Monday, September 29, 2008

Chicago Garden Bloggers Meet ... in the flesh

Let me repeat, I will not go to the Arboretum again unless accompanied by very smart garden bloggers.

Barbara of Mr. McGregor's Daughter got the Chicagland gardeners together at the Arboretum to get the dates down for the 2009 Spring Fling (May 29-31, 2009), but once that was settled then there was much walking and talking about plants -- which is why I said I can't go back to the Arboretum unless I bring the brain trust with me.

4 of us were there -- yours truly, Rachel from On the Shores of Lake Chicago, Linda from GardenGirl, and Barbara.

Me on the left, the one pretending to be Tina Fey pretending to be Sarah Palin
Note to self, don't slouch and wear a real bra next time.

First off, it was such a pleasure meeting you all. I I felt like the young grasshopper learning from the masters and I only wished I had brought a tape recorder. I just hope I wasn't too annoying with my 100 questions, rapid talking, and insipid story telling (a "Can you grow seed" question led me to go on for hours). But seriously, it was such a nice afternoon getting to know fellow garden bloggers and now I can prove to my husband that you are all real people and not crazies who were going to abduct me in the Arboretum parking lot.

So what did I learn (if I don't get this down it might be lost forever):
  • cutting back mums: Don't be a wuss, cut them back by half in May, June, & July. Only then will they not flop over.
  • Anemones: Can be potential take-overers.
  • Native ginger: a good ground cover for shade under trees (better than Pachysandra because it's native).
  • Mophead hydrangeas: Don't cut them back. For our temps, can cover them with straw to try and stop them from freezing.
  • Fothergilla: Great shrub for shade. And don't buy just any kind, research the varieties and --gasp-- order online?!
  • Stone Silo: LC Shores recommended nursery for buying online. Yes, I can buy online. Yes, I don't have to only rely on garden centers here if I want something special. repeat.
  • Strawberry plant: can put into the ground over winter and then it goes back into the planter.
  • Grow eggplant. But watch out for thorns.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Garden Journal Friday - Photos posted


For my maintenance class, we are supposed to keep a garden journal. Since I have this blog, I thought I'd incorporate my garden "journal" into here every Friday. I guess I "journal" but not like in a true gardening sense. I'm also blessed with a most uncanny memory that I pretty much know everything I planted and when I planted it... it's kind of scary.

So here's my first "Journal" entry of what I did the last few weeks:


In my Triangle Garden I,

  • built the bed bigger and moved some plants around
  • cut down all my tall bearded irises. They did this at the Arboretum, and even though my greens weren't ratty (far from it), I still trimmed them back.
  • pruned some dead wood stems from potentilla frucitosa
  • planted 2 new irises our teacher gave us from the Arb's Fragrant Garden (she was showing us about plant division)
  • noticed the campanula glomerata that I cut back to basal has reflowered like it should have.
  • noticed The pinky winky hydrangea that I planted this year is turning pink. It really did well it's first year. I am really looking forward to how this plant grows.
In the Southwest Garden, I,

  • started removing the ground cover and weeds from along the fence. In it's place I transplanted some varieties of hostas I divided from the front yard, part of the Astilbe from the side yard (that was getting too much sun and not enough water), and some lungwarts. I hope these will be good companion plants to the Pagoda Dogwood.
  • The Pagoda Dogwood is doing great. It's really starting to branch out and show it's horizontal shape. I hope it survives the winter.
In the Porch garden, I,

  • noticed how well the impatiens I planted did here. They also look really nice against the white spotted lungwarts and the variagted fountain grass. I should plant them again here next year.
In the Fence Garden, I:

  • am pretty happy about this garden. This is it's 2nd season and the plants have really come in great (I did plant them with great compost). The pulmonaria around the birdbath leafed out incredibly. I do want to add some shrubs here but I need to widen the bed which I want to do when we put the patio in (next year??). For now I will leave as is and enjoy it as a perennial garden.

In the front of house:

  • I'm worried that I planted the dwarf blue spruce too close to the oakleaf hydrangea, but for now the 2 colors look nice together.
Native Plant Garden:

  • I haven't commented on the Spicebush I got in April, but it's doing really well (see it behind the hosta)
  • The Shorts Aster is such a treat (although it is everywhere at the Arb). It grew triple it's size this year and has fallen over because nothing around it is holding it up. Here is was last year.
Barberry Bed:
  • I moved out the line of stella d'oro daylillies that were obviously planted here when there was more sun, ad replace it with a bigleaf hosta from my mom's yard. I moved the daylillies to the other side where there's more sun.
Circle Bed:

  • I transplanted 2 lady's mantle and another painted fern here, along with some new heucheras I got over the summer.
  • Under the maple, nothing wants to grow big, of course, and they seem to die back soon. So I planted a piece of pachysandra from my mom's yard, we'll see if that takes. I'd be happy with this section as only ground cover.
By the street:
  • Under the plum tree I was having turf wars with the lamium and vinca. I have this going on in a lot of places in my yard and I secretly hope the vinca wins. Here, the vinca will win because I've pulled out the lamium and added a few more vinca plugs. I think it's dark green foliage will look better.
  • I wanted to fill in some bare areas with low maintenance plants so I divided up some lungwarts and added some here.
Whew ...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Meatball Watch

I've just started my new class at the Arboretum called Maintenance. It's part of the required Garden Basics courses I have to take for the Gardening Certificate.

So far the class has paid for itself because I learned 2 important things:

1) When you renewal prune it doesn't mean-- as I foolishly thought before -- taking it "down" by 1/3, but to prune out 1/3 of the canes from the bottom. Yes, I asked that question in class and yes, I am now prefacing all my questions with, "I have a stupid question..."

2) Pruning and shearing are 2 different things. Yes, I have been wearing a gardeners dunce cap this whole time. I thought this whole time I was pruning my shrubs, but I was just shearing them.

And by shearing I mean ... I have a garden of meatballs.

Larry, Darryl, & Darryl, my three Judd Viburnums out front were smaller meatballs when we moved in. I ignored them for 2 seasons in which it was pointed out to me that they were getting so large, that some madman could hide behind them and attack me (this in a neighborhood where I leave my garage open all night and nothing has ever been taken - knock on wood). So I sheared them back out of pure panic and it was such a panic that I'm surprised I didn't shear everything back to 3', limiting myself to being terrorized by only very small madmen.
Darryl & Darryl, with a fellow boxwood meatballer, Bob, who I haven't pruned in 2 years.

So now my goal is to de-meatball the Viburnum
-- a feat my teacher said could happen by:
1) leaving them alone - i.e. no shearing
2) renewal prune out 1/3 of the canes to encourage lower horizontal growth.

And even this might not solve the problem, and it may take a long time, but I am determined to be on meatball watch; to do what I can to transform these spaghetti toppers into lush, naturalized shrubs -- the way that nature intended.

Meatball watch is officially ON.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Evil Fish

We were walking through an Art Fair one weekend and we came upon a man who collects metal scrap and turns them into garden art. So automatically Matt and I fell in love with everything.

He made dogs, cats, even a caterpillar, flowers, and a huge motorcycle. But what Matt and I wanted was something that would stand out in our pint sized backyard filled with patches of purple phlox and annabelle hydrangeas tumbling between the picket fence.

You know, something that would add character and a bit of whimsy to our quaint little garden. Like ... an Evil Fish that stands 7-1/2 ft tall?

Got one of those Mister?