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Article ThumbnailMoss: Rescuing Its Reputation

I’m pretty sure that in the pre-Google era most everyone who spoke of or asked about moss was trying to get rid of it. Even now googling “moss in the garden” produces five “how to kill” results before the first “how to grow.” But I recently attended a lecture at the Chicago Botanic Garden given by Dale Sievert, whose passion for and expertise about mosses made me question how anyone could contemplate mayhem against such a beautiful, ancient and eco-friendly organism. Since mosses have slowly, over the past few years, begun to colonize the damper, shadier parts of my tiny urban forest (i.e. my front yard), I was happy to be urged to encourage the process rather than fight it.


Article ThumbnailPlanning Commissioner

The folks in the editorial office tell me that this issue is about planning. I’m taking their word for it, since they don’t invite me to editorial meetings anymore. That might have something to do with the time that I showed up with my Giant Burrowing Cockroach (Macropanesthia rhinoceros), an insect from Australia. I thought they would find it educational. I still don’t know how it escaped. You’d think they would have been a little more concerned about my emotional attachment to Rhino and less about how to get it out of their potted fiddle-leaf ficus.

As I recall, we didn’t get a lot accomplished that day. And the invitations to the meetings stopped about that time. Anyway…planning. Right.


Article ThumbnailSomewhere Below the Soil Line

“Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…gnxx! Huh?” “Move over. You’re taking up all the root space.” “No need to stick a rhizome in my side.” “And you’re snoring. Can you keep it down?” “Hunh? What time is it?” “Early. Go back to sleep. And stop hogging all of the mulch.” “How early? I’m cold. You know I like to snuggle down under the mulch.” “Early early. January early. And save some mulch for me. It’s bad enough being planted this close together without you using up all of the resources.” “You kidding me? January? I feel like I’ve been dormant forever. Let’s get out of here! I want to sprout! To touch the sky! I want to–ouch! “What now?” “Bumped my head on something.” “It’s called ice, nimroots. The ground is frozen.” “Oh. Well, I still want to…want to…want…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….” “Will you just give me some of that…that…oh, never mind.”


Article ThumbnailThe Flavor of Autumn

Snow showers hit the area this week, but the Swiss chard that’s growing under my frost cloths and in a small unheated greenhouse in our backyard just shrugs off the chilly temperatures. I grow several varieties and all of them seem to taste just a little better with the onset of cold weather.


Article ThumbnailRecreating that Vintage Garden

When it comes to old houses, it’s not often that you’ll find one with its original garden elements. Wood arbors and fences eventually succumb to decay. Styles change and homeowners may remove trellises, statuary and old concrete urns. It was a pleasant surprise then to discover that the original Victorian fountain was still present outside the 1872 home that is now the Baert Baron Mansion Bed and Breakfast up in Zeeland, Michigan right outside of Holland.


Article ThumbnailPrep School

January, February and March are the great equalizers of the horticultural world. This is the time of the year when I can look at the landscapes belonging to my oh-so-serious gardening brethren and cistern and taunt, “Gee, that doesn’t look much better than my garden.” I choose to ignore the fact that, even under 20 inches of snow, their yards invariably do look better than mine.

Of course, when the weather warms up (in Chicago that happens around July 15) their gardens pass mine the way that Road Runner passes Wile E. Coyote on a desert road. To make matters worse, the expression on my face then bears a strong resemblance to the one sported by Mr. Coyote. And to add injury to insult, a huge rock usually falls on my head, sometime around July 27. I guess that’s the legacy of a misspent youth.


Article ThumbnailA Plant for Neatniks

You know who you are. You’re the gardeners who keep your lawn perfectly edged and weed-free, the ones who maintain an exquisitely proportioned space between plants. You’re the opposite of folks like me whose plants are forever rubbing shoulders with their neighbors and muttering under their breath about garden bullies.


Article ThumbnailRain, Rain Go Away!

Our official National Weather Service rain gauge clocked in with 3.60 inches of rain at 7 a.m. this morning. And more is falling. The daffodil flowers are nodding down toward the mud. The vegetable garden is a pond. There’s nary a robin in sight to feast on the hordes of worms migrating across the driveway in search of dry ground. And it continues to rain. What a difference from this time last year when gardeners were bemoaning the hot weather and how quickly all the spring bulbs flowered and dried up. But that’s ok. This is a good time to sow seeds indoors.


Article ThumbnailUp in the Air

You may have seen an air plant hanging in an open-faced glass vase or hanging from a seashell at your local garden center. They are becoming popular. Air plants are easy to grow if you follow a few rules – and easy to kill if you don’t. Air plants may be sold with the hype that they live on nothing but air, but this is not the case.


Article ThumbnailBursting Forth

There are many lovely plants in Ted and Gidget Nyquist’s garden in Bartlett. But it’s Ted’s collection of rhododendrons – hundreds of them – that stop visitors in their tracks when the plants bloom. “I just love it,” Ted says. “People come around the corner, and they’re not expecting to see a garden with all these rhododendrons.”


Article ThumbnailThe Dog Dayz

Gardeners perplex me. Actually, I’m perplexed by many things, including gravity and spumoni ice cream and why most Americans think a t-shirt and shorts is a fashion statement in an airport, but when it comes to gardeners, I’m often really perplexed.

In the words of my dad, who never actually said this, so I don’t know why I’m invoking him while channeling one of the Bowery Boys, “Lemme give ya a fer instance.”

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Columns
Inspiration On the Half Shell

Some people are known as “glass half full” folks and some drift towards the “glass half empty” side. Personally, I’m a “Whoops!


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Columns
Take A Hint. Or Not.

One of the great things about being a columnist is that when you run out of ideas you can steal them from other people.


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Columns
Mid-Season Classic

Are we all met? Good. Have a seat, everybody. Down in front, please. [Mumble, mumble, rutabaga, watermelon, and other crop ...


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Blog
The Best Plant You’ve Never Heard Of

Ask many skilled gardeners to name their favorite plant, and what do they reply? “The one that’s in bloom right now.”


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Departments
From the Editor

For me, one moment above all others elicits that life-is-good feeling: the germination of the first tomato seed on my radiator.


questions

I have a cycas palm and am not sure how much direct sunlight or water it needs. It has light brown marks developing on the leaves. What is causing this, and how do I care for my plant?

Must I mulch my garden and, if so, when is the best time to apply it? What are the best materials to use?

I want to raise the level of my lawn as much as 2 feet in places. I now have a large quantity of somewhat composted wood chips and I am wondering if I can use them as fill to raise the ground level and provide a good soil in which to sow a lawn.

calendar of events

See these and more events in our calendar of gardening events.

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