News

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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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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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!

CONNIE’S LISTS

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:

LIKE:

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?

LIKE AND DISLIKE:

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.

DISLIKE:

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.

MUST HAVES AND WANTS:

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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