Spring is here! The birds are singing up a storm of joy and giving voice to what we are all feeling – it’s really happening, spring is here!

We had a great turnout at last Saturday’s Perennial Seminar, and everyone was excited by the warm weather and new selection of woodland wildflower bulbs. If we weren’t blessed with your presence at the seminar, however, or if you missed a couple notes, here’s the rundown.

For starters

As we plan our perennial gardens and review last year, there are a few points to keep in mind.

  • The extended forecast looks great, but this is still Minnesota, so just keep doing what we do best and be prepared for Mother Nature’s mood swings.
  • This winter was mild but we also had very little snow, which acts as a natural mulch. This means you might have a few new opportunities for new plants. (In plainspeak: some plants might be dead and you’ll want to replace them.)
  • The winter was dry. Be prepared to water if we don’t get adequate moisture this spring.

Garden basics

Soil is more than a place holder for plants — it is the keeper of water and nutrients that help plants thrive and grow. To give plants what they need, know your soil and treat it well. The best way to know is to have a soil test done.

The University of Minnesota Soil Lab will analyze your lawn or garden for $17. To find information on how to collect samples, the form to fill out, and how to submit, go here: http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/testing-services/lawn-garden

Water is important to plant growth. Not only the amount, but how watering is performed. Water early in the day to avoid evaporation, for best absorption into soil, and to allow plants to dry out, which helps prevent fungal diseases. Water the soil rather than the plant, and water deeply less often, rather than shallowly more often.

Fertilize perennials a couple of times – early spring and mid-season. Don’t fertilize after August 15. This is the point at which plants need to start gearing toward dormancy rather than ramping up for growth.


Fewer pollinators are every gardener’s problem, so it’s every gardener’s responsibility. We need the bees and butterflies. Without them, our flowers and food will not exist as we know them. What the pollinators need is good, clean plants. Nectar and pollen keep them healthy and strong and able to reproduce, and they in turn facilitate plant reproduction, which is how we get our flowers, fruits and veggies. So besides being adorable, pollinators are pretty important.

Some basic tips for pollinator gardening:

  • Plant a variety of flower colors and shapes to attract a variety of different pollinators.
  • Leave some bare soil for native, ground-nesting bees (under bunching grass is great).
  • Plant milkweed for  monarch butterfly larvae.
  • Consider letting some “weeds” grow in your lawn. Prunella, clover, creeping thyme — and yes, even dandelions — are all mowable and provide good food for pollinators.
  • Plant early-, mid-, and late-season bloomers

New (to the market, or just to us) and noteworthy:

Echinacea Playful Meadow Mama at Tonkadale GreenhouseEchinacea Playful Meadow Mama grows to 2 feet tall, likes full sun, and provides a perfect landing pad for both bees and butterflies.

Solidago Little Lemon is a goldenrod cultivar. This late bloomer is shorter than the original, growing just 1.5 feet tall. It loves full sun, tolerates deer and clay, and butterflies love it.

Hot Rod Grass is drought tolerant, great for erosion control, the perfect prairie flower companion, and provides stunning fall color. It grows 3-4 feet tall, 2 feet wide, and can be planted in full to part sun.

Veronica Aztec Gold likes part to full sun and can handle any soil. It’s easy to grow, and at just 6 inches tall with a long bloom time, it’s perfect for borders. Attracts bees and butterflies.

Veronica Blue Skywalker grows to about 2.5 feet tall, can handle any type of soil and likes part to full sun. Attracts bees and butterflies.

Phlox Bambini Candy Crush grows to just 1 foot tall, so it’s perfect for near the garden border. It took seven years to develop a stable bi-color, and the wait was clearly worth it. Attracts butterflies.

Hens and chicks are also called Sempervivum, which literally means “lives forever,” an apt name since they are spreaders and just keeping making more babies, or “chicks.” These plants are drought tolerant, great for xeriscaping, and have shallow roots so they do well in rock gardens and crevices.

Sedum Sod is a mixture of low-growing ground cover sedum of different leaf shapes and colors and different flower colors. It’s the perfect planting solution for areas in between full-sun stepping stones and around patios and walkways that are hot and dry.

Sedum Rock ‘n Grow Lemonjade is the first upright sedum to have yellow flowers! ‘Nuf said.

Sedum Pure Joy is an upright pink flowering variety, but its blooms form a sort of solid mound, making it appear completely pink when in bloom.

Sedum sieboldii is a plant for all three growing seasons. Cute, roundy leaves and a cascading groundcover habit make this a great filler in the spring garden. In summer it’s loaded with delicate pink blooms, and in fall the foliage changes from green to a beautiful pink, adding interest to the late-season garden.

Martagon Lilies are here! The wait is over! We thought we wouldn’t see these until 2018, but we searched and searched – and then a grower just walked right in our front door (isn’t that how it always goes?). Martagons grow 4-6 feet tall, prefer dappled sunlight, or morning light and evening shade. They like to be well-spaced for quicker drying after a rain. Here’s what we’ll have this year:

  • Claude Shride (maroon).
  • Mrs. R.O. Backhouse (pinky yellow).
  • Albiflorum (white).

Lily of the valley can be aggressive, but that can also make it perfect for the right area. Besides, the scent is otherworldly. In addition to the white flowering variety, we’ll carry one with a pink flower and one with white flowers and variegated leaves this year.

Epimedium is the new must-have shade plant (especially since it likes dry soil and that’s a big problem area for many gardeners). Early blooms, spreading ground cover, and a variety of flower shapes and colors make this one even more appealing. Dark Beauty has deep purple foliage, Ellen Wilmott has orange flowers, and Pink Champagne is a bit taller than the rest with interestingly shaped blooms.

Tatting Fern – a cute new fern! This one grows to just 1 foot tall and is perfect for borders.

Brother Stefan, the 2017 Hosta of the Year, grows 3 feet wide and 20 inches tall. The flowers are short compared to other varieties, and sit just above foliage. Thick leaves offer some slug resistance and the blooms attract hummingbirds

Hosta Miracle Lemony is the first-ever hosta with a yellow flower! Foliage grows 1 foot tall and the blooms attract hummingbirds.

Chocolate Shogun Astilbe grows to be about 2 feet tall and likes part sun to shade and damp soil. It has deeply colored leaves that make a stunning backdrop for the light pink flowers. Astilbe attract butterflies and are deer resistant.

Shade Clematis

  • Abilene
  • Bernadine
  • Candy Stripe
  • Chantilly
  • Clair de Lune
  • Corinne
  • Fleuri
  • Nelly Moser
  • Samaritan Jo
  • Sapphire Indigo
  • Texensis Duchess of Albany
  • Viticella, Venosa, Violacea

Woodland Wildflower Bulbs

Hairy Angelica typically grows 3-4 feet tall, but can reach up to 6 feet tall. It likes full sun to part shade and can handle any type of soil. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Jack in the Pulpit likes moist soil and shady areas. It is early- to mid-season flowering and produces Autumn berries that attract thrushes.

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain likes dappled light and evenly moist, acidic soil. It grows to be about 1 foot tall and bees love it.

Ditch Lily grows 2-4 feet tall and can be grown dry or wet in part to full sun. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds

Trillium like part to full shade and moist soil. They grow just 1.5 feet tall, but as early spring bloomers they put on a noticeable show. Some attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Tonkadale has three colors to choose from – a light pink, yellow, or deep red.

Yellow Fringed Orchid likes part to full sun and high moisture. They grow 3-4 feet tall and attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

New shrubs!

Clethra Ruby SpiceClethra (Summersweet) is quite fragrant, both sweet and spicy. These shrubs prefer moist conditions, but can handle being a little dry now and again once they are established. They like acidic soil, and range in height from 3 to 8 feet, depending on variety. We’ll carry Hummingbird, Ruby Spice and Sixteen Candles.

Hydrangea Diamond Rouge grows 4’-5’ tall and 3’-4’ wide. The flowers go from white to deep pink, then finally to a deep wine color in fall. This hydrangea likes full sun and requires medium watering.

Integrated Pest Management

This is the best way to go to avoid damage to your garden, and avoid environmental damage from trying to fix bug and fungal problems once they’ve gone too far.

Be out there, be watching.

  • Where is it?
  • What is it?
  • What else is in the area?
  • Kids or pets, water, patio, house, others plants?
  • What, if anything, should I do?

If it’s beneficial – keep it happy.

If it’s on a butterfly highway plant, squish it, spray it (with water), or leave it.

Identify it (we can help!) and decide how important it is to launch an assault. Maybe you just hack it off and say “Better luck next year!”

Quick tip: Try a trug! Place something over the top of plants you don’t want to treat to protect them (from herbicides, protect flowers from pesticide…)

Want it but we don’t have it?

We do try to carry as many new, fun, and interesting plants as we can, but we just can’t carry them all! So what do you do if you find something you must have? Order from Shop Monrovia, of course!

Click this link to search for the plants of your dreams and have them delivered right to your favorite greenhouse (ahem, that would be Tonkadale!) for you to pick up: https://shop.monrovia.com/tonkadale

Plants from the growing range are starting to land in the perennial area (in very limited numbers, it’s still a little early). We’ll start to roll in more and more plants as the weeks go by – we’re excited to see them and you! Here we go!