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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.

Chionodoxa

Chionodoxa

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

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

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,Inc.com

 

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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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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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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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