Sunday, December 31, 2006

Succulant Garden for Grandma

It's a GREEN holiday here in Chicago. In fact today, it's even raining. I can only remember one other green christmas I"ve celebrated, not counting last year when I was in Nashville. It's kind of bizarre. But I definitely remember a few green New Years -- a few years ago Matt and I spent New Years Day at Lincoln park Zoo, and when I lived in Evanston, I remember 2000 by walking along the beach.

Global Warming. I believe it.

But all went really well for the holidays (and we're hosting New Years tonight). I even got some of my garden wishlist items (the outdoor lights and the edgers). And I even got a little bit of gardening by making my grandma a succulant garden for christmas. She didn't want anything but I can't ever be empty handed so I put together this little garden for her to enjoy ... it felt good getting my hands dirty again.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rosemary & Thyme

I'm watching this British tv show I discovered on WiseTV (WYCC in my area) called Rosemary & Thyme. It's about 2 British gardeners who solve murder mysteries. Can you believe it? Gardening and Murder -- goes together like peanut butter and jelly

I love the show's website because they have some great pictures of the places where the show is filmed, it's always a place with beautiful gardens because of course the 2 heroines (Rosemary & Laura) are always being hired to do up a fancy garden where there just happens to be murder.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Wish List

This is my first ever wishlist ... but I couldn't help noticing some nice stuff when I was perusing the Smith & Hawken website. Generally their stuff is too expensive for my tight gardening budget...

I went on their website to find this. I love this waterer. Most of our front yard is watered by an underground sprinkler system (thank you previous owners!), but there's 1 section where they must have forgotten. My neighbor has one of these and it looks cool and practical for watering the plants as needed -- instead of lugging the hose (which our front one has a small hole, everytime I water, it looks like I got off the white water rapids ride at Great America!).

The weirdest thing about how HGTV is infiltrating our life: my husband uses terms like window treatments and water features! This actually scares me ... but having this cool blue urn/water fountain doesn't. It looks just like the one at the Cottage Living house I was in love with (although it's less pretty/iridescent). But I think I want BIG things in the garden.

How do I love this pink tool apron? Let me count the ways.... One of Matt's biggest pet peeves when I'm out in the garden is how I leave my tools everywhere. One of MY biggest peaves is how I always forget something and find myself walking back and forth to the shed/garage getting what I need. This looks handy and cute to boot!

My goal is to transform my 1970's split level into a cute cottage look alike. We haven't really started except for putting up our new numbers but next up will be to change the lights. Not only are they kind of ugly, but they're all pitted. I think I like this lantern looking light -- it's called Portsmouth and reminds me of our anniversary trip to Maine/NH when we passed through Portsouth and fell in LOVE with it.

And finally ... I love these edgers. I like how they are transparent so the plants can grow between them and they create sort of a soft barrier. I really don't like the railroad ties that we have currently. I think these would work better and prettier instead.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

End of October

It's the end of the season and this marks my first summer that I have kept this gardening blog. I'm really glad I started this because it made me look at my garden more, take notes, record events, and especially meet new people in the gardening community. I've so appreciated all the comments and helpful notes I've received -- they are invaluable!

Do gardeners keep blogs in the wintertime? There's less to write about but it'll give me the chance to do some garden planning, read books, and take notes... we'll see what happens.

In the last few days, almost all of our leaves have fallen. Our front yard is a potpourri of purple and yellow! Last year we raked all of the leaves right into the gardening beds and we had nothing to bag up. We didn't mulch this summer and it's getting sparse in places so this I think will be a good cover over the winter. There's still more leaves to fall... this is just the beginning! (we have about 7 trees on our 50x135 lot!)

And it feels like over night that my garden beds have winterized, it's hard looking out the window at all the dead and dying plants. The saddest part are my roses, which by some weird fluke, have about 5 buds on them and 1 of them just wants to open... but it's not gonna happen. Could this not have happened a month ago?

Yesterday we also had a coyote sighting. We've seen a larger coyote around the neighborhood at night, but never by our house. This time we saw this young'in both at night and in the morning. Matt thinks maybe his mom is hurt because he shouldn't be out in the morning. We live in the suburbs of Chicago, but we still have enough forest, prairies, and open land that wild animal sightings aren't rare, but I hadnn't seen a coyote although there's been some articles that the coyotes are taking over and the foxes are in decline.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Replanting many times

I'm a pretty decisive person. I make decisions quick and painless and I consider it one of my strengths. Gardening has taken that all out of me ...

I'd like to grass an area of the backyard, so 4 lungworts and a hosta need a new home. I looked around aimlessly with a plant in my hand. Where will they go? Then I located the spot, made my decision, "Yes this will be its new home." I dig and plant and get mud under my fingernails. I planted the last lungwort when it starts to downpour.

So I gather up the tools, stash them in the shed, take a break, have some lunch, wait til the sun reappears and go back outside... there I see the lungworts and hosta soaking in the sun like bathing beauties on the beach. Ahhhh - what have I done? Frantic, I dig them out pacing the yard trying to find a new home. This time the ground is mud as I dig, put some plants there, dig more plants here, plants for more plants there. And so forth until finally they all are home at last.

Happy Saturday!

Area we are going to grass - when? Well, that depends. We were supposed to do it in Sept. Didn't happen. I think our window of opportunity is fading fast. But I did rake up the mulch, till the soil, and remove the plants I want to keep.

First, I move the plants here. This is the flower bed under the kitchen window where I have the purple bearded irises and huge yellow daylillies. There was an ugly bush (typical coniferous bush) that I pulled out a few weeks ago, it was there to hide the downspout. I liked the way this looked and was really happy ...

...But alas, it was not meant to be so I separated them -- putting the hosta against the back fence and the lungwarts under the prairie grass in the flower bed by the screened porch.

...But there were bearded irises under the prairie grass that I put there a while back. So I took them out and put them by the downspout. But they looked lonely. So I remembered I had a pretty daylilly against the fence all alone, so I pulled them (she had multiplied since the last time I looked) and planted them with the iris.

I have no idea if what I'm doing is right, but time will tell.

Mum's the word

I planted this mum last Fall -- actually I planted 2 of them but one of them never seemed to do that well. I thought they were annuals, or at least would be since I planted them but one of them has come back in full force.

In fact it's a giant. At least 3 times the size of it when I bought it a year ago! We actually had to stake it -- do you stake mums? What is with gigantic plants in my garden. First the clematis and now this. There must be something in the soil.

I don't have pics of it last year when I bought them cause it never occurred to me that they would come back.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Name this plant

This summer I found a unknown plant growing in the front yard. I left it, but I can't recall if I had it last year. I thought it looked like some sort of hydrangea, so I figured to leave it.

Later on I noticed that it had flowered (unfortunately no picture of that). And now, I went out there and it has berries where there were once flowers.

Here some photos:
It had pink/red stems that are pretty thick. Is it a good plant or a weed?


We had my grandparents over for dinner last weekend. My grandpa walked into our backyard and declared that we have grubs. They came over for grub and they found grubs -- how ironic!

"What's a grub?" I asked innocently. My grandpa shook his head, ignored me and gave a lengthy lecure of lawn care maintenance to poor Matt.

But talk about ironic, that same night, I opened the Sunday Chicago Tribune and someone was asking about grub help. They told them to use a fast acting insecticide such as trichlorfon at this time of year (Sept) and/or imidacloprid in late June.

So I just applied the insecticide today and gave a good watering so we'll see what happens next spring!

Saturday, September 09, 2006


News Report: The blue cohosh we bought at the Native Plant sale this spring is doing superb. It loves it's location under the pine tree and we love it's beautiful leaves and pretty yellow flowers. Another reminder that maybe I'm not a complete garden failure.
Note to self: BUY MORE next year!

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I think I can honestly say that I did nothing in the garden in August. I have a sneaking suspicion I did the same thing last year. I think it's the heat...
So I just let everything grow and look pretty -- I have plenty of coneflowers and black eyed susans popping up and a ton of purple phlox. It all looked good so that my motto in August was, "If it ain't broke, don't mess with it."

Then the 1st of September rolled along and I went outside and what I saw was just a mess! The daylillies had all fallen over, the barnberries were growing out of control, I couldn't even find my pretty stone path anymore, the vinka were growing onto my walkway.... I couldn't ignore it any longer so I put on the overalls and went on clean-up duty (I'm making that up, I don't own overalls).

While I was cleaning, Matt (my husband) was reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. So I thought it necessary he share my pain and drew his attention to a bush out front that we've long hated. "We should cut it down," is what I said. What I really meant was, "You should stop reading that book and cut down that tree while I watch and take photos." So he agreed (I did ask nicely) and what was once this:
... is now this

It's nice to be able to see out the window.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Jumanji, the killer clematis

We bought our house in February 2005. In the winter, you can't see the long list of sleeping plants who'll want your undivided attention come spring. All we saw was snow. However , we did see this pretty arbor on the side of our house and something like, "Awwww..." came out of our mouths.

2-1/2 years later, I look at the arbor and something like, "Ahhhhh!!!!" comes out. Little did I know that a clematis reminiscent of the killer vine in Jumanji resides there.

Last year it looked normal, it bloomed beautiful flowers in May and then just hung out on the arbor. These blooms are from May 2005.

This year, after I trimmed it back in the spring like Edward Scissorhands, it decided not to bloom in May.

Instead it has decided join the obesity epidemic plaguing America and grow to astronomical size. It's also forcing me to take a different route of the ayrd since I have to get down on my hands and knees to get out of the garden. That's me to the left, the clematis is helping me keep my anonymity.

I'm sure you're thinking, "Just cut it down and stop complaining." I know I should. My mom says she's not coming over again unless I trim it back, "I want to come over for coffee, not particpate in an obstacle course."

But I kind of like it. It's like a good shrink. Everytime I plant something and it dies and I feel like I should just move back to a condo, I just walk over to Jumanji, the killer clematis and then I don't feel so bad.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Dividing Irises ... Rosemarie Style

I divided my first irises! This is exciting because 2 years ago I didn't know an Iris from a dahlia; and after dividing them all I became the proud owner of about 30 tall purple bearded irises.

This all happened last weekend when the weather was luckily much cooler than the 100 heat index we're having now. My dear neighbor said to divide them after they bloom; and I followed the dividing directions from my book North America's Favorite Plants.

The large grouping of Irises are in the backyard underneath the kitchen window. The last 2 years they have bloomed beautifully, but only a few of them bloom and they fall over. we staked them this year and it helped, but I read in the Tribune that they need dividing if they're all jumbled and falling over. So I went ahead last weekend and started dividing. The picture to the left are when they were in bloom.

1) Here's what it looked like when I started:

2) First I pulled them all out of the ground and noticed that there were just massive rhizomes growing. It was very crowded and I have a ton of roly pollys in the dirt (I have no idea if they are good or bad for the plants)

3) I cut the rhizomes apart, discarded diseased looking things like the book said and then I was left with about 30 or so individual plants. You can see where I was sitting in the circle of cut plants!!
I did find some rotting in the rhizomes, like holes where insects ate the plants. Case in point, the picture here:
4) Fianlly, I chose the stalks I wanted to keep, cut them back and replanted them. I planted 9 in the old spot and then planted clusters of 3 throughout the front and backyard giving the rest to my mom. I hope she's planted hers!!

The only problem I am finding now is that they keep falling over because I read they the rhizomes should be close to the surface. I find myself every few days, replanting them.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Cottage Living

It was my day of today, so we checked out Cottage Living's Idea Home.

They built this beautiful 2700 sq ft cottage (on a 50 x 150 lot) with wild lanscaped front and back yards. I thought it was really lovely because it looked manicured (with the brick pavers) but the plants they used were wild and carefree - sort of the english garden outline with wild flowers.

I love this huge vase/urn they have in the front yard and it's iridescent colors. My mom's advice -- if you put something in the garden, make it BIG!

I posted more photos of the house and gardens on my main blog site here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pots and Trellises

At the end of June, I finally got around to making some pots and I am proud to say that they are all still living. I have a bad habit of killing plants in pots. They obviously like where they are and it seems that I haven't forget to --cough cough--water them.

I went to Home Depot and found some really beautiful gerberas and dahilias and paired them up with ................ I have the sticks somewhere.

I also bought a trellis for the poor climbing roses that were hanging out, literally! They look much happier now.

And by some luck of the italian, I found this old beverage crate in the shed and so I put some petunias in them. I know ... snooze petunias ... but they have a sort of je ne sais quoi. I'll get more creative next year.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Another weekend in the garden.

It finally got to be in the high 80’s this weekend; my dear neighbor, the gardener (MDN from now on) said it's the reason some of our plants have been blooming for so long (i.e. oxeye daisies). At the same time, the weather is tricking certain plants (the sedum) to start blooming. MDN trimmed all her sedum down so they wouldn’t flower yet, as she said, “These are supposed to be my fall flowers.”

Still, despite the hot weather, we still managed to get a few tasks done.

1) Matt applied our 2nd application of cornmeal to the lawn. It still looks good but our mower (a push one non-motorized) cuts too short so we started noticing a few patchy spots. MDN told me about scott's patchmaster which is the seed in recycled paper for the bare areas.

2) I took out a diseased bush from the front. We had 2 identical bush plants (unfortunately, I can't remember their name and I never took a picture of them; obviously I never had much love for them). This year they both caught some disease and barely grew leaves so earlier in the season Matt and I pulled one of them out, and this weekend, I tackled the other one.

3) I bought and planted another Astilbe. Last yr, our Astilbe didn't flower. That was our first summer and I didn't ask any questions. This year is a different story. They are beautiful and HUGE! I fell in love with them because I’m not discovering many shade perennials that have color and I’m having a hard time adjusting to several different shades of green hostas. I planted it between the fringed bleeding hearts in the front circle.

4) I discovered a hydrangea bush growing in the front circle as well. It has a pretty pink pom pom which I am pretty sure I would have noticed last year if it had bloomed, so I'm sure it didn't. I decided (like I have any idea what I'm doing) that it was getting crowded by other plants so I moved it back some. It’s doing fine so far, but it may not get enough sun here. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to move it again. In the picture above it's hiding between some very tall wild sunflowers that have yet to bloom (I planted them in 2005).

5) Finally, I cut back the crazy daisies. I think they are oxeye daisies and they got really tall and fell over after a storm and never rose back up. I noticed that there were more of them than last year and I read that these spread fast and are good for a “wild” garden. I don’t think that’s the location they’re in now! I trimmed them all back this weekend and my Note to self: is to move them somewhere else and replace with dianthus, hydrangea, something else that loves sun.

That’s all for now – next up: Dividing Irises!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Weeds in the back, bugs in the front

The drought last year did nothing to help the lawn; barren patches of brown just became a breeding ground for this tenacious, ground cover-like weed. It was everywhere – say 60% of the lawn – and everytime I saw it I would just kill 20 minutes sitting in the grass pulling it up.

You can’t pull up 60% of your lawn!!

Growing up in the suburbs, if you had weeds it was because you were too cheap to get ChemLawn to spray your yard with toxins. Being neither cheap nor toxic, we’ve been confused about what to do. Our neighbors gave us weed-b-gone to help control it, but even after 3 doses, it wasn’t going away.

The same neighbors also use cornmeal on their lawn so we thought we should do the same since their yard looks great. We treated the lawn in June and now, a month later, it is so dark and green, it’s unbelievable.

Since the grass is growing to hearty now in the back, the weeds have gotten pushed out. I still have found a couple, but not like before, so I can pull them out.

The Barn Owl, where we got the cornmeal, told us to apply 3x over the summer (labor day, July 4th, memorial day); then in

In the front yard … aphids had taken on the roses and I never got around to treating them. Then, I spotted a new bug on the plants and I freaked out that aphids can morph into large hopping bugs.

A trip to told me what I have are immature katydids. Matt knew what these were – I had no idea; they are a family of the grasshopper. Just for that, I can’t kill them, but they’re having a good time chomping on my roses and my gerberas.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

June 10th - Under the pine tree

Garden Note:

June 10, 2006 --The area under the pine tree in the front hasn't looked so hot. Nothing really grows there. I'm not sure if that's because the previous owners didn't plant anything there or just that nothing can grow there. Last year we had some vinka and some cone flowers and black eyed susans and it just looked kinda messy.

So we took some time early in June to clean the area out, thinned out the vinka where we needed to, planted some hostas, edged out the area, and re-planted the black eyed susans together. Then we found stones around our house and built a small barrier from the grass. I'm not sure if it will remain like this forever, but it's a good start.

Any ideas for what to plant under the pine tree?

Friday, June 16, 2006

May 27 Backyard

On to the backyard -- isn't this fun? Well, it's fun for me because I've put so much effort into this yard. You can ask Matt, we spend so much time on this garden that talking about it and talking about my cats are my 2 favorite subjects. I love it. Truly.

Anyway, backyard ...
Ahhh ... grass! It looks beautiful! It's really growing in fast; I think it's all because we used compost (that we made from last year's waste). The guy at Ace said as long as we have that, it's better than fertilizer.

What am I going to do with this area? This is the only part of the yard that's getting worse! Fortunately, we need to re-do the falling apart porch (our poor cats are heartbroken this summer that they can't go out and play, but Mini keeps falling through the open netting and then she cries because she can't get back in.) So this area will just get an overhaul.

I'm calling this "triangle garden" for no other reason except it's a triangle and I am trying to call my various areas names to keep track of them. Anyway -- japanese bayberry bush (I hate this one, it has thorns); zebra grass, and monkey grass. I planted some funky ground cover last year that's really thriving, and I planted mums in an attempt to "late summer" the yard and 1 is coming back in full force.

Under the kitchen window, you can see the bearded irises blooming and falling over - they're staked with awful yellow twine, but they're gonna get divided this July. Any takers? I also have daylillies and pretty purple flowers I can't identify.

This area is pretty to look at, but I fear for my life that I will get swallowed up by the overgroing ferns, phlox, and dead nettle. I massively cleaned out this area this spring and once again I'm scared their going to throttle me for killing half their kind. Mutiny!

Back against the fence ... poor north facing fence. Our neighbors behind get all the sun and we get nothing. Rudbeckia, 2 native plants (geranium and aster), echinecea are growing slowly here. And I planted the zebra grass in May. This area looks sad.