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Iowa Gardening: Bloom Time 2012

Gardeners, start your trowels!

Story by Deb Wiley

Iowa gardeners dig new plants.

They enjoy the chance to buy the latest trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, or vegetables — but prefer selections that have been carefully vetted by garden center professionals.

“I think most experienced gardeners are leery of things that are new,” says Keith Kovarik, who operates K&K Gardens with his wife, Kelli, in the northeast Iowa town of Hawkeye.

Kristy Ostrander, owner of Ostrander’s Flowers in Eldon, says her southeast Iowa customers sometimes ask for new plants seen in magazines, and that can be frustrating.

“A lot of times it’s things we’ve never heard of,” she says, noting the experienced cautiousness of many area gardeners. “People around here tend to go with what they know works.”

That’s also true in southwest Iowa, where Jacque Greene, owner of Kelly’s Flowers, Gifts and Garden Center in Creston, introduces new annuals in creative combinations that she preplants in containers. “I’m trying to get a few younger customers excited about gardening or at least get them into container gardening if I can.”

Northwest Iowa’s Jane Hogue, owner of the Prairie Pedlar of rural Odebolt, introduces her customers to choice annuals in the display beds on her country-chic farm. Visitors are greeted with a healthy pop of color.

Customers of Loki’s Garden tend to be a bit more adventurous, “totally on the lookout for what’s new and interesting,” says Justin Hancock, one of four co-owners of the Des Moines-area garden center known for out-of-the-ordinary plants.

To satisfy them, Hancock hunts for superior traits, such as “a new color in the genus, if it blooms more than the standard variety on the market, if it has a new habit, if the seeds are sterile, or if it’s variegated. I’m a fan of just about anything variegated.”


Spring is on the horizon, and Iowa gardeners will soon find an array of new — or fairly new — plants on the benches of the state’s top independent garden centers. Ready, set, dig!

(Read more Bloom Time 2012)

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