News

Less can mean more

Posted on Mar 19, 2015

I recently had a phone call asking if we offer maintenance services, specifically weeding.  Before I answered that while we do not provide that service ourselves but we work with an amazing company that does, I asked why she was inquiring.  I asked that question because 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 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 wrought some changes and weeds!  As with many inexperienced gardeners, the short term solution seemed to be to continue to pay someone 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 turf, putting in more plants that cover the ground and choke out the weeds or installing grasses that only need mowing once a year.  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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Deer resistant annuals

Posted on May 19, 2014

In honor of the Chicago area’s last frost date, May 15th, here is a list of annual plants (along with some perennials that also work well as annuals) that are rarely to seldom severely damaged by deer.  Please keep in mind when the deer population is large and/or hungry, they will eat nearly anything!


Ageratum

Ageratum

Annual Vinca

Catharanthus roseus - annual vinca

Begonias

Begonias

Bellis perennis (English Daisies)

Bellis perennis

Caladiums

Caladium

Calendula

Calendula

Calla Lily

Calla lily

Campanula medium (Canterbury Bells)

Canterbury bells

Cleome

Cleome

Coleus

Coleus

Colocasia (Elephant Ears)

Elephant ears

Cosmos

Cosmos

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums

Dahlia

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Dianthus (Pinks)

Dianthus-pinks

Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)

Dianthus

Digitalis (Foxglove)

Digitalis

Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller

Dwarf Mondo Grass

Dwarf Mondo Grass

Euphorbia

Euphorbia

Gladiolas

Gladiolas

Gerbera Daisy

Gerbera Daisy

Heliotrope

Heliotrope

Hollyhock

Hollyhock

Impatiens – in the last couple of years, some homeowners have had problems with downy mildew,which can cause yellowing, stunting and leaf and flower drop.  It will stay in the soil, so if you’ve had problems in the past, do not replant impatiens in the same area.  the mildew does not affect New Guinea Impatiens.  If you’d like more information, click on the attached link  http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/homeowners/130321.html

Impatiens

Ivy

Ivy

Lantana

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Lavender

Lavender

Lobelia

Lobelia

Lunaria (Money Plant)

Lunaria

Lupine

Lupine

Marigolds

Marigolds

Nasturtiums

Nasturium

Nicotiana

Nicotiana

Pansies

Pansy

Pelargonium (Annual Geraniums)

Geranium-annual - Copy

 

Petunias

Petunias

Plectranthus

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Primulas

Primulus

Rosemary

Rosemary

Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet potato vine

Santolina

Santolina

Salvias

Salvia

Snapdragons

Snapdragon

Stocks

Stock - Copy

Strawflower

Strawflower - Copy

 

Sweet alyssum

Sweet alyssum

Verbascums

Verbascum

Verbena

Verbena

Violas

Viola

Zinnias

Zinnia

 

 

 

 

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Container Care Basics

Posted on May 15, 2014

Growing plants in containers is completely different from growing the same plants in the ground.  Plants are more likely to experience problems with drying soil, poor drainage and even increased soil temperature.

Watering & Good Drainage

  • An easy way to determine when your containers need to be watered is to feel the top of the soil.  If it is moist it will be cool to the touch.
  • Water until you can see the water draining through the holes at the bottom of the pot.
  • Do not let the container sit in water – empty any saucers used.
  • On a hot, sunny day your containers will likely need to be watered at least once a day – possibly twice if it is windy as well.

Soil Temperature

  • To decrease soil temperature, group containers closely.  This will create a microclimate that traps cool air.
  • In a hot sunny spot, avoid black or metal containers.  Clay pots are excellent for keeping a plant’s roots cool.

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Before you diig

Posted on May 15, 2014

Start with a plan…the following are some steps you can take to make the most of your garden!

  • What are your wants?  Vegetables, play, outdoor dining and relaxing, cut flowers…
  • What is the size of your lot?
  • What are your conditions?  Sunny, shady, hilly, clay, damp, dry…
  • Break out the graph paper.  Outline your house and any other buildings on your property.  This is when you will see what you can really fit!
  • Be both ruthless and creative.  Go through your list of wants and cut out what you don’t need  If it’s a must consider double or triple duty areas.
  • Start choosing the plants to soften and organize the areas of your garden.  Don’t forget the plants you love as well as those useful workhorses.  This step is when knowing your conditions will come into play.
  • Again, get ruthless – this time with your plant list.  Consider available space, maintenance, good looks…
  • Call Julie.  811 or www.illinois1call.com.  Don’t forget to mark the underground utility locations on your master plan!

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Watering 101

Posted on May 15, 2014

Flowers, shrubs, trees and lawns

Basic rule of thumb – plants require 1” of water per week. This includes annuals, new and established perennials, new shrubs and new trees.

A rain gauge or an empty tuna can placed near the plantings is a simple tool to help you determine how much water an area gets in a week from either rain or irrigation.  This way, no matter what form of watering you choose, whether it’s from a sprinkler, a hose or Mather Nature herself, you can be assured that your plantings have received that crucial inch.

Established trees and shrubs can get by with less water as their roots have “rooted in” deeply.  During extended periods of drought it is good practice to water your trees and shrubs.  It has taken them some time to grow to their current size and their loss will greatly impact your landscape and be expensive to remove and replace.

Drought tolerant perennials, once established, can also get by with less water.  However, they cannot live on no water at all.

Traditionally, July in Chicago is a dry time of year.  We don’t get much rain and the sun is high in the sky and shining most days.  This causes water to evaporate from the soil at a higher rate than earlier or later in the season.  Winds will increase this rate of evaporation .  Plants in a hot spot will lose additional water from the soil and their leaves.  Examples of these hot spots are near paving, buildings and on hills, slopes or berms.  Paying attention to your plantings will help you to assess if and when additional water is required.

  • Sometimes the plants can tell you if they need water.  If they start drooping, water.
  • lmuch evaporation.
  • The best way to tell if water is needed is by sticking either your finger ora stick of some kind one inch into the ground.  Soil should be dry and you should not be able to form a ball by compressing it in your hand.  Remember, oxygen exchange to the root system is as vital as the water!  Be sure to move an mulch away so you are actually getting to the soil.  After watering, re-check using the same method to see if you’ve watered enough.
  • It is best to water DEEPLY to encourage the roots to go deep.  Infrequent, deep watering is better than frequent, shallow watering.  Shallow roots get burned and cannot get enough water during a drought.

Lawns

Turf requires 1” of water every thirty days.  The lawn will go into dormancy when there is less supplied.  The turf grass plant responds with a series of plant defenses.  The visible steps progress from a purplish wilting to a straw like appearance.  Keep in mind, going dormant is the turf’s natural defense system.  Those defenses protect the plant through a typical period of drought until the conditions change in favor of eventual recovery.

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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   http://urbanext.illinois.edu/bugreview/easterntentcat.cfm.

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 www.eiteljorg.org/ .  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!

IMG_20140428_144259_394

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

IMG_20140428_153851_436

Brunnera macrophylla

IMG_20140428_145343_461

Weeping European Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’)

IMG_20140428_145128_996

Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocstanum)

IMG_20140428_145219_620

Dandelion (Taraxacum)

IMG_20140428_144237_487

Viburnum opulus and Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

 

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Part 2 – Plants living in their own debris aka mulching in place

Posted on Apr 15, 2014

Spring has finally arrived in the Chicagoland area, at least for a short time, as yesterday we had snow!   I was able, however, to take advantage of the warm weather and start my spring clean-up.  You might remember from last year’s post that in my own beds we ‘mulched in place’, meaning the plant debris was left on the ground to decompose and mulch.  As the results were great last fall we thought we’d do the same thing this spring.

This time the clean-up took about 2 1/2 – 3 hours, mainly due to the large perennial/shrubs/grassed that needed cutting back, still much better than in years past.  Large stems and smaller branches were left as they were until I’d had a chance to live with the look for awhile.  After 3-4 days, I removed them!  I was happy with the leaf litter and left it, although it is a different look than we suburbanites are used to.  To me, everything else just looked messy and took away from being able to easily see what is beginning to grow.

What I learned was, do what works for you!

 

 

 

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Part 1 – Plants living in their own debris aka mulching in place

Posted on Oct 03, 2013

I’ve always had mixed emotions about spring clean-ups. While being extremely cathartic, albeit slightly painful and time consuming, I was always a little confused as to why I was cutting back and removing some wonderfully composted leaves and debris and then paying for and putting down mulch, which of course was what I had just removed. I was therefore thrilled that while attending the inaugural FRED seminar last year, Christine and I had a chance to speak with Roy Diblik, of Northwind Perennial Farm, the extremely knowledgeable and helpful plantsman. Among other things, he’s done work for the Lurie Gardens in Millennium Park and the modern wing of the Chicago Art Institute. Due to the scope of those gardens, we were curious as to how maintenance was performed for those gardens. Knowing that budget is always a concern, the number of manhours spent cutting back and removing debris was mind boggling. That’s when he explained the concept of plants living in their own debris. In a nutshell, mimicing nature. In gardens with just perennials, it’s possible to just run a lawn mower over the beds several times, preferably in late February or early March, and leaving the debris on the ground to turn into mulch. It leaves a different look, admittedly one that takes some getting used to, less tidy than many people like. Roy has learned to plant spring blooming bulbs in those beds to help hide the mess.

The question then became, is this concept possible in homeowner gardens where there is a mix of both woodies and perennials?  We decided to try it in my gardens and the long and short of it is yes!  Not only is it possible, it was quicker, easier and much more cost effective.  The beds that we choose normally take about 12-16 manhours for my spring clean-up.  This season took an hour and a half, and as you can see from the photos we used a mechanical hedge trimmer.    All in all, a great time was had by all!  In the future, this will be my go-to cleanup process whenever possible!  (to see year two click here.)

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