Garden Photo of the Day

Iowa Plant Collector, Part 1

Assorted rare plants from an Iowa garden

Gary Whittenbaugh gardens in Iowa, where he grows an astonishing range of rare plants. Iowa can be a difficult place to garden. With hot summers and cold winters, it is hardly the moderate climate most of us dream of. But Gary makes gardening in this climate look easy, and he definitely proves that you don’t need to be in England or the Pacific Northwest to grow cool plants beautifully. Gary shared so many great photos of his garden that we had to break them into two days. So come back tomorrow for more of this great garden.

Puschkinia libanotica (Lebanon squill, Zones 4–9). This was the first thing to bloom in the garden this year. And what a way to start the gardening season!

Daphne mezereum f. alpinum (February daphne, Zones 4–7). Called the February daphne for its early blooming habit, this shrub doesn’t flower quite that early in Iowa, but it still is one of the first plants to bloom. Excellent drainage is critical to keep this plant happy, as heavy, wet soils will cause it to rot and die.

Saxifraga ‘Rose Marie’ (Zones 4–7). This tiny little treasure for the rock garden needs good drainage, and when it’s happy it rewards the gardener with this sheet of sweet pink flowers.

Draba aizoides (Zones 4–8). Drabas are easy-going little rock garden plants, putting out lots of yellow flowers very early in the spring.

Rhododendron dauricum ‘RCG Purple’ (Zones 5–8). This small rhododendron makes a compact shrub that is evergreen in warmer climates and drops its leaves if it gets too cold. A vigorous, early-flowering species, it has been used in breeding many other rhododendron varieties. See seven mistakes to avoid when planting a rhododendron. 

Rhododendron mucronulatum ‘Mahogany Red’ (Korean rhododedron, Zones 4–7) is an unusual deciduous rhododendron, and one of the earliest flowering species.

Daphne velenovskyi ‘Rubicon’ (Zones 5–7). This tiny evergreen shrub is native to the mountains of Bulgaria, where is sails through harsh, unpredictable, and rapidly changing weather. In spring, it covers itself with these pink, fragrant flowers. Like all daphnes, it needs perfect drainage to live a long and happy life.

Daphne velenovskyi ‘Old Port’ (Zones 5–7). This selection is a little larger and faster growing than the usual species, and just as beautiful.



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View Comments


  1. foxglove12 05/30/2018

    Wow! Very interesting. Love them all. Specially the rock garden varieties. I’m going to be looking for that rubicon Daphne. Thanks for sharing.

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 05/30/2018

    It's always extra interesting when a gpod posting features a line up of plants of which I don't have single one. Seems like Gary doesn't have to depend on crocus and daffodils for early spring color. I'd love it if one of tomorrow's pictures showed a more expansive view of the rock garden but if not, so be it. The individual plant pictures are certainly lovely and I'm wishing GPOD had a "scratch and sniff" app so I could smell those heavenly Daphnes.

  3. cheryl_c 05/30/2018

    So many delightful plants that I've never seen before! I love the simple charm of the rhodies - wonder where they might be found by those of us who are smitten? Thanks, GPOD, for posting ALL of these with more to come! And thanks, Gary, for sharing.

  4. User avater
    treasuresmom 05/30/2018

    Love it all!!

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 05/30/2018

    Forgot to say that I adore Puschkinia. I have tried them here in zone 8b but they hate it here. Yours are beautiful.

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