiful purple. I don't ever count on this to happen so I like to think of them as an annual giant hosta.
  • Another plant that has slowly caught my attention over the past couple years has been Stachytarpheta or Porterweed from the Verbena genus. We had acquired the plants for a special order. Of course, a year after we had really figured out how to do cuttings of the plants and had nice plants available the people who ordered them didn't want them anymore and so we added them to the large annual program to get rid of the stock. I also took some home and tried them in a large container and in the ground. I thought because of its tropical origins the plant would fare better in a container but found the small plant I had placed in the ground did amazingly well. It reached a height of 4 feet and had quite a few flower stalks. Now the thing about this plant is on a shrub-like base of lovely green leaves it doesn't become a huge cluster of flowers but the flowers stems it has are the interesting part. The small flowers of coral or lavender emerge in a ring as the stem continues to grow the small ring proceeds to bloom up the stem. At the end of the season I had long erect whips of flower stem over 5 feet tall. Not overly showy, but these stalks poking up through the other plants made beacons for hummingbirds and butterflies all season long. A couple of us rallied at our annual catalog meeting to keep them and I was pleased when Suzanne suggested we make the lavender and coral colors available in the specialty annual category for next year! Please promote these as unique specimens not found in everyone's garden!
  • Genevieve: Picking one plant is hard for me to do as I am sure you have figured out from everyone else's bio so far. So my suggestion is to think about what your purpose for growing the plant will be. Whether for looks in a container or basket or to help out our pollinators. Maybe you love to cook or want to make medicine for yourself. In any case I would decide on that first. Me, Myself, I like to use Coleus in containers. The color, texture and size varieties available a RCG give one endless possibilities. For pollinators and medicine Anise Hyssop is a great choice. I had more butterflies in my herb garden this year than I have ever seen. And it makes a delicious infused honey great for cold and flu season. Cooking wise I always go with a thyme because we all need thyme in the garden around here, ha ha ha.
  • Jan: Unlike most of my colleagues at Rush Creek, I live in the city, and my small yard in south Minneapolis places certain restrictions on what, and how much, I can grow. I'm often envious of my friends out here in rural Wisconsin with their sunny open spaces and expanses of land to put in large vegetable plots and gorgeous big flowering gardens. So it may be a bit strange that the plants I want to highlight as "must-haves" for even a tiny city garden are big and majestic. My gardens tend to get a bit overgrown and over-packed. (There are just too many plants I want to bring home from work.) Sometimes it feels like I won't have room for one more thing. So perhaps that's why some of these big, tall blooming beauties really stand out and make me ridiculously happy every summer.
  • I think everyone needs an elegant Thalictrum as part of their perennial garden, and I squeeze in some tall Salvia guaranitica (or S. guaranitica x S. gesneriiflora) to grown amidst it. My favorites for this lovely duo are Thalictrum 'Black Stockings' and Salvia 'Amistad'. The Thalictrum has a tendency to tip over in the wind when it's really tall and blooming strong, so the Salvia is a wonderful buddy and lends great structure to provide natural support. The rich purples and deep pinks look beautiful together. I'll often throw some Salvia 'Black and Bloom' into the mix as well. And new for this year, we have Salvia 'Purple and Bloom'. I'm excited to try that one out. All of these plants grow to a flowering height of around 4-5 feet.
  • The other plant of substance I must recommend is Stachytarpheta. A few of us out here at Rush Creek have fallen in love with this plant. It may seem unassuming in the spring as it gets going, but the thing is, it just never stops. The small bright flowers keep blooming up the spike-like stem—as the lower ones die more bloom above in an endless display. Last year we had it in our large annual program, but this year we're moving it to our 4" specialty annual category. Hopefully the lower price will encourage more people to give it a try. We'll be growing lavender and coral varieties, and both are so lovely I can't decide which I prefer. I put both in my boulevard garden this past summer and they bloomed through all the neglect, hit and miss watering, poor soil, and getting stepped on by passengers exiting cars. Stachytarpheta also boasts a nice, sturdy structure and paired well with my Perovskia to help hold it up. I love it when the plants cooperate. This is another tall one, reaching about 4 feet.
  • Melanie: The past couple years I haven't gardened much due to my kids increasing activities and hobbies. I enjoy plants that bring in pollinators to my yard and vegetables I am able to feed to our 4-legged kids. My go to plants right now are Salvia 'Amistad', Salvia 'Wendy's Wish', Asclepias 'Silky Deep Red', and Agastaches. I have several perennial beds loaded with different varieties of Phlox, Echinaceas, Asclepias incarnata and Sedums. Next spring, my son is getting honey bees and the hive will be placed near my flower beds for an easy food source. I found this summer that our heifers like parsley, so I planted several plants for the heifers and rabbits to eat. Our rabbits enjoyed a daily snack of lettuce. We grew pumpkins not only for my kids to carve but to feed to the goats and heifers. The pumpkins' insides are a natural dewormer for the animals and they eat the outside too. Next year, we will plant more varieties for the animals and humans to enjoy.
  • Norma: One plant from the greenhouse that I have decided I always will have to have is the fall raspberry. I planted mine three or four years ago. It is a 'Heritage', which produces large juicy red conical berries. By now my one plant is a 3' x 3' clump. I have been eating fresh raspberries every day for two months. I've frozen some as well but mostly I just eat them fresh. They are a superb ending to a berry season which starts in June with strawberries switches to summer raspberries then blueberries and now these juicy red raspberries.
  • The summer berries have a shorter season of production (for me). Plus I get a lot of help with the picking from the catbirds. They also seem more prone to disease and need more cleaning up. Fall-bearing raspberries are amazingly easy to take care of. I cut them down in late fall or early spring. Maybe weed them a few times and that is it. It helps to tie them up or put a fence around them, but I ran out of time this year and they were just fine.
  • Suzanne: Our native Early Figwort (Scrophularia lanceolata) has become a favorite plant of mine. After years of noting its great structure and appeal to pollinators I collected some seed, refrigerated it in sand, and violà we were able to add it to our native perennial category. What you'll find about this plant is that it is a very well behaved and hardy perennial. It comes up fairly quickly in the spring and by June it will be sending up its architectural flowering stems. The flowers while not showy are sweet pink chalices that will provide nectar to all comers for months. I've yet to walk by a Figwort in bloom and not see at least 2 species of wild bees feeding. Once finished blooming the flower spikes will hold up and add texture to your garden well into the fall. Figwort is a valuable medicinal herb and noted by many as one of the best plants to supply nectar to native bees, as well as butterflies and hummingbirds. And rarely seen in nurseries!
  • Tyra: The plant that should find its way into every garden this year is Cerinthe (aka: Honeywort or Pride of Gibraltar), an old-fashioned favorite that is being reintroduced this year after a short sabbatical. You will find it in our Specialty Foliage section, but it is so much more than just foliage. The range of color is gorgeous and intensifies as the season progresses. Silvery-green leaves transition to violet, plum, electric blue and indigo at the arching tips. The nodding purple flowers are a favorite for bees. I love a plant that performs well with a little benevolent neglect, and this low maintenance beauty demands nothing, even thrives in dry conditions. Cerinthe makes a fabulous cut flower, as well. Make sure you burn the cut end before submerging it in water and enjoy its long vase life, unique texture, shape and colors.
  • Vicky: I'm afraid that I am fickle. My "special" plant choice would probably be different every year but that's because we grow so many fabulous plants (I'm not selling at the moment – just true). Presently I am in love with my Aralia cordata 'Sun King'. It is the most splendid golden leaved shrub-like plant that anchors one of my favorite little beds. It grows quickly each year from the ground to over 3 ft. tall. It shines no matter the light and its slightly arching stems highlight the Carex 'Oehme' hiding nearby. It can also compete with the Kiwi vine I planted nearby (What was I thinking!!!) Although this is native to Japan, our birds are fond of the berries that form in late summer. Hardy and easy to grow and such a beauty.
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