Every year, something beautiful happens at Reptile Gardens. An army of gardeners descends upon the grounds, and transforms the winter barren flowerbeds into a fragrant sea of stunning annual flowers. Our gardeners plant over 40,000 annuals, and hundreds of perennial species as well. While many people know that Reptile Gardens is home to the world’s largest reptile collection, folks are often pleasantly surprised to learn that our grounds are a botanical-lovers paradise as well.
Guests often ask our gardeners for advice and ideas on plant species selection and general care. To transform your backyard into a private oasis, our resident expert “green-thumb” David Yahne details a few favorite plant species which thrive in the Dakota climate.
“One of my all-time personal favorite plants is called Amaranthus cauditus or “love lies bleeding.” This plant is an old-world species, which was quite popular in Victorian gardens and as far back as in Shakespeare’s day. They were also a favorite of Colonial American gardens as well. This gorgeous plant grows to be 4 to 6 feet tall, produces large, jungle-like foliage and features crimson tassels that cascade to the ground in an exotic, showy fashion. Amaranthus cauditis is absolutely perfect for adding drama and intrigue to your garden. This annual flower blooms from summer to early fall, and prefers full-sun exposure.”
“Another great way to add color and diversity to flowerbeds and landscaped areas is to plant a Lobelia hybrid called “trailing dark blue lobelia”. This flower is a great annual choice for the climate of the Dakotas. Lobelia tolerates full sun to part shade, and blooms continuously from planting to first frost. This flower is low maintenance, no “deadheading” required. Hummingbirds and other bird species are also attracted to Lobelia.”
“Petunia lovers will be pleased to know that there is an exciting new petunia hybrid that grows to hedge-like proportions and produces abundant colorful blooms. The first “hedgetunia”, Tidal Wave™ Spreading Petunia creates an extremely full plant that continues to grow until it reaches a shrub-like shape. This plant holds its shape all season, and spreads like a ground cover, expanding 2.5 to 4ft per plant. Tidal Wave ™ petunias are well suited for large containers or large landscaped areas and prefer full sun exposure.”
“Great gardens are much more than what you see on the surface however. Beneath all those flower blooms and foliage are tender roots, eager to absorb nutrients and minerals from the soil. It goes without saying that healthy soil, makes for healthy plants. We here in the Black Hills of South Dakota are challenged with less-than-ideal native soil. Fortunately, compost is a natural choice to re-charge the soil, and boost plant growth. Reptile Gardens is committed to conservation; we process all of our tree limbs and similar yard waste into top-quality mulch compost for our planter beds. For information on compost availability in your area, be sure to check with your local municipality. Folks in the Rapid City area will be pleased to know that the Rapid City Landfill offers excellent quality compost at very reasonable price.”
For a first hand look at the plants mentioned above, be sure to visit Reptile Gardens this season. You’ll find these plant species, and so much more. Many plants here at Reptile Gardens can’t be found anywhere else but their native habitat, often many thousands of miles from South Dakota. Come on out and see us this season, there is something fun for everyone!
-Ary Den Otter
24 July 2010