Favorite Plants – Cornus mas aka Cornelian Cherry

Posted on May 06, 2018

Cornus mas

Cornus mas

Why do I love this tree, you ask?  It’s tough, pretty, adaptable.  And I LOVE multi-trunk trees.  I love the way they give good energy and great visual appeal to a garden or landscape, add a welcoming appeal to a house, give some privacy, shade and, well, I could go on and on.

This is a great small tree for four-season interest…and I’m big on that.  I expect plants to earn their keep and look good without a lot of fuss.  Cornus mas delivers with bright yellow flowers in early spring that turn into berries by midsummer.  The berries are edible but sour, let the birds enjoy them!  Fall color and interesting bark in winter round out the year.

It’s easy to care for, having very few issues with pests and diseases and would be a great alternative to a crabapple.  It’s also a more unique alternative to a forsythia, blooming at about the same time.  It isn’t nearly as common as either of these plants…in case you’re into seeking out more unusual plants to personalize your yard.

Give it a location with full to part-sun and keep it watered for the first few years to get it established.  Pretty easy!  You can get creative with it, too…it responds well to pruning so imagine planting several to create a taller hedge, solving a privacy issue or screening a less than desirable view.

To learn about more great plants, easy to care for gardening options (including asking questions) or how to work with me, click here!

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Colorful Low-Maintenance Spring Groundcovers

Posted on Apr 30, 2018

early daffs

A few weeks ago I posted some photos on Facebook that got me thinking about sharing a great way to “double duty” your garden space and basically make plants work for you to create a Spring showcase of garden cheer!

The idea is to use the space under your shrubs to plant carpets of spring blooming plants.  In order to make this super easy and low maintenance I’m recommending plants that naturalize, which basically means they will spread on their own to create beautiful drifts of color to enjoy for years to come.  The only effort you need to make is obtaining the plants and planting them right up under the shrubs, keeping in mind the idea is to get them started and then take advantage of their natural growing habit to ultimately cover the ground.  Simple, right?!

The two plants I shared on Facebook, Chionodoxa (Glory in the snow) and Scilla (Siberian squill), are tiny bulbs that bloom in early spring.  They both spread by seed and producing offsets which are basically baby bulbs that will separate from the original bulb.  For best impact I suggest starting out by planting generous amounts.  You can order them in bulk from Van Engelen and when they arrive in the fall simply plant them closely in shallow holes, no need to worry about anything technical like proper spacing.



Scilla siberica

Scilla siberica

Another interesting spring bloomer is Sanguinaria canadensis or Bloodroot.  This plant is an ephemeral, meaning it has adapted to woodland conditions by blooming early in the spring before the trees leaf out and then completely disappears by midsummer.  It is a native plant and in the photo below it is planted underneath a Clethra, which is a native shrub with fragrant blooms in late summer.  Perfect duo for a shadier area of your yard.  The Bloodroot has sparkling white blooms that open up on sunny days and attract your attention (the photo on top was taken early in the morning and the flowers are just starting to wake up and open for the day!).  It is an important spring plant for bees, perfect for attracting beneficials insects to your garden.  It’s a little harder to find but well worth searching for.  I’d recommend going to a native plant sale to seek it out, though you may luck into it at a specialized local or online nursery.  If you know someone who has it growing in their yard they may share some with you, but please don’t dig it from the woods, that’s not exactly good citizen or generous gardener behavior!

Bloodroot under Clethra

Bloodroot under Clethra



The last recommendation I have for you is the top photo of daffodils, which hardly need an introduction.  I love using an early blooming variety called “Jetfire”, again, Van Engelen carries it.  This variety naturalizes well and I love to plant it generously, knowing within a few years I can rely on ultra impressive drifts of cheery yellow in early spring.  Try planting it under your hydrangeas and you’ll have a virtually care-free area you can enjoy spring, summer and fall.

To learn more about great plants, easy to care for gardening (including asking questions) or how to work with me send me an email at Christine@DIIG,


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The Importance of Questions

Posted on Mar 19, 2015

I recently had a phone call from a potential client asking if we offer maintenance services, specifically weeding.  Before I answered her question I asked why she was inquiring.  I asked that question because I often see people turning to what I consider short-term solutions simply because they don’t know there are better alternatives.  And as it turns out there might be a different solution to her problem.  She and her husband had moved into their house three years ago.  Both are busy professionals with limited time and even less inclination to garden.  The gardens looked amazing when they moved in, as the previous owner was retired and loved to garden.  As you can imagine, three years had brought some changes…and weeds!  As with many non-gardeners, the solution seemed to be continuing to spend money, paying someone else to weed.  I suggested that maybe it was time to make the garden their own by turning it into something they could enjoy.  For them, that might mean turning some of the beds back into lawn, or putting in more groundcover plants to reduce open areas for weeds to take hold. Until I see their yard, I won’t know.  But I do know that when it comes to gardening, less can mean more.  Less guilt and more relaxation!

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The wind around here

Posted on Nov 04, 2014

Starting last Friday (on Halloween, naturally!) it’s been windy around here. Wind causes your plants to dry out, especially evergreens, as they lose moisture through their needles. Winter is also hard on plants. If you can’t water everything, be sure to thoroughly water what’s most important to you. Your plants will thank you in the spring!

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Indianapolis – Eiteljorg Museum visit

Posted on Apr 30, 2014

This week I have the opportunity to visit the Indianapolis area while my husband is taking a week of woodworking classes in Franklin.  The drive down lifted my spirits, as I began to see that there is hope that spring is on its way, evidenced by the blooming pears (Pyrus callyerana would be my guess), and the redbuds (Cercis canadensis) in this more southern climate.  Not only were the crabapples also  in bloom, but I saw my first Eastern tent caterpillar.  They look rather creepy and will defoliate your tree, but  will not kill it.  For peace of mind,  however, many people prefer to remove them.  For more information on their life cycle and how to get rid of them, be sure to go to

I love having the entire day to myself as I can do and see whatever I like!  Of course, my first choice is always visiting gardens, and this area has many to see.  I started my week at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art .  I spent almost three hours at the museum itself.  It is amazing.  If you have an opportunity, visit if you’re in the area.  I then walked the grounds and strolled the Indiana Canal walk.  Attached are some pictures of the things I saw.  Note the field of dandelions.  While their foliage is certainly not the most attractive there is, in bloom they look wonderful!


Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and Redbud (Cercis Canadensis)


Brunnera macrophylla


Weeping European Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’)


Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocstanum)


Dandelion (Taraxacum)


Viburnum opulus and Redbud (Cercis canadensis)


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Makeover 101 Chapter One – A list or two

Posted on Oct 02, 2013

In any makeover, a great first step is to clarify the vision in your head.  While this might sound easy and seem a waste of time, as you can see by my own journey (below) it is at once both difficult and enlightening.  It forces us to slow down a little, think about what we have and what we want.  Sometimes easier said than done!   Below are three lists to make to get you started.        

List your:

  1. likes and dislikes
  2. must haves and wants
  3. what your goals are, i.e. privacy, texture, accent trees or shrubs, borders, etc.  Use    pictures of gardens you’ve visited or those from magazines to clarify what is most important to you.  Remember, it is possible to have completely different gardens in your yard, depending on the size, exposure, moisture and other variables.

Below is my own CHAPTER ONE-THE LIST OR TWO.  As fair is fair, we’d love to hear about your own chapter.  Please share your lists and let us know if we can help in any way.  Thanks!


Putting on paper what I like (L) and dislike (DL) about my gardens was an interesting exercise.  While most things had been rolling around in my head for some time, actually formulating the thoughts was difficult.  Prioritizing was especially challenging, but it did help me realize that while I like picking and plucking, as in picking a plant and plucking it into the ground, it has sometimes been counter productive.   Not one area of my beds is  is what you might consider done.  Or at least as done as a garden can ever be!

So after much thought, below is my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde list:


L boxwood at kitchen door

L view from family room window.  Need less dirt/more plantings, more spring plants/bulbs

L idea of Oakleaf hydrangeas.  Three?


L/DL flagstone path

L/DL hydrangeas under dining/living room windows. Have been improperly pruned

L/DL crab at family room window.  Gets rust, funny shape.  Like the idea of a multi- stemmed tree in that area, maybe a weeping?

L/DL shape of my beds, need expanding

L/DL Lamiastrum at porch spreads, would like to keep some but keep in check.


DL curve around patio is grass/dirt, able to see plastic edging.  Would like bed around it.

DL lack of privacy around patio.

DL furniture placement.


MH privacy

MH shade

MH vegetables interspersed with ornamentals

WANT beech tree (a 60’ x 120’ lot might make this a little challenging!)

WANT more natives – I am not, however, a purist and believe that it is possible to mix cultivars and natives and still serve nature well

WANT birds, bees and butterflies

WANT a place for the grandkids to play

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are living in my garden

Posted on Sep 04, 2013

You might be wondering what these two very different gentlemen are doing in my garden and how they got there.  When I think back, I realize they took up residence with some of my very first plantings, chosen on the spur of the moment in a heat of plant passion, with no particular plan in place.  I still pick, choose and plant haphazardly, albeit with more knowledge of site and sun conditions, etc.  As a result, some of the very things I love about my garden are also some of the very things I would love to change about it.  Hence, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Take my flagstone path for instance.  I love my path.  It allows me to stroll through my gardens while also taking me to visit my neighbors.  I am not so fond of the flagstone itself.  There is an inordinate amount of purslane, clover and various and sundry weeds that have taken up residence and refuse to leave, despite my best efforts.  The flagstone itself is uneven and uncomfortable to walk across barefoot, one of my favorite summer activities.  The patio, again installed without much forethought and on a budget that caused me to panic about material selection, is an odd shape that does not allow for relaxing furniture and firepit placement.  I love not having to move things  when cutting the grass, but wish there was a better flow.  I also wish I had chosen a different material.  As you can tell, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde indeed.

The question now is what must stay, what can be changed and the best way to go about creating the vision in my head that has finally jelled.  I hope that by sharing our thoughts, plans and progress we will also help you, our clients and friends, along the way.  This will be a work in progress, garden coaching and garden consulting the Diig, Inc. way.  Check back early next week for phase one of my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde makeover.

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Brains and learning

Posted on Sep 02, 2013

In my last post, before our visit to Northwind Perennial Farm in Burlington, WI., I promised to let you know what we learned.  I had much to tell you, but a visiting grandson has caused my brain to partially turn to mush.  Well worth it, but mush none the less!  Luckily, Christine is functioning as well as ever, here are a few of her notes from the visit.

- saw a great shrub with cool pendulous berries – Phytolacca americana, common name – pokeweed.  Native.  Pokeweed berries are an important food source for wild life, including birds and small animals.  These animals help spread Pokeweed, which can be a problem as mature plants do get large taproots that are difficult to remove.  If you should find them planted in the middle of a bed where you don’t want them, simply cut the stem and paint it with Glyphosate, most commonly sold as Round-up. You might have to do this more than once, but it is well worth the trouble as it eliminates those pesky plants you don’t want while keeping the good.  We’d love to hear what works for you!

- leaving the spent seedheads of Allium ‘Summer Beauty’ looks great when mixed with Sporobolous, Prairie Dropseed.  It’s all about who your companions are because the alliums certainly don’t look great in my garden and am thinking that just makes more work (as in deadheading) for me.  Extra bonus, I’ve heard the stems turn a nice yellow in the fall.  Less work + more color = must try!

- another no fuss combination – Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ with Heuchera ‘Autumn Bride”.  One of my favorite Heuchs.

 Nurseries and garden walks are such fun and easy ways to learn new plants, combinations and so many other things.  One of my favorite ways to spend the day.  Almost as good as spending the day with a visiting grandson…but not quite!

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Garden shopping

Posted on Sep 01, 2013

Christine and I are headed to Northwind Perennial Farm Saturday in Burlington, Wi for their annual art fair.  I haven’t attended this event but was there for one of their monthly talks about ‘weeds, persistent competitors and coming to know those mischievous plants’.   Roy Diblik, co-owner of the farm, presented the talk.  If you’ve never met him or attended one of his other talks, be sure to check their website for upcoming events.  He is an absolutely amazing and engaging speaker.  He doesn’t lecture but rather draws you in, making you feel as though anything is possible.  He’s done work for the Lurie Garden, the Chicago Art Museum and the Louis Sullivan Stock Exchange Arch, growing many of the plants from seed.  He believes in choosing plants carefully so they work together to help prevent weeds and ’bully’ plants from taking over.  I can’t wait to stroll the grounds and see what’s changed since July.  I’ve also set my budget and have my plant list already so I’m not tempted to go a little overboard.  Well, hopefully!

If you’re interested in learning about the farm, be sure to check out their website at for their hours and directions.  We’ll let you know what we’ve seen and learned.  Hope to see you there!

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Garden walking

Posted on Aug 25, 2013

What a great day for a garden walk…and walk we did, thanks to The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days.  Christine and I only managed to walk the three in Chicago’s northwest suburbs but plan to head west to Elburn as that garden is also scheduled later this season.

If you’ve never attended one of these walks, and they are scheduled throughout the US, I would put it at the top of my ‘to-do’ list.  Each garden is only $5.00 and well worth the money.  You can pre-buy tickets (they don’t expire) or pay as you go, allowing for great flexibility.

What can I say about the gardens?!  All amazing, all different.  Two of the three were planted and maintained by the homeowners, albeit with a little bit of physical help for one.  Their passion and knowledge showed through their choices of plants, site selection, pairings, garden art and so many other things.  We spoke with one of the homeowners, a wonderful gentleman who even provided us with the names of two nurseries of which we had been unaware.  The second garden was more woodsy.  I saw my first Cypripedium reginae (Lady’s slipper).   Hope it’s not my last!  The last garden of the day was different still, as parts of it were overlooking a small ravine.  Outcropping was used to create a wonderful, natural looking wall with a wide variety of hostas planted below.  While neither Christine nor myself had the nerve to get to close, the view from a distance was stunning.

All in all, is there any better way to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon?.

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