Monday, September 26, 2011

Goodbye after 6 good years!

I have been writing my garden blog since 2006 -- one year after which we bought a snow-covered house that erupted in a sea of green in the spring time. I thought a garden blog would be a fantastic way to chronicle my gardening adventures and learn about my "new" pastime.

It bloomed for the first time in 5 years

It has definitely been both and I've enjoyed writing this blog and reading about others' gardens. I've learned so much about gardening, and my forced-upon-me "pastime" became a true hobby of love.

A rare occurrence these days ... me in the yard
 Then in July 2010, I had a baby boy and all of a sudden I found that I didn't have much time to garden, let alone write about it (or visit any one else's blog for that matter). So as the season winds down, so do I.
Already a love of plants
It's been a great 6 years.

Over and out
 Thanks to everyone who have read and enjoyed my blog, I wish you all "Happy Gardening!"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Garden Walk: A modern garden

On the garden walk in June, one of the homes was a thoroughly-modern steel number on over an acre of land. Keeping true to the style of the house, as well as to the expanse of land surrounding the house which is on a hill in a heavily wooded area of town, the style was both modern and natural and I never felt the two clashed.

It was fun looking at this garden now that I've been gardening for a while. There's no ever right way to do this so I jotted down my thoughts.

Going up towards the house from the street, trees line the winding drive. It's a beautiful array of small trees, shrubs, and ground cover that have been planted over time. It looks very lived in and lovely. I could have stared at it all day.

 You can see the house through the trees which is actually a dry river bed - a great idea since the house sits up high.

The steel frames of the house tell you this is modern...

...but the surrounding land is natural with large trees, a flowing lawn, and sculptures.

On the terrace of the house, these huge square "pots" continue the modern theme, but I like that they are not overly "scuplted." I like that there are planted trees on the terrace.
 On the upper level (the house level), the walkways are straight. The lines are sharp, but I think the gravel is a good choice over stone - it's still modern but lighter. I don't know about those hostas though - they seem an after-thought.

Again the straight lines with this water feature. I like the row of evergreens and massed grasses behind. The other plantings look new and haven't filled in yet. I'm not crazy about the choices, I would have stuck with a single ground cover there as to not distract my eye from the water feature.

Back on the lawn, the sloping lot lends itself to these large stone walls. This is massive in person, like I was at the Arboretum and not a single family residence. I love the Japanese junipers (?) creeping down the stone. I have one of these and siting it has been a problem.
My final thought. I can only imagine what their monthly landscaping maintenance costs are.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


In June, my mom and I went on a garden walk in the town next door. The 4 garden we saw were so varied from the minimalist zen garden to the "gardener's garden" to the "hosta lover" to the "everything and anything" garden.

The minimalist garden had a lovely low bowl of succulents on their outdoor table. I loved the idea of not having to water anything, so I made up my own pot of succulants.

Although mine isn't as as pretty  -- I didn't have the time to find a low bowl, some gravel, etc... -- I'm changing my name to the "lazy gardener"!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A nightmare comes true

I had this dream a few years ago that my grandfather came over to my house and pruned and chopped down all my plants and shrubs.

Now why would I have a dream like that? It's because my grandpa is from the era of meatball shrubs, topiary trees, and Popsicle plants. Everytime he comes over he complains that my yard is overgrown and everything needs to be sheared. I cringe inside, I'm really one of those, "Don't touch my stuff" kind of person.

Well ... dreams can come true (for all you wishful thinkers out there). And in my case, nightmares too.

The story:
At the end of June, my grandfather was over for a party and being the type who always needs to do something, he started pruning my tomato plants with his army knife. Happy he was doing this for me, I gave him some actual pruners. "This might help," I smiled handing them over.

About ten minutes later, I looked up from a margarita (it was a party after all), to see that my grandpa had moved on from the tomatoes and had started pruning my 2-year old pancicle hydrangea 'pinky winky' of which I had just moved to her new location to accommodate her low spreading branches.

Yes, the nightmare came true. He removed all the low branches and now my beautiful shaped shrub was now a popsicle plant. I yelled, "What are you doing?!" And my grandpa answered, "It's better this way."

I don't need to continue the story--picture lots of tears and crying and you get the picture.

What I really want to know is ... does my plant have a chance to be beautiful once again? Some growth has started to appear at the bottom. This is my first panicle and I don't know enough about them.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vegetables 2011

One of our goals this year was to build a small vegetable garden, just a 4x4 raised bed near the house and water source.  Previously I had my vegetables -- mainly tomatoes and peppers -- in large pots on the patio and they did really well but I wanted to expand and experiment with a raised bed.

Squash Blossom
Runaway squash
 So this year I planted 4 pepper plants in a large pot -- the ideal location for them -- 3 tomato and 4 eggplant plants in the raised bed, and a pot of mixed herbs (parsley, chives, & basil).

Tomatoes & Eggplants

Two of the tomato plants are heirloom (Brandywine and Rainbow blend) and I bought them already pretty good-sized since I was late with my garden. My only issue with them is that they are so large they have fallen over every time it's rained (a lot these days). I have them caged, but the cages aren't tall enough. When they were in pots, they never grew this large and I always used the same composted soil.
Green heirloom tomatoes
I also have a squash plant that has come out of nowhere that's taking over things -- I've had a few flowers but no squash (the flowers are getting chewed off). If I had known about this plant, I would have caged it too but ...
Pot o' herbs
So far my garden has yielded: 3 eggplants, 3 green peppers (many more on the vine), and a lot of tomatoes (still on the vine as none are ripening).
Eggplant Flower ...

...and now an eggplant

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 11-26th: Backyard Garden Clean Up

After posting last about being stressed out in my garden, we decided to take some action. We hired our babysitter one Saturday for 4 hours and started cleaning up ... weeding, mulching, edging ... we were amazed at how much we got done (it helps when your babysitter is on the clock).

We took down the dead serviceberry (another 2011 casualty); and I re-did the walkway with a fabric barrier for the weeds.


Another day, we took 2 hours while my mom was watching the baby and did the vegetable garden and walkway.
Not 100% finished, but good for now ...
And finally, on my birthday my cousin watched the baby for 2 hours while we finished up the last bit of work (and the one we dreaded the most), underneath the maple tree that had turned into a weed garden of epic proportions.
The gnome and door was my birthday present!
So 8-10 hours of work in the backyard scattered between June 11-26th. Not too bad.

Monday, June 06, 2011

I'm stressed out by my garden: A new mom's plea for help

Please tell me that it's normal to be over-whelmed by the garden when you have a baby.  These last 5 years, I've been used to going out to tend to the garden whenever I want, especially after work when I could shed the work finery, get into my grubby clothes, and head outside shovel in hand. Not anymore.

That being said, I am totally stressed out by my yard. The weeds have taken over, ground cover weeds have sprung up out of nowhere and taken over entire beds, and I don't have the time (or energy) to remove them. I haven't made any pretty pots, and none of my garden objets (like a chair) has been pulled from the garage. It's either 40 degrees or 90 degrees here in Chicago, so most of the time I stare at the garden from inside, baby in my arms.

I'm almost at the point where I want to hire someone to do all this, but then I'll have to stand over them telling them, "No, that's a perennial. Don't pull that." And who has the money for this anyway? Not I, said the new stay-at-home mom!

So that's all. I just needed to get this out. If anyone comes to my yard, just tell them the Clampetts have moved in.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Bring out your dead" - the gone but not forgotten list of dead plants

 It is with sad sorrow that I dedicate this post to all those plants I have loved and who, for some reason -- wind, rain, freeze, squirrel, rabbit, or neglect on my part -- have not come back this spring, but have gone to a better place (although I can hardly believe that, what's better than my yard?).

In any case, these are my dearly departed plants for 2011.

2 golden heucheras from this massing 2009-2011
Jack Frost Brunnera 2008-2011 (sadly missed)
Oakleaf hydrangrea 2010-2011 (eaten by rabbits) (and the brunnera was in this garden too)
Albert Heijn tulips 2008-2011

Red irises in 2 garden beds - 2005-2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: May 2011

Happy Bloom Day!

Visit May Dreams Garden for more Blooms

This month I'm posting 2 blooms that are brand new to my garden and of which I am very excited to have.

I found this white bleeding heart at the big box store last year (June?) where it stood all alone among your typical big box store plants. With the arrival of the baby, I was in love with everything white and fresh and new so I promptly scooped this plant up, happily planting it in my backyard.

Wish there were more at the bottom but it became food for the rabbits every year.

This is my variegated pagoda dogwood - Golden Shadows® Cornus alternifolia 'W. Stackman' - planted as a baby in 2008 (and seen in 2009 here). It's turned into a lovely 'tree' but this year for the first time, it is going to flower. Or at least it has the semblance of something "flowery."  

And this guy is new too ... I thought it was a chipmunk scurrying into the lily of the valley, but nope, a toad.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My favorite time of year...

... is when the crab apple tree & Korean Spice Viburnums are both in bloom creating a white, pink, fragrant archway out my front door.

Click on photo to enlarge
I probably post this photo every year, but that's because every year I am amazed by it's beauty. The first year we lived in this house and springtime came, I walked out the front door and halted in my tracks, hand to heart;  I had never seen anything so lovely. And it was all mine. Never mind that I didn't plant any of this (I did add the bench at the end of the walk, however), it was still mine and standing under that crabapple all in bloom makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland, waiting for a little white rabbit to come peeking out from beneath it's trunk (no photo I've taken under can do justice). It's my little outdoor oasis.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Garden Blogger Bloom Day: April 15th

Please be sure to visit May Dreams Garden for more!

I took off last summer, understandably, from posting this every month, but I am happy to be back!

Blooming in Zone 5/Chicago suburbs...

I circled the small patch of daffodils in case you missed them.
Just my small patch of daffodils and scilla are up. I had 3 groupings (planted by previous owner), but now only 2 are blooming. Time to dig them up and re-plant.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The 2011 To Do List

Now that we have the baby, I need to have more clear cut goals to accomplish in the garden. I think this will make for an easier, focused, garden season while also enjoying the baby.

So here are my goals for 2011:

1. Build vegetable garden (Backyard)
The actual building part belongs to my husband, who has promised to build me a 3x5 raised garden bed in our sunniest plot of land.  This will encroach our existing ramshackle paver patio, but we've started dismantling that already.  My dream veggie garden is this potager ... dream on sister!
 2. Take down plum tree (Front yard)
The saga of the black knot ... why this tree isn't down yet is beyond me. I've been talking about this black knot since this blog started. (This was a multi-stemmed tree we inherited that had just started developing black knot when we moved in. Through the years we've taken down some of the trunks and are now left with 2.) 
3. Build garden bed around fence/hydrangeas (Back yard)
The moles, and voles, and opossums have already started this job for me (see previous post).  I'm just going to edge out a bed and throw some mulch down. Simple.
4. Get rid of plants (Front yard)
I hate the 2 Japanese Barberries in the front. The space might seem barren without them, but there are better shrubs out there (and I will find them).
 5. Visit more gardens
I'm going to take advantage that Babius Freemanii can't speak and say, "I don't want to go to a boring garden, mom." and visit a slew of gardens this spring & summer. I promise.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A wheelie bucket

The Crate & Barrel best buys catalog came the other day, and as I leafed through the typical glasswares and bakers, this one item jumped out at me. A wheelie bucket!

I know a wheelbarrel can do the same thing, but sometimes you have to let practicality go and have a little fun. You can wheel this guy around 1-handed behind you. And it can fit through my tiny gate into the backyard. And it's cuter.

I think I know what I will ask for my birthday.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The helpful opposum, or squirrel, or rabbit, or...

Along our fence, our neighbor's Anabelle Hydrangeas have moved into our yard. We're not complaining at all because we love them, but it's killed most of the grass beneath leaving it the perfect breeding ground for shady weeds. 

So I decided last year to build a garden bed beneath.  Now all I have to do is decide what size the bed shall be and carve it out ...

Wait! What is this? Someone already did the work for me!?

It looks like an animal on the prowl for the bugs in our lawn has pretty much outlined my garden bed. Now, the question is, does he also design patios and walkways??

Friday, March 11, 2011

Chicago Flower & Garden Show

 I've been gardening since 2005 and this is my first trip to the Garden Show ... I guess I decided to wait until I had a baby to go. Maybe I thought it would be more fun wielding a stroller through garden designs and crazy vendor stalls? 

For the record, it's not.

Good thing I went with help -- my mom & my husband -- and after the show we had a nice brunch at Prairie Fire. It's always good to end everything with brunch.

This shrub is from an installation that highlighted so many interesting conifers. There were so many it was hard to take it all in and no picture I took did it justice.  I am in dire need of evergreen in my garden and I'm looking forward to visiting this nursery in the spring, when I'm out trolling for some shade-tolerant conifers.

For more photos (not a lot), click here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

In search of a tree/shrub for Fence Garden

I found this photo somewhere (Organic Gardening maybe?) and I loved it -- A garden along a fence in the shade (I have the same thing!).

My fence garden (in need of some height)
What I loved most were the crepe myrtels adding height and interest and repetition to this garden;  but we can't grow them here in Chicago / Zone 5.

QUESTION: Is there another tree/shrub that has this multi-stem. interesting trunk, but can fit in a narrow garden along a fence line?

Friday, February 25, 2011

More baby photos ... and garden plants to buy

Thank you for all your well-wishes!

It's been a whirlwind 7 months (Yes, Babius Freemanii is now 7 months old today!); I can't even remember my former life (or former self -- the one that showered daily!).

Here are some photos:

1 month

4 months

6-1/2 months

I just got reminded that I garden when I received my Arboretum Members Plant Sale Catalog in the mail. What? I can stop and think about something other than changing diapers? Sacre bleu!

The most exciting thing in the catalog (for me) was a Blue Shadow Fothergilla (3-6' height/spread). I've coveted this shrub now for 3 years when I learned it can tolerate some shade. All my garden centers sell it for $50 which exceeds my shrub budget, but the catalog has 1-gallon containers for $16. I can wait for it to grow...  Destination: the fence garden.