Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ABC Wednesday: Not X-actly X

This week we have reached the letter X, an extremely difficult letter . . .

. . . But I didn't want to think too hard-- it's summer, a time to relax and to watch
puffy white clouds or jet trails make a pattern in the blue sky.

Summer is also an exciting time in the garden as the garden teems with insect life and blooms like these of my favorite flower, the purple coneflower, fill the garden with color.

Or when exquisite creatures like these flit about searching for food. Note this is not the same dragonfly I pictured last week; I've had several varieties come to visit in the past week.

It can also be an exasperating time--the Japanese beetles have arrived!

Check out more ABC posts here.

And a note to garden bloggers, particularly those who attended Spring Fling: Sometime tomorrow I plan to post a review of the book A Garden of Invention. I hope you'll have time to stop by and read it sometime.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Annual Garden Walk: "Rooms With a View"

On Saturday Beckie and I spent the day on the annual Garden Walk sponsored by the local Master Gardeners. The theme for this year's Walk was "A Room with a View," and we certainly weren't disappointed by the views we saw. Despite temperatures in the 90's, we had a great time and were joined this year by one of Beckie's granddaughters who was quite a trouper and made notes of her favorite things in each garden we visited.

I took lots of photos, so I'll try to be less verbose than usual and let you just enjoy the sights of the tour.

Three of the gardens were public spaces, all located near each other on the east edge of the University of Illinois campus. I've often driven by the University's President's house and admired the front gardens, but this was the first time I've ever seen all of the gardens close up.

Sweeping expanses of lawn with several garden areas are located in the back. Add to that the view of the nearby Arboretum, and you have a very pleasant vista from the back patio.

Beckie and I marvelled over the enormous Boston ferns placed around the wrap-around brick patio. Just a note--this President also grows vegetables--pots of tomatoes and herbs were located on a back porch.

Nearby is the Japan House with its traditional gardens, including a rock garden. A volunteer Master Gardener pointed out something I might have missed: when viewed from the front deck, you can see that the new plantings of shrubs and small trees here mirror the shape of the horizon beyond.

Walking into the tea garden, we were excited to meet the designer of the gardens. This area was begun only 8 years ago, and many of the plantings are only 6 years old, so it will be interesting to see how it develops over the years.

Since this was our last stop of the day, we took advantage of the time to go into the building itself. Japan House is used for various classes and workshops related to Japanese culture, including the tea ceremony and . . .

. . . classes in Ikebana, the traditional Japanese art of flower arranging.

The other public garden was the Idea Garden, maintained by the local Master Gardeners. Although Beckie and I visited this garden several times last year, this was our first opportunity to visit it this year.

We made sure her granddaughter saw the children's garden, which included some new displays this year, including this duck topiary.

And any little girl would enjoy the Jewel Box garden, complete with a princess in a jewel box filled with "Diamond Frost" Euphorbia.

But the best part of the garden on this hot, hot day was a vendor's display of whimsical sprinklers. The younger one wasn't the only one who took advantage of the cooling mist; Beckie and I also had to try them out. The Idea Garden is located in full sun, so our visit here was very brief--we'll come back another cool evening to check it out in a more leisurely visit.

My favorite gardens, though, were the private ones. These gardeners don't have a paid staff or a large group of volunteers maintaining their gardens, so it's inspiring to see what one gardener can accomplish. While I don't think I'll be talking my husband into building a pool and patio complete with fireplace and granite-topped cooking center like the home above, I did come away with new ideas, as I always do from these peeks into other people's gardens:

The Plants
A blue, blue delphinium "Summer Nights"

Unnamed daylily adds to my serious case of daylily envy

Lovely calla lily would be perfect in the shade garden.

And of course, hydrangeas, which were in full bloom.

Oakleaf hydrangeas lined the sloping edge of one garden, providing privacy from the street.

And, of course, the old-fashioned Annabelles that I fell in love with on last year's walk. One of these days I'm going to find the perfect place for them in my garden.

Even basic yews were used a little differently as in this circular maze in the center of one yard. Each garden is staffed by several volunteer Master Gardeners for this walk. At this home, I received some excellent tips from one volunteer on how best to trim my own overgrown yews.


I am always looking for new ideas for combinations for container plantings. This gardener provided some extra help by labeling each of the plants.

Beckie and I were both interested in this blooming succulent, Portulaca "Rio Rose."
Other planters weren't usually labelled, but still gave us ideas:

Garden Art

Just as gardening styles varied, so did the type and use of garden art. From the classical like this stone statue of Pan . . .

. . . or this bust on a pedestal . . .

. . . to the purely whimsical.

Combinations of wood and metal . . .

. . . or other materials, drawing the eye downward . . .

. . . or upward.

I don't have many art accents in my garden and would love to add more. But I realized when viewing all of these scenes that it's not just a matter of buying or making a piece of garden art, but it's also knowing how and where to place them. It takes a creative eye to place them in just the right place in the garden. Even stones and limbs can create a dramatic effect with some artistic vision.

These small blue chairs certainly draw the eye, but even more so when you found out that these belonged to the owners' two small dogs!

I wonder if the puppies also enjoyed watching the model railroads circle the garden area.

Even vegetables served as art in one garden!

But my favorite piece of all had to be this stone bench--isn't this beautiful?! Beckie and I thought it surely must have been imported from Italy, but we found out it had been purchased at one of our favorite garden centers in town. Maybe I could put this on my Christmas wish list--for the next several years:)

Of all the gardens we visited, my favorite was a large garden situated on a one and one-half acre lot. The program booklet described it as a park-like setting, and it was indeed a peaceful oasis.

When the owners moved in 18 years ago, all that existed were some very old trees.

This is not a new subdivision, but neither is it that old. I think it's wonderful that the developers recognized the value of these old trees and built around them. This huge example was actually in the neighbor's yard.
The size of this garden was impressive, but what made it even more so was how much the gardener at this home had accomplished in 18 years. All kinds of trees, shrubs, and perennials covered the acre and a half with more beds planned. I could have done a whole post on this garden alone!

For a moment I thought I had been transported to England . . .

. . . but the English garden was just one area of this garden.

The potting area, complete with large shed, was larger than some people's backyards!

Vegetables were included, too. Carol and Mr. McGregor's Daughter should take note: no critters of any kind should be able to get to this gardener's tomatoes!
All in all, it was a wonderful day, and I came home with some great ideas. As usual, I also came home with a serious case of garden envy, but looking at my own small garden I had to smile . . .

. . . the coneflowers are blooming!