Greetings Friends,

Welcome to Wisconsin Native Appreciation Month.  In case you haven't heard, we made a few exciting changes this year. The sale is the entire month of June! Present your Wild Ones Membership Card at our Menomonee Falls Retail Office at the time of purchase to receive 40% off the retail price of container natives. Not a member? Scroll down to learn more about the sale and how to become a Wild One!

In the spirit of Native's month, we're digging deep for our feature article. Our Propagator, Ben French writes about ground beneath the native plants--our bedrock. He talks about limestone and the Niagara escarpment, and how they affect the plants we grow at Johnson's Nursery. This article is a great segue into this month's Leaf Lore and Plant of the Month, Jack in the Pulpit.

Please note that Johnson's Nursery (all departments) will be closed on Tuesday, July 4.
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June is Wisconsin Native Plant Appreciation
Month  at Johnson's Nursery

Johnson's Nursery, Inc., in support of area Wild Ones chapters,  is happy to announce that June is Wisconsin Native Plant Appreciation Month.

"Any day during the month of June, all active Wild Ones Members may present their valid membership card at our Menomonee Falls headquarters to receive a 40% discount off the retail price of all container grown Wisconsin native plants."

Proceeds go to the Milwaukee-area Wild Ones Chapters.  Visit our website for complete sale details. Not a member? Get signed up before you shop. Wild Ones membership may be obtained via
by Ben French, Propagator
Ben French, Propagator
When you're talking plants - you can't ignore the roots. When you're talking roots - you can't ignore the soil. When you're talking soils - you can't ignore the bedrock.

Southeast Wisconsin's "dirty" history (get it? DIRT?!?) began many millions of years ago with an ancient warm sea that covered much of North America. In this sea, lived tiny organisms and other sea life for untold generations. Over the eons, life and death left untold billions of tiny little lives layered on the sea floor. Their tiny, calcium and mineral rich bodies stacking up and compressing into Limestone. Other marine life existed in this time as well - such as relatives of the modern clam and squid - as well as an extinct animal known as the trilobite - which is now Wisconsin's state fossil.

Flash forward a couple million years and you can hardly recognize the place. The limestone sea floor is getting worn away resulting in some of the old sea-bed ending up into the air. Giant plates of stone are moving and shifting to create the terrain known as the Niagara escarpment. It generally runs east/west in an astounding arc right through the great lakes region from New York through Ontario, Michigan, and ending in southeastern Wisconsin.

Limestone is composed mostly of lime which is a favorite of farmers in acidic regions. It raises the pH of the soil - which is beneficial for most agricultural crops. There are places in Wisconsin where the industrial mining of lime was commonplace - and there are names to prove it - such as Lime Kiln road and places to visit - like High-Cliff State Park's lime kiln. Since much of southeast Wisconsin's soil parent material was limestone - our soils tends to be more towards the alkaline side which can be a challenge for gardeners who want to plant popular plants from other regions in our local soils.

Plants requiring an acidic soil - such as red maples, rhododendrons, azaleas, blueberries, hemlocks, swamp white oaks and red pines - have a rough time in many areas in southeast Wisconsin. Their roots just aren't adapted to the specific soils of our region.

It just so happens that our nursery sits on top of the Niagara escarpment, and many of our soils are fairly alkaline in nature, so we can have issues growing those problem plants commercially. In general we don't grow many plants that have problems in our soils, because we don't want to pass those problems onto our customers. We try to warn folks that those great big blue hydrangea flowers will not be staying blue without some assistance in the form of chemical intervention. Or, that they won't be happy with a red maple ( Acer rubrum ) so maybe they'd like to try a the Native hybrid maple ( Acer x freemanii 'Ed Gartner') which looks a lot like a red, but stays green and healthy in our soil types. And yes, that stunning bright purple rhododendron looks great in the pot - but it's not likely to last for more than a few years unless you've got a sweet spot for it, or do some modifying to the ground it's going into.

A great way to see what's good for your area is to look around at the success and failure of your neighbors. If they grew a hemlock big and beautiful, it's likely you have a good chance. If you've never seen one over 20' tall in your county - odds are you'll have an issue. Have you ever seen a nice rhododendron, or a big blue hydrangea doing well around you? Either way - there's likely a reason that applies to you and your dirt.
Jack in the Pulpit
Arisaema triphyllum

A plant that is very much at home here on the Niagara escarpment, Jack in the Pulpit is a welcome sign that spring will soon be giving way to summer. You'll find Jack popping up in shady, wooded areas. If you take on the challenge to remove invasive Buckthorn shrubs, Jack in the Pulpit is one of the first native plants to begin reclaiming wooded territory. The unusual green and purple flowers give way to clusters of orange-red berries in fall.

The "Jack" of Jack in the Pulpit is a spike-like flower structure called a spadix. The spadix is made up of tiny male and female flowers that will produce the orange berries in fall. The "Pulpit" is a large, single petal-like structure called a spathe that wraps itself around Jack like a hood or a preacher's pulpit. Renowned American artist and Wisconsin native, Georgia O'Keefe was inspired by  Arisaema and created a series of oil paintings in the 1930's that closely examined its unusual beauty.

Though the name seems pleasant enough, all parts of Jack in the Pulpit are poisonous, especially the underground rooting structures called corms. To eat a corm of Jack in the Pulpit creates an intense burning sensation in the month, hence the origin of another common name of  Arisaema- "Brown Dragon". The plant contain crystals of calcium oxalate that, when mixed with saliva, become fiery daggers. If ingested, the crystals can cause upset stomach, damage to the liver and kidneys, even death. So...enjoy the beauty of Jack in the Pulpit, but find something else in the landscape to eat.
All of Georgia O'Keefe's Arisaema paintings are in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Photo provided by The International Aroid Society.
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Do You Like To DIY?
We Plan-You Plant offers the guidance of our experts, who will use information gathered from you to create a professional landscape design--at no cost--when you purchase your plants at Johnson's Nursery.

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Recycle Your Plant Pots/Trays
If you throw certain landscape plastics (i.e #2, #5, #6) in the trash, they will sit in the landfill and will not get recycled. You can return them to us--for free--all year long. Act locally, think globally. Recycle.

Expanding Your Family Tree?
Have you had a baby recently? Let us extend congratulations by offering you a 25% discount on any plant of your choosing. Like your child, our plants are raised locally and will grow strong.

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Johnson's Nursery, Inc.
W180 N6275 Marcy Road. Menomonee Falls, WI 53051 ( map)
p. 262.252.4988