Greetings Friends! 


Welcome to the June issue of the Leaf in Brief! This month is the second installment of Propagator, Ben French's "Naughty Natives" series. Ben discusses four native Wisconsin shrubs that, while important to our ecosystem, might pose some problems if planted in the wrong location. 


June is the traditional month of weddings and the summer solstice. June also marks festival season in southeast Wisconsin, so how fitting that our Plant of the Month is a shout out to Milwaukee. The Milwaukee's Calatrava Rose is a distinguished, elegant and beautiful shrubrose with ties to the Milwaukee Art Museum, and was developed by a Milwaukee native!


Did you know that there are ancient Roman connections between roses, the goddess Juno, and weddings? Check out the Leaf Lore section to learn why the month of June is symbolized by the rose.


Scroll down to the gardening tips section to learn if your Butterflybush (Buddleia) made it through winter and to watch our summer-related gardening videos.

Thank you for reading. Enjoy!


If you enjoy the Leaf in Brief, you'll love us on Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. Stay connected to Johnson's Nursery by subscribing today!

If you wish to stop receiving these emails, there is a SafeUnsubscribe link at the bottom of this email.

In This Issue

Retail Hours

For More Plant Matters...
Like us on Facebook
View our videos on YouTube
Find us on Pinterest
Follow us on Twitter
Naughty Natives (Part 2)FeatureArticle 
by Ben French, Propagator
Ben French, Propagator

If Part 1 of my Naughty Natives series where I talked about unruly native trees left you wanting more, then today is your lucky day.


Like certain trees, the following shrubs are often classified as weeds. I think this is an unfair distinction. Placed properly and with a little maintenance, these potentially unruly shrubs can be a great asset to a landscape and an even greater asset to native wildlife. Just think before you plant.


Cornus racemosa - Gray Dogwood

Have you ever encountered a dog that wouldn't stay put? Have you ever found yourself standing on the sidewalk stoically - trying to have patience while some over-eager mutt slobbers all over you? If you place this shrub in too small a space you may end up feeling somewhat similar.


This is not a plant for a foundation planting or a small lot. Stems can be 3' to 15' tall - but the spreading, suckering habitat can quickly spread if no adjacent plant competition exists. Sucker-tastic! Give this shrub an inch and it will take an acre.


Placed correctly, in as much sun as it can get, and well away from other woodies, this can be quite a nice plant. It has many slightly attractive features that on their own may not be so awe-inspiring, but, when combined, add up to a fairly ornamental plant. It has shiny green leaves that appear mid-spring followed the end of May/beginning of June by small bunches of yellowish or creamy white flowers that attract many oddball pollinators such as hoverflies, tiny wasps, bees, and butterflies. These flowers eventually turn into little white berries with a black spot - much like a dozen doll's eyes perched atop a bright red bunch of stems, which stay on the plant even after the local birds and propagators pick the berries off. It can have a plum fall color that lasts through the end of the season.


I think it ought to be used more in restoration projects where there is difficulty controlling woody invasive plants such as buckthorn and honeysuckle. Almost nothing can survive under the established dogwood patch. It provides food and a thicket-type habitat for native insects and birds.


As far as dogs go - this one may not be for the neat and tidy home or anywhere near the sofa - but it makes one heck of a guard dog.


Speaking of dogs - and of course I mean dogwoods - Johnson's Nursery has a selection of Gray Dogwood crossed with a relative, Silky Dogwood (Cornus ammomum), to form 'Irish Setter' Dogwood. 'Irish Setter' has red stems that are very showy in the winter, disease resistant dark green foliage, and nice white bunches of flowers right in June. It sets minimal fruit - but when it does they are a blueish-white color. It does spread, but at a much slower rate than its parent species.

This picture was taken on Good Hope Rd, just before you hit Lannon (by the quarries).
Picture provided by Mike Yanny.


The Sumacs - "Band of Rhus Brothers"  

Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina
Stellar fall color of Staghorn Sumac 
Smooth Sumac, Rhus glabra 
Baby Rhus glabra in #2 Container
Shining Sumac, Rhus copallina 
Fragrant Sumac, Rhus aromatica

Sumacs are a really interesting bunch of plants. Depending which ones we're talking about, they can be a vine, a low shrub, a tall shrub, a small tree, or a large grove of smaller trees.


Members of this local plant syndicate include the infamous poison sumac, toxic poison ivy, and the more approachable members such as staghorn, smooth, shining and fragrant sumac.


Let's start with my favorite. Staghorn Sumac - Rhus typhina - is a stellar plant for larger places. It can be tree-like, but it thinks it's a shrub...just a really big one. You'll find Staghorn Sumac along highways, in open areas where little else will grow, and along the woodland edge. On several occasions I've seen it trained as a single stem tree surrounded by lawn. It sends up suckers a couple times a year, but it's nothing regular mowing can't handle.


Depending on the particular ecotype, I've seen them as a 4' tall spreading colony to a 20' tall single stem tree. Usually they land somewhere in between, in the 10-12 foot range as a spreading colony.


Its flowers aren't much of anything, but the large tropical-looking pinnate leaves are unique among shrubs in our area. The true-beauty of this plant is the fall color - which is unrivaled amongst our flora except maybe by Sugar Maple, J.N. Strain Musclewood, and perhaps Chokeberry. Staghorn Sumacs are indifferent to soil conditions except that they don't like very wet sites.


The coarse structure of Staghorn Sumac is interesting in winter; tall barren stems topped with dark red clusters of fuzzy berry-like seeds in a rough cone shape. They are not relished by birds, but it seems they serve as a desperate late winter fare, as they usually seem to get picked over a few months after the snow falls.


A variation of all of the above descriptions is the Smooth Sumac - Rhus glabra - which is a lot like Staghorn, but grows with a hairless stem. Similarly, Shining Sumac - Rhus copallina - is generally a bit smaller in most regards. Its leaves have a widened rib in between the leaflets - which makes you wonder why the leaves decided to be pinnate in the first place.


Fragrant Sumac - Rhus aromatica - is a bit different from its brethren. It's a finer textured plant, with smaller branches and smaller leaves that fit closer to the true shrub idea. This little brother is scrappy and can take a beating, able to withstand sandy areas, limestone ledges, rocky outcrops and Wal-Mart parking lots (most parking lots employ the ubiquitous dwarf cultivar "Gro-Low"). They are drought, salt, insect, deer, rabbit and generally death-resistant plants. Left to their own devices, Fragrant Sumacs can become quite large - I've seen specimens approaching 15' in height or more, but they love a good hedging and can be brought to a civilized scale with once a year maintenance.

Physocarpus opulifolius
- Common Ninebark - "Riotous Rambler"

Common Ninebark has some pretty sophisticated cousins. Some are regally bedecked in rich burgundy, with bright flowering flourishes. Some come gilded with a golden hue denoting fine breeding. Others yet come in diminutive stature with all the fine textures of King Louis XIV's robe. I think one is even named after a queen....or in honor of one. 'Amber Jubilee'? Whatever.


But as the rich and powerful stroll on by in their Proven Winners pots and their Monrovia air of superiority* - there is a plain black pot behind them, unadorned and unadvertised. It doesn't come branded and no royalties are paid, nor does it have a 6"x4" glossy colored stick fanfare. This is the Common Ninebark.


It's got a lot of really nice attributes that can qualify it for some yards...but not all of them. Here at Johnson's - we propagate from plants native to the region - which I think makes them special. In early summer they flower fairly prolifically in white bunches, much like a spirea. These are followed by reddish seed heads that are a welcome addition to the late summer garden. In winter there is a little interest in the bark on the older canes - long strips of exfoliating bark reveal a couple different reddish browns and tans. I've never counted how many colors, but this is what the plant is named for. Birds use these strips for building nests.


So, it's no queen or king of the garden, just a poor shrub from a poor family...but Common Ninebark reminds me of a great buddy you've gone drinking with before. A buddy whose vigor for life, tenacity, and steadfast view on politics make him just as important (or more so) than any royal.


*In full disclosure, Johnson's Nursery sells stock from both of these fine and powerful breeders, and in no way means to cause offense to their colorful cousins of Common Ninebark*

Physocarpus opulifolius, Common Ninebark


Reddish seed heads. 
Familiar branching and bark.

Rubus parvifolius - Thimbleberry - "Shady Character"

The fruit is delicious. The flowers - nice. The leaves - interesting. But, lurking underneath the leaf litter, sliding through the loam, lies the rhizomes of a massing shade shrub.


Thimbleberry is like the gray dogwood of the deep shade. This may be one of the most shade tolerant shrubs native to WI. I've seen it growing under the full shade of hemlocks and sugar maples. It seems to need humus rich soils that have abundant moisture content - so I think dry shade might be unsuitable, but I've never seen it tried.


The fruiting capacity of Thimbleberry is not nearly on par with its relatives, blackberries and raspberries. The volume is rarely heavy - only putting out a few berries for every stem (and only the high ones), but the few produced are very tasty - being closest in flavor to a wild red raspberry. They are also incredibly tender.

The flowers are cute, a clean white with a greenish-yellow center, but somewhat sparse and sporadic on the plant. They also flower briefly, so it's easy to miss the show.


I like the texture of this plant. Its leaf structure is very different from other Rubus species- it looks like a ruffled maple leaf. If you have some "shady" neighbors you don't want to see, with a bit of sun, this shady shrub forms a dense canopy that is difficult to see through. In deeper shade it becomes more airy in leaf and taller in height.


Note: In container culture, the tops die back in winter fairly regularly for me, but come back very strong from the base and out the drainage holes in the pot. My workers call it a "jailbreaker" plant.

PLANT OF THE MONTH:PlantofMonth Rosa 'Radfragwhite'
Milwaukee's Calatrava Rose
Rosa 'Radfragwhite'

When you live in Wisconsin, there are very few perennials or shrubs that will bloom throughout the summer. Milwaukee's own William Radler revolutionized the way people garden with his Knock OutŪ Rose series. Finally, there were hardier rose options besides the very finicky floribundas and hybrid teas. However, a common complaint has been that the Knock OutŪ roses sacrificed that classic rose fragrance in exchange for winter hardiness and disease resistance.


In 2011, the Milwaukee's Calatrava Rose was introduced to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Quadracci Pavilion addition at the Milwaukee Art Museum ( designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. The white marble floors and the white of the Brise Soleil (the thing that looks like a whale tail) are reminiscent of the clean white blooms of the Milwaukee's Caltrava Rose. When temperatures are cool and when the blooms begin to age they are kissed with a pink blush. But, truly, it is the fragrance that makes this rose remarkable. Plant one or a whole grouping in a sunny location near a patio, open window, or front door where, even if you don't have time to stop and smell the roses, their sweet, lemony scent will find you. 
Johnson's Nursery installed hundreds of Milwaukee's Calatrava Roses at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2011, just in time for the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure. Panoramic shot taken by Carrie Hennessy

The month of June is full of traditions. The traditional flower of June is the rose and nothing says "I love you" quite like a single rose (or a whole bouquet if you really need to make a statement). The different colors of roses represent varying degrees of love and devotion. A white rose symbolizes innocence, purity, and new beginnings so they are often used in wedding bouquets. Sometimes they make an appearance at funerals bringing an additional meaning of farewell (though depending on the faith, this could mean new beginnings again).

In ancient Rome, women prayed to the goddess, Juno, for protection, guidance, and luck in all aspects of life, especially childbirth and marriage. To be married in the month of the goddess, June, has long been considered a good omen. The Celtic calendar also influenced June marriages. Young Celtic couples were supposed to pair off on May Day (May 1st) and then court for three months before marrying on Lammas Day (August 1st). The impatient couples often could not wait that long (plus the life expectancy back then was probably 40, so why waste time, right?) and the courting period was shortened to mid-June.
Rosa x 'Champagne Wishes'
Rosa x 'Flower Carpet Amber' PP17,098
A half-dead Butterflybush pushes new
growth from the base.

Butterflybushes (Buddleia species) in warmer climate zones can reach huge proportions and can be quite aggressive, reseeding throughout a neighborhood. But in Zone 4, even Zone 5, we consider them to be more of a perennial than a shrub, dying to the ground every winter. Right about now is when you will know for sure if your Butterflybush survived the winter. If you are like most people this year, you will see some leaves pushing at the base, but the entire top is dead. Cut back the dead branches and wait for consistently warm weather to kick the plant into gear. Or dig the whole thing out and start over again. If you can get 3 years out of one Butterflybush, in Wisconsin, you are doing pretty well. It's one of those rare plants that will bloom throughout the summer for us, so many people are willing to replant every year.

Watch & Learn: 

from The Dirt with Carrie Hennessy
Duration 4:21

Increasing the bird population in your card can be as easy as planting a single tree, shrub or perennial. But, which plants are best? Learn more.

from Carrie's Quick Tips
Duration 2:37

Improper watering is one of the leading causes of plant fatalities. Carrie discusses proper watering procedures for dry forecasts. Watering newly installed plants is crucial to their survival and future growth. Learn more.

from The Dirt with Carrie Hennessy
Duration 4:26

Carrie has some great tree selections if you have a smaller yard and you're not sure if a tree will fit. Learn more.

Read & Learn: 

*Selecting a guide above will take you to our website, where you will find more information, videos and downloadable PDF's on your desired topic.


Offering the expertise of our Horticulturists, this custom design service is provided at no cost to you.   
This is the best do-it-yourself program if you're a homeowner looking to design and plant your own project. We Plan-You Plant offers the helpful assistance of our experts, who will create a professional landscape design--at no cost--when you purchase your plants at Johnson's Nursery. Watch the videos on our website and get started today. Learn More.

We encourage you to bring you emptied plastic containers and trays back to Johnson's Nursery.

If thrown in the trash, these materials will sit in the landfill and will not get recycled. You can return them to us, for free, all year long. Simply pull up to the bins and place your plastics in the bin with the corresponding recycling symbol.

Recycle. Act locally, think globally. Learn more.
Visit our archive to read previous issues of The Leaf in Brief.

Johnson's Nursery, Inc.
Nature's Best to You.Ū
p. 262-252-4988  e. info@johnsonsnursery.comUnsub