Next weekend marks the fifth edition of the Outdoor Living & Landscape Show at Century II.
Spring fever is already running high because of warm weather, and the show only fans the flames with its smell of soil, promise of color, and new varieties of plants and other outdoor items.
Here’s a preview of the show and of some of the new plants that will be on the agenda for summer 2016:
Number of vendors: About 150, an increase this year. Exhibitors will feature items and services related to the garden, landscaping, yard and other home and outdoor projects.
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Number of centerpiece gardens: Eight, also up this year.
Attendance in past years: Has been steady at about 15,000 people.
Hours: Reduced a bit this year, staying open to 7 p.m. rather than 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and closing one hour earlier on Sunday, at 5 p.m. rather than 6.
Freebies and giveaway: The first 300 people each day will receive a garden kneeling pad, and you can register for a chance at a $7,500 backyard makeover in the southeast corner of Exhibition Hall
Celebrity speaker: Paul James, the “Gardener Guy” who used to have a show on HGTV will drive up from his home in Oklahoma. He’s always been a Wichita favorite and will interact with the audience twice at the show — at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. March 5
Educational garden theme of the Extension master gardeners: Mulching
Seminars: Master gardeners will be among those speaking on a variety of garden topics including watering, water gardens, trees, backyard wildlife and container gardening.
New plant varieties
Rita Arnold of Arnold’s Greenhouse in LeRoy will give two of the seminars at the show — one on what’s new in annuals and vegetables, and another on new perennials, roses and shrubs.
She gave a preview earlier this week at a meeting of the Prairie Winds Daylily Club. Here are some of the innovations in plants to look forward to this year, which also includes a continuation of emphasis on plants that provide food for butterflies, bees and other pollinators:
Heuchera: For shade, new varieties of coral bells including Grape Soda hold their flowers from April to August, which Arnold says is “unheard-of.” “It’s almost an ever-bloomer,” she says. Red Lightning keeps its leaves through our winters.
Heucherella: An extra-value plant, you can take cuttings from the shade garden of such varieties as the new Autumn Cascade to put into your shade containers to spill out and provide foliage color and bloom. When the summer is over, you can replant the heucherella back in the ground.
Hosta: Arnold is really excited about Royal Wedding. “The flower scapes really set it off. They almost look like a magnolia bloom and they’re very fragrant.”
Hydrangea: Incrediball Blush has flowers that grow to bowling-ball size. “It’s a wonderful way to really make a spotlight in your garden.” Kansans especially will gravitate to Ruby Slippers, whose flowers turn from white to pale pink to ruby red over the growing season.
Butterfly bush: Lo & Behold Blue Chip Jr. is small enough to go into a container, providing nectar flowers that feed adult butterflies.
Daylilies: “We’re looking for extended bloom and rebloom,” Arnold says, such as is found in Desert Flame, When My Sweetheart Returns and Persian Market.
Hibiscus: The perennial Mars Madness blooms top to bottom and all the way around with large bright red flowers that have a magenta undertone. Look for dark foliage on Starry Night and Mocha Moon.
Salvia: The perennial Autumn Sapphire provides late-season food for butterflies and hummingbirds.
Miscanthus sinensis: Oktoberfest maiden grass goes into fall in a variety of colors.
Roses: The David Austin Rose called Pat Austin is a color breakthrough in bright copper. The grandiflora Black Baccara is a blackish red that’s the closest rose to black.
Calibrachoa: There are always fun new colors in these annual Million Bells petunias for containers; Proven Winners is predicting a hot seller in Superbells Holy Moly, its yellow flowers splashed with dark pink.
Celosia: Dragon’s Breath is all over the trade magazines, with red flowers blooming above olive-green foliage that’s shot through with red.
Geraniums: Variegated foliage adds interest to annual geraniums, as in the Variegated Brocade Cherry Night, Fire, and Fire Night. Glitterati Ice Queen’s leaves are an unusual olive green in a maple-leaf shape.
Outdoor Living & Landscape Show
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 5, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. March 6
Where: Century II Expo Hall, 225 W. Douglas
How much: $9, $7 seniors, $4 ages 5-12, free for children 4 and under; wichitatix.com, 316-219-4849, at the door. Free parking will be available at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 300 S. Sycamore, with free shuttle service to Century II
Friday: noon, shade gardening by master gardener Kathy Bagwell; 1 p.m. hybridizing daylilies by Terry Pitts of Teardrop Farm Daylily Patch; 2 p.m. water conservation and drought by Kay Drennen, environmental water specialist for the city of Wichita Water Center; 3 p.m. mulching by extension agent Matthew McKernan; 4 p.m. the need for trees in Wichita by Barney Barnhardt of ICTrees; 5 p.m. backyard wildlife by Jim Mason of the Great Plains Nature Center
March 5: 10 a.m. water features and pond building by Mike Kandt of the Kansas Pond Society; 11 a.m. Paul James, “the Gardener Guy” formerly of HGTV; 1 p.m. mulching; 2 p.m. new annuals and vegetables by Rita Arnold of Arnold’s Greenhouse; 3 p.m. new perennials, roses and shrubs by Rita Arnold; 4 p.m. Paul James
March 6: 1 p.m. herb gardening, by master gardener Lisa LaRue; 2 p.m. 11 ways you may be sabotaging your containers by Dan Parcel of Kaw Valley Greenhouses; 3 p.m. Container Gardening 101, by master gardener Peggy Griffith.