Log in

Polk County Master Gardeners

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Polk County

Log in


<< First  < Prev   ...   2   3   4   5   6   Next >  Last >> 
  • 29 May 2019 1:00 AM | Brenda Peshak

    Mr. Bowling Ball ™ Arborvitae | Plant Catalog Demo garden

    American Arborvitae is the common name for Thuja occidentailis. Mr. Bowling Ball ™ Arborvitae is a white cedar. The ‘bobozam’ cultivar grows globular and is most often sold under trademark name Mr. Bowling Ball. It rarely requires pruning which makes it ideal for tidy home landscape beds. Getting only up to 3 feet high and wide, it is an excellent choice for a dwarf conifer that will stay low to the ground and compact. It can also be used as a shrub border or to compliment a rock garden as well.

    Facts about Mr. Bowling Ball ™ Arborvitae:

    Scientific Name : Thuja occidentailis
    Trademark name Mr. Bowling Ball™
    Cultivar Bobozam
    Unique Qualities Fragrant, Compact Ball Shape
    Color: Rich Green
    Height:  2-3′
    Width/Spread:  2-3′

    Good things to know about Thuja occidentailis ‘bobozam’ :

    This dwarf conifer is low maintinance in well drained soil.  Mr. Bowing Ball™ requires full sun to part shade with regular medium watering.  Thrives in a variety of soils including clay and pH from Alkaline to Neutral. This cultivar is quite pest and disease resistant but fungal leaf blight or canker is a possibility.

    Mr. Bowling Ball ™ Arborvitae can be found in the North Conifer Bed at demonstration Garden.

    You will find Mr. Bowling Ball™ in the North Conifer Bed at Demonstration Garden. The distinctly round shape makes it easy to find and identify. It is native to North America. You can use our Conifer Index Page to locate more of the conifers at Demo Garden.

  • 27 May 2019 1:00 AM | Brenda Peshak

    White Bearded Iris

    You will find several varieties of Bearded Iris at Demonstration Garden. Most of them are located in the Bulb Bed but can also be found in several other locations. The scientific name for the Bearded Iris is Iris germanic. There are basically three main parts referred to in the petals of the flower. The falls are the petals pointing downward. The standard are the petals pointing upward. And the beard is the fuzzy “beard like” area on the base of the petal.

    Bearded Iris Purple

    Bearded Iris Purple

    When selecting Irises, and any other bulb, the larger the better. Nice large bulb will ensure immediate success and blooms. Plant in sunny to part shade conditions and provide moisture regularly until well established. Once established they are drought resistant. Plant with rhizomes at the surface somewhat exposed and roots pointing down.

    Irises begin to bloom in May and make an excellent cut flower. If your Irises stop blooming it most likely means they need divided. They should be divided about every 3-5 years. Iris borer and bacterial soft rot are the most common problems which occur with irises.

    For more details on bearded irises visit:

    Dividing Bearded Irises 

    When and How to Divide Iris

    Care for Bearded Iris After Blooming

    Types of Irises for Home Landscape

    Bearded Iris 'Batik' . Royal purple color with white stripes and yellow inside. 

  • 27 May 2019 1:00 AM | Brenda Peshak
    Bearded Iris Burgundy Party

    Bearded Iris Burgundy Party  is one of the most distinct irises you will see at Demonstration Garden. Mid spring is an ideal time to begin viewing these beauties. The beard of this lovely flower is yellow while the two tone color is stunningly impressive. The falls are a distinct burgundy or wine color and the standards are the perfect highlight of light pink to lavender.

    Facts about Common Name:

    Scientific Name : Iris gemanica
    Variety, cultivar, or trademark name Burgundy Party
    Bloom Time Mid May
    Type or Average Life Span:  Perennial
    Height:  38″
    Propagation:  Division

    Good things to know about Bearded Irises :

    Bearded irises are deer resistant and easy to grow. Though they appreciate moisture while establishing, once established are very drought resistant.  Preference is a sunny locations but can also grow in some shaded areas. Zones 3 to 9 hardy, they should be planted early spring or in the fall when they are dormant.

    You will find Burgundy Party Bearded Iris in the Bulb Bed at Demonstration Garden.

    You can find bearded irises throughout Demonstration Garden. This variety can be found in the bulb bed at Demonstration Garden. You can divide them about every 4 years to avoid overcrowding  which can lead to disease such as bacterial soft rot. The best time to divide and transplant is in the fall when they are dormant. Rhizomes should be at the surface with roots going down into the trench.

  • 23 May 2019 1:00 AM | Brenda Peshak

    Sungold Falsecypress | Plant Catalog Demo Garden

    The stringy weepy branches and golden color of the Sungold falsecypress add color contrast and texture to any landscape. This conifer is also known as the Japanese falsecypress and Sawara cypress. It is pyramidal in shape and can get quite large, up to 8 feet tall, so don’t let the fact that it is considered a dwarf conifer catch you unprepared. Be sure you are prepared for the possible maximum height.

    Facts about Sungold Falsecypress:

    Scientific Name : Chamecyparis pisfera 
    Cultivar: Sungold
    Foliage Color: Golden
    Average Life Span: Up to 50 years in good conditions
    Height: 5-8′
    Witdth/Spread: 6-12′

    Good things to know about this conifer:

    These hardy evergreens do well in sun to part shade but do best in part shade. They are drought resistant but thrive in medium moisture. Avoid wet or poorly drained areas.  This variety is native to Japan. Its new growth emerges bright gold in color and darkens to a lime green in maturity.

    You will find Sungold Falsecypress in the dwarf conifer bed at Demonstration Garden.

    The berms containing the dwarf conifers frame the interior rose gardens offering a wide rage display of textures and shapes and a range of green color in contrast to the flowering roses. You will find the Sunglod falsecypress on the south side next to the Dwarf Himalayan Pine.

  • 30 Apr 2019 1:00 AM | Brenda Peshak

    Observing Birds in the Garden

    Bird watching is available year round. Following a few basic facts will be mutually beneficial for both you and the wildlife in your backyard.

    Ways to attract birds.

    Watching birds is a long time hobby. Birds will be naturally attracted to your garden but there are additional measures which you may take to attract birds to your backyard ecosystem:

    1. Offer them food. Types of plants which you have on your property provide food. Alternatively offer food by hanging feeders.
    2. Provide water. Birdbaths are an easy and delightful way to attract birds and fun to watch. Small ponds or trickling fountains attract particularly well because some birds which have limited eye sight will be attracted by the sound.
    3. Protection from the elements. Trees, shrubs, and plants will offer protection and safety from predators and extreme weather.
    4. Safe nesting and roosting sites. A variety of vegetation will naturally provide places for birds to nest. However, birds will make use of anywhere which is safe and attractive. A few examples of common manmade nesting places are birdhouses and wreaths. Even hanging baskets have been know to attract the occasionally pair of house finches. In the Spring, it is important to be observant before removing that winter wreath or last years hanging basket so as not to disturb eggs nestled safely within.

    Observing Birds in the Garden

    All you need to begin is a small tidbit of time to be observant of what your landscape already provides the birds in your area. Some birds prefer tall, dense trees, while others are attracted to shrubs and open areas. Trees and shrubs can provide berries which many birds like to eat. In contrast, others prefer the seeds which annuals and perennial flowers provide. Still others eat insects, worms, and spiders.

    However, if you wish to attract a certain species of bird then you will need to do some research and record your observations. Many birdwatchers take to keeping nature journal overtime . This will aid you in making adjustments and decisions on what to offer for attracting specific types of birds to you garden.

    Observing Birds at Demonstration Garden

    At demonstration garden you will see a variety of birds. A birdbath bubbler fountain was installed during the spring of 2015. The water filled oasis is often frequented by the American Goldfinch which frequents the garden to take a sip. Their favorite time to visit  the garden is during the evening hours, just before dusk.

  • 29 Apr 2019 1:00 AM | Brenda Peshak

    Asian Bleeding Heart | Demonstration Garden

    Bleeding Heart graces the south end of our Birds and Bees Garden bed. It blooms in the late spring and is especially complimentary along side our garden ferns.  The locket like blooms form on the end of arching stems like a string of pearls making it the perfect addition to a spring cut arrangement. This popular perennial is a favorite year after year. They propagate by seed and transplanting thinnings.

    Facts about Bleeding Heart:

    Scientific Name : Dicentra spectabilis
    Variety: Gold Heart, Hybrid
    Bloom Time: Late Spring
     Color:  White & Pink blooms. Chartreuse foliage.
    Type:  Perennial
    Height:  18-30″
    Width/Spread: 24-30″

    Good things to know about Gold Heart:

    This bleeding heart is deer resistant and prefers rich moist soil. It thrives in part to full shade and can be grown in zones 3-9.  It offers lovely spring color in any shady garden area and then later such backdrop for summer. They are low maintenance and easy to grow. This variety offers a lighter green leaf color than ‘Old Fashioned Pink’.

    You will find Gold Heart in the back of the Birds and Bees Bed at Demonstration Garden.

    This species is native to Japan. It adds depth and variety to a shady south end of our Birds and Bees Garden Bed at Demonstration Garden. It is related to Duchman’s Breetches, the wild variety of this genus which can be found in the Woodland Path area of Demonstration Garden.

  • 19 Apr 2019 1:00 AM | Brenda Peshak

    Dwarf Himalayan Pine The Dwarf Himalayan Pine adds a soft texture to any landscape.

    The Dwarf Himalayan Pine is a dwarf conifer which adds interest and texture to any landscape. It has a soft looking foliage adding variety and depth to any garden. Used in small areas, it is especially effective when paired with complimenting shrubs.

    Facts about the Dwarf Himalayan Pine:

    Scientific Name : Pinus wallichiana
    Cultivar:  Nana
    Foliage Color: Blue-green or Blue-gray
    Height:  8-10′
    Width/Spread:  5-7′

    Good things to know about Dwarf Himalayan Pine:

    Dwarf Himalayan Pine have a winter hardiness of zone 5. They are appropriate for planting in Iowa. Although this is a dwarf variety, they can still grow up to 10′ and beyond when fully mature; which is small compared to its full size counterpart.  Keep this in mind when planning your landscape. The sun requirement is full to partial. They should not be planted where drainage is poor. They prefer moist but well drained soil. This pine offers a low maintenance option for home landscapes.

    Care and Maintenance.

    These are low maintenance conifers. You can slow the growth of your Dwarf Himalayan Pine by pruning. Simply snap the new growth or candles in half- do not cut branches. New candles are tender and can be easily pinched off in the spring. This method does not reduce the plant size. However, it can make it appear bushier and fuller. The shape of this conifer is pyramidal.

    You will find Dwarf Himalayan Pine in the South Conifer Bed at Demonstration Garden.

    Conifers can be enjoyed year round and this variety stays blue-green all year long. Visit demonstration garden’s Conifer bed to observe this species and see it demonstrated. you might even see a Black Capped Chickadee safe behind its branches. This pine is not native to the U.S. As is found in its name, it is native to the Himalayas.

  • 17 Apr 2019 5:01 PM | Brenda Peshak

    Learn about how to do raised bed gardening.

    Planting Spring Crops From Seed Has Many Benefits.

    Now is the time to sow seeds outdoors for cold hardy crops. Planting spring crops from seed directly outdoors has many benefits. Sowing seeds directly is simpler and less time consuming than starting seeds indoors because there is no need to harden off plants. In addition, it can be a challenge starting seeds indoors unless you have a greenhouse or growing lamps.

    Benefits of Planting Spring Crops from Seed

    Seeds are less expensive than transplants. They also offer a wide variety of choices. They provide less risk of disease transmission from unknowingly setting out contaminated plants. In addition, if seeds aren’t used during a season they can be effectively stored for use again the next year. A cool dry place is all that is needed to preserve most seeds for following years. Keep seeds in an airtight container. Placing a desiccant, such as silica gel, calcium chloride, or a bundle of powdered milk will remove moisture.

    How many seeds should I plant?

    Most hobby gardeners make the mistake of planting far too many seeds. This will create a crowded or overgrown plot. Don’t be tempted to throw an entire package of seeds into the ground at once. Most seed packets contain hundreds of tiny seeds. Do you even want a percentage of those seeds at harvest time? Instead, plant the right amount for harvest and space accordingly. Consider a second or third round if you aim to have fresh veggies each week. For example, if you want lettuce weekly, don’t plant ALL your lettuce in one week. Instead plant a few each week during the cool season and again late summer for fall harvest.

    What NOT to Plant from Seed

    Save yourself the time and disappointment by planting the following as transplant only: tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. These plants take too long to start from seed in the spring. Iowa’s short growing season just doesn’t afford the time to start these crops from seed outdoors. You will not have enough time to harvest them before frost in the fall. Therefore, enjoy starting these summer garden favorites with a good size healthy transplant after danger of the first frost.

  • 30 Mar 2019 1:00 AM | Brenda Peshak

    What does it mean to harden off plants?

    Handling transplants is usually successful. However, when sowing seeds indoors it’s important to properly prepare them for transplanting outdoors. It is very discouraging to spend several weeks sowing seeds indoors only to have them fail once transplanted outdoors. To “harden off” refers to a process that acclimates plants to being outdoors gradually so that when finally translated they will have a higher rate of success.

    Steps to “harden off” transplants.

    Thinking of this process in steps may help to make it seem less challenging. During this entire process make sure the transplants stay watered. However, be sure not to overwater.

    1. Initially place plants outside for a few days in a shady spot protected from the wind and the direct hot sun. Bring them in at night. Do this for at least two days.
    2. Next, place them in a sunnier and less protected area for a day or two. Bring them in at night.
    3. Finally, expose them to more sun and the elements for at least two days.

    Once they have gone through this “hardening off” process they should have a very good chance of doing well when you plant them into your garden given you water them properly, especially in the beginning, and that the location is appropriate to your plant selection.


  • 30 Mar 2019 1:00 AM | Brenda Peshak
    Cold Hardy Plants which can be planted in the Spring.

    What are Cold Hardy Plants?

    Cold hardy plants are another name for cool-season crops. They are any agricultural, garden, or ornamental plant which thrives in the cooler weather of spring or fall. These plants may withstand a light frost.

    Spring is the time to plant Cold Hardy Plants.

    Cold hardy plants such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, beets, and leeks may be planted into the garden in early spring but here in Iowa it’s hard to know when to start. Late frosts and a fierce March make early spring planting in Iowa seem unrealistic. However, with proper care and protection there are several garden plants which enjoy the cool temperatures. They may also be planted in mid-summer to be harvested in the fall.

    These vegetables and garden plants are:

    • cauliflower
    • broccoli
    • kale
    • kohlrabi
    • brussel sprouts
    • lettuce
    • beets
    • spinach
    • arugula
    • radish
    • onions
    • beets
    • carrots
    • peas
    • swiss chard

    These cold-loving crops can be planted far earlier than typical summer plants which must wait till after the last frost. Often, they can be started in late March and early April, or as soon as the ground becomes workable, if covered when temperatures reach below freezing. If you have started your seeds indoors, be sure to first harden them off, or acclimate them to the outdoors, before transplanting. If covering crops as needed seems too challenging to keep up with, a cold box is another effective option.

    Many herbs and ornamentals are cold hearty plants.

    Additionally, many herbs and ornamentals also withstand a light frost. These cold hardy plants are rosemary, thyme, parsley, chives, oregano, sage, pansies, ornamental cabbage, snapdragon, and sweet alyssum.

<< First  < Prev   ...   2   3   4   5   6   Next >  Last >> 

Contact Us
Office: 515-957-5768

ISU Extension and Outreach, Polk County:
1625 Adventureland Dr.
Suite A | Altoona, IA 50009

This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to  

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software