Coneflowers and pizza boxes this spring

Soon to be the next big thing!

Hope you don’t think less of the Head Groundskeeper (if that were possible) when we tell you that the indentured servants at Stately Blaska Manor save their pizza delivery boxes. Can’t waste good cardboard like that! Turns out they were just the right size of the latest project on the Experimental Work Farm (and Penal Colony). 

We’re enamored of stands of naturalized, native perennials. We swing more along the lines of Capability Brown than Louis Quattorze’s formalized gardens at Versailles. The monarda (aka bee balm), for instance, has established itself nicely here and there. It goes where it wants outside the vegetable garden and where there is no lawn — which keeps shrinking every year.

Last August, decided to establish a stand of echinacea purpurea (aka coneflower). We love the drooping nature of the petals and the earth hues — predominantly a dusky purple but also burnt orange, rusty red, yellow, and white. Hold their petals longer than many perennials and their burly seed heads remain throughout the winter. And rabbits don’t like them!

Chose an expanse in the front lawn for several varieties of echinacea: Fine Feather Parrot, Green Twister, Cheyenne Spirit, Puff Vanilla, and Price Is White. Also some Party Girl prairie mallow that resembles gladiolas, some Red Fox veronica, and Honorine Jobert Japanese anemone

Low-mowed the patch, roto-tilled, and socked in the plants. Buried bare soil under a generous layer of marsh hay. Lo! (and Behold!) this spring, couldn’t find any but the prairie mallow, with its distinctive leaves. Problem was this: my tilling had not dislodged the rhizome network of the dominant [CORRECTION] creeping bellflower. Could not distinguish the coneflower leaves from the established bellflowers. Sure we kept the identifying plant tabs — tiny enough to get lost amidst the foliage and the thick marsh hay — which did NOT restrain the undergrowth of bellflowers.

Cheyenne Spirit echinacea (left) and Sunseeker Salmon coneflower are already blooming through the cardboard. O.K., may look a mess now but flower growth will conceal everything. Is the plan, anyway.

Maybe the Head Groundskeeper panicked but he went wild at his first visit to Kopke Greenhouse outside Oregon WI. They have everything! Stocked up on $150 worth of Prairie Splendor Deep Rose echinacea, Sunseeker Salmon coneflowers, some native (unimproved) coneflowers, some penstemon, and two hardy Crane Dance wild geraniums

It’s cardboard mulch

To make room for each, pulled out the creeping bellflowers. Sure, their roots remained. This is where the cardboard pizza boxes come in. Separated lid from bottom and punched the posthole digger down on each to fashion a hole for the plant. Dropped the plant down the hole, filled remaining void with soil and poured rest of dirt atop the pizza box to keep it flush with the ground. Brown side up = less noticeable. Stapled the plant I.D. tabs to wooden stakes.

Blaska’s Bottom Line: The pizza boxes demarcate each plant. Their cardboard will transmit moisture while giving the flower a chance to flourish by holding back the undergrowth. Eventually, that cardboard will disintegrate and the flowers will spread. While rooting around on hands and knees, did locate many of the August plantings. (But none of the anemones.) No doubt, some were uprooted in my haste or covered by cardboard.

UPDATE: Will keep a few bellflowersjust because they volunteered doesn’t mean they aren’t pretty, too. Upon doing more research, bellflowers spread by rhizomes and will knock out my echinacea and other flowers. Must eradicate! Downloaded a plant identifier for my smartphone from iNaturalist. Won’t make that mistake again!

What do YOU do when the country is going to hell?


About David Blaska

Madison WI
This entry was posted in Experimental Work Farm, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Coneflowers and pizza boxes this spring

  1. Pingback: Coneflowers and pizza boxes this spring – Wisconsin Family News

  2. pANTIFArts says:

    p’s gardening tip:

    My neighbor was arrested for growing pot. Always verify property lines before you plant.


    • pANTIFArts says:

      Coneflowers are an excellent choice. They are prolific bloomers, and thus, prolific seeders. They are popular with butterflies and birds, and, thanks to those birds (finches, buntings,etc.), you might have hundreds of seedlings in a few years. Just learn to identify them.

      Garden centers, this time of year, often have bags of LIATRIS corms, you should get some. LIATRIS is a tough, authentic prairie flower in an easy to plant “pill form”. (just plant them right-side-up.)

      To kill bellflowers, or ANY unwanted plant, GLYPHOSATE is a 50 year standard. It will kill any plant that it touches, (kills tops, roots, rhizomes), yet does not affect soil or move through the air. I could give further detailed instructions on how to apply it, but those are available, I’m sure, on the internet.

      Two bits of advice. When spraying weeds/unwanted plants, people often pull, mow, weedwhack first, then spray the stubs. This is a waste of time and money. The “kill” depends on the amount of chemical absorbed, and THAT depends on the amount of green leaves and stems exposed to the product. SECONDLY, bellflowers are prodigious seeders, so you might have a lot of seedlings this year. These will need to be rubbed/scraped as they sprout. Plants damaged in the seed leaf or first leaf stage cannot survive.


      • David Blaska says:

        Thanks. I have to apologize for this blogge. Had a miscommunication with my plant identifier who said the flowers were blue therefore the bellflower was a bluebell. But leaves sure looked different than bluebell flowers. Should have double checked. Agree with the RoundUp but my plan now is to dig out as many as I feel up to (not getting any younger), then smother everything outside the coneflowers with brown paper, mulch, etc. Will hit with RoundUp anything that sneaks past.


        • Cornelius_Gotchberg says:

          If you’re interested, there’s an organic herbicide alternative to the ruinously toxic Roundup (which in no way shape or form contributes anything positive to your SOIL‘s well-being) is vinegar, salt, & Dawn dish soap; works like charm.

          IMO, the worst garden scourge is Non-Variegated Bishop’s Weed/Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria), the all-green variety of Snow-On-The-Mountain.

          After encroaching from a neighbor’s yard, it took The Gotch ~ five (5) weeks to dig up ~ 1500 square feet/140 square meters, clump by freakin’ clump, crumbling each spade-caking Midvale Heights clay one of ’em to remove every last little speck of root.

          Dang near wore out the shovel…

          The Gotch


        • David Blaska says:

          We have that too but at least is constrained by sidewalk and driveway.


    • pANTIFArts says:

      A new fun project for all:

      Hummingbirds love moving water, who knew? And solar powered as well.


  3. Cornelius_Gotchberg says:

    What do YOU do when the country is going to hell?

    Plant Tomatoes, Peppers, Zukes, Cukes, Squarsh, Pak Choi, Space Hybrid Spinach, Lettuces galore, Italian Flat Leaf-n-Triple Curled Parsley, Emerald Tower-n-Lettuce Leaf Basil, Garlic, etc., etc., etc!

    The Gotch


  4. steve says:

    what kind of pizza for the boxes??


  5. Cornelius_Gotchberg says:

    It Is Spring Again. The Earth is Like A Child That Knows Poems By Heart. R.M. Rilke

    Spring Unlocks The Flowers To Paint The Laughing Soil. Bishop R. Heber

    You May Drive Out Nature With A Pitch Fork, Yet She Will Still Hurry Back Horace

    The Gotch


  6. Pingback: Coneflowers and pizza boxes this spring | Mon site officiel / My official website

  7. TRAILBLAZER says:

    Keep going and enjoy. Have a great day.


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s