Gardening in the Midwest

Ilona Erwin

My Garden Path……..the “bloom where you are planted” philosophy reigns

LLike so many others, my favorite gardens are in the English style. Ah, if only I lived on the east coast, or in Oregon – but in reality my garden is situated in the intercontinental U.S. Temperature extremes; variable climate conditions; inundated Aprils; drought-stricken Augusts. It has its own beauties, its own flow and lesson #1 is to synchronize with it. A ‘bloom where you are planted’ philosophy reigns here.

When I lived in the city I constructed my garden according to my taste: a smattering of everything with detailed plantings of miniaturized pictures.

I appreciate the misunderstanding I have had with Nature over my perennial border. I think it is a flower garden; she thinks it is a meadow lacking grass, and tries to correct the error. –Sara Stein

Rural Vistas

Here, the vistas are broad and uninterrupted, and such lovely little niceties are lost (and very hard to maintain against the elements). I’ve lost more new little trees and favorite plants than I desire to recount. Its just too sad! Yet, one of the great bounties of a garden is the life lessons it reveals.

a recent border

A recent border on one side of the driveway


The harshness of the conditions of the past five years and the fledging of the well-trained home labor force has created a smaller vision and looser standards for my garden. I knew this would happen. In fact, this is a natural sequence for the gardener. As in all things, the march of time demands a plan and a flexibility. Flow with it.

Garden Stats:
  • * about four acres of land
  • about two acres gardened
  • good loam soil, Kokomo
  • very wet spring conditions
  • very dry late summers
  • neutral Ph
  • constant winds
  • grass is a weed
  • trees struggle
  • rhododendrons die
  • great sunset views

weedy adage

My garden story, memories of how it all started, My Rural Garden.

The Time to Drift Along

In such a case, one of Gertrude Jekyll’s rules apply: plant with a broad hand. The more I follow this the better the effect…..five by five(feet) of Stachys lanata, six bushes of Lonicera fragrantissima, numerous divisions of hostas, self-seeded asters and hardy annuals.

In my city garden small drifts were beautiful, here, in the country, the large drifts must be expanded and that means either lots of work or amenable plants. As my slave labor (as they like to think of themselves) grow up and get jobs and interests of their own, I need to rely more on the plantings.

shirley poppies

Shirley Poppies in my Garden

The Plants of a Midwest Garden

The Stachys and hostas are mentioned, Nigella, Shirley poppies, forget-me-nots, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’, peonies (singles are preferred), variegated sedum, Cynoglossum, white cosmos, Oenothera fruticosa, pink Oenothera, are some of the standbys.

Nepeta mussinii, Sweet Woodruff, Chrysanthemum rubrum, Matricaria, Johnny-jump-ups, Violas of any kind, Filipendula rubrum, hardy roses (see my roses page) are favorites. These plqnts grow well in the Midwest area, on the verge of the Great Plains.

Plants Mentioned Here

If you would like to read details on the plants I grow, follow the links to articles with growing information.

My Gardens, Over Time

I have had a number of experimental gardens, some of which I dismantled and mowed down in a fit of despair. The weeds, weather and pregnancies simply demanded an end to the work.

Presently, I have a small vegetable garden in reasonable walking/watering distance from the house. It is a necessity to have the fresh tomatoes, peppers, and parsley, along with hollyhocks and zinnias, each summer.
Various ‘door gardens’ surround the house, a large border is situated in an exposed NW section,and two island borders are in more protected leeward sections.

There are other things, too, all in a medley of stages of success and construction. The garden in the picture is an experiment on the harsh windward side. It is an old photo. Taking pictures is not my forte. (I hesitate to call what I do “photography”)

As I’m thinking, I could write reams just to elaborate on some of the themes of useful plants, successful combinations, actual planting procedures! It serves as motivation for the future; for now, how about some commentary on plant combinations for the coming season,Summer Fragrance?

Some Horticultural Thoughts:

“In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful.”
~ Abram L. Urban

“Mine was a Midwestern home–you can keep your world. Plain black hats rode the thoughts that made our code. We sang hymns in the house; the roof was near God.

The sun was over our town; it was like a blade. Kicking cottonwood leaves we ran toward storms. Wherever we looked the land would hold us up.” -William Stafford, 1960, WEST OF YOUR CITY

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.