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Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
Flowers tested by K-State for the prairie climate
Ornamental Millet is for the birds
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About this blog
By Dr. Stevens
Dr. Stevens has been at Kansas State University for over 20 years researching flowers. He serves as the State Extension Specialist in Floriculture and is director of the Horticulture Research Center in Olathe, KS Robin R. Dremsa is a Research ...
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Prairie Star Flowers
Dr. Stevens has been at Kansas State University for over 20 years researching flowers. He serves as the State Extension Specialist in Floriculture and is director of the Horticulture Research Center in Olathe, KS Robin R. Dremsa is a Research Associate who manages the flower trials. She's been at the K-State Hort. Research & Extension Center since 2007.
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As we enter the long, cold, dormant period for our annual gardens, remember that there is one kind of plant that can keep giving into the fall and winter: ornamental millet!  This is one of the few plants in the annual flower trials that also provides food for wildlife.  (Does deer feeding on sweet potato vine count as "feeding wildlife"??)  Songbirds and finches love to feed on the seeds left on the millet plants.  

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Ornamental Millet 'Purple Baron' for winter interest and bird food!
There are four varieties of ornamental millet on the Prairie Star list:

  • 'Purple Majesty' is the "classic" ornamental millet that was the first of its kind and became an All-America Selections award winner in 2003.  It grows to be about four feet high and is good for a background plant in garden designs.

  • 'Jester' has slightly more branching than 'Purple Majesty' and more green in its leaves.

  • 'Purple Baron' will been added to the Prairie Star list for 2014. It has dark foliage and the flower spikes have a bright purple tinge when they are new. 
  • 'Jade Princess' is an unusual one, with much shorter plants that have chartreuse foliage and extremely furry flower spikes that resemble a giant bottle brush!  It draws people to it and is especially great for children's gardens but it is a sterile pollenless variety that does not produce seeds to feed the birds.
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Ornamental Millet 'Purple Baron' in the summer months
So when you plan your annual flower garden next season, consider adding a few of these beauties and leave them for the birds.  It provides some interest until things warm up again!

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