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2012 Great Plants for the Great Plains

submitted by Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Educator

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Each year the Nebraska Nursery and Landscape Association chooses a deciduous tree, evergreen tree, shrub, perennial and ornamental grass of the year. These are new or underutilized plants that merit wider use in Nebraska. Working in cooperation with the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, the plants are brought into large-scale production and made available to the nursery industry. More information about these "Great Plants" is available from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, http://arboretum.unl.edu/greatplants.

Northern Pin Oak, Quercus ellipsoidalis, also goes by the common name Hill's Oak. According to Michael Dirr, author of Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, it's "a northern midwestern version of Pin oak, Q. palustris, without the inherent chlorosis problems. " Trees are columnar in growth, but have descending lower branches, like pin oak. The leaves are dark green and glossy, with deeply cut lobes in the side margins. Native to the Great Lakes region, trees can be found growing in dry, upland conditions, and are very tolerant of high pH soils. The acorns are 1Ž2-3/4 inches long, elipse-shaped, with 1/3-1/2 of the nut covered by a brown cap. Trees are hardy in zones 4 to 6. Height 50-60', with a narrower spread.

Border pine, Pinus strobiformis, is a beautiful pine with soft, blue-green foliage. Its sometimes known as Southeastern White pine, which indicates its similarity to Eastern white pine, P. strobus. Border pine is native to the eastern Rocky Mountains, and is drought tolerant. As a native North American pine, its susceptibility to pine wilt is low. Hardiness zones 5-7. Height 50+ feet. The current National Champion is 111 feet tall and 62 feet wide, but trees are much smaller in home landscapes.

'Redwing' viburnum, Viburnum trilobum, is a cultivar of American cranberrybush viburnum with four-season interest! In spring it produces large, lacy clusters of beautiful white flowers, followed by bright red summer berries that remain on the plant to provide late winter food for birds. Throughout the growing season, new leaves and petioles emerge with a reddish-blush. And in fall, the foliage turns crimson. What's not to love! 'Redwing' grows 10-12 feet tall unpruned, with a spread of 8-10 feet. It's hardy to zones 2-7.

Queen of the Prairie, Filipendula rubra, is a herbaceous perennial native to North America that can be found growing wild from Pennsylvania to Iowa, and south to Georgia. Once plants were considered part of the Spiraea genus, and although they now have their own genus are still sometimes called "False Spirea". However, it's largely unknown to most home gardeners. Queen of the Prairie somewhat resembles Queen Anne's Lace, although the plants are not related, but has beautiful lacy pink flowers in summer, and large maple-shaped leaves. Plants can get large, standing 3-6 feet tall with a width of 4 feet, but have very sturdy stems holding them upright even in high winds. Due to the plant's size, it works best in a larger garden where it makes a great accent plant, and is attractive to bees and butterflies. Choose a location with full sun to partial shade, and moist soil. Hardy to zone 3-8.

'Blue Heaven' little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, is a new selection from the University of Minnesota of this great native grass . 'Blue Heaven' has striking blue-gray foliage, rather than the standard blue-green coloration, and turns reddish-purple in fall. It also has a very upright growth habit, creating a nice vertical statement in the landscape. Like all little bluestems, plants require little or no watering once established, and tolerate a range of soil conditions from clay to sand, acidic to alkaline. Locate plants in full sun.

Look for these Great Plants at your garden center this spring.

This resource was added February 2013 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement


University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

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