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Archive for December, 2009

Double Take on Prominent Grass Combination

Pennisetum forms a collar around Panicum in this unique combination

Pennisetum forms a collar around Panicum in this unique combination

Chris & I were driving down to Raleigh this summer for the annual Garden Writers Convention, when we pulled into a rest area whereupon our eyes were immediately drawn to   a couple of massive clumps of  ornamental grass.   As we got closer, we realized it was a combination of 2 different grasses that gave the illusion of 1 big one.

Inspiring Combination

Dressed to Impress - Ornamental Grass

Circling around a single specimen of Panicum was a number of Pennisetum clumps. This works really well because this particular type of Panicum has an upright,narrow habit. It also has just the right height giving good balance  in this combination.

The Pennisetum grass works as a collar around the Panicum as the plumes  jetison outward.  The leaves of  Pennisetum bend downward providing a skirt-like appearance  as if dressed and ready for a  party.

I can see using other plants that share  a similar form to the Panicum such as Calamagrostis Karl Foerster,  or Ilex Sky Pencil.  What about trimming up a Hydrangea or a Sambucus and then encircling it with your favorite Pennisetum?  It seems there are some opportunities here for some creative plant combinations.

About Heidi

My name is Heidi.  I’ve been working at Great Garden Plants since October of 2008.


About me

I grew up in the Ann Arbor, MI area.  In 2003 I was ready for a change of scenery and I moved to Grand Haven, MI.  I quickly joined the Grand Haven Area Jaycees.  We are a community service organization and are very active in our community.  Through the Jaycees I met my husband.  We were married in August of 2006.  Our daughter Megan will celebrate her first birthday this Wednesday.  How did the year go so quickly?

As a single person I chose to live in a condo.  It was great to have someone else mow the lawn and shovel the walk.  But, after getting married we decided we’d like a house to raise a family.  Last July, we moved into our new home.  I’m so excited that now I will get to plant a lot of the flowers I love from our website.  The last homeowners preferred green shrubs.  The good news is this gives me the opportunity to create the garden the way I want it.

I know a lot about our plants and shrubs, but I’m a beginning gardener.  I have the “book smarts,” now I just need the weather to warm up so I can start digging : )

My Grandfather had a green thumb.  Each summer the garden was his passion.  And each winter he went a little stir-crazy until it was warm out.  He had a wide variety of flowers, fruit trees and a massive vegetable garden.  Every time we would visit we would leave with a minimum of 2-3 brown paper bags full of vegetables.  His favorite flowers were roses and every time I see them I think of my Grandfather. Hopefully, I inherited some of that skill.

I love working at Great Garden Plants.  We have a lot of fun and I love learning all I can from Mary and Chris.  They have so much information about so many plants – it amazes me.  I will be taking you with me on my journey to change my yard from green to color.

Your Friend in Gardening,


About Mary Walters

Welcome to Great Garden Plants blogMary and Chloe - a goldendoodle & great companion
My name is Mary Walters & together with my business partner Chris Hansen, we launched Great Garden Plants in 2007, an on-line nursery specializing in some of the best garden plants on the market today.
About Myself
I grew up on a farm where my father ran a  wholesale perennial nursery along with his brothers. I have fond memories as a kid riding with my dad  in his 1956 Chevy driving to the farms through narrow driveways looking at hundreds of  plants lining long rows that never seem to end.  Actually, my interest at that time was with my fishing pole in the back of the car and wondering if it would be bass or blue gil for dinner that night.
Mary & Chris Trade Show Raleigh

Mary & Chris with their Jumbo Size Perennials at Garden Writers Symposium

After graduating from college in 1977 with a political science degree, I worked in retail management for awhile before finding myself back on home turf and working at my family wholesale perennial business, Walters Gardens, Inc.  I started packing plants and worked a few months in a tissue culture lab wanting to know what made this business tick and learning as much as I could about perennials. I even spent year study botany and organizing a wholesale catalog – thus began my horticultural & marketing career.

Mary & Laurel - raising $ for Breast Cander

Mary & long time assistant Laurel Hall - Race for the Cure to fight Breast Cancer

I feel grateful to have had such a learning opportunity, especially gleaning  business & plant info from my father.   I was blessed with a great assistant, Laurel Hall who is a breast cancer survivor.  The two of us helped to develop programs where proceeds when to Susan G Koeman Foundation to help fight breast cancer. 

Joseph Campbell  once  said  “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”  I found myself meeting up with my business partner Chris at a Trade Show in 2006 and starting Great Garden Plants in 2007.  It’s been truly an amazing & growing experience.  One of the things Chris & I were determined to do was to make gardeners happy by providing  a quality size  plant that they would enjoy.

When Chris & I started talking about a blog – we asked ourselves, what are we going to be blogging about?

As a gardener for over 25 years, I plan to share a lot of my successes and failures that will help you become a better gardener. I’ve planted many plants, killed not as many, moved more than I originally planted,  gave a lot of plants away, and surprised neighbors with various theme gardens (such as a laundry room theme).  I’m not very good at training my wanna-be gardener puppy, Chloe (a goldendoodle) who is determined to dig  holes in all the wrong places. 

I’m not a great writer, not even a good one – but I write as I see & feel it – not using some borrowed copy off the internet.  

As a horticultural photographer, you’ll see see a host of garden photos that I hope will inspire kindle an idea, or just make you smile.

Please join us on our gardening  adventure. We look forward to your comments!

Here’s to the glorious world of gardening!


My very first blog post!

Welcome to our new blog for!

My name is Chris Hansen & together with my business partner Mary Walters, we launched Great Garden Plants several years ago as an online source for New & Exciting Garden Plants which are shipped in large jumbo 1 & 2-quart pots.

Chris with Rose Double KnockOut

Chris with Rose Double KnockOut

How it all began!

My passion for plants began at the early age of 5 and I still remember my very first plant – given to me by my kindergarten teacher – it was a spider-plant pup. I carefully carried this pup home thru the winter snow & it grew into a beautiful specimen. And then tragedy struck when my 3 year old sister ran over it with her tricycle (you can tell this still bugs me to this day)!

Through those early years, I grew all the usual “kid-friendly” plant projects including: avocados from the seed pit, carrot tops floated in water, and pineapple plants from leftover tops from the kitchen (yes – it really works). During my elementary & junior-high school years I had a table in my bedroom with flourescent lights which allowed me to grow a wide variety of plants.

As college approached, I began to seriously consider Horticulture as my major and decided to attend Iowa State University where I studied for a degree in Horticulture & Botany. Those college years were some of the funnest & most memorable of my life and I became thoroughly engrossed with the hort program on campus.

During one summer of college, I was fortunate to be a garden intern at world-famous Missouri Botanical Gardens where I was rotated through every aspect of a botanic garden. My favorite areas were the tropical Climatron and the Japanese Gardens.

The following summer I had the extreme privelige of interning at magnificent Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. I spent 4 months as an intern in the large 5-acre conservatories where I was fortunate to work with a variety of experts & even got to help with the Giant Victorian Waterlilies!

After graduation from Iowa State, I moved to South Carolina where I spent ten years working as Director of Horticulture for a large mail-order plant company. During this time, I was able to travel the world extensively each year in search of the newest & best garden plants to introduce to American gardeners. It was during this time, back in the mid 1990’s that I met Mary Walters and we’ve been friends ever since.

Ten years at the same job was quite long enough for me, so I decided to move to Portland, Oregon and work at the country’s premier source of new perennial breeding, Terra Nova Nurseries! The horticultural intensity of Oregon is the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced. I had access to over 2,000 nurseries within a 50 mile radius of my home – and spent a vast majority of time visiting and photographing these gardens & nurseries.

It was about this time, back in 2006, that Mary asked me a simple question, “Is there room in the industry for another mail-order plant company?” And the rest is history!

Our goal at Great Garden Plants is to provide gardeners a source for New & Exciting Perennials, Shrubs, Roses, & more that we grow in our Jumbo 1 & 2-quart containers.

Jumbo 1 Quart Pots from Great Garden Plants

Jumbo 1 Quart Pots from Great Garden Plants

We spent many months deciding the optimal size for growing your plants and we ultimately chose a larger size than most of our competitors. We did this to ensure the success of each of our gardening friends & customers!

I hope you enjoy our new blog! Mary & I will try to keep it both educational & entertaining!

Your gardening friend,


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