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2014's Garden Stars


April 2014

2014 is the year of the petunia — and echinacea and cucumber. That’s according to the National Garden Bureau, which highlights one annual, one perennial and one edible each year. The national gardening nonprofit chooses the plants based on their popularity, variety, ease of growth, adaptability and versatility.

With gardening season nearly upon us, we’ve asked local landscape designers for tips on incorporating the NGB’s 2014 plants into your own home landscape.


An incredibly versatile flower available in a multitude of colors, the petunia has long been a favorite annual among home gardeners. "Petunias are an easy way to add color to your yard," says Chris Oberndorfer, owner of Oberndorfer Landscape Development in Mequon.

Easy to grow and maintain, petunias can be planted as a border or en masse to add color and fill space in home landscapes. "They’re a great filler plant since they’re low-growing and tend to spread," Oberndorfer says. "I like to plant four or five flats at a time."

Described by the NGB as the perfect go-to gardening friend for sunny places, petunias also work well in containers like hanging baskets and window boxes. "Petunias are such great performers," says John Erdmann, owner of Terra Tec in Richfield. "They deliver a nice punch of color wherever they’re used."


An American staple, echinacea is available in a variety of colors and shapes. Commonly known as the coneflower, this popular perennial is daisy-like in appearance but has a more prominent, spiky cone surrounded by colorful petals.

Landscape designers typically use echinacea in planting beds as a way to provide multiseason color, texture and shape. Oberndorfer prefers to use echinacea in landscape borders or as a background flower. "Echinacea works well in mixed beds since it blooms in late summer," he says.

A hearty flower that is generally drought-tolerant and deer-resistant, Erdmann says echinacea is a great way to ensure continuous color into the fall. Among his favorite varieties are All That Jazz, Harvest Moon and Maui Sunshine. "Echinacea is a great choice for mid- to late summer when annuals are looking a little spent," he says.






One of the top five most popular vegetables, cucumbers are a staple in backyard vegetable patches. Typically divided into three categories — pickling, slicing and burpless — they come in all shapes, sizes and colors beyond the standard elongated green varieties.

Oberndorfer says he likes training the plants to grow vertically on trellises or other structures to add visual interest to vegetable gardens. "Most cucumbers have vibrant yellow flowers when they bloom, which creates a nice focal point," Oberndorfer says.

Erdmann prefers the burpless varieties because they tend to be sweeter and easier to digest. He says cucumber plants grow best in mounds — dirt piles about a foot in diameter and 3 inches high. "It keeps the roots from getting water-logged," he explains.


This story ran in the April 2014 issue of: