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 Green Thumb Nursery - 319-393-5946 - Cedar Rapids, Iowa
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Plant for Diversity!

April 6, 2017

That seems to be the slogan we hear so often repeated in the gardening world in articles, lectures, blogs, programs on television and radio...as if this "diversity" idea was something new. The founder of our business, "Old Man Peck" (as he often called himself) used to say "Mother Nature never planted in straight lines or in just one color...so let's mix it up for the Old Girl!" That was 40 years ago but in today's terms, he was talking diversity.

Photo of FlowersThe generation that grew up in the 1950's and 1960's saw their neighborhoods transformed with the decline and death of the stately elms that lined the streets. Dutch elm disease nearly wiped them out. Now we are again facing huge losses from Emerald Ash Borer that are decimating the many, many ash trees that were planted in such large numbers to replace the elms and to provide shade for the housing/building boom. Who would ever guess that trees as sturdy and vigorous as ash could ever be threatened? The point for us to remember is to not lean so heavily on a single genus or "family" of trees. Look to see what is planted in your neighborhood and try to choose a different type of tree than what's planted next door or down the street.

Planning a hedge, screen or border? Choose a variety of different shrubs. In addition to the disease/insect factors just mentioned, you also have to consider the "mayhem factor". You know....like when the lawn mower gets loose, a giant branch crashes down in a windstorm, a passing deer decides to stop for a feast, or the neighbor kid decides to impersonate George Washington chopping down the cherry tree...and the victim of this mayhem happens to be the 3rd shrub in your perfectly manicured solid hedge. That 3rd shrub can be replaced but the new one will never (at least it will seem like forever) match back in to your "now imperfect" hedge. With a mixed variety hedge, replacing one or two shrubs will not show up as such a flaw because they purposely are not identical. In addition, a mixed border of assorted shrubs will give you different flowers and bloom times, different fall leaf color, different foliage texture, different winter bark and branching patterns. All will add interest for you while attracting assorted birds and wildlife to your yard.

Photo of Peck at WMT show in 1999Have you ever observed a meadow or prairie go through a season? Such a different variety of plants each taking their turn in the spotlight...the bright yellow of coreopsis in June, the pink of common milkweed and coneflowers in summer, and the lavender of fall asters blooming. In planning a perennial or annual flower garden, set your goal to have some flowers blooming everyday just as in a natural area. Not only will you enjoy the color, but you will invite hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators to feast on the nectar and pollen supplied by your garden. It means that you will be planting an assortment of varieties. You may need to do a little planning before planting in order to cycle the bloom times. A sketch will help you place and space your drifts of plants to allow them to best show off and not be hidden or face competition from other varieties. There are so many perennial flowers and incredible new cultivars that it makes the garden design a really fun experience.

"Old Man Peck" was telling us to mimic Mother Nature, to encourage diversity. So our nursery has placed a focus on providing a huge array of plant material...the older "tried and true" favorites along with the newest varieties as soon as they were introduced into the market. A walk through our nursery and perennial area will demonstrate that indeed there are many, many different plant varieties. Sometimes there may only be one or two of an unusual variety and yet these are the gems that give your garden a unique look.

The true treasure that you will find at Peck's is the staff who knows plants and products to help you succeed in your growing. Our team is made up of plant and gardening experts who have spent years studying and growing to become knowledgeable about all aspects of plants...from specific habits and traits, health and nutrition, pests and diseases, to garden and landscape design. Who better to offer suggestions on different plant varieties to help diversify your garden and landscape than the experts at Peck's?