Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May GBBD: Planting Frenzy Month

There ought to be a law--no one can graduate in the month of May.  Or have a birthday. Or get married.  Or all the countless celebrations that have kept me out of the garden this month.  The weather is finally cooperating so that I can plant some of the many, many annuals I have purchased.  But I keep getting interrupted by things like graduations, confirmations, and t-ball games.  And to top it all off, my Texas grandbabies will be here for a visit in a few days, and I really, really need to clean my house.

Not that I'm complaining.  I've enjoyed every minute of celebrating so many milestones with my family (no weddings, though--I just threw that one in there), and I am so excited about seeing my littlest grandchildren again.  No, I am just explaining why this is not a good time to visit my garden.  The spring show of tulips and daffodils is over, and in their place are weeds . . . lots of weeds.  At the rate I'm going, some of those weeds are going to be there for awhile, so instead of showing any long views of the garden today, we'll just focus on close-ups of a few pretty blooms.

   After heavy rains at the beginning of the month that turned the garden into a swamp and a cold spell with the threat of frost, the weather finally settled down so that I could get back into the garden and plant whenever there are a few uninterrupted minutes.  Typical of Illinois weather, we've gone from coat weather to tank top weather in just a few days, and now I'm griping that it's too hot to work outside.

May is usually my planting-frenzy month.  There are annuals from all my shopping sprees the past few weeks covering my back porch, my front porch, and the patio.  Only a few containers have been planted so far, but I'm not in a big hurry to change this pot when the sweet little violas and alyssum from April are still looking so good.

Other than the annuals, May is usually a transition month here, though there are a few perennials blooming.  The peony bud shown earlier opened up early in the month, and I'm happy to see that 'Scarlett O'Hara' is sporting not just one bloom, as in earlier years, but five blooms this year.

Other peonies are still budding up--I usually think of Memorial Day when I think of peonies--but the NOID white peony has a few blooms already.  The Amsonia Hubrichtii makes a nice backdrop for them, though as is usually the case in my garden, this was a happy accident in planting, not a carefully thought-out design.  Other Amsonia are also blooming, though I find it hard to capture their blue blooms on camera.

The clematis 'Nelly Moser' also bloomed early and is covered with blooms.  I have a hard time catching this one at the right time in the spring to prune it, and last year I made the mistake of pruning it too hard and too late so there were very few blooms.  This year I was late again, so I just left it alone, and I'm glad.

Columbines blooming under the 'Limelight' hydrangea.  I transplanted some native columbines from my mother's garden last year, but I haven't seen any sign of them blooming yet.

Speaking of natives, there are a few early flowers in the butterfly garden as well.  Phlox pilosa, also known throughout the blogging world as Gail's PPPP, has happily spread itself around this area.

And I am thrilled to finally have some Golden Alexanders Zizia aurea blooming!  I've tried planting them from seed before with no luck, and last year I planted some seedlings from the local prairie plant sale, but never saw any signs of bloom.  But patience has paid off, and these look so robust, I have a feeling I will have even more in the future.

Irises are blooming in the Arbor Bed and the Lily Bed--white, pale lavender, and yellow.  But my favorite are these purple and white bearded irises, a passalong a couple of years ago from Beth of Plant Postings.  Notice how many blooms are on each plant!

They're especially beautiful to me because I once had several of these at my old house, given to me by my mother.  When we moved, I dug up a few plants, but forgot all about these.  When I look at them, I think not only of Beth, but also of my mother.

Finally, this is NOT my garden!  It's the MG garden at the county nursing home where I volunteer every summer.   This is another activity that has taken up much of my time in the past few weeks, since I am one of the co-chairs.  We are going to be on the annual Garden Walk this year, so we have spent more time than usual weeding and dividing to get everything spruced up for the walk, as well as hours planning and plant shopping.  But it's already a beautiful garden as you can see from just this one little corner, and it really is a joy to work there.

And now back to weeding and planting in my own garden . . . and maybe taking a few swipes at the layers of dust in my house:)

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is hosted each month by Carol of May Dreams Gardens and author of Potted and Pruned.  Thanks, Carol, for helping me keep a monthly record of what is blooming in my garden!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

GBBD: April Beauties

I know I am really, really late to this month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but with Easter weekend, tax day, and many commitments the past two weeks, I haven't had time to sit down and read blogs for awhile.  But what a difference a month makes!  In March I had a few early bulbs trying to bloom in the snow, and this month . . . well, let me show you . . .

Since the end of March there has been a steady stream of daffodils blooming.

From the standard yellow trumpet daffodils to ruffled doubles to . . .

. . . daffodils with contrasting cups to . . .

. . .  miniature daffodils.

I've forgotten the names of most, except for 'Mount Hood,' 
a white beauty that has been a vigorous multiplier.

After the rabbits and/or deer ate many of my tulips after a bad winter a few years ago, I have been planting many more daffodils than tulips.  Most of my purchases have been collections of bulbs for naturalizing, another reason I don't know the names of most of these.

But I like the variety and the longer bloom time from these collections.  

These slender narcissi in the shade garden are one of my favorites.  As you can see, there is so much more blooming right now than daffodils--hellebores are still going strong, tulips are at their peak, tiny pushkinia dot the front of the garden here and there, as well as a few early perennials.

The only disappointment this year has been the flowering crabapples.  I wait all year for that one special week in the spring when our long lane is a bower of blooms, as you can see in my header photo from last year.  But most of the crabapples didn't bloom as much as usual; perhaps one of the cold nights we had two weeks ago nipped the buds. It has happened before, so I am hoping that next year all the blooms will return.  The white flowering crab was filled with blooms, however, though the wind and rain this past weekend finished them off.  And it has been a great year for redbuds.

I was worried about the lilacs last Bloom Day, as they were budding up just as a freeze hit us, but I needn't have worried.  The old lilac was in full bloom for Easter Sunday.

Other perennials blooming right now include the Pulmonarias and the Epimedeum above.  

'Jack Frost' Brunnera, still one of my favorites.

The old-fashioned Bleeding Heart is blooming as is my newest bleeding heart added last year, Dicentra 'Gold Heart.'  The foliage on this plant is stunning!

And finally, one of the best parts of spring to me--it is Tulip Time!

Because tulips can be short-lived, every spring is a surprise since I never know what will return.  A few of my favorites that I was happy to see come up again include 'Ad Rem' above.

My "namesake" 'Rosalie' also returned.

As did the longer-lived species tulips, 'Lady Jane.'  These are multiplying as well.

The neon-bright orange tulips that I don't remember ever planting returned 
for what must be their eighth or ninth year!

And my very favorite tulip of all, 'Akebono,' is still as gorgeous as ever.

Then there are a few new varieties of tulips planted last fall including this 'Silverstream.'  It looks like a twin to 'Akebono,' doesn't it?  In fact, if I hadn't marked where I planted these last year, I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.

Also new this year is a tulip I've admired on Jason's blog for several years--'Coleur Cardinal.'  They are a little shorter than most of my tulips, so I'm glad I planted them in the front where they can be seen.

'Rembrandt' is also new this year.

Every year I plant more tulips in my roadside garden, hoping for an eye-catching display for passersby, and every year the voles (or some critter) dashes my hopes.  This year was no exception, though a few bulbs escaped being devoured.  These are 'Upstar,' an experiment I tried this year for the first time.  I purchased a bag of these that were intended to be planted, bag and all.  I was pretty skeptical, but the results were better than I expected.

Only a few of the new 'Lightning Sun' survived in this area, which is a shame, because these are a vibrant orange Darwin tulip.  

As I type this, we are having another unusually warm day with temperatures nearing 80 today.  The tulips have been blooming at warp speed the last few days and won't last long in these temperatures.  It's time to get outside and enjoy them while I can!

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day every month and for being patient with latecomers like me:)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Springtime in Chicago

Last week my friend Beckie and I hit the road and drove up to Chicago for the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.  This has become somewhat of an annual tradition for us the past several years, a welcome breath of spring, especially in years when it seems winter will never end.  Because we weren't able to make it last year, we were especially excited to see the show again this year.

The show is held each year at Navy Pier, a popular attraction in downtown Chicago that is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.  The entrance display highlighted this birthday and introduced the show's theme, "Chicago in Bloom" with replicas of famous landmarks in the city, including "The Picasso," the iconic sculpture in Daley Plaza.

As we entered the huge exhibit hall, Beckie and I mapped our course, making sure we didn't miss any of the exhibits.  I'm always drawn to the water features, and sure enough, there were some waterfalls.

And, of course, a koi pond.  Every year I say that if I ever win the lottery, this is going to be my first extravagance--building a pond area with lots of big boulders and a waterfall.  Since I rarely buy lottery tickets, I don't think this is going to happen any time soon:)

Another interesting water feature that is much more "do-able" was this simple water spout in front of drainage tiles filled with gravel.  I'm not sure if the tiles had any purpose, but it was interesting and eye-catching.

Another way to incorporate water was this display containing the ultimate in rain chains--a wall of actual chains of different sizes with water flowing down them to decorative receptacles below. The sight and sound of the streaming water made you feel as if you were in the middle of a gentle rainstorm, a nice effect, I would think, on a hot summer day.

But a flower show is all about flowers, right?  One exhibit featured dozens and dozens of different roses.  My only complaint with this exhibit is that the roses were not marked with i.d. tags, so that if you found one you especially liked, you had to dig around the soil where you might find the original tag if you were lucky.

Another criticism of this year's show is that there wasn't much variety in the types of plants used.  Hydrangeas were everywhere as were Senetti.  I love hydrangeas, but these were all either a variety of 'Endless Summer' macrophyllas or the type of hydrangea usually found at a florist shop.  If you're not familiar with Senetti--as I wasn't--they are a cool-weather annual.  Although the bright pinks and purples of these plants certainly pop, I don't like to plant too many cool-weather annuals because they don't last long in our typical Illinois summers.  It seems to me the different exhibitors could have been a little more imaginative in their choice of flowers.

One flower display I won't criticize was the tulip exhibit provided by Doornbosch Bros., a wholesale bulb company.  First of all, I love tulips, and secondly, I really enjoy seeing the actual blooms rather than looking at photos in a catalog.  Each stand of tulips was clearly marked, so that visitors could note the ones they especially liked and then order them later from the vendor's booth---which, of course, I did:)

One of the things I enjoy about any garden show is finding new ideas to incorporate in my own garden.  This exhibit featured ways to re-purpose old items.

A broken shovel?  Don't throw it away--turn it into garden art!

This year's theme of "Chicago in Bloom" was carried out in much more subtle ways than in past years, when exhibitors often were more imaginative in bringing out the theme.  This display was more elaborate than most of the others with a replica of the Chicago "L" perched above the plantings.  In the background you can see another exhibit, this one created by the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences.

The Chicago School for Ag Sciences is a magnet high school located on the South Side of the city.  I didn't take many photos of their exhibit other than this display of plants and cute ideas for planters.  But their exhibit is always impressive, and this year was no exception.

The exhibit is manned by students from the high school, and we talked to a very articulate senior who explained the school's mission and curriculum.  He also explained that the hundreds of plants on display would be taken back to their greenhouse and would be sold later to provide funding for their studies.  Chicago City Schools often take a bad rap, but this high school's students show that this public school system is also doing something right.

Celebrating the city of Chicago in this year's theme wouldn't be complete without a tribute to the World Champion Chicago Cubs, a simple display of hundreds of chrysanthemum blooms.  You know I would have to take picture of this:)  And because I like saying it so much, I'll just repeat that--the World Series Champs Chicago Cubs.

Ok, back to flowers--another simple water feature with a pot I just loved.

One example of the Tablescapes exhibit, an annual exhibit at the show.
The Chicago show has become much more downscaled than six or seven years ago when Beckie and I first started attending.  The exhibits are much smaller and less elaborate than they were back then, and we were disappointed that one of the usual exhibitors wasn't there, a suburban nursery that specializes in unusual conifers.  We were also disappointed that we didn't see an exhibit this year by the Women's Journeys in Fiber, who in the past have created some interesting and creative works in fiber revolving around a theme, including one year in hats and another in shoes.  But when I looked again at the booklet on our way home, I discovered that there had indeed been an exhibit.  I'm not sure how we missed it, but it must have been smaller than usual or we surely would have seen it.

Still, despite the shortcomings, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and finished our afternoon visiting the many vendors' booths.  I've learned to ignore the massage chairs, the miracle face creams, and anything non-related to gardening.  But I did make a few purchases; besides the tulips and other bulbs, I was happy to find a booth for the Seed Keeper company where I bought some burlap "girdles" for planters as well as some of Annie Haven's Moo Poo Tea.  I can't wait to try both in the garden this year.

Besides enjoying the show, I always enjoy a trip to the "big city," and we couldn't have picked a more beautiful day.  Temperatures were in the 70's, and there were throngs of people walking down Navy Pier.  We took a few breaks from walking around the Exhibit Hall to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine and marveled at the number of people there.  I'm not sure if people were simply enjoying the first truly spring day in the city, but I am pretty sure that most people in Chicago had taken this day off work:)

A beautiful spring day, garden inspirations, and time spent with my best friend--what more could you ask for?!