Kansas City Landscaping and Lawn Care Ideas


Clean-Up in the Spring Garden – Trimming the Knock-Out Roses

Knock Outs are almost Maintenance Free


Taking care of Knock-outs in City gardens is a little like parenting a very well behaved child.  Most of the time they are darling and beautiful and very well behaved.  However, occasionally you need to show them some tough love.  The tough love is not fun, can be a little prickly, and may even draw some blood.  However, your tough love will be rewarded with continued beauty and good behavior.  Put off your tough love – and it only gets harder.

The tough love that City gardeners need to show their roses is a good hard pruning in early Spring.  By hard I mean almost tot he ground. We call this rejuvenation pruning.  In most situations I suggest doing this every year.  You might get away with skipping the first year after you plant them.  However, after that – they do best if pruned every year.  I think my parenting analogy still could apply here, don’t you?

The nice thing about this hard pruning is that you really don’t need any special training – if you can cut with a  pair of scissors you can prune knockout roses.  You don’t need to know the details of growing points and inward facing canes like you would if we were doing in-season pruning of a hybrid tea rose.  All  we are going to do is cut every cane off about 6 – 12” of from the ground.

Step 1: Gather your supplies

The first step to trimming your roses is gather your supplies. I suggest that you have

  • Long sleeved shirt and pants to protect you from thorns.  (my attorney would also say I should probably suggest you wear eye protection too….but life is more fun with a little risk involved).  You’ll also want some nice heavy leather gloves.
  • A decent set of pruners.  No need to run out and buy a  $50 pair of Felco pruners.  Instead I would suggest a nice pair of  $10 pruners for this job and save the Felco’s for the important pruning.
  • Some twine to tie up your bundles.  After you cut down the roses canes – you are going to need to dispose of them and tying them in bundles works well for that.

Step 2: Approach the Naughty bush and begin cutting

Knock Out Rose that needs to be trimmed

You should now see your ugly Knock out rose Bush in your yard.  It is not pretty and it needs to be rejuvenated.  Your going to do this task most likely sitting down on your bum so that you can scoot in under the plant and cut each cane about 6-10” off the ground.  Notice I did not include a ruler in your needed supplies.  No need for that amount of exactness.  The canes you cut off are not going to grow any more.  However new shoots will branch off these existing canes and be your new branches. 



Knock Out Rose cut back




Step 3: Check your Work


Your newly ‘parented” roses should look like this.   All the canes are cut off approximately 10” off the ground. 





Step 3: Wait for Growth

Soon your cut off rose will begin to appreciate the tough love it ahs given and begin shooting up some new growth!  This will be the start of this summers beautiful plants!

New Growth on Knockout rose

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Top 10 Kansas City Landscape Plants

1. Allegheny Viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophylloides ‘Allegheny’)Viburnum-x-'Alleghany'

This plant works great when you need a large shrub to add structure to the back of a bed or as a screen in the back yard.  it is not tidy enough to be used as a specimen plant or in any highlighted position With care it can grow to 12 feet tall in less than 5 years.  I have several planted as a screen against a shed in my backyard and I have pushed them hard – but they are over 15 feet tall in just 5 years. 

The shrub has thick 6” leaves that are thickly textured and beautifully colored.    It has a surprising delicate white flower that persists for Most of May and then ripen into bright red fruits by October.  I call it semi-evergreen because about 1/2 the leaves stay attached for most of the .

This is one of my favorite plants and I recently used it in a  very fun project that turned out very well (despite the quality of the photographs).  These will grow beautiful and provide the perfect screen for this deck and offers an alternative to the overused juniper and arborvitae.  

Kansas City Landscape planting of Viburnum 


2. Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

Sweet Bay Magnolia in Kansas City

often come and go as peoples favorite plants.  However, this one has and always will be my  favorite for planting in City .  It is better suited than many for our zone and grows luxuriously well.  My favorite form is when it is grown as a multi-stemmed shrub.  It has a striking upward growing habit that gives it a strong architectural presence and lends itself well to be a focal plant in planting. 

I have two of these planted as pillars on the front corners of my house.  They have performed very well for about 4 years now and have grown taller than the roof of my raised ranch. 





3. Hardy Banana  ‘Musa Basjoo.

The Hardy Banana plant is a plant that grows VERY well in City.  I have had them growing at my house for going on 4 years and a customer has had them successfully growing for over 8 years. 

These pictures show them growing in my yard in early July.  By September they had pushed leaves higher than the roof of the porch you can see there.  That is approx 18 feet high. 

Musa Basjoo in Kansas City P7090106 Phone 036


Although these look very tropical they are easily grown  even in our unpredictable KC winters.   They will die back to the ground in the and begin to grow again in the spring.  The more protection you give them the bigger they will get the following year because you will protect more of the plant – giving it a head start on next years growth. I try to protect several of the biggest plants so they will grow as large as possible the following Spring.  I protect them by building 4’ tall  cages around them and filling them with leaves.  This si the secret to really big plants.  However, even unprotected plants will reach 10’  

Another bonus – they reproduce madly.   You will easily triple your number of plants every year as new pups sprout around the base of the mother plant.


4. Walker’s Low Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)walkers low catmint 2

I would choose this plant as one of my all time favorite perennials to use as a llandscaper.  Not because of how showy it it or how rare it is  or for any ONE attribute.  Rather,  because it has so many very good uses and it has never let me down.

This plant has small bluish green leaves that are highly fragrant leaves that smells like mint.  The plant grows in a mound about 1 foot high and 2 feet across.  however after its first season in the bed you will not be able to tell its shape because it will have spread through runners and be taking up much more space than that.  In fact this may be the only time I would not use catmint – is if you need it to stay perfectly contained because it is so hardy and likes to spread.  The flower begins blooming in June.  If about 3 weeks later you shear off the old blooms you can easily extend its blooming into late summer.  The blooms are a pale lavender and spread across the plant like a purple mist.

It was named Perennial of the Year in 2007 for its versatility and hardiness.

5. False Indigo (Baptisia australis)


I have been in love with this plant since the first time I saw it in full bloom when driving past a very neglected baptisia false indigo in the middle of July.  Everything else in the had died including what looked like remnants of stella d’ oro’s and some poorly placed care-free roses.  I quickly took a mental note and the next time I was at my favorite nursery I bought a couple plants. 

I was not immediately impressed.  The plant just stood there for the entire season.  The next year it was about the same.  But, by the third year it had really taken off and is now one of the plants people always notice when they walk around and see that part of my .

Baptisia has since proved its worthiness in many designs and ahs often become a favorite plant to use in designs.  It does have it quirks though.  Number one – it is a plant that you have to plant and leave it alone.  it does not transplant well once it is established in your bed because of it unique rooting structure (which is also responsible for its durability.  Secondly – I have found it is incredibly sensitive to any kind of sprays.  In my incessant meddling I am always trying things that will supercharge my plants. During one of these ‘experiments’ I was spraying a mixture of compost tea and iron on  few plant in my around the Baptisia – and it turned black over night – the entire plant.  The plant recovered fully – but it took a while.  I have since learned that any foliar spray will have varying degrees of the same effect.

6.  Little Henry Sweetspire (Itea Virginica)Henry's Garnett Sweetspire

This shrub is a great plant that fits into almost every city in some part.  In order for a plant to become a favorite of mine, it has to be versatile, tough and at least interesting in sweetspire fall foliageall season.  Sweetspire does this.  It is deciduous shrub that can grow up to 5 foot tall in a roughly globular fashion.  There is a very similar variety call Little Henry’s Sweetspire that is nearly identical – but more compact.  This shrub has two times of the year that it is a knockout.  One time is in early June when it shows off its long beautiful blooms.   It is equally beautiful in the fall when the foliage turns into a striking shade of crimson…and…the leaves persist well into mid .  


7. Drift Roses (Rosa ‘Meijocos’)

drift rosesI will have to admit that although I hate to admit it I do love Knock Out Roses.  I was one of their first big proponents and had a bush that was kind of secretly handed to me before they were publicly being sold.  However, in the last 10 years they have become victims of their own success and are now way over planted and used in every subdivision entrance, every front yard bed and around every park sign.  Now I feel a little guilty when I  reach out for the knock-out rose once again for the customer that says they want low maintenance year-round color.  There just is not another plant that can match up in those situations – unless – you were looking for something smaller.

From the same breeders who gave us the knockout rose we now have the Drift rose.  This is essentially a groundcover rose (around 3 feet high) with all of the great benefits of the knockout rose, but in a  smaller package.  It blooms from early spring until the first frost, it is disease resistant, and it is extremely cold hardy. 

I find it works great to line a walkway with when you do not want the height offered by a knockout rose.  It can also work great planted at the edge of a rocky wall.



I am going to continue this list – so check back soon – or better yet sign-up here to get regular updates.

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Kansas City Landscaping dodged a bullet

City gardeners can breathe a sigh of relief that we did not reach the forecasted lows last of week of -20. For many years, we have been lulled into thinking that we may have shifted into zone 6. However, it only takes one very to ensure that we are truly a area. The plant hardiness zones are based on the average lowest temperatures for a 10 year period. We are about to reset those if we approach -20 degrees. Plants are rated to their zones based on laboratory tests as well as the experiences of growers in the fields. Plants rated as hardy to generally survive low temperatures of -10 to -20 degrees. Zone 6 plants are only expected to survive to -10 degrees.

Of course, zones are only part of the answer to how your plants will during this cold snap. Zones define large areas, but not small microclimates that exist around your home. If your plants lie in a low lying area or out on a windswept plain, they are going to have considerably more exposure to cold temperatures than if they are nestled in a protected courtyard, along a south facing wall or on the wayward side of a hill.

That being said, many plants in City are going to suffer from this cold. Dan Simmons of Show-Me Horticulture and I were talking about what effect this could have on plants. We both agreed that a few of the standouts are plants that have started being popular at retail nurseries lately despite being unproven (or proven poorly) to thrive with very such as this years. A few plants that are going to be strongly affected are southern such as Bracken Brown Beautys, , azaleas, rhododendrons and other broadleaf evergreens. These are all plants better suited to Zone 6. They may have done quite well in City the last several years, but will be well-tested this to see if they have enough protection to survive the extremes.

Even a few proven plants will still be stressed. Boxwoods, yews, and many broadleaf evergreens will likely show some damage come next spring from the prolonged cold combined with dry winds that we have experienced over the last several weeks. Another group of plants that will very likely show some signs of stress will be some of the ornamental grasses such as the ornamental fescues, the Japanese Silver grasses and the fountain grasses. Some of the larger trees such as , Golden Rain Tree, dogwoods and redbuds could suffer some superficial damage to outermost branches as well.

Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to protect your plants now. If your plants went into the relatively healthy and unstressed they will have a much better chance of survival than if they were stressed already. Newly planted plants will have a harder time than older, more established plants. The snow that is insulating the ground is the biggest protection we have right now and this can be bolstered if you are inclined to pile snow around the crowns of your most valuable plants. Another option that can be helpful is to build a windscreen around broadleaf evergreens to help protect them. Lastly, to help plants bounce back as much as possible, give them a good slow soaking of as soon as the ground thaws and repeat at least monthly throughout the . This will help immensely as your plants begin to heal their wounds.

This spring will be quite revealing as we learn a lesson of what plants truly are able to survive City’s coldest temperatures. We will be better gardeners if we observe and learn from what nature teaches this week and choose plants that will thrive in City even during when it is at its coldest.

If you have any questions, please feel free to visit me at www.HamonsLandscaping.com or posting questions as a comment to this blog post. I enjoy talking to other plant lovers and answering any questions you might have.

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Snow is good for Kansas City’s Lawns and Landscapes

City has had a record snow storm this week. Gary Lezak reports that most areas received between 10 and 14 inches in City. Although snow can be a hassle for traveling and moving around in, it is GREAT for plants.

Not only does the snow insulate the plants crowns from widely swinging temperature extremes, it also will add important moisture applied slowly and evenly.

You can even help your plants out with extra moisture by choosing where you toss the snow when shoveling your walks and driveways. By piling it on flower gardens and around trees you will be giving them extra moisture. However, if you used any kind of deicer or snow melting product, be very careful as concentrating these in one area could be harmful. Here is a great article on using deicers around your plants.

About the only time snow can be damaging is if it stays around for weeks and weeks without melting it can cause some disease issues. However, in City we rarely see snow stick around for longer than a week before it melts away.

So enjoy the snow and rest well knowing that your plants are well taken care of while you enjoy them from the outside.

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Preparing for Early Fall Freeze for Kansas city Landscape

Frost coming to City

Frosted Grass and Leaves

For your plants — the transition into winter is a dramatic and often sudden one that is dictated by the first frost or freeze. As the caretaker of plants, there is very little you need to do in order to protect your plants from a frost or freeze unless you are simply trying too eek out a few more days/weeks before the inevitable end.

This may be true if we have a particularly early frost or freeze. Most plants can be best protected by erecting a tent around a plant. The ideal material for the tent is a thick insulating cloth that covers the plant completely all the way to the ground. It is important NOT to use plastic because it does not insulate well and can further damage by trapping moisture close to the plant therefore increasing damage caused by forming frost crystals.

Many of the plants we love to plant in the fall are chosen especially because they are fairly frost tolerant. Flowers such as pansy, kale, ornamental cabbage, Hardy Mums are all frost tolerant and can extend the beauty of your garden by several weeks. A complete list of frost tolerant plants

Your lawn will not be so strongly affected by the frost. Its correlation with lowering soil temperatures will have an effect but the actual grass tissue will likely not be harmed by the frost in any way. The only caveat to this is that if you walk on frosted turf you can damage the grass blades and they will turn brown if conditions are just right. This is because when you step on the turf while frost is on the grass, you can explode the frozen tissue causing it to die away. This is just cosmetic damage but can stay visible for a long time until next Spring when new growth replaces the killed tissues.

My primary suggestion when dealing with fall frost is to allow nature to decide when its time for this years growing season will end — knowing some seasons will be longer and other will be shorter.

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Overland Park Lawns suffer from Brown Patch

Lawns all across are suffering from a disease known as Brown Patch Rhizoctonia solani.

Overland Park lawn with Brown Patch

brown patch tall fescue kansas City lawn


Brown Patch is a serious infection on Turf Type Tall Fescue lawns that often can be clearly identified by the large circular brown patches that quickly appear in a lawn.  Unfortunately – what often happens when homeowners ere these patches appear they assume drought stress – since brown patchy usually appears during the first very hot humid stretch of the year.  However, this usually will only help spread the disease further since Brown patch thrives in lawns that are moist for a prolonged amount of time when night time temps remain above 70 degrees.


The good news is that Brown patch rarely kills the entire plant and rather just causes leaf tissue damage and a thinning of the turf – which will recover once fall brings cooler temperatures and more vigorous grown back to City’s lawns.

Once Brown Patch is present follow these recommendations in order of importance:

  • Stop all overhead except in the early morning hours.
  • Bag grass clippings and dispose of them off site. 
  • Use a fungicide such as Prostar, Bayleton of Daconil.  These are expensive and only somewhat useful as a curative.
  • Once Brown Patch has stopped spreading – fertilize with a  light .25#/n dose of nitrogen from an  organic source such as Miloganite, Bradfield’s or Espoma. 

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      Planting Coral Bells in Kansas City Clay

      The old adage – Plant a $5 plant in a $25 hole holds true in City’s .


      On a  recent project I planted over 70 Hostas, Coral Bells and Astible in an existing .  This had gravel already put down and the soil underneath was not great.  Normally, when making a new bed it is best to amend the entire bed with high quality organic compost.  However, this is not possible in a bed that already is covered with several inches of gravel.  So you have to amend the planting hole.  You have to be careful when doing this though.  You have to make the hole quite large in comparison to the plant you are planting.

      Start by removing the rocks from where you are going to dig the hole.    Notice that the hole is about 3x as big as the plant itself.

      Coral Bel lin Kansas City Landscaping

      The laws of geometry then say that you are not just increasing the volume of the hole by 3 – but closer to 9x the original plant container size so you will need to add a considerable amount of extra compost.  I use a high quality compost made from debris.    It is tested regularly to ensure its purity of toxins. 

      Compost used in Fairway Landscaping


      After mixing the compost with the native soils – carefully plant the plant.



      With Coral bells specifically – Be careful of their crown and make sure that crown of the plant is carefully planted just below the surface.


      Then slide the rocks back in place around the plant.


      Coral Bell Growing in Kansas City

      Each plant can take upwards of 10 minutes to plant carefully and correctly.  So it truly is a $25 hole for a $5 plant.  However, The long term growth and vigor of the plants will be worth it to the customer.  However, with 70+ plants to plant – it is not a quick job.

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      Landscape in Kansas City gets Wedding Make Over

      One of the projects I am most excited about this year is the remaking of a new clients complete backyard in Brookside.  These clients called me in April, looking to have the work done by their wedding in May.  In order to get things done in time I knew we would have to work fast to be able to schedule, plan and get everything ready.  Right now, we are on track.

      The Plan

      The plan was fairly simple and drawn out on the spot since we were going to have to move fast.  Essentially, we will be removing all the existing shrubs in the back since they were not part of a cohesive plan.  New beds would be created around the perimeter of the property and then new sod would be installed.


      The Plants

      Here are the plants that we will be using in this project.



      The Dirt

      Dirt is quite a misnomer.  I don’t use dirt for many of my City Projects.  This is 8 yards of pure compost.  Generated organically from a local yard waste recycling center.  It is the single most important thing to the the I plant not just surviving, but thriving.  This dirt will be spread out and tilled into all bed and new lawn areas.

      Kansas City Landscaping Compost Compost in Kansas City Landscape Project


      The Removal

      A lot of plants had to be removed before anything else could be accomplished.

      Once all the shrubs were removed.  This is what it looked like as it filled my trailer! P5090347 There is a lot of plant material in that trailer !

      Moving the Dirt

      Here are progress shots as the

      compost is trucked around to the back.  Because of the layout of this yard, the dirt could only be moved by wheelbarrow.  10,000 – 12,000 pounds of compost was used for this project.


      P5100348 P5100349 P5100350 P5100351 P5100352

      That was the stage 1 of the project.  Next, will be the more exciting part of preparing the beds and installing the plants.

      Stay tuned :)

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      A Gradual Start to Spring for Kansas City Landscaping

      This year, City has seen a Spring that was more gradual than in past years.  This has been good for the plants and lawns in City .  Consistently cool City temperatures with only rare and short warm-up have allowed us to gradually slip into Spring and avoid the pitfalls of moving too fast.  Landscapers like slow springs because very few plants have been hurt by April freezes this year and although it has been fairly dry the plants have faired well.  However, gradual will soon give way to rapid growth as soon as we get some heat.  Lawn Mowing will soon be the most common weekend chore for most City homeowners. 

      Blue Grass and Fescue lawns have thrived in this slightly cooler temperature.  They have been growing laterally and down for the last several weeks.  The imminent heat will spur rapid upward growth – we will soon be mowing VERY often!

      One of the negatives of this low soil temperature ahs been for any new spring lawn seeding.  The grass has not grown much at all if any.  That is again due to cooler than normal soil temps.  This may not be a great thing for Spring seeded lawns since it simply will not have the time needed to grow before summer heat sets in.  However, if my inside sources at NBC Action News are accurate, we may have a cooler than normal Summer which would be good for all of City’s lawns. 

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      How NOT to Protect Landscape Plants from Freeze

      A Hard freeze is coming up Monday night and will effect City plants for sure.  However, I wanted to help people see HOW to protect the plants.  When you put a cover over the plant it needs to go all the way down to the ground and preferably be staked to provide air flow around plants of 1 –2 inches.

      The reason is, by covering the plant you are holding in latent heat from the ground and sheltering from the wind.

      This person, who I came upon my walk yesterday, had NOT done that.  She did everything wrong.  First she used plastic – a terrible insulator and second she didn’t help the plant out at all because the air in the bag is going to be just as cold as the air outside of the bag.  To cover this plant well she should have places something over the plant that would have gone all the way to the ground.  This would have helped keep the temperature around the plant just a couple degrees warmer and protected it from the blast of cold air we received.

      Excuse the poor picture please – it was taken with a camera phone while holding a three year old and being pulled by a dog in a 30 mph wind.


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