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Trying something new in the garden

January 12, 2012
By Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere , Marshall Independent

The other day I started to pull out my garden catalogs. I have one garden in particular that between the July storm and the fact that it is now a shade garden, I am looking at starting over with a garden this year.

I am also still finding plants to go in a new flower garden that I placed two years ago, but again, I was foiled by last years crazy growing conditions. We all look through gardening catalogs for that something new and then we all hope it will work out in our gardens.

There are times when we like to test fate and grow something that is a zone 5 plant. I have also tried this out and had it work until we had a really cold winter. I had lost those plants but had them for a few years to enjoy despite the challenge. There are many of us who like to stick to things that are tried and true as well. The question to answer according to Kathy Zuzek of the U of M, is trying the new cultivars always a good thing? Are we wasting our money? Is there a way we can double check what we are seeing in the store or in the catalog? The answer is yes but you will have to use some tools available out there to do your research.

New cultivars are moved onto the market for us to buy rather quickly and they sometime come from places all over the world.

As we know, things that grow in town may not grow in the country and from place to place, it may also differ. However, there is some help out there for us to establish a good practice in researching those newer plants in order to find out if they are worth the money we would like to spend on them. According to Zuzek, there are a bunch of great places to find that information that we need to have in order to make a good selection.

The first on Zuzek's list is the Chicago Botanic Garden. They have been performing plant evaluations for over 20 years. The program in Chicago evaluated plants and finds out if they will work well for the Upper Midwest, not just the Chicago area. This information can be found through their Plant Evaluation notes which can be found online.

The next place for us to look, especially in our area is our very own West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris or in Lamberton.

These places, too, can be found online. Morris, in particular, has wonderful gardens to wander through to see how plants are being evaluated. The next place is something that we are all familiar with and that is the All-America Selections program. This program tests plants in 47 research plot found throughout the United States. Then, of course, there is our U of M Department of Horticulture which does a great job and has a huge job of evaluating many, many different kinds of plant stocks.

They also develop plants hardy for Minnesota and there is a publication that can help you called Minnesota Hardy. There is also outside help that we can use relatively well from SDSU and of course, NDSU.

If you are up to going through a great research meets the polished garden, then a visit to the Minnesota Arboretum or their website will give you a lot of information. As most of us know, the arboretum has thousands of plants for us to look at and also get great information too. If you check out the labels of the plants at the arboretum, you will notice that they have a number on the label. The first four numbers are the year that the plant was planted in the arboretum garden.

We will try to go through some of the new varieties or cultivars as this winter continues on.

For more information regarding gardening, you can reach me at



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