Field Day Gardens 2018

Pollinator Garden
Guests of the Pollinator Garden were unexpected highlights of Field Day

Field Day is the day we review our gardens with you, our fellow professionals in the industry. We talk about the problems we face when approaching a particular bed, discuss the solutions we picked, and look at how well they performed in that spot. Then we decide whether we were happy with our choices in the end.

All this conversation occurs in front of everyone, and that sharing of knowledge is probably the best part of Field Day for us. Although we showcased about 16 beds (some very large ones, too) we are going to touch on six highlights we noted this year, starting with our Pollinator Garden.

A Monarch caterpillar crawls next to the milkweed pod of Asclepias ‘Silky Gold’


This year, we planted a simple Pollinator Garden along the driveway into the property, and we were rewarded with the unexpected highlight of the show—Monarch caterpillers. They caused a small traffic jam as the group swung around the corner of the building to discuss them. One plant out-performed them all—Asclepias ‘Silky Gold’—even more than the traditional Asclepias tuberosa that we planted elsewhere. We expect this garden to release a lot of Monarchs into the area shortly.

Pathway Garden
Our most interactive bed was the Pathway Garden

THE PATHWAY GARDEN (Bed 14—six zones)

This garden was first designed as a Pathway Garden a couple of years ago by the UC students, and we’ve kept their basic concept going forward. This year, the students upgraded the garden by making it more interactive for visitors. It has more pathways into the garden area, and it now has zones that organize the plantings into visual centers of attention as you walk the path.

The Pathway Garden also groups hot tones and cool colors into a coordinated color wheel to tie the entire garden together. We also created a destination planting at the far end of the path capped with a multi-color grass display. This is one of our more ambitious beds, so we also tucked in some small experiments along the way: herbs as ornamentals, variations in height, and alternative cultivars we would like to try. This bed generated conversations that we will probably cover in future Field Notes.

Begonia Garden
A simple and fast garden that looks extraordinarily good


Simplicity can be stunning. This garden isn’t fancy—just some Begonias and Duranta ‘Cuban Gold’—and yet it became one of the most appealing gardens on the property. Part of this success is a technique called stepping.

Look carefully and you will see three heights: 8-inch Pink Olympia Begonias (high) surrounding a core of 6-inch Red Cocktail Begonias (medium) with a front skirt of Duranta as a groundcover (low). Notice the technique: 8-inch pots next to 6-inch pots next to 4-inch pots, planted at the same time. 

A little time for the plants to settle in, and the garden puffs up to three different levels, making the bed feel more three dimensional—a simple technique with a noticeable impact.

Office Garden
A surprising conversation starter was Cleome ‘Señorita Blanca’


The short Cleome ‘Señorita Blanca’ caught a number of people by surprise, and we discussed it in detail. Most people know Cleome from their older varieties which grow very tall. ‘Señorita Blanca’ is a hybrid and vegetatively grown so it will grow short. As you can see, it stays below the waist so we can use that delicate Cleome look in unusual places like this one, above some Titan Vincas.

Magnolia Garden
A deep shade garden under trees is always a challenge


The magnolia and oak trees make some very deep shade. Getting an interesting design to survive under there can be a challenge each year, and we think Cory developed a very good look with the Canary Wing Begonias (light green) paired up with Coleus ‘Vino’ (dark green). The radial stripes of light and dark are eye-catching, and it was one of the simplest gardens we installed.

It also merges well with the garden next to it, something we don’t always do. This is a common approach to pass these two gardens, and the upper garden continues the colors using SunPatiens. You can also see that we echoed the yellow green by hanging two yellow Calibrachoa balls along the porch roofline.

Long Garden
Our hottest and driest bed is our Long Garden in front of House 10

THE LONG GARDEN (Bed 16 in two zones)

This  garden serves as an important trialing garden for us because it is a summer stress tester—no shade here. Cincinnati heat can be tough on plants, so we like to see what works well in the high summer months. Due to the bed’s long and thin nature, Ron also lays out similar crops side-by-side in blocks so we can evaluate qualities like height, texture, color, sun-fastness, and so forth. Subtle but important details get picked up when we see things planted next to each other.

The Long Bed also collects the votes for the Best Plant for Field Day 2018

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