Over-the-top plants add fun to gardening
Rob Zimmer, Leader Columnist

Making gardening fun is key to building a lifelong hobby. Gardeners of all ages find more pleasure and joy when gardening is fun rather than “work.” Finding joy in gardening often comes down to the plants themselves. As gardeners, we may wait a full year between growing cycles to see our treasures in bloom. To bide the time in between, plant breeders and hybridizers continually create new, exciting, cutting edge and, most of all, fun plants to capture our attention. Unusual, over-the-top plants with alien blooms, dramatic foliage and forms add interest and excitement to our standard go-to’s in the garden. Explore your local garden center to find some of these gems and many more to add a little fun to your summer garden. Popcorn plant This unusual, fern-leafed plant features foliage and blooms rich with the scent of buttered popcorn. Put this where it will get a lot of room, as it will grow to 6 to 8 feet tall in one season. Annual. Peek a boo With its eyeball blooms that rise above the lush foliage, peekaboo plant is a fun plant to help children get excited by gardening. Annual. Mojito elephant ear All of the elephant ears are exciting novelty plants with their giant leaves that may reach 3 feet in length. Mojito is a beautiful version in pistachio green with chocolate flecks. Annual tropical corm. Pumpkin on a stick An unusual annual with stiff, upright stems that form a glowing orange “pumpkin” at the tip. Toothache plant A hard to find herb with ball-shaped, yellow blooms and tender leaves that are said to relieve a toothache when chewed. Allium Everyone loves the massive, ball-shaped blooms of allium when they appear in early and mid summer. Many gardeners are not aware that there are summer, even fall blooming allium that can be planted in the garden. Perennial. Bells of Ireland Classic in lime green with spikes of cup shaped, unusual blooms, bells of Ireland is an elegant and wonderful heirloom annual. Flowering kale The colorful, lacy foliage of flowering kale is not a true flower, but decorative and spectacular nonetheless. Annual. Walking onion A well known and bizarre ornamental onion, this plant grows its new bulbs at the tips of its stalks, which then fall to the ground and turn into a new plant. Perennial. Prickly pear cactus Love it or hate it, prickly pear is Wisconsin’s native cactus and grows well in dry, sunny locations. A true novelty with its spectacular, spiky foliage and yellow, fleshy flowers, prickly pear is an excellent specimen plant.