Regional Picks: Four Season Interest – Northern Plains

Fine Gardening - Issue 148

1. Pigsqueak


Name: Bergenia spp. and cvs.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9

Size: Up to 18 inches tall and 2 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

Pigsqueak thrives in a wide range of exposures; just be sure to maintain moisture if it is planted in full sun. Various cultivars provide a smattering of colors, from pristine ‘Bressingham White’ to lovely magenta ‘Winter­glut’ (pictured). Flowers appear in and last through spring, as new glossy foliage unfurls. When temperatures cool and days shorten in fall, the foliage turns burgundy and stands through winter, especially if given mulch.


2. Kentucky Coffee Tree

Kentucky Coffee Tree

Name: Gymnocladus dioica

Zones: 5 to 9

Size: Up to 70 feet tall and 50 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; fertile, moist, well-drained soil

There is much to love about Kentucky coffee tree. Its interesting bark exfoliates in small ridges, and its double-pinnate leaves and dozens of little leaflets flutter in the wind. It sports fragrant greenish flowers in spring, followed by attractive seedpods on female trees, which tend to last into winter. Kentucky coffee tree offers yellow fall color, too, if autumn frosts are not too severe. It reaches great heights in many parts of the country, but in our neck of the woods, it’s usually 45 feet tall and 30 feet wide.


3. ‘Nugget’ Ninebark

‘Nugget’ Ninebark

Name: Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Nugget’

Zones: 3 to 7

Size: Up to 10 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

‘Nugget’ is a cultivar of the popular ninebark shrubs released by South Dakota State University. It has lovely golden yellow foliage and pretty white flowers in spring; later, the foliage deepens to a dark green. The bark is attractive and peels slightly for winter interest. ‘Nugget’ ninebark grows tallest in full sun. If it grows too tall or wide, however, use renewal pruning during the dormant season to remove about one-quarter of the tallest shoots, cutting them to about 2 to 3 inches above the soil line.


4. Aizoon Sedum

Aizoon Sedum

Name: Sedum aizoon

Zones: 3 to 8

Size: 18 inches tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; moderately fertile, well-drained soil

I’ve found aizoon sedum to be a great low-maintenance choice for dry, sunny locations, where it spreads slowly. It begins to display fine-textured, glossy foliage in spring and pretty yellow flowers on stalks by midsummer. These stalks turn brown at the end of the season but remain standing into the winter months. They are quite attractive with a frosty coat or when decorated with snowflakes.


David Graper is a professor of horti­culture and the director of McCrory Gardens at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

Photos: (#1, #2, and #3),; (#4), Jerry Pavia

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